Sunday, June 25, 2006

Liturgy, Laziness or True Worship???

A. W. Tozer

A. W. Tozer was a prophet in the truest sense of the word. Many, if not most, of today's self-proclaimed prophets are just that...prophets in their own minds...empire builders.

Tozer made his readers and his parishioners uncomfortable. His words were (and still are) piercing, pointed and probing. He could "rankle your feathers" whatever that means.

Today's devotional thought concerns our forms of worship. To many, who were raised in some of our evangelical churches, the word "liturgy" is foreign and forboding. Many of our churches could use a little more "liturgy" and a little less "free-spiritedness".

I'm grateful that even though my home church is not "liturgical", a lot of thought and prayer goes into the planning of our worship service and there's form and meaning in the selection of hymns, choruses, etc.

What I can't tolerate is the lack of reverence that is so often apparent in so many of our churches. In our efforts to be "people-friendly" we have often pushed a holy and awesome God to the sidelines. The Holy One must be pre-eminent in all our worship!

Enough of my's what Tozer had to say to his generation:

Nonliturgical Worship:

"Give to the Lord the glory due His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth." -Psalm 96:8-9

We of the nonliturgical churches tend to look with some disdain upon those churches that follow a carefully prescribed form of service, and certainly there must be a good deal in such services that has little or no meaning for the average participant--this not because it is carefully prescribed but because the average participant is what he is.

But I have observed that our familiar impromptu service, planned by the leader twenty minutes before, often tends to follow a ragged and tired order almost as standardized as the Mass.

The liturgical service is at least beautiful; ours is often ugly. Theirs has been carefully worked out through the centuries to capture as much of beauty as possible and to preserve a spirit of reverence among the worshipers. Ours is often an off-the-cuff makeshift with nothing to recommend it.

Its so-called liberty is often not liberty at all but sheer slovenliness......mostly there is neither order nor Spirit, just a routine prayer that is, except for minor variations, the same week after week, and a few songs that were never much to start with and have long ago lost all significance by meaningless repetition.

In the majority of our meetings there is scarcely a trace of reverent thought, no recognition of the unity of the body, little sense of the divine Presence, no moment of stillness, no solemnity, no wonder, no holy fear.

taken from "God Tells the Man Who Cares"


  1. I grew up in a United Baptist Church in which I could tell you at 11:20 we would have a long prayer and by 12:01 we were in the gym having coffee. Although there was no "liturgy" as such, there was a pre-ordained order that was not to change.

    Today my parents and children and I decided to visit a Baptist church in Alliston (our trailer is in Mansfield, approximately 15 minutes from the church). I was pleasantly surprised to find a pastor who walked off the podium and who walked amidst the congregation when seeking prayer requests. Although the service happened in order, it was personal and not liturgical. The sermon was VERY applicable (at least to me) and although it was a small group, they seemed to have a biblical perspective of how to mirror Jesus.

    I know there's a fine balance, but kudos to the church that finds it!

  2. David. I really like Mr. Tozer's preaching. I have several cds of him that I downloaded from

    I really appreciate the worship on a Lord's Day morning at the Gospel Hall. It is completly lead by the Spirit. The men who pray and in what order and the hymns are not pre picked. The brothers get up and pray and whenever a hymn is given out,it fits right into the subject.

    This morning the theme of worship was how great our sin was and how forgiving the Lord has been and how His dying for us on the cross and the shedding of his precious blood was all for us and all for the washing of our sin.

    How thankful we should always be for this! And yet, I know, myself that I fall short of being grateful so many times!!

    There are way too many like me who are like the nine lepers that were healed of Jesus who went on their way without a word of thanks to Him, leaving only one leper behind to thank the Lord....

    David, I really appreciate your blog site in that we can talk on spiritual matters. Thank you so much!....with Christian love, Terry

  3. Speaking as a Lutheran Christian (LCMS) who has stumbled upon your site, I must comment that the liturgy was what drew me to the Lutheran Church as an adult after being raised in little non-denominational country churches. I found the liturgy very meaningful, and I still do. Our church uses several liturgies and they are almost entirely quoted directly from Scripture.

