The Four-Fold Pattern of Worship

There’s an old adage, typically used by educators, that “external order organizes internal experience. When it comes to worship, the proper use of order facilitates how a church tells and acts out the story of salvation so that the congregation’s internal experience of being encountered by the story will be maximized. The ancient order of worship, one that is still practiced by liturgical churches today, was a unified four-fold action:

  1. Preparing to worship
  2. Celebrating the Word along with a response
  3. Celebrating the Lord’s Table along with a response
  4. The dismissal

Through this order the worshiper . . .

  1. Comes into the presence of God
  2. Listens to God speak through his Word
  3. Receives Christ through the bread and wine
  4. Goes into the world in Christ’s name

As each step unfolds, a meaningful encounter with God becomes fully realized. Worshipers will come away from a service understanding better what they have experienced. The fullness of their engagement through the intentional order will be complete.

Although you will find a variety of services from different traditions at Liturgies, our Worship Planning tool allows users to incorporate an array of service elements into a logical sequence that is easy for both clergy and parishioners alike to understand, experience, and live out. Following is a sample outline of a complete and fully planned service you may want to consider developing with the assistance of Liturgies’ library of songs, prayers, and other resources:

The Entrance

The Acts of Entrance bring the people before God, form them into the body of Christ, and ready them to hear the Word of the Lord.

  • The Gathering of God’s People
  • The Entrance Song
  • The Greeting
  • Acts of Praise
  • The Prayer of the Day

The Service of the Word

The response to God comes after God has spoken. A great deal of variation of forms may be used to accomplish the response. Emphasis is placed on the full range of God’s revelation. Readings are chosen from a three-year lectionary. Some shorten the readings to two. Readings may be dramatized or told as story.

  • The Old Testament Lesson
  • The Psalm (responsive)
  • The Epistle Lesson
  • The Alleluia (or other response)
  • The Gospel Lesson
  • The Sermon
  • The Creed (or some other response)
  • The Prayers of the People
  • The Penitential Prayer
  • The Passing of the Peace

The Service of the Table

There is a fourfold action at the Table following the action of our Lord—he took, blessed, broke, and gave (see Matthew 26:26). Approaches to the Table vary from very simple and compressed forms to the more elaborate. Listed here are the major parts of the service that can be done simply or expanded into a more elaborately sung Eucharist. Anointing with oil may accompany the eucharistic action. Communion songs with an upbeat resurrection motif have been restored in many churches.

  • The Offertory
  • Invitation to the Lord’s Table
  • Salutation
  • Sursum Corda (Lift up your hearts)
  • Prayer of Proclamation
  • Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy)
  • The Words of Institution
  • The Epiclesis (prayer for coming of the Holy Spirit)
  • The Prayer of Intercession (Lord’s Prayer)
  • The Fraction (Breaking of Bread)
  • The Distribution
  • Communion Songs and Hymns
  • The Closing Prayer

The Dismissal

Because the people are being sent forth in mission, announcements are frequently given before the words of dismissal. Various acts of worship then bring closure to worship and send the people forth.

  • Announcements
  • Benediction (Blessing)
  • Hymn of Dismissal
  • Words of Dismissal