Category Archives: Worship Service

How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

An Epiphany Worship Service by Pastor Michael Zarling

An excerpt of the worship service:

One of the very finest hymns ever written is “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star,” Pastor Philip Nicolai’s masterpiece. Sadly, most hymnals do not provide a complete translation of this 16th century German hymn. The version we base tonight’s service upon provides all seven stanzas. These additional stanzas bring to light the clear references to the Lord’s Supper and the Means of Grace.

Philip Nicolai graduated in 1594 from the University of Wittenberg with a Doctorate Degree in Theology. He served as a Lutheran pastor in congregations in Germany. But, he is most remembered as a hymn writer. He was the author of two famous hymns: “Awake, Awake, the Night is Flying” and “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star.” These are sometimes referred to as the King and Queen of Chorales, respectively. These two chorales have inspired many composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, who based two of his chorale cantatas on Nicolai’s hymns.

The tune for “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star” is such a masterpiece that this is written about it: “So popular did it soon become, that its tune was often chimed by city chimes, lines and verses from it were printed by way of ornament on the common earthenware of the country, and it was invariably used at weddings and certain festivals.”

The hymn originally was in seven ten-line stanzas and bore the title “A spiritual bridal song of the believing soul concerning Jesus Christ, her heavenly bridegroom, founded on the 45th Psalm of the prophet David.” Jesus says in Revelation 22:16 that He is the fulfillment of this heavenly bridegroom and the morning star: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”

Processional Hymn: #79 — “How Lovely Shines the Morning Star”
As the hymn is introduced, please stand and face the processional cross in the back of the church, and turn to the front as the cross passes you. 

  1. How lovely shines the Morning Star!
    The nations see and hail afar
    The light in Judah shining.
    Thou David’s Son of Jacob’s race,
    My Bridegroom and my King of Grace,
    For Thee my heart is pining.
    Lowly, Holy,
    Great and glorious, Thou victorious
    Prince of graces,
    Filling all the heavenly places.
  1. O highest joy by mortals won,
    True Son of God and Mary’s Son,
    Thou high-born King of ages!
    Thou art my heart’s most beauteous Flower,
    And Thy blest Gospel’s saving power
    My raptured soul engages.
    Thou mine, I Thine;
    Sing hosanna! Heavenly manna
    Tasting, eating,
    Whilst Thy love in songs repeating. 

Note: The singing stops here.  The music continues in the background as we begin to alternate between responsive readings and singing of the remaining hymn verses.

Minister: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
Congregation: To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father– to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Rev 1:4-6)

M: The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; (Is 9:2)
C: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

M: See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples,
C: but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. (Is 60:2)

M: The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not understood it.
C: We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (Jn 1:5,14)

  1. Now richly to my waiting heart,
    O Thou, my God, deign to impart
    The grace of love undying.
    In Thy blest body let me be,
    E’en as the branch is in the tree,
    Thy life my life supplying.
    Sighing, Crying.
    For the savor of Thy favour;
    Resting never,
    Till I rest in Thee forever.

M: For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given. (Is 9:6)
C: In him was life, and the life was the light of man. (Jn 1:4)

M: God of Glory, you sent Jesus among us as the light to the world, to reveal your love for all people. But wherever there is light, there will also be darkness.
C: We confess that we are sinful creatures who, either through foolishness or willful disobedience, often choose to dwell in the darkness instead of live in your light. We beg for forgiveness for starving ourselves of your Son’s life-giving light. We repent of our entrenched evil that hates the light and tries to dispose of it. We admit our apathy towards sanctification and renewal that cause us to continue to live in the night. Trusting your grace, we earnestly pray: “Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us.” Through Christ Jesus our Savior. Amen. (Ps 51:10)

  1. A pledge of peace from God I see
    When Thy pure eyes are turned to me
    To show me Thy good pleasure.
    Jesus, Thy Spirit and Thy Word,
    Thy body and Thy blood, afford
    My soul its dearest treasure.
    Keep me kindly
    In Thy favour, o my Saviour!
    Thou wilt cheer me;
    Thy Word calls me to draw near Thee.

