Trinity Church, Baptist in Richmond, Virginia

401 Branchway Road, Richmond, Virginia 23236

Conversations about Worship

Session Number One

Defining Worship

Psalm 100 NRSV

Hebrews 10: 19-25 NRSV




What is “worship”?  What does “worship” mean to a Christian?  How shall we worship?


Scripture: Psalm 100 NRSV


Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
   Worship the Lord with gladness;
   come into his presence with singing.

Know that the Lord is God.
   It is he that made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
   and his courts with praise.
   Give thanks to him, bless his name.

For the Lord is good;
   his steadfast love endures for ever,
   and his faithfulness to all generations.



Study and Discussion:


Many of us learned Psalm 100 as children.  Perhaps you memorized it in Sunday school.  Maybe you recall its words because it is  frequently used as the Psalter lesson near Thanksgiving.  Let’s take a closer look at this hymn of praise and thanksgiving as a call to faithful worship.  What are some of the key words and phrases that might describe or define worship? 





How do you define worship?  ____________________________________________


How do you think others in our congregation define worship?  What does it mean to truly worship our living God?  What is worship in the sense of a communal gathering of believers?






Marva Dawn’s definition of worship is “our glad response to the immense grace of the Triune God.”[1]  Dawn advises that “Worship centers on recognizing that ‘great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised’ and on responding to that worthiness by gathering with others to praise God as is His due.”[2]


To worship God is to give honor and glory and homage to God.  The word “worship,” is often used to indicate the praise and thanksgiving of God in a communal gathering at a specific time.  Many times this gathering is referred to as a worship service. 

Perhaps the word service is more definitive than one would initially think.  If worship is how one pays homage to God, giving honor and glory to God, then our every action should be included.  In the broadest sense how we serve God is worship -- in action and word within the gathering of the faithful and in the action and word of the rest of our lives.  To worship God is to love God with all one’s heart and soul and mind and the neighbor, also.  



Scripture: Hebrews 10: 19-25 NRSV


Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.


Study and Discussion:


The writer of The Letter to the Hebrews addresses early Christians as well as those to come.  Take a look at the three privileges and duties of Christians in the scripture passage from Hebrews 10: 19-25 NRSV.  They are:  “Let us approach God in faith and worship” (vv. 22 and 25); “let us hold fast the public confession of our hope” (v. 23); and “let us consider how we can help others in love” (v. 24).


How is worship a gift?


God invites us into a relationship with God.  It is truly a gift that each of us is offered a covenantal relationship with God because of what Jesus has done for us.  To worship is to have a relationship with God and with God’s people.  One might even conclude that the purpose of humankind’s life is this relationship, and therefore, to worship God is our purpose.




Are you beginning to develop a personal theology of worship?  Why does worship matter? 


Marva Dawn states,


“Our world is desperate for God.  In the face of growing postmodern despair and chaos, the escalating gap between the rich and poor, the intensifying violence and global political and economic confusions, our world desperately needs worship services where God is encountered in as much of his fullness as possible.” [3]




Gracious God, you created us to be in relationship with you.  We are grateful that you invite us into worship with you.  Help us to remember that you are the center of our worship, the subject and object of our praise.  We give thanks that you allow us to express our deepest songs and words of joy as well as our deepest songs and words of lament and sorrow.

We pray that through our worship we may be recreated in your likeness once more.  Lead us to practice truth, to love God’s people by advancing community, responding in compassion, seeking justice, and promoting peace.  Empower us by the Holy Spirit.

May we worship in the fullness of your splendor.  These things we offer to you in prayer, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.



Looking Ahead to Session Two: 


Understanding How We Worship – The Elements of Worship, Acts of Worship in the Corporate Setting.  When one understands the acts of worship (elements of worship) one can worship God more meaningfully.













Session Number Two

Understanding How We Worship – The Elements of Worship

Acts of Worship in the Corporate Setting

Isaiah 6: 1-8 NRSV

Psalm 95: 6-7 NRSV



What do we mean by the elements of worship?  Why do we worship God in a variety of ways?  How do these acts inform and form us as Christians?


Scripture: Isaiah 6: 1-8 NRSV


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said:
‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory.’
The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: ‘Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I; send me!’



Study and Discussion:


Our gathering together to praise and thank God, to confess our sins, to eat at God’s table, to bless and send forth is part of our covenantal relationship with God.  The many forms which worship take in the various faith communities must always be centered not on selves but on God.  Worship should never be constricted by a failure of imagination.  We must be open to the leading of the Spirit.  It is not about worship style or preference, but about the attitude of the heart focused on God.

