Liturgy Can Fuel Spiritual Growth in Urban Churches ¹
In the bustling urban landscapes of cities like Kuala Lumpur, churches face a unique set of challenges and opportunities. One of the significant challenges is the scarcity of time in the lives of busy urban dwellers.
As church leaders, we must be discerning about the commitments we ask of our congregation members. It’s crucial to consider how we can make the most of their limited time to facilitate spiritual growth and maturity. For many churches, the cornerstone commitment is the Sunday gathering. A well-structured liturgy can play a pivotal role in optimizing this time. In this article, we’ll explore how intentional liturgy benefits our church in Kuala Lumpur and contributes to spiritual formation.
Liturgy refers to the order, structure, and routine of a worship service or public gathering in a church. Every church, whether it realizes it or not, has a form of liturgy. The real question is not whether a church is liturgical but rather to what extent it consciously considers the deep foundations, rhythms, and structures that underpin its worship practices.² Recognizing and engaging with the latent liturgical nature of our worship can enhance and deepen our efforts to develop mature disciples.
Four Ways Liturgy Nurtures Spiritual Growth
The church I helped to plant is experiencing significant benefits from the deliberate use of a liturgy saturated with Scripture. By aligning our liturgy with the biblical metanarrative (creation, fall, redemption, restoration), our church continually rehearses the story of Scripture.
Liturgy Provides a Framework for Spiritual Formation
This structured approach serves as a framework for spiritual formation, as it constantly immerses the gathering in the Word of God. Our liturgy emphasizes the role of Scripture in shaping mature Christians, from reading and singing Scripture-informed songs to hearing and discussing preached Scripture. By giving prominence to Scripture, we are cultivating a church that loves and is rooted in the Word of God.
Liturgy Focuses Believers on Gospel Truths
Our liturgy, based on the biblical metanarrative, places the gospel at the forefront. It guides us through the narrative of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, ensuring that the gospel remains central in the lives of believers and the life of the church. An emphasis on liturgies which emphasize the gospel is as old as the protestant reformation. Mark Earngey reports that the Reformers “saw liturgy as a powerful means by which to communicate theology.” ³ This intentional focus on the gospel prevents miscommunication about the purpose of our church gatherings and equips our congregation to share the gospel effectively.
Liturgy Prioritizes Church Health
Healthy churches thrive where they are planted, and liturgy plays a crucial role in fostering church health. Our liturgy encourages intentional investment in one another’s lives for the sake of Christian maturity. It aligns with the New Testament’s one-another passages, promoting unity, love, and humility among disciples. Additionally, our liturgy allows other aspects of church health to flourish, such as biblical leadership, the observance of biblical ordinances, and meaningful fellowship.
At the time of our church covenanting, one ministry leader held concerns about the repetitive nature of our liturgy. She was concerned about the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. Some other churches told her that they only celebrated the Lord’s Supper sporadically so that it would not lose its meaningfulness. A couple years later, she conveyed that she loved how we walked through our worship service especially observing the Lord’s Supper every week. She told me that weekly observation of the Lord’s Supper actually fueled a love for Christ and served to remind her that she was not alone in her walk with Christ.
Liturgy Promotes Participation Over Performance
In our church, the emphasis is on active participation rather than passive observation. Our liturgy encourages everyone to engage in the worship of God through singing, praying, listening, reciting, and dialoguing. Unlike churches where a select few perform while the congregation watches, our liturgy promotes the idea that every member participates in worship and the proclamation of the gospel. This fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility among our congregation members.