Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: The Four-fold Pattern of Worship

The following is the seventh installment of my bulletin insert series.  It reflects the teaching series I have been leading at our local church and the changes taking place in the structure of our worship services:

Four-fold Pattern of Worship - Today, you will notice a bit of restructuring in our service of worship. As we go along there will continue to be some adjustments and developments.

However, those who have been in the Worship Study will recognize the structure as the basic, historic four-fold pattern of worship. We Enter to Worship, Hear & Respond to God’s Word, and having heard and responded to God’s Word, we Give Thanks to the Lord (especially around the Table), and, finally, we Depart to Serve.

This pattern helps to meet John Wesley’s criteria for authentic Christian worship: 1.) It is derived from Scripture. 2.) It is reasonable; mirroring our relationship with God. 3.) It is in continuity with the practices of the Early Church and connects us with Christians throughout the ages, and 4.) it helps us to better experience God’s presence and identity.

It has been said that “One can study the history of worship from the early church to the present and discover, without exception, that Sunday worship has always been characterized by these four acts.”

In addition, page #2 of The United Methodist Hymnal shows that this is the very pattern of worship recommended for United Methodists. In fact, every UM elder has vowed to uphold the liturgy of the church which is expressed in this basic pattern.


Information gathered from the works of Robert Webber and my own works (my doctoral studies and dissertation, as well as my recent article in The Wesleyan Theological Journal.


Jeremy D. Scott said...

Todd - Thank you for posting each of these. We too are re-membering aspects of our worship that we might worship well in spirit and in truth.

Question: What work of Webber's would you first use to introduce someone to the fourfold pattern?

Eric + said...


I am not Todd, and he can answer for himself, but Worship Old & New is I think the best introductory work Webber has written. I think it is somewhat rehashed when he worked worship into his Ancient-Future series. I have heard good reviews about Ancient Future Worship, but I haven't read it.

Honestly, if I wanted to engage someone in liturgical worship, I think I would start with Beyond Smells and Bells by Mark Galli. It is much more imaginative and I think captures the HEART of liturgical worship, while Webber seems a bit more on the technical side. So for me the answer would be:

1) Beyond Smells and Bells
2) Worship Old and New
3) Then if they wanted more I think I would turn to James White: either Introduction to Christian Worship or A Brief History of Christian Worship

Eric + said...


How closely does your church follow the UMBoW?

Todd Stepp said...


I would not contradict Eric+. I do think it depends on what you are trying to do, with whom, and your own context.

I just finished (during Sunday School) and am almost finished (on Wed. nights) teaching a series on worship. The first part of the series is based on my own material from my doctoral studies. However, the last part of the study uses Robert Webber's video sudy, "Ancient-Future Worshp: A Model for the 21st Century."

I had already talked about the four-fold pattern in the first part of my study, and Webber's video gave a concret example.

Again, one has to know your context, as to whether the video would be helpful or not so helpful.

Hope this helps!


Todd Stepp said...


When I arrived, our church was not following the UMBoW.

Now, we do follow it. However, the real question is, what does that mean?

For us, it means that we conform to the four-fold pattern as described in the UMBoW. It also means that we use the various Great Thanksgiving prayers in the UMBoW. It does not mean that we are using the services, as is printed in the front of the UMBoW.

Part of the reason is that it would be a real jump for this congregation to have such formal written responses throughout each service. Part of the reason is that I dislike some of the ways that these services have worded certain parts (i.e., I prefer the BCP wording at different points).

In the UMC, one is not required to use these services as printed, though that is an option. What is required (i.e., what each elder vows to do) is to uphold the liturgy of the church. That means, at the most basic level, one will follow the four-fold pattern. (Of course, there are plent of UM elders who do not keep this vow!)

Our pattern of worship, btw, is pretty close to what we were doing at the Nazarene church in Greencastle.


Jeremy D. Scott said...

Thank you, both.

- J