This is Part 2 of a four-part blog on the Liturgy at Emmaus. Last week, I wrote a piece in which I developed our rationale, as a Church, for the primary elements of our corporate worship service. In this article, we’ll begin dissect each element in our actual liturgy.
Having looked at the governing principle behind our corporate worship services last week, I now want to shift our focus to address each of the particular elements in our weekly service. If you’ve spent any time at Emmaus, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that there’s a very predictable routine we go through every week. All of our services begin and end the exact same way, and there are a handful of things we do that are never absent. This routine is what we mean when we say liturgy, and every element matters. In reality, even “non-liturgical” Churches have liturgies—more times than not, it’s merely a liturgy that is absent-mindedly adopted. Opening song. Announcements. Greet your “neighbor.” Pass the bucket for tithe offerings. Two more songs. Sermon. Response song.
At Emmaus, we don’t want to do anything absent-mindedly; we want to have an explicitly biblical, gospel-drenched reason for everything that we do. In fact, when Pastor Josh, Pastor Ronni and Pastor Kevin were originally crafting the liturgical structure of our services, long before we began to even worship on a regular basis, they were pushed back to the drawing board on several occasions for the same resounding impulse: we need more gospel.
So at present, our services follow the following liturgical format:
• Call to Worship
• Song of Praise
• Scripture Reading
• Songs of Response
• Corporate Confession
• Private Confession
• Assurance of Pardon
• Song of Thanksgiving
• Song of Response
Below, I’ve broken down each element of our liturgy to explain we repeat such an activity week by week, and how it is intended to adorn the gospel.
Call to Worship
This is what begins our service. Of course, we often arrive before the call to worship to enjoy the company of one another, and on most weeks one of our pastors will make announcements, but the formal service doesn’t start until the call to worship. Why do we start this way? Because worship is essentially comprised of two elements: revelation and response. Worship is the act of responding to that which has been revealed. So if we truly gather together with the intention of worshiping our Triune God, we need see Him first! This is why the call to worship is always a Scripture reading. God has revealed himself through his Word, and if we intend to see Him—so that we can respond appropriately—we must look there.
The call to worship is also an act of mutual upbuilding. We are calling ourselves, and each other, to fix our eyes on God to see how glorious he is! It’s us saying to one another, “God is glorious and worthy of praise! Look at him! Isn’t he glorious and worthy of praise?! Yes! He is glorious and worthy of praise, so let’s praise him for his glory!” This is why the person leading in the call to worship will begin the call as an address to the congregation, and then the congregation will join the call as an address to the congregation and to God. We are starting with God, and unifying our voices around him in such a way that we are corporately affirming his worth to be the center of our attention.
So in the call to worship, we are simultaneously declaring to God that we consider Him worthy of the praise we are about to ascribe to Him, and we are asking for him to “incline [our hearts] to [his] testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psalm 119:36). The call to worship is intrinsically a de-centering act; we are communicating from the outset that our gathering is about ascribing worth to God, not merely pleasing ourselves.
Song of Praise
After a call to worship, how could we not respond with a song of praise? This song is typically a song that intentionally focuses on the bigness of God. We are praising him for one of his divine attributes; his holiness, his power to create the cosmos or deliver his people, his unfathomable love, etc. It is a massive, unimaginably glorious God we have just been called to worship, so we gladly do just that. I’m tempted to go off into a tangent here about reverence, but I’ll simply say this: there is a reason why we rage against “glibness” in our services. You will find zero vanity in our songs. Joy? Yes. Exuberance? Absolutely. Cheesiness, presumption, or triviality? God forbid it! Why? Because we are worshiping God. If our songs aren’t marked by a palpable gravity, we may not be worshipping God. He has told us that acceptable worship in his sight is packaged in “reverence and awe,” (Heb. 12:28-29) so we dare not offer him anything less.
Again, this is supposed to be a central element for the gathered Church, so we want to do it often. Why read an extended package here, after the first song and before the second? Simply this: we want for Scripture to actually, functionally direct our service. It would be easy to read a passage of Scripture at the beginning, take credit for having a “biblically-based” service, and then run off and do whatever we please with the remainder of our time. But that’s not what we want. Rather, we want to sandwich our Scripture-filled songs with Scripture readings, Scriptural preaching and Scriptural obeying. In other words, we read right here in the service to indicate that Scripture isn’t merely the foundation of our service, it comprises the content of our service.
Song(s) of Response
Again, after we’ve read about this glorious God and what he has done, we are compelled to express his worth through song, so we’ll typically sing two more songs here. These songs may be songs of praise, thanksgiving, lamentation, or just meditations on the gospel. In any case, we want for all of our services to be marked by bloody songs that adorn Jesus, and this is often a great place to embody such a commitment.
Next week we will continue our exploration of Emmaus’ liturgy by looking at Corporate and Private Confession, Assurance of Pardon, and the Song of Thanksgiving.
