Christ-Centered Worship #7

Posted: 26 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings

This is what we have seen so far – the structure of a church’s liturgy also inevitable tells its understanding of the gospel story.

Chapell nows goes through to see what each of the previous liturgies has in common & I think he is pushing us hear to evaluate our own Sunday gatherings as to whether these elements are present.

Adoration: each of the traditions begins worship with recognition of the greatness and goodness of God. We are to honour, bow before, love, seek, and obey God in response to comprehending his greatness and goodness.

Confession: ‘However, it is reasonable to question whether worship is Christian worship at all if there is no opportunity for confession’. This statement got me thinking of how we do this in a contemporary setting where usually we don’t corporate confess. I have a number of different ways in which we do it: in our time of prayer (stop to come before God and confess our failures), in the preparation section of our gatherings by acknowledging that this is ‘a place where it is ok to not be ok’ & ‘you can come as you are (the implication here is not perfect), or through song.

Assurance: The heart that cries out for God’s mercy needs the assurance of his grace. I have to admit that I am under done on this aspect of liturgy and over rely (at times) on preaching to cover many of these topics.

Thanksgiving: The heart that knows grace longs to thank God for his mercy.

Petition: Having thanked God for his grace, we naturally desire to see more of his grace in our lives and in the lives of others. The gospel then has a progressive flow inward and outward.

Instruction: Scriptural instruction is an obvious common thread in the worship of all the ages.

Charge & Blessing: The apex of spiritual experience in the life of the believer is not simply hearing the Word but living it. Therefore, the ‘dismissal’ is intended to encourage application of the truths expounded. Once again, there is much more work to be done on this particular aspect particularly in a way that doesn’t repeat the entire sermon at the end.

Through the ages, the common pattern of the order of worship in the church reflects the pattern of the progress of the gospel in the heart. The gospel first affects the heart by enabling us to recognise who God is. When we truly understand the glory of his holiness, then we also recognise who we really are and confess our need of him. THe gospel then assures us of the grace that he provides, and our hearts respond in both thanksgiving and humble petition for his aid so that we can give proper devotion to him. In response to our desire for his aid, God provides his Word. We heed his instruction, knowing that we are both charged to do so and have the promise of his blessing as we live for him. The common liturgy of the church through the ages reflects this sequential flow of the gospel in our hearts.

Chapell argues then that not only is the gospel present in our sermons but the WHOLE service is a gospel message. It is a ‘re-presentation of the gospel’ each week.

How are you going with your Sunday gatherings? Do they have this gospel flow? Do you agree with the flow?



Christ-Centered Worship #6

Posted: 21 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings

Chapell now moves to the ‘Modern story’ having looked at the Roman story, Luther’s story, Calvin’s story & the Westminster story.

Over the last while people have gone one of two ways, generally speaking, either away from traditional liturgy (and by this I mean far far away) or they have sought to recover the traditions of the past.

Praise Worship Movements: In the moving away category is the ‘charismatic’ style of expression. Chapell claims that ”the worship of the charismatic renewal movements lost some of its gospel shape and became more distinguished by the emotional flow of the service”. This looks something like this

* Wake people up with some music; get them fired up; settle them down for the Sermon; and send them home feeling good.

The strength that this has is that it connects with people easily however Chapell mentions some down sides

Most people and many church leaders simply assume we need to do the opening stuff well in order to get people ready for the real thing, the Sermon (which is typically narrative in form and therapeutic in content). As a consequence, the Preparation for the Word is evaluated only for its ability to hold attention, build emotion, and attract people.

The most cynical will think that any church growth is therefore a doctrinal compromise of some description but that doesn’t negate the fact that there may at least be gospel motivations behind it all.

Going the other way are those who  see the how the ‘church can become an integrating grid for helping believers understand and transform their world. Chapell includes people like Tim Keller in this category.  Behind this is a guy called Robert Rayburn (brother to the founder of Young Life, Jim Rayburn). Robert Rayburn sought to have a traditional liturgy but with a modern bent towards it. Rayburn’s liturgy looks like this

Adoration: the people are charged to worship in light of God’s nature; the call to worship should actually call the people to ‘do’ something: praise, adore, gather, give thanks, etc. For example, see Ps 30:4, Isa. 12:5-6)

Response: God speaks to us in his Word and we are to respond to him accordingly. Understanding this vertical dialogue made Rayburn an advocate for offering the Lord praise in his own words (singing Psalms and using multiple Scripture readings in Worship). Also understanding the horizontal dialogue (speak with one another in psalms (Eph 5:19) ) meant that he also advocated songs by humans. He was also fastidious about having doctrinally sound lyrics.

Confession: Once again the confession is towards the beginning of the service – we humble ourselves before approaching God. This humility was stimulated by praise according to Rayburn. There were many methods used – silent individual prayer; union reading of a Scripture; responsive reading of a Psalm; respectful attention to a song; singing a penitential hymn.

Pardon & Assurance: Rayburn was clear that this was assurance and not absolution! To be heard it needed to be rescued from routines so once again various methods were employed – a pulpit prayer; words of Scripture read by minister; a hymn sung by the people.

In all this Rayburn is keen for the minister to use his discretion so that people are not jaded by a routine but rather to shape things around a theme or the Sermon and the ‘human dynamics of the congregation’. We also need time to let the significance of  aspects of worship weigh our hearts – so meditation, reflection, and silence are appropriate. Emotions need to be taken into consideration as the truths of each element is expressed.

Going from joyous praise to object confession is not a two second process

Thanksgiving: this is the expected response to being assured of our faith. Rayburn places the offering here as an example of our thanksgiving.

Petition & Intercession: having thanked God for his goodness, we rightly and naturally seek more of his grace for others and ourselves

Instruction & Charge: The instruction sequence climaxes with the Sermon which is preceded by a prayer for illumination and a sermon scripture taken from either Testament. A dismissal then follows.

Rayburn also provides an upper room liturgy.  IT is very similar to Calvin and the Westminster at this point but is increasingly simpler in its form.

Once again Chapell reminds us that ‘the gospel necessarily shapes the container that carries it. To the extent that the purposes of the gospel are maintained in worship, the basic shape of worship expression will also be maintained.’

It seems at this point it is worth asking – are our Sunday gatherings gospel shaped? If someone was to look over your services would they see this gospel shape that Chapell points out in his book?

The next chapter will help to answer this question.


Christ-Centered Worship #5

Posted: 20 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings

We are walking through the chapters of Brian Chapell’s book Christ-Centered Worship. Being a book by a Presbyterian, this next chapter focuses in on the Westminster Assembly (the thing that produced the articles of faith for the Pressie church). It was a place to draw the best of things from all sorts of places: Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Continental Reformed, Puritan & Presbyterian. There was creeds to draw from, articles of faith to consider, different churchmen were present and they met for 6 years! One document to come from it was the Westminster ASsembly’s Directory for Publicke Worship. But drawing from so many sources it was a resource that over flowed at the banks and fell into disuse quickly. It worked of a regulative principle – only what is explicitly instructed in Scripture or logically required was appropriate for corporate worship. (As you can imagine not everyone was thrilled with the end result or the process of getting there!)

The liturgy of the word looked like this,

Adoration: it begins with a call to worship which reminds the people of the nature of God and compels them to praise God in light of his greatness and goodness.

Confession: This was once again towards the beginning as with Calvin. e are to nothing before God without first recognising our need for him. We then need to know of his grace towards us; included here is a prayer of illumination for God to open hearts and minds to understand his Word of which grace is central.

Assurance: The westminster directory is silent on the subject of assurance of Pardon after confession. Discretion by ministers was advised. The goal was to provide a uniform structure that ensured the clarity of the gospel but not provide uniformity of words or ritual that would bind a sincere conscience.

