God is in the business of renewal. We all have experienced His care as he brings out beauty from ashes in our own lives. Christ has redeemed his people, and is redeeming new areas of our life all the time.
The faint smell of smoke came down the hallway.
The chicken was charred beyond recognition. Confused, I pulled up the recipe on my phone again. Only then, I noticed that I had missed a crucial step along the way.
Ever had to disassemble a piece of furniture because you skipped a part of the instructions? Or left to use the bathroom while watching a movie and when you came back didn’t understand what was happening? Sequence and progression matter.
Similarly, church services can feel disjointed and jarring when we don’t consider the flow of the gathering. We desire enthusiastic worship and attentive hearers of the word, but have we given them a reason to do that? Perhaps nothing has more of an impact on the responsiveness of our congregations than whether we remind them what they are responding to. This is why after the creation and fall portions of our Sunday, we continue into the third movement of the gospel narrative to redemption. As a reminder, we are shaping our people by what we repeat in our liturgies.
Let’s unpack what the theme of redemption looks like on a Sunday.
In many ways, redemption is the trickiest of the four movements, because as common as redemption is in our church gatherings, it’s also often the most disconnected and assumed aspect of what we do together. By working towards establishing both the context and the sequence for redemption in the gospel narrative, the congregation can more fully enjoy the liturgical purpose of redemption.
Ed Stetzer says that the theme of redemption in liturgy, “shows God implementing a master plan for redeeming His world and rescuing fallen sinners. In the Person of Jesus Christ, God Himself comes to renew the world and restore His people. The grand narrative of Scripture climaxes with the death and resurrection of Jesus.”
The redemption portion of our gatherings includes three different buckets: community life, ministry of the word, and a time of response. While I’ll provide some details, don’t let this feel overwhelming. Any church can incorporate some (or all) of this readily and easily.
Redemption: Bucket One – Community Life
Our first stop in the “redemption” portion of our time together is community life. These components will be familiar to most, but again, many churches utilize these elements without stopping to think why or ever instruct the room as to their benefit.
The ultimate purpose of the community life portion is to remind our church that we are not just saved individually but saved to a people, and part of a church family. We celebrate evidences of grace through the telling of stories, opportunities, and a time for passing of the peace (what many call “greeting”), we remember that we are a redeemed people, parts of the body, and all kids under the Father’s loving care.
Through stories, we hear about the specific acts of God in the lives of others, and recognize that our struggles are shared with others (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes through a live interview, a video story, or just a leader retelling recent events, we seek to give thanks to God for specific ways in which He is being kind to our church.
During our “opportunities time” we inform the body as to what’s happening in the rest of the church and invite them to participate in the ongoing rhythms and activities of the church. It’s important to note here that we prioritize the items that affect the bulk of the room, and avoid specialty ministries or events that have a very narrow focus. We work to tie any asks or invitations to our core values as a church.
Lastly, we do a weekly “passing of the peace”, where we give the room a few moments to greet a person around them and discuss a simple prompted question from the leader performing that portion of the liturgy. This helps those that lean more towards the introverted side to know what to say when they turn around. We conclude this portion of the gathering by instructing them to turn to their neighbor and say, “the peace of Christ be with you”. It’s one more way we can tether ourselves to the historical church and express hospitality to one another as a reflection of how God has welcomed us.
That all may seem like a lot, but we typically move through all three community life components in about ten minutes.
What are some things community life teaches us about everyday worship?
- Community is essential in the life of the believer.
- Recounting evidences of grace is life-giving and a remedy against grumbling and becoming hard-hearted.
- Hospitality and welcoming the outsider is a clear watermark of a gospel community.
- We can make peace with each other because God has made peace with us through the death and resurrection of Christ.
Redemption: Bucket Two – Ministry of the Word
After the community life portion is done, we move on to the movement we call the “ministry of the word”. Many wiser men and women have written extensively on why God’s Word is central in the gathering so I won’t belabor that here. It’s worth noting that before the preacher takes the stage, someone from the congregation invites the whole room to stand while they read the passage we are centering around that day. I see this as a great way to physically express our reverence, reminding us that the God of the universe has spoken, and His word is active today (Hebrews 4:12).
What are some things the ministry of the word teaches us about everyday worship?
- God’s word should permeate and inform all aspects of life.
- God’s word is timeless and powerful in any culture.
- Repeating the scriptures is a useful means of writing God’s word on our hearts.
Redemption: Bucket Three – Response Time
After God’s word is preached, we end our gatherings with a time of response. The repetition and normalcy of what happens after the sermon makes it all the more important to clarify its purpose and context. For us, we respond to the ministry of the word through giving, communion, and singing. If the earlier parts of the liturgy have done their job, we aren’t responding to a generic, vanilla version of the gospel but a specific theme or big idea that has been reinforced along the way.
All three responses are forms of worship, and we say exactly that almost every Sunday. The songs we choose for this part of the gathering are responsive songs (as opposed to call-to-worship songs) and hopefully touch on the theme of the day i.e. mercy, relationships, confession, etc.
What are some things our response time teaches us about everyday worship?
- God initiates. He moves first. Our worship in all forms is one of response because God has initiated love with us.
- Worship is not limited to congregational singing.
- Where we put our money is a great litmus test for what we care about.
This third liturgical movement is certainly the most accessible as it relates to shaping our everyday worship. For many of us, simply adding some intentionality of unpacking the “ why” behind these pieces will greatly help the people we lead experience the shaping power of liturgy. Calling out specifics will help our churches connect the dots on how our redemption components all point to our daily lives with Christ.
God is in the business of renewal. We all have experienced His care as he brings out beauty from ashes in our own lives. Christ has redeemed his people, and is redeeming new areas of our life all the time. This is the greatest reason that we have for a fresh response of worship every time we gather!
Coming up next, the final movement in gospel liturgy, “restoration”.
In what ways might your church grow in reminding your people of what they are responding to?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and get answers from seasoned practitioners.
–> Check out some helpful resources: