Worship 101

A Five-Part Worship and Preaching Series on Worship Basics

Let’s start at the very beginning.” . . . And all God’s people sing in response: “A very good place to start!”

Many churches have planned their own versions of a Worship 101 series. In fact, this series is a blend of Worship 101 series from two very different congregations with different needs and approaches to such back-to-basics reflections on worship. The one goal they shared was a desire for the series to bring greater unity to their congregations.

In a time of transition in the life of ClearView Church in Oakville, Ontario, the council asked the lead pastor, Rev. Joan DeVries, to address tensions about worship. She proposed a sermon series called “Worthy of Worship” to examine the broad theological threads that form the fabric of worship.

Many miles away, Hillcrest Christian Church in Denver, Colorado, was planning a similar sermon series on the basics of worship. As a brand-new congregation formed by the merger of three distinct bodies, Hillcrest was in the unique position of teaching basic patterns of worship to many in the congregation who had no previous experience with liturgical forms. Hillcrest’s twelve-week series became a primer on a Reformed perspective of communal worship practices.

The following Worship 101 series is easily adaptable to your context and available time. If your congregation needs theological reflection on worship and you have just a few weeks, focus on the major movements of worship. If you have more time, dive more deeply into specific worship practices, applying theology as you go.

In theory, the order of these services is somewhat interchangeable. For instance, Rev. DeVries began her series with Revelation 5, setting a vision for eternal worship. The calendar happened to coincide with All Nations Heritage Sunday, so she preached about the grand theme of worship on heaven and earth at the beginning of the series. But the same service could be the culmination of the series, so we have placed it at the end of this article.

Movement 1

Gather and Praise

Both ClearView and Hillcrest used Psalm 95. Rev. DeVries used the entire psalm to teach and model the full range of worship postures, while Hillcrest Church focused on just the first seven verses to teach the principle that God moves first in worship.

ClearView Church’s Service on Psalm 95

Opening Songs of Invitation
Uyai mose / Come All Ye People” Gondo, LUYH 496, GtG 388, SSS 405
“Now with Joyful Exultation” Psalter, LUYH 512, PsH 95, PfAS 95D

Posture 1: Lift High

Scripture Reading
Psalm 95:1–5, read responsively

Sermon (Part 1)
Sermon Notes

Verses 1–2: Act one of worship is noisy and messy! People are arriving at the temple carrying their offerings. “Come!” is an invitation. We all want to be invited along. God’s people come together with wonderful things to celebrate.

Children’s Message
[Children are invited forward. End the message with the following call and response. Optionally, enhance the noise with instruments and flags as the congregation joins in the songs.]
Leader: Praise the Lord!
Children: Amen! Hallelujah!

Songs
“I’m Gonna Clap My Hands” Depledge/Vineyard
“Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” Neander, LUYH 575, GtG 35, SSS 453
“Indescribable” Tomlin

Posture 2: Bow Down

Scripture Reading
Psalm 95:6–7a

Sermon (Part 2)
Sermon Notes

We move closer. Our posture shifts from lifted faces to bowed heads and bent knees. The Holy God, creator of all things, invites us into his presence. Bowing is a posture that expresses our humility before God’s greatness and our acceptance of his personal rule in our lives.

Response
[Congregation is invited to move from the pews to kneel at the cross while singing. This is done in groups to give opportunity and space for all.]

Songs
“Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down” Doherty, LUYH 510, SSS 400, PfAS 95B
“I Surrender All” VanDeVenter, LUYH 739, SSS 619
“The Heart of Worship” Redman
“Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak” Havergal, LUYH 754, GtG 722, SSS 557

Posture 3: Listen

Scripture Reading
Psalm 95:7b–11

Sermon (Part 3)
Sermon Notes

God says we should stay this way—worshiping, hearts softened and pliable, open and near to the Lord. The psalmist warns us of a time when people were impatient, whiny, and complaining. God wants to give so much more—God’s rest and God’s presence. The key is in the preamble to verse 8: “. . . if only you would hear his voice . . .”. Listen to God’s words to us.

Response
Optional Scripture readings: Romans 12:9–21; Matthew 11:28–30; or Isaiah 43:1–7
Choose a reflective reading of appropriate Scriptures that reflect the heart of God to his people. Use different voices if possible, remembering to rehearse with them.

Songs
“Change My Heart, O God” Espinosa, GtG 695, SSS 507, PfAS 51A
“Cry of My Heart” Butler, SNC 81
“Take My Life” Havergal, LUYH 863, GtG 697, SSS 627

Offering

Benediction

Sending Song

Hillcrest Church’s Service on Psalm 95

Hillcrest Church’s service based on Psalm 95 also included 1 Thessalonians 1:1–3.