Instruction: this was to expound Scripture by explaining, illustrating, and applying what it says. The goal was the exposition of the word and the edification of the hearer. (It is interesting to note here, that there is no category in the Westminster Directory for the evangelistic talk/preaching!) They are striving to get faithfulness and clarity not a preacher’s eloquence or erudition.

Thanksgiving & Response: The sermon is designed for a response. This prayer after is designed to petition God to help his people apply Scripture in service of the Kingdom.

The upper room liturgy

Communion: discretion was advised as to whether or not an Offertory was done prior to communion.

Consecration of participants: believers are charged to partake as an expression of contrition and dependence on Christ. This was the idea of ‘fencing’ the table – people were to repent before partaking lest they do it in an unworthy manner.

Consecration of elements: communion was infrequent – either quarterly or monthly, ‘many Anglican congregations communed only once a year’. For most Reformers true worship was the word understood, not simply observed. therefore all ceremonies that could be superstitious should be limited with the Lord’s Supper being the main one.

Chapell then makes some observations about this style of church

1. Positively: they are led to a heart engagement with God not based on superstition or sentiment but by the Word. It protects from error and flees idols in the church

2. Negatively: It fuelled a reflective approach to the gospel (right worship is about right thought). Church becomes study, accumulating doctrinal knowledge, evaluating the Sermon, and critiquing the doctrinally imprecise. (On this point, I think church should do these things but it should also do more than these so I wouldn’t necessarily place them in the negative camp but I can appreciate the direction he is heading – would love to hear others thoughts on this?) Participation, then, encouragement, engagements, expression of grief over sin, and joyous thanksgiving can then seem superfluous or even demeaning.

I’ll leave this post with a quote from Chapell,

Where the gospel was truly understood and rightly held, this pattern of worship naturally unfolded – not simply because English culture held sway, but because the gospel forms the best container for its expression. A milk carton differs from an egg carton because the contents determine the structure of their container. So also the content of the gospel forms the worship that best expresses it.


Christ-Centered Worship #4

Posted: 19 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings
Tags: , ,

We now move to Calvin’s story, having looked at the Roman Story, and Luther’s story previously.

Calvin’s liturgy was influenced by Martin Bucer, who was pastor of a large German congregation. Calvin was affected by the simple, biblical principles that guided Bucer. But the imprint is clear with an emphasis on the Sermon, reduction of ceremony, congregational involvement, and psalm singing without instruments. Working from Acts 2:42, Calvin identified four elements to church: the Word, prayer, the meal, and alms.

Three preliminary comments

1. Like other Reformers, Calvin wanted God’s people to understand God’s Word and worship leading him towards Bible translation, prayer, and worship in the language of the people.

2. He also wanted participation in the liturgy, so not only did he incorporate singing but when preaching stood in front of the pulpit, among the people, for all the service prior to the reading and proclamation of the Word. People were encouraged to read along, grow familiar with the progress of the service.

3. True devotion was not found in ceremony but on God’s terms. So, Calvin studied the Scriptures for his liturgy. Significantly for us, it is worth noting that whilst different in many ways there is also much that is recognisable to the Roman story and Luther’s story.

To the liturgy of the Word.

Adoration: The service begins with a declaration of the goodness of God, e.g. Pss 121:2; 124:8. The aim is to awe and humble the worshiper.

Confession & Assurance: It then moves immediately to a sincere confession of sin. For example

Almighty, eternal God and Father, we confess and acknowledge that we, alas, were conceived and born in sin, and are therefore inclined to all evil and slow to all good; that we transgress thy holy commandments without ceasing, and ever more corrupt ourselves. But we are sorry for the same, and beseech Thy grace and help. Wherefore have mercy upon us, most gracious and merciful God and Father, through Thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Grant to us and increase in us Thy Holy Spirit, that we may recognise our sin and unrighteousness from the bottom of our hearts, attain true repentance and sorrow for them, die to them wholly, and please thee entirely by a new godly life.

