The Mass v. Protestant Services


The Mass is so Biblical in its origins. Almost every part of the liturgical worship has its roots in Sacred Scripture.

How do Protestant services compare biblically?


When I was a Methodist, the lituragy was pretty weak. The only really bibical thing was the lord’s supper and then it was only a symbol.


At the Presbyterian Church that I work at, the parts that are biblical are of course the scriptural readings (usually a psalm and either one or two other readings usually from the epistles or the gospels.), the Lord’s Prayer, and parts of the prayer of consecration for the communion service. Sometimes during the sermon, other biblical passages are quoted. When there is a baptism, scripture is used especially during the actual baptism.


Earlier today I posted the following on the Non-Catholic Religions page, under an old thread. It wasn’t getting much response, so allow me to post it here and ask a question that I believe might complement the question asked by the OP. If it seems I’m trying to hijack the thread, I’m not, it just seems this might be a good thread to ask the following:

When we attend church, what precisely defines “worship”? Protestants sing songs and pray in a manner/mood designed to, as some cutely describe it, “demonstrate God’s worth-ship.” Because the attempt is to sing/pray/preach in a most heartfelt way, and because attitude/emotion often is contagious, it is very easy in contemporary society to label this corporate act as “worship.”

The Catholic approach is more formal, more reverent, and as a necessary byproduct of its repetitive nature from week to week, can (although doesn’t necessarily) become rather “rote” and not terribly “heartfelt” to some individuals. I’m not saying this is good or bad, nor that this is/should be the case for devout Catholics. But to outsiders, this is no doubt the perception, and it no doubt turns some off because they doubt that Catholics are “worshipping” God. So let me ask the question:

Should we call the Catholic Mass a “worship” event?

In other words, is “worship” what we are called to do as Christians when we come together in the Church? Or is worship simply one component of the Mass, along with other actions better labeled as something else? Perhaps Catholics have fallen into a Protestant trap by labeling a service in a church as “worship.” Or perhaps they have let the Protestants recharacterize “worship” as an act only undertaken in a Protestant (read: evangelical) church.

My intent is not to gotcha someone, but to best understand how to think of worship. When I was younger, I misunderstood the notion of freedom/liberty because I thought it meant the ability to do whatever I wanted. Only once I grasped the distinction between freedom/liberty versus license did I understand that freedom has a meaning narrower than the ability to do anything I desired, that it means the ability to do what I ought to do. In a similar vein, is “worship” not supposed to be about singing songs or praying to show God his “worth-ship,” but rather something broader or narrower, or something entirely different?

I hope my inquiry makes sense. It seems crucial to me for understanding/passing on an understanding of the difference between the Mass and a Protestant service. Thanks!


I have a question along these lines for Protestants. I visited a service that women had to wear head coverings and could not speak. Well when I looked around I noticed them singing and during the break in between communion and the preaching part of service the women took off their head coverings and also talked.

I asked my friend why they were doing this when their church didn’t allow women to do this. After all if you are going to have the requirement why not be consistent right? I was told I was thinking of a church too much as a physical place and that their church is when they come together for fellowship, not a building. Well if this is so, what is different between church and a bible study? Because I know they don’t wear head coverings there and are allowed to talk, is Bible study not coming together for fellowship?

I know most protestant churches don’t have the no talking and head covering requirements, so for those who do could you help me out? This just seemed inconsistent to me.

God bless


The key event of the Mass, indeed the Source and Summit of our faith, is the Eucharist. What differentiates our latria for God from our dulia for the saints, is sacrifice. The Mass is the re-presentation of Jesus’ sacrifice on Calvary to God the Father.


I’ve only been to two other kinds of church (that I remember) other than the Catholic Mass.
One is Episcopal. My husband and I went to this church shortly after we got married. Theirs is very close to the Catholic Mass and they even recite the Niacene creed. One difference is they use the Book of Common Prayer and we have the misslet.

The other is SDA. First they have their religious education classes, which they call Sabbath School. Then they have their church service, which is sermon centered. They may have a few bible readings, some prayer requests, (think Prayers of the Faithful) and some kind of music service. This all builds up to the sermon which usually follows the same theam as what they studied in Sabbath School. As far as structure, it seems to be up to the indivudual pastor to ultimatley decide, where, what, how long.
As I was growing up church was and all morning ritual. You got there at 9am and usually didn’t get out until 12pm (Later if the pastor was long winded):sleep: I remember sitting in the pew, wearing my itchy tights, just waiting for it to finally end.
Okay, sorry to unload. That’s not why I left the church, just had a dreadful flashback.:o


The Protestant service is based on scripture as well. (I’m assuming you mean the non-liturgical protestant services, since the liturgical ones are very similar to Mass.)

