My brother always joked that he was a Presbyterian dressed in Southern Baptist clothing. He even pastored a Southern Baptist church for a time. But he and his family recently joined a PCA church, and they couldn't be happier.
I spent a few years in a Presbyterian church, sandwiched in between my Baptist and independent Bible church years. I really grew to love the liturgy. I suppose if one grew up with it or did it long enough, it would get dry and stale. But I loved the intentionality of it and the "meatiness" it built into the service. If the sermon stunk, at least you had Bible reading, prayer, confession of sin, and worship all built in. I realize that many churches have moved away from liturgy because it was becoming a hindrance for some people-- it lacked spontaneity, it seemed too rigid and contrived, and so forth. People wanted to leave room for the "Spirit to move," or, at the very least, the freedom to mix it up on occasion.
But lack of liturgy becomes its own liturgy. We still sing x number of songs, do announcements, do x number of songs, take the offering, throw in some quick prayers, have a sermon, quick prayer to wrap it up, then leave. Isn't that a structure built in to every worship service? Can that not also become stale?
I have privately bemoaned many churches' pitiful lack of meaningful prayer during worship services for some time now. We tend to use prayer as a filler and a transitionary device: "Song is done, thus let us pray for 30 seconds to give the pastor time to get to the pulpit to preach." I remember a few months back when one of our assistant pastors prayed, he actually prayed. He prayed for the world, he prayed for us, he confessed corporate sin on our behalf, and he took his good old time with it. I started crying, it was so refreshing.
[Original post edited here to remove disrespectful attitude towards a specific person.] Another essential element we are missing from our church services is SILENCE. To corporately allow God time to speak to our hearts and allow time for us to confess and worship him in silence is a valuable thing that is often overlooked.
I know many of these issues are a matter of preference. There is no right or wrong way to order a service (well, there may be some wrong ways!). My pet peeves may be someone else's favorite part of the service. For instance, I can't stand the "tinkly piano music" that often accompanies prayer and the last minute of a sermon as the pastor gets really serious and starts hammering home his point. I'm a musician, and my mind immediately focuses on the music, not what is being said. I also know that music is a great manipulator of emotions, and what one might mistake for the Holy Spirit was really the swelling transition from the minor sixth back to the root chord. (Or, to quote Derek Webb, "I don't want the Spirit, I want the kick drum.") But other people like that tinkly piano music. It helps them focus their thoughts and examine their hearts. If it's doing something for somebody, well, then, I can suck it up and deal with it.
But opinions and preferences aside, there has to be some elements that are essential to every worship service. I'm rather ignorant as far as church history and liturgy in this regard, so these are just things that I assume are important: worship and confession through prayer, worship and confession through song and silence, worship through offerings (monetary or otherwise), the reading and exposition of scripture, and the edification of believers. How those things are accomplished could certainly vary. And I'm probably missing some things.
So, what elements do you think are essential to a church service? I'd love to hear your thoughts.