Worship

Facilitating an enriching and meaningful corporate worship experience that ushers people into the presence of God

A. Christ-Centered, Biblical Preaching

Soon after my conversion to Christ, I began preaching; I was only fifteen years old. My first sermon was delivered on February 22, 2002, at the Apison Seventh-day Adventist Church (Apison, TN). Bearing the title "Accepting the Gift," it was focused on the topic of God's love and the beautiful gift of salvation that God has given to us freely in Jesus. That monumental occasion awakened me to the pastoral call of preaching and teaching that God had planned for my life. For more detail about my call to ministry, see My Spiritual Journey.

"Accepting the Gift" Manuscript

"Accepting the Gift" Decision Card

Apison Seventh-day Adventist Church Bulletin—February 22, 2002 (with note)

"Thank You" Note from Cindy Daniel

Since that time, I have never stopped proclaiming the "good news" of the gospel and the warning of the three angels' messages (Rev 14:6–12) at home and abroad. 

In preaching I subscribe to the philosophy of preaching given by Haddon W. Robinson in his book Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2014). "Expository preaching is the communication of a biblical concept, derived from and transmitted through a historical, grammatical, and literary study of a [biblical] passage in its context, which the Holy Spirit first applies to the personality and experience of the preacher, then through the preacher, applies to the hearers" (Robinson, Biblical Preaching, 5). When preparing and delivering expository sermons, I keep in mind four core principles of good Seventh-day Adventist preaching and teaching. My sermons should be ...

  • text-oriented,

  • Christ-centered,

  • Spirit-filled, and

  • people-focused.

This means that I labor hard for an average of 15–20 hours every week in prayer, study, writing, and rehearsal to ensure that my preaching is firmly grounded in Scripture, keeps Jesus front and center as the "main thing," does not quench the work of the Spirit within me during sermonic preparation or within my hearers during sermonic delivery, and is contextually relevant to the time, place, and culture of my listeners. I have a rigorous 5-step method based upon Ezra 7:10 that I follow when preparing to preach and teach.

My Historical-grammatical, Canonical-theological Method for Preaching-Teaching Ministry

“For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10 ESV).

I also try to create introductory videos and presentation slides with all of my sermons in order to utilize the power of technology to appeal to younger generations and provide learning aids for those worshippers who are more visually oriented.

 

Samples of Introductory Videos for my Sermons

 

To watch videos or listen to audio recordings of some of my previous sermons, click here.

Some of my favorite preachers are Mark Finley, Dwight K. Nelson, C. D. Brooks, Charles Bradford, Timothy Keller, and John Piper.

B. Well-Prepared Worship Experiences

My perspective on worship largely revolves around the worship experience that the prophet Isaiah had in vision and recounted in Isa 6:1–13. I work with my elders and worship committees to design worship services that include these six elements:
 

  • Presence: Isaiah was only prompted to worship when he personally encountered in vision the radiant presence of God, high and lifted upon his throne (Isa 6:1). The worship service should create an encounter with God for the worshippers both personally and corporately in which they are reverently ushered into God's omnipresence and receive a view of him and the splendor of his character. We try to keep every element of our worship services God-centered so that worshippers can encounter God's presence throughout the service.
     

  • Praise: After coming into the presence of the divine, the very next thing that Isaiah heard was seraphim uttering praise to God—"‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’” (Isa 6:2–4 ESV). The worship service should give opportunity for worshippers to speak praises to God for who he is and what he has done. We have done this in different ways at various times, such as the singing of hymns, prayer, a brief time for sharing testimonies, etc.
     

  • Condemnation & Confession: The vision of God's perfect holiness and glory evoked a realization of his unworthiness and sin in comparison to him. This compelled the prophet to respond with personal and corporate confession for the natured and nurtured sin (Isa 6:5 ESV). The worship service should supply such a powerful sense of God's holiness that worshippers are driven to feel the weightiness of their condemnable depravity and confess it to him with repentance. This theme is often present in the music we select and confession is usually a part of our congregational prayer.
     

