November 25, 2020

A New Series: The Evangelical Liturgy: Introduction

SundayI am beginning a series of brief (I hope) posts on the subject of “the evangelical liturgy.” In these posts, I am going to survey the basic elements of a traditional Protestant worship service in a traditional Protestant setting. I will offer abbreviated commentary on each of those elements, with a purpose of explaining and unfolding what I see as the value of a traditional evangelical liturgy.

This will be from the point of view of non-Anglican, non-Lutheran Protestantism, because….we simply never talk about this. (And I am excited about Bryan Chapell’s new book, Christ Centered Worship, that does.)

This series could run as many as 21+ posts. I am not offering an in-depth critique of those who do not use these various elements. I assuming that most evangelicals are aware that few of these elements are being used in the popular worship formats that have developed in post-Protestantism.

I do want to feature the value of these elements, and make it clear that each one can, in widely varying settings, still make a contribution to gathered worship.

This series will assume that corporate worship is an activity of the gathered church, not a seeker event or primarily an event aimed at unbelievers. Much of what I will be describing here comes from 12 years of planning worship in a small Presbyterian Church.

This is a series that affirms my belief that post-evangelicalism- intentionally reaching back to the resources of larger, deeper, more ancient church- is the way forward for evangelicals.

What will be examined in “The Evangelical Liturgy?”

1) The Worship Setting
2) The Tools
3) The Leaders
4) The Congregation
5) The Prelude
6) The Call to Worship
7) The Invocation
8] The Public Reading of Scripture
9) Singing
10) The Children’s Sermon
11) The Corporate Confession
12) The Assurance of Pardon
13) The Offering
14) The Sermon
15) The Creed
16) Baptism
17) The Lord’s Supper
18) The Prayers of the People
19) Pastoral Prayer
20) Silence
21) The Invitation
22) The Benediction
23) The Postlude

Each one of these subjects opens up many Biblical, theological and practical questions and issues. I will be dealing with how these elements fit into the actual worship service itself, and not with the many theological controversies involved. The theology of worship, however, will be briefly considered with each topic.


  1. With number 8, is the variant bracket a feature, or a bug?

    • I don’t want the smiley face emoticon.

      • Instead, we get a smirk from both sides of the mouth. I guess I’ll take either one for the children’s sermon. My favorite kind is the one where the pastor is *really* giving a message to the congregation, and the kids are all just props up there in their Sunday best, playing with their hair and wondering when they get the bags of jelly beans they know the pastor has on the front pew.

      • I don’t have a problem with a variety of formats — scripted liturgy, singing / announcements / sermon, etc. As I think about it, the one thing that provokes me is when a church feels their particular format is “better” than the others, or even “the one correct” format — more biblical, more spirit led, more effective, to the point that it is part of the identity of the church. I.e. “attend here and have a better Christian life than you would at the church down the street because our service is structured this way.”

        I understand that part of a pastor’s calling is to consider and decide what format will best serve his congregation, and then lead by instituting that format. But somehow I think it could be done with the perspective “This is what I’ve concluded is best, but we’ll never really know what is best, and that uncertainty doesn’t bother me or threaten me. We’ve got to do something, and this is it.” I wouldn’t want a pastor to have that perspective on, say, whether salvation is by grace or by works, but I think I would in regard to the structure of the service.

  2. Really excited for this series to unfold. Our little community has been trying to pursue this more intentionally. We already engage several, but some need more development and others we have not yet even considered. Thanks!


    • Ours is in the same boat. We’re gonna end up studying some of Robert Webber’s books on the subject. I’m looking forward to hearing iMonk’s take, too. Incidentially, I’m giving the sermon for tonight’s service and it’s going to be talking about the Creeds.

  3. Looking forward to it.

    Every church has an order of service. I never have understood the disdain for liturgy. For some reason, singing 10+ songs followed by a one hour message and altar call is extemporaneous.

    • “I never have understood the disdain for liturgy.”

      Because doing anything the way the xxxxx (insert other faith of your choice) does it must be avoided. Cooties and all that.

      • Cooties. That actually makes sense 😉

        Seriously, I think you’re on to something. I’m better than you because I’m not you. It’s like saying the new is better because it isn’t old.

