Over the last couple of decades the form of Christian worship that proceeded through a variety of elements (Bible readings, prayers, songs, sermon and sacraments) came to be known as a ‘hymn-sandwich’.
That form has given way to what is, in effect, a new traditional order of service.
One which is becoming the norm in most denominations.
Kevin DeYoung describes it as:
Casual welcome and announcements
Stand up for 4-5 songs
During the set, or at the very end, add a short prayer
DeYoung observes that sacraments may feature, as will the collection of an offering.
I can observe that maybe there’ll be a Bible reading, especially among evangelical churches that follow this model.
In other traditions that less doggedly follow an expostional preaching model, sometimes using Scripture to introduce the songs will suffice.
Or a reading before the sermon will represent a launching point rather than an introduction.
It can also be added that the common dismissal is now some variation of “Please join us for fair-trade brewed coffee in the hall.”
This form can now be observed across denominations.
But if every form is fed by a theology, and, in turn, the form nourishes the understanding of that theology, what does this form of gathering as worship say about our theology?
The simple question I want to ask is this: Is this New Evangelical Liturgy really an improvement?
Please hear me. I’m not talking about instrumentation or worship style (though form is not irrelevant). And I’m not suggesting God doesn’t take pleasure when his people worship him in Spirit and in truth from all sorts of templates. I’m not saying people won’t be saved or edified in churches that use the New Evangelical Liturgy. I’m certainly not saying they won’t like it. What I am suggesting is that by no biblical or historical consideration can we conclude that the New Evangelical Liturgy is an improvement on the old liturgy.