Someone wrote and asked about the “order of worship” and a Quaker fellow suggested that no order was the best order. I politely disagreed. And wrote…
First, order is important. It has been important since the get-go of recorded biblical history.
Second, the order isn’t for us. It isn’t what makes us happy, or most fulfilled, or what we find most meaningful. Worship isn’t for us. It is for God. We should be asking, “How would God like the worship to be?” instead of, “Wonder what we could do that would make people excited about this and draw a bigger crowd?”
Third, there is a basic pattern that emerges in Scripture and historic worship:
- Entrance (gathering in the name of the Lord with a focus on worshiping him)
- Word (time is spent to read Scripture, hear it taught, sing in response to Word, and pray)
- Table (focus on Holy Communion, the “gifts of God for the people of God.”)
- Dismissal (a deliberate sending forth of the people to continue doing the ministry of Christ)
Those who suggest that form is antithetical to freedom have perhaps never thought it through. The Genesis account has the first three days of creation as God “forming” and the last three days as God “filling.” Form precedes filling (you don’t fill up a jug until you have a jug to fill up). Having form isn’t antithetical to having the Spirit and life – form and Spirit go hand in hand.
Example: a football game. Good Lord, how formal it is! We know exactly how many team members on the field at each time. We know exactly how many yards are required to make a first down. We know exactly how far for a touchdown. We know all kinds of rules and regulations, not to mention prescribed uniforms and padding. There are even guys called referees out on the field making sure everyone plays by the rules.
Terribly formal. Must be a boring game.
But tell that to 10,000 screaming fans on a Friday Night in West Texas.
Form doesn’t negate freedom, it ensures it.