Worship is a conversation among God and God’s people.  In worship we interact with God as active participants.  Worship is not something that one does for us, it is not performance in the sense of entertaining.  Yet, it should be a performance of excellence of our gifts given to God’s glory.

When one examines the Call of Isaiah in the scripture passage from Isaiah 6, one sees a model pattern for authentic worship in the back and forth volley of the action.  In the presence of God there is praise and thanksgiving.  God is proclaimed as holy and worthy of such worship.  There is confession of sin and absolution, words of redemption.  There is response.  There is both God toward humankind movement and humankind toward to God movement.  There is going forth to proclaim the Word of God.



Broadly defined, there are four regular acts of worship in most corporate worship services. 


  1. We hear God’s Word.
  2. We sing to God and to God’s people gathered with us.
  3. We pray to God.
  4. We give to God.



What are some of the elements of worship within these acts of worship?


Described in simple terms, these are elements of worship which many churches include in their corporate worship:


The Prelude or Gathering Music:  As we gather, music can help us to feel closer to God.


Welcome and Call to Reverence:  A worship leader speaks words that welcome us and invite us to focus on the experience of worship.  We have the opportunity to center our



A Holy Silence/ Silent Prayer/Meditation:  We enter into a time of quiet where we can think on God and what God has done for us or pray silently. 


Introit:  A composition of music that is appropriate for the opening or beginning of church services.


Our Prayer Concerns and Joys/Announcements:  We share our prayer requests and the needs of those in our congregation, community and world.  We share the blessings and joys that God has given us.  We share the news of the church and direct attention to places where additional information can be found, i.e., the bulletin, the bulletin board, a web site or a personal contact.


The Call to Worship:  We hear or share words that invite us to worship God.


Hymn of Praise:  We sing a song of praise to our God.  We praise God because God is worthy of our worship and praise, for God is our creator and has invited us to be in a relationship with God.


Invocation:  We pray that we will recognize and feel the presence of God with us.


The Lord’s Prayer:  We pray together the prayer which Jesus taught his disciples.  This prayer is a guide for how we should pray as well as how we are called to live.  It is a model prayer.


Prayer of Adoration:  We speak honestly in a prayer that tells God how much we adore God.  Often the words of this prayer include a facet of God’s goodness that we are celebrating in the worship of the day.  When this happens, the prayer might be called Prayer of the Day.


Prayer of Thanksgiving:  We express our gratitude to God in prayer.


Prayers of the People/Prayer of Petition and Intercession:  We ask God to help us, to heal us and to give us strength to be part of God’s work in our world as well as ask for help for others.


Prayer of Lament:  We pray for God to comfort us in our distress.  We express our longing for God to be near to us in our sorrow and in times of trouble. 


Prayer of Confession:  We ask God to forgive us when we do not follow God and live in ways that honor God.  Although we try to live in ways that glorify God and help all of God’s children, we are sinners who can tell God that we are sorry when we fall short. 

Sometimes there is a time of silence when each individual can turn to God with one’s personal confessions.


Declaration of Forgiveness/Absolution/Words of Redemption:  When we say we are sorry (confession), we hear the good news that God forgives us.


Children’s (and Youth’s) Focus/Message/ Moment:  The children (and youth) of the church family are invited to hear words carefully chosen for them that will help them to understand the depth of God’s love for us.


Scripture Reading:  We read or hear God’s Word as it is written in the Old or New Testament.


Prayer for Illumination:  We pray that the Holy Spirit will empower us to understand the Word of God. 


Sermon/Homily/Message:  The pastor or another minister/preacher talks about what the Word of God means.  We hear stories from the Bible as well as stories, explanations and examples that enrich our understanding of the Bible.  We learn ways the Word informs how we should live.


Offering:  We present our gifts of money to God.  We give our time, talents and treasure (money) to God.  During the offering we return to God a portion of what God has given us because we understand that everything comes from God.  The money which we give supports the work of the church in many ways.  A tithe is the return of the first portion or ten percent of what one receives.  (Music is often played during the collection of the Offering.  We think about the gifts we receive from God and the gifts we give to God, for we are called to give our selves.)


Offertory Prayer: A prayer specifically about the gifts we will give to God and their use/

Prayer of Dedication of Our Gifts:  We pray that God will accept our humble gifts and help us use them to do God’s work.


