I know that not all of us come from so-called “liturgical” traditions, but all of us do use a liturgy of sorts. Liturgy is a compound Greek word meaning “public work” that is associated with the corporate act of worship.
A liturgy is any expression of that public worship be it heavily scripted or greatly improvised.
Even the churches who “let the Spirit” move the direction and flow of worship, practice a form of liturgy by the very naming of a gathering that is “free-flowing.”
I (Scott) grew up in a world of both Pentecostals and Presbyterians. My grandparents were part of a small denomination called the Church of God out of Cleveland, TN. It was the denomination in which my mother and father were nurtured and discipled in faith. The order of worship was more freeform than that of the Presbyterian liturgy of the community in which my parents eventually landed, but it had a rhythm and flow to it that was liturgical.
The Pentecostal liturgy told a story of God’s rescue and deliverance, his mercy and grace. Like my Presbyterian church, there were elements of praise, in word and in song, a public confession (albeit, different from the unison reading of a printed corporate prayer), and a reminder of God’s forgiveness through the proclamation of the Gospel. There were testimonies of God’s faithfulness and an invitation for the people in the community to share.
One thing that particularly stuck out to me in this Penetecostal community that was slightly different from my Presbyterian church was that it had a choir, but not a choir one had to “sign up for,” “audition for,” or “practice with” ahead of time, but a seemingly spontaneous spur of the moment invitation for the congregation to come up front and “be” the choir in leading the people in song.
Of course, there was nothing spontaneous about it. It was planned spontaneity–there was indeed a liturgy!
Liturgy is not just the purview of Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans and the Mainline Protestant Denominations. The Roman Missal, Book of Common Prayer, Lutheran Liturgy, and Book of Common Worship may make it seem that way, but we all follow a script of some sort, or as I would rather see it, a story about God, humanity, and our relationship to him, just as my grandparent’s Pentecostal community.
When we see our liturgies, our corporate worship, as something bigger than us, we tap into the larger story of God’s redemptive and reconciling work among his people. Eugene Peterson captures this well when he says, “Liturgy prevents the narrative form of Scripture from being reduced to private individualized consumption.”
When we call people to worship, invite them to collectively confess their sins, declare God’s forgiveness over them, pray for the greater needs of the world, the nation, and our particular community, and profess our faith together, we step into the arena with the great cloud of witnesses who have run this race, who have entered this story before us, and who urge us to live out God’s call, not simply as individuals, but as a people of the King, who are part of God’s redemptive and restorative narrative.
We become part of the story that has been told for centuries and will continue to be told until the return of our King.
Our liturgy shapes us.
With that said, The Pastors Workshop, believes that liturgy is intended to tell God’s story. While there are many forms of liturgy, we have included what we believe are some common liturgical elements appropriate for the telling of God’s story in almost any denominational and congregational setting.
Our Liturgy as Story Includes:
Calls to Worship that acknowledge the worthiness of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer God whose story is played out from Genesis to Revelation.
Prayers of Invocation that recognize the human need to invite God’s presence into our daily lives because we have a tendency to forget that He is already there.
Prayers of Adoration that call out the beauty of God, the world that He has made, and the people He has formed and is forming.
Prayers of Confession that take seriously the story of the fall of humanity not just in the isolation of the Garden of Genesis 3, but in the day-to-day failures we as a people live out by creating idols to worship other than God.
Prayers of Pardon that shake us free from the guilt and shame of our sinfulness, that highlight the story of God’s love, mercy, and grace through his Son, Jesus.
Prayers for Illumination which take into consideration the depravity of our minds, our inability to grasp what is good, pure, noble, and trustworthy apart from God’s intervention in our thinking, feeling, and understanding.
Prayers of the People/Intercession which step into the current struggles and sorrows of our world, our nation, and our community with the certain trust that only God can heal and provide.
Benedictions that go with us from our place of liturgy, empowered to bring that story into action on our streets, in our schools, in our work, and among our family and friends every day of the week in which we are scattered in the world as a church.
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