Q. How would you describe your worship service?
Our goal at Grace Community Presbyterian Church, PCA is to have a worship service that is radically God-centered. At our very root we want to be a faith community that has the Triune God as our focus in our worship. We want to strive in all that we do to be informed by the truths of the Gospel. So the order of our worship, (also called our liturgy) follows the rhythm of the Gospel.
We have four broad parameters that serve in helping us order our corporate worship:
- Praising God
We begin with praising God. We do this through singing, confessing together the historic beliefs of the church, and reading passages from Scripture that are focused on God’s attributes, His gifts and His grace to us.
- Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon
When people are exposed to the reality of who God is and what He has done we become acutely aware of our own unworthiness and sinfulness. The Law and the Gospel give us an accurate view of ourselves. So we spend important time in our worship service confessing our sins in prayer and hearing from His Word about the forgiveness of God in Jesus for those sins.
- Accessing God’s Means of Grace
After confessing our sins and hearing the promise of forgiveness in Jesus, God continues to tend and care for us through His designated means. God meets us in worship and serves us, feeding our faith in two ways: first, through the reading and preaching of His Word, and second, through the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism. God promises to use all of these means to grow His people in faith. We baptize when God providentially brings us children or adults to receive the covenant sign, and we celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week.
- Responding in Thanksgiving and Blessing
How could we respond any other way than in thanksgiving?! We give back to God our offering of money as an act of thankful worship and receive from God, through the minister, the promise of His blessing through the benediction.
This ought to be the rhythm of the Christian’s life: seeking to praise God and know Him more, confessing how far short we all fall and seeking God’s forgiveness in Christ, pursuing Him all the more through the means He has instituted through His church, all resulting in a life of thanksgiving. This is the Gospel-centered life.
This pattern is modeled for us in the Bible. Take a look at Isaiah 6 or the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6. You will see praise, confession, and means of grace being accessed, all resulting in thanksgiving.
One more thing regarding our worship service: we believe that it is important for our service to be ordered. We are committed to this for a couple of reasons. First, we believe that it mirrors one of the most glorious attributes of our God, who is a God of order. But secondly, because of the sinful inclinations of our hearts, it is easy to drift away from the true purpose of worship, which is God’s glory, and drift into the temptation of making worship about us and how it makes us feel (or it being for our own glory). Being committed to a liturgical order enables us to keep first things first and keep God in the center.
Q. I’m unfamiliar with the term “means of grace.” What do you mean by that?
Basically, we mean that these are the ways by which God has seen fit to communicate his loving-kindness to us. We believe that God uses His means of grace to grow us to look more like Jesus. We want to avail ourselves of His means so that we might mature in our faith more and more, seeing the Gospel each and every week illustrated before us. Reading, and especially preaching, of the Word communicates verbally the demands of God’s Law and the free gift of the Gospel. And every Sunday when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, God pictures for His people the gospel of Jesus Christ and supplies to us His grace through the means of this sacrament. We are also privileged, more and more, to participate, as a body of Christ, in the sacrament of Baptism, as parents present their Covenant children for baptism in obedience to God, and claim His promises by receiving this sign and seal of God’s covenant of grace for His people. Through Baptism, we again are visually reminded by God of the grace He has offered to us in the gospel.
So when we talk about the means of grace, we are saying that our worship service is a “two way street.” We trust that God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are present and active and speaking to us in the midst of our corporate worship through his means of grace (the Word, the Sacraments, and Prayer), and we strive to give ourselves to the Trinity as we work to worship our Triune God each and every Lord’s Day.
Q. Why are Baptisms a part of your worship service?
We believe that Baptism is to be administered to those who have professed faith in Christ, and to their children. However, Baptism is not just for the benefit of believing parents and their children, and so Baptisms at our church will always be administered before the entire congregation at a regular Sunday worship service, and never in a private service. Because we believe that Baptism is a sign and seal of the spiritual realities of our relationship with God, the remission of our sins by the blood of Christ, the new birth given by the Holy Spirit, and our adoption into the family of God the Father, we all delight in God’s covenant faithfulness each time we witness the sacrament of Baptism. Additionally, all who are present when a Baptism is administered are encouraged to use the occasion of the Baptism of another to reflect on the character of God, on our own sinfulness and need for a Savior, and on the assurance that God has pardoned the sins of His people. It is an opportunity for all members of our church to “improve upon” our own Baptisms when, in reliance upon the work of the Holy Spirit, we draw strength for our battles against sin, and God’s grace becomes more and more real to us. Even when a baptism is not being administered, our baptismal font and water is always before our congregation to remind us of our identity as God’s people and members of the Church.
Q. Why do you celebrate the Lord’s Supper every week?
The Bible does not command weekly communion, so faithful Christians can come to different conclusions on how often the Lord’s Supper should be celebrated. The New Testament does speak of believers coming together regularly for worship and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:17-20; cf. 14:26). The implication of these passages is that frequent communion was the practice of the early church.