The main idea conveyed throughout this service is God’s initiative. God moves first, speaks first, and acts first, inviting us to worship and embracing us in relationship. The section titles in the order of worship reinforced the idea of God’s initiative by making God the subject of every action of worship.

God Gathers Us into Worship

God’s Greeting
Ephesians 1:2

Songs
“I Will Enter His Gates” Von Brethorst, SNC 13
“Come, Christians, Join to Sing” Bateman, LUYH 599, GtG 267, PH 150
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448, SNC 47

God Renews Our Relationship with God’s Self

Prayer of Confession
Lord, you have called us to worship you.
We gladly gather!
We joyfully sing!
But as we praise you, we remember that
when you have been faithful to us,
we have sinned against you.
Our worship fails to be what it could.
We go through motions, pretending to honor you,
but we are thinking about ourselves.
We forget that you seek us, you choose us,
you want to engage us deeply.
Forgive and renew us according to your steadfast love.
Remind us of your covenant faithfulness,
and have mercy on us in the name of Jesus Christ.
Amen.
—Adapted from Reformed Worship 56, © 2000 Worship Ministries of the Christian Reformed Church

Assurance of God’s Forgiveness
1 Timothy 1:15–17

Offering

God Proclaims God’s Message to Us

Prayer for Illumination

Scripture Reading
1 Thessalonians 1:1–3 and Psalm 95:1–7

Sermon
“Invited to Worship, Greeted with Grace”
Sermon Notes
God acts first in our relationship. God is the one who seeks after us before we even know to look for God. God calls out to us when we are still wandering.

Prayer of Application

God Listens

Congregational Prayer

Apostles’ Creed

God Sends God’s Gathered People Out

Song
“My Friends, May You Grow in Grace” Meaney and Diamond, LUYH 938, SSS 704

Blessing
The service ended as it began, with the words of Ephesians 1:2.

Movement 2

Renewing Our Relationship

In making confession in corporate worship, we recognize our fallen nature and that God’s grace renews God’s relationship with us. ClearView Church combined the worship practices of confession, assurance, and law in one service detailed below, while Hillcrest designated separate services for each of these practices (details of those services are not included here). For another example of a liturgy of confession and assurance, see the Reformed Worship blog post “Confession and Assurance,” by Rev. Chris Schoon, published on November 8, 2018.

Gathering

Call to Worship
Psalm 100:1–5

Opening Songs
“Here I Am to Worship” Hughes, LUYH 567, SSS 395
“Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty” Heber, LYUH 538, GtG 1, SSS 450

Opening Prayer

Greetings

God’s Commandments

Responsive Reading of the Law
Hear, O people of God, the law which the Lord speaks
in your hearing this day, that you may know his
statutes and walk according to his ordinances.
Teach us, O Lord, the grace of your law, and give us
life by your Word.

The God who saved us in Jesus Christ gave this law,
saying: I am the Lord your God! You shall have
no other gods before me.
We will worship the Lord our God and serve only him.

You shall not make yourself an image of anything to worship it.
Living no more in bondage to earthly gods, we will
worship the Lord our God in spirit and in truth.

You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
We will use the holy name of God with reverence,
praising him in everything we do and say.

You shall observe the Sabbath by keeping it holy,
for in six days you shall labor and do all your work.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and
be glad in it.

The first part of the law is this great commandment:
That we love the Lord our God with all our heart,
with all our mind, and with all our strength.

The second part of the Law is similar to the first:
you shall honor your father and mother, that you may live
long in the land the Lord your God is giving to you.
As children we will be obedient to our parents in the Lord;
as parents we will correct our children
and guide them in the training and instruction
of the Lord; we will respect the lawful authorities
appointed by God.

You shall not murder.
We will be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave us.

You shall not commit adultery.
We will use our bodies in ways that are holy and
honorable, and abstain from immorality and impurity.

You shall not steal.
We will do what we can for our neighbor’s good,
and work faithfully so that we may share with the poor.

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
We will speak the truth with our neighbor in love,
render judgments that are true and make for peace,
and not devise in our hearts any evil against anyone.

You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
We will be content whatever the circumstances through
the strength of Christ within us.

Thus we must love our neighbor as ourselves.
For the Lord requires of us to do justice, to love
kindness, and to walk humbly with our God. Amen!

