Hershey PCA Worship: Why Do We Worship the Way We Do?
Worship practices vary among churches. Today, even churches of the same denomination make different choices about their public worship services. This page is intended as a guide to our public worship at Hershey PCA.
Hershey Presbyterian Church (PCA) is an evangelical church that honors the Bible as the inspired and inerrant Word of God. We believe there is only one living and true God, and He exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The only hope of eternal life with God is found by trusting in Jesus Christ (receiving and resting in him) alone for salvation.
Why is there so much Scripture in our worship?
We believe the Bible is the inerrant Word of God and “the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 2) By use of the Bible throughout our service, we seek to have a God-centered focus and a God-directed approach to worship. Also, the Bible is God’s ordained means to bring us to faith. He tells us to use it in the church’s public worship (see 1 Timothy 4:13). Thus, we want the Scriptures to play a prominent role in our worship.
How do we choose what to do and what not to do in our worship service?
As our Creator, it is God’s right and privilege to determine how we are to worship him. The Bible provides God’s directions for what he finds acceptable in worship. These directions are given in the form of specific elements to be used in worship: “The Bible teaches that the following are proper elements of a worship service: reading of Holy Scripture, singing of psalms and hymns, the offering of prayer, the preaching of the Word, the presentation of offerings, confessing the faith and observing the Sacraments; and on special occasions taking oaths.” (PCA Book of Church Order, Directory for Worship chapter 47-9)
Why does our service progress the way it does?
We believe that the Bible has a gospel-centered message. It is that message that we seek to remember and announce each week through a traditional Protestant, gospel-centered pattern of worship. This means that our worship service presents the gospel as we worship God together. We begin in praise of God our Creator; we hear about and confess our sin and rebellion against our Maker and flee to our Savior Jesus Christ; we receive forgiveness as we hear his word of pardon declared to us from his Word; we thankfully offer ourselves to him in prayers and offerings; we embrace his Word and learn from him as we sit under his Word read and preached; we feast on him and commune with him in his Supper; and we are sent with his blessing into the world and back to our neighborhoods and occupations to serve him.
Why does our service begin with a call to worship?
It is a reminder to us that God is our Maker. We belong to him. It also reminds us that in Jesus Christ, God has called a people to himself and invites us to come into his presence to rejoice and to worship him.
Why does our pastor preach from the Bible?
We desire to hear from God. God speaks to us today by his Spirit in his Word. In it, God tells us what we are to believe about him and what he requires of us. (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 3) Through preaching, we learn about God’s Word and its gospel-centered message and are called to follow Jesus Christ. We believe that God uses the preaching of his Word to bring salvation.
Why does our pastor wear a preaching robe in our worship service?
Having our pastor wear a preaching robe is a way to symbolically remind us of the importance of ‘the ministry of the Word of God.’ The robe does not make our pastor more holy, instead it reminds us to give the Word of God a place of honor among us. The preaching robe diminishes any focus on the pastor’s personality, social status, or fashion sense (or lack of it!) and reminds us of his particular calling as a minister of the Divine Word. The robe is a way to emphasize the office instead of the person. It reinforces the authority and calling of the pastoral office to equip the church to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-14). When we enter into worship, the pastor’s distinctive clothing reminds us that he is not simply our friend or neighbor; he is one who has been called by Christ and set apart by the church as a teaching elder who ministers the Word of God to us. Thus it brings an appropriate respect of the office and, more importantly, a sense of reverence and awe of God who speaks to us in his Word. Wearing a preaching robe as a sign of the pastor’s office and calling deliberately identifies us as part of a long history of Protestant and Reformed churches (as far back as the European Reformation and the ancient church) who have worshiped in this way in order to recognize the important and necessary place of the Word of God in our worship, faith, and practice.
Why are believers and their children baptized with water before joining our church?
Baptism is one of two sacraments that Jesus instituted for his people. In baptism, water is sprinkled on the head of one who has believed in Jesus Christ and on their dependent children. It is a sign and a seal of union with Jesus Christ and cleansing by his work. Baptism itself does not save, instead it is a sign and a seal of the saving work of Jesus Christ in the gospel. The water is applied in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the Triune Name of God). It is a mark of entrance into the covenant community, the church. Baptism is applied only once. To learn more about baptism, you can read about it in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms. If you are interested in Christian baptism, please speak to our pastor or one of our elders.
Why do we celebrate the Lord’s Supper each Sunday?
The Lord Supper is the other sacrament that was instituted by Jesus Christ. Through it we proclaim his death. The meal is a sign and seal of Jesus’s sufficient work for us on the cross—the bread, his body broken; the cup, his blood poured out. As we eat by faith, the Spirit of God uses the meal to spiritually nourish us. Through the work of the Spirit, we grow in grace. The Supper is celebrated repeatedly as a reminder of our complete, everyday dependence on Jesus Christ for our faith and our life. To learn more about the Lord’s Supper, you can read about it in the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms.
Why does our pastor take time in the service to remind us who should and who should not participate in the Lord’s Supper?
This practice in PCA churches is called “fencing the table.” It reminds us that Jesus sets the rules as the Lord of his feast. We come only by his invitation. Only those who belong to him should participate. You can read more about this in the 1 Corinthians 11:17-34.
Why do we use unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper?
While either leavened or unleavened bread can be used in the Lord’s Supper, we are using unleavened bread as used during the Passover meal in Jesus’s day. It reminds us of the frailty of human life. It points us to Jesus who, as a perfect man (without sin or error) and as a fully obedient Son, gave his body for us when he died on the cross (Luke 22:19).
Why do we use both grape wine and grape juice in the Lord’s Supper?
Both grape wine and grape juice are products made from the fruit of the vine. They remind us that the life of Jesus was poured out for us in the shedding of his blood on the cross. Grape wine is offered in the center of the tray because it was used when the Supper was instituted by Jesus. Grape juice is offered in the outside rings of the tray for those whose conscience, age, situation, or personal vows make the consuming of wine inadvisable. (See the diagram in the service booklet.) We do not believe that the element should be a cause of division. We want participants to be free to choose either grape wine or grape juice. Neither choice is to be considered more valuable than the other. The unity of our fellowship as we drink from the cup of the Lord is more important to us than what is in the cup from which we drink.
Why does the service always end in a biblical blessing (a benediction)?
Because in Jesus Christ, God’s people live under his blessing. That doesn’t mean that every circumstance in our life will turn out the way that we want it to turn out. God is not our “genie” who grants our wishes. Instead, being under Christ’s blessing means that we can have confidence to live this week knowing that the Lord Himself is our Shepherd and that we will lack no needful thing (Psalm 23). As we leave the service to serve him throughout the week, the benediction reminds us that we go with Jesus’s continuing blessing and provision.