Can liturgy be missional?

One of the current debates happening in the Church of England is about the relation between liturgical forms of worship and the task of mission. Put simply, some would claim that a highly structured and ‘liturgical’ service—in the sense of being shaped by formal liturgy—creates barriers to outsiders and is therefore an obstacle to mission and growth. So there is an association claimed between churches that are growing and those that have informal cultures of collective worship.

But it is not quite so simple! In the last few years we have also seen growth in the numbers attending places with more formal cultures of collective worship, including cathedrals and Oxbridge colleges (those these latter are rather sui generis). And we need to avoid the exaggerated polarity between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ for other reasons as well. On the one hand, Anglican clergy take a vow that they will ‘only use the forms of service authorised by canon law’, and so any Church of England service ought to be recognisable as Anglican in some way or another. (In fact, it is very easy to make a quite informal service conform to the shape and style of ‘A Service of the Word’.) On the other hand, churches I have been to where the collective worship is ‘informal’ often follow a quite strict and predictable pattern, and can make lots of assumptions about who does what and when, which, left unexplained, could be baffling and off-putting to visitors.

So can liturgy be missional? Can churches that use ‘liturgical worship’ draw new people in, see them coming to faith, and grow? This is what I will be exploring at an online training morning with Transforming Worship (South) on Thursday 12th October from 10.30 to 1 pm. You can book by completing the form here.

We will be considering a range of issues around Church of England liturgy, in particular the content and shape of the Communion service, which lend themselves to missional engagement.

The shape of the Communion service moves from welcome and gathering, through confession and forgiveness, into hearing and receiving the word of God, to a celebration of the story of salvation, remembering the climax in Jesus giving himself for us, and moving to being sent out into the world. For regular members of the congregation, this can function as trajectory of discipleship and mission, being drawn in, equipped, and sent out. But for visitors this also includes a dynamic of invitation.

The content of key parts of the service resonate with issues in our culture. We know our need of community—hence the gathering and welcome. We are acutely aware of the presence of evil in our midst—hence the need for confession. We long for wisdom of the ages—and so we hear the words of Scripture. We are drawn to stories of good and evil, where good triumphs against the odds—and so we hear the story of salvation history reaching its high point in the death and resurrection of Jesus. We yearn for a sense of higher purpose in our lives—and so we are sent out on a mission.

And specific prayers and elements of the liturgy are rich in missional content. In particular, the longer prayer of thanksgiving after Communion paints a picture of the the people of God, called, equipped, and sent out on mission. In my previous exposition of this prayer, I ended as follows:

This, then, is what the Church of England believes about the role of the ‘laity’, the people of God in the world. We have experienced the unique grace of the Fatherhood of God in Jesus by the Spirit, and we are to offer that to all. We live distinctive lives which proclaim not our goodness, but the grace of God, bringing light into dark places, demonstrating a shared life in a broken world. And we live in hope that God will complete his purposes, and that one day ‘the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever’ (Rev 11.15).

This is a high calling, and one that our practice has not always reflected. But is it one we actually understand? I was discussing this with a (lay) friend, who has been a lifelong Christian and a member of the C of E for 25 years. ‘Have you ever reflected on this prayer, or been taught about its meaning?’ I asked. ‘Not once’ was the reply. As Stanley Hauerwas argues, we do not need to invent new initiatives, or grasp new strategies, so much as learn to be what we are. This challenges each of our traditions—for evangelicals to use this liturgy, for Catholics to teach this liturgy (and not just assume it will do its work), and for liberals to believe this liturgy. Then, perhaps, the whole people of God might find what they need to be faithful witnesses in the world.

Father of all,
we give you thanks and praise,
that when we were still far off
you met us in your Son and brought us home.
Dying and living, he declared your love,
gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory.
May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life;
we who drink his cup bring life to others;
we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world.
Keep us firm in the hope you have set before us,
so we and all your children shall be free,
and the whole earth live to praise your name;
through Christ our Lord.

This sense of the Church as the laity, dispersed in their various roles, is captured rather wonderfully by Dave Walker at I would add, though, that this is not a particularly distinctive view of the Church of England; I think most other denominations would share this understanding of who and what the church (and the laity) really are. But it is nice to confirm that this is the C of E’s actual view!

Of course, there are serious obstacles for many visitors in some church cultures, which seem very formal and inaccessible in the way they use liturgy—and these need addressing.

To explore all these things, come and join me on 12th October as we explore these issues and regain confidence in liturgy as mission. I look forward to seeing you there!

