From "The Missing Elements of Modern Worship" by Tim Challies:
I once paid a visit to one of the most mega of America’s megachurches. .... I went in with as open a mind as I could muster. I left perplexed. I was perplexed not by what was said or done in the service as much as what was left unsaid and undone.
Since that visit I’ve had the opportunity to attend many more churches and, as often as not, they have been similar, missing a lot of the elements that used to be hallmarks of Christian worship. ....
Among the missing elements (he elaborates on each):
- Scripture Reading
- Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon
- Expositional Preaching
- Congregational Singing
Two of his sections:
Another element that has gone missing in modern worship is the scripture reading. There was a time when most services included a couple of lengthy readings, often one from the Old Testament and one from the New. But then it was trimmed to one and then the reading disappeared altogether in favor of mentioning individual verses as they came up in the sermon. But what of Paul’s command to Timothy that he devote himself to the public reading of Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13)? In too many churches this element has gone missing. In too many churches the Word of God is almost an afterthought. ....
Confession of Sin and Assurance of Pardon
Traditionally, Protestant worship services included a confession of sin and an assurance of pardon. Sometimes the congregation would confess their sins by reading a text or a liturgy or by silent prayer. Other times the pastor would confess the sins of the congregation on their behalf. It was a solemn moment. But then there would be the assurance of pardon, where the pastor would bring God’s own assurance that those who confess their sins are forgiven. Solemnity was replaced by joy. This pattern of confession and assurance naturally led to thankful worship and a desire to grow in holiness by hearing from God through his Word as it was read and preached. These elements came early and set up the rest of the service. Yet it is rare to encounter them today. ....
I am convinced that most of these elements have gone missing for pragmatic reasons—they do not accomplish something the church leaders wish to accomplish in their services. Instead of searching God’s Word to determine what elements should or must be present in a worship service, leaders are judging elements by whether or not they work (according to their own standard of what works). Yet each of these elements represents a significant loss because each in its own way expresses obedience to God and brings encouragement to his people.