A gospel liturgy is a simple order of service that every church can utilize to lead Christ-centered, Scripture-guided worship. Gospel liturgies provide a framework for worship services to present the gospel in all elements of the service in the same order as a gospel presentation.
I first learned of the concept of gospel liturgies while attending a Doxology & Theology conference, in a breakout session taught by Dr. Joe Crider. Planning worship around a single scripture text and using the gospel as a liturgy revolutionized my view of congregational worship and the planning process. Previously, I searched thematically for songs that made connections with the theme and the Scripture texts of the sermon. While this gave somewhat satisfactory results it still felt like something was missing. The problem wasn't necessarily in the song selections but in the perception of what a worship service should be. I had been taught as a young worship leader that the purpose of worship music was to prepare the hearts of people for the sermon (that was probably a preacher's interpretation of what was supposed to be preparing heart's to receive the the Word of God). Perhaps there's a glimmer of truth in this, provided the songs we sing have some theological depth to them, but I have never seen this in God's Word. The Scriptures are full of instances, however, where people respond in worship to the Word and the gospel. Worship is always a response to God. The role of the worship leader is not to set up God's Word with music in order to try and make it effective; God's Word is more powerful and effective than any song we can sing. Our worship, singing, and praise must be a response to the message of the gospel. A response to who God is and what He has done, a response to who we are and our sinful condition, and a response to who Christ is and His redemptive. We can't help but worship the Lord when it is a response. How can we possibly worship God without a knowledge of who He is?
The Gospel is the story of who God is, our sinfulness, and what Christ has done to save us; and just as it requires a response from every person for salvation, it requires a response from every believer in our worship. Our initial response to the gospel is confession of sin and belief in what God has done for us through Christ, while our subsequent responses in worship reverberate the greatness of God. Our greatest worship is not sensing God's presence near us or offering ourselves to Him, our greatest worship is praising Him for Christ who died to redeem us because of His mercy, grace, and love.
Our worship, therefore, must be grounded in the Gospel. Planning worship around a gospel-centered liturgy (or theme) focuses our worship clearly on the message of God and Christ all through the service, as we are guided by His Word. A gospel liturgy guides us to connect all of the songs and every other element of the service to the gospel by following the message of gospel-centric Scripture texts. The end result is not about following a liturgy, but about responding to God in Worship, as the Scriptures do.
Many churches have followed the popular model of consumer-worship for far too long. Worship isn't something we achieve through the stirring up of emotions through music or motivational charismatic worship leaders. The effectiveness of a worship service is not measured by raised hands or bended knees but simply by whether or not we are responding to the message of who God is. God made salvation simple, and He made worship to be just as simple. Worship that praises God for who He is and what He has done through Christ to save us is deep and meaningful. Authentic worship has less to do with our emotions and more to do with a knowledge of who God is and who His exalted Christ is.
Read our gospel liturgies to see some of the many Scriptures, in both the Old and New Testaments, that guide us through the message of the gospel.
Gospel Liturgies are named so, because they focus on presenting all of the elements of the gospel. The gospel as understood in God's Holy Word includes:
Creation - God is the creator of all things and all people.
The Fall - Adam and Eve are our representatives, we are all sinners and at odds against God because of pride.
Redemption - Sin demands the penalty of death, but Jesus paid our debt with His life to atone for our sin and redeem us back to God.
Restoration - Through faith in Jesus Christ our fellowship with God is restored.
A gospel liturgy presents all four aspects of the gospel in a worship service. The categories above can be used, or they can viewed in other similar ways, such as:
God - Celebrate God for Who He is and what He has done.
Man or Sin - Reflection on depravity and confession of sin.
Christ - Worship Christ for His redemptive work on the cross.
Response - Respond to the Lord with prayer, commitment, faith and worship.
Adoration - Worshiping God for Who He is and what He has done.
Confession - Reflection on our depravity and confession of sin.
Thanksgiving - Giving thanks for Christ our Redeemer.
Supplication & Consecration - Respond with prayer, commitment, faith and worship.
A gospel liturgy presents the gospel in the correct order, as the Scripture presents it. Each gospel segment of the worship service can include a variety of worship elements such as a call to worship, hymns and spiritual songs, the sermon, communion, prayer, the offering, baptisms, and a benediction. Each element can be evaluated for where it best fits into a gospel liturgy giving it an intentional purpose in presenting the gospel. Many service items will fit into several different places in a gospel liturgy. A common approach for the sermon is to place it between the Christ-section and the Response-section allowing the response time to include responses to the Spirit's conviction through the presenting of the Word. Communion also fits well in several places: it can be in the Sin or Confession-section as it addresses mankind's depravity and confession of sin. Alternatively, it could be placed in the the Christ-section as it addresses Jesus as our Savior and Redeemer, or in the response-section as it concludes the service with a time of confession, worship and consecration. A call-to-worship generally is the first song and segues well into the God-section as the church is called to worship. Benedictions are generally a charge and fit the Response-section.
