God has created human beings not simply as invisible spirits, but also as bodies and as communities. Likewise, God has made us creatures of ritual - patterns within which we find meaning.
Because of this, the biblical form of worship incorporates rituals which engage us, not only intellectually, but also on a social and bodily level. These rituals are not empty, but rather are filled with meaning, and shape us as we serve the God who gave them.
Principally, the bodily rituals of worship are baptism and the Lord's Supper, by which God brings us into His family and renews us by causing us to participate in His own life and with each other. These rituals are for the whole people of God; indeed, they mark out and shape that people of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10.16-17; 12.13).
Here is an outline of our order of service for Lord's Day worship. Although it is still somewhat of a work in progress, we claim no originality here; the overall structure is a pattern familiar from Scripture and the Church of the Lord down through the ages.
Order of Service
Service of Entrance
Call to worship
Greeting and blessing
Confession of sin:
- Biblical call to confession
- Prayer of confession
- Declaration of pardon
- Sung response
Prayer of the Church
Service of the Word
Song(s) of praise
Song of preparation
Scripture reading (sermon text)
Prayer for illumination
Song of response
Service of the Table
Tithes and offerings
- Recital/singing of the Creed
- Distribution of the bread, with singing
- Blessing and participation
- Distribution of the cup, with singing
- Blessing and participation
† In administering the Supper, our leaders generally use or adapt one of our six Lord's Supper forms, which we developed on the basis of Scripture and historic liturgical forms. You may view these in pdf here. You may also view our present baptismal forms here: baptismal form for infants | baptismal form for those professing.
We believe that Lord's Day worship is principally a mutual activity between God and His people. It is a dialogue (mutual conversation) rooted in the covenant God has made with us as His own. Think of it as a semi-formal but conversational family meal.
Looking outward, this means that we are delighted to welcome into God's presence those who do not yet belong to His family. At the same time, two things should be noted: 1) the Lord's Supper is only for baptized Christians in good standing with Christ's Church; 2) the Word administered in Lord's Day worship is primarily (although not exclusively) addressed to those already in the believing community. This means that, unlike in other circumstances of our life and service, in Lord's Day worship, evangelism is achieved principally through loving welcome of visitors which allows them to see and hear how God addresses His own children, rather than through "conversionist" sermons or altar calls. We hope and pray that our visitors will see how special and wonderful God's relationship with His people truly is, and they will be moved by the Spirit to desire to become part of His chosen and redeemed community.
With regard to the community itself, the principle of worship as a family meal between God and His people entails that the whole body participates. This is achieved, not through everybody "sharing" a testimony or standing behind the pulpit - God provides special gifts to the body for such purposes (cf 1 Corinthians 12.27-30; Ephesians 4.11-12). But the united participation of the whole body does find practical expression in congregational worship, precisely in those activities which all can do together. We all sing, pray, and confess together, and God speaks His Word to all of us together. And in particular, Paul notes that - unlike the special gifts - the whole body of Christ shares in baptism into Christ and drinking by the Spirit in the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 12.12-13).
This is why we at Christ Covenant baptize our infants (for of such is the kingdom of heaven: Matthew 19.13-14) and discern the body by including our little ones as participants in the Supper, just as children were invited to the ancient Feasts of Israel (see e.g. Deuteronomy 16.11, 14; cf Exodus 12.4). This inclusion of the children of believers in both sacraments was practiced for centuries in the earliest Church, and we believe it is a very important means by which the solidarity and unity of Christ's body is to be maintained. As Paul says, we being many are one bread and one body, because we eat together of the one bread (1 Corinthians 10.17).
Close of service (includes most of Lord's Supper celebration, including music, plus doxology and benediction)