    • Because:

      1. It’s not in the bible
      2. It’s papist trash
      3. It’s closely related to things like contemplative meditation, which is just the same as emergent heresy and rhymes with P and that spells Trouble
      4. Ignorant application of sola scriptura
      5. It’s (fill in the blank with some other goofiness)

      • So…why is the standard evangelical order of service more biblical? One criticism I have heard directed against liturgy is that it is a thoughtless going through the motions, but it sounds like there really is no explanation for the way most churches order their services; that sounds like thoughtlessly going through the motions. I find myself standing through a contemporary service thinking, “why am I doing this? I can’t keep up with the words. The words don’t mean anything to me. But I’ll go along with it so as not to stand out.” With liturgy, I know what I’m doing and why. I have a great pastor, who also explains to the congregation what we do and why. It’s so ironic; liturgy is truly “purpose” driven.

        • If you find “no explanation for the way most churches order their services” it’s precisely because they are not simply human planning but prompted by the Holy Spirit; that’s also why you can’t understand it, because the things of God are beyond human understanding. So it’s not thoughtlessly going through the motions, it’s following the leading of the Spirit.

          Unfortunately not really just kidding, that explanation is offered time and time again in some churches.

    • lol true enough – I had a music history prof ask me one time didn’t we have ANY kind of liturgy in my church? (She really was meaning in the more “liturgical” sense though she acknowledged that all order of services are liturgy) I said “um if you want to count standing and singing the doxology after the offering – then I guess so!”

  4. Occidentalis says

    Came across this resource not long ago on Google Books entitled:

    A Biblical Liturgy, for the use of Evangelical Churches and Homes
    Edited by D. Thomas

    Essentially a sola scriptura liturgy.

  5. Christiane/L's says

    Hi Michael,

    When did you first encounter liturgical worship that was meaningful to you?

    • Highland Baptist Church, Louisville Ky, 1982. Yes, a liturgically literate SBC church. A very odd bunch.

      • One thing that impressed me about the 2008 Baptist Hymnal was the responsive readings options in the back and scattered throughout. We incorporated one of ’em with the accompanying songs in our service last week. But when I saw that I was initially a bit suprised; responsive readings didn’t strike me as being particularly normative for SBC.

        • I can’t speak to “normative,” but only my experiences. I grew up SBC (*), and IIRC responsive readings were used frequently–in one churche twice during every service.
          I wish my current church would involve the congregation more. Singing is good for worship, iff the congregation can handle the music and each can hear his own voice over the amplification and the songs are worshipful. But if the congregation is full of priests (which would seem to follow from the BFM), it seems a terribly lost opportunity not to involve them in the prayer and reading of God’s word and pronouncing of blessings as well.

          (*) There are very few SBC churches in the Madison area, so I’ve been out of touch for several decades. I gather there have been some changes.

          • But if the congregation is full of priests (which would seem to follow from the BFM), it seems a terribly lost opportunity not to involve them in the prayer and reading of God’s word and pronouncing of blessings as well.

            Rebel, paradigm killer…. I’ll think of more names here in a sec…..

            Greg R

  6. I am very interested to see this series develop. Many of these elements are familiar to me, though I don’t think I’ve ever been to a church or even a service where all were practiced. Some of these elements are entirely foreign to me. I am especially interested in No. 18 – Silence. I have never experienced any worship service that used silence, not praying quietly to yourself, but pure silence as an element of worship. If that is what you mean by that reference, I am most intrigued…

    • The Society of Friends uses silence ranging from a minute or two before starting a study session to a full meeting for worship which might be silence for 45 minutes to an hour (I’ve not attended longer ones though several hour ones are known). The meeting for worship can be broken by people moved to speak but it is not uncommon for no one to be moved. I believe they also use silences in meetings fir business. Admittedly most of the rest of items in imonk’s list aren’t present.

      I’ve also attended an university church which has taken up the custom of a minute or so of silence after the sermon is finished.

    • Once I was filling in and led the pastoral prayer. I did the typical prayer thing, then led into asking people to clear their minds, still their thoughts, and just sit quietly in the presence of God. It was neat, but the problem with it is that 2 or 3 minutes will feel like an eternity.

    • I, too, am looking forward to this series, esp. Silence. Silence is generally regarded as a bad thing among evangelicals; like dead air time on TV, it makes them fidgety.

  7. Amen to intentailly back to ancient and traditional worship practices! This is what I was looking for after years of Calvary Chapel and mildly charasmatic churches for a neighborhood Lutheran church. We were looking at some presbyterian or even conservative anglican churches. Yet, after attending a liturgical Christmas Eve service I found a home.

