Each sermon must contain the gospel. Give the gospel clearly at some point in the sermon.
The hearer is responsible to apply the Word of God to their own lives. This is their work. We must teach our people to work at hearing. Everywhere in Scripture where applying the Word is mentioned it is not in reference to the preacher or to the Holy Spirit, but to the hearer!
Mark told the story of a woman in attendance at “All Soul’s” church in London at a all day conference on Puritanism led by Mark Dever. When Dever commented on how the Puritan pastors used hour glasses to measure the length of their sermons (one or two turns), she audibly gasped and said aloud, “What time did that leave for worship?” After regaining his composure, Dever replied that these people would have believed that hearing and responding in faith to the Word of God was the central act of worship. Some of them could perhaps remember the smell of burning flesh of those who died to give us a translation of the Bible in English. They would not be worried about how many songs were sung as long as the Word was preached!
So in our worship services, the Word of God is central. Prayers should be shaped by the Word that is declared that day. What attributes of God are in view in your text? Praise God for those attributes! What sins should be confessed? The music chosen for their service should be determined by the sermon.
Next, Dever said that every necessary element of the worship service has been commanded by God. The regular worship service must always include a Biblical sermon, readings from Scripture, prayers, and congregational singing. All of these are commanded in Scripture and are not optional! At Capitol Hill Baptist Church they begin each Sunday Morning Worship service with a “Call to Worship” from Scripture. It is a call to worship God! Then a historic reading of the Ten Commandments, Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed, Nicene Creed, or an article from their own confession of faith is read together by the congregation.
In addition, Dever says that the unity of the church worship service should be in view. Sermons, prayers and music should blend together.
There should be a variety of prayers offered in public worship. Prayers of praise, confession, intercession, and thanksgiving. Dever instructs those who lead in public prayer to never say “I”, but always say “we” because we are leading the body before God in prayer. Prayers should be serious and somber. Spontaneity does not equal spirituality. Therefore, planned prayers are not necessarily dead and dry.
Dever then discussed the use of silence in worship. He said we should slow down because we’re not on t.v. or if we are on t.v., no one is watching! At the end of each service, following the benediction, Dever instructs the congregation to be seated. There is then silence for 60 seconds as the congregation meditates on the Word of God. After 60 seconds the music begins again and the people are free to leave.
Scripture readings must have a place in the Protestant church. One should not have to go to a Roman Catholic church to hear the Bible read!
Congregational singing should be the main kind of singing for which your church is known. It is the only form of music present in both the Old and New Testaments.
Printed bulletins are a tremendous aid to corporate worship. Dr. Dever volunteered First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS to provide copies of their bulletins free of charge to any one who contacts them through their website.
Don’t seek to entertain. Determine to be the kind of preacher who doesn’t promise not to bore the people! Tell your young people to get into bed early on Saturday night!
Dr. Dever concluded his talk with this quote from D.A. Carson’s Worship by the Book,
Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset (pp. 30-31).