Eucharist. That’s not a word we use much in my Presbyterian denomination (PCA), and I certainly didn’t hear it much growing up in Wesleyan and Baptist circles. But beginning in the second century Christians used this word, Eucharist, as the prominent designation for the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper (Webber, Worship Old & New, 235). Eucharist means “to give thanks.”


In 1 Corinthians 11:24, the Apostle Paul uses the Greek word, eucharistia, when he recounts the Last Supper: “The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.'”

The theme of thanksgiving was, and is, a large part of the sacramental meal shared by Christians. When we gather at the Lord’s Table, we come with a deep sense of thankfulness to God for the covenant relationship he established with us through his Son, Jesus Christ. We’re thankful for God’s electing love, his sovereign grace, for all the spiritual blessings we have by being united with Christ (Ephesians 1:3-14), and for every good and perfect gift we receive from the Father’s hand (James 1:17). As we come to the Table of the Lord, we’re thankful for the perfect sacrifice of Christ our Lord, whose blood has washed away our sins, and we’re thankful that because of the work of Christ, we who were once separated from God can now draw near to him with full assurance (Hebrews 10:19-22).

An overwhelming thankfulness to God for his never-ending, steadfast, covenant love for us should be the predominant attitude of our hearts as we approach the sacrament of Communion. The Psalmist says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1). 

In 2003, Pat Sczebel wrote a worship song titled, “Jesus, Thank You.” This song beautifully captures the theme of thankfulness to God for the work of Christ on the cross. We’ll be singing this song during Communion (or should I say, Eucharist?) this coming Sunday at Willow Creek Church. To help prepare for worship, here’s a link to the Sovereign Grace Music website where you can listen to the song, view the lyrics, purchase the mp3, and download the music: “Jesus, Thank You.” And here’s another link to a youtube video of the song with the lyrics: “Jesus, Thank You.”

My Two “Sense” on Defining Worship

This past Sunday, in our second week of the Conversations in Worship seminar at Willow Creek Church, we began to uncover some overarching themes in public worship by checking out a number of biblical examples from the Old and New Testaments.

Seminar Photo

Defining Worship

But before we dug into this thematic material, we reviewed our first week’s foundational study of biblical words associated with worship. I thought I’d use today’s post to give you a little taste of what we’ve been talking about in our Conversations in Worship seminar.

So far, we’ve learned from the Old Testament that worship involves…

  • Seeking after God
  • Reverent obedience to God
  • Loyal service to God
  • Personal ministry to God
  • Genuine humility before God, and
  • Drawing near to God

(taken from Andrew Hill, Enter His Courts with Praise, 2-9)

Our New Testament word study revealed comparable ideas regarding worship by showing us that worship is…

  • Deep respect and honor for God
  • Offering service to God
  • A way of living for God
  • Committed devotion to God, and
  • Godly action

Worship is action overflowing from a heart devoted to God

Our word study showed us that worship is not a spectator sport. It is active. Worship is action overflowing from a heart devoted to God. Worship is not something we just attend or observe or enjoy. Worship is not a programmed presentation for passive pew-sitters. The focus of worship is not us and our consumeristic preferences, rather, the focus of worship is God – His story and His glory.

The Two Senses of Worship

We can talk about worship in two primary senses, and this is an important distinction. First, we can speak about worship in a broad sense. For instance, the apostle Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom 12:1 ESV). Here, Paul is asking his readers to consider all of life as worship unto God. Along these lines, Gerald Borchert writes, “Worship is a response of our entire lives” (Worship in the New Testament: Divine Mystery and Human Response, 6). The christian’s life should be one characterized by worship.

There is also a more narrow way of speaking about worship, which refers to the corporate activity of the gathered people of God. This is what we do as a local church body when we gather on Sunday mornings. Luke records the nature of such public gatherings in the early Jerusalem church saying, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV). Speaking of the necessity of corporate gatherings, the writer of Hebrews says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Heb 10:23-25 ESV).