  8. I really look forward to this series. Too bad for me that most of what you’re going to write about I’ll probably never experience first-hand in my own church. I love my church but I’d love to hear more Scripture read. I’d love to say the creed. I’d love to get away from the idea that the only acceptable way for the congregation to worship is in singing. Why are spoken words mere “vain repetition” or “empty ritual” and singing isn’t? I don’t get that.

    • I don’t know about your church, but in many contemporary worship settings they are enjoying the concert, and singing is clearly secondary.

      Singing, is in a lot of trouble. The church has decided it is not worth the investment to have a real singing congregation and has fallen for the idea that “singing along with the worship team” is as good as it gets.

      I’ll say this later, but the generational betrayal that’s going on in evangelicalism is really sad. Worship needs to include everyone. That’s WHY it’s not a hiphop concert or a country banjo fest. It used to be something all its own so that ALL could participate.

      Personally, I can’t stand up for long periods without real pain. Someone tell the young guys please.

      • Well, I think there are a good number of people in my church who do like singing the contemporary stuff. Some of it I would too if I sang but I rarely do and I’m not completely alone. But that’s what I would love about some of the other liturgical elements. Not everyone sings but everyone can speak and speaking provides a way for everyone to add their voice. Not to make it about my “right” to participate — that’s not what I mean — but putting all the emphasis on singing clearly divides the congregation between those who do and those who don’t. I know, one could make the argument that we’re all obligated to sing no matter how we sound or how we feel about it.

        One of these Sundays I’m going to get up and go to the Anglican church just to hear a worship service from to the BCP (1962 version here up north) where the congregation actually has to say something.

    • “Why are spoken words mere ‘vain repetition’ or ’empty ritual’ and singing isn’t?”

      Great question! The way I understand it we are suppoesd to greet one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. This appears to indicate a “writing down” of the songs. I do not think they are all newly composed on the spot. Since I am assuming they are written down in order to share them with others, I am also assuming the believers would be singing them in unison. I suppose however, they do not have to sing them in unison.

      Scripture would appear to indicate that praying repetitious prayers is empty.

      Also, singing in the Old Testament Temple was held as worship. The musicians offered up their offering 24/7 in the Temple. The musicians in the Temple were skilled and this was their source of livelihood.

      These are some of the reasons I hold singing in unison as more valuable to corporate worship than praying in unison.

      • If you go to an Anglo-Catholic High Mass, everything will be sung. Will this, then, be a more biblical, meaningful experience than a regular Anglican low church service which includes pretty much the same words but not sung?

    • Chuck C,
      as a veteran worship leader (+35 years), with a degree minor in Music, I’ve been acquainted with different “philosophies” of congregational involvement. One thing that we Baby Boomers got right, I believe, was the notion that there should be no spectators in worship. Something that then followed from that axiom was the ideal of everyone singing, because most people can at least sing a melody line of a simple song. As I recall, this was Luther’s view.

      In the “minimalist” liturgical tradition of my Protestant experience, the idea was that spoken words (except for Scripture) could easily be repeated without intention or personalization, but it was more likely that if a person were singing, more of the totality of that person would be engaged (mind, will, emotions, body, etc.). Early on, in the more charismatic groups I was in, “bypassing the mind” through the use of very simple choruses was thought to enable a person to connect better with God from one’s heart/emotional center; this was seen as a corrective to an excessively organized “left brain”, mind-only, modernist (though we didn’t have that word at the time) approach. In churches I was involved in up until about ten years ago, the elements iMonk will be discussing were seen to be either too “organized” for the Holy Spirit to have room to work spontaneously, or too close to Roman Catholocism and its near descendants (anyplace where robes were worn), where it was assumed that of course the repetition meant that people were somehow disengaged from “true worship”.

      The down side of all this was that very rarely was any solid theology offered in song lyrics. Oh, there were plenty of songs that proclaimed some true things about Jesus and what he did, but nothing about the *meaning* of those things, other than now I am loved and forgiven and accepted by God. Which is true and wonderful- everyone needs that Assurance, and I know I certainly did. But the larger ramifications of the Incarnation were pretty much ignored, and are still, from what I see of today’s song lyrics.


