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Christianity 101

Elements of Worship


It’s not something you hear too much about. When people talk about the worship service, it’s usually to complain that the music is too loud. So let me ask you a question: how would you know if a worship service is a good one?

Remember: a good one, not one that pleases you. What’s the difference? Supposed the preacher gives forth with a mighty sermon that causes you to repent of some sin in your life. That’s a good worship service—but not one that pleased you.

To understand why we worship the way we do, you need to learn two preliminary concepts:

·         Ritual is symbolic communication. Think of it this way. How many times have you seen a wedding where the bride and groom exchange rings? It’s very common. But ask that bride if she’d care to part with that wedding ring and you’ll find it’s not for sale. To her, that ring symbolizes her wedding. We use symbols to convey the thing which are deep and profound in life. Ritual is simply symbolic communication, acted out.

·         Worship and Service are the same thing. If you look at the Greek of the New Testament, you’ll find that the same word is translated “worship” and “service.” This reflects a truth: what you symbolically do in worship, you are to put in practice the rest of the week.

Now you can see why the worship is so important. It’s the church reminding herself, week after week, of the essentials. We’re going to take some elements of worship and examine their daily life impact.


We spend a lot of time in praise, in song. Indeed, the Scripture frequently commands us to “praise the Lord.” We do this in song, for it is in song that we praise Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. So our praise to God, in those few minutes, takes every bit of who and what we are.

This is as it should be. We have a personal relationship with Jesus; any personal relationship starts with knowing who the other person is. If you know him, you know he is worthy of our praise. It’s a natural human reaction to give praise where it is due (think about cheering at a ball game). We praise God for two things: his character and his actions.

We should carry this over into our daily lives. Those around you should hear from you on this subject. There are things God has done for you; tell others about it. You rely on his character; tell others why. Praise should not be limited to Sunday morning.

Scripture Reading

In older churches you may still see two pulpits. One was used for preaching; the other for Scripture reading. This practice is very ancient; the Jews were told read the Law aloud. They did so with great ceremony.

When we read the Scripture in church, we are portraying the Bible reading we should be doing during the week. As it is done every week, so you should read every day. It is done with respect; you should read the Bible with respect. Indeed, the ancients were commanded to post it on the walls!

If you will do this, God promises great reward. First, you will be convicted of your sins (which means you can then get rid of them). You will be equipped as a Christian ought to be. But take warning: don’t be just a reader, but be a doer.


Tithing—the giving of a tenth—is ancient; it goes back to the time of Abraham, at least. The ancient Jew understood the principle quite well: the tithe belongs to God, so you might just as well give it to him. Otherwise, he’ll come get it. You wind up with no blessing and parting with the tenth anyway. Indeed, God warns us that to fail to tithe is to rob God! Why does God want us to tithe?

Simple enough: we tend to put our mouth where our money is. He wants your mouth proclaiming him. Tithing involves three things:

·         It’s a recognition that God has blessed you. You don’t tithe what you don’t have.

·         It also is a symbol of sound stewardship—if you can’t part with the tenth, you aren’t managing your money very well.

·         Tithing is a recognition of the sacred. God commands it; you obey in a way which is most clear.


Prayer is a subject on which volumes have been written. But public prayer—prayer from the pulpit—tells the world something about us.

·         Public prayer is a form of praise.

·         Public prayer tells the world that we are depending not on our weakness but God’s strength.

·         Public prayer acknowledges our sins, and asks forgiveness.

·         Public prayer commonly is used to pray for others.

Take those four points home with you; you’ll need them.


Of all worship elements, this is the most sacred. It is in this ritual that we proclaim the death of Christ as the atonement for our sins. The Scriptures tell us of the exceeding importance of Communion. Communion is also the ritual which gives us the most guidance during the week:

·         Self-examination. We are to examine ourselves before taking Communion. We should do this during the week as well, recognizing that all of us are sinners. We should then confess our sins and repent.

·         One body. Just as Christ had one body here on earth, the church is one body. By eating Communion together, we proclaim our unity. We also recall that Christ washed the feet of his disciples on the night of the Last Supper; we should serve in like humility. Indeed, as we are one body on Sunday, so we should be during the week. Therefore we proclaim our willingness to help our brothers and sister in Christ.

·         Hope of the resurrection. The Bible tells us to do this “until He comes.” By taking communion we proclaim not only the death, burial and resurrection but also our hope of his return. This carries over during the week. Is your attitude different towards death, knowing that our Lord’s return will bring your resurrection from the grave? Is your sense of urgency that others need to be saved sharpened by this?

·         Forgiveness. The reason for repentance is to receive forgiveness based upon Christ’s atonement. Forgiveness is “one person’s willingness to bear the consequences of another person’s sin.” As we ask for forgiveness during Communion, we should forgive during the weak. Christ forgave us unconditionally; we should do likewise. In this we bring about reconciliation and the unity of the church.

·         Proclamation. Most profoundly, in Communion we proclaim the central truth of the faith: that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, died for our sins on the Cross; was buried, raised by the power of God. He is returning to judge the living and the dead. We need to live like it day by day.

In Communion you eat a wafer of bread. It symbolizes Christ’s body. You take some grape juice, which symbolizes His blood. Our Lord understood ritual and symbolic communication; that’s why we have this ritual—to proclaim the most important matter of the faith. Most of all, remember his death, burial and resurrection. His death, because it paid the price for your sins. His burial, so that you know it was a death like you and I will experience. His resurrection, because it means that at His return, we shall rise from the dead.

What you proclaim in worship on Sunday morning should be what you do in service the rest of the week. Worship and service mean the same thing.

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