One of the old meanings of the word ‘liturgy’ was ‘work of the people’ – but that’s only half-right. Worship isn’t one-way, from us to God; it’s two-way. First and foremost (as always with the gospel), worship is about God coming and extending grace to us. But, for worship to be complete, we must respond. So is worship a ‘work of the people’? Sure, but it’s always a response to God’s initiative.
God calls us to worship Him and gives us His Word to help us understand how to do it. God calls us to worship Him and puts us in a community so we see that we need others to do it fully. God calls us to worship Him and pushes His gospel into our hearts to empower us to do it. Everything we do Sunday mornings in corporate worship is a response to God’s initiative. We want that response to God’s initiative to be deep, not superficial. Tim Keller once helpfully pointed out three ways that can happen:
The Voice of Worship is Simplicity: The language we use in leading and participating in worship isn’t stuffy – it’s simple. But it’s not overly emotional or sentimental. It’s simple and it’s clear. In everything from the way we read Scripture, to the way we pray corporately, to the songs we sing together, we want the tone to be simple and clear.
The Goal of Worship is Transcendence: Make no mistake, though, in corporate worship we’re not there to sing, or confess sins, or listen to a sermon – though we want all those things to happen. We come together in worship to do nothing less than encounter the Triune, omnipotent, omniscient God of the Gospel. We want to experience the reality of who He is and what He’s done. There’s nothing we take more seriously. We use contemporary and traditional music, robust hymns and simple choruses, percussive, acoustic, a cappella, but whatever the style we prayerfully pursue excellence so as not to miss our transcendent God.
The Order of Worship is Gospel Re-enactment: Corporate worship helps to train us how to embody the gospel, so every week our worship involves different cycles – cycles where we respond to God’s call with joyful praise, confession and renewal, and heartfelt commitment.