Doxology: We sing together to the Triune God with words that give glory to God.  Doxology comes from the Greek meaning, “to give God glory.”


Hymn (of Thanksgiving, of Adoration, of Lament, of Response to the Word, of Invitation, Closing Hymn, etc.): There are many types of hymns that we sing to God and to God’s people as a congregation in order to express ourselves, to unite with God’s people, to learn more about God and God’s Word and to deepen and shape our relationship with God and God’s people.  We also sing Psalms and spiritual songs.

Anthem/Solo/ Instrumental Music: The ministry of music includes the gift of music prepared and given as a gift to God and God’s people to help us connect with God, to help us learn about our Triune God, and to help us give praise and glory to God.


Ministry of Peace/Passing the Peace: We say or hear the words “Peace be with you.”  And we respond or hear the words, “And also with you.”  We greet one another by sharing the peace of God’s love for all of God’s family.  We share an embrace or a handshake.


Words of Commission/ Sending Forth:  We hear words that call us to serve God and all of God’s creation as we are sent back into the world.


Benediction: We hear or say together words that reflect the blessing of God who goes with us into the world to do God’s work.  Benediction means “good word.”


Postlude:  As we depart, we hear music that helps us reflect God’s call for us to go out in joy to serve.


The Observance of the Lord’s Supper/Communion: We are invited to the table of God in celebration as we share the bread and the cup.  We express our gratitude to God as we remember Jesus and the way that he lived among us and his death and resurrection.  We celebrate our life in community as the body of Christ. 


Baptism: Through Baptism, one becomes a member of the Church.  In the Baptist denomination, we believe in believer’s baptism and baptism by immersion.  When a baptism takes place, it is a public act where the congregation promises to love, support and pray for the person baptized and welcomes that person into the congregation.  The person baptized confesses his/her sinfulness, repents and professes his/her faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior.  Baptism is an outward symbol of an inward change in the person’s life.


Testimony:  One’s conversion story or faith journey tells what God has done in one’s life.  We hear (or speak) our testimony when the story is shared with those gathered to worship God.





To describe worship in another way, one might use the metaphor of a journey to describe the movement within a worship service.  The elements of the worship can guide us and form us as a community and in our individual relationship with God, or faith journey.


How do these elements of worship form your character as a disciple of Jesus?


We learn to worship by worshiping.  Do you agree or disagree?  Why or why not?


In worship we listen together to the Word of God to us and we speak together our response to God.  We actively participate in the worship service as listeners and speakers.  We have a conversation with God and interact with God and those gathered with us in worship.  Corporate worship is definitely not something we do for or by ourselves.



Marva Dawn states,


“At particular times, we expressly worship with words, songs, and actions of thanks and petition and praise.  When we do this by ourselves, we engage in the practices of private worship or devotions.  If we gather with other Christians, we participate in public, corporate worship.  The result will be that we become more deeply formed to worship God in all we think, say, or do in daily life.”[4]



Scripture:  Psalm 95: 6-7 NRSV


O come, let us worship and bow down,
   let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
   and we are the people of his pasture,
   and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!





Gracious God, you created us to be your people.  We are grateful that you invite us into worship with you.  Help us to remember that our relationship with you is not something we have on the strengthen of our own merits, but rather is a gift from you through your love for us incarnate,  Jesus Christ, who died for us and through the Holy Spirit who is at work within us.  We come to worship you not to manipulate you or build ourselves up in your sight.  We know that nothing we do could make you love us more.  Your love is steadfast and is given to us unconditionally.

We pray that through our worship we may be transformed   Lead us to practice truth, to love all of God’s people, and to live in ways that reflect your peace and justice.


May we worship in the fullness of your splendor.  These things we offer to you in prayer, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.




Looking Ahead to Session Three: 


The Church Year and the Lectionary as Tools That Enrich Our Worship.  The Church Year and the use of the lectionary enable us to understand more about God and to worship God more thoroughly.




Session Number Three

The Church Year and the Lectionary

as Tools that Enrich Our Worship

Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 NRSV

Psalm 104 NRSV

Romans 10: 17 NRSV




What does one mean when one says “Church Year” or “the seasons of the church”?  What is the lectionary?  How can following the Church Year and using the Lectionary readings help us to learn more about the Triune God and to worship God more thoroughly? 


Scripture:  Deuteronomy 6: 20-25 NRSV


When your children ask you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the decrees and the statutes and the ordinances that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your children, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand.  The Lord displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household.  He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors.  Then the Lord commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case.  If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right.’