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61 thoughts on “Can liturgy be missional?”

  1. ‘If we want to see churches grow, do we need to abandon liturgy? Or can liturgical services be missional—and if so, how?’

    ‘If ‘ we want to see churches ‘grow’. A big ‘if’. If we are using church services primarily as an evangelistic outreach to gain bums on pews then the informal flesh-friendly anything-goes god-ish church- ish meetings seem to do ok-ish. If it is the purpose of these services to act as adverts and gateways to the unchurched, then a more informal flexible adaptable bendy liturgical-free set-up might work in some places.
    But at what cost?
    1 Corinthians 11 speaks of taking the Lord’s supper ‘unworthily’. If you aren’t laying out the narrow path to communion carefully ie. using all of the liturgy properly, in order, carefully, soberly and in the spirit, then there is surely a danger of causing many to sin as Paul warned of.
    It is the Liturgy of the C of E that is it’s steel backbone. That despite everything, the C of E gets something 100% spot on.
    Remove the liturgy and nothing makes any sense any more. It’s a dabble in the waters of near-enough-christianese-type- thingy.
    The ancient and glorious hymns that expressed so much of the facts and information about our faith have endlessly been replaced with me-focussed- endlessly repetitive- emotion-based rather odd modernish ‘music’.
    The liturgy takes the Christian on a spiritual journey culminating in a reminder of the missional command to ‘go’, taking what they have out to others in the world.
    But this would imply that the services with liturgy are designed to bring the followers of Christ together before God, affirm and renew their faith and bolster the troops before sending them back into battle.
    Remove the liturgy and how do the soldiers, the mature soldiers of Christ, get fortified and restocked and encouraged?
    They don’t.
    They are divided and ignored and abandoned in favour of a seeker-friendly anything goes parody.
    Which is precisely as the wolves and goats in charge of the flock would have it.

    • Well, yes, kind of…but we need to note the opposite issue too. Many liturgical Anglican churches are not growing, and many that are informal are growing, and are doing a good job of forming people as disciples.

          • The truth is that different people need and desire different ways to worship. Much is to do with personality. I can’t see any reason that Anglican churches need to offer informal non liturgical forms of worship when other places already do that. And where are these services authorised or allowed by Canon?

            Soul Survivor is hardly a good advert for this kind of thing and I’m surprised to see you commending it.

          • Do you have kids, Andrew? Are you a parent? My kids went to Soul Survivor over a number of summers and it did them good, not least through being with lots of other young Christians and singing and worshipping in a way they enjoy. The bad behaviour reported of its leader didn’t impact them at the time, though it no doubt troubled them to hear of it later – just as people in Gloucester diocese would have been troubled by accounts of Peter Ball’s behaviour.

          • Thanks James – a useful reminder.
            I am a parent and a grandparent now. Fortunately none of my children were the least bit attracted by that style of worship. They would all have described Soul Survivor and the like as dangerous and cult like.

          • ‘They would all have described Soul Survivor and the like as dangerous and cult like.’

            No they wouldn’t! That is just you projecting.

            All young people like to be with other young people, and are all highly conformist to whatever culture they are in.

          • “No they wouldn’t! That is just you projecting.”

            You are welcome to ask them. And they would have been correct, as has been shown. Growing up in a Vicarage allows experience of all kinds of styles of worship and community.

    • It’s interesting to note that Orthodox congregations seem to be growing, if only very slowly. Their liturgy which is beautiful, sometimes incomprehensible to the uninitiated and very long nevertheless has tremendous pulling power. They don’t, as far as I know, intend it to be missional. I think the problem Anglicans and other churches are facing is this need to prove ourselves, to be validated in some way through the way we do worship. Worship is surely meant to be just that – the worship of God in as beautiful a way as possible. If done with integrity and a degree of discipline, people will be drawn to it.

  2. ‘Can liturgical services be missional—and if so, how?’

    Liturgical services are for the followers of Christ. If an unbeliever comes in to the service then they will witness and join in with an absolutely clear, beautifully designed, journey demonstrating our faith via the liturgy. They may well come to faith through hearing the essential principals of the faith. Why would they not?
    However church services are not primarily for the lost, but for the Christians.
    If you want a liturgical service to be more missional then that is good if there are some unbelievers attending- feel free to explain and unpack what is happening as you go through the liturgy step by step. It can only be useful to everyone, believer and lost soul alike.
    But throw the liturgy out of the bath and it soon becomes a sewer of unsound doctrine and false gospels.

