Service of the Word
As someone who grew up in a tradition that put such a heavy emphasis on the service of the word I am a strong believer in it being a significant part of corporate worship. To me the component parts of the service of the word would be the reading and teaching of the word, the hearing of the word, and the response to the word. The service of the word is theologically significant because it explains every other part of the worship, it is the story of God and man, and it edifies, convicts and encourages us among other things. Theologically speaking, the service of the word is essentially God speaking to us, His people. I also believe that the service of the word was the biggest part of the early church. From a liturgical standpoint the service of the word is important because it is the “reason” for the rest of the service. It is also important from this point of view to recognize that the word provides context for which we worship and live our lives.
In the tradition that I have been most involved with during my life we always hear a five step plan of salvation that starts with hearing. Well in order for the word to be heard it must logically be spoken. That is what I believe Jesus was saying to the disciples in the great commission when he told them to teach people all that he had commanded. He also told Peter, “Feed my lambs,” which I believe is referencing teaching of the word. That is why it is so vital that in corporate worship settings we are taught the word. We must be read and taught the word first because we have to know that story of Jesus before anything else can happen.
Directly tied with the reading and teaching of the word is hearing the word. We must open up our ears, hearts and minds in order to hear what God is saying to us through His word. If we refuse to hear God’s word then we in reality miss out on the blessings that come from it. For instance if a Christian closes himself off to the word of God and forgets God’s promises then when the hard time comes he has nothing to fall back on because he doesn’t know about God’s great faithfulness.
After someone hears the word they must decide what to do with it. James said we must no be hearers of the word only but that we must do what it says. It is our responsibility to react to the word when we hear it. We can choose to ignore what we have learned or we can choose to put it into practice. After all, James also said that our faith if not accompanied by our deeds is dead. We learn to a large extent what deeds we ought to be doing through the word. We must also study the word ourselves when we hear teaching from it in order to make sure the teaching was correct. The Bereans are counted as more noble because they didn’t just take Paul at his word but studied for themselves to see if what he was saying was true.
The service of the word is so vital because it helps us understand why we worship, who we worship, how we worship, and the results and blessings that come back to us when we worship. Without the word we would be clueless about the God that we adore. What would communion or singing or praying mean without the word? I would argue that they would mean virtually nothing if not paired with the word that explains each one.