Why do we do that?

I have been so busy with weddings, funerals and life that blogging has been back burnered. Now I am out of town for a bit, but I did want to lay down a long blog having to do with why we do what we do when we worship. It is broken into several headings. Enjoy.

Why do we do what we do?

For those of you who grew up in church, some of the things we do may seem familiar and bring back memories, for others, it may be the first time that you have experienced things like public prayer or a time of corporate confession. And a few of you may wonder why we do not do some things that other churches do.

You may have noticed, if you have come here on a regular basis that we start our services with some type of “call” to worship followed by someone praying to God, asking Him to come and be with us. We call that an invocation. Sometimes we have a musical prelude by skilled musicians but it is not long before we encourage participation by the congregation through responsive readings and worship songs.

At some point in time we will stop for a time of confession and then whoever is leading the prayer time will remind us that Jesus paid the price for our sins which will give us some sense of assurance of forgiveness. We will also pray for us and other people including other churches. Almost always we will take a time to share about events that are upcoming we want everyone to know about.

The offertory is an important part of our worship and it can easily be mis-understood so we will take a week to talk about it. We always preach (translate that as a pastor taking some time to look at what the word of God has to say and how it can lead us to Christ) and we sometimes have a special element such as drama, a video testimony, dance or special music. Often we will take communion or have baptisms for infants and adults. Finally you may have noted that our services always end with a benediction, a good word from God.

Whew! That is a lot isn’t it? I hope it does not seem “mechanical” or “structured” even as I detail the elements of worship. We believe that God regulates worship and actually instructs us through His word about how we should worship Him. He wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth and it does require work on our part in addition to asking Him to “inhabit the praises of His people”.

Call to Worship and Invocation

Why do you go to church? I am sure there are a thousand answers to that question. “My wife made me come!” “I need to be here for the good of my soul” “I came and brought a friend” “I enjoy the worship!” Whatever the reason is that you came, when we start a service we want to remind all of us that the reality is, God is calling us to worship Him. He is the one who beckons us to come in subtle and not so subtle ways. He wants us to worship Him because He loves it and He knows it is beneficial to us, so He calls our souls to come; and we do.

The “call to worship” is in effect a minister reminding us, by using the words of God, that God is calling us and He will enable us to worship Him well. He knows that in and of ourselves we really are incapable of worshipping a great God.

The call to worship is followed closely by an invocation. To invoke means to call upon. The minister calls out to the God of the universe, who is King of all, to come and enable us to worship Him, to in effect do what ever He wants to do in our hearts during the hour of worship.

All that sounds simple doesn’t it? But we want you to go deeper here and think about what is really happening. The puritans and the divines actually said that when the call to worship was issued and the invocation made, the church visible was “caught up” spiritually into the heavens. They felt so strongly about this that they would actually lock the doors prior to the call being issued and no one was admitted late.

Hmm…I wonder how that would work at Perimeter? It is something to think about though. Being early for service is something all should strive for. If you are coming in late, perhaps you are not worshipping well as you have missed the call to worship and invocation in addition to any prelude that was designed to help you set your heart on things above. It is like coming in late to a conversation and not having the benefit of knowing what was shared and experienced before you arrived.

Why we confess

Corporate confession sounds scary doesn't it. No we are not going to call you up front and ask you to tell us all the bad things you have done, said or thought. We would not want to do that ourselves. Often you will experience a time in our service when we read a confession, have a time of silent confession or listen as a pastor confesses on our behalf.
For centuries, leaders have made public confession for the people of God. Nehemiah did, Ezra did as well as Moses and Paul. The general idea is that our religion is a religion of community and we are in this together. We collectively have sinned against God and it is right for us to publically admit it. Other religions may have private confessions only but we believe it is healthy to admit publically who we are. We also want to take a time each week to personally confess. Each of us have messed up and many of us may not, in the hectic-ness of the week, taken time to truly say we are sorry. So a pastor reminds us to do just that and he also reminds us that God is a God of forgiveness for those who have put their faith and trust in Jesus.

Today we will confess using this confession. We encourage you to read it before the service starts so you can better “live” it when the time comes. One last point; we want to encourage you from time to time to write out a confession like this. It is easier to do than you might think and it really is helpful to write out what you want to say.
Corporate Confession
Leader: God we, Your people, are coming before You now having some small sense of our sin. We know that You are perfect and holy and we as Your people have not always done what is pleasing in Your sight.
People: Lord have mercy on us. We have put other gods before You
Leader: God we have often not looked to You and sought to do Your will
People: Lord have mercy on us. We have not kept the Sabbath and we have used your name in vain.
Leader: God we almost always view ourselves as higher than others
People: Lord have mercy on us. We have coveted our neighbors goods, we have lusted in our hearts, we have committed murder with our thoughts and we have stolen what is not ours.
Leader: Lord God Almighty, forgive us these sins and all the others that we can not even utter publically.
People: Thank you Lord for Your mercy and assurance of forgiveness!

Corporate Prayer
This week we are looking at corporate prayer. Our guess is most of you have prayed by yourself before. Some of you may have prayed in a small group. Both of those are helpful and effective. Why would we want to take time in a service to pray corporately?

The word “corporate” comes from the Latin for “body.” Thos of us who believe that Jesus is who He said He was are part of the family and He has told us that we as a group can come before Him and ask Him for things we need in addition to praising Him. The book of Acts has examples of groups of people coming together and praying in one accord.

