I grew up in a pentecostal church. And when I say pentecostal, I mean pentecostal. I was charismatic with no seatbelt. At the age of 15, I was voted “most pentecostal” in my youth group. True story. I still have the certificate somewhere. Every Sunday, my parents would dress my brother and me in a suit and tie, pile us in the car, and drive us to the church building. Together, we would read an opening psalm, sing some songs, pray for congregational needs, listen to a sermon, and pray a closing prayer. Every week of every month of every year.
It shaped who I became. And it shaped how I approached God.
I never referred to these practices as “liturgy,” but that’s what they were. A liturgy is simply a form according to which public worship is ordered. It’s a pattern, a routine of public worship for the church.
LITURGY IN CHURCH PLANTING
As a church planting resident with the Houston Church Planting Network, I learned a lot about the structure of worship services. I was able to meet with numerous pastors who had designed a thoughtful pattern for their public worship, and I began to see the importance of intentionality within that hour or two we spend together on Sundays. And now, in joining the Sojourn Houston family, I look forward to an even greater emphasis on liturgy in our Sunday Gatherings.
We begin our gatherings with a call to worship. We are summoned, awakened to the holy presence of God. He is worthy. And in response to this call, we respond with shouts of “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” and “We will bless His name forever!” We sing our way into the gospel. And as we sing, as we dwell upon God’s worthiness, we are faced with our own unworthiness. We are sinners in need of grace. Like disobedient children with chocolate-covered faces, we have indulged in the pleasures of this world despite our Father’s loving warnings. We are humbled, so we confess our sin together. And as we lift our gaze, we are reminded that forgiveness is offered through Jesus Christ. He is our peace. Our hearts are ready now to listen. God's Word is proclaimed in the sermon. God's Word is displayed at the Table. And finally, with a prayer, we are sent back into the world—our neighborhoods, workplaces, and schools. We “go in peace."
As a pastor prone to the idol of perfection, I once believed the lie that every sermon, every week, needs to be a home run. Anxiety led me and discouragement followed me. But in our liturgy, I find some relief. By the time I step into the pulpit, God’s people have already been faithfully reminded of the gospel. In fact, they’ve sung the it, which is uniquely powerful.
MY HOPE IN LITURGY
In a culture of flashy and tweet-able soundbites, a slow and intentional liturgy may be just what we need. We are committed to "adorn the ordinary ministries of Word and sacrament by rightly positioning them within the full drama of God’s redeeming action. In other words, our liturgy is meant to tell a story, and as we are immersed in that story, as we rehearse the gospel drama week after week, the story begins to shape what we love and desire and value” (Parish Primer). I yearn to do these things alongside the saints, to heed God's call to worship, to confess our sins, to be reassured of our forgiveness, and to feast at His Table with you all.