The reliturgicalisation of the church

iPhone July 2011 005 - CopyThere was a time when if you went into a church you knew what you would get. And then churches decided to do something different, except they all did the same different thing. Kevin DeYoung has a really interesting post on the Gospel Coalition blog assessing the New Evangelical Liturgy, and in particular critiquing it as by no measure superior to a older evangelical liturgy.

His comments are fascinating, and from the perspective of someone who has been a part of a few different types of church, largely correct. You get your welcome, your block of worship songs, your notices, a sermon, a closing song. You may also get some prayer thrown in before, during or at the end of the worship. DeYoung summarises his critique by saying: “I don’t believe it can be argued, by objective measures, that the new is superior to the old. Which liturgy has more pray? What one has more Scripture? Which one does more to accent sin and forgiveness? Which one anchors us better in the ancient creeds and confessions of the church? Which one is the product of more sustained theological reflection? Which is more shaped by the gospel?”

Firstly, he makes a point so obvious it is almost axiomatic, which is, all churches, denominations and congregations have a liturgy. They have a form and practice they use to structure their worship and teaching. There is order even in apparent chaos, there is order in refusing to conform. Many churches threw off the shackles of traditional liturgy because they felt it had become rote and devoid of the passionate intent with which they wished to worship God. And then they created new forms to structure their services, which are just as liable to become stale, routine and devoid of the orginal intent. DeYoung’s point is that all liturgies run that risk and he would rather have the older form than the newer. Continue reading