The idea here is that we are all joining together as one and asking God to do what only He can do. Even though only one person may be praying aloud, all of us should be listening intently and saying in our hearts, “Amen” which means, “so be it.” God wants us all as children to come running to Him and ask as one voice. It is a sign that we are unified and that we agree with one another and, here is the hard part, that we are willing to work together to see the prayer answered.

God often uses His people to answer prayer, so when we corporately pray, “Lord comfort Mrs. Jones who lost her husband this week,” we may be part of the way He would do that. Are we asking for people to come to know Christ? We collectively have a role? I am sure you can think of any number of things we could ask Him for that He has to do, but that He would use us as a secondary means.

So today we will pray as one. If you believe, join with us. If not, we invite you to listen in and hear our cry to:
Our Father, who art in Heaven. Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
And deliver us from the schemes of the evil one so we will not be led into temptation for Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for every and ever amen.

The Sermon

“Who is that man and what gives him the right to tell us anything?” Have you ever wondered that, as Randy or Bob or Matt or Steve have stepped up to preach? Well as we continue to explain the “parts” of a worship service, we want to take some time today and share about who they are and why we give them time each week to speak to us.
They are men. Mere mortals who are sinners in need of a savior. That is very evident to those of us who know them well. There is no guile in them. Them are chief among repenters around here and have humility that bespeaks wisdom. They have had some hard knocks in life and they have persevered by the grace of God.
They have received training by those more experienced than they are. They got some of it in school and more along the way. They have been recognized by their peers as Teaching Elder in the PCA. They are life long learners. They have a great passion to speak truth in a winsome way and to massage it into the souls of those who come to listen. They agonize over what to take out of a message so it can not be too long and they labor over what should be put in to accurately reflect Christ.
They have studied the word in the original languages and can tell us in a richer way what words meant in Greek or Hebrew. They have read the scholars of old; men like Calvin and Luther and Augustine and they have gained insight from them.
They endure much critical feedback and enjoy some encouragement. They are men who break open the word of God to the people of God for the sake of God.
The sermon is a time for someone who knows more than us to open the word and help us understand a small passage, help us remember and call us to look at Christ. Every sermon preached here is designed to be Christ centered. No self help allowed. We believe the Word of God rightly dispensed is a means of grace to God’s people. Each week we long to feed those who come with something from the inerrant, inspired Word of God.

The Offertory

We have written before on giving. It is your money and you can keep it if you want. The offertory is a time in the service when you decide whether or not you want to do that. There is no “special blessing” that comes with giving. There is no matching fund in heaven. We simply believe that God calls us to give a portion of what He has enabled us to earn back to Him. We call it a tithe and it means a tenth.

We are not going to parse words her and discuss if that means 10% off the top, or it is post tax, post alimony but neither are we going to mince words. Scripture teaches if you are a believer in Jesus and you do not give, you are robbing from God. Throughout the old and new testament there are numerous examples of God’s people support the worship and work of His people. From early on He requires us to bring the first fruit to Him.

Some may think that was then and now we have these preacher types who just want our money. That was then, and preachers were not all that great then either. The reality is, we do not want your money, we want you to know the joy of giving. It is fine with us if you choose not to give to Perimeter. No reverse psychology there. We would encourage you to go and join another church where you can see and feel the vision of God for His people, kingdom and church.
Here , we believe, as best we can, we have laid out what we think God wants us to accomplish for His glory. So, each week we take an offering as part of worship and that is what it is. An act of worship. We know money may be tight and we know you have heard the story of the man writing his tithe check, seeing his bank account down to $80 and having lost his job. Of course He gets one the next week. The reality is that is not always true. Please don’t give to get. Give to be blessed by Him in whatever way He would choose. The best blessing may be for you to have little or nothing. If you do, we will help. We have been given resources by God’ people to help those in need. We would be delighted. The offertory. For Him, by Him, from you.

The Benediction
Today we close our time by speaking about the benediction. Benediction means a “good word” and it has to do with the last words a minister says as the worship time comes to a close. Often the words are directly taken from scripture such as the book of Jude. “Now unto Him who is able to keep you from falling….”
Sometimes the benediction is a charge or exhortation to now live out what you have heard and experienced. Occasionally it is a blessing to be received.
A benediction should be “received” by those in attendance. It is a time for God to speak and for us to listen to His last words. As we often say around Perimeter, God sends us out but not alone and He always has the last word.
One thing we always couple with the benediction is a time of fellowship. If you are an old timer, we want you to turn around and greet someone new. Our guess is they are in need, have a question or want to meet somebody. Can we say it is your duty to do so? We also have a coffee bar. It is a place to mingle and meet people. Right next the coffee bar is a connecting point room. One or more of our pastors will be there to meet you personally and get to know you. Our desire is to answer questions but not be pushy. So, as you receive the benediction today, can we remind you to know that God goes with you and He encourages you to love others, starting with those right around you. Hopefully you will come back. We are creatures of hopefully creative habit here. Next week we will creatively call you to worship, ask God almighty to come and do a work, confess our sins, pray together, learn more about Him through the teaching of the word, offer His tithes to Him and be sent out again into His world for His glory. Blessings and Worship Well!