Some (if not most) of you are thinking, “Lit-what?” Liturgy (lit·ur·gy) simply means “a form of public worship.” In other words, a church’s liturgy is just the order of elements that shapes a church’s worship service.
The purpose of a church’s liturgy has been misunderstood. I always thought that church’s that were “liturgical” were required to have choir members that wore fancy robes and pastors or priests that wore even fancier ones. Church’s like these, I thought, rehearsed the same prayers every week, sang the same hymns, and ate the same crackers for communion that the church bought in bulk 30 years ago. To be honest, I thought liturgical meant -dead and dying. As a punk 20-year-old kid preparing to come on staff as a worship pastor at my first church (I am now a punk 24-year-old kid), “liturgy” wasn’t one of the words on my daily vocabulary cards. I was more interested in being authentic -which really just meant I wanted a free pass to be a bit lazy and unplanned for the weekend, and then if God shows up He can take all the credit. It’s kind of like the teenager that says, I want to party and have sex so I can have a huge testimony. Really?
And just as everyone’s life testifies about something, every church has a liturgy. The question is, are we being intentional with our worship services?
Over the centuries, theologians, pastors, and church leaders have sensed the importance of utilizing their church’s liturgy to (re)tell the gospel story. A message about God’s holiness, man’s utter sinfulness and inability to save himself, and the glorious provision of God sending his Son to be our substitutionary sacrifice (Jesus dying in our place, for our sin). In his book, “Rhythms of Grace,” Mike Cosper tells us a bit about why church’s should constantly re-tell and re-apply the gospel in our worship services.
Rehearsed regularly, the gospel becomes part of our way of thinking, seeing, feeling, loving, and being in the world. It’s a weekly hearbeat, gathering us in and scattering us back out to our homes and workplaces, to children’s soccer games and board meetings, to chemotherapy sessions and evenings around the dinner table. From there, we return to the gathered church, once again rehearsing the story, remembering who God has made us, singing and celebrating that identity. Liturgy that immerses the people of God in the rhythms of grace doesn’t merely train them for gospel-centered worship; it trains them for gospel-centered lives.
Pastors and leaders, if we are going to center all of our lives on Jesus, let’s utilize every ounce of our creativity to paint a picture of the gospel week in and week out. For those of you who don’t have a say in the church’s weekend worship, rehearse the gospel story to yourself daily. Afterall, Sunday morning worship is just the beginning of living life saturated with Jesus.