by Dr. Page Brooks
Liturgical worship is coming back into style nowadays, though it has
been around for centuries. Some people love it; some people hate it. We
started using liturgy in our church several years ago. Here’s why you
shouldn’t use it.
The Connections to the Ancient Church
Many people associate the use of liturgy with the Roman Catholic
Church. Actually, the Romans were not the first to use liturgy. Liturgy
developed in the Early Church, possibly having been influenced by
liturgy from Jewish backgrounds. Using liturgy gives a sense of
connection to something more than the local church. Liturgy allows a
local church to feel connected to the universal church that consists of
all true believers through the ages. Today, churches pride themselves on
being independent, creating new things, and trying to “start
movements.” Liturgy reminds us that we are already part of a greater
movement of God’s kingdom on earth. If you don’t want to be reminded
that we are part of a greater movement and have connections to the
church through the ages, then don’t use liturgy.
The Emphasis on the Church as a Family
The word “liturgy” comes from the Latin and Greek words meaning “the
work of the people,” or “the work of public service.” Liturgy partly
developed as a way to include ALL people together in worship. This idea
stands in stark contrast to today’s worship where the emphasis is on the
worship leader, preacher, or person giving a testimony. Contemporary
worship is all about keeping people entertained and then coming back for
more each week. Liturgy, on the other hand, allows the focus to be for
all the people of the church to participate together in prayers,
responses, and worship. If you don’t want people participating together,
then don’t use liturgy.
The Leveling of the Worship Ground
Contemporary worship elevates those with certain talents, beauty, and
abilities. Because common liturgy is used each Sunday, people come to
know what to expect and understand the movements of the worship. Liturgy
has the effect of leveling the worship ground. It doesn’t matter how
talented or not you are, how much you can read or not, or even if you
can sing or not. When liturgy is used, EVERY person participates in the
worship, not just those on stage. If you don’t want everyone
participating in worship, then don’t use liturgy.
The De-emphasis on the Individual
Worship today tends to emphasize the tastes of the individual.
Regretfully, music choice centers on what sounds good. Sermon topics
revolve around the felt needs of the congregation. While sometimes these
issues are important to keep in mind, our culture emphasizes individual
empowerment. Liturgy reminds us that the world does not revolve around
us, especially worship. Instead, God has ordained worship to belong to
Him as the chief audience. Liturgy allows us to be participants in the
worship event that centers upon God. If you want to keep empowering
postmodern individualism in worship, then don’t use liturgy.
The Celebration of Scripture
It occurred to me one day when I was looking at all the scripture
readings and scriptural prayers in the liturgy…Romans Catholics have
more scriptures readings in their worship than most Protestant churches!
Liturgy is a celebration of Scripture. In fact, most liturgy is simply
Scripture that is re-arranged for the flow of the worship service. If
you don’t want more scripture in your worship, then don’t use liturgy.
The Establishment of a Routine
Whether church leaders like to admit it or not, all churches get into
a routine. Even in the most Protestant, independent, contemporary
churches, a routine is established. In essence, a “liturgy” is formed
anyway because a regular and expected flow has developed. In following
established liturgical patterns that the church has used through the
centuries, churches can borrow from the rich tradition that has formed
believer’s spiritual lives for centuries instead of having to reinvent
worship for today. If you really prefer to do it on your own, then don’t
The use of liturgy has been life changing for our worship. While we
use liturgy in our church, we are never a slave to it. Rather, liturgy
acts as a guide to lead us into proper times of worship, rather than
depending upon the emotional whims of the day. At the same time, it also
allows us to be lead by the Spirit during appropriate times. Our
worship is not dull and life-less. Rather, liturgy has enlivened us to
be Spirit-led but also be grounded in a flow that is anchored in
something more than ourselves. Liturgy allows the ground at the cross to
truly be level as we come to worship Christ.