Welcome and Announcements
Because every aspect of the called worship of God is supposed to be directly worshipful, we do all of these before the actual call to worship.
The 4th Commandment states that on the Sabbath Day, or Lord’s Day, God’s people are to rest from their worldly affairs of the rest of the week in order to clear their minds of other distractions so as to focus on worship. In order to help us do this, we have a brief musical prelude to allow us to settle in, calm the children, and take a deep breath in order to prepare ourselves for the coming service.
Call to Worship
God’s worship always begins as a response to God’s Word. God speaks and we respond. Rather than begin by inviting God to come, we begin by responding to God’s call to worship.
The good news of the Gospel is that God has drawn us who were far from Him near to Himself through the death of Jesus on our behalf. The Holy Spirit then invites and commands God’s people to come into God’s presence to receive the Lord’s blessings. The Call to Worship reflects this truth, as the church session, in the name of the Lord, commands, and invites God’s beloved people to come into His presence and worship Him.
The Call to Worship is thus the first Gospel act of our worship: God calls us to worship the true God, and Him alone.
Hymn of Adoration
We generally begin with an exuberant hymn of adoration and joy, as we respond to God’s gracious invitation to come before Him with thanksgiving.
Prayer of Invocation
We transition from praising God for Who He is and what He has done to asking Him to ask for His help and grace and to bless our service.
On the first Sunday of the month, we pray the Lord’s Prayer together.
Confession of Faith
Together we confess what we believe. On the first Sunday of the month, we recite the Apostles Creed. Other Sundays alternate between various creeds and catechisms.
After we confess our faith, we turn to God’s Word. Our worship is a response to God’s Word, and we believe God’s Word is contained in both Testaments as a unified whole.
Prayer of Confession
In light of Who God is and what He has done, and in light of the great truths of our confession, we recognize that we do not in and of ourselves stand up to God’s holy standard. In our worship we therefore take time to confess our sins privately before approaching God’s throne of grace together in corporate confession. God invites and commands His people to repent of their sins, thus we confess our sins weekly, even as we sin in thought, word, and deed daily.
Assurance of Pardon and Absolution of Guilt
Having confessed our sins together, next we hear from God as the minister proclaims His Word. God offers us assurance of our pardon, forgiveness for our sins, and absolution of guilt. God declares us forgiven in Christ alone, and God declares us forgiven according to His mercy and grace alone, not because of our works. God promises in His Word to forgive His people who repent of their sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
We respond to God’s assurance of our pardon by praising Him or singing of His forgiveness or affirming our commitment to repentance.
Tithes and Offerings
At this point we respond to God’s salvation and gracious provision by reminding ourselves of the fact that all that we are and have belongs to Him. We are merely stewards of His blessings. And so we collect the offering at this time. This offering is used to support the ministry of the church and missionaries at home and abroad.
Praise of God
We sing either the “Gloria Patri” (Latin: Glory be to the Father) or “The Doxology.” We sing these to give glory to God for His great mercy in giving us new life in Christ, which is evidenced in the fact that He has caused us to believe the faith which we have just confessed.
We continue our praise by singing another hymn.
Prayer of Intercession
The minister or one of the elders offers prayer to God on behalf of the congregation, even as the congregation joins the minister or elder, praying in spirit.
Together the congregation sings another hymn.
This is the place in the service where we hear the Good News about Jesus Christ! It is our conviction that all of Scripture is Good News when we rightly understand it. All of it, from the beginning of the Old Testament to the end of the New, is a unified witness to Jesus. As a result, it is our desire that every message at Stonebridge should point us to Christ and the hope we have in Him.
In our tradition, the preaching of the Word of God is a very weighty and serious matter. One Reformed confession states that “the Word of God rightly preached is the Word of God.” It isn’t to be a matter of personal opinion or a time for the preacher to ride a hobby horse. Rather, it is a time for God’s people to hear what Scripture has to say. In the sermon, we come to learn about the Good News of Jesus Christ and how we are to live out our Christian faith.
We respond to God’s blessing of giving us His Word by again praising Him in song.
The pastor prays a prayer for the congregation, closing the service, and sending the people out into the rest of their week.
Following our last hymn, the minister pronounces the Lord’s blessing upon His people. This is a time to hear of God’s promises and declarations about His people.
Our worship ends with the congregation singing praise in response to God’s Word and benediction.
Twice a month we celebrate the sacrament of Communion after the post-sermon hymn. This sacrament is also sometimes known as the “Eucharist” (from a Greek word meaning “to give thanks”) or the “Lord’s Supper” (because it is a memorial of Jesus’ Last Supper). The name “Communion” refers to the fact that in this sacrament we commune with God as we celebrate it. We believe Christ is spiritually present in this meal, and that as we partake of this meal together, Christ strengthens and nourishes our spirits by the Holy Spirit as we feed upon Christ through faith.
Because we come to the table of our Lord Jesus, all persons who have sincerely repented of their sins, who have entrusted their lives to Christ, who have made a public profession of faith, and who are baptized members of a Bible-believing church in good standing are welcome to celebrate the sacrament with us.
We believe this sacrament is not for the righteous but the unrighteous. That’s the Good News after all—that Jesus came for people who have wandered from God, broken His law, and who are broken down, worn out, hurting, and weak! God invites the humble and repentant to His Table, where He reminds us of His promise that He loves us, has forgiven us, and accepts us despite our shortcomings!
The Lord’s Supper is followed by a mercy ministry offering, in which we take up an offering for the care of the physical poor among us.
The sacrament of baptism is not merely a declaration of our salvation (Col 2:11–12) nor does the act of baptism confer salvation (1 Pet 3:21). Rather, baptism, like circumcision, is a sign and seal of God’s covenanting grace (Rom 4:9–17) towards His people in which His sovereign grace and His great promises are shown forth as the recipient is brought into God’s kingdom passively (Gen 17:9–14). A proper baptism does not depend upon the minister’s holiness nor the recipient’s sincerity of faith (Acts 8:13, 18–24), but upon God’s Word. Baptism is thus to be administered only once in a person’s lifetime (Eph 4:5), and baptism is be administered both to believers and their children (Col 2:11–12; Acts 16:15; 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16). Because baptism, like circumcision, is not a guarantee of salvation (Jer 9:25–26), God’s grace and promises signed and sealed in baptism are not made effective to its recipients except through faith in Christ. We baptize a person into the singular name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:18–20).
Baptism symbolizes our union with Christ, and those who have faith are truly united to Christ. As part of that union by the Holy Spirit, we are called to walk in the newness of life found in Christ (Rom 6:1–14).