Study and Discussion:


Learning and remembering one’s place in God’s story was important to our ancestors. The Exodus story was central to the celebrations of the Jewish people.  Learning and remembering one’s place in God’s story has also been important to Christians.  The life and ministry of Jesus are central to the celebrations of Christians.  Christmas and Easter are the two religious holidays that probably come to mind first. 



What is the Church Year? 


The Church Year calendar divides the year into Sacred Time and Ordinary Time.  Sacred Time includes Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost.  Ordinary Time is that time between Sacred Seasons when various aspect of faith are examined.


Using the calendar encourages the congregation to take a spiritual journey together which enables them to thoroughly hear and respond to our Triune God and God’s redemptive work in the world.  Being able to examine a wide range of faith confessions through the organization of the church year calendar encourages deeper spiritual growth and discipline.  Congregations and individuals reflect and respond to the unfolding story of God’s love for them as shown in the life of Jesus.


Most Christians celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, and Easter, the resurrection of Jesus.  Let’s take a closer look at all of the sacred seasons of the Church Year.


Advent: The first season of the Church year begins with the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.  It is a season of expectation and waiting.  The word advent means “coming.”  We anticipate the coming of the Messiah and celebrate the promise of his birth and the promise of his return.  Many churches use an Advent wreath to mark the Sundays of Advent and help them focus on the arrival of Jesus Christ.  We learn of God’s work to reconcile the world to God and our part in this reconciliation. 


Christmas:   Christmas is a season in the Church year, not single day  If we follow the Church year calendar, we begin the season of Christmas at sundown on Christmas Eve.  Many churches worship together during a Candlelight Communion Service.  We celebrate the birth of Jesus, God come to be among us and show us new and better possibilities for life abundantly lived. 


Epiphany:  January 6th (in the western world) is celebrated as the Day of Epiphany.  Many churches associate this day with the coming of the wise men to bring gifts to Jesus, therefore revealing to the world the Messiah.  The word epiphany means “to show” or “to reveal.”  .  It is not uncommon to see Advent, Christmas and Epiphany together, although they are distinct times of the Church Year. 


Lent:  Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the sacred season of Lent is observed as forty days of prayer and preparation before Easter.  It is a time for reflection, self examination and repentance.  It is a time to focus on our need of God’s grace and how we can be a part of God’s redemptive work in our world.


Holy Week:  The final week of Lent is known as Holy Week.  Throughout the week we are called to reflect not only on the triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday Celebration) but also on the suffering, humiliation and death of Jesus.  Many churches gather on Maundy Thursday for a service of shadows and then come together again on Good Friday to focus on the darkness of sin and the magnitude of Jesus’ death.  We reflect on the transformative work of God in our lives.


Easter: We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday (set by the lunar calendar/a movable feast) and continue to proclaim the glorious and new act of God to reconcile God’s people to God through victory over death during Eastertide.  The seven Sundays of Easter are filled with lessons of God’s grace and the promise of hope.


Pentecost:  The word Pentecost means fiftieth day.  Pentecost Sunday is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter as a day of joy and hope in the presence of God’s empowering spirit working in us.  The season of Pentecost is a time of renewal and focus on the enabling power of our living God working within in us and through us.



Ordinary Time is the time between sacred seasons of the Church Year.  The term comes from ordinal or “counted” time. 






Marva Dawn states that, “Worship can’t always be upbeat if we are worshipping the Lord in all God’s Triune fullness.”[5]  Dawn further posits that using the Church Year calendar gives more opportunities to “bless God’s name more thoroughly.”[6] 


Do you agree or disagree with Marva Dawn?  Why or why not?


What are some advantages of following the Church Year calendar?  What are some disadvantages of following the Church Year calendar?


Marva Dawn concludes that,


“Certainly we wouldn’t take the gigantic gifts of Christmas for granted if we have spent four weeks of  Advent preparing spiritually for Christ’s past, present, and future comings (instead of getting bogged down in all the trappings and materialistic commodities, the endless activities and often empty arrangements).  Surely we wouldn’t miss the radical change that Easter ushers in if we have followed Jesus in all His sufferings for six weeks of Lent and have comprehended the depth of our sin which his passion annihilates and the coercive vigor of the principalities and powers over which His sacrifices triumph.” [7]


Scripture:  Psalm 104 NRSV


Bless the Lord, O my soul.
   O Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honor and majesty,
   wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
   you set the beams of your chambers on the waters,
you make the clouds your chariot,
   you ride on the wings of the wind,
you make the winds your messengers,
   fire and flame your ministers.

