Worship and “Other” Churches

The reflections in this article are inspired by two sources. The first is from Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology by Gordon Lathrop. He writes, “to see what the assembly actually says about God, go into the gathering place.”[1]

The second source is Michael Driscoll’s chapter “The Conversion of the Nations,” in The Oxford History of Christian Worship. In setting up methodologies for characterizing the liturgy in early medieval Europe, Driscoll poses the question, “What about those great numbers of laity for whom Latin was unintelligible, yet who nonetheless were nourished by the liturgy?”[2]

1. Both authors are operating an assumption that anyone or any church might benefit from. Lathrop assumes that you cannot truly know or understand what a church believes until you worship with them.

You can read all the books you want on a given Christian tradition or denomination and determine that respective local churches reflect your reading of that information or you can go worship with those local churches and enact what they believe, then you will know what the church and her congregants truly believe. I, of course, recommend the latter.

2. Secondly, Driscoll operates under the assumption that at least some of the laity are genuinely nourished by the church’s liturgy, or public worship, regardless of critiques from the inside or the outside.

Maybe you disagree with how a given Christian tradition or denomination worship, or maybe how they worship is simply not your preference. The reality is, however, that for anyone who is united to Christ the worship of their church will, in fact, strengthen and quicken them in their faith.

3. These two assumptions, first, that to understand what a local church believes you must worship with her, and secondly, that a local church’s worship nourishes the faithful, will go a long way in your ministry in a number of ways; two that are outlined here.

First, practically, these assumptions will allow you to engage in beneficial discussions with leaders and participants from other churches, including and especially churches from other traditions and denominations. Rather than disparaging each other, these two healthy assumptions will provide a foundation for the pursuit of understanding the worship of each other’s churches.

4. Secondly, we can affirm the doctrine of the communion of saints in and through time. There is now space to celebrate the nourishment that liturgy has brought to all Christians at all times, even when the Church has not been at her finest. This can also be true for liturgies across the world today.

The language of primary and secondary theology may be fruitful here. Primary theology, participating in the liturgy, can be nourishing, even when secondary theology, reflections on the liturgy, may not be the most biblically founded or historically informed. Thanks be to God for his mercy to use our liturgies as means of grace first for His glory and honor and secondly for the strengthening and quickening of our faith.

[1] Lathrop, Gordon. Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology. Fortress Press, 1998.

[2] Driscoll, Mark. “The Conversion of the Nations.” The Oxford History of Christian Worship. Oxford University Press, 2005.

Featured Image: By Mattana – Mattis (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Jason Palmer is the Administrator of TalkingWorship.com. He has a Bachelor of Science in Ministry and is currently studying for the Master of Divinity degree. Jason leads worship for Glenn Street Church. He has lead evangelical churches in worship for 9 years and desires to see worship leaders become confident in their calling.

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My wife and I watched Marvel’s Doctor Strange at a local theatre this last weekend. I did not know who  Doctor Strange was before the movie and now I understand the hype about the visuals in the movie. When you bend time and space there had better be some good graphics to accompany such a feat!

This is not a review or summary of the movie, but rather a reflection on two key themes of the movie. First, time was an essential theme of the story. One of the villains, Kaecilius, had joined Dormammu because he wanted to escape time. In fact, he says that time is the enemy because in time all die. If only humans could escape time then we would be immortal.Read More »

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It does not happen often, but occasionally I have lots to say and nothing to write. Everything continues to shift around in my head as I continue to grapple with Church life, especially her worship (leitourgia, or liturgy). I wrestle to understand her worship history, theology, and what it means to be people of rhythms. I struggle to understand the relationship between her worship and culture.

But I do this with purpose.Read More »

Provision in Worship

My wife and I recently returned from our Spring Break trip. We traveled over 2,300 miles and crossed 9 states. The driving was excellent and each stop went well. Our car, however, did not enjoy the first 1,000 miles of our trip. Not long after we got out of our home state, she started making sounds. Every stop I would call my Dad to talk through what was going on and look under the hood and check the basics (what little I know, anyway). Nothing came up.Read More »

Super Bowl Sunday, or Super Bowl and Sunday?

On Sunday I watched Super Bowl 50 like millions of others in our nation and across the world. A defensively charged game, many found the Championship Game a little more dull than normal. Our nation prefers long homers over pitching duels and hat tricks over sound saves. For some reason we ascribe exciting to offense and points, not to defense.

As always, the Super Bowl dominated social media the days before, the day of, and the days after the most-watched game in all of sports. And for another year, I witnessed at least one picture or meme, pictured above, seeking to set the same standards on the Super Bowl onto Christian Sunday worship. Today my goal is to set these two events side and by side and see whether we can place the Super Bowl and the Church’s Gathering together and compare them to one another.Read More »

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If you want your church’s worship to develop and your worship leading to grow, being intentional about your worship is the very first step that you should take. Today, we are going to look at two disciplines that will help us be more intentional about our worship, but first, I want to talk about what it means to “be intentional” about or worship.Read More »

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Star Wars has burst back into the cinematic scene with J.J. Abrams directing Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. When I think of Star Wars, I recall one of my favorite scenes featuring Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. As Darth Vader attempts to seduce Luke to the Dark Side of the Force, George Lucas captures Luke’s inner struggle with some unique imagery. As Luke hides from Darth Vader, we see red light, representing the Dark Side, on one side of Luke’s face, and blue light, representing the Light Side, on the other side of Luke’s face.Read More »

Unpacking “Christian Worship”, Part II

Part I

This is the second part of a two part unpacking of a definition for Christian worship. See Part I here. Then continue here:


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Unpacking “Christian Worship”, Part I

Words are very important, and too often words can have many meanings. Worship is one of those words. There are many responses one could get if they were to take a survey of the word “worship”. From different worldviews to different traditions within the stream of Christianity, there are lots of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. Various Church cultures within these streams have various associations and implications when they speak of worship. This is why it is important to apply definitions towards words.Read More »

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You are planning for the coming Sunday’s worship, and the pastor says, “We need to make this Sunday missional.”

Wait, what?
You are in a job interview for a worship leader position and the lead pastor says, “We are all about mission.”

So you are hiring a worship leader because…?

We have all been there. And quite frankly, these circumstances can be difficult to navigate. You beg
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