Time to Shape Up


Some Notes on Liturgical Etiquette by James B. Jordan

We all now live in the age of slob worship thanks to the “sixties.” I never experienced sitting for prayer until 20 years ago. Jesus was unhappy when His disciples could not watch and pray for one hour. Today’s slob Christians complain if they have to stand for five minutes. It’s pretty pathetic when you get right down to it. Our forefathers would be amazed. The only people who sat for prayer in the entire history of the church were the infirm and the elderly. Sitting for prayer is one generation old.

So, for younger readers, here are some basic rules of liturgical etiquette.

1. Stand for all prayers, save for communion and if possible confession. Jesus was seated when He gave thanks at the Last Supper, so that is the one instance of seated prayer in worship.

2. Stand at “easy attention,” hands at your sides, feet slightly apart. Or with hands raised (palms up at your shoulders, or crossed and resting on your shoulders, or pressed together over your chest).  NEVER with hands in pockets. NEVER slouching on one leg. NEVER.


3. The normal alternative to kneeling for confession is standing.

4. Those who cannot stand or kneel, if kneeling is employed, should sit on the edge of their seat and lean forward with arms on the pew/chair in front of them, like everyone else, and their legs bent under them.

5. Kneeling is NOT crouching. We kneel at attention, back straight, looking forward or at the prayer in the book/bulletin. Crouching is for the prayer closet. In worship we kneel as an army.

6. Now, to be sure, all this has to be taught. Once it was, and it lasted for 1900 years. As creationists, we believe the body is supremely important, and hence so is posture. So, give instruction on it.

7. Also, we stand at attention for the Creed. We do not pledge attention seated.

8. If you’re stuck with a bad tradition in these areas, make it a matter of teaching and upshapingness.

So, get going!

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4 Responses to “Time to Shape Up”

  • Kelly Says:

    The last I knew Jesus was more concerned with the state of our hearts, not the appearance of our being.

    I would think those “LAZY SLOBS” need instruction on having a close relationship with Jesus, not how to stand up straight and only hold their hands at shoulder level.

    We were given the beauty of the New Covenant because the Law could not be kept. My friend, be careful of preaching about that which is dead.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Hi Kelly

    I agree that the state of our hearts is crucial. But surely this is reflected in our worship? Jesus accepts us as we are, but He doesn’t leave us as we are. Certainly, we can wear our “Sunday best” for the wrong reasons. But assembling before God in beach wear to prove how “real” we are is not the solution. As Jordan says, the church did things one way for 1900 years. This slobbery is an overcompensation for nominalism. It is possible to have a cup that is clean on the inside and the outside. :)

  • Kelly Says:

    Its a matter of allowing the inside to clean the outside, just as Jesus said. We are all at different places in our journey with God – those who are more mature are models for the babes in Christ. I firmly believe that it’s through modeling, mentoring and relationships that believers will grow out of being “lazy slobs” – not through hitting them over the head with a list of rules to follow. The Holy Spirit is completely capable of changing a person into who He wants them to be – God certainly doesn’t want cookie cutter believers – we are all unique and we all need to have ears to hear what the Holy Spirit would have us do. That’s where the “Law written on hearts” comes in.

    Jordan seems to only address the “lazy slobs”, but what about those who are more on fire for God? If everyone is worshiping and praying in the same identical way, what happens when the Holy Spirit calls you to stretch out your arms to Him, to dance or lie prone while praying? Would it be considered wrong because it makes other believers uncomfortable? Believers need the freedom to meet God where He calls them to be. Jesus made this very clear many times during His ministry – Mary wiping Jesus’ feet with her perfume and hair was an act that greatly disturbed fellow believers, but it was her act of worship.

  • Mike Bull Says:

    Kelly – I take your point. But that is exactly Jordan’s point. Worship has become so informal that everyone does what is right in their own eyes. If you are mentoring a child who has no table manners, you show them a list through your behavior. If they are on the other side of the world, you put the list on your blog. This all takes wisdom. And a lot of the “calls” of God turn out to be “what makes me feel good.” Sure there’s a time to dance like a butterfly, but the modern western church needs to learn once again how to sting like a bee. And that takes some liturgy.