  • Cleansing: God did not abandon Isaiah to his condemnable state. Rather, a seraph performed a symbolic ritual, involving the prophet, that atoned for his sin and thereby removed his guilt  (Isa 6:6–7 ESV). The worship service neither should leave worshippers feeling the full burden of their sin. It must comfort them with the gracious gospel of Christ, highlighting the cross event from which Jesus has made provision for their forgiveness and justification through his cleansing blood. The Protestant reformer, Philip Melanchthon, once wrote of the importance of being first confronted by our condemnation and then comforted by the gospel. 

“But the law of God not only requires outward action ... but it commands that our nature obey God perfectly, have an unshaken knowledge of God, true or constant fear of Him, firm trust in God, and a burning love for Him. But because the nature of man is not such, the voice of the Law is the judgment of God, condemning the sin in our nature. ... After human nature has become oppressed by sin and death because of the fall of Adam, even though some knowledge of the Law remains, yet because sin inheres in our nature, our consciences cannot understand that God is willing to forgive if they hear nothing except the Law. For the Law does not teach that sins are forgiven freely. We know that we are not without sin, and we perceive it very clearly when our minds are really terrified by the judgment of God. Therefore there is need for a gracious and free forgiveness, and God has revealed through His mercy that He is willing to forgive us and restore eternal life to us. He has also supplied the Sacrifice for us, His own Son, that we may know that these blessings have been given for the sake of His Son and not because of our worthiness or merit. This Gospel promise was revealed immediately after the fall of Adam, so that there was no lack of comfort for the first church” (Philip Melanchthon, The Chief Theological Topics: Loci Praecipui Theologici 1559, 2nd ed., trans. J. A. O. Preus [St. Louis: Concordia, 2011], 89, 141; emphasis added).

 

As such, I plan, with my worship leaders, a communion service at least every quarter to celebrate the Lord's Supper in remembrance of his broken body and spilled blood of the new covenant, which are spiritually represented in the sacraments of the unleavened bread and the unfermented wine. Click here for an example of one communion service I led when pastoring the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church. Click here to view the usual Scripture readings that I use for communion services. Click here to see the program for a special agape feast that I planned and led at the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church on the weekend of Passover and Easter in 2012. We attempted to do this for the Lenoir City and Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Churches in April of 2020 but had to cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We plan to try again in 2022.

 

Beyond communion, we highlight the gospel of Jesus in our song selection, prayers, and preaching.

  • Proclamation: Next, Isaiah heard the voice of the Lord speak into his life (Isa 6:8–13). Beyond only seeing God, the worship service should provide time for hearing God speak to them through the proclamation of his word. For Protestants, this element of worship is of utmost importance. The magisterial reformer John Calvin indicated that the existence of the church can be discerned only if these two marks are present: "Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the church of God has some existence" (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2008], 678 [4.1.9]; emphasis added). Furthermore, he wrote that "there is no church where the word of God appears not" (Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 690 (4.2). We build our worship experiences around the sermon being preached in order to give preaching to the word prominence.

    As part of our gospel proclamation during worship services at the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church, we have a special section for children to hear a short biblical message designed specifically for them. I have put together the following guidelines to assist those who share children's stories to present with high quality and relevance for our children. Click here to read them.

     

  • Commission: Finally, God commissioned the willing Isaiah to go forth from his visionary worship experience to live and share what he had heard from the Lord (Isa 6:8–13). The worship service should always provide opportunity for worshippers to respond to their hearing of the word and send them forth with greater motivation to go about the missio Dei (i.e., "the mission of God) of sharing God's word with others. In every sermon, I make an appeal for some kind of response from the worshippers to indicate their willingness and desire to align their lives more closely to God's ideals and to share what they have learned from Scripture with others.