    • I beg to differ. I’ve been in a New Frontiers union service that was so loose that it was devoid of significance. The focus was more on the event or method, than on Christ

      But at the opposite end, as a new, unchurched Christian I’ve attended an early morning communion in a Cathedral where there few few in attendance, but those who were there, knew and recited the service by rote. And I didn’t. No one spoke in welcome before or after. What I learned from that would not be supportive of the Good News of Jesus. And again the focus was more on the event and method than on Christ.
      For the unchurched, a Communion service can be incomprehensible, of its own, without the preaching of the word, without teaching.

  3. ‘Can liturgical services be missional—and if so, how?’
    Liturgical services are for the followers of Christ. If an unbeliever comes in to the service then they will witness and join in with an absolutely clear, beautifully designed, journey demonstrating our faith via the liturgy. They may well come to faith through hearing the essential principals of the faith. Why would they not?
    However church services are not primarily for the lost, but for the Christians.
    If you want a liturgical service to be more missional then that is good if there are some unbelievers attending- feel free to explain and unpack what is happening as you go through the liturgy step by step. It can only be useful to everyone, believer and lost soul alike.
    But throw the liturgy out of the bath and it soon becomes a sewer of unsound doctrine and false gospels.

  4. Whilst I agree that worship is for believers, it is also true that for many people ‘the Sunday service’ is the shop-window of the church. A liturgical service led with love and enthusiasm can be evangelistic. The story of Vladimir’s ambassadors may illustrate this. They described seeing worship in the great Cathedral of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople: “We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth, for surely there is no such splendor or beauty anywhere upon earth. We cannot describe it to you. Only we know that God dwells there among men, and that their service surpasses the worship of all other places. We cannot forget that beauty.” People expect to ‘try before they buy’ and should be offered something well prepared and served.

  5. The liturgy is missional. To doubt it is missional may also be based on scepticism, inexperience, personal experience of getting it wrong, increased lack of confidence in the liturgy, and anxiety that new people are not coming to faith and therefore not adding to the number.

    There may be a lack of trust that God the Holy Spirit shows up at all at Church and won’t if there is any use of ‘formal liturgy’. If the question were, ‘Does using dignified ordered liturgy grow the Church’? Based on the evidence at St. James the Great Church, East Hill, Colchester, the answer would be a resounding yes. There aren’t hundreds of people turning up every Sunday at the Church here, but people are arriving for prayer, worship, and teaching of the faith and the Eucharist.

    Growing the Church and looking after the one or two new folks that do arrive is the evidence that we have here that after a while, there are a further five, ten, fifteen, twenty new people over the due course of the seasons of the Church added to the number. The use of well-structured liturgy in an Anglo-Catholic culture is missional. There remains a challenge as I look over the wall at what is happening in New Wine Churches or Reform Churches and see the different liturgical applications of worship. I also became aware of the more significant numbers of people attending, committing, praying, offering their time and tithe at these churches.

    Regarding the concern of the number of new disciples in Church worshipping every Sunday or midweek, the use of sound, authorised liturgy is vital. For us here in Colchester, we see a bite-size increase in sustained numbers of people attending. I would argue that good liturgy is necessary to grow the Church change the culture, and witness growth. My definition of good liturgy is planned/ordered and resourced with a decent organist/pianist or tech-savvy keyboard warrior displaying images playing pre-recorded music, and a priest if your Church is blessed to have one . . . obviously the priest is not necessary to be present all the time if absolution/consecration are not required in the liturgy.

    Regarding liturgy and seeing growth in the Church, is this not also intrinsically linked to other factors? For instance, the use of liturgy as missional with a focus to include modern music/worship. Fr James Mallon, the founder of Divine Renovation Ministry, taught that focus on good liturgy is essential, but so are three other vital factors =

    1) The Power of the Holy Spirit. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, transformative renewal happens, and parishes come to life.

    2) The Primacy of Evangelization.

    3) The Best of Leadership.

    These and other factors, including changing the culture, the priority of keeping Sunday the primary day, and creating a prayerful learning culture, all help grow the Church and the liturgy is vital to this.

    I would argue that good liturgy focusing on the Eucharist on Sunday and/or midweek with the sharing in Holy Communion is key to growth. From Gregory Dix’s book ‘The Shape of Liturgy’ to Peter Ward’s book ‘Mass Culture’ good liturgy and ‘holy communion’ is at the heart of the matter. I am not saying other forms of the liturgy are not missional, I am offering that through the power of the Holy Spirit, the good liturgy of Holy Communion is transformative, renewal happens, and parishes come to life. My experience here is that increasing numbers, small as they are, are evidence that prayerful, slow spade work as a Parish Priest working collaboratively with the good folk in the Anglo-Catholic tradition offering ordered dignified liturgy is missional.