    Worship is an offering to God -- a sacrifice, really -- and it can take various forms, but one must remember always that it is worship, that is, God-centered, and what is offered should be pleasing to Him.

    God bless you, friend, and thanks for this post which was a blessing to stumble upon this morning.

  4. Dave, thanks for applying some thoughts on worship in your usual sensitive fashion. I had to go upstairs and distract myself with laundry for a while so that my brief reply would not turn into a venting session, as it so often is when I consider this subject.

    It may seem odd, but I long to get together with a group of believers and enjoy solitude with them. I'm quite happy to chat before or after the gathering, but between point A and point B, the only person I want to hear or sense is the Holy Spirit. I've come to refer to God's gift of the Spirit as the "forgotten Third", as the fast paced contemporary evolution in evangelical churches leaves little time for experiencing Him while spending so much time determining exciting new ways to implore Him.

    My church would never have been considered liturgical in the true sense of the word, but has been rather conservative compared to other evangelical bodies. As this evolves I often find myself lost in the shuffle... acknowledging our need to reach our community in unique ways while also acknowledging the need to express reverence to our awesome God through stillness. I don't think I would even concern myself with the matter if I didn't feel that stillness and tradition are being eradicated in churches who are trying to present the gospel, itself an offense to the unbeliever, in ways that won't offend.

    I'm so thankful for my quite little office space where stillness is a regular guest.

  5. David.. I really enjoyed the comments on this posting!! I am so glad that you brought it up. I really don't know what liturgical means. I will have to look it up, but I really loved what your friend Paul had to say about what he appreciates in experiencing quietness with God's gift of the Spirit. True worship to the Lord through His Spirit.
    What a privileged people we are!!

  6. Paul: My heart resonates with yours. Could you e-mail me and let me know your e-mail address. I'd like to pursue these thoughts a little further.

    God bless you and give you a sense of His nearness in the quiet moments of your day.

    Thanks for your comments!



  7. With all the books I have read in my life it is just amazing how I don't know the meaning of so many words.
    I had to look up both liturgical and resonate!
    Now that I know the meaning of "resonate",I am in agreeing with you David.
    What Paul says is echoing in my heart too!!....Terry

  8. Brother Fish, we're far from strangers. I've appreciated your emails for years and your countenance for many more. I'll send you an email and suggest a coffee break, or better yet, a piping hot cup of tea on your next trip up Monaghan Road.

    For the sake of those who visit Pilgrim Scribblings, please let me say that my yearning for solitude and sensitivity in worship comes from some wonderful experiences with God's grace and presence. I could still take you to within two feet of where I stood in the most difficult hours of my life, trembling in my uselessness and confessing to God my inability to handle an unwelcomed situation. In His great mercy, God reminded me that I had indeed put my faith in Him, and could surely trust Him in that hour. I still weep in humility at the thought of God's goodness to me at that moment, and am grateful for His empowerment thru the Holy Spirit.

    I refer to this personal experience, not for sympathy, but to draw focus to the value of solitude and sensitivity. This transforming experience didn't happen in high tempo, but in a narrow piece of real estate between two parking garages that onlookers may have thought was going to be my bedroom for the night. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of my environment, God gave me the time and sense to seek a quiet space where He could hold my attention. I believe that time for our attention, those "peace, be still" moments, is being taken up by 21st century church programming and practices that border more closely on entertainment than worship.

    As another fan of Southern Gospel music, let me quote the words from a song by the Talley Trio. They apply here, and will one day be a song in the heart's of your family, David, as you go through the challenges of Holly's present situation:

    "I Love the Lord,
    He heard my cry.
    And pitied every groan.
    Long as I live,
    and troubles rise,
    I'll hasten to His throne."

    God's hears me in the clamour, and I hear Him most closely in the quiet moment.

  9. Hope Paul's better at hooking up with you for a coffee Mr. Fisher. I've been waiting for almost two years!!

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