I have began visiting churches in the South Loop where I live. I have been processing their services theologically by writing about them. I have decided that I am going to post what I find. But I thought that the first post should be a general overview of worship styles in the United States. There are three main worship styles: traditional, contemporary, and liturgical.
I grew up in the traditional evangelical worship service. This includes singing traditional Protestant hymns accompanied by a piano, organ, and if the church is large enough a choir. Normally four or five songs are sung, the pastoral prayer is given, the offering taken up, and the sermon preached. There might also be an altar call after the sermon. Communion was served once a quarter, so it didn’t become an “empty ritual.” But there are many traditional congregations that practice communion monthly. The service is done from scratch Sunday to Sunday with the pastor (and staff if the church is large enough) picking out the songs, picking Scripture to preach from, and prayers.
The contemporay worship service has comtemporary choruses and sometimes songs (they’ll even throw in a hymn once in a blue moon). They have the praise band and team leading the singing part of worship. These services will also incorporate dance and drama. The sermon is usually about a felt need and there is a lot of PowerPoint presentations. The sermon also tends to be interactive because outside of singing the congregation tends to be sitting and observing for a lot of the service. Of course offering is taken up, and like traditional churches, communion is observed monthly or quarterly. As with the traditional service, the contemporary service is created from week to week.
Liturgical services have a set order every week written by the denomination or church. Normally there is a book of worship with prayers, Scripture readings, and responsive readings for that Sunday (the Catholic Missal or the Anglican Book of Common Prayer are examples). This service also uses the lectionary, which contains four readings for each Sunday: Psalm, Old Testament, Epistle, and Gospel. All four readings are read during the service, and the priest or pastor preaches on one or more of the readings for that Sunday. There are a lot of different forms of active worship in liturgical services for the congregation: reponses to the priest or pastor, singing, prayers, responsive readings, praying the Lord’s Prayer, and reading one of the Creeds. This kind of service also does not revolve around the sermon as do the former two services. Everything in this service leads up to Communion, which is celebrated every week.
These are the three main styles of worship. Of course, many churches use a combination of two or all three. My favorite order of worship can incorporate elements of these three worship services. That will be the subject of my next post.
A Via Media for Worship