In many ways, “liturgy” is all the rage right now. Our postmodern context has effectively rooted out our roots, and the emerging newest adult generation (perhaps the first group of evangelicals to have grown up in the purely “contemporary” church) is feeling the fragmentation and ahistorical nature of much of evangelicalism, especially as it pertains to worship. And we want our roots back. So, we’re falling in love, for the first time, with what our parents abandoned and our grandparents perhaps took for granted. But, because we’re Americans, we have the nearly instinctual tendency to make well-meaning movements into fads. We can easily commercialize “liturgy,” “ancient-future worship,” and so on, into commodities.
I do a lot of talking about and praising “liturgy” on my blog, and in this instance, by “liturgy” I mean what it means in its more commonly used sense (high structure, a lot of spoken elements, kind of choppy) as opposed to its real sense (any worship structure including the rowdiest “unstructured” Pentecostal service). Several of my charismatic friends (especially those who experienced fresh waves of the Holy Spirit’s renewal in dead “liturgical” churches in the 70s and 80s) have commented to me about how they felt the liturgy they came from was very lifeless. There is a very important point to be made about the “life” that must be present under the liturgy for the liturgy to have any meaning at all. In fact, this life is the great presupposition of any good liturgy. So in an effort to balance praise of liturgy with important reflections about cautions and fundamentals, I’ve found Doug Wilson‘s recent post very helpful. In “A Cistern for the Water,” Wilson makes some important clarifications about liturgy:
If a man must be born again before he can see the kingdom of God, he must certainly be born again before he can see the realities of that kingdom in the liturgy. If you can’t see the point, then you are not going to be able to see the point anywhere.
If the assembled people know and love God, then He receives their worship. If they do not, then He does not. If the assembled worshippers are spiritually dead, then all their liturgical accouterments are just ornate carvings on the gravestones.
And this, folks, is why, even with all the hang-ups, add-ons, and trappings, I’m still an evangelical, albeit with a small “e.” We must be born again.