Among Evangelicals, especially in the suburbs, there is a tendency away from having an intentional structure to worship that the congregation is aware of and enters into. Words like organic, authentic, spontaneous, viral, and Spirit-driven are used to describe a worship service as good. Words like formulaic, ritualistic, traditional, and “dated” are used to describe a worship service as bad. I believe this is an object lesson in missing the point of worship. Every service has a liturgy as North Point in Atlanta has illustrated so well with their “Contemporvant” parody video a few years back. When churches use an intentional liturgical structure for corporate worship it isn’t a bad thing. Nor is utilizing other liturgies that have been used by other churches throughout Christian history. It isgood to do this because it teaches the local church that they are part of a historic community that is rich, broad, and inclusive.
Liturgy offers the local church a way to design its corporate worship so that it can help the local community finds its life and meaning within the biblical story that has shaped Gods people for ages. Good liturgy helps people bring their entire life into a godly-conversational-focus, Geoffrey Wainwright’s comments are helpful here;
“Into the liturgy the people bring their entire existence so that it may be gathered up in praise. From the liturgy the people depart with a renewed vision of the value-patterns of God’s kingdom, by the more effective practice of which they intend to glorify God in their whole life.“
The liturgical structure we have been using for our college ministry over the past three years reflect this truth. Our weekly worship is structured in light of a theological commitment to viewing corporate worship as a conversation between the local church community and the Trinitarian community. A conversation that is intentionally driven by among other things missiology, i.e. the equipping of the saints for works of service in the world.
For us worship is a way to remember and celebrate the grace of God in the biblical story, while also being challenged and equipped to help others enter into that story. We hope that this helps our students realize that they do in fact have a clear story from which to interpret their lives, as well as good news they should offer to their neighbor. The biblical story isn’t presented to them simply as a narrative to agree to, but is rather a living narrative of good news that they are caught up into as the Father, Son, and Spirit transform their lives with faith, hope and love. Below is an example of a recent worship bulletin handout we used with our college group. Click here to download it.
How do you design liturgy for your community? Have you been intimidated by consider doing liturgy for younger generations, if so why?