Liturgy usually gets a bad rap. For many Christians it is associated with empty religiosity, a form of insincere prayer. However, in order to demystify it, consider its basic meaning. The word itself is formed by two Greek words that translate as “public work” or “the work of the people”. Simply put, it is what the church gathers to do. With this basic meaning in mind, we can say then that every church has a liturgy, whether formal or informal. We’re all doing something when we gather together for worship. And that’s liturgy.
According to its historical use beginning in the early church, liturgy was simply meant to order and enrich the church’s worship around the redemption narrative. Bryan Chapell writes about this in Christ-Centered Worship, “The common pattern of the order of worship in the church reflects the pattern of the progress of the gospel.” We might outline this order very simply in the following way:
Thus, as the church not only preaches the gospel but rehearses it in the worship gathering, they embody what Mike Cosper refers to in Rhythms of Grace: the Latin phrase lex orandi, lex credendi—“so we pray, so we believe”. In other words, through liturgy the church is reminded over and over that they believe a formative rhythm about their lives. Once again, it might be outlined very simply like this:
When you see liturgy in this light, hopefully you see not only theology and ecclesiology at play in the church’s worship, but also missiology. The redemption narrative itself is essentially the movements of God’s mission. So then that means liturgy can be formative not only in the church’s beliefs, but its practices. If God is a sending God and all believers are sent ones, then good liturgy should cultivate the “sentness” of the church. In other words, every Sunday can be a commissioning service!
Writing a Sending Benediction
Perhaps nowhere is this more naturally reflected in the liturgy than the benediction. In response to the preaching and rehearsal of the gospel, the benediction communicates the same message as Abraham’s commissioning in Genesis 12:1-3: “we are blessed to be a blessing”. According to The Worship Sourcebook, “Worship does not end when we leave a worship service. A clear call to discipleship reminds us that our worship continues through obedient and grateful living. Having come together to meet God as the children of God, we go out with the mandate to promote God’s rule in the world.” Thus a good benediction doesn’t just promote ongoing worship, but worship through mission.
But there is more to this than simply saying, “Thanks for coming today everyone—now get out there and preach the gospel!” No, a benediction is a blessing spoken over the church on the basis of the gospel. We see these often at the conclusion of Paul’s letters, such as the Trinitarian benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” How encouraging to be sent in the fullness of the Triune God!
There is, however, an art to making God’s mission explicit in a benediction without guilting people in their going. On this point The Worship Sourcebook continues, “The call to discipleship should convey two important convictions. First, we live in faithful service not so that God will love us, but because God has loved us first. Second, we live by the power of the Spirit and thus do not need to rely on our own strength.” That means the benediction should be broken into two major components:
A word of assurance
A commission on the basis of that assurance
Consider how this structure is reflected in the Great Commission itself:
A word of assurance: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
A commission on the basis of that assurance: “Therefore go” (in other words, ‘On the basis of the assurance of my authority, go…’)
We might even note that Jesus also ends his benediction with another word of assurance: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The command is clear—but so is the care. The church is clearly sent to obey not in their own strength or in order to be loved, but from the assurance of what Christ has done.
The following is an example of how my church structures the benediction:
We begin each gathering with a call to worship and we end with a benediction which simply is a reminder that we are blessed to be a blessing. I invite you to hold out your hands as a posture of receiving this blessing:
Church, since you have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, may you go into a world of imposters kicked out and show them that there’s now a way back in. Based on Hebrews 10:19-20; Matthew 27:51
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
Let's say this together: We are sent.
Notice a few things about this approach. It begins with a brief reminder of the purpose of the benediction and an invitation to receive it. It begins with a word of assurance and then flows into the commission. It is written on the basis of Scripture (and usually corresponds with the sermon passage). It acknowledges the reality of a lost world and the glory of what the church holds out to it. It uses creative language that gives a fresh angle on the beauty of God’s mission. And finally, it concludes with the Trinitarian blessing from 2 Corinthians 13:14 and a call to respond with verbal affirmation of the commission. With this kind of approach, every Sunday really can be a commissioning service!
Although you now have plenty of guidance for writing your own sending benedictions, here are several examples that have been used over the years. Perhaps they can bring greater clarity and inspiration to your liturgical writing. And feel free to copy-paste any that you find useful.
