Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the Past for the Present

Jonathan Gibson
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Reformation Worship is an invaluable tool for pastors, worship leaders, and anyone interested in seeking to craft public worship services in the great tradition of the early Reformers.

Authors Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey help to transform corporate worship by including twenty-six liturgies, along with historical introductions that provide fresh analysis into their origins.

Christians learn to worship from the generations of God's people who have worshipped before them.

We sing psalms, because thousands of years ago, God's people sang them. Five hundred years ago, the leaders of the Reformation transformed Christian worship by encouraging the active participation and understanding of the individual worshiper.

Christian worship today is built on this foundation. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have made worship resources from the Reformation era accessible by compiling the most comprehensive collection of liturgies from that era into newly translated modern English from the original German, Dutch, French, Latin, and early English.

The structure of the liturgies, language, and rhythm continue to communicate the gospel in word and sacrament today. They provide a deep sense of God's call to worship and an appreciation for the Reformers as, first and foremost, men who wanted to help God's people worship.

This book will also be of great interest to theological scholars and students who wish to understand early Reformation leaders. A useful tool for individuals, Reformation Worship can be used as a powerful devotional to guide daily prayer and reflection.

By providing a connection to Reformation worship, Gibson and Earngey hope their work will inspire readers to experience what John Calvin described as the purpose of all church worship: "To what end is the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the holy congregations themselves, and indeed the whole external government of the church, except that we may be united to God?"


Jonathan Gibson, PhD, is ordained in the International Presbyterian Church, UK, and is the assistant professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. He is coeditor with Mark Earngey of Reformation Worship, contributor to and coeditor with David Gibson of From Heaven He Came and Sought Her, and Covenant Continuity and Fidelity: A Study of Inner-Biblical Allusion and Exegesis in Malachi. He is married to Jacqueline, and they have four children.

Mark Earngey (DPhil candidate, Oxford) is ordained in the Anglican Church of Australia (Diocese of Sydney) and is a doctoral candidate in historical theology at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. He is coeditor with Jonathan Gibson of Reformation Worship. Mark is married to Tanya, and they have three children.

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"Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey, using skillful academic scholarship, have assembled one of the most eminently practical volumes for ministers and church leaders who oversee public worship. A perusal of the various liturgies and service orders reveals how much freedom there is to craft services of worship, and yet at the same time the commonalities shine through and begin to impress themselves on the reader. This book, then, protects from two dangers. On the one hand, it keeps us from conducting worship in a way that is cut off from the wisdom of our Christian ancestors; on the other hand, it prevents the rigidity of thinking only one order of service is biblical. I highly recommend this book!"
Tim Keller, Pastor Emeritus, Redeemer Presbyterian Churches, New York City

"Much is written today about Reformed worship without a lot of engagement with formative liturgies of our tradition. This well-selected collection makes it easier to see in concrete, practical terms how the truths of God's Word shaped the worship of God's people. I'll definitely be using this in class."
Michael Horton, J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics, Westminster Seminary California

"This is a long, dense book filled with five-hundred-year-old liturgies, so you might not believe me when I say I am absolutely thrilled that this volume is seeing the light of day. Every Reformed and Presbyterian pastor with a book budget should get this on their shelves. The vision for worship presented in these pages is refreshing, reverent, realistic, and just what we need in our day. Corporate worship rooted in the Reformation can be, and should be, so much more than four songs, a sermon, and a closing prayer."
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church (Matthews, NC); Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte, NC)

"In this extraordinary volume, the Reformation is played out, not on the vast scale of European nations, but in the simple, familiar terrain of the Sunday Service. What did the Reformation look like in church? That's the question this volume answers with care, specificity, and helpful interpretive essays, with lots of primary sources. Having read this book thoroughly, I can say that I've been personally helped by it spiritually. The gospel is presented in the form and substance of these beautiful examples of corporate worship, from which we have much to learn today. I highly recommend you buy, read, and then use this book."
Mark Dever, Pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, DC; President,

"Calvin once said, 'The whole form of divine worship is nothing but mere corruption.' At Calvin's Geneva, at Zwingli's Zurich, in Knox's Scotland, and, of course, at Luther's Wittenberg, God used the Reformers not merely to bring about theological reform but to bring about a reform of all matters of church practice, especially the liturgy and form of worship. This delightful book brings together a supremely rich and rewarding collection of these Reformation liturgies. May it serve the church today as we seek to praise and adore God in biblical fidelity and earnestness."
Stephen J. Nichols, President, Reformation Bible College