—“As a Rule of Gratitude,” no. 5 of Responsive Readings of the Law on the CRCNA website (tinyurl.com/RRL1981)

Alternatives:
“As Summarized in Matthew 22:37–40,” no. 6 of Responsive Readings of the Law on the CRCNA website (tinyurl.com/RRL1981) The Worship Sourcebook, 2.7.20

Songs
“Change My Heart, O God” Espinosa, GtG 695, SSS 507, PfAS 51A
“The Power of Your Love” Bullock, WR 467

Children’s Message

Offering

Congregational Prayer

God’s Word

Prayer for Understanding

Song
“Open My Eyes, That I May See” Scott, GtG 451, SSS 583, PH 324

Scripture Reading
Micah 6:1–12

Sermon
“What God Wants”
Sermon Notes
Cheating, lying, and taking advantage of others sound like big sins. They are the kind of sins we easily see in others but often excuse in ourselves. Simply put, these sins are about putting ourselves before others. When we get in the habit of looking out for “me, myself, and I,” we neglect anything that doesn’t serve our own interests. God’s expectation for our lives is that we turn our eyes and attention toward the needs of others. Christ is our model for doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God.

Confession and Assurance

Prayer of Confession
Merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you
with our whole heart and mind and strength.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
In your mercy forgive what we have been,
help us amend what we are,
and direct what we shall be,
so that we may delight in your will
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your holy name.
Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.

—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 2.2.11

Response
“Take My Life (Holiness)” Stampley
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 56

Assurance of Pardon
Romans 8:1–4
“Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)” Newton, Tomlin, and Giglio, LUYH 693

Sending

Blessing

Movement 3

Drawn into the Presence of God

In worship we are drawn into the presence of God. In the previous week we reflected on our broken relationship with God because of our sin as well as on the reconciliation that is given through Christ. This week we hear the invitation to come closer, to boldly approach the throne of the Lord.

We Gather to Worship

Call to Worship
God invites us into his healing presence with these words:
“I am the Lord, who heals you.”
Diseased, depressed, dysfunctional, defeated,
we come hungering for health that only God can provide.

God calls us to bring open eyes, hearing ears,
and tender hearts turned toward him, the Great Physician.
We bow before him in faith and expectancy!
—based on Exodus 15:26; Isaiah 6:10. Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 1.2.27

Opening Songs
“All People That on Earth Do Dwell” Kethe, LUYH 1, GtG 385, SSS 416
“As We Seek Your Face” Bilbrough

Prayer
God of goodness and grace,
we long for your presence,
for the peace your promises bring,
and for the assurances we have received
through the gift of your Son.
May we, your people,
this day and every day,
have open eyes to see
and open ears to hear
your presence among us.

Open us to your Holy Spirit, Lord,
and prepare us for worship. Amen.
—Reprinted by permission from The Worship Sourcebook, Second Edition © 2013, Faith Alive Christian Resources 1.4.31

Greetings

Song
“Take Me to Your Sacred Place” Richards and Richards

We Confess Our Sin and Pray for One Another

Prayer of Confession
Let us be still before the Lord;
rest quietly in his presence.
Listen.

[Pause]

Let us bring before the Lord
the words that may have hurt
and all those left unsaid;
the anger we have felt
and resentment we have fed.

Let us be still before the Lord;
rest quietly in his presence.
Listen.

[Pause]
—from faithandworship.com, © John Birch, 2016, used with permission.

Words of Assurance
The Lord is slow to anger,
willing to forgive,
full of grace.
Draw near to him;
rest quietly in his presence.
Listen.
—from faithandworship.com, © John Birch, 2016, used with permission.

Congregational Prayer

We Enter the Holy of Holies to Hear God’s Voice

Songs
“Come into His Presence” Anonymous, GtG 413, SNC 3
“Boldly I Approach Your Throne” Rend Collective

Scripture Reading
Hebrews 10:1–25

Sermon
“Come Right In!”
Sermon Notes
Consider walking your congregation through the conflict between God’s perfection and our sin. Boundaries and restrictions are reflected in the setup of the temple. After explaining all the barriers and noting that the closer one got to God symbolically, the more restricted the access, the message can turn to the Hebrews passage to illustrate the way Christ has now opened the way and provided free access to God’s throne room.

Response
“Only by Grace” Gustafson

We Are Being Made Right with God

Lord’s Supper

Songs of Thanksgiving
“And Can It Be” Wesley, LUYH 695, SSS 540, PsH 267
“In Christ Alone” Getty, LUYH 770, SSS 656

We’re Sent into the World to Serve

Blessing
The Lord bless you
     and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you
     and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
     and give you peace.
—Numbers 6:24–26

Closing Song
“Eternal Spirit, God of Truth” Cotterill, LUYH 641, PsH 422

Movement 4

Response/Lord’s Supper

To introduce new believers to the common practices of Christian worship, the team at Hillcrest planned worship services that focused on details like offerings, communal prayer, preaching, and the sacraments. Below is the order of worship focusing on the Lord’s Supper.

Call to Worship
There is none like you, O Lord,
     nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
     and bow down before you, O Lord,
     and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things,
     you alone are God.

