Many people ask me the question, 'what does a Presbyterian Church look like in practice?'; and it is perhaps helpful to partially answer this in this blog article. Of course the best way is for people to come and join us for public worship in Sheffield (www.sheffieldpres.org.uk) on the Lord's Day and we identify eight ingredients for public worship. Let us look briefly at these in turn.
1. A Clear Call to Worship the Triune God in the name of Christ the Mediator.
Our worship services will most often commence with a formal 'call to worship', a call which will include a verse from Scripture but also an exhortation to focus our hearts and minds on the Triune God. Our Lord Jesus Christ remarked to the woman at the well in John 4:22, that 'you worship what you do not know'. We do not want this to be said of ourselves, while pursuing a pattern of biblical and reformed worship and hopefully a clear call to worship minimises this possibility.
2. Public Prayer by the Minister
The public worship service is not an open prayer meeting but prayer should be a dynamic thread throughout the whole service. The organising minister prays publicly on behalf of the congregation as an act of worship, something that should direct our hearts and minds in adoration of God, the confession of sin, the request for forgiveness, along with intercession for God's church and God's world.
3. Congregational Singing
The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Church and he exhorts them; 'Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart (5:19)'. The New Testament does not teach much about singing. Congregational singing is important but it must not dominate the proceedings at the expense of our next ingredient.
4. The Public Reading of the Scriptures
Need I say more! The public reading of the Scriptures forms a vital aspect of our worship and as the Scripture is read we must anticipate that this is God himself addressing us, from His Holy Word.
Christ told Peter to 'feed my sheep (John 21:16)'. This is primarily exercised through the expositional preaching of the Word of God which is to be diligently heard by the sheep.
6. Rightly Administering the Sacraments
The two sacraments of the church are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Historically the right administration of these two sacraments has been deemed as the second mark of a true church. Their orderly administration is vital for the correct functioning of a New Testament church.
Each service will be formally closed with the use of a benediction. The benediction is the pronouncement of the blessings of God that are made available to the church, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. Examples from the New Testament are: Romans 16:25-7; 2 Corinthians 13:14; 2 Thessalonians 3:16; Hebrews 13:20-1.
8. Sunday is the Lord's Day
The whole day is ordained by the Head of the Church, as a day for the public and private exercises of God's worship, for the spiritual profit of the saints and the glory of God'. Hopefully this day should be a 'foretaste of glory divine.
These eight ingredients have been explained only very briefly, but at least this blog article introduces us to the crucial matter as to the importance of what happens in the public worship of God, by Christians.