    • ‘The liturgy is missional. To doubt it is missional may also be based on scepticism, inexperience, personal experience of getting it wrong, increased lack of confidence in the liturgy, and anxiety that new people are not coming to faith and therefore not adding to the number.’

      I would agree with much you say here—but some churches are just culturally inaccessible, and I think we’d be naive to think that is of no importance…

      • I look forward to booking and attending, though I will have to leave early to offer the ‘Mass’ at 12.30 pm 🙂 The challenge I take on board is to think more seriously about the churches (Liturgy) as ‘culturally inaccessible’. Is it the case the liturgy will always be new to a new believer who belongs, believes, and then adapts and adopts the ancient liturgy as a means of aiding and worshipping Jesus?

  6. As the Farmer Fallowfield character played by Kenneth Williams in the1960s ‘Beyond our Ken’ said, ‘The answer lies in the soil’! Whether it’s ‘high’ liturgy or ‘low’ informality, those whom God has sent in our direction probably more than anything decide whether it’s for them on whether they find the light of Christ’s love in both the worship and in the people offering that worship. In other words, people coming to us will soon discover whether they will be nurtured and grow or left to wither. (Other metaphors are available!)

    For those of us who lead or preside in worship, especially in a strong liturgical context, we can make sometimes just minor adjustments in our delivery, how we use our voices and bodies, and without interrupting the flow of the liturgy can say additional words to explain what is happening and why.

    Above all else, the focus of Christian worship is God! We all point Godward. If there is an audience, it most certainly is not the congregation! Our audience is God. And finding how to give space for those liminal moments to emerge transforms the act of worship of whatever tradition or style to carry everyone into God’s closer presence.

    Yes, liturgy can be missional, and it needs work and comittment.

  7. Often the conversation and prayer over coffee after a service is closer to 1 Corinthians 14:26 than the service itself. Let the church ask itself why there is no liturgy in the New Testament.

    • “Let the church ask itself why there is no liturgy in the New Testament.”
      Or was there? ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead’ (Ephesians 5.14) – was this addressed to congregants having a Eutychean moment during the sermon or was it part of the common currency of worship?
      How well did they know psalms and common hymns and prayers?
      Were the Infancy Hymns in Luke 1-2 part of the worship of the Jerusalem Church?
      Prayer, even extemporary prayer, falls into a common pattern after a while as certain turns of phrase lodge in the mind – and no bad thing, either. I have long believed that we undervalue memorisation today in public spheres as well as personal devotions – though no student studying, say, languages or the sciences, would hold that view.
      Those who were taught to memorise Scripture when young were given a great blessing. Liturgy at its best is simply putting Scripture into the form of prayer, where the Word of God proves to be infinitely richer and more eloquent than our unprepared words.
      Every mature Christian should know by heart:
      the Lord’s Prayer; the Ten Commandments; the Aaronic Blessing; the Grace (2 Cor 13); the Apostles’ Creed; the 23rd Psalm; the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5); and a general prayer of thanksgiving. And maybe throw in 1 Corinthians 13 as a daily reminder of the people God wants us to be.

      • On the point of liturgy and the NT, an old archaeology dictum comes to mind: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” Merely because it is not spelled out should not be a distraction for us. I look no further than the Didache for guidance. Although this is not Liturgy as we fully understand it today, the Introduction gives many answers to the points at issue.

      • James,

        To take this further constructively, might I propose that there are two separate meaenings of ‘liturgy’ and we need to clarify which we mean? One is the overall format of a service, which room for real-time contributions; the other is (to take an example) pure BCP, in which every word is laid down.

        • Anton: yes, a happy commerce of the two is what I prefer – an order or form of worship, some familiar and well-crafted words and place for spontaneity.
          I can recall charismatic worship of some decades ago now which profoundly moved me that incorporated these elements. Of course, I was a lot younger then and maybe won’t respond in quite the same way today.
          But I would add a few riders.
          In larger settings (of say 100+ people), spontaneity doesn’t work so well. What works in a home group doesn’t always translate so well to church.
          And being asked ‘to share’ with the relative stranger I’m sitting beside makes me cringe.
          And too many off the cuff informal prayers, even from seasoned worship leaders, seem shallow and repetitive to me. I wish more evangelical clergy would put more thought – and more Scripture – into their ‘informal’ prayers.
          Given these reactionary comments, it won’t be a surprise to hear that I have more of a preference for many of the older hymns than the odd songs that dominate evangelical churches today, primarily because the doctrinal and poetic quality of most contemporary songs is often abysmal.

