I was away from home this past weekend so I took the opportunity to attend two historic and liturgical churches. One of them was very traditional, while the other church was a little more contemporary, even including a familiar Chris Tomlin song in their worship.
As I participated in the liturgies of these services, I took note of a few things that evangelicals (at least those who are “non-liturgical”) could learn from these historic churches.
- Participation. The congregations were engaged in the liturgy. In addition to congregational singing, the churches were invited to respond to God in the liturgy with praise and prayer and lay people were invited to read scripture.
- Confession. I was invited (at least twice in one service) to take time to reflect and confess sin to God and the whole congregation together confessed our sinfulness before God as a part of the liturgy. By contrast, in many evangelical churches I am likely to be invited to confess sin to God only once a month at a communion service. They say confession is good for the soul—confession instills humility, thankfulness, and reminds us for our need for redemption.
- Doctrine. In both services I attended the whole congregation read with affirmation the Nicene Creed. I imagine that if evangelical churches did this more often, people would be a little bit less confused about what to believe about core theological issues. Confessing the creed regularly would reinforce good doctrine among congregants and it would serve as a guide as people read the Scriptures.
- Trinity. Since I do not regularly worship in a historic-liturgical church, I was again struck by how integrated the Trinity was in their worship. Here the Trinity was not a mathematical puzzle. Rather, these liturgies were reminders that the Father sent the Son so that the Spirit would dwell within us to confess Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. The liturgical expression of the Trinity was, then, an expression of the gospel.
I left both churches feeling like evangelical churches would do well to be more intentional about what they include in their own non-liturgical liturgies.
At the same time, I also appreciated a number of things about my own tradition. For starters, I much prefer padded seats over hard wooden pews.