"The book you now hold in your hands, or that perhaps lies on your desk, is a resource of almost unparalleled richness in its field, representing as it does an immense labor of love on the part of its editors and translators. Here, gathered together in one large volume, are liturgies crafted by some of the leading figures in the Protestant Reformation and employed by them to aid worship in a wide variety of places and churches."
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Chancellor's Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary (from the Foreword)

"Every church has a liturgy or pattern of public worship. The question is: Does your church worship God according to his Word? The desire to answer 'yes' with a good conscience energized the sixteenth-century Reformation. Whether we come as eager students of Christian history or as worshipers hungry to bring to God what pleases him, this fascinating book of liturgies provides much food for thought and life. A treasure house of enlightening and helpful material!"
Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids

"Learning from the past is part of our Christian fulfillment of the fifth commandment. We honor those who came before us as we listen attentively and allow the past to challenge our present preoccupations. In that very act, we honor the God who placed us in our own time and place, but with this inheritance. Jonathan Gibson and Mark Earngey have done us a great service in making the liturgies of the Reformation accessible to us. The range in this collection is one of its greatest strengths. The deeply theological consideration of what makes for the honoring of God and the edification of his people when they gather, which shapes each of these liturgies, stands in stark contrast to our contemporary preoccupation with entertainment and professionalism. Of course, liturgy is not the only way we worship the God who made us and redeemed us. Worship is undoubtedly an all-of-life affair (Rom. 12:1Ð2). Nevertheless, we need to learn how to respond to God's overflowing grace when we are together, and this resource will serve that need for many years to come."
Mark D. Thompson, Principal, Moore Theological College, Sydney

"Concern for the proper worship of God was central to the Reformation, even as it is central to our most important theological debates today. Nothing is more important than our understanding of worship, for our concept of worship is inescapably tied to our understanding of God and his sovereign authority to reveal the worship he desires, deserves, and demands. This book reminds us that worship matters and must be dictated by the Bible. Reformation Worship is a unique and valuable resource that both pastors and laypeople can turn to repeatedly for biblical wisdom on corporate worship."
R. Albert Mohler, Jr., President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

"We are in the midst of a fifty year-long, worldwide recovery and resurgence of Reformation theology, especially in the doctrine of God, Scripture, and salvation. A crying need remains for a recovery of the Reformation doctrine of the church, and especially its theology of worship. That's why this book is so timely and important. We study the Reformed liturgies of the past, not because the past is infallible and finally authoritative, nor because we pine for some golden age to which we may repair, but because we want to learn the inner logic of their biblical convictions and practice, see the blind spots of our own, and more faithfully lead God's people in his praise in our own time. One thing our Reformation forbears understood with crystal clarity: A theology of grace requires a pattern of worship that is consistent with it, flows out of it and fosters it, if it is to flourish in the church. Learn this, and a hundred other vital truths as you read and reflect on Reformation Worship."
J. Ligon Duncan, Chancellor and CEO, Reformed Theological Seminary

"Gibson and Earngey provide a rich treasury of resources from within the Reformed tradition that help inform contemporary worship planning, reformation, revitalization, and innovation that is needed for churches remaining faithful to gospel principles and mission. Those considering what it means to reflect the Reformers' desire to'reform worship according to the Word of God' will find many of their principles well described to inform today's practice."
Bryan Chapell, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church; author of Christ-Centered Worship.

"A brilliant resource! This volume should be in the hands of every minister, worship leader, seminary student, and liturgist."
Andrew Atherstone, Latimer Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, and member of the Church of England's Liturgical Commission

"With historical accuracy and fresh insights, this volume highlights both the unity and diversity among the Reformers' worship practices—a liturgical treasure-trove."
Mika Edmondson, Pastor, New City Fellowship OPC