Church, behold what manner of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God—and that is what we are! So may you go into the world with a childlike heart, not hindering, but welcoming those whom Jesus is calling to himself. Based on 1 John 3:1; Luke 18:16
Church, solely because of what Jesus has done, your righteousness forever exceeds that of the Pharisees. Therefore may you go as the light of the world, shining before others, that they may see the One who made you righteous and glorify your Father in heaven. Based on Matthew 5:14, 16, 20
Church, you who were dead in your trespasses, God has made alive together with Christ—having forgiven you of all your trespasses, nailed your record of debt to the cross, and triumphed over all rulers and authorities. Therefore, may you go fulfilling the purpose for which you were created and redeemed: to bring order into the chaos of the world. Based on Colossians 2:13-15 and Genesis 1:28
Church, because of Jesus Christ, this is the confidence we have: that if we ask God anything according to his will, he hears and answers us. Therefore may you go before your heavenly Father humbly and boldly, praying for a world of “dead dogs” to also be welcomed at the King’s table. Based on 1 John 1:14 and 2 Samuel 9:8
Church, Jesus Christ is the seed that fell into the ground and died, so that it now bears much fruit in you. Therefore, may you go out among hearts as hard as bunkers, sowing and sleeping and waiting for the day that they will explode to life in Christ. Based on John 12:24 and Mark 4:27
Church, many are called, but few are chosen. Yet through Jesus Christ the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. Therefore may you go proclaiming the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Based on Matthew 22:14; Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9
Church, by this we know love, that Jesus laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. Therefore may you go into a watching world knowing that you are loved, and therefore loving one another. Based on 1 John 3:16 and John 13:35
Church, this benediction comes from John 20:19-21 and the great Missionary himself, Jesus Christ: On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”
Church, Jesus Christ has made a way for you to be in his Father's house forever. Therefore into an aimless world may you go steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the Father's work, knowing that through him your labor is not in vain. Based on Luke 2:49 and 1 Corinthians 15:58
Church, heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s word stands. Though the world is crumbling away, may you stand firm in the midst of it, holding out the hope that has calmed your fears, removed your hostility, and sealed your victory forever. Based on Matthew 24:35
Church, remember that you were at one time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Therefore into a world still alienated may you go with haste, glorifying and praising God for all you have heard and seen. Based on Ephesians 2:12-13
Church, God has demonstrated his own love toward you in this: rather than cancelling you for your sin, he cancelled your sin for you. Now as you go into a world still in the darkness of shame, fear, and guilt, may you shine as remarkable examples of God’s charity. Based on Romans 5:8
Church, the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few—and yet you have been chosen to be one of those dependent laborers. Therefore may you go blessed and empowered in your dependence upon Jesus, and rejoicing that your names are written in heaven. Based on Luke 10:2, 23
Church, Jesus Christ called down fire from heaven, and then let it fall on himself instead of you. Therefore may you go into a world still facing the fire, with the grace and grit to follow him wherever he leads you. Based on Luke 12:49
Church, Jesus Christ became the One far off so that you could be brought near to the banquet feast of the Triune God. And yet still there is room, so may you go to the highways and hedges, and compel people to come in, so that our Father’s house may be filled. Based on Ephesians 2:13
Receive this benediction from 2 Peter 1—from the very man who witnessed the Transfiguration: Church, “we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,’ we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain.” Therefore may you go continuing to see and display his glory, like a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and that same morning star rises in your hearts. Based on 2 Peter 1:16-19
Church, thanks to the God who restores, you are those who have heard the word and had it take root in you. Therefore go to the places where the seed has been trampled, withered, choked, and devoured, and may you keep sowing. Based on Luke 8:15
Church God has chosen his people to be a blessing for all the ends of the earth. If you know Jesus, that means you! Leave this gathering empowered by the Spirit to seek and save the lost among us. Based on Psalm 57:9-11
Church, because you have believed in him who has gone to the Father, you are freed and empowered to do even greater works than him. Therefore may you step out among the bored and burdened, and show them the glory of depending on Jesus. Based on John 14:12
Church, Jesus Christ is the power of God. He alone can deliver us from sin and our enemy. Therefore, may you go today as a people who walk in his power and compel those who are powerless to fall at his feet in faith. Based on Luke 8:35
Church, even though you sin, you have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. Now may you go into a world that is failing, misunderstanding, comparing, and excluding, and be the proof that Jesus can sort them out. Based on 1 John 2:1
Church, by faith Jesus Christ has become the mediator between you and God. Therefore may you go today as people under his authority, to whom he can say "go" or "come"—and you do—for the sake of those still under the curse of death. Based on 1 Timothy 2:5
Church, as a youth Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man, and then he took the blame for our failures to do the same. Therefore may you go with a wise and youthful heart, with a passion to help redeem the often disheartening season of youth. Based on Luke 2:52
Church, God broke the rod of condemnation over his Son, so that you could receive only the rod of discipline as beloved sons and daughters. Therefore may you go out among neighbors and nations who are raging against God, and point them to Jesus before his rod of iron dashes them to pieces. Based on Psalm 2:1, 9
Church, you have been educated with God’s wisdom: Jesus Christ coming down from the mountaintop to save us from our sins. May you go into a world leaning on its own understanding, and lead them on the path of wisdom. Based on John 3:13