Authentic corporate worship is an overflow of a lifestyle of worship

So worship can be defined broadly as a way of living all of life for the glory of God (soli Deo gloria) and before the face of God (coram Deo). And worship can also be defined more narrowly as a public event – a divine gathering between God and His covenant people. But why is this distinction between defining worship in the broad and narrow sense important? Well, for starters, both senses of worship are described and prescribed in Scripture. Also, and this is key, you cannot have one sense of worship without the other. John Frame writes, “Worship in the narrow sense without worship in the broad sense is not acceptable to God” (Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 10). Authentic corporate worship is an overflow of a lifestyle of worship. Corporate worship is not just going through some outward liturgical motions on Sunday while we run after other idols the rest of the week. Remember the  Lord’s judgment of Israel…

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13a NIV).

A lifestyle of worship is fueled by authentic corporate worship

A lifestyle of worship is an essential prerequisite to authentic corporate worship. But the opposite is also true. A lifestyle of worship is fueled by authentic corporate worship. Corporate worship is spiritually formative in so many ways, and that’s why we’re spending ten weeks studying worship at Willow Creek Church.

In the next eight sessions of our Conversations in Worship seminar, we will be focusing in on the study of public worship. If you’re a part of the WCC family and would like more than just my two “sense” on defining worship, we’d love to have you join the conversation on Sunday mornings at 9:45 from now through the month of May.

For His glory,

Jeff Vogan

The Essence of Worship

It’s Not About Music

This coming Sunday, March 2nd, 2014, during our 9:45 AM seminar time at Willow Creek Church, I’ll begin teaching an in-depth seminar called Conversations in Worship. It occured to me this week that there may be those who assume that this will be a seminar about worship music. Well, that assumption would be wrong. Worship is a much broader topic than simply the music we sing in church.

In the first session of Conversations in Worship, we will be examining the Old and New Testaments for biblical words and attitudes associated with worship. This study will serve as our foundation for understanding the essence of Christian worship as obedient action overflowing from a heart devoted to God. 

Don’t get me wrong. Certainly, the use of music in corporate worship is an important part of worship. Paul writes, “Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 5:18-20 NIV). But again, worship involves so much more than singing.

Conversations in Worship will help build a solid foundation for understanding the deeper meaning and practice of Christian worship. If you’re part of the Willow Creek Church family, I’d love to have you participate in the seminar. I won’t be teaching you how to sing, but hopefully, through this seminar, we’ll grow together as true worshippers of God in Christ Jesus.

For His glory,

Jeff Vogan

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship” (Rom 12:1 NIV).

“Conversations in Worship” Seminar Coming to WCC

What is worship? It’s a simple question, but how we answer it has a profound impact on our understanding of God, the church, and ourselves. Some people view worship as mainly a personal experience or emotional response. Others see the purpose of worship as primarily a time for biblical education, or evangelism, or even entertainment. And some simply equate worship with a genre or style of music. But what is the essence of worship from a biblical perspective?

Conversations in Worship is a new Sunday Seminar I’ll be teaching that will address this fundamental question of the essence of worship. The seminar is designed as a journey exploring the foundational principles of Christian worship from a biblical, historical, and Reformed theological perspective. We will discuss why corporate worship is a necessary activity for the church and the spiritual formation of the believer. We’ll talk about biblical words, patterns, themes, and attitudes of worship. We’ll discuss the covenantal nature of corporate worship and see how the sacraments serve as signs and seals of the covenant relationship God has established with his people. We’ll survey the seasons of the Christian year and see how they can help to center our lives in Christ. The seminar will challenge us to reflect on the biblical principles of unity, love, and humility among believers, and we’ll consider how these values can be applied in our practice of worship. We will also take a look at how corporate worship in the American church has been divided by the cultural influences of consumerism, individualism, and market-driven, attractional ministry models, and we’ll discuss how we might be able to respond to these outside forces in biblically informed ways.

Here are a few comments from past seminar participants:

  • “This was so awesome and life changing!”
  • “I found every class and lesson interesting and beneficial!”
  • “Excellent research and organization of info.”
  • “So glad to have this to stir my heart and mind towards greater relationship with the Lord!”
  • “This renewed my love and participation in worship.”

So come join us for Conversations in Worship, beginning March 2nd, and see how God might want to use it in your life.

