Someone else looks at Baptists and liturgy
One the recurring themes in my blog is my recent search for a liturgical expression of orthodox, evangelical Christianity, and how that search has led me, and my fiancee, on a wonderful journey through American denominations.
I've felt somewhat disloyal to my Southern Baptist roots during this trip, but it seems I am not the only Baptist to wonder why so many people like running around with prayer books.
But, liturgy in this elementary sense is more than just a schedule. A schedule has elements, and the elements have an order, a sequence, which is sometimes dictated by the internal logic of the liturgy, sometimes the result of custom.
The offering, for example, could appear in many places in a Baptist liturgy. It is usually one of the preliminarys before the preaching of the sermon. Indeed, it “must” be before the sermon, because of the internal logic of a standard Baptist liturgy, which has the evangelization of the lost as its most fundamental purpose. For this reason, the whole service moves toward the climax of the sermon, the invitation. The denouement must be either the wistful prayer of the pastor for lasting conviction on those who did not come forward, or the joyful introduction of those who walked the aisle to profess faith in Christ, to rededicate their lives to Christ, or to move their letter of membership to this particular Baptist congregation. The final Big Bang of the service must be the invitation, and what follows it cannot be allowed to diminish it.
Interestingly, in services which follow the Baptist liturgy as to the elements and their scheduling in the service, but whose climactic moment is NOT an evangelistic invitation, I have sometimes seen the offering moved to the end of the service, after the sermon. The rationale for this, explained to me by those who feel a need to defend this seemingly “unorthodox” practice, is that it affords people an opportunity to “respond” to the preaching of God’s Word by making an offering (ostensibly, out of gratitude).
What would happen if a Baptist Church decided to drop the gospel invitation? I’ve seen discussions about this, and heard about even more of them. It is not a pretty sight. Why?
Just this – to drop the gospel invitation from the end of the sermon in a Baptist Church would be tantamount to abandoning the identity of the Baptist worship service. “We’re Baptists, for crying out loud! We’re here to preach the gospel. Of course we’re going to keep the invitation after the sermon.”
Read the whole thing. It's worth it.
LISTENING TO: Air 1, the positive alternative (thanks again, iTunes)