Our Liturgy, Part Three
So, with that being said, here’s what you can expect from the time you arrive until the time you leave a Sunday gathering at any of our five locations.
Parking Lot and Door Greeters
As soon as you arrive, there will be men and women wearing lanyards there to serve you by helping find a parking spot, greet you warmly, and welcome you to our church. If you’re not sure where to go or have any questions about where the restrooms are, where you can get a cup of coffee, or where to drop off your children for kids ministry (LS Kids), these folks will be more than happy to help you.
Welcome & Call to Worship
Once the service begins, one of our pastors will welcome everyone to Living Stones. Sometimes church services can be cold and uninviting. We are thrilled that you’ve chosen to join us and we don’t take that for granted! Our pastors will welcome the congregation and often let everyone know what’s planned for the next hour. Then he will give what we refer to as “the call to worship.” This is a statement that then directs our attention to God and to why we have assembled to worship him.
Greet One Another
The Apostle Paul is constantly greeting different people in his letters in the New Testament. This is because he recognized the Church is not just a mass of nameless faces but rather, individuals who belong to the family of God. He says in Romans 15.7 that we are “to greet (or “welcome”) one another as Christ has greeted you.” At this point in the service the pastor will then encourage the congregation to say hello to one another and get to know someone new. We know that sometimes it may seem strange to just greet someone you don’t know. And this is how it is everywhere else you go in the world. People are often busy and don’t take time to acknowledge each other. However, this is a moment where we recognize that we are not only in the presence of God but in the presence of one another. We are a community.
Confession & Forgiveness of Sin
The pastor will often take a moment to have the congregation silently confess our sins to God. We want to come before God in worship with clean hands and pure hearts (Psalm 24.4). This means that we will sit in silence for a few moments to say to God how we have sinned against him, ourselves, and others. We know how busy life is and sometimes, these moments of silence before God may truly be the only one our people will experience for days or even a whole week until the next Sunday rolls around again and so this is a very important moment in worship. We take our sin seriously so that God’s grace will be all the more magnified.
After a few moments of silence, the pastor will assure the congregation of the pardoning grace of God, that if we “confess with our mouths that he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1.9). He will remind us of the power of the gospel, the love of God, and that we can now approach him again as his people who are totally cleansed by the blood of his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, after acknowledging that we are in the presence of God and his people, and confessing our sin, and being reminded of the gospel, we then turn to lift up our voices in song.
Worship Through Song
The biggest book in the Bible is the book of Psalms (songs). We sing because God is singing over us (Zeph. 3.17). We also sing because it is a command in Scripture (Col. 3.16-17). The congregation sings to God and over one another. Every word of what is sung is thought through by our worship pastors so as to square with Scripture and the sermon being preached. Our worship services are to have a clear message in all that we do. Ambiguity is the opposite of the “orderly wroship” that Paul prescribes in 1 Corinthians 14. Poetry is always remembered more than prose. So we seek to have the Bible inform all that we sing as means of worship of God and discipleship of the church. Some of our songs are old hymns of the faith and others are recently written. In addition, our worship leaders study the arrangement and tune of each song so as to contextualize the message and play music with a variety of instruments and voices that is God glorifying and without distraction to the congregation while still exercising creativity and the diversity reflected in each context.
During singing you’ll see people clapping, raising their hands, and expressing heartfelt emotion. Why? Because our God loves us, is alive, and has shown immeasurable grace to us
Reading of Creeds or Prayers
We would like to strike a balance that is Biblically rooted, honorable of our Christian past, and contextualized in each of our churches.