For His glory,

Dr. Jeff Vogan, Director of Worship and Music


9:45 AM in Room 604, Willow Creek Church, PCA 

  • MAR 2: The Essence of Worship
  • MAR 9: Biblical Themes in Public Worship – Part 1
  • MAR 16: Biblical Themes in Public Worship – Part 2
  • MAR 23: Fourfold Worship – Part 1
  • MAR 30: Fourfold Worship – Part 2
  • APR 13: Unity in Worship: A Biblical Pattern
  • APR 27: Unity in Worship: Historical and Cultural Matters
  • MAY 4: Understanding The Sacraments
  • MAY 11: Spiritual Formation Through Weekly Worship
  • MAY 18: Spiritual Formation Through The Christian Year

Drawing Attention

On the first night of choir rehearsal a few years back, I reminded the choir that their role in worship was to draw attention. A few eyebrows rose during an intentional pause before I finished my sentence. Our role is to draw attention…to God. The choir glorifies God and enjoys Him through music – the hours of preparation as well as the times we sing in corporate worship. We lead the congregation in worship by turning our attention to God – His worth, His work, and His Word.

As a choir, we desire to be authentic, which simply means that we want to live in a way that reflects the truth about which we sing. We worship with our voices and our hearts. We never sing a song without first meditating on and applying the song lyrics to our lives. Singing in worship is spiritually formational – and not just for the choir, but for all who gather in corporate worship. We sing what we believe, and believe what we sing.

This coming Sunday, the choir will lead us in an opening song of praise that glorifies God by reflecting on a number of His divine attributes, including His eternality, holiness, beauty, majesty, and sovereignty. This song, “Uncreated One,” also reflects on God’s mercy and love demonstrated through the saving work of Christ. So we worship the Lord both for who He is, and for what He has done. Psalm 86 says, “There is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours…For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
 you alone are God” (Ps 86: 8,10).

In preparation for corporate worship this Sunday, I encourage you to take some time to meditate on the lyrics of the song listed below. Notice that it is a prayer of praise. Therefore, as the choir sings this song in worship, they serve to direct the prayers and praise of the congregation upward to God. The choir is not presenting a performance directed out to an audience of spectators – that is a faulty, presentational view of worship. Instead, the choir invites our congregation to unite our hearts together in prayer as we set our focus on the Lord.

By the way, if you enjoy singing and are looking for a ministry in which to serve, we would love to have you join the choir. Shoot me an email and I’ll give you the details. But whether you sing in the choir or sing in the congregation, this coming Sunday, I invite you to draw attention…to God.


“Uncreated One”


Holy Uncreated One, Your beauty fills the skies,

But the glory of Your majesty is the mercy in Your eyes.


Worthy Uncreated One, from heaven to earth come down;

You laid aside Your royalty to wear the sinner’s crown.


O Great God be glorified;

Our lives laid down, Yours magnified.

O Great God, be lifted high;

There is none like You.


Jesus, Savior, God’s own Son, risen, reigning Lord;

Sustainer of the Universe by the power of Your word.


O Great God be glorified;

Our lives laid down, Yours magnified.

O Great God, be lifted high;

There is none like You.


And when we see Your matchless face, in speechless awe we’ll stand.

And there we’ll bow with grateful hearts unto the Great I Am.


O Great God be glorified;

Our lives laid down, Yours magnified.

O Great God, be lifted high;

There is none like You.


Chris Tomlin | J. D. Walt

© 2006 sixsteps Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

Vamos Publishing (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing) songs (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)

For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use.  All rights reserved.

CCLI License # 66469

Thy Will Be Done: A Prayer for Lent

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

Our Lent Bible Reading for today at Willow Creek Church is Matthew 16:13-26, and this text will be the focus of Pastor Kevin’s sermon tonight at our Ash Wednesday service. If you haven’t already done so, I’d encourage you to read and meditate on these verses before joining us tonight for the Ash Wednesday service at 7PM.

While looking at the passage this morning, my Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible directed me to Question 124 of the Heidelberg Catechism. This question is in the group of teachings that flesh out the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer…

HC 124: What does the third request (of the Lord’s Prayer) mean? “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means, Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good. Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.

