During this time of havoc and chaos, one of the things that we miss most in our day-to-day lives is the presence of a routine. Our daily routines, like everything else in life, have been upended through sheltering in place and social distancing. The absence of routine reminds of the value of having a routine at all. The regular flow of daily life allows for the alleviation of stress and a greater focus on the work at hand.
The desire for and value of a routine is found not only in our day-to-day lives but also in the way we worship. Whether or not we have a formal liturgy or printed order of worship in our weekly congregational gatherings, we have a certain expectation each time we come together and worship. This regular flow of worship when we gather together is a liturgy.
The word liturgy comes from two Greek words, which together mean the work of the people. It is meant to be a description of the work of the people of God in praising God. Liturgy describes our regular rhythms of praise, prayer, and proclamation.
Whether or not your church follows a formal liturgy, your worship still takes on a liturgical pattern. Repeated times of praying, singing, reading the Word, and hearing the Word proclaimed at each service serve to give a framework for congregational worship.
Though many of us (myself included) are members of congregations that do not worship within a formal liturgical tradition, it is helpful for us to think about forming our worship routines in an intentionally God-glorifying direction.
The need for liturgy is especially dire as most of us are not able to meet together in corporate worship through this season of our lives. Many if not most Christians will find themselves worshiping over the next several Sundays, not seated in their pews next to fellow believers, but instead gathered around a screen in their family room listening to a sermon and perhaps hearing songs broadcast by their church leaders.
During this time of worship removed from the norms of congregational routines, worshippers need to give attention to their liturgical practice in the worship that is taking place in their homes. Establishing a temporary, quarantine liturgy will equip believers to continue to carry on the work of congregational worship. Below are a few guidelines for Christians who are worshipping through this difficult time:
Worship at a regular time
The church where I currently serve as the interim pastor had to make the difficult decision to pre-record our messages. This was the best way to lead our congregation in adoration of God and the proclamation of his Word through this difficult time. While worship services on demand may be the best way for churches to facilitate worship through church life in the season of Coronavirus, staying in regular patterns of weekly worship are important for at least two reasons. First, staying in a weekly worship routine will make it easier to get back to regular patterns of faithful worship once this season of quarantine is over. Second, keeping worship set aside for a regular time helps those worshipping in your home prepare to intentionally enter into the worship time, thus distinguishing worship from just viewing another YouTube video or a television episode.
This is easiest for Christian families where believing family members can come together in worship. Christian families need to worship together through this time to pray, sing, and hear the proclamation of the Word. If you are not able to worship with others in your household, leverage technology to have as much fellowship with other believers as possible. If your church is not already using a video conferencing platform like Zoom, ask a friend from your church to be on Facetime with you during worship time.
The New Testament is full of references to believers worshipping together (Acts 2:42; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 10:25). In this season of Coronavirus, the ideal way of meeting together (physically in local congregations) has been interrupted. However, even in this time our worship together can be enriched if we participate in worship with others in whatever way we can safely do so.
Read, Sing, Pray, Listen
Worship should never be a passive experience. You do not go into congregational worship to witness someone else perform, you are there to be an active participant in worship. Worship through this season should be no different. Come together with those in your household and/or those who have joined you through the common grace of technology and participate in worship.
Read a passage of Scripture together, either the sermon text for the morning or a Psalm would be a great selection.
Sing together. Sing along with any worship music your church is able to stream into your household. Supplement that music by singing songs of the faith together. What a wonderful time for your family to learn to sing a great hymn of the faith or a new song of praise! Don’t worry about carrying a tune or staying on pitch. Sing praises to God who shaped your vocal cords and is pleased to hear your praise!
Pray together. Open your time together in prayer, pray at the close of the service. Pray before you press “play” on the sermon video that God would use this time to speak to you through his Word. Encourage various members of those participating in worship to offer these prayers to God. If children are worshipping with you, ask them to lead the family in prayer.
Listen to the sermon together. Remember that God is graciously speaking through the Scriptures he has given to his people. If at all possible, listen to your pastor. He has been seeking God’s will on what to say to the believers God has placed under his care. He is not the best preacher on YouTube, but he is your pastor who God has called to proclaim the Word to you.
Long for The Day When We Can Return to Gathering Together in Corporate Worship
One of my most frequent prayers for the church members and students who God has been good to allow me to minister to is that their dedication to gathering together would increase and not diminish through this time. Each Sunday as you worship removed from the corporate body, allow yourself to feel the full weight of the awkwardness of worshipping in front of a screen instead of being physically gathered together with your sisters and brothers in Christ. Recognize this is not how things need to be, lament that you cannot be with other believers, ask that God would use this time to create in you a longing for a return to the gathering of the Saints in corporate worship. My seven-year-old daughter led our family in expressing this sentiment to God last Sunday. As we gathered for worship, she prayed a simple prayer, which was a blessing to our family and a fitting end to this article:
“God help us to have a good time now and bring us back to church soon, amen.”