I’ve been chugging through Simon Chan’s Liturgical Theology and blogging about it. Chan has some important things to say to the evangelical/charismatic church, I think.
According to Chan, worship is what makes the church the church. For the missional church to gain any traction and sustain energy it must be fueled by worship. Like Matt Redman wrote (I find I quote him a lot as I think through these things):
“Let worship be the fuel for mission’s flame [and] let worship be the heart of mission’s aim.”
Well said, Matt.
But worship is more than just singing some songs. Chan says the charismatic church has tended to reduce worship to simply praise. Worship is more fully realized as the entire liturgy of the church (Word and sacrament). So if worship is what makes the church the church, and the church’s worship is most fully embodied in the liturgy (culminating in the Eucharist), then the church meeting to participate in the liturgy isn’t just some optional exercise for Christians. It becomes, in fact, the defining practice of the church. And the church’s liturgy then provides the definition and framework for other Christian practices, including the missional ones. The church can’t be reduced to simply a bunch of people talking about trade justice.
Other organizations do relief work. Other groups work for justice. Other religions help the poor and needy. But only the church worships the Triune God.
Chan says that the church, then, ought to be more intentional about its worship practice, and also in training people in the meaning of the church’s practice of worship. He makes a strong argument for churches adopting some kind of catechetical training process that is integrally tied to the church’s worship, focusing on the creed, Ten Commandments, and Lord’s prayer (Christian belief, ethics, and spirituality). This training period would culminate in baptism, where the candidate renounces the world, the flesh, and the devil and pledges lifelong faithfulness to Jesus Christ. This would be the candidates full acceptance into the communion of the church (participating in the liturgy, including the Eucharist).
Some people might be suspicious: this sounds a lot like what the church has done in the past, doesn’t it? Did it work well? Well, yes and no. But Chan seems to be simply arguing for not throwing the baby of cathechetical training and liturgy out with the bathwater of religiosity and superstition. The correction to abuse (or ignorance) is correct use, not disuse. The evangelical church could use a stronger theology of the church, and also a more well-realized liturgy. In subsequent posts, I’ll be reflecting on Chan’s specific suggestions on what the Sunday liturgy should look like in a local church.