What is the Chief Purpose of the Christian Worship Service?
Debates across all Christian church bodies of which I’m aware, for quite a long time, have been going on over the question of what the Sunday morning worship service is really all about. I should qualify that last statement. This discussion is going on across those churches that actually still do regard the Sunday morning worship service as, first and foremost, the occasion when the Holy and Almighty God serves His people through Word and Sacrament and they respond with prayer, praise and thanksgiving, giving their adoration and worship to the All Holy and Glorious Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A growing trend in such churches is to view the Sunday morning service as a tool to be used to attract non-believers to the Christian faith. Such a fundamental shift in understanding of what the purpose of the Sunday morning worship service is all about has extremely serious consequences for how worship is conducted, what goes on during the service, and so forth. Consider the following observations:
Worship is either an encounter with the reality of God, or it is some kind of attempt by man to raise himself by his own bootstraps. It then becomes an occasion for moralizing, a theatrical show, or a sort of pep rally. On the contrary, in the ancient church, the reading of the Gospel was surrounded with festive splendor because here Christ addresses His faithful followers. As the exalted Lord of the Church He today still exercises His prophetic function through His preachers and teachers. We still bear witness to His presence in the acclamations before and after the Gospel. We sing: “Glory be to Thee, O Lord!” and “Praise be to Thee, O Christ!”
- Earnest Koenker, Worship in Word and Sacrament, p. 47 HT: Weedon.