The Components of Corporate Worship

Pastors for Nouthetic Ministry

April 2, 2009

Dr. Fred T. Daniel, Jr. – Pastor

Brookhaven Baptist Church

Greensboro, NC




This session is about the “how to,” the methodology, the machinery of corporate worship.  What is corporate worship if it is done God’s way?  What should happen at the assembly on the Lord’s Day?  How should that be structured?



Jesus confronted the wrong ideas of the woman of Samaria about worship:


John 4:21-24

21 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.


He made several things clear in this confrontation:

1.         You may know the “where” of worship - the Lord’s House.

1.         You may know the “what” of worship - God.

2.         You may know the “when” of worship - this age.

3.         You may know the “how” of worship - in spirit and in truth.    


must worship. Jesus is not speaking of a desirable element in worship but that which is absolutely necessary.

in spirit and truth. The word "spirit" does not refer to the Holy Spirit but to the human spirit. Jesus’ point here is that a person must worship not simply by external conformity to religious rituals and places (outwardly) but inwardly ("in spirit") with the proper heart attitude. The reference to "truth" refers to worship of God consistent with the revealed Scripture and centered on the "Word made flesh" who ultimately revealed His Father.

     - MacArthur Study Bible


Jesus confronted the wrong ideas of the Pharisees about worship:


Matthew 15:1-14

1 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, 2 Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. 3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? 4 For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. 5 But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; 6 And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. 7 Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, 8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

10 And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: 11 Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. 12 Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? 13 But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. 14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.


15:2 tradition of the elders. This was a body of extrabiblical law that had existed only in oral form and only since the time of the Babylonian captivity. Later it was committed to writing in the Mishna near the end of the second century. The law of Moses contained no commandment about washing one’s hands before eating—except for priests who were required to wash before eating holy offerings (Lev. 22:6, 7).

15:3 transgress. The nature of this sin is identified in vv. 4–6 as dishonoring one’s parents in a cleverly devised way. The commandments of God were clear (quoted from Ex. 20:12;  21:17; Deut. 5:16); but to circumvent them, some people claimed they could not financially assist their parents because they had dedicated a certain sum of money to God, who was greater than their parents. The rabbis had approved this exception to the commandments of Moses and thus in effect nullified God’s law (v. 6).

15:14 Let them alone. This severe judgment is a form God’s wrath. It signifies abandonment by God and is described as “giving them over” in Rom. 1:18–32 (see notes there). Cf. Hos. 4:17.

                                                                                                                 - MacArthur Study Bible


“He charges them with ignoring God’s law and attacking God’s law by adding to it!  Indeed, Jesus says that the words of Isaiah are perfectly suited to describe the Pharisees’ worship:

1.         It is lip service rather than God-honoring, in which their hearts are far away from Him, rather than loving Him;

2.         It is empty worship, mere form; and

3.         It is human-made, not based on the prescriptions of the Word.”

         - J. Ligon Duncan, III


I.      Historical Worship Elements

A.             The Patristic Age, main ingredients - Justin, 2nd century

1.             The reading and expounding of Scripture

2.             Prayer

3.             The celebration of the Lord’s Table


B.             Early Church Fathers, 2nd- 3rd century - 3 hour services

1.             Opening greeting and response: Usually the bishop said, “The Lord be with you”; and the congregation responded, “And with your spirit.”

2.             Scripture reading: Old Testament.

3.             Psalm or hymn.

4.             Scripture reading: New Testament.  The first New Testament reading was from any book between Acts and Revelation, normally an epistle.

5.             Psalm or hymn

6.             Scripture reading: New Testament.  The second New Testament reading was from one of the four gospels.

7.             Sermon: The bishop preached in a sitting posture.

8.             Dismissal of all but baptized believers.

9.             Prayers.

a.             Topic announced.

b.             Silent prayer.

c.              Leader summed up in audible prayer.

d.             Another topic announced.

e.             a-c repeated for a lengthy time.

10.          Holy Communion.

a.             Greeting by the bishop.

b.             The “kiss of peace.”

c.              The offertory - each member brought bread and wine.

d.             The bishop and congregation engaged in dialogue with each other

e.             The bishop and deacons broke the bread.

f.               The bishop and deacons distributed the bread and cup.

g.             Members stood during this part of the service

h.             Leftover bread and wine was taken home and used at the table as a reminder of Communion at the assembly.

