Don’t Be Afraid of That “Old Time Religion”

As we looked out at our mission field in the planning and preview season of our plant we noticed something.  While there really weren’t all that many churches in this part of the city, there were some other plants (3 others) and one very effective established church.  All of the other plants and the very effective church had one main thing in common – they were all non-denominational and non-liturgical.  As we looked at that and we took a look at the larger community we had to acknowledge that we might have an opportunity that the others don’t.  We are in a city that has a large Hispanic, Catholic influence to it so a little bit of tradition might not be a bad thing.  So as a United Methodist Church we decided to take some of the historic liturgical elements of our denomination’s worship and put them into our service.

We certainly didn’t want to go overboard, and when you show up to worship at our church we’re pretty casual and contemporary musically; but where we can we try to sprinkle in something historic, something liturgical as a means of setting us a part from others and connecting with folks who might find that kind of thing comfortable.  We begin our worship service each week with a congregational “Call To Worship” that comes from the weekly “Collects” in The Book of Common Prayer.  We always have a dedicated time of scripture reading prior to the sermon in order to let the text speak for itself rather than only reading scripture in the context of the sermon.  We say the Lord’s Prayer each week and when we celebrate Holy Communion we recite the Apostles Creed and participate in a congregational prayer of repentance and the Great Thanksgiving.

None of this is that revolutionary – in fact it’s really, really old.  But what we found is that it connected with people in a different way.  In our culture steeped in Catholicism and history our ability to draw people into the historic faith of the church using ancient liturgical tools in a fresh and enlivened way has been a huge help in setting us apart in our mission field and in our reaching and connecting with folks who haven’t had church as a part of their lives in a long time if ever.