Visitors to Coram Deo’s worship gathering will immediately recognize the use of liturgy in our worship. We follow a definite pattern every week. We employ scripted confessions, creeds, prayers, and professions of faith to structure to our worship. The question is: why? This series of posts seeks to answer that question for those new to this type of worship and also for those called to lead it.
Reason #2: Liturgy is Historical
In historic Christianity, liturgy was a given. Christian worship was scripted according to a definite form. If you’ve ever been to a traditional Lutheran or Anglican worship service or even a Catholic mass, you’ve seen how liturgy works. People speak, stand, sit, kneel, and pray at specified times, following a particular structure or pattern.
In recent centuries, as liberal theology drained away the historic orthodox convictions of traditional churches, the liturgy became little more than a vacuous structure, devoid of any devotion to Christ or commitment to His mission. In response, the evangelical movement arose. In its passion to avoid the “deadness” of traditional church liturgies, evangelicalism went rabidly anti-liturgical, opting instead for a free-form sort of worship service. Evangelicals still prayed, preached, and sang in their worship gatherings, but without an intentional pattern. Corporate confession of sin, the recitation of creeds, spoken prayers, and the regular practice of the Lord’s Supper were mostly neglected. Better to “let the Spirit lead” than to succumb to a dead orthodoxy.
But the net result of this change has been less than desirable. Evangelicalism has produced a generation of Christians who have a vague sense that corporate worship is important, but have no idea why, or what (if any) form it should take, or whether there is even a biblical pattern for how the church should approach its Lord. They also lack a sense of history. They have little regard for the continuity of “the faith once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3) throughout generations and centuries.
If you study church history, you’ll notice that every generation held the same few elements as “properly basic” for Christian discipleship: the Ten Commandments. The Lord’s Prayer. The Apostles’ Creed. The Great Commission. The Shema. Where did our forefathers learn these things? In the liturgy! Ask yourself: do you know all ten of the Commandments? Can you recite the Lord’s Prayer from memory? Is the Apostles’ Creed second nature to you? If not, it’s probably because you grew up in a church that didn’t practice liturgy. In fact, chances are that your non-literate Christian ancestors knew the Bible better than you do – simply because of the liturgical rhythms they were immersed in. Benedictine monks sing through the entire book of Psalms not once, but three times each year. After doing that for forty years, don’t you think you’d have most of them memorized?
Because we want to embrace our rich connection with the people of God throughout history, we use liturgy in our worship gatherings.