M: Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you. (Is 60:1) The Light comes not to sear and blind us but to save us. Christ Jesus came into this world as an infant in a Bethlehem manger so that he might die as our Savior on a Roman cross in Jerusalem. For his sake, God forgives us all our sins. Therefore, as a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by his authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
C: Amen.

M: If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another,
C: and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 Jn 1:7)

M: You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)

  1. Thou, mighty Father, in Thy Son
    Didst love me ere Thou hadst begun
    This ancient world’s foundation.
    Thy Son hath made a friend of me,
    And when in spirit Him I see,
    I joy in tribulation.
    What bliss is this!
    He that liveth to me giveth
    Life forever;
    Nothing me from Him can sever.

Old Testament: Psalm 45 The Wedding of the Victorious King


Click here to download the entire worship service (it’s free!): How Lovely Shines the Morning Star

Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing!

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

A Christmas Eve Worship Service by Pastor Michael Zarling
Excerpt of the Worship Service:

A Christmas service based on Martin Luther’s Christmas hymn for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

Processional Hymn: #55 — “Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful” (brass accompaniment)

As the hymn is introduced, please stand and face the processional cross in the back of the church, and turn to the front of the church as the cross passes you.


Minister: We worship in the name of the Father who gave us His Son, in the name of Jesus Christ, who came as the perfect Gift, and in the name of the Holy Spirit who brought us to faith in this Christ child.

Congregation: Amen.

 Introduction by Pastor

Pastor: This year, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. There are many blessings that we enjoy today because the Lord of the Church allowed Martin Luther to rediscover for God’s people. Blessings such as the truth of Scripture alone, the Bible translated into the language of the people, the doctrine of vocation, the power of congregational singing, etc. The greatest blessing is the grace of God found in the person of Jesus Christ – the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary to be the Savior of all humankind.

Martin Luther’s writings and hymns focus on this doctrine of grace. His Christmas hymn “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” is all about the grace of God found in this Christchild, young and fair. Luther wrote this hymn for his children. It is recorded that “Luther was accustomed every year to prepare for his family a happy Christmas Eve’s entertainment … and for this festival of his children he wrote this Christmas hymn.”

“From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” is based on Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth in the second chapter of his Gospel.

Before we focus on Jesus being born to Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem, we hear from Luke how the promise of the Savior was first given to Mary.

Luke 1:26-38

Here is the link to download the entire worship service program (it’s free!): From Heaven Above to Earth I Come

Thank you Pastor Zarling for sharing!

The Rocks Cry Out

What is the sound of grace?  Did you know that grace even had a sound?  It’s sound is described as sweet in the famous John Newton hymn titled “Amazing Grace.”


Worship also has a sound.  It can be as loud as a chorus of shouts or as soft as a whisper.  It can even include “silence” for personal reflection and meditation.  But have you ever sat in a congregation of believers during a time of silent mediation and found yourself praying and listening to the sounds of silence?  Yes, even a worshiper’s silence is audible.

Everything in God’s creation has a sound that is used to bring glory to His name.  From the crickets rubbing their legs together in perfect time, to the tree frogs answering one another’s call, to the rustling of leaves letting us know what the wind is up to, to the rhythmic grind of the ocean waves lulling us to sleep, and to the thumping of our very hearts; we see and hear the sounds of God’s creation all around us and it is just mind boggling how a Creator could have come up with such an array of sounds, let alone colors, shapes, textures, tastes and smells.

Is there anything that God has banished to absolute silence in this world?  How about the rocks?  To my knowledge, these have yet to produce a sound in and of themselves, but Jesus reminds us that the possibility actually exists.  In the gospel of Luke chapter 19, Jesus is quoted as saying:

I tell you if they (us worshipers) keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”  – Luke 19:40

And so we are tasked with making a joyous noise to keep those rocks from crying out for yet another day or for another generation to come.

In biblical times, God’s people made joyous noise to their creator using harps, lyres, cymbals and drums – together with their voices; and the rocks remained silent for one more second.

