Throughout Scripture, God calls His people to worship. This worship experience should be both an individual and corporate act. Worship is not a tradition, nor is it a passive spectator event. Worship comprises a personal interaction between the Creator and the creature—an encounter with God.1
According to the Church Manual, the Sabbath worship
service is the most important church meeting. Reverence,
simplicity, and promptness should characterize this service.2
There is no set form or order for public worship. A short
order of service is usually better suited to the real spirit of
worship; long preliminaries should be avoided. The format
for the church service may vary from country to country and
from culture to culture; however, I have listed the major elements
of most worship services in our churches. That way,
you will know what we do and why we do it, even if you’ve
never come to church before.
A CALL TO WORSHIP
The call to worship brings us together as a worshipping
community. The call can be a few sentences, a scripture
verse, or a song. As busy people, we need something that
helps us focus on what we have gathered for—to worship
God. It should remind us that our worship centers in God and
not in ourselves. Thus, adoration is central at the beginning
of worship, specifically in the call to worship: We acknowledge
God’s holiness and offer our love and devotion. We
praise God and affirm the good news of His divine saving
activity among us. We worship precisely in response to what
God has done for us through Christ.
PRAISE AND WORSHIP
Most worship services begin with a time of praise and
worship. Some churches open with one or two songs. This
would also be the best time for a choral arrangement or a special song from a solo artist or guest musician. The purpose
of this time is to lift God up in praise and to express
love, gratitude, and thankfulness to Him for all He has done
for us. When we focus on the Lord, we stop focusing on
our own problems and are encouraged in the process. This
portion of the service is part of worship and should not be
turned into an entertainment session while platform participants
are getting ready to begin the service.
Fellowship time is a moment when worshipers are invited
to meet and greet one another. Some churches have
an extended time of greeting, when members walk around
and chat with one another. This practice of greeting everybody
should be done before or after service. Sometimes, it
seems unnatural when someone tells the congregation that it
is time to greet everybody in the church. A warm and friendly
church does not need a strong emphasis on that; church
members greet people spontaneously and naturally. An extended
greeting time also takes precious time away from the
worship service. Ideally, the greeting period should be brief,
and church members should greet people in their immediately
vicinity. Oftentimes, visitors are welcomed during the
At the beginning of the service, it is proper for the pastor,
local elder, or worship leader to extend a welcome to the
congregation and to make special mention of visitors.
Since the purpose of public worship is to glorify God,
prayer and praise should predominate in congregational
singing. Every member of the church ought to participate in
this element of worship. Singing should be done not merely
with the lips but with the spirit and the heart. Great care must
be taken to insure that the songs are in complete accord with
the teaching of the Holy Scripture.
THE OFFERING TIME
Giving has great potential for teaching basic Christian
concepts of self-denial, sacrifice, and trust. The offering appeal
should emphasize a spiritual motivation and should also
explain corporate financial needs and how giving supports
the work of the church. An offertory prayer follows the collection
of tithes and offerings, in which people of the church
bring an “offering” of thanksgiving to God out of the financial
blessings they have received. A “tithe” (which means “onetenth”)
refers to the practice of giving 10 percent of one’s
income. Returning a tithe is an expression of gratitude and
faithfulness to God by His people and an acknowledgment of
God’s ownership of everything on the earth.
The receiving of tithes
and offerings is another
practice that can differ
widely from church to
church. Some churches
pass around an offering
plate or offering basket;
others ask members to
bring their offerings forward
to the altar as an act
Invocation. The service
is usually opened
with a brief prayer of invocation
and invites His presence.
is asked to stand during the invocation.
Pastoral prayer. The pastor, elder, or worship leader leads
the congregation in a special moment of prayer. Each worshiper
is invited to kneel, as far as possible, in submission to
God. Kneeling to pray is not absolutely necessary; however,
it is an outward expression of an inward attitude.
The pastoral prayer is offered on behalf of the worshippers;
it asks God’s blessing in their lives and in the lives
of others. This prayer might include requests for healing,
comfort, guidance, strength, courage, forgiveness, salvation,
justice, and peace. Those who have special requests
or prayers of thanksgiving may be invited to come forward
for this prayer moment. This prayer is usually longer than the
prayer of invocation, but it should not be endless!
CHILDREN IN WORSHIP
Children should be kept in mind throughout the worship
service. By making worship a great experience for children,
we can make the whole church experience more appealing
for young families. The goal is twofold: to help families become
more cohesive by giving them a common experience
in the faith (which carries over into their weekday world) and
to engage children in a process that increases their sense of
ownership in the ministry of the congregation by progressively
integrating them into all aspects of the church’s life.
That sense of ownership can help keep children active in
their faith communities as young adults.
Only individuals who have a love for children and who
have the ability to tell stories effectively should be chosen for this portion of the worship
service. This part of the
service can also be used
for baby/child dedications.
This time must be carefully
guarded to keep it within a
time frame of five minutes
Reading the Bible as an
act of worship goes back to
Jewish tradition when the
scrolls would be brought
out and read to the people.
The preacher can use the
reading as the text for his
or her sermon. The Bible is
central to Seventh-day Adventist worship and faith.
This portion of the service is dedicated to the pronouncement
of the Word of God. Some churches call it the
“sermon” or the “teaching.” Some pastors teach from the
Scriptures, while others preach. Some ministers follow very
structured outlines without variance while others feel more
comfortable speaking from a free-flowing outline. This time
is for instruction in the Word of God with the goal of making
it applicable to the listeners’ daily lives. The time frame
for the message varies, depending on the church and the
speaker—20 minutes on the short side to 60 minutes on
the long side.
The sermon, grounded in God’s Word, is the centerpiece of the worship service. We believe that the Bible is “Godbreathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). During the sermon, the Holy Spirit moves among the congregation to speak in many ways to address a variety of needs. In the sermon, God addresses the congregation through the words of His servant, the pastor. It is a matter of supreme importance that preachers preach only the Word of God, not the wisdom of man. To fulfill this goal, the sermon must be prepared with the utmost care. A text may not be used merely to introduce a sermon; the text must be painstakingly explained. In the sermon, the preacher should explain the Word of God to the congregation and then apply it for their exhortation. Care should be taken in preaching that Christian duty not be divorced from Christian truth. It is critical that the gospel of salvation by grace be proclaimed without any adulteration or compromise, so that the unsaved may rely for salvation only on the grace of God, to the exclusion of their own works or character.
The Holy Spirit is present in your church during every
worship service, and He is ready to change the lives of the
people who encounter Him there. You can either cooperate
with the Spirit by prayerfully creating an excellent worship
service, or you can hinder His work by pulling together
something uninspired just to meet your weekly deadlines.
Choose to work with the Holy Spirit by seeking His guidance
well in advance of every worship service you plan. Make
it your goal to do much more than just present information;
aim instead to help people encounter God in ways that
change their lives.
Consider how you do things now. Why do you do what
you do when you organize your worship services? Don’t
make decisions simply because of tradition; instead, be
open to receiving new insights and fresh guidance from God.
Keep in mind that your worship philosophy will drive the way
you plan your worship services and will help you measure
how successful they are.
1 Seventh-Day Adventist Minister’s Handbook.
2 Seventh-Day Adventist Church Manual, 117.