Note: Here is a healthy summary of Covenant Renewal Worship and its evangelistic nature from beginning to end. The piece is written by my Associate Pastor, Al Stout.
Guest Post by Al Stout
If you were to ask me, “Does your Church give an invitation each Sunday?” I would tell you, “Yes it does and it lasts about an hour and a half.”
For the uninitiated, an “invitation” is the portion of a service reserved for an appeal all those gathered to believe the Gospel, repent of their sins and trust Christ. It is typically given at the end of the service and may involve musical accompaniment; perhaps everyone will sing a hymn like Just As I Am as they invite you “come to Jesus”:
Just as I am, without one plea, But that thy blood was she’d for me, And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
While some Churches keep the invitation open for a very long time (there are 6 verses to Just As I Am and it can be sung veeeerrrry slowly) you’ve probably never heard of one lasting for an hour and a half. So, what do I mean?
Like many Churches, Providence Church in Pensacola, FL is purposeful in its worship. The elements of each service are in there for a reason. Where we put things in a worship service is equally important. For example, the confession of sin occurs at the beginning of the worship service so that we can worship God with clean hands and hearts. We end each service with a commissioning to go out and make disciples, this is the last command of our Savior while he was physically with us. There are other elements and reasons for each, but you get the idea.
Part of this arrangement is to ensure that everyone hears the Gospel appeal, the invitation if you will, every single Lord’s Day. Not attached to something that is not the Gospel, but so that the whole service is the Gospel in a picture. The gathered Saints need to hear it, those who are outside the covenant need to hear it, God WANTS to hear it and the Church has historically put this message front and center in its worship.
Here is our basic worship outline:
- We have a formal call to worship. We are ushered, at God’s command, into his presence.
- We immediately confess our sins to him. This is what people do repeatedly in Scripture; they see God and fall down in repentance. Our confession of sin is not held to the end of the service.
- God picks us up and tells us we are forgiven. He does not leave us in the dust of death, but lifts us up to life. Singing begins. Joyful, robust, God honoring singing.
- He then begins to train us in righteousness. His word is like a sharp knife in the hand of the High Priest as he begins to cut us so that we can be a fit sacrifice of praise. Here we have reading, preaching and more singing of the Word of God and Hymns of instruction. We confess the Nicene Creed together so that we might be on guard against heresy and false teaching even in the middle of our worship.
- We offer up prayers for the people, our city, the state and country. We ask God to bless his Churches around our area and to give great success to the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.
- We give back to God in our tithes and offerings after hearing the word of God preached. It is the response of a grateful people.
- The forgiven, sanctified (by word and prayer) people of God are then invited to sit at the table of the Lord and to fellowship with him. He is reminded of his covenant with us; that his Son’s body was broke and his blood shed. He remembers and is pleased to call us his friends. This is a joyful time of remembrance for the Church. We are not remorseful or introspective as we look at Christ’s finished work. We are thankful!
- More singing.
- The last thing that happens, is that God blesses us and sends us out to make disciples of all men. His name is placed on us one more time and we go out as ambassadors of the one who died and rose again, teaching everyone to observe all his commandments.
- We go out singing.
This is a pattern of worship frequently called Covenant Renewal and if you are interested in learning more about that let me recommend The Lord’s Service, by Jeffery Meyers.
As you look at the above doesn’t it look like the Gospel appeal? You can use this in evangelism as a simple way to remember what God requires:
- God is calling all men everywhere to worship him. Friend, you should heed the call of God.
- We don’t want to worship him because of our sin, so the first thing we must do is repent. Here is what that means…
- When we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us. He does not just pass over them as if they never happened. Jesus Christ died for them and God raised him from the dead to live forever and he loves you.
- When you believe that you should follow Jesus and learn from him. He will teach you his word and change you to love the things he loves.
- He promises never to leave you and will enjoy your company forever. He promises to send the Holy Spirit to be with you.
- Now go out and tell others about him.
Get that pattern down and you don’t have to learn a script. You can pick it up in the middle, or camp out on the idea that God calls everyone to worship him, whatever the circumstances suggest or require.
We have an evangelical message every Lord’s day. If you come to worship with us long enough, you will know this message very well. It will be in your bones and when that happens, getting it out and into the world will become much easier.
So, if you attend Providence be prepared to hear an invitation to confession, faith and communion with God every single Lord’s Day and expect it to last awhile.