Calvin battled with others over whether to have a ‘word of comfort’ or an assurance because any hint of absolution was a reminder of a priestly rule. However, Calvin was keen for it but never get it into his Geneva liturgy. An example

Let each of you confess that he is really a sinner who has to humble himself before God. He must believe that the heavenly Father will be gracious to him in Jesus Christ. To all who have repentance and who seek Jesus Christ for their salvation, I pronounce forgiveness in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen

Thanksgiving & Response: The confession was usually followed by sung Psalm. Calvin was initially unconvinced that singing was a biblical element of NT worship but reasoned it could be if in the form of a prayer and in the Words of God. Therefore, sung Psalms was ok. Not having his way with a declaration of forgiveness, most Psalms sung at this point dealt with the subject of God’s forgiveness.

From here, there was simplicity not known to the other liturgies already looked at – reading of the 10 commandments, prayer for illumination, the Lord’s prayer, then the Scripture reading and sermon. The 10 commandments reading was to be set in context, as a response to grace.

Instruction: For Calvin, the whole of Scripture is the gospel. All is God’s word so the scripture reading prior to the sermon was from any part, not just the NT contra Luther. The prayer for illumination was a recognition of the Spirit to prepare people’s hearts to receive the Word. As Chapell states:

By his design, the hearts of the people are prepared in praise, confession, and pardon to receive the ministry of their saviour, bu the preparation is for the primacy of the Word where Christ alone provides the glory of the worship service.

Now to the liturgy of the Upper Room.

Offering and Intercession: Lord’s supper was held once a quarter, a collection served as the preface to Communion. To avoid Roman taunts, Calvin called it almsgiving not an Offertory – directed towards the care of the needy not provision for the Church. As the elements were prepared the people would bond together in faith by saying the Apostles creed.

Consecration & Communion: Calvin believes that the elements are made useful ‘not by being transubstantiation (Catholicism) or by communicating his real presence into the body of the believer (Luther) nor is the Lord’s Supper a simple memorial (Zwingli) but a spiritual meal  whereby the believer is lifted to union with Christ’. This requires a faithful dependence on God’s grace. There is also a warning not to partake if people are not genuine – a fencing of the table.

Calvin’s desire is not to add to Scripture but to reflect it in his liturgy. This is getting very close to the ‘modern’ liturgies and there is much to like about its simplicity but some, says Chapell, found it overly ‘severe’ or restrictive.

Christ-Centered Worship #3

Posted: 18 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings
Tags: , ,

We now move to ‘Luther’s Story’ in Chapell’s book.

The Reformers’ order of worship were a reactive reflection of the Roman Catholic liturgy. We will see many parallels but also some significant ‘reformed’ differences.

Firstly, the liturgy of the word.

People as priests: Luther wanted worship to be a participatory exercise and experience. So, music was no longer the domain of the sacred, the congregation was to sing! Hymns were also in the language of the people as was the whole liturgy.

Adoration: The service begins with a congregational Entrance Hymn of praise not a choir chanting.

Confession & Assurance: The people then recited the Kyrie (Lord have mercy) from the God they have just praised. There is no Old Testament reading (a distraction from the freedoms congregants have in Christ), but Psalms of praise still have a place with the Gospel Reading being the culmination in preparation for the Word.

Instruction: A sermon Hymn is sung, then the sermon which is to concentrate on the gospel, is followed by another hymn.

Response: They are charged to live in accord with the Word preached by an exhortation.

Secondly, the liturgy of the Upper Room. Luther’s goal initially here was not to depart from Roman Catholic liturgy but to reform it. Luther rejected transubstantiation and infused grace, the Lord’s supper was still a means of grace whereby Christ was communicated to his people, thus it was to be celebrated weekly.

Communion: Luther replaced the offertory with a prayer for the Church to continue his fight against indulgences, so having money and material gifts before the altar would come close to previous abuses. He involved people in this part of the service, normally the most ‘priestly, by way of a Hymns.

