Question: “What is the order of the five items of worship? Please give scripture that tells this order.”
John records a conversation that our Lord had with a Samaritan woman in John chapter four. Part of the conversation had to do with worship: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). For worship to be proper it must be “in spirit” meaning it must come from the heart; it must be sincere and more than just a form we go through. It must also be “in truth.” This simply means that our worship must be authorized in the truth—God’s word (John 8:32). Paul wrote, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17).
Authorized worship includes: singing and praising God in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs: (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), prayer: (Acts 2:41-42; I Thess. 5:17; Phil. 4:6), giving: (I Cor. 16:1-2; II Cor. 9:6-7), teaching: (Acts 2:42; 11:26; 20:7), and the Lord’s supper: (Acts 2:42; I Cor. 10:16; Matt. 26:26-30).
The question before us has to do with the order of these items of worship. Does the Bible require that these five items of worship be done in any specific order? I have been a member of the Lord’s church for over 60 years and have attended the worship services of the church all of my life. I have observed the worship services conducted in a variety of ways. I have seen the Lord’s Supper observed at the beginning of the worship period and at the end of the worship period. I have seen congregations where those wishing to partake of the Lord’s Supper were asked to stand, and where they remained seated. Dad told of one congregation that had practiced standing for the Lord’s Supper; when the elders decided that they would no longer do that, one member left because of the change. I have seen worship periods that were begun with a prayer and others that were not. I have attended services where the contribution was taken before the Lord’s supper and congregations where the contribution was taken up following the Lord’s supper.
Now, back to the question before us. What order does the Bible give for these items of worship and where is it found. The answer: The Bible does not give the order of the services, but only the things that are to be done. The order that most congregations conduct their worship services is traditional. Tradition can be good or bad. But tradition that does not violate Scripture is not sinful. Then what order should we practice? Should we observe the Lord’s Supper at the beginning of the service or at the end? That is where the elders come in. They are charged with the oversight of the church (Acts 20:28). In matters of judgment (and that is exactly what the order of services falls under), the elders must decide. This is true of other decisions that must be made relative to the worship, such as time of worship, how many songs to sing, time of prayer, etc.
Paul M. Wilmoth