I was raised in a non-liturgically based Christian denomination and have since spent the vast majority of my adult life in a Pentecostal/Charismatic context. Suffice it to say, I was not well-versed in liturgy. At least not in the traditional sense of the word.
However, my experience in more liturgically based church gatherings have always caused me to be more thoughtfully engaged in the service. Not just intellectually, but in contemplative, reflective and prayerful ways as well.
And, you know what I’ve learned?
Liturgical cues give me the space to pause and ponder.
Liturgical cues give me the space to reflect more deeply on the biblical passage being read, the creed being recited or the symbol being emphasized. And this ‘pause’ has helped me to better appreciate the teaching emphasis in that moment.
Liturgical cues help me to extract meaning from the service in ways that would not have been possible if the liturgical cue was excluded from the order of service.
I’ve also discovered that I have a greater tendency to remember the lessons long after the service has ended; lessons I would often soon forget after leaving a non-liturgically based gathering.
In the end, contemporary church services rarely yield the same results as those experienced in liturgically based settings.
Why? For three reasons.
Creating Space for Liturgical Impulses in Contemporary Church Services
1) Most contemporary church gatherings rarely incorporate liturgical mechanisms into their order of service.
For example, if there is any scripture reading at all, it almost always comes in the form of the pastor’s text and little more. From my vantage point, we rarely create the space and time to just read the Bible as a community, without commentary.
To allow the words and stories to enter our hearts and minds for pondering.
To imagine ourselves within the stories, as characters in the unfolding drama.
To pause and listen to the scriptures being read as a community.
To pause and allow the Bible to speak to us and for us, as it forms us into a Jesus-looking community.
We need these liturgical moments and most contemporary church gatherings rarely have them.
What are we missing?
The same can be said for our lack of symbols.
Symbols are often viewed negatively within most evangelical circles, except for the cross, which is itself becoming less visible.
From my perspective, images should have a place within our gatherings. They have a way of sparking our imagination, creating pictures of the stories of scripture, drawing our attention to those who have gone before us, while inviting us into the story.