—from Psalm 86:8–10, NRSV

God’s Greeting

Songs
“Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” Van Dyke, LUYH 581, GtG 611, SSS 390
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448, SNC 47
“How Great Is Our God” Tomlin, Reeves, and Cash, LUYH 574, SSS 458

Renewing Our Relationships with God . . .
For a liturgy of confession and assurance of pardon, including prayers and songs (“Jesus Is Lord” Chua, LUYH 226 and “He Is Lord” Frey, LUYH 227, SSS 658, PsH 633), see RW 111:17.

. . . and with One Another

[extended time of greeting each other]

Congregational Prayer

Offering
“In Christ Alone” Getty, LUYH 770, SSS 656

Scripture
1 Corinthians 11:17–34

Sermon
“One Bread, One Body”
Sermon Notes
The celebration of communion is a wonderful expression of both our individual and our corporate dependence upon God’s grace in Jesus Christ. We remember that Jesus died and rose again for each of us as he offers himself to us in the bread and cup. Communion also binds us to each other, as we become the body of Christ by receiving his body and blood together.

Response
Apostles’ Creed

Lord’s Supper
According to long tradition, the church surrounds Holy Communion with a Great Prayer of Thanksgiving (see “The Heart of Holy Communion” in RW 22:34). This can be adapted in many ways according to your congregation’s practice. During the communion, members were invited to come forward to receive a piece of bread and a small cup of juice, and they were asked to hold these elements as they made a circle around the sanctuary. When all were served, they ate and drank together. For other creative ways of celebrating this sacrament, see the article titled “Finding Your Focus” in RW 88:3.

Song during Distribution of the Elements
“One Bread, One Body” Foley, LUYH 835, GtG 530, SSS 678

Blessing

Movement 5

Worthy of Worship (Doxology)

Christ-centered worship ascribes glory and praise in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Chapters 5 and 7 of the Book of Revelation paint a picture of people from every nation, tribe, people, and language worshiping God before the throne. The ancient Greek word doxology captures the picture of sayings, songs, and hymns that give praise to God. This last service of the series emphasizes our exaltation of God.

We Gather to Worship

Welcome

Call to Worship
Psalm 86:8–10

Opening Songs
“Let Your Glory Fall” Jobe
“Worthy, You Are Worthy” Moen

Opening Prayer
Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Say among the nations,
“The LORD reigns.”

All the families of the nations
will bow down before him.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

—All Nations Litany (Psalm 96:1, 3, 10; 22:27; 108:5)

Songs of Praise
“We Bow Down” Paris, SNC 42
“Lord Most High” Harris and Sadler, LUYH 593, SSS 448, SNC 47
“Praise to the Lord” Neander, LUYH 575, GtG 35, SSS 453

God’s Greeting

Children’s Message

Congregational Prayer

The Lord’s Supper

The Body
“Come to the Table” Glover, McDonald, and Frey
“Let Us Break Bread Together” Spiritual, LUYH 837, GtG 525, SSS 674
“Bless the Lord, My Soul” Taizé, LUYH 836, GtG 544, SSS 546

The Blood
“I Lift My Eyes Up” Doerksen, LUYH 652, PfAS 121H, SNC 208
“The Wonderful Cross” Tomlin, Walt, and Reeves, LUYH 176

We Offer Our Gifts

Offering

We Hear From God’s Word

Prayer for Understanding

Scripture Reading
Revelation 5:1–14; 7:9–10

Sermon
“Worthy of Worship: Window to Heaven”
Sermon Notes
This passage helps us set our sights on a heavenly picture as we look at worship. Note who is worshiping: every tribe, every language, every people, every nation. All are united by the only thing that can bring fractured people together: worship of the triune God, Father, Son, and Spirit.

Songs of Response
“You Are Worthy” Mills, PsH 232, WR 126
“Alleluia/Alabaré” Alonzo and Pagán, PsH 234, SSS 373

We’re Sent into the World to Serve

Benediction

Closing Song
“By the Sea of Crystal” Kuipers, LUYH 489, SSS 374, PsH 620

Alternative:
“Shout to the North” Smith, GtG 319

Postlude
“Lion of Judah” Upton

is an Ordained Minister in the Christian Reformed Church. She writes and consults on a variety of worship topics, including inter-generational, inter-cultural, creative and constructive planning, and music. Joy also shares preaching expertise as the Adjunct Professor of Homiletics at Denver Seminary and she coaches speakers through Dynamic Communicators, Inc. Joy lives in Denver, CO with her two daughters and husband, Bob. 

Rev. Dr. Joan DeVries is a minister in the Christian Reformed Church of North America who has pastored several congregations in Ontario. She also served as dean at Tyndale University and Seminary in Toronto. In 2018 she began a new position as assistant professor of worship arts at Trinity Western University in Langley, British Columbia, where she now resides.