A Sample Worship Order that follows a Gospel Liturgy
A Gospel Liturgy.
Text: 1 Timothy 6:11-14.
This text presents the gospel in the following way:
God: God's calling
Man/Sin: Our sin and repentance
Christ: Jesus is Lord!
Response: Our obedience
The God-Section could include:
The Man/Sin-Section could include:
The Christ-Section could include:
The Response-Section could include:
The sample worship order above is an example of how all the service items can be orderly arranged to fit a gospel liturgy. The liturgy text gives Scripture-guidance to the service order, and when a Gospel-centered text is used that order is always God, Man-Sin, Christ, and Response. If the sermon text clearly includes the gospel as well: God, Man/Sin, Christ, Response, it can serve as both the sermon text and the liturgy text. This will keep the worship aligned even more tightly with the sermon. If, however, the sermon text does not explicitly include all four aspects of the gospel, then a complementary Gospel Liturgy text should be considered. When selecting a complimentary text look for common elements between the liturgy text and the sermon text so that perhaps the same characteristics of God, or a similar response might be emphasized.
The Bible declares the complete message of the gospel from beginning to end. Sermons and worship services that are guided by a single passage reveal the continuity of the Scriptures as they present the entire Gospel in a single text. While it is possible to present God as Creator from Genesis, the sinfulness of man from Deuteronomy, Salvation through Christ in Romans, and a response of joy from Philippians, the strongest gospel presentation is found a single source of Scripture. This emphasizes the truthfulness of the gospel message as found in God’s Word in many places. The gospel is presented from Genesis to Revelation, but it is also presented in both long and short passages throughout the Bible. The gospel is the common thread that runs through the Scriptures waiting to be discovered.
All of the liturgies on free2worship.com present Scriptures that reveal the gospel. Each scripture outlines the order of the gospel message—God, Man-Sin, Christ and Response. Sometimes a gospel element may be implied rather than directly addressed; for example in the Psalms, the wickedness of the psalmist's enemies may be a representation of all of mankind's sinfulness. Christ in the Old Testament is also often implied as God prepared His people for the coming Messiah. The Old Testament reveals Jesus in people, in symbols, in events, in references to God's steadfast (covenant) love and faithfulness, in prophecies of His coming, and more.
The first and last segments of a Gospel Liturgy, which are the God-section and the Response-section, have a wider range of themes, as compared to the two middle sections, the Man/Sin and Christ-sections which are more fixed and always address the sinfulness of mankind and the redemptive work of Jesus. For this reason, the titles that we use for our gospel liturgies convey what the text reveals about the first and last sections, God and response. Psalm 24:1-6, as an example, reveals in verse 1 that God owns the world and all who dwell in it, and in verse 6 it encourages us to seek God. Therefore the title of the liturgy for Psalm 24:1-6 is "God's Possessions, Our Pursuit of God". Titles formulated in this manner show at a glance what the four gospel aspects of the text are, with the understanding that mankind's sinfulness and the redemptive work of Christ are in every passage. This will be helpful when searching the liturgies on free2worship.com for a complimentary text to a sermon text. A sermon from Genesis 1, for example, would certainly reference God as Creator, therefore Psalm 24:1-6, which refers to all things as belonging to God, might be a good complimentary text to guide the worship. The best gospel liturgies will always be those that you find in the Scriptures, but the liturgies presented at free2worship are here to use whenever needed, whether to speed up service planning or help aid in the process of learning to see the gospel in various Bible texts.
Gospel Liturgy texts are Scripture texts that include all four aspects of the Gospel—God, Man, Christ, and Response. The liturgies at free2worship present the complete gospel, but there are many gospel liturgies waiting to be found in the Scriptures.
As you read the Scriptures look for the four aspects of the gospel. Consider keeping a journal of Gospel Liturgy Texts, or write "God", "Man", "Christ", "Response" (or use symbols as representations of the four Gospel aspects) next to verses in a passage. Searching for gospel liturgy texts can be tedious but it is a rewarding, task, so use the liturgies here as a starting point for learning how to see the gospel in a variety of Bible texts.