          • I have more of a preference for many of the older hymns than the odd songs that dominate evangelical churches today, primarily because the doctrinal and poetic quality of most contemporary songs is often abysmal.

            Yes; I regard even that as an example of understatement!

          • It’s a bit like art though isn’t it?

            Grayson Perry once remarked that the problem with modern art was that being modern meant we saw all of it – the good, the bad, and the hideous. Whereas as old art from centuries past was invariably only the good stuff handed down. If it was terrible it didn’t survive.

          • That’s a true statement, AJBell, and there are a lot of twee Victorian hymns that have dwindled in use in living memory, but much modern charismatic music comes from a be-happy-or-else shallowness that is comparable to nothing before. Too bad the New Testament didn’t contain a command that thou shalt pluck – not strum – thy guitar, or else shut up.

          • Have to say though, I much prefer Stuart Townend’s version of “The Lord Is My Shepherd” to the traditional setting.

    • An unchurched person doesn’t want a prayer over coffee. It’s creepy.

      They want to know why you believe what you do. They want to know why Christianity is still relevant.

  8. This has always been a big issue for us in all our churches, as mission is central for our ministry, and we have always striven to use liturgies in ways that are ‘understanded of the people’ as Cranmer says. This does not mean using BCP! It does mean using language people understand with clear meaning that connects with their everyday lives. It also involves listening to those who come for, eg a ‘christening’, to find out what has been meaningful for them.
    And then there’s the challenge of your regular church members who HATE any change to ‘their’ service!

  9. I’m convinced that the answer is “yes”…. though not without issues.

    … that just “getting people to lead” without giving any teaching (Eg) the spiritual flow that liturgy offers often gives rise to disconnected items with hymn/song intervals.

    … in evangelical churches the congregations are often very diverse in church background. Those Christians transferring from a non liturgical background don’t always want it… seeing it as an opportunity plant their previous church style into the new one.

    … and there’s more but time evades me!

    A really useful topic to think about.

    • I wish it was. But I don’t see a lot of evidence from those High Anglican churches that I know of, which have only eucharistic services – they seem to be becoming am ever smaller club.

  10. “Put simply, some would claim that a highly structured and ‘liturgical’ service—in the sense of being shaped by formal liturgy—creates barriers to outsiders and is therefore an obstacle to mission and growth.”

    Well sure. But anything would do that. Reciting the creeds in any form would do that. Any form of call and response will do it. Even hymns can do it. I sometimes wonder if we realise how strange worshipping God simply is to someone who’s never done it before. And of course, as you suggest, there isn’t any church that’s truly liturgy-free. They just have a different liturgy, albeit one that is not so formally written down, and therefore although the language may be more colloquial the actual liturgy may be less accessible.

    There’s also the dimension of it being seriously alienating for people who are returning to Church, and come in expecting to roughly know the liturgy and find it’s completely different. In my church we’ve kept the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer (“who art in heaven”) precisely because we have had a number of older people coming back to Church but being thrown by the modern version.

    But for me at least one important aspect to consider is that the liturgy is not observational, it’s participatory. It’s something we do together as an act of fellowship. That itself is alienating to newcomers. But it can quickly be welcoming – a formal liturgy, written down, and repeated week after week, is something you can swiftly pick up and become familiar with. And you can quickly feel part of the fellowship because you are also participating in the same way as everyone else. It also expresses a fellowship beyond the immediate people in the church you happen to be: a liturgy that echoes down the centuries, is an expression of fellowship with those other children of Christ from centuries past and in the future to come.

    There are of course complexities that have built up into the liturgy over the centuries. There was a time when we used to teach this stuff through confirmation classes and having kids as altar servers and so on. That doesn’t happen so much anymore, and in any case for lots of folk it doesn’t apply if they’re coming into the Church as adults. It’s a choice for Church leaders about whether they choose to talk about that and explain it as part of their sermons or study talks or whatever. The creeds are arguably quite complex things. I’ve known of churches that do study courses that go through the creeds line by line over a few weeks.

    • And of course it is for these kind of reasons you identify that Cathedrals – with very formal liturgical services – attract many and diverse people.