May the glory of the Lord endure for ever;
   may the Lord rejoice in his works—
who looks on the earth and it trembles,
   who touches the mountains and they smoke.
I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
   I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
May my meditation be pleasing to him,
   for I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
   and let the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Praise the Lord!

Study and Discussion:


In How Shall We Worship?, Marva Dawn asks, “Do our practices of public, corporate worship and private, personal devotions form us to be people who live praise?”[8] 


One tool for enriching our worship is the Lectionary.


The Lectionary is a listing of Scriptural passages for reading, reflection, study and preaching.  The Revised Common Lectionary is organized around the two major sacred seasons of the Church Year Calendar beginning with Advent, Christmas and Epiphany and later with Lent, Easter, Pentecost.  The readings in between these seasons focus on a variety of themes and aspects of our faith journey.


There are three cycles or years of Lectionary readings which enable us to study, reflect and preach from the major stories of the Bible and include passages for most of the books of the Bible.  Each listing includes an Old Testament Reading, a reading form the Psalms, a reading from the Gospels, and a reading from the Epistles.  The three year cycle includes Year A, Year B, and Year C.  Each year centers its Gospel readings on one of the Synoptic Gospels -- (Matthew (A), Mark (B), Luke (C).


How might the use of the Lectionary help form us to be people who know what it means to bless the name of the Lord and live praise?


Scripture: Romans 10: 17 NRSV


So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.




“The more thoroughly our worship displays all the aspects of God’s Triune covenant grace and mercy on our behalf, the more readily we will tell His glory to all the world.”[9]


We respond to God’s love for us by loving God and loving God’s people.  We are invited into that love but not coerced.  As we learn more about God’s love for us, will we truly be able to respond with lives that tell God’s glory to the world?  How can our worship form us to live as people of God’s community?  How can we be formed by our worship into a community in Christ’s likeness?













Gracious God, you created us to be your people.  We are grateful that you invite us into worship with you.  As we learn more about your redeeming works in history, we are able to see that you are always working for good through acts of reconciliation and transformation.  You tend to us in our brokenness.  You are merciful and steadfast.  We find our hope in your grace towards us.

We pray that through our worship we may be transformed   Lead us to practice truth, to love all of God’s people, and to live in ways that reflect your peace and justice.


May we worship in the fullness of your splendor.  These things we offer to you in prayer, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.





Looking Ahead to Session Four:


Worshiping with Our Lives: Being Church.  A better understanding of authentic worship enables us to “be church” in the world today.



























Session Number Four

Worshiping with Our Lives: Being Church

Romans 12: 1 - 13 NRSV

Jeremiah 7: 1-7 NRSV




How shall we worship with our lives?  Does learning more about the aspects of faith through our worship help us to hear and respond to the Words of Commission?  What does it mean to “be church” in the world today?



Scripture: Romans 12: 1- 13  NRSV


I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.  For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another.  We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.


Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.



Study and Discussion:


Our goal over the past few weeks of study has been to develop and articulate a theology of worship which will guide the worship of our church.


Has the way you defined worship changed, or remained the same?  If your definition of worship has changed, in what ways has it changed? 


In Romans 12, Paul encourages his brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in Rome to worship God with all their lives.  He asks them not to conform to this world.


As a congregation, we have agreed that God is the focus and center of our worship.  We have agreed that to be church is to live as an alternative or parallel culture.  Therefore, we must “be constantly alert to resist the culture’s idolatries and reject its gods.”[10]  This should be the foundation we build upon as we ask questions about how we glorify God in our corporate worship and with our daily living.


In How Shall We Worship?, Marva Dawn writes,


        “When we all together ‘come into [God’s] courts,’ we learn the language of faith from the whole people of God.  To learn this language is essential for daily life because Christianity is not longer the dominant culture of our society.  If we want to live as Christians, we need to learn the faith’s language about time, money, possessions, love, sex, marriage, family, work, power, our relationship with our neighbors, and so forth.  Sociologists recognize that any group (Christian or otherwise) that advocates an alternative way of life significantly different from the larger society needs such a language, a worldview, a coherent way of thinking about things.  Gathering with others for worship and sharing in the rituals teaches us practices and habits of prayer and praise, offering and testimony.  This is a language that tells us who we are, reminds us of our identity in relationship with God and neighbors, upholds and nurtures our vision of how we are different and why it matters.”[11]


How does the passage written by Marva Dawn relate or intersect with the words that Paul wrote to the early Christian community at Rome and to us about “spiritual worship” in Romans 12?




