Learning to Worship from Other Traditions

Worship can often be a one-dimensional affair.  What I mean is that churches and individuals sometimes fall into the trap of assuming they know best how to worship.  The mix of songs and styles, the length of the sermon, videos or not, prayers of piety or prayers of audacity, the Bible (in the correct version!), along with any number of other elements that can be part of a typical worship service.  They’ve figured it out, and there is nothing else to learn or know.

In my experience, however, I have found that pulling elements from other traditions can be quite enriching.  In fact, by looking around at how other traditions and denominations worship can allow you to go deeper in your understanding of worship, and more importantly, a deeper encounter with the God that we worship!

For example, I have worked with several churches that did not regularly quote the Apostles’ Creed.  By introducing the Creed into a worship service, and explaining its significance, these congregations were able to sense their connection to Christians throughout the centuries.  Our community of believers is beyond those that sit around us in the pews.  It spans the globe, and in Christ it also spans time itself!

After this introduction of the Creed, one small group of believers spent time together studying the Creed more directly and found its richness and simplicity to be life-changing.  They also found how it deeply confirmed their faith.  They studied the Trinity in unexpected ways, and discovered elements of the story of redemption that they had never considered.  All of this from a group that had seldom, if ever,  heard or said the Creed at all.

You will note that the ecumenical Creeds (Apostles, Nicene and Athanasian) are each built upon the three-fold structure of Trinitarian Doctrine.  Basically, we see each section of the Creeds reflecting truth about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  These are not random thoughts, but statements built upon the foundation of Scripture and carefully worded and summarized in each of the Creeds.

The Creeds have been a vital part of worship for centuries.  So important were they, that both Luther and Calvin constructed writings upon their outlines.  For Luther, both his Shorter Catechism and Larger Catechism utilize the Apostles’ Creed for his commentary.  For Calvin, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, as a primer of theology, was built upon this same structure.

Worship can reflect this same outline.  I have found that centering the worship service on the Trinitarian aspects of the Creeds can be uplifting and encouraging.  It gives us a holistic view and perspective for life and worship.  The following example is admittedly short, but is meant to serve as a basic sketch that can be both expanded and amplified.  I use a basic pattern of declaration, response/reflection, and prayer.

God the Father
Read the first section of the Apostles’ Creed
Respond with singing:  All Creatures of our God and King (St. Francis of Assisi)
Pause for Prayer

God the Son
Read the second section of the Apostles’ Creed
Respond with singing:  In Christ Alone (Townend & Getty)
Pause for Prayer

God the Father
Read the third section of the Apostles’ Creed
Respond with singing:  They’ll know we are Christians by our Love (Scholte)
Pause for Prayer

So look around and go deeper.  Even introducing one new element on occasion into the worship of your church will bring a new level of appreciation for the wonder of God and how we can express our praise to Him.


(Original Post on July 10, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.worldviewchurch.org/worshiparts/articles/20135-learning-to-worship-from-other-traditions)

Posted on March 10, 2014, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, Martin Luther, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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