Service of the Word

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

As explained in the next five entries, the worship of New Testament Christians began its evolution into the historic liturgies of the church and the order of worship became differentiated into two major segments: the service of the Word and the service of the Lord's Table. Second-century sources already reveal this differentiation; recent converts to the faith were present during the time of instruction in the Scriptures and the prayers of the community but were generally dismissed before...

Scripture Reading In the Early Church (Biblical)

In the assemblies of the early church, the Scriptures were read to the congregation by a lector, or reader. This practice was modeled on that of the synagogue, wherein the Old Testament Scriptures were read aloud every Sabbath by a reader appointed from the congregation. The practice of the synagogue, in turn, had developed from the ancient concept of a literary document as something recited, rather than something read silently from a manuscript.

Sermon (Homily)

The New Testament distinguishes between preaching and teaching. Preaching is the proclamation of the Messiahship of Jesus, as revealed in his ministry, death, and resurrection. Preaching, therefore, occurs not in the worship of believers but in the public forum. The worship assembly is the setting for instruction in the faith and exposition of the Word of God. Although the sermon or homily of today may be a presentation of the gospel and an appeal for commitment to Christ, it had its origin as a part of worship in the teaching activity, rather than the public preaching, of the New Testament church.

Creed (Affirmation of Faith)

The historic creeds of the church have their origins in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Although the Bible contains no formal creedal statements, it contains affirmations of faith that have something of the character of the later Christian confessions. These rudimentary biblical statements were primarily acts of worship, as opposed to tests of doctrinal orthodoxy. The historic creeds have their place in traditional Christian worship, often following the sermon as a response to the proclamation of the Word of God.

Prayers of Intercession

In the religious life of the biblical communities, as in that of the churches of today, prayer was both individual and corporate. Although the biblical worshiper always approaches the Lord as a member of a larger covenanted community, there is a distinction between prayer in general and prayer set in the context of acts of corporate worship. Because prayer is a pervasive posture and activity in the Christian life, the subject of prayer is a comprehensive one; the following discussions are confined largely to prayer as a part of the worship of the gathered community. Prayers of intercession are petitions offered to the Lord on behalf of others: people in special personal need; those who bear particular responsibility for the welfare of others, such as leaders of church and state; the many concerns and issues affecting the church, local and universal; and the larger community of the nation and the world.

Confession of Sin

In traditional Christian worship, acts of confession of sin may appear in the acts of entrance, the service of the Word, or at the Lord's Table in association with the prayer of thanksgiving. In the worship of the contemporary liturgical renewal, the confession of sin usually occurs after the prayers of intercession, marking the transition into the service of the Lord's Table. Prayers of confession are not usually found in the corporate worship of evangelical and charismatic churches; confession of sin is an act that usually accompanies individual conversion to Christ and personal counseling situations, rather than the life of the gathered assembly.