Non liturgical Christians...what's a Sunday service like?

I’ve attended mainline Protestant, Roman/Byzantine Catholic, and Oriental Orthodox liturgies. All fairly formal with smells, bells, processions, and fun clerical robes.

What’s it like for those of us that have less liturgical structure in our Sunday services? Is there ever any formality like incense or Eucharist? Is there the whole offertory, anamnesis, invocation sort of deal for the Eucharistic ceremony

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A typical Pentecostal service will look like this:

  1. Greeting/opening prayer

  2. Congregational singing with a praise team/choir singing either contemporary worship music, southern gospel/black gospel, and/or traditional hymns

  3. During the singing, the front of the church will be open for people to pray at the altar rails or ask for the pastor to pray with them

  4. After singing, there will be a collection of tithes and offerings. And during this point there will also be a time of greeting the other members of the church.

  5. At this point there may be special singing from congregants.

  6. Then the sermon.

  7. After the sermon, there may be an altar call where people are asked to respond to the message. For example, to repent, to pray for healing, to pray for some other need.

  8. At the end of the service, people can ask for prayer. At this time, people might come forward for anointing of the sick (or to stand in for someone who is sick but not present in the church). There may also be the anointing of prayer cloths for those who need them.

  9. There might also be at this time those who give a testimony of God’s goodness.

  10. Finally, the benediction and dismissal.

This is a typical order, but Pentecostals also believe in spontaneity. So, sometimes the service can go in unplanned directions. For example, someone might spontaneously feel that there needs to be a foot washing or have a Jericho March (when the whole church marches around the church in imitation of Joshua at the Battle of Jericho).

Holy Communion is not celebrated every Sunday. Typically, it might be had once a month or every 3 months or in some churches it might be even less often.


I go to a contemporary baptist church. “Contemporary” in terms of the instruments that are used in worship. it’s not just an organ and a choir-- there’s an acoustic guitarist, a bassist, a drummer and four or five singers. At the start of the service, the worship band plays music and we all sing along (the lyrics are displayed on a screen). After that, the pastor mentions any recent announcements that are relevant to the church.

After the announcements, the offering plates get passed around and people contribute if they can. After that, the pastor preaches for about half an hour. Once a month we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, though we do not believe in the Eucharist. After that, the pastor prays for us and then we leave. I’m not a baptist, but I feel that I get edified enough to want to go back.

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Our service kicks off with a half hour prayer meeting. This is normally held in a separate room and normally only church members attend, it is not part of the advertised public worship. The pastor reads a short passage, may give a minutes commentary and then opens in prayer. Anyone can pray after that. The children have Sunday school at this time but join us for the entirety of the main service.

The service proper begins with a brief call to worship by one of the men who is leading the service, followed by announcements.

We sing two or three hymns, in between which we have one or two bible readings, and also one of the elders will give a pastoral prayer. We have no band, choir or lead singer, the congregation sings. Then we have the sermon, usually about an hour. We celebrate communion every Sunday and this follows the sermon. A brief message is given-different every time, reminding us of what we are commemorating and urging us to examine ourselves. Some relevant passage is normally read. Then more prayer (none of these prayers are liturgical, they are different every time) and the distribution of the bread and wine.

One more prayer, one more hymn and then the service is over And we normally gather for pot luck lunch, and by then we’ve earned it! :slight_smile:

No bells , no whistles, but it is a beautiful sacred time. And boy do I miss it with the Covid situation.

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Just curious, what denomination (or tradition) is this church? And do you use musical instruments?

Reformed Baptist. We do use a piano.

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The church that I attend is part of the Brethren in Christ denomination.

We have two services each Sunday which vary somewhat from week to week but usually follow this pattern:

  1. One of the Assistant Pastors Welcomes the congregation, makes any announcements regarding special services or other upcoming events that the church is going to be having in the near future, and then offers an opening prayer which officially starts the service.

  2. The congregation greets one another.

  3. Congregational singing and worship. In the first service this is usually led by the choir and includes mostly older traditional hymns. In the second service it is usually led by the youth praise band and includes mostly contemporary “praise and worship” style songs.

  4. Another of the Assistant Pastors gives a reading from scripture, presents any prayer requests that have been submitted to the church staff during the previous week, and then leads the congregation in a time of corporate prayer.

  5. The choir or praise band then leads the congregation in another song while the offering plates are passed around by the ushers.

  6. The Lead Pastor then gives another reading from Scripture and the sermon which usually lasts for about half an hour.

  7. One Sunday per month, the Sermon is followed by Communion.

  8. The choir or praise band then leads the congregation in a final song which also serves as an alter call for anyone who wishes to go forward to make an initial profession of faith in Christ, to request Baptism, or to request healing prayer and anointing.

  9. The Lead Pastor offers a closing prayer and dismisses the congregation.

In between the two services, there is an hour of Sunday School classes for the children and Bible Study groups for the teens and adults.

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I thought it might be Wesleyan. The Wesleyan congregation in my town growing up advertised itself as having “acappella singing”.

