Why do this?
By posting the liturgy of the week I hope to help our congregation understand why we do what we do. I shared this information with the worship leaders each week for a while, but I realized that this is not secret information! My prayer is that it aids in the making and maturing process we’re so passionate about here at GPBC. In light of that, you may have a few questions….
Why the word “Liturgy”?
Yes, I like the word, but no, it doesn’t mean we’re changing denominations! Some may associate the word “liturgy” with a more rigid traditional service or something where we just “go through the motions”. This misunderstanding is unfortunate, because it’s actually a great word. Every church has a liturgy, it’s simply what you do on a regular basis on a Sunday morning. It literally means “a work on behalf of the people”.
We believe our liturgy ought to reflect the story of the gospel each week through the lens of the text being preached. No matter where we’re at in scripture, we tell the gospel through our songs, prayers, confessions, and readings. What does that look like? Well, it looks like beholding God in his glory, recognizing our shortcomings and confessing our sin, being raised up out of our grief over sin by the grandeur of grace, and then being sent out on a mission (see the above graphic, adapted from Zach Hicks’ book for a visual aid). Songs, readings, confessions, baptism, communion, and prayers can function in any of these things.
Why not just sing?
Don’t these extra things just “mess up the flow”? Not unless your priority is to just sing a song set and get out of the way for the “real reason we’re here”, namely the sermon. We need all of these elements along with the sermon to help us rehearse the gospel every day. Mike Cosper says it this way here…
No single song, sermon, or service can tell the whole story of the Bible….The beauty of a gospel-shaped gathering is that it allows the church to fully enter into each movement—deeply confessing, deeply lamenting, or deeply hoping—without feeling the need in every other breath to relieve the tension. This works because the next movement of the service is just around the corner, and the service as a whole speaks a more holistic message than any individual component is capable.
In other words, gospel liturgy models how to come to God and teaches that through various means. Each one of these means are limited by themselves, but all together they help us rehearse the gospel. In doing that it shapes, forms, and influences us.
How does it shape us?
When I said liturgy forms you, you may push back and ask, “how?”. The reality is that worship forms us, it just depends on what we worship. In speaking of idol worship, Psalm 115:8 says this…
Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them.
What we worship is bound to form us, and so as we worship corporately we want to take that reality seriously. Are we to be formed into the image of Christ or an idol? Not only do we then become what we worship, but we become how we worship. Consider Bob Kauflin’s points in that regard here…
- Culturally hip, trendy services tend to produce culturally hip, trendy Christians.
- Dry, intellectual services tend to produce dry, intellectual Christians.
- Services driven by the pursuit of emotional highs tend to produce emotionally driven Christians.
- Thoughtful, biblically informed, gospel-rich, emotionally engaging services tend to produce that kind of Christian.
We obviously want to fall in to the last category! Worship is a weekly spiritual discipline, and as such church becomes a place where we “practice” for the rest of the week. Think about practicing a penalty kick for soccer. When the pressure is on and the game is on the line, only the person who has practiced well will be able to deliver a goal. In those tense moments of life throughout the week, what will you have to fall back on? My prayer is that as we rehearse the gospel weekly, you will have those songs, passages, confessions, and prayers to remind you of your identity in Christ.