Liturgy at Cross of Grace
Cross of Grace Church Liturgy
As I begin to explain our liturgy for each Sunday, it’s important to note that the whole service on Sunday is worship. We just worship in different ways throughout the morning. James K. A. Smith has a fantastic book called You Are What You Love where he digs deep in to worship and liturgy in the church and in daily life. I would highly recommend it.
“Liturgy” can be a scary term for some people. Some view the term as something that “quenches the Spirit” or is “too uptight” for a Sunday service. I would argue differently.
Every church has a liturgy. Every church is communicating what is really important to them, whether they consciously think through it or not. In its simplest form, a church's liturgy is what takes place in any given service. There are things that, by default, every gathered group of believers gives priority. This is can be intentional or un-intentional. At Cross of Grace, our liturgy is not perfect by any means, and we evaluate often the effectiveness of various aspects of our Sunday services. With that said, our main goal each Sunday is to see God glorified, Jesus lifted high, and the gospel front and center through our liturgical rhythms. Let’s take a look at what we do each Sunday at our church.
Call to Worship: In the pattern of the Westminster Liturgy of the Word, we begin our service with a Call to Worship. Bryan Chappell describes it this way: “The Call to Worship reminds the people of the nature of their God and compels them to gather for his praise in light of his greatness and goodness.” (Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice, by Bryan Chapell, Baker Book House, 2017, p. 60)
After the Call to Worship, we follow a “God, Man, Christ, Response” pattern to our song selection. The gospel should saturate our worship, from beginning to end. We don’t want anyone to leave worship on Sunday without singing gospel-centered songs, hearing and praying gospel-saturated prayers, or listening to a sermon with clear gospel call!
Song of Praise/Adoration: The first song in the set is the “God” portion of the set. It is most often a more general song of praise. Think "Hosanna (Praise is Rising)," "This is Our God," "Open the Eyes of my Heart, Lord." These songs are often broader in their theological scope, can be Trinitarian in nature or even function as a musical extension of our Call to Worship.
9Marks has a great summary of the “Man” and “Christ” sections of the gospel story.
Man: “All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature. From birth all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God.”
Christ: “Jesus Christ, who is fully God and Fully man, live a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life.” (What is the Gospel? 9Marks)
The songs that fit in these two categories often have elements of both “man” and “Christ” throughout. Thankfully, many songwriters who write about our place as fallen people use a bridge or chorus to point us to Christ.
Man: This could be a song of confession, what we deserve because of sin, etc. This song often (rightly) turns us to the "Christ" focus by the end of the song. Examples of this might be “Cling to Christ” or “This is Amazing Grace,” which has a definite place in Praise/Adoration, but it works in the "man" section because of the nature of grace.
Occasionally, we will participate in a corporate practice of confession and assurance. We have found that between these two sections is the most natural for our current liturgical practices.
Christ: These are songs explicitly about the work Christ has done on the cross. Songs of assurance are helpful here as well. This is where we meditate on Jesus and what his sacrifice means. Some examples of these songs would be, “Man of Sorrows” (which works for both "man" and "Christ"), “His Mercy is More,” “Blessed Assurance,” or “Jesus is Better,” among others.
Response: In light of what we have just sung, we respond with gratefulness or exultation. These can be Trinitarian songs in nature (any or all of the above work). In the salvation narrative, 9Marks describes the response as when “God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved.” (see link above for reference)
Because we are gathered as the church, this is less a call to salvation and more a reminder of what God, in Christ, did for us. “Come Behold the Wondrous Mystery” or “At the Cross (Love Ran Red)” are good examples of this.
Scripture Reading: This will go in different places but will be an anchor point of the set and the song we sing afterward will be a response to what we heard in God's Word
Pastoral Prayer: Elder/leader -led prayer that serves multiple purposes. Traditionally, this type of prayer has been used to be an example for teaching the church how to pray. This is where petitions and prayers for specific people fit in. The pastor may also add a prayer of confession and assurance of pardon in the prayer time. These prayers are Trinitarian in nature.
God at Work: The sharing of how is God at work in our church and family of churches.
Tithes/Offerings: In light of what God is doing, we give of our first-fruits.
Sermon: The Word of God is preached. Sermons are always expository and are generally through a book of the Bible. Even topical sermons are preached in an expository fashion.
Song(s) of Response/Ministry time: This is a time that we added fairly recently. We usually do 2 songs after the sermon in order to give the congregation adequate time to process more of the sermon and what the Lord would be saying through His Word. The prayer team comes forward and is available for people to come up and pray and talk to pastors as the rest of the congregation sings in response to what we’ve heard in God’s Word, through the sermon.
Sending: The sending is the closing charge to the congregation in light of what God taught us through the preaching of His Word
Benediction: We end the service with God's word (as it started), God gets the first and last word of every service. The benediction is traditionally a pronounced blessing on the departing congregation.
Our liturgy is not perfect, but we seek to make it clear that our main goal each Sunday is to see God glorified, Jesus lifted high, and the gospel front and center through our liturgical rhythms. My hope and prayer is that this is a helpful tool for you as we approach our time of worship on Sunday.
*Here is a Spotify playlist of all the songs referenced above: Cross of Grace Liturgy Blog Songs