Bryan Chapel in his book Christ Centered Worship give a good overview of the philosophy of worship, but he concludes with historical models of worship liturgy used by ancient and contemporary Christianity. One of the values of studying the liturgy of the past is that knowing the reason behind a liturgy actually aids in the worship of the believer. This does not necessarily need to be done didactically through a class on liturgy. Rather, a body can teach the reasons for its own liturgy by using the liturgy as its own self-documenting service.
For example, one can walk through the Luthern liturgy and explain each element of the service, but a Luthern service is typically laid out so that each element describes what is happening.
One missing aspect in the liturgy of some conservative churches is a well thought out and logical liturgy that does more than just lead up to the “preaching” time. Thoughtful liturgy is an incredible teaching tool for the edification of the body if churches will take the time to think though it.
The churches I have in mind which have a weak liturgy are minimalist in regards to worship: only those things explicitly demanded by scripture are suitable for corporate worship. Though not a bad starting point, these churches tend to downplay some aspects of worship since how explicit does something have to be in Scripture before it is acceptable?
Corporate pray, as an example, is a lost art in many conservative congregations. I actually cannot remember the last time a prepared prayer was read before the congregation that thoughtfully praised God for all his worth in clear, concise, and understandably deep language. Paul, wrote out his prayers to the churches he corresponded with: reading Paul’s letters is perhaps the closest some get to a corporate prayer!
My point is not about prayer – perhaps I’ll write a post about that later. My point is that a good liturgy teaches while it leads the congregation into fellowship with God. Prayers, music, songs, readings, and sermons are all elements of liturgy, but they way they are stung together to lead to a fuller understanding of God’s revelation of Himself is the practical value of a liturgy.
Perhaps we need to rethink through how three songs, a couple prayers, and a sermon leads us into fellowship with our Savior.