I guess the first question should be, "Who is afraid of the word 'liturgical?'" Who bristles at the sound of it?

It may be that you hear the word "liturgy" and think of "those Catholics" who don't really love Jesus, but who just go through the motions or the works that the pope dictates or dead tradition tells them to do.

Seriously, if this is what liturgy is, who wants to have any part in it? But this is not what it means. Liturgy literally means "the work or service of the people." It comes from the Greek word leitourgia, which can be found in such places as Romans 12:1, where Paul begs us to present ourselves to God, to sacrifice our bodies, calling it our reasonable or spiritual service or worship (leitourgia).

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.
Certainly this type of liturgy is not confined to the church building or Sunday worship, but what about these gatherings? What of our solemn assemblies? Should leitourgia, this call from God, bear on our formal worship gatherings, what it looks like and what we do when we gather?

So, I have been posing this question to friends and fellow worshipers: What is the opposite of liturgical? Having similar predispositions to the above mentionedthat liturgy refers to dead, high church structuresome of their responses have been "charismatic," "free church," "non-structured," even "chaotic." I can understand these answers, having a similar view of liturgy in the past myself.

But I submit that the opposite of liturgical is not free church or chaotic; the opposite of liturgical is theatrical. If worship is not the work of the people, then it is the work of someone else, or the non-work of the people, right? I also submit that most Christians today approach worship in a theatrical way. The "work" is reserved for the paid pastors, or the clergy, the actors on the stage. Even the work of the kingdom outside of our formal gatherings is to be done by the church leaders. Most Christians assume the passive role of spectators, or cheerleaders, or, dare I say, financial supporters of the work that is to be done by someone other than themselves. This is not leitourgia.

I'm also afraid that I, a paid church leader along with most contemporary church leaders, am actually contributing to the problem. The system, the program, the machine, does not allow for the people to rise up in their gifts and callings to do the work God has for them. Even if there is room, we pastors are too busy maintaining the machine to truly love and pastor and disciple the people into the work they are called to. We are too big to focus on the liturgical lives of the people. We are forced to spend all our time making sure they keep coming to support our beautiful machine, our wonderful programs.

We must pay attention to how our people are being formed. We are being formed; there's no question about that. The question is, "How are we being formed?"

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Theatrical worship forms us according to the already prominent consumer systems of this world, built upon the media, entertainment, and pharmaceutical industries, among others. It invites people to enjoy the production (or hate it) and to take a dose of feel-good, audio medicine. Granted, good theatre, like good fiction, can lead us into a deeper understanding of reality. But that doesn't necessarily ensure we will do anything about it.

Liturgy, on the other hand, is transformational in that it counter-forms us to look different than what the world tries to make us look like. Liturgy ("the work of the people") conforms us into the image of Christ, the ultimate Liturgist. He already accomplished the ultimate "work," enabling us to do the "work" God is calling us to do. Jesus' act of worshiphis sacrifice, his work, his liturgymakes it possible for us to present ourselves holy and pleasing to God!

If this is true, then it's not liturgical worship that we need to be afraid of, but theatrical worship. Theatrical worship holds us back from doing the work of the kingdom; it keeps us from being Christ-like, it keeps us from being the church.

Theatrical = passive spectatorship.
Liturgical = active participation.

The contemporary church's reaction to liturgical worship has led us down a very dangerous path toward worldly conformation. Perhaps a holy confirmation is in order.

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