      • Cathedrals – like mega evangelical churches – may attract people who want the experience of worship, including a high standard of music, singing and maybe even preaching – without the cost of having to contribute much yourself, such as serving on rotas or helping in the Sunday schools. I am told that in places like Canterbury liberal high churches have shrunk in their attendance (a process accelerated by the lockdowns) as people have drifted to the cathedral which has vast resources from tourism and historic reserves. And frankly, if I was an old pensioner who liked choral singing but was tired of trying to keep a broke parish church going, I would feel that attraction too.

        • And they can readily be drawn in and engaged with the beautiful story. That is exactly what good theatre does – it’s truly evangelical and communicates at a very deep level. We don’t refer to it as the drama of Holy Week for nothing.

          • What makes you think that the part of a man that engages with beautiful music is the same part that engages with God?

          • What makes you think it isn’t?
            Beauty is surely an attribute of God because it is akin to truth.

          • Because it is very easy to confuse the emotional with the spiritual in our culture. We are well aware when charismatics do that, but less aware of the same mistake in regard to beautiful music and dramatic liturgy.

          • Which simply shows that this whole discussion comes down to personal preferences and personality types rather than hard facts about mission.

          • Or your ignorance about what the Puritans were really like rather than their opponents’ words about them.

      • Worship of a deity is the norm in every culture except modern secular. After that it’s a matter of getting the right God, and ther can be only one creator of everything.

      • And consequently I don’t think you can actually make worship instantly accessible. You could for example strip your service right back to the point where it looked and felt just like a TED Talk. That might be very accessible (TED Talks often are accessible and engaging). But it wouldn’t be an act of worship. It would be a lecture.

  11. Imagine an equivalent to the Alpha course but which pins discussion of doctrine and practice on the liturgy. A course to help people get the most out of the liturgy, how to worship God through it and how to grow through it. So when they participate they are lifted up through their understanding and they are glorifying God in their hearts rather than thinking, “what exactly is this about though”. Maybe that’s why informal churches are growing – because the methods we use to bring people deeper in are focused on the informal and casual.

  12. I wonder if we differ also on what we mean by Missional. To me it is rooted in the Latin Mittere – to send. So naturally the liturgy can encourage us towards mission, but it is not of itself missional – it happens in our club house, not out in the community. For me mission is when I am out there, engaging with the brokenness of the world and being salt and light.
    It may attract or scare those who come in to us, but that is about coming, not going.

      • They should, yes, having come to a church service expecting a church service where one may meet God and his people, but won’t if said people are so busy making the service a watered down fleshy disrespectful floppy mess. People coming to a service are expecting it to be odd. Stop apologizing for it. It’s so English to do that. Get on your knees and pray (kneeler there or not! grrr ), raise your hands in the air (if moved to) and close your eyes and sing praises to God. Look each other in the eye and wish the other ‘Shalom’. And you know- the visitor will cope!

      • Of course they can encouter Jesus anywhere, including in church with Liturgy or none. Many in the Muslim world are encountering Jesus, and coming to faith, with no intervention from Christians at all.
        The problem is if you decide that Mission means everything, then it effectively means nothing – a bit like the word marriage in many settings!
        However for me, the words roots are it’s clue – Mission is being sent; Ministry is what we do when others come in to our gathering. Both are important – it’s very hard to sustain mission without the gathered church.

  13. I’ve had 30 years in independent charismatic evangelical missional church, latterly as an Elder, moved to traditional Anglican 3 years ago.

    I’m used to lively gatherings, with a great communicator at the front, a cool worship band and trendy songs. Liturgy completely changes the dynamic and makes the church focus on God more than those at the front. This is extremely powerful. Surely the evangelical church, and wider society, have learned in recent years that big personality is rarely trustworthy. If your worship is moderated by character(s) at the front then you’re on dodgy ground.

    Having said that I can count the number of references to the liturgy in sermons in the last 3 years on one finger. It is atrocious that the beauty of, for example, the prayer of humble access is never explained and celebrated in the teaching. That glancing reference to the Syro-Phoenician outsider makes my heart leap with joy every week.

    Personally I’m utterly convinced we have a jewel in our hands, but many anglicans seem to have little idea and take it for granted.

    Is it missional? In the hands of a believer I think it is, and it is receivable by some who cannot cope with charismatic worship. I think many people are looking for a spirituality that is not just like the One Show. Perhaps they are introverts or thoughtful, but perhaps they aren’t. It seems to me that the liturgy is an untapped resource.


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