Here is a typical order of service with a few scripture references, there are more references, but I am sticking to just a few for space/time sake.):[LIST=1]
]Praise and Worship ** Matthew 26:30, **** Ephesians 5:18-20,*** Heb.2.12**
*]Greeting/Announcements ( I don’t know of a verse that says “You should have a leader greet everyone, tell the announcements and acknowledge the visitors!” But I think it’s kind of a nice thing to do anyhow. It is sometimes done at the beginning(before singing) to avoid disrupting the rest of the service.)
*]Offering Matthew 22:21, **Galations 6:6,
*]Peace ( As far as I know there is no official term for this in the Protestant Service so I called it by the Catholic term. One should never participate in communion if they have a problem among fellow Christians. While Protestants believe they can go directly to God to confess their sins, we must still go to others and confess and ask forgiveness when our sin affects others. This is a short time designated as a last chance to reconcile before Communion begins. While Catholics tend to simply say “Peace be with you” in a symbolic sort of gesture, most protestants will start milling around the building greeting one another and chatting if they have no business to attend to, this creates an opening for others to seek out the person they need to reconcile with.)Matthew 5:23-24, **Luke 17:3, James 5:16, **
*]Communion **1 Corinthians 11:24, Corinthians 11:28, 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, John 6:53-54 **
*]Children dismissed to Sunday School (Often the sermon is not at a level that children will be able to understand it. To combat this, Many Churches send the children to hear a separate sermon tailored to them.) **Deuteronomy 4:9, ****Deuteronomy 6:6-7, ****Acts 22:3, **Ephesians 6:4
*]Sermon (a Sermon is the reading of Scriptures mixed with a Homily) **Romans 10:13-14, Colossians 3:16, Acts 20:20-21,
*]Altar Call **Mark 16:15, *Romans 10:9
]Prayer for Needs
John 15:7, ****James 5:14-15, **Romans 8:32


Should we call the Catholic Mass a “worship” event?

Agreed, but this doesn’t answer the question. Anyone have thoughts on my post above?


Catholics define the Mass as worship because of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We believe Jesus is truely and sacramentally present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. He is there no matter how rote the prayers or how distracted one might be with busy children; it’s not up to us, or our imagination or faith. When the priest raises the host and the chalice and pronounces the words of insitution, I can say “my Lord and my God” and go forward and do what he said: eat of his Flesh and drink of his Blood.


The Bible doesn’t give us a blow by blow description of what Christian worship should look like.

It tells us that certain elements (prayer, scripture reading, hymn singing, eucharist) were present but it doesn’t tell us in what order.

The OP seems to be asking which is “more biblical” Catholic liturgy or “Protestant worship”?

The answer is neither.

The best in Protestant worship (and surely it is most charitable to measure a tradition by its best examples), contains all the elements given in Scripture as being present in Christian worship.

Indeed, it could be said that the prevalence of potlucks and community dinners and prayer-breakfasts among Protestant Churches brings them more clearly in line with the Biblical ideal of worship since that worship featured the concept of a lovefeast most prominently. This is something many Protestant Churches do year around while the practice seems to lapse among Catholics except for the Lenten fish-fry.

The Catholic church, in her liturgy, has an ancient structure to her worship but in which certain elements have been modified or omitted (linguistic changes, the omission of the creed at daily mass) according to need or convenience.

The structure is ancient and beautiful, solemn and marvellous and, again, the best in the Protestant tradition use the same structure. However, other than providing a matrix in which to set the parts clearly given in Scripture as being usual and necessary for Christian worship, there is nothing intrinsically “biblical” about it since, again, the Bible doesn’t give us a blue print for how to do corporate worship.


Your post brings up some really “big picture” issues, which I probably can’t answer well myself without doing a lot of research.

But to the point above. There was a “Journey Home” program on EWTN perhaps a year ago that speaks directly to this. I’ll give you the blow by blow description as I remember it.

A young protestant couple were living in the wilds of the Northwest, they believed in God but didn’t discuss it much. But they were “searching.” Suddenly their young daughter (4-5 years old ) just told them that Jesus loved them. Strange, since they never discussed Jesus with their daughter.

OK - long story short - this couple spent the next umpteen years going to just about every protestant church in existence (well, not all 33,000 denominations, but a lot). Finally, out of desperation, the wife went to a Catholic Mass. By the end, she says that she KNEW that “This is how God wants us to worship.”

That phrase has stuck with me ever since, and still gives me goose bumps.

Given the fact that to the Jews up to and including Christ’s time, worship was a ritualized ceremony with elements of scripture reading AND sacrifice, and the Mass parallels this completely, it is not unreasonable (IMHO) to believe that the Mass is indeed worship, the perfect worship, a reflection of the continuing Heavenly worship seen in John’s revelation. Indeed, Catholics believe that Heaven and earth intersect at Mass.


Worship, as it is described in the NT looks a lot like synagogue worship with the addition of the Eucharist.

But the set pieces (collects, agnus, seasonal prayers, etc.) are, of course different.

It is misleading to say that the Mass looks exactly like synagogue or temple worship. There are points of convergence, of course, but they happen to be exactly the same points of convergence as in the vast majority of Protestant liturgies (prayer, hymn singing, Scripture reading, etc.)