I don’t know about you, but that brings a fresh perspective to me as I pray the Lord’s Prayer. God’s will being done on earth includes me putting to death my own selfish desires. That’s a perfect prayer for Lent, and a great way to humble ourselves and begin forty days of spiritual devotion: Lord, help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk.

My prayer for Willow Creek throughout these days leading up to Easter is that the Holy Spirit would enable us to deny ourselves and follow Christ according to the will of our heavenly Father. I can’t wait to see how the Spirit moves in our church!

 Lord, may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

Back From Berlin

TEAM BERLIN RETREAT                                                                    October 8-13, 2012

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany during the Festival of Lights

Well, we’ve been back in the States for a few days now and we’re beginning to get over the jet lag from our trip to Germany. Though our bodies are tired, our spirits are full from the fellowship we enjoyed with the Team Berlin missionaries.

There always seems to be an adventure story on these short-term “musicianary” trips, and this one was no different. The adventure started this year two days before our departure when I began to have a pretty bad tooth ache. I called my dentist, Dr. Outlaw, on Friday night and he agreed to meet me at his office in the morning (He was out of town, but graciously came back early that morning knowing we had to leave for Germany the next day). Dr. Outlaw did a root canal on Saturday morning, and then I worked on packing for our trip under the influence of the prescription painkillers the rest of the day, which explains why I forgot to pack a few things… but more on that later.

Here’s our team from Willow Creek Church in front of the World Clock in Alexanderplatz, Berlin

Debbie, Robbie, Kyle and I met up with Sabrina and Cara at the Orlando airport on Sunday afternoon ready for our long trip. We flew to Philadelphia, hustled to our connecting flight that was already boarding, and then settled in for our overnight transatlantic flight. The pain meds and motion sickness made for a nauseating and sleepless flight for me, but I think the rest of the team got at least a few hours sleep. We had another quick transfer in Frankfurt the next morning that provided a little more excitement for the team. Lufthansa’s worldwide computer system went down in the middle of printing our boarding passes, so we started to wonder if Cara, Sabrina, and Kyle were going to be left behind. Thankfully, we’re amillennialists and were able to “fly away” to Berlin together (a little eschatological humor, sorry).

Lufthansa Computer System Crash causes delay in Frankfurt, Germany

Because of the computer system trouble, our flight into Berlin arrived pretty late, but as soon as we walked out of the airport the bus we needed to take pulled up to the curb. The bus took us to the subway station, and we literally had to run to catch the train. We later transferred to a regional train that took us close to our final destination. A short van ride finished the last leg of our adventurous 20 hours of travel from Winter Springs to the retreat center in Templin, Germany. Whew!

We took some time to greet the missionaries and introduce Cara, Sabrina, and Kyle to the Team Berlin members. While everyone settled into the rooms I started setting up the sound and projection system for the worship times. As I was finishing up I realized that I forgot to pack the video adapter to connect my Mac laptop (DVI) to their projector (VGA) – I about died. After running through multiple options, our best solution was to (okay, PC lovers, rub it in) use someone’s PC laptop. This meant I had to spend several hours recreating all the lyric slides. I’m blaming my forgetfulness on the painkillers (I forgot my toothbrush too).

Kyle and Emma

Well, after that rough start to the week, we were able to settle in for what proved to be a very spiritually rich and meaningful retreat. Cara, Sabrina, Robbie, and Kyle did an outstanding job loving and caring for the missionary kids. A couple of days into the retreat, Archie Moore, the Team Pastor asked one of the children what their favorite part of the week was, and their reply was, “Everything!” Robbie and Kyle were like big brothers (in the best sense) to the missionary kids. In a thank you note to the boys, one of the parents wrote,

“Thank you for coming all this way to serve our families this week. What a blessing to our kids to get to be with teens who love Jesus and want to serve Him!”

Cara and Sabrina were like favorite aunts to the Team Berlin children. They came prepared with lots of activities, crafts, games, and plenty of candy, and the kids loved it! Near the end of the week I overheard one of the little girls ask our ladies if they could come back next year – too sweet.

