The following items often appear in Christian worship. I asked people which ones they thought were essential parts of the main weekly worship service of a Christian church?
People checked off as many items as they thought were essential, so it adds up to more than 100%.
- 94% felt that scripture readings are essential.
- I agree. Paul told Timothy not to neglect the public reading of Scripture, and I don’t think we should either. the Bible is a best seller, but hardly anyone actually reads it. So the public reading of Scripture is important, even in this day and age of inexpensive paperbacks.
- 80% felt that preaching is essential.
- I agree with them on this one, too. Maybe it is because I am a preacher! Or maybe because I believe that most people, like the Ethiopian eunuch, need help to understand the Scriptures properly.
- 71% felt that hymn singing is essential.
- Technically, hymns aren’t necessary—in fact, in the Episcopal Church it is possible to have a ‘said’ service, in which there is no music of any kind, not even singing; however, I wouldn’t go without hymns. It is one of the ways in which the congregation actively worships, and that makes the difference between a congregation and an audience.
- 68% felt that corporate prayers are essential.
- I agree that it is necessary to offer corporate prayers for the state of the world, the nation, and the members of the congregation. I do not believe it is possible to worship God without prayer!
- 63% felt that Communion (also called the Lord’s Supper or the Eucharist) is essential.
- I agree. All other things we do in worship are done in other religions; only the Eucharist is distinctively Christian. My church has Communion at every service.
- 48% felt that a collection is essential.
- In some countries, like Germany, there is a voluntary church tax, which is collected through your income tax form. It goes to the denomination to which you belong and to finance religion instruction in the public schools. (If you do not belong to a church, it goes to a charity that you designates.) In countries with that sort of system, there is no collection in church and it is not necessary. So I think a collection is only necessary in countries where the church gets its revenue through the collection.
- 28% felt that it is essential to give people an opportunity to respond to the sermon (such as an “altar call” ).
- I’m surprised this is so low, but I suppose that altar calls put people on the spot, and that a person can always talk to the pastor afterwards. My church always has an altar call.
- 11% felt that musical productions are necessary, such as soloists and instrumental performances.
- It is possible to have worship without music, just as it is possible to have soup without salt—it just isn’t as palatable. So in that sense, music isn’t necessary. I think the percentage is low because many people are reacting against worship services that are really musical concerts in disguise, and in that case, I agree with them. In extreme cases, that can be like having salt without soup!
Bear in mind who is writing this. One Christmas Eve, a visitor walked into my church carrying a saxophone and a flute, because he didn’t want to leave them in his car. Unfortunately for him, I was standing at the door when he came in, and I convinced him to play both instruments during the service. During the service, I joked to the congregation that we could increase attendance if they told people we had sax in the church!