In my experience, there are two ‘default options’ when it comes to doing corporate worship.
Either it’s all about one key element of the service — the sermon perhaps or the Lord’s Supper in another tradition.
In this case, anything else you might do when you gather is done apologetically. At best these other things are preparatory. At worst, they’re unnecessary distractions, things to get out of the way before you can get on with the important stuff.
Alternatively, each element of the gathering can be treated with equal importance.
So the announcements and offering (those two non-apostolic, non-negotiables) enjoy the same prominence as the prayers, the Bible readings, the sermon or the sacraments. But often no real attempt is made to relate the components of the service to each other.
The strength of the first approach is that it can reflect the priority the gospel, which we hear proclaimed and applied in the sermon or which we remember and enact together in the Supper.
The second approach rightly refuses to treat any aspect of what we do when gathered as less significant than any other (even at the cost of fragmentation).
But I wonder whether another approach might be more helpful. And that is a story-formed approach.
A story-formed approach involves treating the service like a story.
Like a story, it will have chapters — each of which is integral (you could conceivably leave out a chapter, although that would leave people guessing).
But the climax and denouement still happens in one a particular chapter, with the others feeding into it or unfolding its implications.
I feel this reflects the way God has acted and revealed himself in history (neither dropping out the sky at without prior warning or preparation nor presenting us with a parcel of discrete truths to be picked up and surveyed one after the other).
It’s also truer to the way we’ve been made as time-bound and story-formed creatures. But that’s for another post…
What do you think?