Public Worship


Spiritual growth objective: Participate actively in public worship with the assembly of God’s people on every Lord’s Day (Sunday)


Introduction to public worship

God devotes a lot of space in the Bible to instructions about the public worship of the people of God.  The weekly assembly of the church for worship together has always been the cornerstone of the life and ministry of the church.  But why is it so important?  How does God renew us spiritually through the actions of worship? 

(1)  Worship renews us because we meet God in a focused way. 

Two friends can build their friendship by working together side-by-side, but they experience one another more directly as they focus on relating with each other face-to-face.  Worship is spiritually powerful because it is most like the direct and focused experience of friendship in face-to-face mode.  As one writer puts it, worship is “the life of the church with her face toward God,” and thus the practices of Christian worship are “hot spots where God’s formative, illuminating presence is particularly intense.”  And compared to worship by individuals in private or in smaller gatherings, there is a special kind of intensity about public worship on the Lord’s Day because public worship occurs on a larger scale with actions that enable the church as a whole to interact with God as a body together.  When we worship together as the gathered congregation of God’s people, we have an experience of being drawn out of ourselves and being part of God’s people and mission, which are so much bigger than our own individual relationship with God.

(2)  Worship renews us because it engages our whole person.

When we worship, meeting God is never just a purely “inward” matter of our thoughts or feelings but rather a tangible encounter through our whole person.  With our ears we hear God’s word, which instructs our minds and kindles our imagination with a vision of the world from God’s perspective.  With our lips we sing God’s truth, which engages the mind and moves our heart.  With our eyes we see God’s people and visual symbols in art and architecture, which makes God’s word and worship visible.  With our bodies we move to stand and even raise our hands to pray, to offer our gifts to God, and to embrace and serve one another in greeting and communion, which rehearses patterns of honor and love that train us to respond rightly to God and each other.  Thus, philosopher and worship scholar James K. A. Smith writes, “historic Christian worship is fundamentally formative because it educates our hearts through our bodies (which in turn renews our mind).”  Public worship is especially active because it occurs in settings and with corporate actions that are larger, more intentionally designed, more active, and more interactive than worship in other contexts.

(3)  Worship renews us because we learn the practices of the whole Christian way of life in God’s kingdom.

In worship, God engages our whole person in order to orient our whole life rightly toward him.  Good coaches or teachers recognize that we need a lot of practice in order to play well; indeed, we will only play as well as we practice.  Musicians play scales and athletes drill the fundamental skills of their sport over and over so that they will be prepared to act skillfully in a performance or game.  Likewise, in worship God trains us to live all of life according to his story by engaging over and over in the practices that embody his love and truth in action.  In worship, we train to become a people who answer God’s call, repent and confess our sins, welcome one another with the love of Christ, listen to God’s instruction, offer ourselves and all our gifts to the Lord as faithful stewards, give thanks in all circumstances, pray for others, and receive and give God’s hospitality at his table.  In other words, in worship we practice the habits that will enable us to live according to the gospel of God’s kingdom all the time in every situation.

And because life in God’s kingdom is life within the community of God’s people, we experience worship within the assembled community differently than worship in smaller or more private settings.  For example, singing is a different experience with others, especially those who are more skilled than we are.  Receiving God’s word through a called and gifted preacher is different than merely engaging in our own Bible study.  The sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are inherently communal activities that cannot be done by individuals alone.  Engaging in public worship trains us to see that being an active participant in the community life of the church is essential for experiencing the fullness of life in Christ.

Study and learn public worship

It is much easier to know what to expect and how to participate actively in public worship if we understand what happens in public worship and why.  The following resources provide some explanations of the actions or elements in public worship at Central Presbyterian Church and some biblical, theological, historical, and practical reasons for the content and order of our worship services.

Foundations of Worship
The core principles that shape public worship at Central Presbyterian Church.

The Elements and Actions of Worship
A chart of simple, one-sentence explanations of each element in the liturgy of Central Presbyterian Church.

Worship Catechism
Fuller explanations of each element of the liturgy of Central Presbyterian Church in a Q & A format.

The Order of Worship
Reasons for the order or sequence of the liturgy of Central Presbyterian Church.

Worship Is Central
This is a website full of resources about worship from Central Presbyterian Church including resources on music, the church calendar, history and theology of worship, daily worship, and more.

Action steps

(1)  Study the resources above to develop your vision and understanding of public worship.

      •  What are some reasons why public worship is so important?
      • How does the liturgy of public worship an expression of relationship with God?
      • Could you simply and briefly explain the content and order of worship to someone who is new to the church?

(2)  Commit to attending public worship every week and participating actively in worshiping God in the assembly of God’s people.