What is Liturgy, Why Do We Need It?

Liturgy is a topic you may or may not be familiar with. Some see liturgy as a church’s order of service. Others see it as a worn out way to worship God replete with hymns and congregational movements. Others still, may have no idea what liturgy is. Enter Mike Cosper, Pastor of Worship and Arts here at Sojourn. Below is an excerpt from The Gospel Coalition where Mike gives us a look into why and how Sojourn employs liturgy as a means to saturate the service in the gospel:

“At Sojourn, we came to embrace a loosely liturgical model about seven years ago. The decision came not out of a desire to reform our worship services, but out of a broader desire to root everything we do in the gospel. As we dialogued about worship, we came to see that the historic rhythms of liturgical worship helped to reinforce and remember the rhythms of the gospel. Our gathering has four general movements: adoration (God is holy), confession and lament (we are sinners), assurance (Jesus saves us from our sin), sending (the Holy Spirit sends us on mission). Within these broad categories are weekly practices, including a call to worship, confession of sin, passing the peace, and so on. Each service comes to a climax at the communion table and ends with a sense of commitment and commission. It’s like “Gospel Practice” — a rehearsal of the rhythms of the gospel that not only mark conversion, but mark the everyday life of Christians.

The liturgy is a broad architecture upon which can hang any number of practices. We read a lot of Scripture together in our gatherings, and most of our transitions and calls to action (like a call to confess our sins) will be connected to a Scripture reading. But we also like to incorporate other kinds of content, like historic confessions and pastoral prayers. Here’s a few reasons why we find the liturgical structure helpful.

  • Worship is a weekly spiritual discipline, and Sundays are like “practice” for the rest of the week. Rehearsing the gospel is like rehearsing a jump shot. When the clutch moments of life happen, what kind of praying, thinking, and singing will our people fall back on?
  • Using historic resources like creeds, catechisms, and pastoral prayers demonstrate our connection with a church that is bigger than us. It helps to humble our own church’s view of itself and broaden our view of God’s work in history.
  • No single song, sermon, or service can tell the whole story of the Bible, and we shouldn’t feel burdened to communicate the whole in each individual moment of the service. If we do, we end up with something that’s reductionistic (i.e., we only sing songs about atonement). 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.

No model for worship has a lock on the Spirit of God. The best way we can prepare for the Spirit to work is to center our gatherings on the things the Spirit gets excited about — namely, the person and work of Jesus Christ. A gathering centered on the story of the gospel and the person of Jesus doesn’t ensure revival but seems the wisest way to pursue an encounter with his Spirit.”

Excerpt from:TGC Asks: How Do You Use Liturgical Elements in Your Church Worship?, by John Starke, 2011

Here’s a chart from Mike’s book Rhythms of Grace on page 123 showing the movements in a typical Sojourn church service:

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.