Debbie and I were privileged to lead worship for the adults all week, partnering with Rev. Archie Moore who preached for our morning worship services. We spent hours in prayer with the team throughout the week, and they also devoted a good amount of time to strategic planning and vision casting for the future of Team Berlin. We involved the children in one night of worship midweek, which was a lot of fun. And our concluding Communion service on Saturday was very special – worshipping together as one big family. After the retreat, Team Berlin wrote,

“Thank you for leading us to the foot of the throne as we worshiped the King of kings this week! We so appreciate you serving Jesus in Germany this week and blessing us mightily through your gifts and heart for Him! Thanks too for bringing your boys and Cara and Sabrina! What a tremendous blessing you are!”

Team Berlin is a huge blessing to us – showing us living illustrations of what it looks like to love, trust, follow, and serve the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Let me say thank you again to all our friends and family who prayed for the Team and us last week. Your prayers were answered. And thank you so much for all who donated financial support to allow our team of six to serve. I pray that the Lord will bless you for your kindness and generosity.

Team Berlin Retreat 2012

As I close, let’s continue to pray for Team Berlin and the work that God has prepared for them to do. They are constantly under Satan’s attack and are working in a difficult region for evangelism. Many of the missionaries are beginning new works after having launched other fruitful churches and ministries, so pray that God will bless them with ministry partners, positive community relationships, and many personal friendships that lead to the conversion of the lost.

For His glory,


Jeff Vogan

Director of Worship and Music

Willow Creek Church, PCA

“to know Jesus Christ and to make Him known with passion and grace”





Confirmation of the New Covenant

This week in worship Pastor Mike will be preaching from Genesis 17 where we see how God confirms the covenant he made with Abram. The Lord says,

“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you” (Gen. 17:7).

We too will experience a covenant confirmation of our own this week in worship as we celebrate Communion together. The apostle Paul, in recounting the institution of the Lord’s Supper, quotes Jesus as saying,

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor. 11:25).

This fulfills Jeremiah’s prophecy which says,

“‘The time is coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant
 with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people…I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

Communion serves to remind us of the new covenant relationship God has promised us in Christ – that he will be our God and we will be his people. Dr. Simon Kistemaker, New Testament scholar and Professor emeritus from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando makes this statement in his Commentary on 1 Corinthians: “Every believer who drinks from the cup at the Lord’s table is a member of the covenant that Christ has ratified in his blood. This also holds true for eating the bread. All those who partake of the one loaf signify that they participate in the one body of Christ (1 Cor. 10:17). Together they form a covenant community.”

So as we worship this Sunday, and in particular, as we participate in the covenant renewal sacrament of Communion, let’s remember that we are united to our Lord and to one another in an everlasting covenant sealed by the blood of Christ.

The Lord is our God and we are His people!

Remembrance and Much More

A couple months ago I posted a Worship Reflections focusing on Communion. There I pointed out the four main emphases of the sacrament as reflected in the four biblical names: The Lord’s Supper (remembering Christ’s sacrificial death), Communion (uniting with Christ and his body – the Church), Eucharist (thanksgiving to God for the work of Christ), and Breaking Bread (celebrating the resurrection).

These four complementary perspectives can be unified under an overarching theme of God’s covenant of grace with his people. Communion is a Christ-ordained ordinance – a sign and seal of the covenant reminding us that we belong to God in Christ. As we eat the bread and take the cup we are united as one body in Christ.

This sacrament also encompasses the past, present, and future reality of our union with Christ. In Communion we remember the past work of Christ on our behalf – his perfect life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection. In Communion we also experience the present reality of our union with Christ and his people as we share this holy meal together with Christ as our host. We find comfort and hope in the midst of the trials of this present life knowing that we belong to him who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15). And in Communion we look ahead – finding assurance that Christ’s effectual work on our behalf has sealed our future hope at Christ’s return in the new heavens and earth.

So you see, Communion is much more than just a time of remembrance. Solemnity, introspection, and contemplation are certainly appropriate attitudes in Communion, but when we consider the multivalent connotations of this holy sacrament we can see how joy, thanksgiving, and celebration are equally appropriate responses. Communion is an act of worship!

