Vol.XV No.X Pg.2
December 1978

Mechanics Of Worship

Robert F. Turner

The "order of worship" has been an "issue" in various places and times — with some strange results. A man once objected to my suggesting that, following the sermon and invitation song, we be dismissed by the closing prayer. He cited Mk. 14:26, saying that the scriptural way was "sing a hymn" then "go out." So — the next time I could conveniently do so, I announced that following the song we would "go out." He didn't like that either, because we had had no "closing prayer."

A Phoenix church now has worship on Sunday morning; then uses the evening services for classes, concluded by a general assembly, short sermon with invitation, and dismissal. This gives greater emphasis to the worship and perhaps an incentive to improve the classroom teaching.

Changes should not be made "for change's sake," nor as a mechanical prop for sagging spirits. Traditional ways may even free attention of details (you know what is coming next). But neither should we allow "the way we've done it" to become law. Whether the Lord's Supper is before or after the sermon should be determined by our endeavor to make both meaningful as well as orderly. A song between the Lord's Supper and the taking of the contribution might serve to make each distinct from the other. Such small things as announcing an opening song, then waiting a few minutes before singing, may help to stop idle talk and prepare for the worship. If a song is sung just prior to the sermon, why not "mark" the invitation number before singing, so the speaker can begin immediately after the song? And well-known songs, such as those used before the Lord's Supper, may be more meaningful if begun by the song leader from his seat, rather than directed in a formal way.

The present trend toward informality may become a pitched battle between jeans and coats; or we may use and emphasize its good points — making our worship more genuine and meaningful, and retaining a respectful atmosphere on the part of all. Extremes (T-shirts and faded levis, or, pompous ceremonial services) will not promote warm, family-type worship nor endear members to one-another.

Fifty years of practice not withstanding, most of the mechanics of worship are of human origin. It is no more "scriptural" to pass the plate than to have some other means of collection on the Lord's Day; to sing an invitation song, or invite in some other manner. Neither change nor traditions guarantee "spirit and truth."