Throughout time we have used acapella praise, praise accompanied by the organ, instrumental praise with brass, woodwind and bells, and lately we have offered praise to the guitar, piano and drum; each one of us participating in this glorious symphony of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more minute.

We have chanted, we have spoken, we have sung our hearts out, we have wept, we have laughed, and we have groaned all as part of the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more hour.

There is a unified rustling sound as we all rise for the Gospel reading and there is a cacophonous sound at the close of our worship time together as we all place our hymnbooks back in their racks, and the rocks remain silent for one more day.

From the bombastic singing of an Easter celebration service to the quietest moments on Good Friday to the anticipatory sounds of Advent and to the babbled languages of Pentecost as worship is held across the globe in every tribe, nation and tongue – God is continuing to be praised; and the rocks remain silent for one more week.

There is a sound as we receive the Lord’s Supper; a crunch inside our heads as we take and eat and a gulp; and the rocks remain silent for one more year.

The din and clatter of change jingling, bills being ruffled and plates being passed during the offering; and the rocks remain silent for one more decade.

Babies crying, doors opening and closing, ceiling fans whirling, heating and air conditioning buzzing – these too are the sounds of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more century.

Time marches on, seconds turn into minutes, minutes to days, days to weeks, weeks to years, years to decades and decades into centuries.  Worshipers hand down their distinctive sounds from one generation to the next and tomorrow’s generation brings with them a new sound of worship; and the rocks remain silent for one more millennium.

And yet, buried among these quiet rocks are a promise.  A promise for all worshipers.  An invitation to worship as we participate in creation’s symphony and yet another day without hearing even one rock cry out.

But I wonder what these rocks would say.

One might tell how a little shepherd boy named David used a small stone to slay a giant to show that we can do anything when God is with us and for us.

Another might tell how the prophet Elijah used stones to build an altar to God.  This altar was used to offer a sacrifice to God to prove that He is the one, true God.

Yet another rock might tell how Solomon had used stones to build a beautiful temple for people to worship God.

Still another rock might remind us that Jesus once told a story about a wise man who built his house upon a rock.  When the storms came, the house on the rock stood firm.

Yes, these stones might have a lot of stories to tell, but we won’t let them.  Just as the followers of Jesus lined the streets to praise their King on that first Palm Sunday, you and I are here to praise our King.  And as long as we praise him, there will be no need for these stones to cry out.

Spiritual Milk

Spiritual Milk

Nutritionists tell us that we need to obtain our vitamins through food as opposed to pills and that our daily intake should contain at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. This is good advice, but I watch in amazement as a newborn child only needs one item for their complete nutritional needs as provided by their nursing mother. While on this milk they vibrantly grow stronger each day. Their skin is beautiful, their eyes are like engaging jewels and their bodies grow stronger right in front of your eyes.

But what about their spiritual needs? What about our spiritual needs? Just like mothers milk, there is only one thing we need and that’s a right relationship with Jesus in our life. Everything falls into place once this happens. We get baptized, the Holy Spirit inhabits our lives, we partake of the Lord’s Supper regularly, we pray daily, we make offerings to our Lord, we gather to worship and praise, we read God’s word and through all of this our faith builds over time. When you attend church, you should leave feeling spiritually fed – regardless of your background and age. Start to ask some very serious questions if this isn’t happening because the problem can be either you or your church.

Picking the right church is a bit tricky. Here’s my litmus test:

1. All Christian churches regardless of denomination will profess to teach God’s word in truth and purity so this in effect is not a good enough discriminator. You need to know the bible yourself to make an informed assessment of this.
2. Look for churches that read God’s word regularly, in every single worship service, and also verify that all portions are being used throughout the year – every book, every verse and every word is important.
3. Look for churches that administer the Sacraments according to God’s word. Yes, you need to know that much as well.
4. Look for churches that pray together in every service.
5. Look for preaching that is based on God’s word and that uses some scripture throughout.
6. Look for churches that confess their sins together, that are reminded of the forgiveness of sins and receive the absolution of their sins on a regular basis.
7. Look for churches that start their worship in the name of the Triune God.
8. Look for fans of the coffee hour, jello, the Green Bay Packers and Star Wars (just kidding, you know who you are.)
The common theme here is God and His word, not man or his feeble traditions.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to find a church if you don’t have one already.

Steadfast Believers

Steadfast Believers
by Steve Brown and Mike Westendorf

A few weeks back, Mike posted an article on FaceBook from a Pastor who was quitting the praise band for a variety of reasons. This article was ultimately met with a rebuttal from another Pastor who won’t be quitting the praise band anytime soon for a different bunch of reasons. In between these posts was a plethora of worship gold voiced by believers.

The following excerpts from the FaceBook comments show a fraction of the beautiful faith that exists within our fellowship as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in and among us.


“We make a big mistake when we try to limit the Holy Spirit to our way of thinking.” – PB

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“Just because it’s contemporary doesn’t make it bad, shallow, or irreverent.” – SB

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

“In reality, everything we humans bring before God in worship is a filthy rag and only made pleasing by the blood of Jesus!” – SB

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 

“I leave those services (contemporary worship) humming many of those songs all week.” – SA

Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.

“I believe the Holy Spirit worked in my heart through this (contemporary) music to strengthen my faith, it has completely changed me!” – PE

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

“If you disqualify all Christian radio, you are doing what the devil wants you to do. He wins!” – PE

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

“In the last ten years… the way I worship Jesus has changed. I don’t just worship Him on Sunday or for ten minutes a day. I try to worship Him in everything I do. That includes the type of music I listen to and sing and play.” – DRS

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

“I believe that the Lord has given us this music (contemporary) to reach those people who may not be able to connect with traditional four part harmonies and hymns.” – DRS

“Music is a method of communication and we need to be able to speak everyone’s language. If it’s an organ for you, great, but what about an electric guitar roaring like the mighty power of God?” – SA

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.

“I would still rather listen to a Contemporary Christian radio station singing about Jesus even it’s not perfect then a pop station that plays music about stuff that goes against everything I believe.” – DRS

“But for God, worship is a matter of the heart not a matter of form.” – SB

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

“We should have services that you can bring a friend to that’s never gone to church and they should feel comfortable and be able to connect with the service. Musically speaking a language that they’re familiar with helps a lot.” – SA

“It was contemporary Christian music that the Holy Spirit used to bring me to faith, and gave me the desire to go to church in the first place.” – SB

“I guess I would say… a feeling of fullness with the Holy Spirit.” – RP

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.


Steve’s Conclusions: So you might be wondering, why do these people, that place a value on contemporary Christian music; worship in a traditional, liturgical, confessional and hymn-loving setting? The answer is quite simple. We are in agreement with the doctrines and biblical interpretations of this denomination. This is where God wants us to be. We are one body and we commune with one another in unity. Our fellowship is defined by our biblical beliefs based on the absolute inerrancy of scripture. The Gospel is the glue that binds us together and we realize that musical style should not even make the list of fellowship discriminators.

In essence, these responses do show that contemporary music connects on a heart-felt level with some people in the same way that hymns do with other people and this involvement of our hearts is crucial for our worship. The big issue is that there needs to be a Christian relationship based on love that understands and accepts the need for these stylistic differences because the adherence to scripture and doctrine can be maintained, and in the end our objective is to share God’s words in whatever methods that works best.

Yes, we differ in things like musical taste in the same way as we do in our choice of clothes, but this is just part of being the diverse body of Christ that God intended us to be. In the end, we may not be steadfast Lutherans, but more importantly, our hope is to be steadfast but humble believers and followers of Christ.

Simply stated, “Christ’s Love is Our Calling!”