11.          Benediction.


C.            Luther’s Worship-book, 1526

1.             Hymn or psalm

2.             Kyrie elesion – quotes of sinfulness, responses for mercy

3.             Set prayer, written down.

4.             Scripture reading chanted from passage of the day: Acts to Revelation.

5.             Hymn sung by the choir.

6.             Scripture reading chanted from the set passage for the day: the Gospels.

7.             The Apostles’ Creed, sung by the whole congregation.

8.             Sermon.

9.             The Lord’s Prayer in a long paraphrase.

10.          Exhortation (leading to Holy Communion).

11.          The words of the institution, chanted by the minister.

12.          Consecration and distribution of the bread, while a hymn is sung.

13.          Blessing and distribution of the cup while a hymn is sung.

14.          Set prayer, written down.

15.          The benediction: The Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).


D.            Calvin’s Strasbourg congregation.  He was concerned that the elements of the corporate worship be “ a living movement proceeding from the Holy Spirit.”

1.             Scripture sentence: Psalm 124:8

2.             Opening set prayer: confession of sin (written down).

3.             Scriptural words of pardon.

4.             Words of absolution.

5.             The Ten Commandments sung, with kyrie elesion (Lord, have mercy) after each commandment (the first four commandments were sung first, followed by a prayer for instruction in God’s law and the grace to obey it; then the other six commandments were sung).

6.             Prayer for illumination by the minister.

7.             Scripture reading.

8.             Sermon.

9.             Collection.

10.          Set prayers of intercession, followed by a long paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer.

11.          The Apostles’ Creed or a psalm sung.

12.          Benediction: the Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26).


E.             The Puritans

1.             Call to worship

2.             Prayer of adoration and supplication.

3.             Psalm.

4.             Old Testament reading.

5.             Psalm.

6.             New Testament reading.

7.             Prayer of confession and general intercession.

8.             Sermon.

9.             Prayer of Thanksgiving and special intercession.

10.          The Lord’s Prayer.

11.          Psalm.

12.          Benediction.


II.    Biblical Service Elements - “The elements of worship must be instituted by God Himself, the forms in which those elements are performed must not be inimical to the nature or content of the element or draw attention away from the substance and goal of worship, and the circumstances of worship must never overshadow or detract from the elements, but rather discreetly foster the work of the means of grace.”                                                                                 - J. Ligon Duncan, III


A.             Prayer

Acts 2:42

42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.


1.             Pray the language of Scripture.

a.             This is the pattern found in Scripture.

(1)           Mary - Hannah’s Song

(2)           Solomon’s temple - Psalm132:8-9

(3)           Jesus on cross - Psalm 22:1 & 31:5

b.             It then follows that there is special efficacy in Scripture-based prayer.

c.              There is a special comfort in scriptural prayer.

d.             Scriptural prayer reinforces the ministry of the Word.

e.             Study and use the prayers in Scripture.

f.               Incorporate the language of Scripture in your prayers.

2.             Plan public prayers.

a.             Plan to offer brief prayers.

b.             Plan so as not to preach.

c.              Plan so as to use appropriate terminology.


B.             Reading of the Word

1 Timothy 4:13

13 Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine.


READING of the word in the congregation, being part of the publick worship of God, (wherein .i.we; acknowledge our dependence upon him, and subjection to him,) and one mean sanctified by him for the edifying of his people, is to be performed by the pastors and teachers.

Howbeit, such as intend the ministry, may occasionally both read the word, and exercise their gift in preaching in the congregation, if allowed by the presbytery thereunto.

All the canonical books of the Old and New Testament (but none of those which are commonly called Apocrypha) shall be publickly read in the vulgar tongue, out of the best allowed translation, distinctly, that all may hear and understand.

How large a portion shall be read at once, is left to the wisdom of the minister; but it is convenient, that ordinarily one chapter of each Testament be read at every meeting; and sometimes more, where the chapters be short, or the coherence of matter requireth it.

It is requisite that all the canonical books be read over in order, that the people may be better acquainted with the whole body of the scriptures; and ordinarily, where the reading in either Testament endeth on one Lord's day, it is to begin the next.

We commend also the more frequent reading of such scriptures as he that readeth shall think best for edification of his hearers, as the book of Psalms, and such like.

When the minister who readeth shall judge it necessary to expound any part of what is read, let it not be done until the whole chapter or psalm be ended; and regard is always to be had unto the time, that neither preaching, nor other ordinances be straitened, or rendered tedious. Which rule is to be observed in all other publick performances.

Beside publick reading of the holy scriptures, every person that can read, is to be exhorted to read the scriptures privately, (and all others that cannot read, if not disabled by age, or otherwise, are likewise to be exhorted to learn to read,) and to have a Bible.

                                                                    - Westminster Directory for Public Worship, 1645


1.             It is not optional.  Not reading the Scriptures is on the same order as not having a sermon or omitting congregational singing.