"The renewal of the Reformed churches as theologically, confessionally, and faithfully catholic will not come about through better doctrinal formulations, mission and outreach programs, or even more effective preaching per se. The Church is at bottom the liturgical community of God in Christ by the Spirit, and the recovery of this identity and orientation is the tragic missing ingredient in much that passes today for retrieval. Indeed, the lecture-hall or coffee-shop paradigms of worship in many Reformed churches only make audible and visible that we have lost our way. In contrast, 'Where [the eucharistic] Christ is, there is the catholic church,' said Ignatius—and the Reformed tradition has zealously affirmed this biblical and confessional truth. Though often overlooked, the majority of the great figures of the Reformation and post-Reformation periods were actively involved in liturgical reformation by way of the construction of new liturgies, vigorous treatises on the Word and Sacraments, and explanations of the Creeds confessed by the Church. This collection of liturgies by Gibson and Earngey is therefore nothing short of thrilling, not only for its refreshing reminder of what it meant to be Reformed, but for the clear result of such a reminder: A pointer to the way forward, the way we now must go. Reformation Worship ought to be carefully studied by all who lead and participate in Reformed worship and education. The editors are to be enthusiastically thanked for their important work."
Mark Garcia, President & Fellow in Scripture and Theology, Greystone Theological Institute

"The crying need for the Church to rediscover theologically rich liturgy, which is both beautiful and edifying, is ably met here. The four most important words our people hear each week are 'Let us worship God.' This terrific resource for minister and church will help us all to do that better."
Paul Levy, Minister, IPC Ealing, London

"What refreshing treasure has come the Church’s way, from the vintage reserves of Reformation worship! Here we have select, newly translated liturgies to meditate upon, to cull, and then to enrich the gathered worship of God's people. The variety is inspiring and energizing, from Oecolampadius (who implemented the first evangelical liturgy of the Reformation), to Bucer (with his sample confessions and thanksgivings all offered in a single liturgy), to Ursinus (with his remarkably tender pastoral ministrations). As a pastor of over fifty years, who has studied and written on Reformed liturgy, I am jealous of, and for, young pastors who now have this amazing resource. Reformation Worship should be required reading in every theological seminary to train the next generation of pastors how to lead Christian worship each Lord's Day."
R. Kent Hughes, Senior Pastor Emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, and the John Boyer Chair of Culture and Evangelism, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia

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4 Reviews

  • 5
    Fantastic Resource

    Posted by Jonathan F on 07 29 2023

    A wonderful resource to look at the history and heart of Reformed liturgical practice. Even as a music director this stirs my heart to discover ways to ensure our worship practice carries the principles and emphases in the reformer's approach to the worship service. The introductory articles are a wealth in themselves and the collection of translated works that follow make this a uniquely valuable work.

  • 5
    Five Stars

    Posted by Anonymous on 10 11 2018

    Very helpful book. However, it does not have the in depth liturgies I had hopes for.

  • 5

    Posted by Michael Philliber on 10 11 2018

    Many American Presbyterian and Reformed believers are either out of touch with their Reformation roots, or have only snippets of information. One area where this is glaringly clear is in regard to worship, and specifically liturgy. Jonathan Gibson, assistant professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Mark Earngey, doctoral candidate at the University of Oxford, have accomplish a yoeman’s job in their new 736 page hardback “Reformation Worship: Liturgies from the past for the Present”. This weighty tome is ideal for liturgists, worship leaders, pastors, seminary professors, and highly interested parties. It is a reference work that “aims to recover and reaffirm the significant part that worship played in the Magisterial Reformation, both for the Reformers and for their churches” (xxiii). The volume’s Foreword, penned by Sinclair Ferguson, lays out the benefit of this work. It gives “impressive testimony to the way the Reformers in various countries devoted much attention to the subject of worship” (xv). As Ferguson goes on to note, the rediscovery of the gospel and the reforming of worship were two sides of the same coin! And so the liturgies spelled out in the book “should stimulate careful thought, and cause us to ask how we can apply their principles today in a way that echoes their Trinitarian, Christ-centered, biblically informed content, so that our worship, in our place and time, will echo the gospel content and rhythm they exhibit” (xix). Gibson then pours forth several pages unpacking the worshipful structure of the biblical story, from the primeval Eden to the perpetual Eden of the new heavens and new earth. He remarks that since “grace restores nature, and with it worship, the general structure of worship in Eden remained: call-response-meal” (8). Earngey makes his own contribution by mapping out the Reformers’ ideas and principles in fashioning their liturgies. Then both authors team up to give examples and thoughts to how these historical liturgies can inform the way we worship. As they noted, the “recovery of the gospel in the Reformation was ultimately a worship war – a war against the idols, a war for the pure worship of God” (49). They state firmly, that their work is meant to be “an irenic plea for the Church (and especially her ministers) to engage again with the two-millennia-old question: “How then shall we worship?” Through examination of the Reformation liturgies from the past, there is a wealth of treasure for the present” (73). The remainder of the book consists of looking extensively at twenty-six liturgies from the Reformation; twenty-six! They begin with Martin Luther and his various orders of worship, and work their way to the Palatine Church Order and the Middleburg Liturgy. Did I say they rehearse twenty-six liturgies? It is a full volume! Each chapter begins with a brief historical sketch of the liturgical craftsman, the immediate environment, and the responses each received. Then the form of worship is charted in an easy-to-peruse diagram. And finally, the whole order is presented in a modern English version translated or updated by the authors. Twenty-six in all! I was happily exhausted when I finished reading through them! But I was also better informed and encouraged in how my congregation worships and follows much of these older patterns. “Reformation Worship” will inspire worship leaders who have roots in the Reformation. It has the potential of interesting those whose traditions are more independent but are finding their existential rootlessness problematic. Not only will this be a worthwhile volume to take up and read; but it will likely remain a primo reference work for many years to come. I highly recommend the work!

