Planning the Service of Worship

This post is mainly in response to Bret's questions in his comments on my last post. He asked: How much does your order of worship change each week and how (and do you always) do you determine the order?

At this point we haven't deviated much from the order that can be seen linked to the last post. As for the determination of the order, here's something of the process.

First I try to determine what I'll be preaching. I've gone through all of Revelation, then we did a series on the church, and this Sunday will be the fifth of five sermons on the Pentateuch. One sermon per book of the Pentateuch. On Christmas Day, Lord willing, we'll start a series on Luke.

I heard Mark Dever talk about the way that he plans things out in advance, determining the text to be covered and a title for the message that is mainly designed to grab attention.

So once I have the text to be preached and a general idea about what the main ideas of that text are, I fill in the blanks of the service with material that relates to the main ideas of the text. This way, hopefully by the Spirit's guidance in my growing understanding biblical theology, the whole service can be themed to the text that will be preached.

The blanks to be filled in are these:
(1) Call to worship
(2) hymn
(3) OT Scripture
(4) hymn
(5) pre and post-confession Scripture
(6) catechism/creed
(7) hymn
(8) NT Scripture
(9) hymn
(10) Sermon Scripture
(11) benediction.

The easiest part is matching the OT and NT readings with the text for the sermon because there are so many connections between the biblical texts. From there I try to put shorter texts that are related in the call to worship, usually from the Psalms. So also–shorter related texts–for the pre and post confession Scripture and the benediction. It's generally easy to find good hymns that go with something in the text to be preached, and sometimes things come together so that what has just been read in the OT reading, for instance, can be echoed in the hymn that follows the reading.

The hardest part for me, or at least the part that generally takes a bit of research, is matching a question from a Baptist Confession of faith or a Baptist Catechism or one of the great Creeds of the faith to what is being preached.

It may look involved, but in 2-3 hours it's really not hard to plan ahead for a month or more. Once the thing is planned and handed off to the person doing the bulletin I don't have to think about it.

I think what I find most beneficial about Shakespearean worship is that it feels like the worship service is full of Bible and robustly God-centered.

May the Lord inhabit the praises of his people!

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  1. Madison,

    We’re more in the process of honing and refining, right now. We’ll probably continue to tinker, and we certainly don’t want to become “locked in,” so I suspect that we’ll experiment in various ways as time goes on. . .

    Good to hear from you!


  2. Thanks for the info Jim. I serve with a team of pastors and we are constantly thinking through how we plan our worship services. We all attended a weekender at Capitol Hill and heard Dever on service planning – very helpful.

    I still struggle with reading creeds and catechisms in the service. I’m trying to think about why I shun it (reaction against my Methodist past perhaps). Question: historically, have baptists publicly read creeds and confessions in public worship? I know they have used them to train people (especially children) – but what about in regular public worship?

  3. Bret,

    Sorry for not responding to you before now. I asked one Baptist Historian, and he said that it might be due to his ignorance, but he doesn’t know. I have asked another, who has edited a volume on Baptist Catechisms called TEACHING TRUTH, TRAINING HEARTS. I’ll let you know what he says.

    Even if you don’t use statements from creeds and catechisms, I think you could still do responsive readings of related Scriptures–Scriptures from parts of the Bible that say the same thing as you may be preaching on but which you may not have time in the sermon to refer to. This can help people get a sense of what the rest of the Bible says about the teaching of the particular passage being preached. . .

    Hope this helps,


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