Liturgy: Tool for evangelism?

This article at the Christian post tells about how church planter and Anglican bishop Todd Hunter is discovering that the liturgy itself, far from "turning people off" can - at least in some cases - be a tool for evangelism:

"Two dechurched friends told Hunter they had never kneeled before in their life as a believer and found that kneeling was rewiring their souls. Another friend said reciting creeds is making his faith come alive.

And when he met with a young adult who frequents parties and with whom he is well acquainted, he received a vision that if she and others around her age just prayed the Prayer of Confession week after week, it would rewire their moral thinking.

When he was involved in the emerging church movement, Hunter found that there was a fascination among postmoderns with the past. Now a part of the Anglican Communion, he's discovering that liturgy can be used as a tool for evangelism."
The interest of postmoderns with the past and with many of the more ancient Christian practices is a trend that the "ancient future worship" movement has attempted to tap into. I believe that this could put United Methodist Churches in an excellent position to reach out to new people if we church leaders would be willing to do several things:

1) learn to lead our church's established liturgy, and to do so well; not half-heartedly, not sloppily, but with attention to beauty, excellence, and spiritual depth (I'll have a more detailed post on this next week!)

2) know what we are doing in the various parts of the liturgy (what they mean, where they come from) and share that knowledge with others so that both we and they can appreciate the liturgy more fully

3) be willing to incorporate contemporary music into our liturgy, using both together rather than pitting new music on the one hand against the liturgy on the other

4) understand and preach about our Wesleyan sacramental theology (perhaps re-reading his sermons on "The Means of Grace" and "The Duty of Constant Communion" and the lyrics of some of the Wesleyan sacramental hymns are good places to start, and perhaps a re-read of "This Holy Mystery" is in order)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post! You've got your finger on the pulse of the modern young person.

I look forward to the more detailed posts on learning to "lead our church's established liturgy, and to do so well; not half-heartedly, not sloppily, but with attention to beauty, excellence, and spiritual depth" in the near future.

God bless.

10:17 AM, November 28, 2009  
Blogger Fr. Philip said...

I agree with this as well. One of the big things that I tell anyone that is interested in the Orthodox Church is simply, "Come and See." Christ started his evangelism this way and we should as well. He established the Church and its Liturgy for a reason, come and see the richness. Come and see the how the motions "rewire" us as you wrote. You can only get so much in a book. "Come and See!"

11:26 AM, November 28, 2009  
Blogger Christine Erikson (aka Justina) said...

that bit about kneeling and reciting the Creed rewiring the soul, is
what the Orthodox experience as
converts where adopting these
behaviors has an effect. Worship that
involves actions is powerful.
Does Methodism use Holy Water like
the RC and Orthodox do, having it
available more or less throughout
the year, not just for baptisms?

10:31 PM, November 30, 2009  
Blogger Daniel McLain Hixon said...

The United Methodist Church generally uses consecrated water only for Baptisms and for baptismal re-affirmations (so, for example, at some UM churches on Easter Vigil people might come down and touch the water at the font to remember and renew their baptism). Some of our theologians advocate putting the font/baptistry near the entrance of the church building (since baptism is the entrance to the Christian faith community) as a tactile reminder to people - which would seem to me to be pretty similar to Roman Catholic practice.

9:56 AM, December 01, 2009  
Blogger lehall said...

This really resonates with me, but folks in my church still assume that liturgy=traditional=unwelcoming and that the music from the local Christian radio station should be the backbone of a new service to attract "unchurched" people. I struggle with how to get them imagining further than their current assumptions.

2:45 PM, December 02, 2009  
Anonymous Fr. Jason Vidrine said...

Like Fr. Philip and our Orthodox brethren, we who are Roman Catholic draw our life-blood from the Sacred Liturgy. It is the source and summit of our lives, and so also of evangelization and mission. For anyone who might be interested, Pope Benedict has written beautifully about this in the last part of his Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_ben-xvi_exh_20070222_sacramentum-caritatis_en.html#The_Eucharist,_a_mystery_to_be_proclaimed)

2:58 PM, December 02, 2009  

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