The following explain a different aspect of our worship each week. With people coming from different Christian traditions, or no Christian background at all, we believe it's important to explain why we do what we do on the Lord's Day. We are still writing them, but here are the ones we’ve come up with so far.
Why This Liturgy?
Every church uses a “liturgy” in their corporate worship. The liturgy is the form, traditions, and arrangements used in the worship service. At New Covenant our liturgy is structured by 4 main sections.
“Gospel Adoration” is where we focus on the person and work of God. This tells us who he is. Adoration is our response of praise to God for all that he is. “Gospel Transformation” focuses on our admission and confession of sin and guilt before God, expresses repentant hearts, and trust in Jesus as the One who cleanses us from sin. This also must include the removal and assurance of pardon of our sins through the cross of Jesus. “Gospel Proclamation” is the preaching of God’s word, where the Scriptures are opened and explained in such a way that Jesus is revealed as the key that holds the whole story together. “Gospel Consecration” is our response to the proclamation of the Word and the committing of ourselves to God and his way as well as the sending of the church out into the world in our benediction.
We use the word “Gospel” to introduce the sections of our worship to remind us of our identity as gospel-formed people, journeying together through the story that gave us our identity and being sent out to live gospel-shaped lives. Our goal is to tell the story of the gospel each week, in each worship service.
Why Greet One Another?
The Apostle Paul begins almost every one of His letters with a greeting of peace. (Rom.1:7; 1Cor.1:3; Gal.1:3; Eph.1:2; Phil.1:2; and more. Welcoming one another with love and peace flows naturally from the ongoing gospel dialogue in the service. We recognize that God is holy, we are sinners, and Jesus reconciles us to God and to one another. So we respond to that revelation by welcoming one anothe with peace, as a family. We also connect that greeting with the fact that, in Christ, there is no Jew or Greek, male of female, black or white, Democrat or Republican, rich or poor. All our common cultural hostilities are dissolved by the mercy of Jesus, recognizing that we are all on this Gospel-Centered journey together.
What is Adoration?
“Adoration” is not only one part of our liturgy, but is woven throughout the worship gathering, and should even be an ever-present reality in our ongoing lives. Adoration is the expression of our love, honor, and joy in God as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. We adore God by praying, singing, speaking, and thinking in ways that make much of his greatness. This means one can adore God in loud song and celebration, or in the hushed silence of awe and wonder.
As a component of our liturgy it is naturally our response to sing our “Gospel Adoration”, and to read in Scripture where God is shown to be glorious in his person and work.
People sing about the things that capture their hearts; things that give them joy, or allow them to express sorrow. People sing of heroes, victory, longing, and hope. As Christians we have every reason to sing, and are even commanded to do so. As sinners who have been forgiven, as slaves who have been set free, as the spiritually blind who have received sight, as spiritual cripples who have been healed—all by the gospel—we have real reasons to be known as a people of song! Our faith is a sung faith.
It is one thing to tell the world of God’s redemption, it is another to sing of it. It’s easy to parrot truth, but to sing of it, from the soul, reveals how we feel. Song is the natural and appropriate response to the gospel, because it is one of the highest expressions of joy.
Scripture tells us in Colossians 3:16 that the way the Word of God dwells richly among us is by our teaching and admonishing one another with songs, and hymns and spiritual songs. We sing so that we can teach and admonish one another, resulting in the rich indwelling of God’s Word in God’s people.
Why Do We Sing These Songs?
The different kinds of music we sing reflect songs that come directly from Scripture, as well as new songs written by the church that reflect the truth of God and the gospel as revealed in Scripture. At New Covenant we also sing ancient hymns that connect us to the generations of God’s people who have gone before us, and we sing modern songs in an attempt to be faithful to God who calls us to “sing a new song” (Psalm 33:3). We also sing new arrangements of classic hymns. What is most important is that in singing together we are proclaiming the excellency of God, who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.
What is Confession?
