Key Points on the Worship of a Healthy Church


Below are a few bullet points that represent some of the key talking points from my 2023 Healthy Church Conference sessions. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather some highlights.

Session 1: Intentional Worship

  • Corporate worship is intensely formational; it can both form and deform.
  • Corporate worship is for the Church.
  • Worship is a dialogue or conversation between God and his people.
  • Corporate worship should be intentionally shaped.
  • We must steward our words in corporate worship and avoid chattiness.
  • Avoid interruptions in God’s conversation with his people during corporate worship.

Corporate worship is intensely formational; it can both form and deform.

Session 2: The Word

  • The Scriptures should be used constantly in corporate worship.
  • The Scriptures are both the principal means through which God converses with his people, and the arbiter of all other conversations within the Christian community.
  • Our people need more than explanation when they hear the Word spoken; they need encounter and experience.
  • Begin your services with Scripture. Use the lectionary for rotating Psalms so that you use the whole book across time instead of getting in a rut with a few of your favorites.
  • Sing Psalms. See the Seedbed Psalter for all of the Psalms set to familiar hymn tunes.
  • Learn to see the metanarrative arc of the Scriptures (Creation; Fall; Redemption; New Creation). Here is a link to a video from Tim Keller that I showed in my session.
  • Beware the danger of creating a “canon within a canon” when handling the Scriptures.
  • Responsible hermeneutics is done within Christian community.
  • See How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Gordon Fee.

Session 3: The Table

The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of past deliverance, a means of present grace, and a pledge of future glory.

  • For faithful Israelites, corporate worship was not a means to pressure God into doing good, but a commemoration of his powerful deeds and present celebration of his goodness and bountiful provision (see Deut 12:5–12).
  • God invited faithful Israelites to come and eat a meal in his presence.
  • Anxiety and uncertainty had no place in the worship of Israelites loyal to Yahweh; he always accepted true worship, and never failed to bless his faithful people.
  • Wesley’s basic understanding of the Lord’s Supper can be learned from the preface of his Hymns on the Lord’s Supper (borrowed and abridged from Daniel Brevint).
  • First, the Lord’s Supper is a remembrance of past deliverance. Like faithful Jews who remembered Yahweh’s mighty acts and deliverance from Egypt, we remember our deliverance from slavery to sin and death—we remember the deeds of Christ who with a mighty hand and outstretched arm rescued us. He is the true and better Moses.
  • Second, the Lord’s Supper is a means of present grace. God gives grace to his people through the Lord’s Supper.
  • Finally, the Lord’s Supper is a pledge of future glory. At the Table, God pledges that our future, final rest in his presence has already been secured in Christ. Based on Christ’s work we can, with full assurance, anticipate the future blessings of eating at the Messianic banquet (Matt. 26:29, Rev. 19:9) hosted by Jesus himself.
  • Frame the Eucharist as a time of thanksgiving and joy rather than morbid self-introspection.
  • “The Table is for you, but it isn’t about you.”
  • Use a quality, historically-informed liturgy for Holy Communion (see the liturgy adapted from Ken Collins).
  • “Word and Table” was the shape of early Christian worship.
  • Intentionally help those with anxiety and baggage over the Supper.
  • 1 Corinthians 11 and the KJV reference to “damnation” needs to be understood in its proper context (see the HJ article on this subject).
  • Read Wesley’s sermon The Duty of Constant Communion.
  • We may draw the words of institution from Jesus (Mark 14) or from Paul (1 Cor. 11). In our context, I prefer Jesus’s words.

Recommended Resources

    1. For the Glory of God — my top overarching biblical theology of worship book.
    2. The Worship Architect — excellent resource for planning and understanding corporate worship.
    3. Worship in the Shape of Scripture
    4. Recalling the Hope of Glory
    5. Ancient Future Worship
    6. Symbol or Substance?: A Dialogue on the Eucharist with C. S. Lewis, Billy Graham and J. R. R. Tolkien

Feel free to contact me for other recommendations in areas of Eucharist, early Christian worship, Methodist hymnody or societies/classes/bands structure and practice, music, Psalm-singing, and so on.

David Hartkopf
David Hartkopf
David Hartkopf serves as Campus Pastor and Fine Arts Lead at Smith Mountain Lake Christian Academy in Moneta, VA, and is an adjunct professor in the Graduate Program at God's Bible School & College. His educational background includes an MM in Trumpet Performance at Miami University and DWS Doctorate of Worship Studies (in progress) from Robert Webber Institute for Worship Studies. David lives in Huddleston, VA with his wife Jessica and three children, Mallory, Emma, and Judson.