With the great amount of interest in the Awaken worship service that was held the Monday evening of the annual meeting of NC Baptists, I thought it might be beneficial to go through some of the process for planning the service as well as share resources that were used.
Several months ago, God impressed upon the hearts of the members of the Committee on Convention Meetings a unity around the topic of spiritual awakening. The committee settled on the theme, Awaken, with theme verses Romans 13:11-14:
11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.
From that time forward, I spent much time in prayer and study to seek God’s heart for the Awaken worship service. Our Executive Director-Treasurer,Milton Hollifield, Jr., was given the responsibility of delivering the sermon for the service. We spent much time discussing the time of worship.
The Preliminary Thoughts
As I began to flesh out the service, I learned that we had approximately 100 minutes for worship. I was to include several things within that time, including a testimony (10 minutes), a prayer (3 minutes), and a sermon (30 minutes). This allowed about 55 additional minutes for other elements of worship with which I had freedom to work.
I knew that we would have powerful times of praise and worship utilizing most popular hymns and modern worship songs (songs people know in keys they can sing)—beginning with high-powered praise and including times of intimate worship. I turned to the top songs in the CCLI list to insure that the majority of people would know the modern songs that were utilized for congregational singing and made reference to my resource for congregationally friendly keys for these songs. (It is of vital importance in gatherings, such as this one, to try to identify music that is held in common with all the people who attend. Today, that is not nearly as easy as the days everyone sang from the same hymnal.)
I also knew that I would like to involve a dynamic choir of contagious worshippers. This group would be highly involved in rehearsing the total worship experience and would be important in the worship leadership. I wasn’t looking for a great performing choir, but rather a choir of heart-felt worshippers. I had recently worked with the Bladen Baptist Association Worship Choir in an event, and felt strongly they were just what we needed.
I also knew that we would personally and corporately cry out to God for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit through congregational singing, prayer, Scripture, and readings. Additionally, I felt strongly that the names of God would be verbalized in the service.
As always, I wanted all components of this worship time to flow seamlessly with purpose and direction, orchestrated for maximum participation by the congregation, creating an environment conducive to God’s moving among His people.
Considering the theme, I thought perhaps worship could be ordered somewhat on the Isaiah 6 format:
- We would begin with a time of worship, capturing a taste of the heavenly worship, utilizing a guided journey of worship
- As we encounter our Holy God, we realize our complete depravity and we cry out to God, as Isaiah did, proclaiming “woe is me.” Personal and corporate times of confession, a time of prayer crying out to God, etc. would be utilized.
- The forgiveness of our sins through Jesus Christ would be proclaimed through Scripture and song.
- We would worship God passionately for what He has done in our lives.
- The Word of God would be proclaimed through Milton Hollifield’s message.
- The people would respond to the message. Here can be a time of coming forward and praying for awakening of our churches, our Convention, our nation… Congregational singing interspersed with instrumental worship can be included in this.
Putting It All Together
Next, I began to consult my song list of familiar songs that I could use that evening to accomplish all I had established above. I also wanted to include one new song that I had written about on the blog, 10,000 Reasons. I felt it would be a powerful new song to introduce to the Convention if placed in an appropriate place in the line-up (see post on introducing new songs).
Next, I began to flesh out all the songs, the other components of worship, and think through the flow from one element to another to provide a seamless nature to the worship time. (Click here for the full outline of the plan)
Normally, I begin the service with something upbeat to draw everyone in, but this night, I decided to start with the simple, declaratory song, Here I Am to Worship that would truly set the stage for the Awaken service. We would immediately segue into a seamless medley of songs that were quite upbeat, celebrating God with loud praise. I chose a PraiseCharts gospel hip hop version (adapted) of Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee segueing directly into another PraiseChart contemporary hymn arrangement (edited) of To God Be the Glory. Both of these hymns brought the traditional and the contemporary together. We then flowed directly into praising God’s faithfulness in the song, Forever. These four songs flowed seamlessly without any break or talking in between.
The Testimony and Prayer
I then planned for the testimony and the prayer to come in the service; through them we could glimpse God’s work in our state, already awakening pockets of people.
The Second Set
Following the testimony and prayer, I planned to do 10,000 Reasons. We would move from the high-power praise feel to a more ballad, worshipful orientation. Instrumental breaks in songs often are uncomfortable for congregations (often lead to a feeling of performance), so during an interlude in this song, I planned to read an appropriate Scripture passage to keep us focused on God and not distracted by instrumentalists. We then would flow right into How Great Is Our God, and then almost spontaneously into the chorus of Your Name. As we would close out that song, the instruments would already be playing How Great Is Our God as I would proclaim the names of God. (Click here for the reading)
I worked at editing and timing the names of God to exactly fit four repetitions of the chorus of How Great Is Our God, so that as I finished, the song would be coming around for the congregation to join in proclaiming, “How great is our God” once again, celebrating the names of God that we had just experienced.
The Time of Confession and Repentance
Just as Isaiah had experienced the worship of God in Isaiah 6, by this point, we would have also had some quality time in His presence. Isaiah’s response to worship was,
“Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” So I felt it would be good to move to a confessional time here. The movement, One Cry is all about praying for awakening, so I checked out their website for resources for this time, and found one video that I thought was perfect for where I felt God was leading for this time. So, as people were being seated from the previous worship set, the video would begin to set the stage for confession and repentance.
If we are going to experience a spiritual awakening in the church, it must begin with us as individuals. Once the video was complete, I planned to have a brief talk about the need for repentance and call on everyone to spend time asking God to reveal to each of us those sins in our lives that separate us from Him, and as God reveals those sins, we confess and repent.
There is yet another step—we must corporately confess our sins as the church to God. To help with this time, I sought out some great corporate confessions that could be read in unison as a congregation. I used an adaptation from Gathering for Worship: Patterns and Prayers for the Community of Disciples and followed that with a passage from Psalm 51. I would plan for the congregation to read this in unison, pausing after each statement to allow time for contemplation.
The Assurance of Pardon
After the time of confession, I wanted to read Scripture proclaiming God’s promise of forgiveness, so I would quote I John 1:9:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
I planned to create the orchestration such that it really evokes great excitement in the proclamation; we would sing stanzas 1, 2, and 4 after 3. We would then seamlessly go into the Passion arrangement of I Stand Amazed in the Presence.
The Theme Song
As the people are seated, our team would be leading off into the song, Awakening. This was a powerful duet with choir backup that spoke directly to the theme of the night’s service.
The Sermon and Response
Following the theme song, Milton Hollifield, Jr. would bring the sermon. For the time of response, I had four songs ready for the band that could be used as congregational or instrumental numbers, and we planned to be very flexible in how the time progressed, leaning on Milton’s directives.
I also was given a 30-minute pre-service time of music to prepare. I began that segment with two powerful solos from Lana Smith of Statesville to set the tone for worship that night. We then went to a rousing song, Friend of God, inviting the congregation to join in. I could already tell that it was going to be a great night of worship! 10-year-old Alyssa Bell of the Bladen Association sang a powerful solo followed by the congregation singing, Days of Elijah. Just before the meeting kicked off, Jason Hudson of Statesville sang with the Bladen Baptist Association Worship Choir, I Bowed on My Knees and Cried Holy. The stage for a night of worship was set.
I hope this insight into planning a worship service may spark some ideas in your creative process for worship in your own settings.
Photos courtesy of K Brown.