We also hope to show our church that we're not all that unique. That is to say that we didn't just "show up on the scene 10 years ago.” Rather, we are apart of the Holy Catholic (Universal!) Church as the ancient Christian creeds state. The creeds we read are The Apostle’s Creed, The Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed and parts of the Athinacian Creed._ These creeds are confessing essentially, "this is what it means to be Christian." This is not just a time to chant something meaningless. Our creeds bring desperately needed clarity and definition to exactly what we believe. As the leadership in the church, we are so aware of our pluralistic society that has no problem even blending Jesus with say, Oprah or any other religious figure. Our creeds are not just to draw lines in the sand and say what we're not. They say what and who we are as a disciples of Jesus. When we speak the creeds together, for example, as a community, it is a way of reaching back in time and around the world and grabbing ahold of something bigger and older than just us. This is good for our souls to remember the Global Church and our ancestors who have gone before us.
We have special prayer rooms or spaces dedicated at each of our locations that during service, people gather to pray for the preaching of the gospel to be effective in our gatherings. Take advantage of this! Prayer is essential to everything we do.
Scripted and Recited Prayer
We sometimes will read a prayer together out of the Book of Common Prayer as there are many prayers written there that speak to all sorts of things going on in the world and in the Church. So, occasionally we will select a prayer out of the BCP that ties into the sermon preached and songs sung. We often have people stand for the reading of the Word of God out of reverence for Holy Scripture.
Worship Through Sermon
The sermon is then preached by either Pastor Harvey Turner or Alex Early and sometimes the local church pastor as well. This is where the Word of God is opened, read, explained, and proclaimed with the aim of glorifying Jesus, encouraging the believers, and urging those who are not Christians to join the family of God by grace and through faith. Every week, we are working through a passage of Scripture and seeking to show how everything in the Bible points to the Person and Work of Jesus (Luke 24.44-49). We preach because “Faith comes by hearing the Word of God” (Rom. 10.13).
Response to the Preached Word: Giving & Communion
After hearing the Word of God, we respond by giving our tithes and offerings so as to pay for the furtherance of the gospel through planting churches that plant churches and to support the local mission of Living Stones. We collect the offering after the preached sermon for a reason. We believe that every sermon ought to be saturated in the grace of God. Thus, after hearing of the grace that God has had on us, we desire that grace to be the driving force as to why we give our money (2 Cor. 8. 1-15).
Holy Communion & Invitation to Salvation
Then, to punctuate the grace of God, after collecting the offering, we transition to receiving Holy Communion. Communion shows us who the real Giver is… Jesus. In communion, we eat a piece of bread and drink a cup of either juice or wine (both are available to you). This is one of the Sacraments Jesus himself gave to the Church as a remembrance of his cross and triumphant resurrection. We receive Holy Communion every week at every service at Living Stones. We want the cross to be preached, sung, and celebrated as the very centerpiece of all that we do. Paul said that he decided “to know nothing expect Jesus and him crucified.” Thus, at this point in the service we ask that only Christians participate in receiving communion as the Apostle Paul admonished the Corinthian congregation. This is because as a sacrament given to the Church, it represents a tangible, physical way of saying “I belong to Christ.” Thus, for the person who is not a disciple, there’s no reason to confess something in communion that is not actually a reality in one’s life (1 Cor. 11.17-32). Beyond this, in the cited section of Scripture, the Apostle Paul warns that taking communion apart from faith in Christ puts the individual under judgement before God.
At this point in our services, our pastors always make a plea for those who would like to respond to the gospel by placing their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation to take a moment and receive their new gospel identity through repentance of sin and trust in the love of God. Following this, new Christians are invited to receive their first communion with us.
After Communion, we continue in a couple of songs of celebration of what God has done, is doing, and will do.
Closing Announcements & Benediction
After the last two songs the pastor will make one or two closing announcements reminding people what is coming up at the church and then give the benediction. This is simply a prayer of blessing that goes out over the people as he asks God to apply what was just preached to the hearts of every person under the hearing of the Word.
The gospel stirs things up within us and we often need to talk to someone and to God about what we’re thinking and feeling. The last thing the pastor will offer for the people is prayer. He will say where he and others, both men and women, will be available to talk things through and pray for you.