This is Part 1 of a four-part blog on the Liturgy at Emmaus. This article will consist of our rationale, as a Church, for the primary elements of our corporate worship service, and Parts 2 through 4 will dissect each element in our actual liturgy.
In a recent sermon that Pastor Josh preached on Leviticus, I was reminded afresh why we worship the way that we do here at Emmaus. In this sermon, Josh summarized the story of Nadab and Abihu in chapter 10—the story of Aaron’s two sons who tried to worship God in an unauthorized way and were immediately struck dead for their presumptuous thinking. How arrogant is was for them to think that they were entitled to innovate ways of approaching God distinct from the meticulous prescription God had graciously given. “I told you how I desire to be worshipped,” God was saying, “if you truly desire to express your love and adoration for me in worship, you would simply obey my commands.” In this story we are given a stark picture of the holiness of God—we dare not approach him flippantly by any means other than those which he has provided.
What, you may be asking, does this have to do with how we conduct our worship gatherings at Emmaus? Could Sam really be saying that if we were to change the way we order our services, fire would come down from heaven and consume the Church? No, I am not saying that at all. In fact, the most relevant application of this story for 21st century Christians has to do not with our corporate gatherings, but with the exclusivity of Christ. This story tells us that God provides the means for communing with him, and a healthy fear of his holiness ought to compel us to stick to those means. In Leviticus 10, the means were the preceding (and proceeding) instructions for animal blood-sacrifices and ritualistic cleansings. Today, the means is the blood-sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:19-25). The primary application, therefore, is this: don’t you dare try to commune with God by virtue of anything but the blood of Jesus Christ—if you try to predicate your intimacy with this God on anything but the blood of the Lamb (your works, your sincerity, your piety, etc.), you are committing the same sin as Nadab and Abihu.
This is why we exhort one another so often to come to Christ with empty hands; to self-justify your hearing before God with your own works is not only foolish (you could never do enough to justify a hearing before such a holy God), it’s also blasphemous. It’s tantamount to saying that what you offer is better than (or improves upon) the blood of Jesus.
However, there is a secondary application to this story, which goes along with the first. At the very least, Leviticus 10 tells us that God cares about how people worship him. This is why we, as a church, generally identify with what theologians call the “Regulative Principle” of worship. This simply means that we want for Scripture to regulate not just the who of corporate worship, but the how of corporate worship. And by “regulate,” I don’t simply mean, “define what’s off limits.” Rather, I’m saying that Scripture has told us what Christians are to do when they gather together to worship, and as a principle, we are committed to doing only what Scripture commands.
And what does Scripture command for New Testament believers to do corporately? We are commanded to:
- Read the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13)
- Teach/Preach the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13, 2 Tim. 4:1-2)
- Pray (1 Tim. 2:1, Acts 2:42, 4:23-31)
- Sing (Col. 3:12-17)
- Participate in Communion/Baptism (1 Cor. 11:23-34, Acts 2:38, Matt. 28:19)
That’s it. That’s what we should be doing when we gather together corporately. Our liturgy should not include anything that doesn’t fit comfortably inside those five corporate commands. And by “comfortably,” I mean that we shouldn’t try to squeeze movie clips, dance routines, or that guy who throws paint on a canvas to depict what looks like nothing at all until he flips it right-side-up to reveal he was actually painting a very Caucasian Jesus, into the category of “teaching/preaching Scripture.” There’s not a single quote from The Office, for example, that could ever be followed up with “thus sayeth the Lord!”; a clip of The Office would be totally out of step with the purpose of the corporate worship gathering
Now, some churches may venture outside of these five elements that the New Testament explicitly commands. They may even do so without shifting from the gospel as their central point of emphasis. Should such churches anticipate facing a similar fate as Nadab and Abihu? I don’t think so. But I do think they are wrong not to subscribe to the Regulative Principle for three reasons.
This Is God’s Church
The Regulative Principle fosters a corporate understanding that a particular congregation belongs to God, while the alternative fosters a corporate understanding that a particular congregation belongs to the congregation (or, more often, the leadership of the congregation). God purchased the church with his own blood, and has subsequently placed her under the stewardship of elders (Acts 20:28). This means that church leaders cannot do with their flocks as they please, they do not own their churches. Emmaus does not belong to our pastors, she belongs to Jesus Christ. The regulative principle establishes an impulse among our Church leaders to ask, “What would the owner of this Church like for us to do?” I do not think the same could be said of the alternative principle, which merely looks to Scripture for prohibitions and then leaves the church to operate according to the whims of popular opinion or the fleeting charisma of personalities.