      • I know you were describing, not prescribing in your comments, but I would say that the “downside” is the very idea that the Holy Spirit is in any way limited by which side of the brain we use is pretty wide of the mark. Fortunately, the Holy Spirit is not limited by our idea that he is limited by which side of the brain we use. 😉

  9. I don’t have a problem, in theory, about any of the liturgy, although I forget what an invocation entails. I have a problem with repetition. Liturgy can be fascinating, until about the third time out. Then it is rote.

    • I like repetition. Knowing that every Sunday, for example, I will be partaking in almost exactly the same communion ceremony that I did the last 50 Sundays helps make the service much less about my interests. I don’t have to think about what comes next; I can simply be in the presence of God. A big stumbling block for me in worship or prayer or anything, really, is the way my mind jumps around. Rote helps me with that by depriving me of new things to grab my attention.

    • Have you ever been in a service where if you had to sing “I could sing of your love forever” one more time that your head would explode? There’s a lot of hypocrisy among contemporary folks regarding the whole vain repetition thing.

      • The irony isn’t lost on me. Even as a Pentecostal/charismatic, the services I attend have the same quality of repetition. I, personally, tire of the monotony.

      • Yes, I have. I guess when I thought about “worship,” contemporary services didn’t even enter my mind. My bias, I suppose.

      • Yes…..the head DID explode, and I had to wait 10 more stanzas of that wonderful tune before they’d let me pick up what was left. And now some irony: being told that HEAVEN is more of the same……..eeeeeeeiiiiiiyaaaaeeeee !!

      • Leña Para El Fogón says

        “Have you ever been in a service where if you had to sing “I could sing of your love forever” one more time that your head would explode? There’s a lot of hypocrisy among contemporary folks regarding the whole vain repetition thing”

        I l-o-v-e that song. One day, I was sitting directly behind a particularly callipygous young woman, whose movements in time to the music inspired to change the lyrics ever so slightly.
        “I could stare at that — forever”

        Bad Bongo! No salvation for you!

      • Usually around the third (vain) repetion of a (meaningless, trite, banal, or even heterodox) chorus my mind checks out and finds something else to do. If I catch it I then pray the Lord’s prayer, recite the creeds, Psalms or something else of edifying content and worshipful purpose. This is much better than wondering: when the stream of silliness will stop; who wrote this tripe or did anyone ever review, edit or proofread it; how the musicians themselves can stand to repeat this over multiple services; or what I’ll have for brunch.

    • Repetition is the mother of deep learning. Our culture teaches us that if we have heard something twice, we have completely mastered it.

      • “Repetition is the mother of deep learning.”

        Amen, Patrick Kyle. I hope you’re not a public school teacher. You might get fired for such a counter-cultural statement as that.

    • Just to add another point to the other folks that responded to this, many liturgical or liturgy-friendly churches also keep to the “christian year” or “liturgical calender.” One thing that does is provide a seasonal variety within liturgy. Also, a good music director (or whatever you call it) will help to alleviate some of the repitition by having a variety in music.

  10. Looking forward to this one. BTW, when was your twelve year stint planning worship at a Presbyterian church? Was it PCA? Just curious

  11. Very interesting. I hope you comment at some point on the formative value of liturgical prayer. It’s another book idea I have … praying liturgically for evangelicals.

    In particular, how the critique Michael makes just above simply doesn’t stick. No more so than reading the gospel of John for the 5th time makes it rote.

    On the contrary, a good liturgy ages like a fine wine in the soul. OK, I officially copyright that. 8]

    • ‘I hope you comment at some point on the formative value of liturgical prayer. It’s another book idea I have … praying liturgically for evangelicals.’

      Have you ever read Scot McKnight’s “Praying with the Church”? While not specifically about corporate liturgical prayer IN church it does address the question of set prayers at set times. He makes some good observations about the Lord’s Prayer, namely that it is, as he sees it, meant to be recited corporately (the pronouns are plural, after all) and should not just be seen as a model for our prayers.

    • joel hunter says

      It’s another book idea I have … praying liturgically for evangelicals.

      Myrddin, please do. We need all Christendom praying liturgically for evangelicals.

  12. This sounds great, Michael. I really am interested to see how the other half lives – or, in this case, worships.

    The list is intriguing – there are specific children’s sermons? See how straight off you’re educating me? 🙂

  13. Sounds very exciting, IM! I like Justin Martyr’s (100-165 AD) basic description of Christian liturgy–it seems to cover the bases:

    “On Sunday we have a common assembly of all our members, whether they live in the city or the outlying districts. The recollections of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as there is time. When the reader has finished, the president of the assembly speaks to us; he urges everyone to imitate the examples of virtue we have heard in the readings. Then we all stand up together and pray.

