Shepherding Through Weekly Worship

Shepherding Through Weekly Worship

Corporate worship is a biblical, repetitive, and practical tool for shepherding the flock of God

Chad Ashby with Andrew Hall

Nestled between Lake Huron and Lake Erie somewhere southwest of Toronto, you will find the Immanuel Network’s baldest partner ministering in the corner of a Canadian cornfield. For more than a decade, Andrew Hall has been making disciples at Community Bible Church in Ilderton, Ontario, through word-centered worship. When CBC gets together, “We pray the Word, sing the Word, read the Word, hear the Word, and eat the Word.”

Pastoral leadership happens in a myriad of places: members meetings, annual budgets, staff retreats, small groups. But there’s a looked-over, mundane place for cultivating a people “in full accord and of one mind” (Phil 2:2). Sunday after Sunday, Andrew and his elders are shepherding the flock through weekly worship.

Worship that’s biblical.

It doesn’t matter what topic you’re on, Andrew Hall wants to focus on the Bible. When it comes to corporate worship, he says, “We are trusting the Lord, by his Spirit, to work by his Word. ”Community Bible Church’s first key value is “being biblical.” This means that a primary shepherding activity every week is organizing the songs, the prayers, the readings, the sermon, the table—everything—so that the Scriptures are clearly at the center.

With a chuckle, Andrew asks, “How do we gospelize the announcements? We are not just giving information—how does the death and resurrection of Christ shape even these?”

It’s with this biblical aim in mind that Andrew and his staff gather every week for what he calls “atop-to-bottom, thorough evaluation of the services.” They talk through what has gone well and what needs improvement. Particularly, they seek to identify and remove service distractions: microphones causing feedback, spelling errors in the bulletin, etc.

These efforts toward leading “with excellence” are not about “performance on a stage.” Mistakes and flubs draw unnecessary attention to the leaders. Though he may be the pastor, Andrew insists, “God is serving us by his Word. We are not minimizing distractions for our own sake. We want the focus to be on Christ—and not on ourselves” (2 Cor 4:5).

Worship that’s repetitive.

A friend of mine loves to repeat this piece of leadership advice: “Most leaders under-communicate their vision by a factor of ten.” Many times, this happens because leaders are tired or afraid of saying the same things over and over again. At CBC, they don’t shy away from repetition—they lean into it.

Sunday mornings are the perfect place to dig the ruts of a habit-formed people. The leaders at CBC intentionally weave key words and phrases into the service on a regular basis. Their five key values — (1) biblical, (2) reverential, (3) radically generous, (4)relational, and (5) missional—appear over and over again in prayers, song intros, announcements, and sermon applications. In this way “the whole service preaches,” as Andrew puts it.

Worship leaders also shepherd the people through the elements of the service, not assuming everyone intuitively understands: “Sometimes a leader will pause and say, ‘This is why we preach . . . This is why we do a benediction . . . This is what it means.’”  

A service with regular, repetitive elements allows for layered, week-by-week pastoring. In corporate worship, the elders of CBC shepherd the congregation slowly in how to pray, how to give, how to read God’s Word, how to love one another, and how to go out. “When we gather on Sunday what we are doing is modeling the Christian life . . . here is what the gathered church does and what we can do as individual believers.”

Worship that’s practical.

You might be surprised on any given Sunday when you do not see Andrew—the pastor of CBC—until thirty-five minutes into the worship service. That’s on purpose: “I don’t want to create a church that is centered around a personality.” While Andrew recognizes the importance of his role as the primary expository preacher at his church, he also sees an opportunity for practical shepherding in letting others lead worship.

Worship is, after all, an activity of the church body, so it makes sense to let the members participate. In the spirit of Ephesians 4:16, Andrew says, “We try to incorporate a lot of people in leading our services.” A typical worship service may include an elder-in-training during the call to worship, a deacon giving announcements, a volunteer doing the children’s ministry moment, a church lady reading the Scriptures, the pastor preaching, and others leading congregational singing.

These are all intentional pastoral choices: “We want to affirm the value of every member. We want to affirm the value of women. Children are not the future of the church . . . anyone who has professed faith is a church member and a part of our worship.”

For Andrew Hall corporate worship is a biblical, repetitive, and practical tool for shepherding the flock of God, exercising oversight, and setting examples to the flock (1 Pet 5:2-3). One service at a time, the elders of CBC are doing their best to “create a culture of people formed by the Word of God.”

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