In order to facilitate the above, I spend much time planning for weekly worship in advance. Each year, I take one week away from my churches as a time for spiritual retreat and ministry planning. During that week, I pray for my churches about what God would like me to preach from his word in the upcoming year. In this time of prayer and reflection concerning my congregations' needs, I search God's word to create a sermonic calendar of planned topics. This sermonic calendar is given to my bulletin secretaries and worship and music leaders to help me design thematic worship experiences that contain elements, which point to a common theme from the sermon of that week. This week of retreat and planning process has proven effective in creating meaningful and memorable worship experiences.

 

To view one example of my sermonic calendars, click here.

 

In 2022, I have plans to have formal meetings with my worship committees to be even more intentional in worship planning and design and to implement some changes to some of our worship traditions for further improvement of the quality of our worship services.

C. Ensures Creation of Inviting Church Entry Points (Phone/ Web/Sign/etc.)

Connect Cards

At the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church, we were in need of a more versatile pew card that could help us gather information about our worship participants for getting to know them better. Click here to see our new pew card that I designed. It collects contact information, prayer petitions and praises, and membership changes, as well as provides worshippers to respond to the worship experience in various ways (e.g., requesting Bible studies or a pastoral visit, expressing one's desire to be baptized, etc.).

"Thank You" Cards

While I was working as a Bible worker at the Chattanooga First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I checked the guestbook after every worship service. The following week, I sent out cards to guests, thanking them for worshipping with us and inviting them to join us again. I also did in-home visits with these guests to share with them more about our church, pray with them, share literature, and invite them to come again. I also did this at the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church during my pastorate there. So far, we have implemented the sending of "Thank You" cards to guests at the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church. I have received positive feedback from several guests over the years from these efforts to connect with them. An older gentleman even exclaimed during my visit with him, "I've never been to a church that follows up with their visitors!" My visit left quite an impression on him.

Bulletins

Click here for an example of a bulletin redesign that I created and was implemented at the Hiram Seventh-day Adventist Church during my pastorate there. This was a significant improvement from the previous bulletin that provided more information for attending worshippers. I am working with the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church on a bulletin redesign that aligns more closely with present Seventh-day Adventist marketing standards. Click here to see the draft. I hope to get this into an acceptable form and voted by the church board soon for implementation in 2022.

Signage

I am presently in process of working with the Southern Union in renovating the outdated signs for both of my current churches—Knoxville Grace and Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Churches. Unfortunately, I do not have design samples to share at this time.

Website

When I began pastoring the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church, it was in desperate need of a functional and more modern website. Visit www.gracesda.com to visit my redesign of the website.

Social Media (i.e., Facebook)

Near the start of my pastorate in the Knoxville Grace/Lenoir City church district, I wanted to make sure that they had sufficient social media presence. I created a Facebook account for the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church and revamped that of the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church. It is my goal to post something (a short inspirational thought and/or announcement least once a week.

Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

Phone

I have both of my churches' phone numbers forwarded to my cellphone so that there is always someone to answer outside calls.

Curb Appeal

First impressions are crucial! For this reason, it is important for churches to upkeep the "look" of their campuses and facilities. Currently, we are working to have several dead/dying or unattractive placed trees from our campus at the Lenoir City Seventh-day Adventist Church. Last fall, I led the building committee of the Knoxville Grace Seventh-day Adventist Church to replace the old crumbling sidewalk that was dangerous and unusable. The new sidewalk increased the curb appeal of the campus and made the front door of the facility more accessible for those who park in the lower portions of the parking lot. Additionally, twice a year a get my hands dirty alongside other members of the church to clean up its campus. This year, I led the church board to form a new decorating committee, which will analyze the aesthetics of the inside of the facility and work to update, modernize, and beautify it over the upcoming years.

What Child Is This?
01:30
Journey through Ephesians
01:03
At the Battlefront of the Star Wars Episode VIII
01:38
Jonah: Lessons from the Belly of a Whale
01:40