    On the conclusion of our prayer, bread and wine and water are brought forward. The president offers prayers and gives thanks to the best of his ability, and the people give assent by saying, “Amen”. The eucharist is distributed, everyone present communicates, and the deacons take it to those who are absent.

    The wealthy, if they wish, may make a contribution, and they themselves decide the amount. The collection is placed in the custody of the president, who uses it to help the orphans and widows and all who for any reason are in distress, whether because they are sick, in prison, or away from home. In a word, he takes care of all who are in need.

    We hold our common assembly on Sunday because it is the first day of the week, the day on which God put darkness and chaos to flight and created the world, and because on that same day our savior Jesus Christ rose from the dead.”

    • Notice he didn’t mention anything about singing. Didn’t they sing any hymns back then?

  14. David Bates says

    Ah man, this is going to be great. This is what I love about this site! Okay liturgical church people, let’s bring our best stuff to this series 🙂

    Holy, Holy, Holy, H…. [gets bored and goes home…]


    • Christiane/L's says

      Is it the purpose of ‘liturgy’ to entertain?

      Or is there something else going on that has meaning?

      When Jesus was working His miracles and feeding crowds, all came and wanted to be near Him. But in the time of His greatest trial, they went away.
      I guess two thousand years hasn’t really changed human nature.
      He still calls to us in His time of pain: from the ghettos and the barrios, from the prisons and the nursing homes, from the inner city schools and the soup kitchens, from the places where we wouldn’t be caught dead. He is there calling us. But where are we?

      Down at the ‘church of what’s happening now’ having a good ole time praising God, laughing at the jokes in the sermon and singing the songs that make us feel better about ourselves. Then we all go eat fried chicken and go home. I think it’s called ‘fellowship’.

      Is the purpose of liturgy to ‘entertain’?

      Or is there something else more meaningful going on there?
      Like listening for the still small Voice that calls out : “I thirst”

  15. The Guy from Knoxville says


    Looking forward to the posts – this is not addressed enough in evan prost churches. Should be a great series!

  16. I too am looking forward to this series; I’m sure I will learn a lot.

    I don’t want to jump the gun, but is it really true that there are some Protestant churches that do not have corporate Bible readings in their services (#8)? I find that surprising, if it’s true.

    At any rate, great topic, iMonk! Go in peace to love and serve the Lord . . . 🙂

    • If by corporate Bible readings you mean someone reading one or more extended lessons from Scripture, then don’t be surprised. To be sure, Scripture is read but only by the pastor and only for the purpose of the sermon. Occasionally someone else will have something to read but it’s not that common. I’d love to hear the Word read by someone who’s really good at it. Oh, well.

  17. I think that the Directory of Worship (W section of the PCUSA Book of Order) contains a wealth of insight into worship from a broadly reformed perspective that also holds that there is value in listening to the voices of the broader pre-Reformation church. Avialable at:

  18. I was going to a presbyterian church for a while. Before that I’d only gone to Baptist and AG churches. The main thing that struck me in the presbyterian church was #11) the Corporate prayer of confession.

    The baptist and AG preachers would have a generalized opening prayer that would usually ask God to “cleanse our hearts” or something like that, but was usually so brief that it was not noticeable.

    The presbyterian church did a prayer devoted solely to tellign God that we had basically failed and admitting our corporate sin. I thought this was really great, I think praying this prayer is important because it puts everyone in the congregation, pstor and pew sitter alike, into a state of humility. Not an unhealthy brow-beaten condemned state, but rather one that was healthy and refreshing and made me feel much more ready to experience the rest of the service with a much clearer mind. I think it became my favorite part of the service.

    It was nice to see the pastor prraying in such a humble manner, for himself as well as for us. It is definitely something that evangelical churches ought to incorporate. The opening prayer in the evangelical churches are too much of a hodge podge. One second we are asking God for blessing, then the next second we are interceding — its disorganized and all over the place.

    • I so agree, Tim. We evangelicals NEED corporate confession sooooo badly.

      We have just started doing responsive readings on occasion in our evangelical (EV Free) church. The only Scripture readings are usually done by the pastor as part of the sermon except for a couple of verses from the Psalms to call us to worship. The only prayer is before the sermon praying for the pastor and after the sermon praying for us, before Communion, and before the collection — that’s really it. Prayer of any other sort is rare and very limited.