I’m not an expert on the correllation between Jewish Temple worship and other elements of the Mass. A number of books have been written about this. One thing I do remember is that the prayers during the preparation of the gifts is actually a revision of the Jewish prayer before meals…

But the Protestant liturgies lack one thing - the Perfect Sacrifice, and the Perfect High Priest.


The essence of worship is sacrifice.

The praising, singing, petitioning, and adoration of God is in addition to the worship of God, which is the offering of sacrifice to Him.

In Old Testament times, they sacrificed animals of all kinds, grains, fruits, drinks, and all sorts of stuff.

The Sacrifice of the Mass is the Eucharist - the bread and wine offered to God by the priest, which is then accepted by God and exchanged for the Body and Blood of Christ, which precisely displaces the bread and wine (which is now in Heaven with God).

There are also offerings of incense, money, and praise, as well, but the main thing is the offering of the bread and wine, which is then exchanged for Christ’s perfect Sacrifice of Himself on the Cross.

I do not know what (if anything) Protestants sacrifice in their Sunday gatherings.

Should we call the Catholic Mass a “worship” event?

Indeed, it is the only thing I know of that could safely be referred to in that way, since it’s the only Christian celebration I know of that actually incorporates the most essential element of worship, which is sacrifice.


I went to a Synagogue for a meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was my very first visit to a synagogue.

I was astounded to see a red lamp and a tabernacle. (I am assuming that the Torah was in the tabernacle; not the Eucharist, but still - it was very interesting to notice the similarity between our custom with regard to this, and theirs.)


Sure. Singing and praying can be a form of worship but worship is not singing and praying. You are putting the emphasis where it does not belong.

Worship is reverent honor and homage. Understand? Worship is reverent (deeply respectful) honor (respect) and homage (acknowledgement of respect) given to God. Worship is not defined by our interaction with others. It is defined by our interaction with God. Whether it is jubilant or reserved, loud or quiet, exciting or boring, worship is worship if it is reverent honor and homage given to God.

The Catholic Mass is absolutely “more formal (and) more reverent.” Good description! That doesn’t mean we worship incorrectly or less. It means we worship truly. Some might consider that to be a “turn off” but I’ll take the physical presence of God over heartfelt “worth-ship” proclamations anyday. :thumbsup:


Sorry, I neglected to draw the threads together. Latria means worship. So, since the essence of latria is sacrifice, worship is sacrifice. The Mass is the Perfect Sacrifice, and thus it is worship.


ricmat, that’s so cool! We know the couple you are referring to! They attend our parish, and they were in charge of the Apologetics class that got us very interested in becoming Catholic. In fact, before they became Catholic, they attended the Protestant church that I grew up in. They even had a Protestant radio show in our area for many years.

A lot of people have come into the Catholic Church in the last five years because of their testimony and their classes in our parish. They even gave a talk last year at the Catholic Family Conference, and my daughter and her fiance attended, and afterwards stuck aroundto hear Michael Cumbie, and both of them have expressed interest in becoming Catholic.

BTW, the husband in that Journey Hom couple is having heart problems, so please pray for them.

As for the answer to the OP question, IMO, mass is worship of God, the best worship we can offer, because we offer up our Savior, Jesus Christ. The music style, the speaking abilities of the priest, the instruments, the artwork–although all of these are nice, none of them are necessary for mass.

Back when we were still Protestants and our church was having some “worship wars,” my husband asked one of the pastors why they didn’t just eliminate ALL music for a few weeks. The pastor said, “No one would come if it wasn’t for the music.”

I guess my question for that pastor is, "Who…or WHAT exactly are you worshipping in your ‘worship’ service?


[quote="jmcrae]The essence of worship is sacrifice.

The praising, singing, petitioning, and adoration of God is in addition to the worship of God, which is the offering of sacrifice to Him.

Thanks to all who offered insight on this. As a Protestant, I’ve grown up with the emphasis on different things, I’m trying to come to terms with the essence of all things Catholic as I explore the Church and contemplate making the jump into the Tiber . . .

Framed as I asked my original question, then, it would seem that a Catholic would regard all aspects of the Mass as “worshipful” but without the representation of Christ’s sacrifice in the Eucharist, worship is incomplete, akin to going to the movie theater, buying popcorn, watching previews, then leaving before the movie begins.

So allow me a further inquiry: I see that the Catholic Encyclopedia breaks down the word “worship” into “worth” and “ship.” But the synoymns for “worth” aren’t “worthy” or “esteemed,” which are the words Protestants might think of as synonymous with “worth.” The CE uses words like “price” and “value,” (although it also uses “dignity”). Is is a fair statement then that an act is truly worship when it involves “paying a price,” hence the necessity for sacrifice? Or is that an eisegetical stretch, looking for a way post hoc to link the notion of “worth” and the notion of sacrifice?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit