In this brief service, we have the whole Christian life neatly summed up. And as we progress through such a service, we trust that the downcast are lifted up and encouraged, that the apathetic are stirred and challenged, that the weary are fed and revived. We trust that they can take what they have experienced on Sunday morning and imitate it through the week as they live the Christian life—they, too, can pray and read and learn and sing and serve. On Sunday we give believers what they need not just on Sunday but on every other day as well.
A well-planned worship service is a tremendous blessing to those who participate in it. A well-planned service is not necessarily one in which the projector never flickers and the microphones never buzz, or one in which the transitions are smooth and the sermon doesn’t go long. Rather, a well-planned service is one whose elements have been carefully planned to fulfill God’s purposes for the public gatherings of his church.
How, then, do we plan our services? What elements should a service have? There are many ways to answer the question, but at minimum, the service needs to have singing, praying, Scripture-reading, and preaching. On a regular basis, if not every week, it should also have the Lord’s Supper. Each of these elements is demanded or displayed in the New Testament.
But I want to look at it from another angle that I believe can be helpful in planning our services. It’s unfortunate but realistic to assume that many people come to church on Sunday having given little thought to their faith the previous week. Many people worship on Sunday, then get busy living their lives and neglect the disciplines of the Christian life. They mean to pray, but don’t discipline themselves to actually pray; they intend to read the Bible, but allow laziness or the tyranny of the urgent to keep them away. Then a new Sunday approaches and they come to church feeling weak and needy and probably a little bit guilty.
Such people are genuine believers, but immature ones or ones who are going through those tough periods of spiritual stagnation.