What does your liturgy communicate?

“Liturgy” is a loaded word with lots of opinions attached to it. But liturgy is simply the way you order a church service. Understanding that definition, your church has a liturgy—and my goal is to help you think through this question: What does your liturgy communicate?

Four years ago, I had the opportunity to lead a church plant. As its first and only senior pastor, I wasn’t walking into pre-existing church customs and traditions. That meant I began with a blank slate in most areas, including liturgy. From our first service, I was committed to practicing certain biblical commands and convictions in our worship gatherings (such as the reading and preaching of God’s Word, corporate prayer, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and encouraging one another in song).

I wish I could tell you I found the perfect liturgy and it has been working for us ever since, but that’s not the case. Our liturgy has evolved as God has convicted, challenged, and prompted our pastors to lead our body faithfully and biblically. While I do not think our liturgy is perfect, I wanted to share a few examples of why we structure our churches the way we do:

  • We want to be a Bible-saturated church, so we begin and end every worship service with Bible verses calling us to worship and commissioning us on mission. In addition to our sermon text, we add a fourth passage to read from the corresponding testament.
  • As a fairly congregational church, we expect all members to come to church ready to participate, serve, and encourage one another rather than merely consume. Because of this, we look for ways to involve our members in announcements, Scripture readings, and prayer in addition to more normal avenues of service (such as A/V, band, nursery, etc.). Aside from the sermon, most of my involvement on Sundays takes place from my seat.
  • While we pray a lot during the service, we never want this to be used as a transition to get people on and off stage. This makes parts of the service a little longer and more awkward, but we want everyone to be able to pray with us with as little distraction as possible.
  • We designate time during the service to pray specifically for our church body, another church in our city, and a church/missionary outside our context.
  • We observe communion every week after the sermon. We used to take it individually while the band led us in a song. Unfortunately, the band never got to partake of the Lord’s table with the congregation (they’d do it after service), so we changed our order of worship to have everyone take communion together before the band came up to lead us in song.
  • In partaking in the Lord’s Supper, we rotate through a handful of varying responsive Scripture readings, focusing on different aspects of prayer each week (prayer and adoration, confession and renewal, thanksgiving and gratitude, affirmation and declaration, and praying the Lord’s Prayer).

What does your order of service communicate? Let me encourage you to intentionally think through everything you do, because it communicates what you value. Be flexible with everything except your commitment to God’s Word. Let His Word guide how you lead how your church worships Him. Matt McCullough uses a helpful analogy: “Liturgies are the pipes, but the Word is the water. … Good liturgy is merely the delivery system for this miraculous power to save. It’s the piping that carries the life-giving water.”

Liturgies, like well-structured sermons, should intentionally lead churches to respond in repentance, faith, and worship of God.

 

 

 

Pastor
Michael Visy
Grace Church, Hewitt
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