Consecration: Luther moved the call for the Holy Spirit so that it wasn’t attached to the Catholic transformation of the elements.

Celebration: After the Lord’s Supper was a time of thanksgiving with each other and the Lord. This was done by a collect (the Nunc Dimittis)

Now dismiss your servant, O lord, in peace, according to your word: for mine own eyes hat th seen your salvation, which you hast prepared in the sight of all the peoples, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

Whilst close to the Catholic liturgy, Luther here has introduced many elements for us that would feel very familiar with a lot of what we do. His liturgy reflects his reformed theology capturing the distinctiveness of ‘the priesthood of all believers.

Christ-Centered Worship #2

Posted: 15 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings
Tags: , ,

Chapell now moves to examine ‘The Roman Story’.  He states in chapter one that there are normally 2 parts to every liturgy – of the word and of the upper room.

Firstly, the liturgy of the word.

Adoration: a Psalm sung by the priest (& any others in vocational ministry) as they approach the altar begins the service. The lay people did not sing it or any other portion of the service

Confession & Assurance: From adoration comes penitence. In the Catholic liturgy know as the Kyrie, (Lord, have mercy) and repeated by the congregation after the priest. This is to signify the greatness of God and petition him for mercy.

Thanksgiving: The Kyrie is followed by the Gloria, a hymn of praise reflecting Luke 2.

Petition: This prayer known as the Collect takes the form of addressing the Godhead – an attribute of God, a petition, desired result stated, followed by a statement of dependence. For example,

Almighty God, to whom all hearts are open, by whom all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Instruction: Readings from the Old Testament, Epistle and a Psalm (normally chanted), with a final reading from the New Testament. A sermon/homily was followed a was a means fo instruction, encouragement and inspiration for godliness.

Response: An affirmation of faith (a sung creed) to underscore the conformity of the sermon with the truths of the gospel followed the sermon.

Secondly, the liturgy of the upper room.

Offertory: this included the bread and the wine used for the Eucharist as well as material and monetary gifts.

Consecration: This is an invitation to the Eucharist with a number of call and responses, a declaration of the Holiness of God and a calling for the Holy Spirit to perform the work of transubstantiation.

Communion: Christ is now present in the elements which leads to saying the Lord’s Prayer. This is followed by the ‘Kiss of Peace’ in greeting one another. The bread is then broken and the wine is displayed as John 1:29 is sung or recited, and then the people receive the bread and wine from the priest.

This is only a sketch of sketch so to speak & there are certain things that resonate with us whilst other things may leave us with an ‘appropriate queasiness about aspects of this liturgical structure’.

However, these same evangelicals are likely also to be surprised that beneath all the foreign ‘smells and bells’ of Catholic ceremony are remarkably familiar echoes of their own worship practices.

There is much that is familiar in here for me personally having grown up going to Mass on a weekly basis. In the next few chapters we will start to see how the future played out both with and against this liturgical structure.

Christ-Centered Worship #1

Posted: 14 June, 2012 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings
Tags: , ,

I’ve been reading Bryan Chappell’s book Christ-centered Worship & it has been helpful on lots of points. So, I thought I would blog through some of the chapters to help me clarify and to hopefully stimulate some discussion.

You can find him explaining his book here on YouTube & at Amazon books here.

In his opening chapter, Chappell’s main point is that in the same way buildings have been designed to reflect and represent  their understanding of the gospel, so to what happens in the building has been structured by the gospel. For example, he says:

Gospel understanding is not only embedded in physical structures, but it is also communicated in the worship patterns of the church.

But, analogous to church architecture, the order of worship (another way of describing liturgy) conveys an understanding of the gospel.

Despite having great architectural variety, Christian churches still have common denominators: a place to proclaim the Word; a place to gather for prayer, praise, and receiving the Word; a place to administer and receive the sacraments; and others.