      Silent prayer would be soooo welcome. But on the rare occasions we are given silence to pray, the pastor directs our prayers the whole time, never giving us time to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

      I also attend a conservative Anglican Church where I read more Scripture, pray far more and without pastoral leading, and follow the exact same liturgy with the exception of the Epistle and Gospel Readings and the Collect every week from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. I find myself worshiping God far more deeply in liturgy which is mostly Scripture. And the repition is anything BUT vain — it is rich, deep, and meaningful, shaping our souls into our Saviour’s very image.

      Just my humble opinion and experience….


      • Corporate confession? As in the dude behind the pulpit (whater he’s called in your tradition) asks if anyone has anything to confess? (in place of “praise report” and “prayer request” time?)

        I can just see eyes roll and my own head rolling when I stand up and say, “I confess I have a hard time reading about Jesus coming to give me freedom and life and then getting angry because someone chastises me for saying things like “crap” or whatever…”

        And yes, right now, that’s my issue. Been my issue for a few years.

      • Derek: Wrong. It’s a corporate prayer of congregational confession.

  19. Christiane/L's says

    My comment in reply to David was not personally directed at him.
    I wanted to state this, because it was not written with that intent.
    So I will repeat it here, as my own comment in answer to those who see the potential of liturgical prayer to be ‘boring’. I want them to consider another possibility. I want that so much.

    My comment:

    “Is it the purpose of ‘liturgy’ to entertain?

    Or is there something else going on that has meaning?

    When Jesus was working His miracles and feeding crowds, all came and wanted to be near Him. But in the time of His greatest trial, they went away.
    I guess two thousand years hasn’t really changed human nature.
    He still calls to us in His time of pain: from the ghettos and the barrios, from the prisons and the nursing homes, from the inner city schools and the soup kitchens, from the places where we wouldn’t be caught dead. He is there calling us. But where are we?

    Down at the ‘church of what’s happening now’ having a good ole time praising God, laughing at the jokes in the sermon and singing the songs that make us feel better about ourselves. Then we all go eat fried chicken and go home. I think it’s called ‘fellowship’.

    Is the purpose of liturgy to ‘entertain’?

    Or is there something else more meaningful going on there?
    Like listening for the still small Voice that calls out : “I thirst” “

  20. BTW, I love the picture. Now THAT is a kickin’ worship band! 🙂

  21. I think a great distinction in worship is to ask the question–Is worship what God does for us or what we do for God? Liturgy literally means, “the work of the people”. Perhaps you are aware of Kierkegaard’s illustration? He said most people see worship this way: The people are the audience, the preacher/choir, etc. are the actors and God is the prompter, telling the actors what to say. He suggests real worship is when God is the audience, the people are the actors and the preacher/choir are the prompters, helping the actors say their lines. In the evangelical tradition, we have operated out of the assumption that worship is what God does for us through the preacher/choir. We often use language such as “I go to church to be filled”, or “I didn’t get anything from the service today.” We evaluate a worship service on the basis of how we were spiritually/emotionally moved or how many people responded at the time of invitation. Those that suggest that worship must be spontaneous, due to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, miss the whole point of worship. Worship is not what the Holy Spirit does for us, but we do for him and thus requires our best efforts at planning, preparing and expressing our worship. Do do less is lazinessin the very Presence of God. Perhaps if we approached worship from the assumption “This is what I am doing for God” it would change our whole attitude.

  22. So excited for this series! Liturgy ROCKS (out with the band).

  23. Sounds like it’s going to be an interesting series. For what it’s worth, I’ve got experience on both sides of the fence. I grew up in firstly a Brethren congregation, and then a Baptist church that had embraced quite a lot of the charismatic stuff. I’ve just finished interning at an evangelical Anglican church where I attended at university, and have been accepted for the Anglican ministry.

    Personally speaking, I prefer some liturgy, even though in our case it’s fairly stripped down. I think corporate confession is critical in affirming our human weakness and constant need of grace. Whenever I lead congregational confession or recite it I’m reminded of a Jerry Bridges quote: “Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond reach of God’s grace, and your best days are never so good that you are without need of God’s grace.” I enjoy our congregational intercessions too; the church united praying for the issues that affect our fellowship and beyond. I think biblical, well-written liturgy provides a platform from which to spring from.

