Concise Lexicon of Christianity

Ken Collins’ Website

Teachings, worship, rites, sermons, and terminology

All About Worship

What kind of hymns do you like?

Apparently, if you the one who chooses hymns, it is best to pick a variety. Note also that older hymns are five times as popular as the newer hymns. I suppose that for many people finding an eternal God only in contemporary form is an oxymoron.

What style of preaching do you prefer?

From this I gather that if you’re a preacher who is prone to dynamic preaching, you can safely tone it down from time to time during the sermon. While I am at it, I would like to add that if you preach very rapidly and at a higher than usual pitch, it can sound like you are shrieking and it can become difficult for the congregation to understand you. My advice is to vary the pacing and intensity of your preaching, and to keep the pitch of your voice close to your normal speaking voice.

Which method of preaching do you prefer?

The manuscript preachers among us should probably take pains to make the mechanics of manipulating the papers as unobtrusive as possible.

Do you think applause is appropriate in a worship service?

This is a controversial issue, it appears. Too much and too frequent applause in church apparently can turn off a lot of folks.

What should be the relationship between scripture readings and the sermon?

What should be the relationship between the scripture reading and the sermon?

All of the people whose pastors preach expository sermons prefer it that way. More than half of the people whose pastors preach topical sermons prefer expository sermons. Again, this poll confirms an earlier one that people prefer expository sermons.

Do you think your church should [continue to] use the lectionary?

This means that 85% of them prefer to use the lectionary! So far, in all my polls, it has always turned out that most of the people who don’t like something have never tried it. I don’t know if that is the case here, because I didn’t structure the questions that way, but I suspect it is. The lectionary is one of those tools that I find indispensable. Once a Nazarene pastor confided in me that he was having trouble selecting passages for worship, because he always seemed to be going over the same ones. I suggested the lectionary and he thought it was a great idea. So don’t assume your pastor is not using the lectionary, just because there is no talk about it in your church! Although I theoretically agree that one should be able to break from the lectionary when necessary, it is amazing how seldom that happens—not because the lectionary is wonderful, but because the scriptures are.

Errors in the sermon

I asked if anyone ever researched the sermon the after church, only to find out that the preacher did not thoroughly research the scripture reading? (Or, if you are the pastor, have you ever discovered after the fact that you goofed?)

There’s not much correlation between the type of sermon (expository or topical) and the incidence of error, because topical sermons inherently contain less verifiable data. But these results show that pastors are human! Like all humans, pastors constantly need to refocus themselves on their work. And if you are a pastor, let this be a warning that your sermons really are getting through and people really are following them up with personal study!

About scripture readings in worship

When I grew up, we had no scripture readings in church. The pastor just read a short passage that served as his ‘text’ for the sermon and that was that. The Revised Common Lectionary is becoming more and more popular every day. Even if you belong to a denomination that doesn’t normally use such things, and even if you don’t have formal scripture readings in church, don’t assume there is no lectionary in your church. Many pastors in such churches use the Revised Common Lectionary behind the scenes as a tool for worship and sermon planning. The lectionary provides for four readings each Sunday, so as a result of its influence, I think we will all see an increase in the public reading of scripture during worship, in accordance with 1 Timothy 4:13. Even though the Revised Common Lectionary only dates from 1992, the idea of a lectionary is extremely old. One of the stated purposes of publishing the Book of Common Prayer in 1559 was to revise the lectionary. The ancient Church used lectionaries, as did the Jewish synagogue before then.

Does your church have formal scripture readings?

To my relief, no one said that there are no scripture readings in their church; that you only read your Bibles at home.

Even if the pastor uses the lectionary, there is no requirement that all four readings must get used.

Who reads the scripture readings?

How do you read the psalm?

Do you stand for the gospel?

In churches with four readings…

Who reads the scripture readings?

How do you read the psalm?

Do you stand for the gospel?

Who reads the scripture readings?

How do you read the psalm?

Do you stand for the gospel?

These results remind me of a paradox that I have experienced in visiting churches. I don’t understand why this is, but the more a church insists on the importance of the Bible, the less it seems to use the Bible in worship! I visited a service in an Episcopal church in which nearly everything that was said was either a paraphrase or a quote from the Bible, and on the next Sunday I visited a service in a ‘Bible church’ in which the only Bible reading was half a verse quoted by the pastor to set the theme of the sermon! On another occasion, I attended a service in a Baptist church in which they never even mentioned the Bible!

I’m still scratching my head over this one. However, I do exhort you all to use the Bible more in worship.

More Information…

My Church

In case you are wondering, here’s what we did in my church:

About responses and responsive readings in church

Many churches use corporate responses in worship. For example, the minister might say, The Lord be with you and the congregation responds in unison, And also with you. (This set of responses comes from Ruth 2:4.) Or, after a scripture reading, the reader might say, the Word of the Lord and the congregation responds in unison, thanks be to God.

Many congregations also have a responsive reading, usually a psalm, where the reader and the congregation alternate.

The purpose of the responses is to make sure that the congregation actually worships and that it does not become an audience, as in medieval times, and just observes the worship. They also are intended to make the congregation realize that they are the Body of Christ, not just a random collection of individuals.

In order to do responses, the congregation has to be paying attention, so there we have another benefit.

Now for a tip: if you are writing responsive prayers, keep the responses short and avoid wordiness. You want a corporate response, not a corporate mumble.

Does your church use responses or responsive readings?

That means that 87% of them have responses or responsive readings in church.

What is your opinion about responses and responsive readings?

Of the people whose churches do not have responses or responsive readings:

Of the people whose churches have responses or responsive readings occasionally:

Of the people whose churches have responses or responsive readings every week:

It appears from these results that this is a try it, you’ll like it situation. If you have started attending a church that uses responses and responsive readings, give it a month or two; apparently it will grow on you.

If you are a pastor, and you want to start using responses and responsive readings in church, it’s clear that you should make it a part of every worship service.