Our culture often thinks of worship the same way we think of watching a play . . . being an audience simply observing the action. However, worship should be seen as something in which the entire congregation participates. God is the audience in public worship. We are the actors. Those who lead the music, prayers, and other elements are there to assist the worship of the congregation, who should be actively involved throughout the service.
In worship we should also see ourselves as one group, the body of Christ, rather than as a collection of individuals. God has always chosen to be worshipped by His people corporately. This is why so many of our prayers and confessions are offered in the first person plural: "Our Father", "We believe", etc.
Worship as a Dialogue
Public worship is the special time of God meeting with His people. The whole service is a conversation/dialogue between God and His people. If you notice the structure of the service it begins with God calling us to worship, our response in praise and prayer; God calls us to confess our sins, we do, He assures of the forgiveness of sins; we hear His word, we respond with our offerings; we hear his word we respond with praises and prayers; we listen to the Word preached and visible in the Table, we respond in renewed faith and repentance; God speaks last in the word of blessing—the benediction.
Ancient and Indigenous Worship
We intend for our worship service to be both very old and very new. We want it to be old to connect us to the rich fabric of the Church's worship through the centuries so we use ancient creeds and confessions, as well as hymns written at various points in Church history. The structure of the service itself is also a reflection of the common pattern used consistently by the Church from the earliest recorded times until our time. At the same time we strive to be indigenous to Tucson in our style. The great worship in heaven described in the Scriptures involves the glory of the cultures of earth all being brought into Zion for the worship of God. This prizing of diversity in cultural expression
of the one ancient faith is what we are hoping to see develop at Midtown..
The Elements of Worship
God's Word teaches us that prayer, reading and preaching the Scriptures, singing, the sacraments (baptism and the Lord's Supper), collecting offerings, taking oaths and vows, and solemn fasting are all legitimate elements of
public worship. Therefore, we limit ourselves to these components in our Sunday
worship services. Every aspect of the service is consciously directed towards God as worship.
The Order of Worship
We follow the historical two-fold order in our worship service: the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Table (often called the Liturgy of the Upper Room.) Through the elements in this order, the gospel is re-told each week in the service itself.
Call to Worship
The call to worship is God's direct invitation and command to worship
Him. Therefore we read the call to worship from various parts of Scripture, usually from the Psalms.
We believe it is important to sing often in worship. The first hymn or song comes as a response to the call to worship, and is specifically oriented towards praising the greatness of God. We also sing various Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs after our corporate prayer. Often these have some relationship to an aspect of God that will be brought out in the preaching of the Scriptures.
Prayer is a vital part of our worship; we pray at various times and in various ways (led by worship leader or minister, corporately, unison, responsively, silently) throughout our worship service.The first prayer is the Prayer of Invocation, which calls upon God's presence with us and His blessing upon the service. We pray corporately and individually in the confession of our sins to God. The Prayers of the People are designed to help us bring our requests to God as a congregation. We use prayers that are directed with some unison prayer and some silent time for individuals to bring specific concerns to God. The Prayer for Illumination before the sermon recognizes our need for the Holy Spirit to help us understand and apply His truth in our lives. We pray before the Lord's Supper to give thanks and to set aside the elements to God's special use.
Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon in Christ
In order to stand before the holy God of the universe, we must come with clean consciences. Therefore, early in the service we confess our sins to Him. This is not meant to be a time of maudlin groveling in our failures, but rather an expectant grasping of the grace of Jesus toward sinners like us. The assurance of pardon is the promise of the gospel in God's word to the penitent.
God has chosen to work in the lives of His people by using His written and
preached Word. Preaching was the primary activity of Jesus and the apostles. The Scripture says preaching is a "foolish" means to convince and convert people, but that God has chosen this "weak" means to ensure that we give Him credit for changing lives rather than crediting the eloquence or creativity of a minister.
Tithes and Offerings
Our giving is an acknowledgement that God is our Provider and that our ability to create wealth comes only from Him. We worship Him by bringing the first of our increase to Him.
The Lord's Supper
Jesus instituted this meal for the spiritual nourishment of His people. We don't know how He uses this meal to strengthen and feed us, but experientially we know that He does, just as His Word promises. We remember His death for us on the cross in the Supper, and we anticipate His second coming and the wedding supper of the Lamb we are to enjoy with Him then. The Supper is a time of thankfulness, rededication, reassurance and hope for the Christian. The church invites any baptized Christian who is a member of a church that proclaims the gospel to participate in the Supper. We are also warned that God requires us to come in sincerity and truth, so we must search our hearts and repent of our sins before we come to the table.
Confession of Faith
Often in our worship service, we confess our common faith. We sometimes use the Apostle's Creed or the Nicene Creed, both of which were formulated very early in the history of the Church; these are the common confessions of all Christians. We occasionally will use part of the Westminster Confession of Faith or another of the Church's great confessions in our worship. When we use the Apostle's Creed you should note that "holy, catholic church" refers all who believe the gospel rather than to the Roman Catholic Church in particular. We understand the "descent into hell" mentioned in that creed to refer to the condemnation in our stead that Jesus endured on the cross.
The Benediction dismisses the worshipers in the name of the Lord, assuring those who live in faith that the power and presence of God will accompany
them. This is not a prayer; rather the pastor is declaring the Lord's blessing, therefore we do not need to bow for it. Some worshippers will hold out open hands as a sign of receiving God's blessing.
Questions About Worship:
Why Do We Celebrate The Lord's Supper Weekly?
We believe Christ is present spiritually in the Lord's Supper, and that when we partake of it we commune with him. He nourishes us spiritually through the supper, reaffirming his grace and favor in our lives, and we reaffirm our faith and trust in him as well. Like we do with the other means God uses to affirm his grace to us (e.g., preaching and prayer) we want to avail ourselves of the Supper often in our worship. The church's practice through the centuries has in most cases been weekly communion, although some practice communion monthly or quarterly. Midtown celebrates the Lord's Supper each week in our worship service.
Why Do We Usually Come Forward For The Supper?
Coming forward for the supper symbolizes our unity as the body of Christ. It also
engages our bodies as well as our minds, and connects us to each other as we come, which we see as practical benefits. Our elders love to speak a word of hope in Christ to people as they come to partake as well.
Why Do We Use Written Prayers?
We use written prayers so that we can pray together more easily. The Bible is filled with written prayers God's people use to respond to him (think of the Psalms, or the Lord's Prayer, or the prayers in Revelation.) This isn't a biblical requirement, but the examples in the Scriptures and our experience of praying together more easily draws us to written prayers.