Great Stuff — The Four Stages of Coming into the Liturgy

Found over on World Wide Wolfmueller:

Pastor Jared Melius of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, CO wrote the following email outlining the four stages of coming into the Lutheran Liturgy. Enjoy!

  1. Confusion – where am I? what page? am I supposed to be standing or sitting?

  2. Boredom – This is the most dangerous phase. At this phase, people begin to conclude that because the liturgy is repetitive, that it is therefore non-spiritual. This conclusion is hardly ever thought out as such. It is just a matter of impressions and feelings. This “feels” dry, dull, non-spiritual. And therefore, it must be from man and not from God.

  3. Love of the liturgy itself – If phase 2 didn’t drive people away from the liturgy, it is usually and ironically replaced by the love of the liturgy for the liturgy’s sake. Here people begin to love the “feeling,” the “reverence,” and the connection to history. They have a sense that this is old and therefore good. People in the depths of this phase can spend hours researching whether the Creed should come before the sermon or after, trying to find out which practice is more “ancient.” Truthfully, many pastors get stuck in this phase and endorse liturgical worship because it is older, more reverent, etc. Some of them leave for the Eastern church or the Roman church because they think they can get it more pure there.

  4. Love of the content – The liturgy is a conduit for Word of God and the means of grace. There isn’t, in my opinion, a better such conduit on the market. If there were, I myself would adopt it. In this phase, one uses the liturgy for the sake of the Gospel itself, not for the sake of the liturgy itself.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — The Four Stages of Coming into the Liturgy — 3 Comments

  1. Thanks, Norm. This post led me to these older items that I have not seen before but found them apt:

    A Lutheran Theology of Evangelism, Some Theses

    Freed from the Shopkeeper’s Prison

    Presented at the Indiana District’s North Region General Pastor’s Conference, May 9-10, 2011


    Lutherans have been highly influenced by the outreach and evangelism methods, outlook, language, and expectations of the conservative American Protestant churches. But is there another path? What about the doctrine of Election? What exactly is the Pastor’s job? What is his duty in the task of “outreach”? How did Jesus and the Apostles “do evangelism”? These and other questions are explored in this four part presentation by Rev. H. R. Curtis

  2. Three of the four stages describe problems. How can the church best address them?

    The author presents no survey data, which would be useful for verifying the prevalence and sequence of these attitudes. Does anyone know what his model is based on?

    I recognize all four of the attitudes and can think of a couple more based on my experience:

    5. Critical awareness of portions of the liturgy where the meaning of the words can be more clearly communicated, where redundancy can be reduced, where something more edifying could be said or sung, or where the music could be more accessible or better performed.

    6. Tolerance of quirks and weaknesses in the liturgy and its facilitation, recognizing that though the vehicle be imperfect (Romans 8:26) to the extent human judgment has shaped it, we are most certainly blessed by devoting our collective attention to the things that are above, and that quibbling over the quality of the service wouldn’t be helpful to one’s fellow saints in the congregation.


    Every Lutheran discussion of liturgy I’ve witnessed starts with how we’ve been doing things for centuries and presents a defense. That’s all well and good, but I wonder if it would be enlightening to begin the discussion at a different point:

    What are the characteristics of a good liturgy?
    How do our orders of worship rate?

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