Mike’s Conclusions: As I read the comments of the two viewpoints from the original pastoral blog posts and the responses that we see from many people, it continues to reinforce the idea of effective “communication” and “language” within our worship settings. A simple way to define worship in our settings is that “God comes to us (word and sacrament) and His people respond to Him (praise) and one another about Him (proclamation)”. Another thought about worship is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Regardless of what your worship preference is, “the mountaintop”, the best ever worship experiences will always include all four of these elements. Lastly is the idea that communication is much more than the words we say, but it also is the way we say them as well as what people see when words are said and what the overall “environment” says within the context of those words.

When I read these comments and the scripture passages that Steve beautifully related, it continues to reinforce the notion that people receive the communication of God’s Word and the stories of His faithfulness differently. When they respond to God, they long to have the words and melodies that allow them to praise and proclaim Christ that involves the heart, soul, mind and strength. We want to communicate back to God and back to others about our God who has been faithful to us and to me personally.

Because we are varied people, we speak different languages in worship and certain styles and environments of singing, songwriting, and yes – even listening, engage people differently in worship. If we truly desire that people hear God as He comes to us with the fullness of the Gospel message, and if we truly desire and hope that people can and joyfully respond to God through praise and proclamation, then we must realize the beauty that contemporary worship can offer, especially when it is birthed out of the biblical understanding of Jesus that we joyfully preach in the Confessional Lutheran church with songs that have a powerful effect similar to the way as traditional hymns do.

God paints in beautiful colors, I love it when our worship includes the languages, environments and communication styles of traditional, blended, contemporary and modern worship settings married to our understanding of the true Gospel message.


1 Corinthians 12:15-20 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Physical Expressiveness

Physical Expressiveness

Why do some denominations get more physical in worship than mine?

Some Scripture to Consider:
“Love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength.” Mark 12:33

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual worship. – Romans 12:1

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. – Philippians 1:20

Next, let’s look at the various forms of physical expression and their biblical roots.

The Spoken Voice:
1. Speaking – Psalm 34:1 says, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.”
2. Shouting – Psalm 27:6 says, “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.” Also see Ps 47:1, Ezra 3:1 and Ps 35:27.
3. Singing – Psalm 47:6 says, “Sing praises to God, sing praises to our King, sing praises.” Also see Ps 105:22 and Ps 92:1.
4. Laughter – Psalm 126:1-2 says, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.”
5. Weeping – Luke 7:38, 47 says “…and as she stood behind [Jesus] at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them … [Jesus said] her many sins have been forgiven – for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” Also see Ezra 3:12-13.
Our Posture:
1. Bowing – Psalm 95:6 says, “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Also see Ex 12:27, Ex 34:8, 2 Chronicles 20:18 and Philippians 2:10. Bowing is a sign of respect towards a king.
2. Standing – Psalm 119:120 says, “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.” Also see Neh 8:2 & 5. Standing shows respect and reverence.
3. Dancing – Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.” Also see Ps 150:4, 2 Samuel 6:14-15 and Ex 15:20. Dancing is an expression of joy and celebration.
4. Kneeling – Psalm 95:6 says, “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Also see Mt 18:26. Kneeling is a sign of humility before our King and an expression of submission. Jesus taught us himself on the night that he was betrayed to kneel and pray.
5. Stillness – Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Our Hands:
1. Playing Instruments – Psalm 33:2, 3 says, “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
2. Clapping – Psalm 47:1 says, “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” Also see Isa 55:12 and Ps 98:8. Clapping is a form of showing happiness and excitement. The best kind of clapping is the natural applause that occurs when the congregation is overwhelmed by God’s grace and wants to show thankfulness.
3. Lifting Hands – Psalm 63:4 says, “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” Also see Ps 134:2 , Neh 8:6 and 1 Timothy 2:8. Lifted hands are a sign of gratefulness, dependence, expectation, reverence, celebration and surrender and can also be a posture for prayer. There are a total of 39 biblical commands to raise one’s hands either in blessing or in supplication in worship.

You will note that most of the above passages come from the Psalms. David liked to worship the Lord with all of his being; heart, mind and body and all of his senses. Furthermore, he did not care what other people thought of his worship. He had an audience of One.