  • 5
    A Fresh Look at Liturgies

    Posted by Jared Poulton on 05 11 2018

    This volume offers a fresh look at the liturgies of many of the Reformation churches of Europe from 1523 to 1586 as well as commentary from Reformation leaders such as Luther, Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Cranmer and Knox to their churches explaining the changes from Scripture in contrast to their previous Catholic masses. Many of these liturgies are new translations for the first time in English. The work also begins with three chapters from the editors which outline a simple theology and history of Christian Worship in one of the clearest and best presentations one will find. From a personal perspective, this volume helped bridge the gap between some of my experience and knowledge of the Reformation period. I spent a few years worshipping in the Anglican tradition and fell in love with the richness of the forms and doctrine. Everything about gathered worship felt different from the non-denominational, Charismatic or contemporary services which I had grown up in. But that experience seemed to stem from a different stream of Christian history than the rest of the Evangelicalism to which I had been exposed. It was interesting to see in reading this volume that what the Anglican or high church traditions currently practice on Sunday mornings was universally practiced by all of the Reformation churches. It has only been through church history that their practices have changed into what you find today in many churches which believe what the Reformers believed but did not practice what they practiced on Sunday mornings. Even chronologically, since the European Reformations preceded the English Reformations and much of the impact upon the Anglican tradition comes from Marian exiles seeing Reformation worship in places like Geneva, Basel and Zurich, the Anglican liturgies are heavily indebted to their European cousins. At this point, you might be wondering what value a book which translated a bunch of old church bulletins has for the average Christian today. Gathered worship is for the glorification of God in Christ, the building up of the saints and a public witness to the world. The Reformers recovered this vision for Biblical worship. But in particular, the Reformers add two (but definitely not limited to two!) unique perspectives which challenge the church today: First, Gathered worship is the most formative mean of personal of corporate growth in the Christian life. The practice of regularly gathering on Sunday mornings, week after week, month after month, year after year, has an inevitable impact on the formation of who you are, what you believe and how you live. Particularly because of the Christian and God-ward nature of corporate worship in the preaching of the Word, the praise of God, the edification of the saints, the effectiveness of formation in a Biblical direction is based upon the elements (or absence of elements) of a church service. This work shows how the truths recovered in the Reformation express themselves in the gathered service for those who are looking for a new Reformation in our day. Second, Nothing in the church service is adiaphora or indifferent. Nothing in the church service is a throw away. Whatever happens when the church gathers from architecture to songs to solos to dress to order of service to prayer to lack of prayer to giving to motions to reading, everything not only is formative but communicates what is true and what is valuable for that particular church. The worst thing would be for our churches today to be filled with many things that we are communicating to each other and the the world that we find valuable that God in his word does not find valuable. Do we value prayer? Do we value God’s Word? The worship services of the Reformers, what they did, honestly make most of our churches, in comparison to their services, look spiritually anemic. They recovered a biblical vision for the whole of Christian life and presented this glorious vision for their parishioners every Sunday. “While the recovery of the true gospel sparked liturgical reforms, it was in fact the weekly impact of these reformed liturgies that carried this gospel back to the people and sent shock waves across the churches of the European mainland and the Atlantic Isles.” (26) Now, the size of this book is a bit intimidating, but the wealth of spiritual insight and potential long-term impact of these ideas being reintroduced to today’s churches is incalculable. Every pastor and Christian will glean deep insights from this work which by God’s grace will hopefully impact

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