This Sunday in worship at Willow Creek Church we will once again participate together in this wonderful and mysterious sacrament. And as our elders distribute the elements we are going to be singing a new communion song (new for WCC) written by Matt Maher and Matt Redman. The title of the song is “Remembrance,” though as you read the lyrics below you will realize that it carefully and poetically combines past, present, and future themes. Take some time as you prepare for worship this weekend to meditate on these lyrics. You may even want to purchase the song on iTunes (search “Remembrance” from Matt Redman’s 2009 album, “We Shall Not Be Shaken”).

I’m looking forward to gathering together at the Table with you on Sunday.

Remembrance (The Communion Song) by Matt Maher and Matt Redman


Oh, how could it be

That my God would welcome me

Into this mystery,

Say, “Take this bread, take this wine?”

Now the simple made divine

For any to receive.


By Your mercy we come to Your table.

By Your grace You are making us faithful.


Lord, we remember You,

And remembrance leads us to worship.

And as we worship You,

Our worship leads to communion.

We respond to Your invitation,

We remember You.


See His body, His blood;

Know that He has overcome

Ev’ry trial we will face.

And none too lost to be saved,

None too broken or ashamed.

All are welcome in this place.



Dying, You destroyed our death.

Rising, You restored our life.

Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Lord Jesus, come in glory.

Lord Jesus, come in glory.


© 2009 Thankyou Music/ music /Said And Done Music /Icel (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing). For use solely with the SongSelect Terms of Use.  All rights reserved. CCLI License # 66469

Worship Renewal at Willow Creek Church

I’ve been a worship leader for over twenty years now, but the things I’ve learned in the last two years at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies have really been life changing. Not only that, but since beginning the doctorate of worship studies program, the Lord has allowed me to lead in some significant areas of worship renewal at Willow Creek Church.

One of the first major shifts in thinking about corporate worship has been to see it as a divine conversation between God and his covenant people. This seems so elementary, and yet as I look back to my pre-IWS days I’ve come to realize that so much of how I had planned and led worship was more like a program director or production manager. I viewed corporate worship more like a conversation about God than a conversation with God.

This shift in thinking from a program approach to a more dialogical understanding has led us to restructure our worship service to more closely follow the ancient fourfold pattern. We now view the opening segment of worship as the time when God initiates the divine conversation: gathering and uniting his covenant people, lifting us up into his presence, and preparing us to hear him speak to us through his Word. We’ve also added a time of confession and an assurance of pardon as a part of the gathering. We’ve moved the offering, as well as other elements such as baptisms and commissionings to a response time after the sermon, and we’ve been more intentional with a sending that includes a charge, a benediction, and sometimes what I like to refer to as “the element of worship formerly known as announcements.” We’ve renamed the announcements “connect and serve,” and have sought to reframe them as missional opportunities as we are sent out from worship to love and serve God and our neighbors.

A more dialogical approach to corporate worship has also led us to increase the amount of congregational participation. There is still progress to be made in this area, but we are gradually moving our people from passivity in the pews to more active involvement by introducing some spoken congregational responses, prayers, and Scripture readings. We’ve increased the overall amount of Scripture used throughout our services by seeking to saturate our prayers and other worship words with God’s Word. I’ve also started to model Scripture memorization by presenting memorized calls to worship, calls to confession, and assurances of pardon.

Our church has always observed the Advent season in preparation for Christmas, but over the past two years we’ve expanded our observance of the Christian year by adding an Ash Wednesday service, Lent (what we’ve called “Forty Days of Spiritual Devotion”), and a Maundy Thursday service. We are also in the process of expanding our understanding of Communion from what has typically been seen as a time of remembrance to a more well-rounded view incorporating the concepts of thanksgiving, fellowship and union with Christ and his church, and a celebration of the resurrection.

My Omega classmates and I have often joked about how much more time and effort it takes to plan and prepare for worship now that we have drunk the IWS Kool-Aid. With that said, I’m sure not one of us regrets the difficult, yet life-changing journey. Personally, IWS has given me a renewed passion, sense of mission, and calling to lead my church in worship renewal. There’s lots of future work ahead. I still desire to see much greater congregational participation, and I hope for a day when our corporate worship is more intergenerationally focused. But having seen what God has accomplished in just two years, I’m joyfully confident that he will continue to reform and renew worship at Willow Creek Church for his glory.