The Church is God’s assembly called out of the world to be a people distinct in government, culture, and worship. The Scriptures exhort us to meet together for the purpose of worship. Often the primary questions people have are; "Am I having a good time?", "Are we moved by the sermon?", "Are we having good fellowship?" While some of these questions touch legitimate concerns they are not sound Biblical purposes for gathering to worship. Worship is primarily for God not us. As we worship, we may have a pleasant or "significant" experience or we may not, but the primary question is always, "Did I worship God acceptably and please Him?"
What is "Liturgy"?
Nearly all churches have some form of liturgy. Liturgy is when you can predict what is going to happen next in the meeting. Liturgy literally means "work of the people." Our corporate gathering each LORD’S Day is to do the work of worship. We worship because He is worthy not because we get a thrill from it. Mental, emotional, and physical effort are sometimes required, especially if we are not "in the mood." We also work together. Each person elevates or undermines the church body’s worship experience. As each worshipper throws his entire being into worship his life contributes a harmonious tone, rhythm, or song as we endeavor to create a beautiful, clear, heavenly symphony of worship to God. Instruments (hearts and minds) out of tune and mediocre, half-hearted performances ruin the beauty of the "music" and seriously detract from the unity and splendor of our corporate offering to the LORD of Hosts.
Why Use a Structured Liturgy?
Structured liturgy employs the Biblical teaching methods of instruction, discipline, and ritual. Throughout the week our thoughts and emotions may become unfocused and disorganized. A structured liturgy defines the boundaries and direction of our faith, it disciples us in Kingdom patterns of thinking and living, and helps set our hearts in a proper and reasonable order. It thwarts the wayward inclinations of our human nature and redirects us to the true worship of God. Ritual counteracts the forgetfulness of the human heart: it impresses the soul repeatedly with foundational and ultimate truths. The liturgy also leads us in a biblical pattern of worship in order to renew our covenant with God.
Something Old, Something New
The Church of Jesus Christ is blessed by God with a rich liturgical and musical history. Our desire is to combine elements of this heritage with some of the best we find being produced today. We earnestly deplore dead traditionalism but desire to engage and continue in the great living traditions given to us by the Holy Spirit through previous generations of faithful saints.
We recognize days and seasons in the traditional Church Calendar. In the New Covenant, we find no command to observe special days and feasts – no single day is holier than another nor are those who observe certain days more spiritual than those who do not. However, the Church calendar is a valuable tool to help us remember important truths and the mighty acts of God. Traditional celebrations also strengthen our identity as God’s covenant people and reinforce our common life as we seek to be a people distinct from the world.
Vestments are the special clothing that those leading the service might wear. In biblical worship, ministers in the Old and New Covenant (Revelation 4:4) wear distinctive garments to cover their clothing . Why? They represent things, really someone, beyond themselves, namely Jesus Christ. The vestments point away from the minister to Christ. When leading worship the minister is not just "another brother." He holds an office as a minister of God and the clothing signifies the office. For example, a judge wears a black judicial gown because he does not act on his own behalf; he represents the law and government of this land. In the same way, a minister represents the law and government of another kingdom and his clothing reflects this. The basic color for worship is white representing the light and glory of the resurrection; so, ministers’ robes are primarily white.
The long narrow strip of cloth around the neck of the minister is called a stole. It represents the yoke of Christ (Matthew 11:29-30). The yoke is a harnessing device for oxen so they can bear a load. When Jesus speaks of "My yoke," He means that He literally carries the burdens of this life. When the minister wears the stole, he is preaching a visual sermon, reminding God’s people that Christ bears their burdens.
White: Light, revelation, glory, brightness, purity, and cleaning of Christ’s blood. White is used for Christmas, Epiphany, Easter, Trinity, Feast of the King, baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
Red: The blood of the Martyrs, fire. It is used for Pentecost, All Saints Day, ordinations and any special days commemorating God’s work through His servants in history.
Green: Life, growth, nurture, and stewardship. It is used for the season following Pentecost until Advent and from after the Christmas season until Lent.
Purple: Royalty, penitence, and fasting. It is used during Lent (a season of repentance and fasting) and Advent (also a penitential season). Advent remembers Christ the King’s first coming in the Incarnation, acknowledges the continual coming Christ and His Kingdom into history, and looks forward to His second coming, or Advent.
It is clear from Scripture that kneeling is to be a part of our worship of God. Kneeling is: a basic posture of worship (1Kings 19:18, Psalm 95:6, Ephesians 3:14-16) the posture of humble submission and thankful reception of God’s provision (1Kings 8:54, Daniel 6:10, Matthew 17:14-15); a sign of humility and repentance (Ezra 9:5); a sign of utter submission to God our King (Isaiah 45:23, Philippians 2:9-10, Romans 14:11)
Bowing is described in the Scripture as a posture of worship as well. Psalm 95:6 says, "O come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker." (See also, Isaiah 45:23, Micah 6:6, Romans 14:11, Ephesians 3:14). People may bow at different times during the service, especially when the cross passes by in the procession. They are not "bowing to the cross" but bowing to God who wrought a great and marvelous work for us on such an instrument. People who lead the meeting often move across the platform and will usually stop in the middle to bow. Certainly God is not anymore up front than He is in the back of the sanctuary; He is everywhere at all times. However. for the purposes of order and convenience in worship, we choose to symbolically acknowledge the Lord’s presence with us by bowing in that direction (center and forward).
The Sign of the Cross
The cross reminds us of obedience and disobedience, the deadly consequences of our sin, and the incomprehensible love of God thus stirring our love for Him. It reminds us of the heart of the gospel- "Christ crucified," and of His powerful victory over Satan, sin and death. It vividly recalls the nature of our discipleship ("pick up your cross daily") and our vows at baptism to serve the risen Christ. People place the sign of the cross on themselves not because it is the "religious thing to do"; it is not commanded in Scripture so we are free to do it or not do it. This very ancient practice is a rich and glorious symbol, which brings to mind this truth: everything comes to us and is received through the cross. To make the sign of the cross can help us focus our thoughts, our emotions, and our lives more clearly on the nature of our relationship with God (Galatians 2:20).