The Untamed Blog

  • The Myth of the Nonliturgical Church

    In 1996 at The Second Annual Conference on Worship: The Theology and Music of Reformed Worship, held in Nashville, TN, Dr. Robert S. Rayburn made the following remarks in his lecture, “Worship from the Whole Bible:”

    Part of the reason why so many Christian worship services have no logic, no order, no movement, is because those who superintend those services of worship have not paid attention to the Bible’s main instruction in the formation of a worship service because that instruction is found in the Old Testament. It is this disregard for the importance of what is done that has led to the common pejorative use of the words ‘liturgy’ and ‘liturgical’ in many evangelical and Reformed circles.  This is a mistake in more ways than one. Every church service is a liturgy, if it has various elements in some arrangement.  That is what liturgy is.  Liturgical churches are churches that have thought about those elements and their proper order.  Nonliturgical churches are those that have not. It is no compliment to say that a church is a nonliturgical church.  It is the same thing as saying it is a church that gives little thought to how it worships God.

    I would imagine that most Christians think that the worship services in which they participate are biblical simply because of the content.  If it is about God or Jesus then that is sufficient. There is singing, praying, teaching, and maybe the Lord’s Supper, and that is enough.  But is it? Is it just a matter of the content of the elements of worship (the substance of which is also debatable) without any regard to the pattern in which those elements are placed? In agreement with Dr. Rayburn’s observations, the answer is “No.”  There is a pattern for worship that the scriptures teach, foundationally given in the Old Testament and further exemplified in the New. There is a pattern for liturgy that tells the story of redemption from beginning to end each and every week, even as that story is the story of Jesus. Jesus told His disciples, These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44). Since the Old Testament is about Jesus, is it too much of a stretch to conclude that it might have something to teach us about how Jesus should be worshiped?

    It is my intention in future posts to make a case for a biblical pattern for worship that is rooted in the Old Testament, and, therefore, fundamentally Christ-centered.  Not surprisingly, this pattern is also reflected in the historical liturgies of the Church of the past two millenia. So remember, there is no such thing as a nonliturgical church. Not really. There are only churches that have given more or less thought as to what the whole counsel of scripture has to say about how God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be worshiped.

  • What is the Gospel?

    This week, at the Together For the Gospel conference, John MacArthur supposedly made the following statement, “Preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words. I don’t know who said that, but it’s stupid.” The subsequent conversations that have followed have centered in the realm of semantics, arguing whether one can preach only through words – as preaching is a verbal activity – or if it’s appropriate to say that one can preach through actions as well. At the heart of this debate, though, is another debate of greater consequence: What is the gospel?


  • Hating the Sin but Hating the Sinner

    How should the church respond to homosexuals? Recently, the Huffington Post published an article in which the author lamented the church’s attitude toward homosexuals, his main point being that while Christians readily admit that everyone is a sinner, homosexuals are really the only group of people that receive the “sinner” label.  This, in turn, leads to homosexuals feeling like outsiders within the church. The author feels this is not an acceptable response, and is therefore led to the conclusion that he can no longer “hate the sin, but love the sinner.”  You can read that article here.

    The view represented in this article has gained a lot of traction among Christians in recent years. While this is partly due to conviction, I can’t help but believe that a large segment is just exhausted… exhausted over the arguing, exhausted with being labeled a hate-monger, exhausted with the church telling them how they should act and think, but not seeing any progress in the world. In other words, if they have responded to homosexuals the way the church has told them is the biblical response, then there should have been a cultural decline in homosexuality. There hasn’t been, of course, which leaves the church scratching her head and pursuing new courses of action, whether it be redefining homosexuality in moral terms, or redefining what the church’s role is supposed to be toward sinful lifestyles.


  • Liturgical Dancing

    C.S. Lewis, in his Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, writes, “Novelty, simply as such, can have only an entertainment value.  And [people] don’t go to church to be entertained.  They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best – if you like, it ‘works’ best – when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe that you don’t notice.  Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.  The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.”

    The analogy that Lewis uses is a good one, and raises two immediate points.


  • How to Avoid Death-By-Eucharist

    (This article was originally published at

    glass of wineGrowing up in a Southern Baptist church, I became accustomed to eating from the Lord’s Table once a quarter. The words of institution were read from 1 Corinthians 11, and the organ droned “Have Thine Own Way,” until everyone had been served. While the organ hummed we examined ourselves to see whether or not we should have been partaking at all. Most of us sat with heads bowed and eyes closed. (I know because I often got tired of examining myself and looked around hoping someone was doing something interesting.) Afterwards we left the auditorium in silence, not talking or fellowshipping until we had made our way into the outer hall. It was very respectful, for which I am thankful, and very somber, for which I am not. (more…)

  • It’s Good Work If You Can “Get It”

    Across this country there are new churches being planted every day. This is especially true in the South. In my little town south of Nashville, it seems like there’s a new church plant every month. This is good news, right? I mean, the growth of the kingdom necessarily means that we’re gonna need more churches. Right? Well, in theory, that’s correct… but I don’t think that’s what is happening in this case. Instead, what I think we’re seeing is a whole segment of Christians who are church hopping. Yes, there are new churches being started, but at the expense of older ones. This is not necessarily a bad thing if the older ones are bad churches, but, again, I don’t think this is what is going on. Rather, I think what we’re seeing are dissatisfied Christians looking to revitalize their relationship with Christ. They’re looking for something new, something exciting. A new church means new possibilities – a fresh start.

    The problem is, most Christians do not know why they are dissatisfied. They usually attribute it to community – they’re not clicking with anyone at their church. Sometimes they attribute it to the music – it’s not traditional enough, it’s not contemporary enough, etc. Sometimes it’s the lack of a “sold out” youth group. Or a pastor’s preaching style. Or not enough service projects. Or they’re not culturally relevant. The list goes on and on.

    Remember that movie Unbreakable? (more…)