Church, Jesus Christ became the Son of God’s sorrow so that you could become the son of God’s joy. May you go limping into a world of broken promises, painful deaths, and shocking sins, so that they may know there is Father who is willing to carry them across the finish line too. Based on Genesis 35-37
Church, Jesus Christ took the full weight of God’s wrath, so that you could take just the touch. May you go crippled but not killed, showing a world that just wants to win how to face God and lose. Based on Isaiah 53:6
Church, because Jesus became the puny God, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Therefore may you go to those still bound by their worst enemies, and lead them to true freedom. Based on Romans 8:37
Church, Jesus Christ entered into your mess so that he might bless you with grace upon grace. May you go into families torn apart by bitter jealousy and selfish ambition, and invite them into the family of God. Based on John 1:16
Church, because Jesus Christ became ugly for you, now you have a beautiful inheritance. May you go to those who are chasing what they want, who are reaping what they’ve sown, and point them to the beauty of Jesus. Based on Psalm 16:6
Church, because of what Jesus Christ has done, you have come to know and believe the love that God has for you. Therefore may you go into a fracturing world, and be love to them as God has first been love to you. Based on 1 John 4:16, 19
Church, Jesus has come down and opened heaven to you forever, therefore may you go to a world searching for steps and show them the stairway to heaven. Based on Genesis 28:10-15 and John 1:51
As Jesus says in Luke 12:32, fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Therefore may you go into a world forever divided and cursed, and display the blessing of Jesus’ upside down kingdom. Based on Luke 12:32
Church, God made him who had no sin to BE sin for us, so that we could BE the righteousness of God. Therefore, may you go and BE all things to all people, so that some of them may be saved. Based on 2 Corinthians 5:21
Church, even though you once labored and were heavy laden, Jesus has now given you rest. Therefore may you go, enjoying and extending his gift of sabbath rest to a world that is working itself to death. Based on Matthew 11:28-30
Church, for the joy of helping you follow him, Jesus endured the cross. Now may you go experiencing the joy of helping others follow him. Based on Hebrews 12:2
Church, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. May you go as living proof that Jesus has the authority to completely transform you. Based on 2 Corinthians 5:17
Church, Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again. Therefore may you go with opened eyes and burning hearts, making him known as you break bread with others. Based on Luke 24:30-32 and Acts 2:42
Church, you have been commissioned to participate in God’s mission with him. Therefore GO and broadly cast the net of the gospel with boldness, and watch him do incredible things in and through you as he draws many to himself. Based on Luke 5:10
Church, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Therefore go in that authority, preaching the good news of the kingdom and bringing God’s healing touch to the world. Based on Matthew 28:18 and Luke 4:40
Church, because of what Christ has done, the Spirit of the Lord is upon you. Therefore may you go proclaiming good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and the year of the Lord’s favor. Based on Luke 4:18-19
Church, when Jesus received honor and glory from God the Father, the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased”. May you go knowing that God says the same of you, and pointing others to his beloved Son. Based on 2 Peter 1:17
Church, King Jesus has come your way, therefore may you go preparing the way of the Lord in your heart, and helping others to do the same. Based on Luke 3:4
Church, in a world that says, “That’s fine if it’s true for you, but it’s not true for me,” may you go speaking of the One who has been seen and heard. Based on Acts 4:19-20
Church, you were once the lost sheep for whom Christ left the ninety-nine. May you go rejoicing that you have been found, and being a friend to those who have not yet been found. Based on Luke 15:3-7
Church, God has befriended you with the same loving friendship he has shared from eternity past. May you go having found the friend your heart longs for, and helping others to find him as well. Based on John 17:24
Church, Jesus has called you to be with him and to send you out to preach. May you go believing that your relationships can change lives. Based on Mark 3:14
Church, Jesus has become to you a friend who sticks closer than a brother. May you go befriended by him, and therefore befriending others. Based on Proverbs 18:24
Church, Jesus has revealed his glory and made the best wine available to us. May you go drinking him in, and sharing him with others. Based on John 2:10
Church, Jesus has said he will not leave you as orphans, but he will come to you. Therefore may you go proclaiming his first coming, and waiting for his second. Based on John 14:18
Church, the cloak of Christ’s power and authority has been laid upon you, because the Spirit of the mighty God has come upon you. Therefore may you go as royal witnesses of your King. Based on Acts 1:8
Church, your God—the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob—he is not the God of the dead but of the living. Therefore, may you go with your heart buried in the promised land and inviting others to join you. Based on Mark 12:26-27
Church, from Christ’s fullness, we have all received grace upon grace. May that grace cause you to rise from stubborn sin and be a blessing to a desperate world. Based on John 1:16
Church, you are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. May you go, escaping destruction and proclaiming deliverance. Based on Hebrews 10:39
Galatians 3:29 tells us, "And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise." In light of this truth, church, may you go with a circumcised heart, announcing to the world that through Christ, they too can be heirs according to God’s promise.
In Luke 15:10 we read, "there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” May you go knowing God rejoices over your repentance, and may you eagerly await the return of others who have walked away.
Church, as you walk in divided and confusing days, may the Lord fill you with his Spirit and his wisdom, that the church may be united, the word of God may increase, and the number of disciples may multiply. Based on Deuteronomy 34:9 and Acts 6:3, 7