Let me begin by saying I am not a “worship leader” in that I do not lead in singing, and the limits of my musical talent is that of beating a drum. Nevertheless, I want to talk about worship, in particular how the gospel informs and shapes not only the song but also the structure of worship gatherings. By that I mean of having a gospel-centered liturgy based on the story of the gospel coincided with the ACTS of prayer.
There is a method behind the ordering of worship services where the different elements come into play, such as call to worship, prayer, singing, Scripture reading, sermon, etc. What I’m interested in is an overarching element of the gospel as a metanarrative to the liturgy of a worship service the same way it is the metanarrative of the Bible. To put it in a question, could our services more reflect the drama of redemption as depicted in our worship where creation, fall, redemption, and restoration serve as a sort of template for what we do when we gather together? Can our “method” behind the ordering of worship services be more gospel-centered?
Let me draw this gospel-as-story template out a little more. At the beginning of the service, there could be song(s) fitting to praise and celebrate who God is (creation) coincided with prayers of adoration and praise (A of Acts). Following that could be song(s) of repentance and brokenness (fall) coincided with prayers of confession and humiliation (C of Acts). Next could be song(s) focusing on the person and work of Christ (redemption) coincided with prayers of thanksgiving (T of Acts). At this point, it is fitting to bring the gospel message through text-driven preaching. Since all of the Bible is about Christ, whatever text you preach should culminate in His redemptive work. Concluding the sermon, there could be song(s) of consecration and renewal (restoration) coincided with prayers of supplication (S of Acts). Together, the gospel is represent in both form and content. In brief outline form, the liturgy could look something like this:
Creation – Praise and Celebration (Prayer: Adoration)
Fall – Repentance and Brokenness (Prayer: Confession)
Redemption – Jesus–His Person and Work (Prayer: Thanksgiving)
Restoration – Consecration and Renewal (Prayer: Supplication)
When the gospel is the metanarrative of the service and the dominating element of your liturgy, then it necessarily limits the things you will do, such as forms of entertainment that would detract away from the gospel. Positively, it would prepare hearts through the drama of redemption causing our hearts to exult more in all that God has given us in Christ, longing for more of Him in our lives and churches.
Practically speaking, this means that songs would be categorized according to where they fit in this storyline of redemption, and that could be a challenge I suppose. I would love to hear from anyone who has thought of this or attempted to do that. Also, this will cause leaders to pray more specifically as it relates to each aspect and could strengthen the prayer life of the church.
The more I think about this, the more I like it. This template gives a sturdiness and constancy to the liturgy, and that foundation and form is shaped by the gospel-as-story. However, there is flexibility within that template to bring the gospel to God’s people in fresh ways, causing them to rediscover again and again the treasure of beholding Jesus and becoming like Him. Where as the gospel-as-story provides the form of the liturgy, the gospel message provides the content of the liturgy, so both redemptive history (creation, fall, redemption, restoration) and redemptive categories (God, man, sin, Christ, response) are well-represented in the gathering of gospel-embracing repenters and believers of Jesus.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I have never seen this done before, and it is still fresh on my mind. I think we need to be careful not to assume the gospel in our message nor in the form/liturgy, because while what we say is vitally important, how we communicate it could eclipse that message or enhance it all the more.