God’s Church Is Governed By God’s Word
The Regulative Principle reinforces the conviction that Christians live their lives positively directed by the Word of God, rather than merely guarded by the prohibitions of God’s Word. The alternative principle, in my estimation, inherently reinforces the natural sinful perspective that Christianity can be defined by what people are not allowed to do, and that life is ultimately to be governed according the autonomous whims of the individual. Conversely, the Regulative Principle is an object lesson in and of itself, teaching that Scripture does not merely set boundaries for how Christians should not live, but also directs Christians positively for how they should live. In other words, the Regulative Principle aids in the command to “let the word of Christ dwell richly in [the corporate midst].” (Colossians 1:16)
God Cares about How We Worship
The regulative principle assumes that God actually cares about how he is worshiped. Though our means of approaching God (the shed blood of Jesus) and Nadab and Abihu’s means of approaching God (the Levitical priestly offerings) are different, the God we are worshiping is one and the same, and thus the manner in which we worship him should be the same (i.e., with reverence and special attention to what he has said about proper worship). Further, Leviticus tells us what kind of God he is. He is a gracious God who provides what he requires (a means), and he is a holy God who cares about how he is worshiped.
On the cusp of the New Covenant’s arrival, Jesus informs the Samaritan woman at the well, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” (John 4:23) Notice, he does not say that the Father is seeking worshipers who worship him “however they see fit.” We want to look to the Word of God to see what Christ means when he says “in truth.” If we begin with self, and then merely look to Scripture for approval or disapproval, we do not cast the appropriate shroud of suspicion on the preferences of sinners—even if we are sinners who are saved by grace.
For these reasons, we have structured our service to hang only on that which Scripture commands. Next week, we’ll carefully dissect each element of our liturgy and explore the various purposes of our liturgical format.
Last Sunday we launched its first semester of Emmaus Women’s Mentoring. Emmaus Women’s Mentoring is a semester based ministry where multiple groups of 3 women meet together throughout the week to study the Bible in order to know God and apply the truth to their lives. In our first semester we have seen over 30 women sign up to take this journey with us!
At its kickoff on Sunday, Tish Hedger shared the vision for Emmaus Women’s Mentoring.
“The primary goal of our mentoring groups is to grow in our love for God through the study of his word. My dream is that our church would become a church teeming with women who feel confident in their ability to read and understand the word of God.
The desire of our pastors is that the women of Emmaus might be equipped to embrace their giftings and flourish in their callings. In order to do that we must be Women of the Word.
My hope is that this semester would be the beginning of a work in our church among the women. That women would feel empowered and emboldened to minister. Some of you have ideas and dreams right now that our church body needs. And all of you have gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you to use on behalf of the church. Some of you are gifted to teach and you don’t know it yet or you are terrified because you’ve have felt a beckoning towards teaching. We need each of you. We need each other.”
This is truly the hope and desire of our pastors; that we would see an army of women rise up in our church. We desire to see an army of women who love the scriptures and love the Jesus of the scriptures. We desire to see an army of women equipped to be missional mothers, community missionaries, leaders in our city and in our church, missionaries to other nations, disciple-makers of other women, and teachers of the scriptures.
Emmaus Women’s Mentoring is just the beginning because this is not just a programmatic women’s ministry idea; this is a missional movement aimed at seeing God glorified and churches multiplied by declaring and displaying the gospel.
Listen to the sermon from last Sunday on iTunes or on our website.
This was written yesterday shortly after our members meeting.
As I write this, I am sitting in my living room, with the window opened ever so slightly, so as not to let out the cold air, but to let in the sound of rain and thunder. As I sit here, drinking my coffee (yes, it’s full-caf b/c I’m a freak of nature and caffeine does nothing to me), writing emails to visitors who joined us today, and listening to the rain, I am asking God to allow us to see the gospel saturate the northland with an overwhelming response to Jesus. I want to see lost people saved! Thank you for being a church that wants to see lives changed by the gospel of Jesus.
Today was a wonderful day of worship, word, and fellowship. I am always blessed to see you stand around and engage each other in conversations long after the services are finished. Your genuine love for each other is breathtaking.
Thank you for your time this afternoon to stay at Emmaus for members meeting. I hope that the churches gift of buying you lunch shows our gratitude to you for staying around and also provided you time to continue to fellowship with each other. Thank you as well for allowing us to have our children join us today. I do believe the highlight of the entire day for me, was sitting on the edge of the stage with a bag of candy, passing it out to the kids following the service. As each of your children came forward, I prayed that Jesus would draw them and overwhelm them with his grace and that their lives would be spent on bringing him glory.
I wanted to shoot you a note this week as a follow-up to our meeting to make sure that we all heard the information being shared and are on the same page moving forward.
God is growing Emmaus
Over the last 3 weeks, we have averaged 171 in worship attendance and we have over 100 adults signed up for community groups. This is up from 135 average and 80 adults in community groups in the spring. This growth is exciting and it is good. We want to be a church that God uses to reach the northland with the gospel.
