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Missional and Highly Liturgical: Is that possible?

May 29th, 2009
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Often, one is given the impression that that only those congregations that are willing to move away from the historic liturgy are those that are “missional” churches and “mission-minded” congregations. This video of a congregation that uses the hymnal, goes “by the book,” if you will, and celebrates the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, with a liturgy that would be considered “high church” by many, is very much growing. The congregation is pastored by a convert to Lutheranism, from the Baptist Church, and, as you will see, is attracting many young people, with families, to  a deeper, fuller, richer and more meaningful life of prayer, meditation on the Word, a Christ-centered approach rooted in the historic worship life that we Lutherans, as heirs of the Western Church liturgy, have always fully embraced throughout our history. They are attracting people who are finding it to be a great and wonderful blessing to be able to turn away from the shallow theology and worship life commonplace in American Protestantism. Here is a video about Grace Lutheran Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma:

httpvhd://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qo0V57INpA

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  1. Pastor Steven Stolarczyk
    May 29th, 2009 at 07:58 | #1

    Excellent example of a church doing liturgy well and knowing why they’re doing it. Unfortunately, my experience at traditional churches has been that they stick with the traditional liturgy, not because they understand and appreciate it, but because it’s comfortable for them and “we’ve always done it that way”. With that midset, visitors and new members can even become a threat since they don’t know how things are done, have new ideas, and, as a result, threaten the comfort zone of old members. I realize I’m going somewhat beyond the strictly liturgical question, but even this positive example strikes me as a reminder of the importance of understanding why we worship as we worship and getting beyond simply “what’s comfortable for me”, whether that be contemporary or traditional.

  2. Ryan
    May 29th, 2009 at 08:48 | #2

    The “Liturgical Gangsta” at Intermonk.com cover this same question with a surprising unified voice in their answers.

    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/liturgical-gangstas-12-worship-and-evangelism

  3. Rev. Joseph Eggleston
    May 29th, 2009 at 08:48 | #3

    That’s exceptional. I will be sharing this video with some folks in my congregation, as it is exactly what I have been trying to get across about the timelessness of the liturgy. Our people don’t need creativity in worship, they need stability.

  4. May 29th, 2009 at 09:39 | #4

    I would say that it’s actually easier for traditional churches to be missional than contemporary ones. Let me explain.

    First, a quick grammar lesson. Whenever you add an “al” to a noun, it becomes an adjective. Therefore “missional” in “missional ministry” is a way to describe the noun “ministry”. So, what’s “mission” mean? It means to send. Therefore, to be missional in your approach, means to send the people you have into the mission field to live out their faith (in their various vocations). Now, what’s the opposite of sending? It’s attracting. Therefore, “attractional ministry” is doing what’s necessary to attract people to you.

    Given that, think about the focus of ministry in a traditional vs. a contemporary congregation. Contemporary church very easily fall into an attractional model because there is so much emphasis on the Sunday morning event that is put on with the goal of drawing in, that is attracting, visitors (although, it’s quite possible to be attractional with a traditional model as well). However, in the traditional model, the perception of visitors isn’t what drives the format, therefore, it’s more natural to focus on the Gospel and it’s transforming power in the lives of God’s people … transforming power that enables and equips them to be missional ones.

  5. Stephen
    May 29th, 2009 at 10:01 | #5

    I only wish my congregation would realize that we can be missional using the liturgy at every service and that we don’t to “dumb down” the service.

    Pr. Beecroft catechized me in 7th Grade when he served ELC in Houston, I am ever thankful to him for teaching us in the manner that he did.
    +SOLI DEO GLORIA+

  6. Stephen Foxx
    May 30th, 2009 at 05:51 | #6

    I too am a former “Baptist” that tried a Lutheran church with our liturgy and tenacious belief in the inerrant Scriptures. I can’t tell you how my life with Christ has deepened and grown since I did this. I can’t tell you how much I love our liturgies that are so pregnant with meaning and purpose. I have truly been like a child in a candy store for four years now. It was so meaningful to me to read, ask, and learn what our liturgy means, why do we follow it in the order we do, what significance do the different parts have? I truly wish all of us that just droll our way through it each week with a heart similar to the Israelites when they wanted a king would realize the incredible privilege we have as God’s children to meet together to rejoice in the Gospel and Sacraments each week and then to share our Christ with a lost community.

  7. May 30th, 2009 at 08:04 | #7

    @Stephen Foxx
    Stephen, thank you for your moving and powerful post. Quite literally, I hear this all the time from converts into Lutheranism. All the time. In my own personal experience whenever I’ve offered a class on why Lutherans worship the way we do, the class is packed. In one case, literally standing room only with people even standing in a hallway outside the classroom to hear. Why? Because we do not do a good job explaining why we are, what we are, and why we do, what we do, as Lutheran Christians. Many lifelong “cradle” Lutherans do not understand what the liturgy is all about and why we do all the things we do during the worship service. They love learning how everything that is done carries with it a lesson, or a symbol, or a meaning. I will never forget, many years ago now, giving a lecture in a congregation on the Lord’s Supper and an elderly gentleman afterwards, came up to me, grabbed my hand in both of his and with tears in his eyes said, simply, “I became a Lutheran because of the Lord’s Supper. I used to be a Presbyterian, but when I took instruction classes the pastor so carefully explained from God’s Word why the Lord’s Supper is such a treasure and gift and that Jesus was truly present under the bread and wine.” Wow.

  8. Steve from Montana
    May 31st, 2009 at 13:42 | #8

    @ptmccain
    Do you write your own materials for that class (as I have done is the past) or are there materials that you can recommend? Seems like it would be helpful to have such a class for adults, for catechumens, and even for Sunday School/Youth Groups. If, by asking, I’m revealing my ignorance over materials that CPH offers, please forgive me.

  9. May 31st, 2009 at 13:49 | #9

    @Steve from Montana
    Hi Steve. I wrote my own materials for the class, but we now have an excellent LifeLight study devoted to the subject of worship: http://www.cph.org/cphstore/product.asp?category=&part_no=203652&find_category=&find_description=&find_part_desc=lifelight+worship

  10. Fr Daniel Hackney
    May 31st, 2009 at 14:29 | #10

    To be highly liturgical is to be missional! Ita Missa Est.

  11. Stephen Foxx
    May 31st, 2009 at 21:58 | #11

    @ptmccain
    Pastor,
    We did have a good discussion about liturgical worship at our Bible Study before the Divine Service this morning. I am glad to see the discussion go the way it has because that is exactly what we talked about; for our next subject during our Sunday Morning Bible Studies having a class on the liturgy. For the ones who know it the review would be excellent; for the ones who don’t know it could truly be life changing.

    Thank you, by the way for this blog. I follow several (mostly Lutheran, Cranach, Blog my Soul) and they are all super. I usually end up sending many of the posts (the “how to for churches and new pastors” for example) to many of my brothers and sisters at our church.

  12. June 3rd, 2009 at 02:42 | #12

    Let me recommend a recent article published in Modern Reformation magazine on this very topic. I was given the writing assignment, “Can Orthodoxy Be Missional?” In it, I argue that within the ancient theology-laden liturgy, one finds God’s multifaceted means for efficacious missional enterprise. This is because the liturgy is not a style of worship but a theology of missional worship through which God is present for the sinner in the promise of the Gospel. Here is the link: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=966&var3=issuedisplay&var4=IssRead&var5=101

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