People have asked me for a while to occasionally post the order of a Sunday service at Sovereign Grace Church of Louisville, my home church. There’s no perfect liturgy, but it can be helpful to hear how others are seeking to lead meetings that are theologically informed, gospel-rich, and spiritually transforming.
So here’s what we did in our gathering this past Sunday. The italicized words are transitional comments.
CALL TO WORSHIP
We typically play instrumental music for 1-2 minutes to draw people in, and then one of the pastors gives the call to worship. This past Sunday I read from 1 Chronicles 29:11: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.” I then shared something like this:
These are the words of King David after he and the Israelites had given of their wealth to build the temple. They reminded the Israelites then, and us now, God is the king, not us. Everything we have is a gift from the One who owns everything and is King over all. We don’t have to pretend this morning that we have everything in control, or that we’re in charge, or that we have our lives together, or that we’re never weak. We’re here to remember and declare that GOD ALONE is great, powerful, glorious, and exalted as head above everything. So let’s gladly lift our hearts and our voices to worship the God who is over all!
God Over All CHART – Typically we begin with a more familiar song, but this song is simple enough for new folks to catch on quickly.
Come Ye Sinners CHART – A great Sojourn Music version of a song that acknowledges our weakness and inability, Christ’s free invitation to come to him, and his full payment for our sins on the cross.
“All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of him.” Is that true? Absolutely. When God invites us to come to him, he invites us first not to work but to rest. Not to rest from our efforts to please him and others, but to rest from seeing those efforts as the basis of our relationship with him. He invites us to rest from trying to cover up our sin, because only Christ’s blood shed on the cross can cover our sin. He invites us to rest from the labor of keeping up a false appearances, because God knows everything we do, say, and think. He invites us to rest from being in charge of our own lives, because He alone is the sovereign God over all. Listen as Sarah [one of the vocalists that morning] reads these humbling and encouraging words from Jesus in Matthew 11:25-30.
“At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.””
Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul CHART HYMN – This was a new song for us, lyrics by Anne Steele, music by Matt Merker. Because of its simplicity, we sang the first verse, I mentioned that this was a new song, and then we repeated that verse.
As we ended the song, the congregation seemed deeply moved. So I led out in a spontaneous responsive chorus, “You are Good, you are wise, your are strong, all the time,” which we sang a few times. A simple repeated refrain can allow people to reflect on the truths they’ve just been singing.
At this point, Steve, one of our deacons, came to the congregational mic to give a spontaneous prophetic word. (For an explanation of how that works for us, see this post on how the gift of prophecy functions in a meeting.) Steve said he saw a picture of a weary person running inside a wheel, feeling like they kept doing the same thing over and over, with no real progress. He reminded us that God sees the road we’re on and has a purpose for everything taking place in your life. We should fix our eyes not on the wheel, but on the road God has us on. He is sovereign and good and is working out his plans for us.
After Steve spoke, I explained to our guests what had just occurred. I said prophecy is just one of the many spiritual gifts that the Lord blesses us with every time we gather. It’s not authoritative, but is meant to communicate God’s heart for us at a particular time and direct our eyes to Christ. The next song was a natural follow-up to Steve’s word.
As we finished that song, Gary Ricucci, one of our elders, came and cited a line from a song we had just sung, “Thy mercy seat is open still.” What an encouragement to approach the throne of grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:13). He then led us in about 5 minutes of intercession for our world, our nation, other churches, and individuals in Sovereign Grace Church.
WELCOME, OFFERING, ETC.
Brian Chesemore, another one of our elders, took about 5 minutes to welcome guests, receive tithes and offerings, and give a few brief announcements.
As part of Sovereign Grace Churches, we partner with about 75 churches in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, the Philippines, Australia, and other nations to plant and build churches on the gospel. Jeff Purswell, another elder, introduced a 6 minute video that built faith for how God is using our partnership to advance the gospel in Mexico.
CJ Mahaney, our senior pastor, then spoke from James 1:5-8 on “A Generous God for a Difficult Trial.” It’s the second week in our James series, Faith in Action, and is already a great encouragement to the church.
My Heart is Filled With Thankfulness – I had planned to sing Refuge of My Weary Soul again, but the Getty song seemed more appropriate because the themes of gratefulness and wisdom resonated with the text CJ preached. Everyone in the band didn’t have the music, but the song went fine. As CJ has told me for years, the Holy Spirit helps us plan but our plans are not the Holy Spirit.
We always want God to have the last word in our meetings and to leave people with an awareness that God is for them and with them. So CJ pronounced 2 Thess. 3:16 over the congregation: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”
It was a tremendously encouraging meeting and lasted about an hour and 45 minutes. We’re shooting for 90 minutes, but obviously don’t always make it.
If this kind of review is helpful to you, let me know. I want to do whatever I can to encourage pastors and leaders to think beyond “song sets” and think of the entire meeting as a unified piece with related parts that all enable the word of Christ to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16).