I know of some churches opposed to instruments in worship, not a position I can see in the scriptures, and it certainly helps keep us in tune!

What you described sounded almost identical to the Church of Christ from my youth — though no instruments (they weren’t mentioned in the New Testament, so therefore, not permitted).

I have been to several over the years. They generally consisted of a mixture of hymns, prayers, readings from Scripture and a sermon. In many cases the sermon seemed to be a significant part of the service. In some I’ve been to the pulpit has a very central place in the chapel.

I have never been to one where there was anything to help you follow the service. No book of any kind, no weekly newssheet with the service on, etc. However, the congregation never seemed unsure of what was happening so whatever happened in that place must have been their norm.

I went to a chapel many years ago in a little Welsh hamlet whilst on holiday. They obviously had some kind of communion service. I have no recollection of anybody having bread but I do remember that there were small glasses of red wine in a metal rack and this was passed from person to person. Each person took a glass out of the rack, drank the wine in it, place the empty glass back in the rack and passed it on.

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Will all the churches live streaming their services it is very easy to just watch a service, if you are curious.

Here is the church I attends last Sunday Service. You can fast forward past the 5 minute streaming intro.

This was our first Sunday that we met back in the building. We didn’t take the Lord’s Supper as we do every week. We will start taking communion again next week.

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Songs Songs

Offering/ Announcements

Special song/performance

<The Lord’s Supper> IF you are a denomination that believes this is important


Altar Call with more singing.

< Baptism of those who came forward > in some who believe this is important

Closing prayer

Hi MHawbaker

Is it expected that you attend both services with the Bible study in between? Or just one of the services?


I find this such a cop-out and mention it to every Church of Christ person I come across. Psalm 150 mentions half a dozen instruments:

“Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.”

Just one of them.

The Sermon, Scripture readings, and prayers are the same in both services. Only the style of the music is different.

Thanks for that clarification.


Not sure what accounts for liturgy or not. At my Methodist congregation. a typical service includes:

  • Announcements, usually pre-recorded on screen
  • Milestone wedding anniversaries announced, such as 50, 60 years etc with couple standing to polite applause.
  • Possible baby or other baptism
  • Welcome and Call to worship
  • Singing of a few hymns by choir
  • Sharing of peace (omitted during Covid-19)
  • Apostles Creed recited by congregation, led by an assistant pastor or pastor.
  • Lord’s Prayer recited by congregation
  • Offering
  • Sermon (usually 20-25 mins) by pastor
  • Holy Communion/ Lord’s Supper led by pastor and assistants (every week at first service of day, every other week at second service).
  • Closing hymn, while people are free to come up front for individualized prayer with pastor or an assistant minister, such as to accept Lord as Savior, prayer for individual or family member, sickness, travel mercies, etc).
  • Benediction (total service approximately 1 hr 10 mins).
  • Donuts and fellowship (optional for a few mins)
  • Some stay for adult small groups or other classes or Bible studies, others head home or to “Beat the Baptists” to local restaurants.
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When I was brought up with was something like:-

First song
Opening prayer
Second song
Prayer. Including a time of open prayer when members of the congregation could pray aloud as they felt led.
Third song
Testimony time - members of the congregation speaking spontaneously about how they have encountered God, often in incidents that had happened in the last week.
Offering and announcements
Fourth song
Bible reading
Altar call
Final song

There would be two services on a Sunday, one in the morning one in the evening and most people would be expected to go to both , They would have different Bible readings etc. All prayers would be extemporary, made up on the spot - written prayers would be looked at with a bit of suspicion. In addition, there would normally be opportunities for members of the congregation to read out a verse of a song before it was sung. Nowadays there is normally only one service, but the overall structure is similar.

I play piano and lead singing for a small Protestant church (Evangelical Covenant).

Here’s a typical worship service:

Prelude (me, usually playing a mix of traditional hymns and contemporary P and W).

Welcome and Announcements by the President of the Church Council, or a substitute if she isn’t there.

Opening Hymn (me) and Congregation, and they sing!

Pastoral Prayer–the members will be asked to share any prayer requests (the word “intentions” is never used, and I had never heard this term used until we started attending Catholic churches).

Offering, and I play an Offertory.
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow)

Special Music–usually me, but I invite soloists in whenever I can

Hymn–me and the congregation–I try to select a hymn that will get the people’s hearts prepared for the sermon.

Sermon–usually around a half hour

Closing hymn–me and the congregation

Postlude (me, usually a gospel hymn, or one of the great CCM songs from the 1960s, 70s, or 80s.)

Communion is done once a month–I play quietly while the people filed forward and take their cube of white bread and their little plastic cup of grape juice. (Never wine–the church teaches abstinence from alcohol, which is also what I grew up with in my Baptist church, so it doesn’t bother me at all.) Communion is purely symbolic in the Covenant (and all Evangelical Protestant) denominations, as is Baptism. There are no sacraments in these churches, only 2 “ordinances,” (Communion and Baptism).

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