As a worship leader I feel compelled to steward God’s story of redemption each week in worship. Since I was a child, I have had a love for the Word of God. I grew up in a church where I learned all of the stories and an elementary school where the Bible was taught regularly in class and in chapel. I am part of a tradition that highly esteems Scripture and theology.
Over the past twenty-one years as a worship leader, however, I have noticed an interesting dynamic in the life of the church. Ironically, in a tradition that highly values the centrality of the gospel and the Word of God, many evangelical churches do not actually have much Scripture woven into the fabric of their worship services. There may be Scripture passages projected and made available during the preaching of the Word, but that may be the only place where Scripture is read aloud, and often it is either read by the pastor or another leader in the church.
One of my passions in providing this resource is to help worship planners in weaving Scripture throughout the service so that our people are praying, singing, affirming, and being called into worship by the Word of God.
Over the past year I have begun to craft my own worship resources based on the Scripture readings for each Sunday in the Christian Year. Though my church does not follow a lectionary in its preaching, I have found that it provides an intentional structure from which to craft Scripture-based calls to worship, prayers, and affirmations of faith. Thus, our congregation is feasting on the gospel and the Word of God, not only during the preaching, but all throughout our worship service.
A second conviction in providing this resource it to steward the gospel, God’s story of redemption, through two major rhythms: the annual rhythm of the Christian Year and the weekly rhythm of the Revised Common Lectionary.2
Celebrating the Annual Rhythm of the Christian Year
The life of Christ - his role in creation, his birth, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, sending of the Holy Spirit, and future return - is at the heart of the story of redemption. In worship we remember and appropriate these events and realities. We do this, in part, by following the cycles and seasons of the Christian Year.
In addition to prayers, calls to worship, and affirmations of faith, I am also working on writing Scripture-based songs for each week of the Christian Year. I have written and shared two so far with our local church. I can also envision a Gospel Storytellers Catechism - a collection of the various Scripture-based affirmations of faith in this resource - that could be tailored for children, students, and adults.
The Revised Common Lectionary is a collection of readings from the Bible for use in Christian worship, making provision for the liturgical year with its pattern of observances of festivals and seasons. The Lectionary is organized into three-year cycles of readings. The years are designated A, B, or C. Each yearly cycle begins on the first Sunday of Advent (the last Sunday of November or first Sunday of December).
Part of my passion for telling God's story of redemption comes from the narrative found in 2 Kings 23:1-3 in which Hilkiah, the high priest, found the Book of the Covenant. Finding and restoring the Word of the Lord sparked a revival and ushered in a number of reforms through King Josiah.
As a worship leader, I feel a responsibility to steward the gospel so that it is not lost in my generation. We are to immerse ourselves in God's story, passing it on at home, at work, and in worship. The psalmists functioned as storytellers in the Old Testament. They often retold all or portions of the story of redemption, spurred on by passages such as Psalm 145:4...
One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
In the New Testament we receive a beautiful exhortation (Colossians 3:16) from the apostle Paul:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
It is for these reasons that I feel compelled as a worship leader to tell God's story of redemption through the annual rhythm of the Christian Year. I am not motivated or compelled by mere tradition; I am fueled by a conviction to pass this story on, one generation to the next.
Celebrating the Weekly Rhythm of the Lectionary
In addition to the annual rhythm of the Christian Year, I also seek to share the gospel through the weekly rhythm of the Lectionary. Over the years, I have utilized many of the Lectionary- based resources available through books, journals, and liturgical planning calendars. I have found it creative and edifying to incorporate Lectionary readings and prayers within the flow of a worship service. Utilizing these resources throughout the Christian Year is a way to tell God's story and offer our people a healthy diet of Word and prayer.
A book by F. Russell Mitman, Worship in the Shape of Scripture, inspired me to begin to craft my own prayers, affirmations of faith, and other elements as they organically flow out of engaging with the Scriptures for that week. Last spring I began to write a blog, The Lectionary Journey, providing these original Scripture-based worship resources. Last summer I began to send this weekly blog and other resources to a growing list of subscribers - a community of worship leaders and pastors - who plan worship each week in their local church.
As I have been utilizing this resource with my family, small group, and in corporate worship, I have found that many people are not familiar with the Lectionary, and if they are it may have a negative connotation. Thus, Gospel Storytellers can be a Lectionary-based resource for people and churches that do not follow the Lectionary! It can simply function as a structured way to incorporate more Scripture into our services and to follow the rhythms of the Christian Year.
In following these cycles and seasons, we tell the whole gospel story, stirring our hearts, minds, and imaginations around the realities of our triune God. In doing so we are heeding the call to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly.