Planning and Leading Worship

In the planning and leading of worship at McIlwain Presbyterian Church, the Worship Planning Team works from the sermon “out.”  Foundational to the outworking of McIlwain’s philosophy of worship is the belief that the sermon is the heart of corporate worship.  Paul told Timothy,

Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift…” (1 Timothy 4:13, 14a).

Timothy’s gift was preaching, and Paul encouraged him to recognize that his priority was the proclamation of God’s Word to God’s people in the public setting of corporate worship.  

For this reason the Worship Planning Team believes the immediate context of each worship service at McIlwain is must be developed along a theme that best prepares the worshiper for the hearing of God’s Word.  By building the worship around the preached Word we are establishing a specific task for each service; each task, in turn, has an appropriate tone that must be biblically developed.  At times that tone may be exuberant as we focus on the joy of the forgiveness of our sins and the freedom we have in Christ; at times it may be more reflective as we contemplate our own sinfulness and our Lord’s great sacrifice; other times the tone will progress through both, urging us to respond to God’s love with fervent praise; and at all times the music and singing, whether whatever its “style,” should be appropriate to the Scriptural theme and tone.  The

Worship Planning Team’s goal in the planning and leading of worship is to lead the worshiper along a path that provides biblically guided direction for the expression of devotion and praise.  If, for example, the sermon text is about forgiveness, the team may select a Preparation for Worship a passage for congregational meditation about God’s mercy or our need for a savior.  From there the development of the service may lead the congregation through a Call to Worship because of God’s holiness, followed by a Call to Confession, Corporate Confession of Sin which leads the worshiper to behold God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ; as appropriate, there may be silent or musical meditation and then, in response to God’s mercy in Christ, extended singing of praise.

Classic elements of Reformed worship such as creeds, a confession of faith, catechism lessons and the singing of Psalms are an important facet of our worship expression.  One of the most important opportunities that we have in this approach to worship is demonstrating how we stand with the saints of the past by honoring the best aspects of our past worship tradition.  

Having said this, it is equally important to establish a new heritage to pass on along with the old to future worshipers, both our own covenant children as well as new covenant lines that God brings into being through evangelism.  There is a wealth of excellent new music that has recently been and is currently being composed that is God founded, Christ-centered and Gospel driven. 

The resultant “style” of worship at McIlwain could therefore be called “blended,” at least in view of the fact that the Worship Planning Team utilizes both traditional hymns as well as some of the wonderful newer hymnody that is being produced.  The Worship Planning Team does not, however, seek to apply a “50/50” rule that blends traditional and newer styles in equal amounts in each service.  Such an approach operates by default on the assumption that it we must make sure that every worshiper has “their kind” of music in each service, thus making congregational satisfaction, rather than the glory of God, the goal of worship.  Instead, the Worship Planning Team seeks to utilize music that, regardless of the tradition from which it arises, best communicates the Scriptural theme and tone of the service that is being planned.