2.             It is a means of grace.

3.             It ought to be done by those responsible for the preaching of the Word.

4.             The minister ought to endeavor to read all of Scripture to his people.

5.             The minister ought to read from the best available translation.

6.             The minister ought to exercise common sense in deciding how much Scripture to read at once.

7.             The minister ought to keep a balance of reading between the two Testaments.

8.             The minister ought to develop an orderly plan for reading through the Scripture

9.             The minister ought to pick up where he left off.

10.          The minister ought to make regular use of exceptionally edifying portions of Scripture like the Psalms.

11.          The minister ought to offer brief explanatory remarks about the reading but those remarks ought not be overlong or overshadow the event of the reading of the Word.


C.            Exposition of the Word - the Center of Worship

Nehemiah 8:8

8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.


1.             Assumes the Authority of the Word - “When the Bible’s authority is recognized and honored, the pulpit stands as a summons to hear and obey the Word of God.  True worship takes place when the  authority of the Bible is right honored and the preaching of the Word is understood to be the event whereby God speaks to His people through His Word, by the human instrumentality of his servants – the preachers.”  - R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

2.             Requires Reverence of the Word - “Reverence is the only appropriate response to the acknowledgement that the Bible is the Word of God and that preaching is the proclamation of the Word to God’s people.” - R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

3.             Manifests the Centrality of the Word - “Worship properly directed to the honor and glory of God will find its center in the reading and preaching of the Word of God.  Expository preaching cannot be assigned a supporting role in the act of worship – it must be central.” - R. Albert Mohler, Jr.

D.            Music

Ephesians 5:19

19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

Colossians 3:16

16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.


1.             Prelude - not background music for conversation, but preparation for worship.

2.             Psalms

3.             Hymns

a.             Praise

b.             Proclamation

c.              Prayer

4.             Spiritual songs

a.             Congregation

b.             Groups, choirs

c.              Solos with caution

5.             Instruments

Psalm 150:3-5

3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp. 4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. 5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

a.             All instruments are lawful for use in worship, but all may not be expedient.

b.             Early Christians avoided certain instruments because of their association with pagan worship.

c.              The line between liberty and legalism requires spiritual wisdom.

Isaiah 38:20

20 The LORD was ready to save me: therefore we will sing my songs to the stringed instruments all the days of our life in the house of the LORD.


6.             Postlude - reflection of praise and thanksgiving


E.             Ordinances

1.             Lord’s Table


1 Corinthians 11:18-34

18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. 19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you. 20 When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper. 21 For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. 22 What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.

23 For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: 24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. 25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. 26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.


a.             It is a sign of Christ’s death which He anticipated as the central fact of worship.

b.             It is a covenant seal. “When the minister holds forth the bread and the cup of the Lord’s Supper, he does so on Christ’s behalf as Christ sets forth a meal before His covenant people.”  - Richard D. Phillips

2.             Baptism - “Baptism is a neon light flashing “Gospel, Gospel, Gospel.’” D. Marion Clark


a.             The atonement of Christ


1 Peter 3:21

21 The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:


b.             Union with Christ

Romans 6:3

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

Romans 6:5

5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:


c.              Sanctification of the Spirit

1 Peter 1:2

2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.


d.             Entry into God’s covenant


Hebrews 9:15

15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.


e.             Redemptive judgment


f.               Consecration

Romans 6:12-14

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God. 14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.


F.             Offering - “Some churches have retiring offerings on the way out the door, or at the end of the service following the sermon (which is an appropriate place for this element in the reformed tradition, since it is another fitting response to receiving the Word of God).” - Paul S. Jones



III.            Creativity in the Elements

A.             Prayer

1.             Silent prayer

2.             Church in Brownsburg, IN uses a “prayer prompter” video screen


B.             Reading of the Word

1.             Pastoral duty

2.             Assigned to other pastoral staff on a schedule

3.             Assigned to members who are good readers on a schedule

4.             Responsive reading

5.             Nugget-digging – reading passages and asking for responses to the reading - principles found, promises, commands, comforts, exhortations.

6.             Read through a book of the Bible (one or two chapters) each service until complete.

C.            Exposition of the Word

D.            Music

1.             Hymn services

2.             Hymn-of-the-month


E.             Ordinances

1.             Lord’s Table

a.             Planned testimonies about how members came to Christ

b.             Assigned passages handed out in advance

2.             Baptism

a.             MacArthur’s church - this is the place, in the pool, that the believer professes Christ publicly AFTER initial discipleship and instruction

F.             Offering

1.             During the service

2.             Retiring offering

3.             Memorial Baptist in Ocala, FL - ushers bring offering back to the table for a prayer of thanksgiving and for wisdom in the disbursement.