The word "liturgy" can be a bit off-putting to many evangelicals. It can conjure up images of grandiose Roman or Eastern rituals performed during the worship service -- often creating a stark contrast between the priests performing the rituals and the congregants observing dormantly. For many, it may reduce the worship of God to a set of "to do's" -- a list to check off on Sunday before we go on our way unchanged. When considered this way, it's no wonder many modern evangelicals look with suspicion on the word.
Rightly understood, however, liturgy is the intentional ordering of our worship according to the regular renewing of our covenant before God: we are first called to work in service for God (Psalm 95:6, Psalm 100, Psalm 66:1-4, Hebrews 4:14-16); confess our sin before God and are assured of His forgiveness (Leviticus 5:14-6:7; 7:1-6, Psalm 103:8-12); we then declare entire dedication of ourselves to God (Leviticus 1:1-17); commune with God as a people who have been forgiven and cleansed of our sins (Leviticus 7:11–21, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26); and finally we are sent by His authority into the world to call all to live and declare the Lordship of Christ (Matthew 28:19-20).
Though God does call individuals to Himself, He doesn't call us to remain alone in our faith. Rather, His desire is that we worship Him as a unified body of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25, Acts 2:42-47, Romans 12:3-13, 1 Corinthians 12:25-27). Because of this, we desire to order our worship in such a way that fosters such unity. Practically, among other things, this manifests itself in corporate confession of sin; affirming, as a congregation, the historic creeds of our faith; responsive reading of the Scriptures; raising our hands together to sing praises to God; affirming together the truth of the Scriptures and the songs of our faith by responding "Amen" in unison; and partaking of the Lord's Supper weekly -- doing so as a communal celebration, rather than a time of mournful, personal introspection.
Because we believe our worship of God is to be a renewal of His covenant with us -- and a fresh reminder of the centrality of Christ's death and resurrection to the fulfillment of that covenant -- we therefore believe in the weekly practice of taking communion together.
Because we believe the covenant promises of God entail the glorification of His Church in history (and in keeping with the practice of our Lord Himself), we drink wine. Or as Peter Leithart has put it, "We eat and drink creation glorified" -- grapes that have been matured and refined through time, as the blood of Christ is maturing and refining His people.
And finally, because we believe the covenant promises of God extend to our children (Genesis 12:1–3, 17:12–13, Mark 10:14-16, Acts 16:30–34), we not only believe that they should be baptized in infancy, but that they should be welcomed to partake with us in this weekly communion (Exodus 29:31-32).
singing the psalms
If you visit several of our Bible studies and fellowships throughout the week, you will notice something that you may not be used to: an emphasis on singing the Psalms. Almost any time we are gathered together -- whether at our Bible study, at Beer & Psalms, or at our ladies' fellowship -- we are practicing the Psalms together. We do not believe that churches may only sing the Psalms. But we certainly believe they should be present -- even dominant -- in our music. And because of the heavy emphasis on song in Scripture, we consider an ability to sing the Psalms to be just about as important as our ability to read.
The Psalms were designed as God's inspired song book to His people ("To the choirmaster..."). They often address struggles that would be considered "taboo" in modern praise music -- but these struggles crop up in the lives of believers whether or not they are acknowledged in the songs they sing at church. They also teach us empathy for our brethren by putting the prayers of others on our lips. In the Psalms, we learn to express not just joy and praise to God, but also sorrow, fear, anger, and doubt. The Psalms encourage us to bring everything -- not just our good days -- to Christ, and to always turn our focus to Him (no matter how confused or hopeless a Psalm begins, it always ends in reliance on and thanksgiving to God). And by singing God's words back to him, we are not only edifying and encouraging each other (Colossians 3:16), but we are glorifying God -- which is the chief end of all of our worship (2 Chronicles 5:12-16).
Because Christ is sovereign over every corner of the earth and every aspect of life, we believe that the world cannot be properly understood apart from the knowledge of Him. And though we earnestly trust that our covenant children do belong to God, that does not at all negate the deep need to build them up upon a strong foundation in Christian and Christ-centric education. Christian parents are to bring their children up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4) -- and Christian parents work against themselves in this task if each hour of nurture and admonition is offset by eight hours of decidedly anti-Christian instruction. We therefore encourage and support our members in any way possible to give their children a Christian education -- either through homeschooling or through Christian school.
optimism about the future of the church
We trust that, just as God is maturing His Church, He is also slowly maturing the world around us. As it has been put by our denomination's publication "What to Expect in Our CREC Church":
We believe that the preaching of the gospel in the world will be powerful and effective, that the nations will come to Christ in order to be discipled by Him, that a golden era of human history will ensue, and that after this, the Lord Jesus will return to destroy the last enemy, death.
We therefore don't grow despondent after watching the news and seeing what's going on in our own nation. We don't anticipate a point in time at which the world will have become so evil that Christ will rapture His people and destroy the rest. We believe that He is slowly but surely remaking the world, and when He returns He will return to a world in submission to Him (Isaiah 2, Psalm 72, Matthew 13:31-33, 1 Corinthians 15:25-26). This hopefulness, far from encouraging evangelical laziness, spurs us on to share the good news of the Gospel and to continue whittling away in faith at the world around us, knowing that our work is not in vain.