Most Christians worldwide believe that the Lord’s Supper was instituted by the Lord Jesus to be celebrated by His people for their good and His glory. By celebrating communion weekly, we seek to put that belief into practical application. We believe that God uses all aspects of weekly corporate worship for our good: the public preaching of the Word, corporate prayer, singing of hymns and spiritual songs, offertory, and benediction. We want to be consistent for the sake of the people of Grace Community Presbyterian Church, and so we celebrate the Lord’s Supper as part of our weekly corporate service as well.
By celebrating weekly communion, each and every Sunday we are taken back to the basics of the Gospel, the work of Jesus on the cross, and the empty tomb. Each week we will be confronted with the love of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. You can say that by the Lord’s Supper, each week, we see, hear, touch, and taste the Gospel. There is nothing more encouraging to the souls of saved sinners!
Furthermore, the Lord’s Supper is a community meal. This Supper celebrated every week stresses the corporate side of our faith, that we are the Church, encouraging and promoting our love for one another as we bathe in the abundant love of God in Christ’s sacrifice.
There is a loving but disciplinary aspect to the Lord’s Table as well. In Presbyterian churches (as well as other evangelical churches that practice church discipline), one of the stages of formal discipline is to be suspended from the Lord’s Table. Discipline has as its goal the restoration of the unrepentant sinner. What better way to communicate that Gospel message to those among us who have been hardened by sin and remain unrepentant, than to have illustrated before them the lengths to which God has gone to reconcile His people to Himself. Weekly Communion calls the sinner back to God frequently and relentlessly.
The frequent celebration of the Lord’s Supper is also evangelistic in that the riches of the Gospel are communicated and illustrated each and every week. If unbelievers are worshipping with us, they will hear a clear call to repent and believe in Jesus in both the sermon and the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.
There are those who might respond that weekly communion becomes a rote exercise and therefore loses its ‘specialness’. We believe that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper ought not be seen as something any more ‘special’ than the preaching of the Word, prayers, singing, etc. It should become as normal a part of our corporate life together as every other aspect of worship. We should have high, but realistic expectations each and every Lord’s Day, looking forward to how God the Holy Spirit will work in us through His appointed means of grace.
To instruct those who may be unfamiliar with what we believe about the Lord’s Supper, the following statement will appear in our bulletin:
We have come to the Lord’s Table at the invitation of the Lord Himself and so we come on His terms. Therefore, Grace Community Presbyterian Church welcomes to the Lord’s Table all those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and who acknowledge Him as Lord. Because Communion is a sacrament of the church, all are welcome to partake who are baptized members in good standing in an evangelical church (a church where the gospel is loved and proclaimed). It is our request that children not participate in the Lord’s Supper until they themselves have become communing members of such church. We come not as those who are intrinsically righteous, but as those who have been given through grace the righteousness of our perfect Redeemer. So, while we repent of known sins as we come, we recognize our righteousness before the Father is completely dependent on the accomplishment of Jesus Christ for His people. Reflect on the work Jesus did for you and come forward to receive the grace offered to you in these elements.
We hope this helps. We are committed to serving our God through loving our neighbors. If you still have questions about what we do and why, do not hesitate to ask. You can find our contact information on the ‘Contact’ page of our website. We have an obligation to all visitors, regular attenders and members to be as clear and thoughtful as possible. You can help us in this by showing us where we might be unclear.
Q. What about music? Would you consider your worship service “contemporary” or “traditional”?
The hymns and songs we sing are substantive and God-centered. God uses the truths of the hymns and songs to focus our hearts and minds on Him. What is considered “traditional” now was once contemporary, so we do not find those terms helpful. We are usually accompanied in our singing by the piano, but also are accompanied by guitar and, at times, horns. Our prayer is that we will be moved by God and the truths contained in the hymns and songs we sing. A review of our services of worship will give you an idea of the nature and emphasis of our worship services.
Q. Why does your minister wear a robe? 1
We believe that God’s people should be primarily led in worship by those who are ordained to the particular office of teaching elder. One of the most important aspects to the call of elder is that of shepherd. One of the primary means of shepherding is the worship service itself. But this is an issue of calling, not personality. The robe, among other things, helps emphasize the office of the pastor and de-emphasize the personality of the man in the pulpit. The minister’s robe reminds us of our duty to submit to the office, not the man, during worship. It also serves to remind the minister of the responsibilities for the office he bears. The robe is not meant to set him above the congregation, but to set him in his unique office as pastor during the Lord’s Day worship service.
We do not believe that the minister is the church’s CEO. So we do not believe he should dress like one. Interestingly, the removal of specific ministerial clothing is a rather recent event; coinciding with the rise of an “anti-authority” spirit in American popular culture in the 1950’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s.
The robe helps remind the congregation to recognize the living voice of Christ given through the “gravelly” voice of the minister. It is not a lesson akin to something we might hear in Sunday School or at a Christian Conference. The same principle holds true when the minister passes the bread and cup, and when he gives the benediction – symbolically, Christ himself is doing these things to you and for you. This is what makes the public worship of God’s people so important and so unique from any other activity we take part in as Christians.
1 Credit for this answer, in part, goes to Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Overland Park, Kansas, for which we are thankful