We want to strive to be informed by our tradition but never ruled by it. All things communicate something in the ‘liturgy’ – either intentionally or unintentionally. Chappell’s goal is to show us different people who have come up with liturgy through the ages, starting with the Roman Catholic liturgy (pre 1570), then Luther (around 1526), Calvin (around 1542), Westminster(around 1645) & finally Rayburn  (1980). He will then walk through each of these liturgies individually and then show us the commonality in them.

There is much to learn, as Chappell points out:

Our goal, therefore, should not be to mimic the liturgies that follow, but to learn how the church has used worship to fulfill gospel purposes through the ages so that we can intelligently design worship services that will fulfill gospel purposes today.

I want the gospel to shape Chapel Lane each Sunday night so that not only is the gospel on show in the sermon but the whole night has a gospel feel, look and shape to it. I’m not confident that all our services capture this yet, but it has certainly given me food for thought.

2011 in review

Posted: 1 January, 2012 by Dave Keun in Uncategorized

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,400 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 40 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Last week all who blog here (minus Tim unfortunately) plus a couple of others headed up to a ‘shack’ on the central coast to chat about being ‘determined gospelers’ in all aspects of life. It felt like we didn’t stop talking the whole two days.

We threw around the posts in each of our 4 categories – personal lives, preaching, small groups and sunday gatherings.  We mainly focused on the posts with unfinished conversations & ones that stimulated the most comments. It was an extremely fruitful time and there were a few things I would like to share from our time away.

1. Where is our front door in church?

This is not a physical location type of question but where how do you want people to come into your community? The two answers are either through small group network or your Sunday gathering. This is an important question to be clear on in our ministries.

2. Evangelistic Preaching

We need to be able to speak directly to non Christians at some point in our regular Sunday preaching but just how you do this and how much of the gospel to share each week is worth ‘hammering’ out together. We threw this around for a long time over the weekend & I think we were all pushed in our thinking. I personally still like Al Stewarts answer.

3. Personal Evangelism

It was great to be able to encourage each other and hear our own best & worst moments over the time away. Keep praying!


This is something we plan to do each year. There is great value in talking face to face. If you would like to come alongnext year – numbers will be limited – let us know by sending an email to



Sunday Gatherings: Physical Space

Posted: 16 August, 2011 by Dave Keun in Sunday gatherings

When you have people over to your place for lunch or dinner – do you spend anytime thinking through your home looks? Ever tidied up for them? Ever thought to yourself – ‘I’d better mow the lawn’. My suspicion is that we all do this to varying degrees depending on your personality and how tidy you want to keep everything. But most of us do something!

The same is true when it comes to the physical space in which you meet. It must be a consideration in your thinking at some point.

This point hit home to me a few months ago. I was watching some video footage of one of our bands playing (another useful exercise) and the room looked sterile. Our lighting looked like it was straight out of a big office space. We had tapestries hanging from the wall, it was a ‘cold’ feeling and to me uninviting.







So, I initially turned off all the lights bar the few (weak) spotlights and put up some halogen lights that we had from Bunnings to give some more light. This gave the room an entirely different feel, in a good way – the room automatically felt warm & inviting. However, there was not enough light. People found it hard to read the Bible on their laps. This was an issue! I asked people to be patient with us while we made some changes and explained why we were fiddling with it. At the same time I was chatting to a guy from our church who has a lighting and production business. He was happy to lend his expertise as to what we could potentially do with the space which all costs money. I managed to clear $1k to spend on lighting from the Wardens which is currently unused. He also had some lights that sat on a stand that he wasn’t using. We put these up and it has solved our problem. The room doesn’t feel sterile, cold and uninviting anymore. People can read their Bibles (which is what we want!) and the room has a great feel too it. Are we finished? No. Our next stage is to put a black cloth as a backdrop to cover up, as you can see, the ugly exposed brick.

The other change we did was to take out about 100 chairs and make our break out space in the same space as where we meet. We used to go through to a room just the other side fo a collapsible wall. But it was cold with the same lighting issue