I do worship in a congregation and denomination that is not overly expressive. I think that our limited use of expressiveness is more of a tradition and a characteristic trait of our Lutheran forefathers than anything else. I do not sense that it limits our worship or the outpouring of our hearts or that we refrain out of fear of man, wrong teaching or complacency.

Some things to consider:

1. There are warnings in scripture of using physical expressiveness wrongly:
a. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (Is. 1:15)
b. The hands we lift to worship God should be holy hands (1 Tim. 2:8), made so through our humble trust in the atoning work of the Savior.
2. We never prove our devotion to God by external acts alone. God looks upon the heart. But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” – 1 Sam 16:7
3. We are to worship with reverence. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe – Heb 12:28

I realize that this may be a dividing-line topic between denominations. It should not be. Yes, I am more reserved in my physical expressiveness than others might be. Yes, I see the scriptural basis for using our bodies in worship. But I am at peace being reserved in worship, and at the same time I can respect those who worship a little differently in this regard because our God is great enough and worthy enough to be glorified using many more forms of worship than I can possibly offer myself. In the end I pray that our churches be filled with the kind of truths and expressions that most clearly communicate to others the value of the One that we worship.

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society

Blended Worship Planning 101

Blended Worship Planning 101

In our church, we have one blended worship service per month where we follow our traditional liturgy to some extent, but we use contemporary music in place of hymns.  I assist with the defining of the music for these blended services so over the years, we have come up with a format that works for everyone involved (Pastor, Church Secretary & Musicians).  We basically use a WORD document that is a table of all of the information that we all need to do our jobs.  For example, it contains the scripture references for each song and how the song fits into the weekly theme (information that our Pastor needs), it also contains bulletin information on how the song will be arranged and sung (information that our secretary needs) and the song choices (information that the musicians need).  In addition to this basic information, I also include details on the level of difficulty, which is also information that our Pastor has asked for since he is not familiar with most of these songs and he likes to keep an eye on how much new music is being used and the level of difficulty so that the congregation doesn’t get overwhelmed in any given week.  And yes, I’ve been known to throw too much at them so the Pastoral check is appreciated.

We also follow a format that requires 7 songs per service.  These are as follows:

  1. Pre-Service – Band only
  2. Opening Song – Congregational
  3. Psalm of the Day – Congregational
  4. Musical Response to the Forgiveness/Absolution of Sins – Congregational
  5. Hymn of the Day – Congregational
  6. Offertory Music – Band only
  7. Closing Song – Congregational

In our monthly table, all of the song choices are listed in order and identified accordingly.  I also list any lyrics for any new songs that aren’t in our songbooks for Pastoral review.  The table is disseminated at least one month in advance so that everyone has enough time for preparation.

This is a partial view of what a typical table looks like (being a landscape document it does not all fit on the screen in this BLOG format) :

Songs Listed in the Suggested Order:

Location Song Title Writer Location (which songbook) Chosen based on: Song Themes Song Instructions (for the Bulletin) DifficultyFamiliarity Other Comments
Pre-Service Awakening  Andrew Mitchell Personal Collection Epistle Discipleship      
OpeningSong I Will Praise Him Still Fernando Ortega Personal Collection Gospel Praise in difficult times Sing through twice New Song Will have to be copied as an insert
AbsolutionResponse Beautiful Savior Townend & Getty BOB 21 AbsolutionResponse Forgiveness V1, V2, Chorus, V3, Chorus Familiar
Hymn of the Day Speak O Lord Townend & Getty CWS 735 Word of God Word of God – Illumination Familiar Will have to be copied as an insert
Offertory “Compassion Hymn” Personal Collection The Gospel Lesson Jesus can bring the dead back to life
Closing Song The Hope of Your Call Don Chapman Personal Collection EpistleDiscpleshipEph 1:18-19 Benediction, Discipleship, Applying God’s word in our lives V, Chorus, V, Chorus, Chorus 2, End Familiar Will have to be copied as an insert.  I believe that Laura has it scanned and saved on Leah’s PC.

