The Shape of Corporate Worship

This past Sunday I made brief reference to the intentionality with which we try and shape our times together as a church family here at Oakridge. That clip can be found below.

Not having planned to say what I said, it doesn’t surprise me that there’s much that went unsaid in that explanation. And yet, more than a few members of our assembly have reached out since then to say how much they appreciated the “peek behind the scenes.” So, I wanted to provide a more thorough, thoughtful, and permanent description of how it is we, at Oakridge Bible Chapel, use corporate worship to tell the story of our redemption, our mission, and our hope.

Essentially, there are nine “movements” that we try (with varying degrees of success!) to honour every Lord’s Day gathering in a variety of different ways, e.g., Scripture reading, prayer, music, etc. Below is a more complete explanation of that arch.


Any interaction that we have with the God of the universe is made possible because he has initiated it (e.g., Pss 95:6; 117:1–2; Isa 43:21; Matt 11:25–30; John 4:23; Eph 2:1–4). He created us. He calls us. He saves us. He sent his Son. He sent his Spirit. He sends his church. You get the idea. God is the initiator and, so, when we come together to worship him it is good for us to remember that it is by his invitation.

At Oakridge, this “call to worship” may be accomplished by a Scripture reading, prayer of gratitude, or, more typically, with a song. (Click here for a discussion on how we select songs for congregational singing.) For example, we may sing “All Creature of Our God and King,” “Come, People of the Risen King,” or “Bless the Lord, O My Soul.”


Okay, so God has invited people into his presence to give him the praise he’s due. What comes next? Well, what happens in Scripture every time someone finds themselves before the Almighty? Awe! Praise! Holy reverence! Adoration (e.g., Job 1:20–21; Pss 96:9; 99:5; Isa 6:1–4; 12:5; 25:1; Luke 4:8; Rev 4:1–11; 22:7–9)! When we come into the presence of our God to worship, the first thing we do is celebrate his majesty, holiness, and goodness.

There are so many good songs that strive to accomplish this vital piece of corporate worship. For example, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “All Hail the Glorious Christ,” “Behold Our God,” “How Great Thou Art,” and “Great Are You Lord.” At Oakridge we will typically follow-up a song of adoration with a reading from a complementary passage of Scripture, one that declares the majesty, character, grace, and “otherness” of our God.


Being in the presence of such a holy God is no trivial matter. In fact, when we see examples of such an encounter in the Bible, reverent fear, a hyper-awareness of human sinfulness, and attention to creature-neediness is always the reaction (Isa 6:5; Ezek 1:28; 44:4; Dan 8:17; 10:9–15; Rev 1:9–17a). How could it not be?! Corruption is seen most clearly in the presence of purity.

At our assembly we do this through prayer. More specifically, one of the elders—those God has raised up to shepherd his people—will pray with, for, and over the congregation. There is perhaps no greater declaration of our corporate confession of need than to publicly lay requests before the only one who can help: God himself. We may also couple this prayer with a song of confession or lament, one like “Come, O Sinner,” “Lord, I Need You,” or “How Long, O Lord, How Long?


God never leaves his children in a place of desperation, despondence, and depression. No, he continually condescends to bring comfort, peace, and help (Psa 23:4; Rom 15:33; 2 Cor 1:3–5; 7:6). That’s why we move from a confession of neediness to God’s consolation that he has drawn near in many ways but most magnificently and sufficiently in Christ. What contentment that can bring! What divine relief!

Once again, we typically will do this in song, celebrating in one voice God’s love, grace, and kindness to us. Some examples of songs like these would be “Hallelujah What a Saviour,” “Blessed Assurance,” “He Will Hold Me Fast,” “Yet Not I But Through Christ in Me,” and “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone).”


The comfort we receive in consolation prepares us to turn our hearts and minds to its greatest source: God’s provision for us in Christ (e.g., Rom 8:32; 2 Cor 9:8). At Oakridge, being an assembly that celebrates the Lord’s Supper (i.e., communion, the Table of the Lord, the breaking of bread) weekly, this is the time in our meeting when we prepare for that meal of remembrance. Simply stated, we turn our eyes to the cross, to Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice, and to the New covenant in his blood (1 Cor 11:17–32).

There may be more songs for this movement than any other! Here are a handful of examples that you may here when worshipping with us : “And Can It Be?,” “According To Thy Gracious Word,” “Before the Throne of God Above,” or “How Deep the Father’s Love For Us.”


Having prepared our hearts and minds for the Table set before us, we now turn to the elements. While, to this point of the service, we have sang the word, prayed the word, and heard the word, now we will see and taste the word in the bread and cup. As the church family is lead in this meal, we collectively remember the body given and the blood shed for us. Hallelujah!


Now we prepare to hear God speak, and speak he does through the proclamation of his holy word! This is the place in our service when a sermon is delivered. A servant of God opens the word of God to proclaim the purposes of God that the people of God be conformed to the image of the Son of God by the power of the Spirit of God … and all for the glory of God!


After sitting under the preached word, after hearing God’s voice, and after the Scriptures have been applied to our hearts, the Holy Spirit cutting with the scalpel of special revelation, God’s people are to respond. We collectively declare, “We will do what we have been called to do, Lord!” One way this dedication is usually expressed is again through song, one selected based upon the sermon it follows, the admonition and exhortation we’ve just received. Generally speaking, some songs of dedication are “Be Thou My Vision,” “Take My Life and Let It Be,” “All Glory Be To Christ,” “To God Be the Glory,” or “Facing a Task Unfinished.”


Having heeded God’s invitation, responded with adoration and confession, having experienced God’s consolation and then celebrated his provision worthy of commemoration, and having heard revelation and responded with Spirit-empowered dedication, God’s people are now prepared to be blessed and sent out into the world. Here, an elder will stand before God’s people, read a Scriptural benediction, and then dismiss the church family.

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Josiah has served the Oakridge Bible Chapel family as one of its elders and one of its pastoral staff members since September 2018, before which he ministered as an associate pastor to a local congregation in the Canadian prairies. Josiah's desire is to be used by God to help equip the church for ministry, both while gathered (edification) and while scattered (evangelization). He is married to Patricia, and together they have five children—Jonah, Henry, Nathaniel, Josephine, and Benjamin.

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