    In my experience many free churches are just as liturgical, but unconsciously so. The pastor will say the same things each week, the same choruses will be sung, and broadly the same service order will be followed. The difference is that rather than the congregation as a whole participating, it becomes a priesthood of the few; the worship leader tells us what to sing, the pastor prays for us and preaches at us. The congregation actually can play very little part in worship, which I personally feel contributes to the consumer mentality that blights so many evangelical churches.

    Furthermore, no matter how godly the minister, his extempore prayer is rarely going to be as rich as one that has been pre-mediatated. I think churches who don’t have some level of congregational liturgy are definitely the poorer.


  24. Looking forward to the posts.
    Coming from a Presbyterian and Irish background all of the above points are adequately discovered from within the congregation I worship. Our Sunday’s contain both contemporary and traditional forms of meeting with our God.
    My tension lately surrounds the general passive nature of reformed theology, clergy v laity. But working my way through this.
    At times I feel like Skye Jethani in his lovely wee book The Divine Commodity where he escapes from an evangelical meeting to meet with God as he stairs up at a starlit sky, as opposed to the stuff going on inside.
    I trust the posts will be helpful in My/Our journey.

  25. Silence, something sorely missing from our church. It just freaks people out not to have noisy distraction.

  26. As a Catholic I am looking forward to this series.

    “This is a series that affirms my belief that post-evangelicalism- intentionally reaching back to the resources of larger, deeper, more ancient church- is the way forward for evangelicals.”

    I would like to see that happen as well. Really never much preferred conversations that pretend the ancient Church never existed or was relevant in any way.

  27. Great discussion on traditional vs contemporary worsip at

    Its the issue that’s tearing apart the lcms now. The discussion at the website is great in showing how yor worship reflects what you believe.

    For lutherans, we assemble to receive Gods blessings in word and sacrament, and so the purpose of liturgy is to focus us on these gifts so that we receive the full benefits of them. The liturgy should clearly teach and remind us that Christ gave his body and blood so that we may be forgiven and live in heaven with him.

    You don’t need liturgy to do that, but the repetiton helps one to get in the habit of reverently pondering the Gospel and excluding distractions. Kids can learn it before reading, and the old can remember it when all other memories have faded.

  28. As a (former) member of both the Lutheran and the Presbyterian church families, and as a regular attender of a non-denom church family….

    I MISS THE LITURGY so much!

    I’ve decided to pull out my old, red Lutheran hymnal (LCA, circa 1960s) and make it a key part of my daily devotions.

    I used to know both the Apostle’s and the Nicene Creeds by heart. The Westminster Confession. The “old” hymns.

    Now, they’re fading from memory, and I hunger to bring them back.

    They all never were rote to me. They always tied me to the greater sister/brotherhood of the church universal… over our 2,000 year history. They enabled me to worship with my Roman and Orthodox friends when I visited their parishes.

    Now, evangelical, “seeker services” don’t even display the cross of Christ up front, and that breaks my heart. Yes, the cross is an offense to the world, but they’ll eventually see it as the key to their salvation.

    They “old” hymns… we’re now on 2 generations of American Christians who have little to no knowledge of (or relationship with) the hymns I sang as a child that were passed down to me over hundreds of years of English-speaking Christendom.

    And, even though I’m a life-long Protestant, I’ve always explored the beliefs of my Roman and Orthodox friends (whose devotion to Christ is awesome). It pains me when we don’t pass on to our young people in evangelical, non-denom church families the histories of Origen, Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, Irenaeus, and the martyrs/saints.

    I applaud you for posting on this topic, and I look forward to your posts!

    Kyrie eleison… Lord, have mercy on us all lest we forget the 2,000 years’ history the brothers/sisters have trod for your glory.

  29. William Willimon just posted this article on his blog. It seems apropos:

  30. The 1st church I attended after I was a Christian ( I had visited many before I was a Christian) was a non-denomiantional Community Bible Church. It was founded by Moody Bible Institute folks. George Sweeting still attends there. The hymnal had responsive readings in the back and we did those probably once or twice a month. I really liked it. I attend an SBC church now. Once in a while we read the Apostles and the Nicene Creeds together as a congregation. On or around St. Patricks Day I read “Patricks Breastplate” as our Benediction. I have suggested doing more liturgy to my pastor, but he just isn’t into that. He has no problem with it. He just likes the way our service is set-up. He is in charge of leading worship, so I don’t rock that boat. I don’t need to do responsive readings in order to Worship, even though I think it can add to Worship.