One of the things sorely missing in today's contemporary Christian churches is the liturgy. It sounds like an out-of-date term, like something only those stuffy Christians from ages past are into. It sounds...boring. But a liturgy is one of the most life-giving features of the church, and without it, we're losing so much of what makes us vital.
See, liturgy is meant to draw you into the story. It's meant to put a narrative behind your worship, something you can get into, something your heart can latch onto. Something that's connected to a season and a natural development and a progression toward greater things. A liturgy reminds you where you are on the journey, but also where you've been and where you're going.
Without it, we are nothing more than wanderers. And a lot of today's Christians are feeling that wilderness.
Part of the problem is what has become "topical preaching" - sermon series designed to address particular ideas and tell you how to live. A lot of them have to do with getting the story into you, but they don't sweep you up in the story. It's meant to feed you and guide you, but not nourish you and encourage you. It's all about what you're supposed to be doing instead of what God is already doing among you. Without any real rhyme or reason to what this series is or what the next one will be or how they tie into anything, we end up with just bits and pieces of God, but not a story at all. Not something that relates to our real journey, but only something that briefly touches our current place.
But it's not just the preaching. It's also the musical worship. A lot of churches have gone contemporary, replacing songbooks with big screens and blasting the latest contemporary worship hits. The problem with this is that we don't play these songs enough to make them meaningful to our developing faith; they bring us in touch with just a moment and then they are gone, rarely if ever to circle back.
How many songs have you sung in the past year alone? How many of them will you sing next year? In a lot of churches, the answer is in the hundreds. Something new every week, or every couple of weeks. And then a new thing all over again.
And if one does circle back around, we think how refreshing it is. We haven't sung that song in a long time. Why did we ever get away from it? But before we can even finish the question, we've moved on from it again.
It's touch-and-go. God seems to show up and then disappear and the story is one thing one week and something entirely different the next week and the music follows suit. And it's no wonder then that we think that God is just something else we do, one more thing on a busy schedule. It doesn't make much sense. We kind of like it, maybe, but it's not life-giving; it's not vital to our being.
Because there's no liturgy to it.
If you're having trouble believing that, if you're still not sold that having a solid liturgy - a narrative of worship, a story to get grounded into - is vital to a life of faith, pull out a song you sang last year, two years ago, three years ago (if you can remember one) - pull out a song from your old songbook - and sing it and see what happens to your heart. Our hearts long for this kind of grounding, for this kind of something familiar to draw deeply into.
We need liturgy in our churches, even in our contemporary, casual dress, come-as-you-are, seeker-sensitive, cutting-edge, "hip" churches. We need to get back to having something there that guides us.
Lest we continue on simply as wanderers, too many of whom are simply wandering away.