In each of our worship gatherings one portion of our liturgy is called “Prayer of Confession.” This is a time when we are honest about our own sin before our holy God. As we hear Scripture and sing songs that reflect the beauty of our Creator we are confronted with the stark contrast of our own unrighteousness. This moves us to “confess” our brokenness to God and repent of sin. This is variously expressed in song, a prayer, or a responsive reading. As we come to this time of Confession we are prompted to consider our own sin and then look to the grace of God in Jesus Christ who takes away the guilt of all who believe in him. As we confess our sins, we pray as Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “..forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
What is Assurance of Pardon?
This is part of what Jesus accomplished through his death on the cross. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins which cleanses us of our unrighteousness and secures our forgiveness before God. This idea of substitutionary sacrifice was given by God to his people in the Old Testament, and was fully realized in the death of Jesus. In our liturgy “Assurance of Pardon” must follow confession to remind us that in Christ, our sins are forgiven.
Why a Prayer of Thanksgiving?
Often called the pastoral prayer or prayer of thanksgiving, this logically falls at this point in the service, after the church has acknowledged God is holy, we are sinners, Jesus saves and forgives us and reconciles us to him. As a community united by the gospel we come together in prayer before God with thankfulness and prayers that reflect the needs in the congregation. These prayers are typically theologically dense, well prepared and particular to the needs of the church, acknowledging that the God we are worshiping is sufficient and is our only hope in all circumstances.
Why Take up an Offering?
Giving is something that flows directly from the gospel. New Testament giving is a worshipful response to the gospel; with spirit-transformed hearts, we’re released from the idolatry of money and empowered to give it away. Jesus spoke more about money than about heaven or hell. 11 of 39 parables are about money, and Jesus’ teaching on money always connects it to the heart. The gospel that saves us motivates us towards generosity, eager to support the mission of God, the pastors and shepherds of the church, missionaries around the world, and brothers and sisters in need around us. The offering during our weekly service is an opportunity to destruct one of the human heart’s greatest idols. The primary motivator for our giving should be the transforming power of the gospel. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Mt. 6:21
Preaching is the God ordained, God empowered, Spirit-led opening of the Word of God that should cause our hearts to burn within us. Preaching should always be an Emmaus road experience where the Scriptures are opened and explained in such a way that Jesus is revealed as the key that holds all of scripture together, because all of scripture bears witness of Him
What is Communion?
Communion, or “The Lord’s Supper,” is a sacrament given to the church by Jesus Christ which calls us to remember his death on the cross for us who believe. It is a unique and beautiful way of preaching the gospel as the broken bread symbolizes his broken body, and the cup symbolizes his shed blood. We do this together as a church, and in doing so we are preaching the gospel to ourselves and one another as we await His return. At New Covenant we celebrate communion on the 1st and 3rd Sunday morning of each month and the 4th Sunday evening of each month. This is a meal that has continued in the church for two thousand years, and it is a foretaste of the meal that will be eaten one day in the New Jerusalem at the wedding feast of the Lamb.
Believers are welcome to come to the table during this time of our gathering as we believe the gospel, repent of sin, and rejoice in our great God and Savior. (Luke 22:7-20; 1 Cor.11:17-34)
Why Do We Read Prayers?
We sometimes use read prayers as a part of our worship gatherings. While some people believe that unless a prayer is spontaneous it lacks authenticity, we find value in well thought out and historic prayers. Like the classic hymns we sing as a congregation, a read prayer is no less meaningful because someone else is the author. These prayers can instruct us, as well as reflect our own hearts when offered in faith.
A great collection of Puritan prayers can be found in the book, The Valley of Vision.
What is a Benediction?
The benediction is a blessing spoken as the final word by a pastor at the end of a worship gathering. It expresses our hope and confidence in God’s grace to his people that enables us to walk with Him through whatever we face in this life.
The benedictions we use come from Scripture (e.g.. Num. 6:24-26) or are based on Scripture, and are not only a way of closing our services, but are a final word of sending out offered for the church.