The benefits of historic, Bible-saturated, Sunday morning liturgy are many. Liturgies protect the congregation from the pastor’s (or worship leader’s) whims and hobby horses. With a solid liturgy, you don’t have to put up with those odd songs or ideas that “moved” your pastor (or worship leader) in the days before worship. Solid liturgies remind us we’re not of this world, they kill narcissism, they help us join voices with the saints of old, they remind us God is a Triune God of order, majesty, and constancy, and solid liturgies do not cater to certain age groups or ethnicities. In Beyond Smells and Bells: The Wonder and Power of Christian Liturgy, Anglican Mark Galli talks about these benefits and more. The following quotes are some that stood out as I read this book.
“In an individualistic culture, the liturgy helps us live a communal life. In a culture that values spontaneity, the liturgy grounds us in something enduring. … In a world demanding instant relevance, the liturgy gives us the patience to live into a relevance that the world does not know” (p. 11).
The liturgy takes “us into a strange world, one that is not about the self, which so easily becomes banal, but about a glorious God” (p. 29).
“…The liturgy puts a break on narcissism right up front. …We are forcefully reminded that we are not worshiping an idealized form of the self, but a God ‘in heaven,’ a ‘holy’ God, a genuine Other” (p. 43).
“The liturgy does not target any age or cultural sub-group. It does not even target this century (it does not assume, as we moderns are tempted to do, that this is the best of all possible ages, the most significant era of history). Instead, the liturgy presents a form of worship that transcends our time and place. …It has not been shaped to meet any particular group’s needs. It seeks only to enable people – people in general – to see God” (p. 57-8).
Liturgical worship “is a form of worship that is especially suited to not getting distracted” (p. 59).
By the way, ‘liturgy’ here means things like the votum, salutation, benediction, confession, absolution, prayers/collects, Scriptures, alms, doxology, and so on. Galli is even more ‘high church’ than I am, so there are parts of this book with which I didn’t agree (i.e. his appeals to Rome). I wouldn’t give this book to just anyone; I’d give it to thoughtful Christians who are wrestling with worship, who need to learn some good reasons for liturgical services.
I’d also recommend it to our readers who are in a liturgical tradition but have doubts about it or who need to be reminded that biblical liturgy is good for the Christian church. Finally, for pastors or elders in old-school, confessional Reformed, Presbyterian, Anglican, or Lutheran churches, I do think this would be a good one for you to have on the shelves. Even if you may not want to hand it out to everyone, the book will help keep you liturgical in an anti-liturgical age. And it’ll help you explain to others why biblical liturgy is indeed a blessing.