Such devotion must be integrated, of course, into a life of devotedness. Nothing short of such personal holiness can prepare one for the conduct of public worship. The pastor must live in the presence of the Holy.

Pastors must understand that worship requires both life and form, that the God who created life is also the author of order. [They] must therefore, plan [their] services of worship to make room for God to manifest himself among the people.

Remembering that the form of the service can and should be quite varied, we must understand at the same time that certain ingredients should always be present.

First, we may learn from the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer, the fundamental pattern of worship. As Jesus taught us to pray for the hallowing of God’s name, the coming of his kingdom, and the doing of his will, before bringing out human needs to him, so a true service of worship should always begin as a God-centered activity. This means you do not immediately sing a song of testimony; you begin with a hymn of invocation or praise. Later in the service a song of testimony may fit perfectly, but at the outset use hymns like “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” “To God Be the Glory.” You will find many such hymns for the early part of your service. Teach your people to sing them as unto the Lord. I had the joy of teaching the people of my first home mission church the riches of Christian hymnody.

Another essential ingredient of public worship is the reading of Scripture, either as a lesson by the pastor or as a responsive (or unison) reading. No part of the service is more important. Christians are a people who are attentive and obedient to God’s word in Scripture. By all means familiarize yourself with the portion beforehand, so you can read with interpretation and feeling.

The pastoral prayer is another indispensable ingredient of a service of worship. A little later in the service the pastor will become God’s prophet, forth-telling [God’s] word to the people. But first, in the pastoral prayer, he [or she] is their priest, gathering up their hurts and needs and yearning and bringing them into the healing presence of God. The pastor should not abdicate [their] role as priest except under the most unusual circumstances.

When the pastor understands worship aright the sermon becomes the focal point of a service which has unity, beauty, and movement. When the people are consciously opening their hearts and minds to God in a service alive with his presence, preaching becomes a veritable sacrament as God’s Word is transmuted into the living bread of life to the souls of God’s people.

After the sermon the people should once again participate, by singing a hymn or song which gathers the truth of the service into focus and moves them to do the will of God as it has been revealed.

It is your sacred and high task, pastor, to live in the presence of the Holy One and to understand the meaning of his worship, so that those who come to your services will often say, “This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:17, KJV). 

WILLIAM M. GREATHOUSE (1919-2011) was a pastor, educator, college president, president of Nazarene Theological Seminary, and general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene.

Copyright © by Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 2923 Troost, Kansas City, MO 64109. Used by permission of the Publisher. All rights reserved. Taken from Preacher’s Magazine, December/January/February 1989-90. See: “Worship as the Recognition of the Holy.”

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