What is Reformed Worship

Gathering for public worship services on the Lord’s Day is the most important thing we do as a church. God has promised to be active in the assembly of His people by His Spirit through the means of grace, namely, the preaching of the holy gospel and the administration of the sacraments. Through these means of grace God is pleased to create faith, and strengthen it, in the hearts of sinners. It is here that we meet with our risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, and are served by Him as He proclaims His Word of pardon and grace to us in preaching, and gives Himself to us in the sacraments. We also commune with one another as fellow pilgrims, sharing our gifts with one another, teaching, and admonishing, and encouraging one another in the holy faith.

Our worship services proclaim the Law and the Gospel in a dialogical liturgy. God speaks to us and we respond to Him. At each point in the worship service it is important to know who is speaking. Our liturgy moves through the drama of worship as follows:

The Call to Worship

God calls us with His Word to worship Him. A passage of Scripture, often a Psalm, is read as God summons us into His presence.

In response to God’s call to worship, we call upon the name of God, confessing that “our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Ps. 124:8).

God’s Greeting
God announces His grace and peace to all who come to Him through Jesus Christ. As God’s appointed ambassador, the minister raises his hands as he announces God’s blessing from His Word: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).

Song of Praise
We respond to God’s words of welcome with a song of praise, often a versification of one of the Psalms.

Reading of the Law
In the Law God reveals His holiness, calling us to be holy as He is holy. By the Law we come to know our sin and misery and our need for grace.

Confession of Sin
Having heard God’s Law, we respond with a corporate prayer of confession of sin, asking God to have mercy upon us through Christ His Son.

Declaration of Pardon
God declares to all who confess their sins and cast themselves upon Christ, that He has fully and freely forgiven our sins through the blood and the righteousness of Christ. As an ambassador of Christ, the minister raises his hands in the posture of an oath to assure us on the authority of God’s Word that our sins are truly forgiven.

Song of Thankfulness
Having heard God declare the forgiveness of our sins, we respond to God with a song of thankfulness for so great a salvation.

Profession of the Faith
We continue our response to God’s grace by professing our faith in the Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and affirming the basics of the Christian faith by reciting a historic creed such as the Apostles Creed or Nicene Creed.

Congregational Prayer
Our response to God’s grace continues as we make use of one of the great benefits of the Gospel approaching the throne of God in prayer, knowing that His throne is a throne of grace for us in Christ, and that our heavenly Father is pleased to have us come. We come to our Father’s throne to pray not only for our own congregation, but for the church all over the world, for our nation and those in authority over us, and for the work of missions and evangelism.

Song of Preparation
Having responded to God’s grace in song, in confession of our faith, and in prayer, we know respond in song once again as we prepare to hear the preaching of the holy Gospel.

The Ministry of the Word and Sacraments
We listen to God speak to us by His Spirit through His Word, as that Word is read and proclaimed by the minister. The focus of that Word is always Christ and His Gospel. The preaching of the holy Gospel is “the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Having taken consideration of us in our weakness, God has also given us the sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper) as holy signs and seals for us to see, so that by our use of them He might make us understand more clearly the promise of the Gospel, and seal that promise to us. And this is God’s Gospel promise: He grants us forgiveness of sins and eternal life by grace because of Christ’s one sacrifice accomplished on the cross. Both the Word and the Sacraments are intended to focus our faith on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only ground of our salvation.

Song of Response
Having received the ministry of God’s Gospel in Word and Sacrament, we respond in song with thanksgiving and praise to God for the glories of His grace to us in Christ.

Everything we are, and everything we have belongs to God – we are stewards. Our natural response to God’s grace continues as we cheerfully give for the sake of the ministry and for those in need.

This is our final word to God in the worship service as we lift our voices in song to praise God for who He is and for what He has done.

God gets the last Word. And it is a good one. We leave the worship service not under a word of condemnation and wrath, but under God’s grace and with salvation in Christ. As God’s appointed ambassador, the minister raises his hands to assure us from God’s Word that God will always keep us and be gracious to us. It is a word of peace so that we might always be confident that God is favorably disposed to us – that God is not “out to get us,” but is working in everything for our salvation. With that comfort and assurance, we go into the week to bear witness to Christ and serve others.