How do we as a congregation and as individuals desire to worship God?


Does our worship help us learn the language of faith?  Do the words we speak, sing and hear in our corporate worship give us language that is essential for daily life?  What impact does our corporate worship have on our individual lives as well as our life in community?



If our worship forms and changes us, if our worship is an encounter with God, if our worship builds community and is responsible to all God’s creation in redeeming and reconciling ways, then we are glorifying God with our lives. 


Through our worship we learn and grow in faith.  We find our place in God’s story – a story of eternally present hope.  We find our true identity as God’s children.  We learn to use our God given gifts for the betterment of all God’s creation.  We respond to God as the focus of our worship as we discern what God’s will for us is. 


In Romans 12, Paul tells us to serve the Lord and rejoice in hope.  We began our study with words from Psalm 100.  Many of us learned verse two of Psalm 100 as “Serve the Lord with gladness and enter his gates with songs of praise.” 






Marva Dawn states,


 “Our hope in the Lord, who heals and receives and strengthens, is unfettered.  In response to His gifts, may we love God with lives of genuine praise integrally connected with love for the needy.”[12]



Scripture:  Jeremiah 7: 1-7 NRSV


The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord.  Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’


For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors for ever and ever.


Study and Discussion:


The prophet Jeremiah gives us an admonition from God that God does not want us to think that God is pleased by our mere presence or being in church, but rather we must be church, caring for the least of these among us.  Our songs and words are empty if we do not relate what we sing, say, and hear in our worship services with our service to God’s people.  When we focus on God in our worship, we show God our love.  Jesus has told us that we cannot truly and wholly love God if we do not love all of God’s people.


Does this scripture passage help you to define worship and articulate a theology of worship?  If so, in what ways?


What does it mean to be church in the world today?


Our mission statement reads:


Motivated by the spirit of Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit,

our mission is to worship and glorify God;

 to encourage personal spiritual growth;

to be obedient to His written word by reaching, nurturing, and ministering to people in the name of Christ and sharing with them the good news of His love;

 and to provide an opportunity for participation in a Christian fellowship of believers based on unconditional love.




Through this four week study, we have begun a much broader and continued conversation asking better questions in order to understand worship and specifically to work together as we discern how the way we worship together shapes our congregational identity.  We will continue to search together for better language which we need to express our theology of worship and to articulate our faith as we work together to fulfill our mission and live lives that worship our living God.






Gracious God, you created us to be your people.  We are grateful that you invite us to enter a loving relationship with you and with all your creation.  You ask us to glorify and praise your holy name with our lives.


We pray that through our worship we may be transformed   Lead us to practice truth, to love all of God’s people, and to live in ways that reflect your peace and justice.


May we worship in the fullness of your splendor.  These things we offer to you in prayer, through Jesus Christ.  Amen.






The following books all by Marva J. Dawn


 A Royal “Waste” of Time:  The Splendor of Worshiping God and Being Church for the

                    World, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company,



How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship Wars (Vital Questions

                   Series), Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003.


Truly the Community: Romans 12 and How to Be the Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan:

       William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.


Unfettered Hope:  A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent Society, Louisville, Kentucky:

                  Westminster John Knox, 2003.



[1] Marva Dawn.  How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship

        Wars (Vital Questions Series), Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, p. xi.


[2]Ibid, p. 49

[3] Marva Dawn.  A Royal “Waste” of Time:  The Splendor of Worshiping God  and Being Church for the

         World, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999, p. 158.

[4] Marva Dawn.  How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship

        Wars (Vital Questions Series), Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, pp. xi-xii.

[5] Marva Dawn.  How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship

        Wars (Vital Questions Series), Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, pp. 30-31.

[6] Ibid, p. 31.

[7] Ibid, p. 34.


[8] Marva Dawn.  How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship

        Wars (Vital Questions Series), Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, p. 28.

[9] Ibid, p. 35

[10] Marva  Dawn.  Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down: A Theology of Worship for This Urgent

           Time, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995, p. 284.


[11] Marva Dawn.  How Shall We Worship?  Biblical Guidelines for the Worship

        Wars (Vital Questions Series), Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, pp. 120-121.

[12] Marva Dawn.  Unfettered Hope:  A Call to Faithful Living in an Affluent

    Society, Westminster John Knox, 2003, p. 124.