As a result of this growth, we want to ask you to sit forward and “in” in the worship times. This will help us make more room for visitors and late-comers.
Emmaus Kids is growing!
Last week Emmaus Kids had 52 children on Sunday morning! That is a lot of kids for a church our size. Our kids are also growing. We are hearing great stories about how our kids are really grasping the gospel! Thank you to Victor and Hannah Irving and to Tabitha Rainwater for your leadership in our kids area!
Here are 3 big announcements regarding Emmaus Kids:
1. If you are indifferent to where you serve at Emmaus, we’d ask that you sign up for kids! If you have no idea how you can be of use in our kids ministry, then email email@example.com to find out! As our kids ministry grows, we need leaders and volunteers to help us declare and display the gospel to our children.
2. In the coming weeks, we will be making a change in our kids ministry on Sundays: 3rd – 5th graders will no longer go back to Emmaus Kids, but will stay in the service. We believe that our kids in this age range can engage and learn from our worship and preaching. We believe that in the end, it will be better for them to see and experience their parents and the adults in our church love Jesus on Sunday mornings in corporate worship.
3. Will we replace this time of investment with something else? Yes! Beginning in September, Emmaus Kids and Emmaus Students will begin to have monthly events that will help us to build community and declare the gospel to our kids. Please pay attention to the Emmaus blog and social media for more information coming very soon from the Emmaus Kids team!
Emmaus Counseling has launched!
We believed that there was a great need in the northland for biblically based and clinically trained counseling, offering holistic approaches to healing for people in our community. Emmaus Counseling announced it’s launch 2 weeks ago and our two counselors already combine for 29 clients! Both Emmaus members, and people from our community are seeking help and we are there to help! If you would like to talk with one of our counselors, you can find more information on here or here.
If you know someone who could benefit from counseling, then refer them to us! We’d love to serve them.
Community Groups – belonging, discipleship, and commission
Emmaus Community Groups exist to see the people of Emmaus experience gospel-centered belonging, discipleship, and commission with one another for the glory of God. If you are not part of a community group, then email firstname.lastname@example.org today to get signed up!
In a healthy community group, you will feel safe, known, accepted, loved, and served. We strive for our groups to all be healthy and help you experience these characteristics.
New groups are forming and old ones are starting fresh this month.
If you are a leader, would like to be a leader, or are considering possibly being a leader, we’d invite you to join us on September 25th for a leaders training. At this meeting, you will learn what it requires to lead, what’s expected of our leaders, how you can practically lead well. Email email@example.com for more information.
Emmaus has agreed to partner with Freshwater Church in Bolivar, Mo in Padova Italy in order to see God glorified and churches multiplied by declaring and displaying the gospel in Italy. We will be getting more details of upcoming trips and how to pray to you soon.
The Emmaus Worship team needs musicians
If you are a musician and you are interested in leading the church in worship alongside our worship team, then email firstname.lastname@example.org
Pastoral Residency Applications are due
If you are interested in our two-year residency for training as pastors, then apply online here:
Interviews will be the week of October 17.
The Next Membership Process
If you know someone who is visiting Emmaus and should take the next step into covenant membership, let them know that we begin the process in October. Sign up for that will be available soon.
Pastor Kevin’s Announcement
Today, Pastor Kevin announced that God is leading his family to move back to Springfield, MO. This move has been known by and fully supported by the elders of Emmaus since March. God has overwhelmed the Strattons with his faithfulness to provide for his calling. We hate to see them leave, and our hearts grieve the loss of a friend and pastor, but we celebrate God’s calling and the Stratton’s obedience. We will have a party in November to send the Stratton’s away in love and on mission.
Pastor Kevin and Carey will be leaving Emmaus officially Thanksgiving week.
Emmaus, we love you and we are praying for you this week! Live your life to see God glorified and churches multiplied, by declaring and displaying the gospel to all peoples.
Members Meeting: August 28, 12-2:30pm
On August 28th we have the opportunity to gather together, as those who are covenanted to each other, to celebrate all that God is doing among us!
From Pastor Joshua:
“One of the greatest joys I have is to pastor a group of people who are covenanted together to declare and display the gospel to and with each other.
I would ask that every covenant member make it a priority to be at this meeting. We will be announcing a few things that are major moves for our church in various ways. We want to share these things with you, our covenant members, in person. “
Lunch will be served and childcare will be provided. We look forward to celebrating and praying together on August 28th!
Community Groups are Back!
Over the course of the month of August, each of your community groups will be kicking back into full swing. In addition, we will be seeing 4 new groups started! Don’t miss the opportunity to engage in gospel community this way! This is one of the best ways that we as the church can declare and display the gospel to each other. Our groups are designed to build relationships, to confess sin, to encourage with the gospel, and to care for one another. If you have not signed up for a group, do so right now by emailing email@example.com