ROUTINE WORSHIP

Routine Worship The order of worship in a church service never saved anybody. It is quite possible, however, for the worship order to reflect the shape of the very Gospel that it purports to proclaim, the Gospel that changes everything. It makes sense to me to reflect and embody the Gospel in every way possible in our worship, including the way we order components, and guide worshipers along in a conversation with our loving, saving Lord.   One of the roles of worship leadership is to remind worshipers where we are in that conversation of worship. Let’s face it. This worship thing is strained enough as it is. After all, we are seeking to engage in spiritual connection/communion with a Three-in-One being we cannot see, and do so by faith guided by a book we may struggle to understand or believe. What’s more, we are trying to embrace this engagement together as a corporate body united. Impossible. And yet it happens. As with salvation itself, the engagement is only possible by grace that He gives through faith that He gives (Ephesians 2:8). It would seem important that we participate in routines such as we see represented in biblical patterns of worship.

Like it or not there is a routine to worship. I realize that many churches describe their worship with words like fresh, new, exciting, transformative, and the like. I think those expressions are generally just market-speak, but hope they imply an underlying desire by leadership for people to come to know a new, exciting, transformative life in Christ. Christian worship involves certain elements, certain actions. We may mix them up, scramble them around, leave some out then add them back later, move some from live to video, or from aural to visual, from written to spoken, from spoken to sung, etc. Regardless, the elements of worship are the elements of worship. Newness that will make a true difference in one life or in a corporate body, or in the community around us is not our construct, but a grace gift of the Holy Spirit.   There are components of Christian worship that have been practiced since the earliest gatherings. They serve a purpose.

Far too often it appears entrepreneurial leaders engender change for change’s sake. Intentionally or not, critical elements of biblically, historically sound components end up removed or relegated to a place of unimportance in what has become a “new” liturgical pattern for the sake of convenience, ingenuity, or other values that miss the mark of Theocentric (God-centered) worship. The truncated routine tends to look something like this:

Pre-service music

Announcements and Welcome

Songset

Prayer

Feature Song and/or Offering

Sermon

Response song

Closing

Dismiss

Along with this liturgy-lite approach, many churches no longer bother with printed order. Under the banner of a “less is more” philosophy, or “since they don’t see it in writing we can surprise them” approach, the gathered are purposefully (and sometimes literally) left in the dark. Given the consistency of our routine practices, printing or not printing likely has little impact regardless, unless the leaders were to consciously communicate through what is printed as order. To be blunt, I find settings that pride themselves in innovation to be some of the most predictable environments of all. And there are lots of them. The question I would join others in posing is, “what have we given up by abbreviating the traditional worship order?” What I am speaking of by “traditional” is what Kein DeYoung refers to as the “traditional Protestant order of worship…..what churches use to do when they didn’t know what else to do.”[1] I am talking about an approach that engages worshipers in the rhythm of worship, God’s revelation and our response, and in an orderly manner that participates in the shape of the Gospel itself. For those who fear drifting back into long orations by humdrum voices, your innovation can surely be applied remaining faithful to the Gospel shape. Worship acts such as call to worship, praise, invocation, confession, illumination, petition and intercession, passing of the peace, communion or invitation response, sending and benediction can be said, prayed, or sung. We must exercise great care, however, as to what is left on the cutting room floor. By eliminating scripture readings, prayers, acts of fellowship, frequent observance of ordinances, and other sacred acts, I fear we have fostered drive-by worshipers looking to get the worship thing in before returning to other business in “real life.” Checking worship off the to do list is a far cry from the kind of “take up your cross and follow me” sacrificial living intended as Jesus worshipers reflect the light of the risen Savior Who gave all for His Bride, the worshiping Church.

[1] Kevin DeYoung Is the New Evangelical Liturgy Really an Improvement?

Explore posts in the same categories: Leading Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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