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Liturgy is not a style, but a feast

Filed under: A New Liturgy,church,worship — 1:39 pm

As you may know, I believe that our current approach to worship music is both fantastic and way too narrow. The modern rock, anthemic, expression-driven worship music that dominates the CCM world and most evangelical churches is one kind of healthy spiritual food.  And it is wonderful for what it does.  But I worry that a steady diet of it will create malnourished worshipers.  Which is why the liturgy is so brilliant.

The Liturgy is, in my wife’s excellence words, a well-balanced meal.

This doesn’t mean that every church should turn into a traditionally “Liturgical church”, whatever that means. We don’t need to become stylistically Catholic or theologically Episcopalian or suddenly hang stained glass everywhere.  This isn’t about style, but about form.  Do we have a plan in place to help form our community into Christlikeness?  It’s not about the songs we choose or the genre of music, but the questions we begin with.  

So as a worship leader, I’ve been asking myself:  Am I offering the church a well-balanced meal?

Over the course of a month…
-Do we practice a number of different worship forms…or do we only sing?
-Do we focus on many aspects of God’s character…or just the most common in worship songs?
-Do we encourage the full range of human emotion (joy, sorrow, gratefulness, lament, etc)…or find ourselves in a pretty narrow bandwidth?
-Do we learn how to worship from many different traditions…or are we only influenced by our own tradition?
-Do our worship practices create space for the Spirit to produce a wide range of fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, etc) in us…or do they invite a rather narrow response?

If my church community feasts on the worship practices we offer, month after month, will they become well-nourished Christ-followers?

well balanced feast

the feast

What about you and your church?  What are the worship practices that keep your community healthy?  Is there a certain “food group” that you might need to introduce…or take a break from?


  1. Great questions. Reminds me of Robert Webber’s discussion about worship as content, structure, and style. They’re all formative, but the content is the foundation.

    Super challenging to think about how our weekly services nourish our community.

    Comment by Bethany — August 5, 2013 @ 4:38 pm

  2. I think this is kind of like the question about whose job it is to raise kids…is it the job of the church to raise kids to know God when you get 50-100 hours a year with them? Or is the parents, family, friends, etc? Both definitely have roles, and purposes to fulfill.

    I think we can do a number of different worship forms, focus on many aspects of God’s character, encourage the full range of emotion, and learn to worship from different traditions, and STILL be malnourished worshippers. I think beyond any style, any emotion, or tradition, people in our churches need to be taught/encouraged/challenged/reminded that worship should happen outside of the walls of the building they attend on Sunday. We can focus on as many styles as we want, but if we only do it 50-100 hours a year, we’re not going to be “nourished” so to say. It would be like working out an hour or two a week on different muscle groups…yes it’s better than nothing, and probably better to do multiple muscle groups than just one…but if all you’re doing is an hour or two, you’re not going to be in shape.

    I think what I’m talking about is a similar point you’re making, but it’s got my brain turning (which I’m sure is your intention 🙂 ) Just in case what I say doesn’t come across the right way, I agree and think everything you’re saying is good. I think I just have some additions personally 🙂

    Comment by Joe — August 5, 2013 @ 7:46 pm

  3. this is a good word. worship is a feast and needs to be well balanced. what it comes down to is what are the people who are planning it “eating” or being influenced by?

    and although modern worship may have a lot to offer, being influenced only by it may cause our planning as worship leaders to produced malnourished worshipers.

    modern worship is at its heart american food. and there is nothing wrong with a good burger and french fry, just not every day (or to further the idea, every week).

    this is a good reminded for worship leaders. worship planners, pastors, and laity.

    sharing this with our team…


    Comment by jeremy batten — August 5, 2013 @ 9:36 pm

  4. Thanks, Jeremy. The American food analogy is a good one. It’s not bad – in fact, in many ways, very good! – but is only one small part of a healthy diet. Peace, my friend.

    Comment by aaronieq — August 5, 2013 @ 9:44 pm

  5. You make a great point, Joe. The healthiest worship experience on Sunday would give us the inspiration and (more importantly) the tools to be able to worship God all week long.

    It’s like piano lessons. Even if my piano teacher gives the greatest weekly lesson, I will become a better pianist unless I’m practicing at home all week long. (Which reminds me…I should probably start practicing again. Don’t tell my teacher! Ha)

    Comment by aaronieq — August 5, 2013 @ 9:49 pm

  6. […] we can do over the course of a month to form our community in Christlikeness?”  Or “How do I offer a well-balanced meal?”  These kinds of questions can help us get at the heart of what we’re all trying to do […]

    Pingback by Asking different questions « aaron niequist — February 28, 2014 @ 4:11 pm

  7. […] Aaron Niequist – Liturgy is Not a Style, but a Feast […]

    Pingback by How I Choose Songs for Sunday Mornings | Tommy Welty — June 8, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

  8. How interesting. Growing up Episcopalian we were always trying to have a contemporary worship service called something funky like “11:11” (referring to the start of the worship time) or some such thing. Never really taking off. Now I find myself in a “contemporary” church longing for more liturgy. Particularly the addition of music from all traditions, NOT just praise band music. How great to see the church becoming one and striving to be about worshiping Christ, not just about worshiping the worship.

    Comment by Lucy Nutter — September 7, 2015 @ 12:17 pm

  9. So I grew up Catholic. Couldn’t have felt more removed from Christ. The rituals meant nothing. The history meant nothing. The old hymns – same. Found Willow 20 years ago and have grown tremendously. I find Willow worship so prayerful. Wouldn’t mind some softer music sometimes, but the words we sing are scripture and prayer. The new thing I’m appreciating now is Steve ‘ s depth of Bible teaching.

    Comment by Missy Sherman — September 7, 2015 @ 3:10 pm

  10. THIS.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Also, food analogies are the best.

    Comment by Stephen Proctor — September 7, 2015 @ 6:54 pm

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