I am making a copy of this document available in my file download area if anyone is interested in using the format.  I would also be happy to email a copy to anyone that would like one.  My address is “sjbrown58 at”  Please use the @ in place of the “at”; I use this technique to avoid unwanted emails sent from automated systems.  The file for download is named “5-Easter 6 May 9.doc”.

Finally, I’d like to make a few comments on each type of song being selected.

  1. The Pre-Service music is typically chosen to match the worship theme.  I usually use this opportunity to either introduce new music to the congregation that we might use in the future, or I use music with real good lyrics but are too difficult for congregational singing.
  2. The Opening Song is either chosen to match the day’s worship theme, or if I’m having trouble with enough songs matching the theme, I will choose a more general opening song that is either welcoming, introductory, or deals with preparation for worship.  I maintain a list of these types of songs.
  3. The music used with the Psalm of the Day is always a song based on the Psalm being read for that day.  We typically read the Psalm responsively and sing the song in between the readings.
  4. The Forgiveness/Absolution is not matched to the day’s theme.  It always deals with either Forgiveness and/or Absolution of sins.  Again, I maintain a list of these types of songs and I have about 2 dozen that I use in rotation.
  5. The Hymn of the Day is chosen as the closest match to the scripture readings, and preferably to the Gospel lesson.
  6. The Offertory music is usually also chosen to match the day’s theme but if I’m having trouble locating music, I will also consider Stewardship-themed music or prayerful songs.  I also use this opportunity to either introduce new music to the congregation that we might use in the future, or I use music with real good lyrics but are too difficult for congregational singing.
  7. The Closing Song is chosen to either match the day’s theme or to have a blessing/departing message.  Again, I maintain a list of these types of songs and I have about 2 dozen that I use in rotation.

I do hope that this article was beneficial for someone out there that is starting to use blended worship in their church.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or need further assistance.  In addition, there are many other articles of this nature in this BLOG that can be found by looking in the “Blended Worship” category.

Hymned !!!

On 9/14, we used the hymn “Take My Life & Let it Be” as the theme for worship.  All of our music was tightly knitted to this theme.

“Take My Life” by Scott Underwood
“Take My Life, and Let it Be” by Henri A. Cesar Malan– Contemporary Arrangement
“Take Our Lives” by Andy Park
“My Life is in You, Lord” by Daniel Gardner

Our Pastor then led a series of devotions on personal commitment and weaved these into Havergal’s hymn.  We sang individual verses of the hymn after hearing God’s word as it pertained to the subject matter as shown below.

Devotion #1: 2 Corinthians 5:15-17
“Take What I Do, Lord!”
15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Hymn Response:   “Take My Life and Let it Be”  (CW 469:1,2)

Devotion #2: 1 Chronicles 16:8,9
“Take What I Say, Lord!”
8 Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9 Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.

Hymn Response:   “Take My Life and Let it Be”  (CW 469:3)

Devotion #3: 2 Corinthians 8:7,12
“Take What I Have, Lord!”
7 But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving…
12 For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.

Hymn Response:    “Take My Life and Let it Be”  (CW 469:4-6)

Song: “Take My Life And Let it Be” (by Frances Havergal, Chris Tomlin & Louie Giglio) – Sung by the Choir

The net effect was a worshipful meeting that will stick with me for quite some time, and I will always sing the hymn “Take My Life & Let it Be” again with a deep spiritual and heartfelt connection.  One thing that kept crossing my mind during the service was the word “Take” and how we were using it in worship.  It’s one thing to do our best in offering our gifts, times and talents to the Lord – our voices, our offerings, our praise, etc.; but as for me – I’m still a sinner and I can get stingy with my Lord.  So this song says more than I’ll do my best – it says; “Lord – TAKE!”   Take my life, my hands, my voice, my silver, my gold, my moments, my feet, my lips, my intellect, my will, my heart, my love and finally myself.   It’s all in that hymn.  At our church, Jesus tells us every other Sunday to “Take of His body and His blood.”  Finally, I was able to say: “Jesus – TAKE!!!”

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version, Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.  Used by permission of International Bible Society