Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Allure of Liturgy for a New Generation | Winfield Bevins
Bevins, Winfield. Ever Ancient, Ever New: The Allure of Liturgy for a New Generation. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019. 219 pp. $16.99.
Winfield Bevins, an experienced church planter, recognized speaker, compassionate pastor, and the director of church planting at Asbury Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky, emphasizes an unusual phenomenon in this book: an increasing number of young adults attracted by the ancient liturgy, a liturgy “infused with historic Christian practices and rooted in creedal theology” (back cover). To uncover the reasons behind this movement, Bevins interviewed pastors and arranged conversations with the younger generations across the United States. As a result, Bevins discovers that “liturgy, when rightly appropriated, is one of the best ways for us to make disciples in a postmodern context” (22).
The author divides the book into three parts. The first part focuses on the reasons younger generations found unexpected excellent worship experiences in traditional liturgy. The second part evaluates various ways that lead young adults to embrace liturgy (21). The third part emphasizes how liturgy provides practical principles applicable to a Christian’s daily life (21). In part one, he first defines liturgy and the significance of practicing liturgy in orthodox churches. In part two, the author offers more life stories from different churches, backgrounds, cultures, and regions to convey his statement that more young adults show favor toward aesthetic beauty from ancient times and in structural traditional worship services (100–102). In part three, with different testimonies from various mission grounds, the author stresses the benefits that a biblical worship liturgy could bring to a Christian’s daily life, such as helping Christians grow the habit of a rhythmical life (172). Throughout the book, the author bolsters his thesis by drawing connections between the phenomenon and the importance of the liturgy, sharing testimonies to show the impact liturgy could make on young adults and churches, and referencing the early church fathers’ writings and classical Christian compositions to stress the value of traditional liturgy.
This book’s advantage is that the author straightforwardly illuminates the significance of liturgy and draws a good connection between the liturgy and postmodern young Christians, which brings hope for postmodern churches concerned about decreasing attendance in young adults. In this postmodern society, churches may learn from this book and apply appropriate liturgy to their churches for mission purposes. A good understanding of the younger generation’s urgent spiritual struggles is essential to minister to them and draw them back to church. The author holds this essential understanding and employs a proper worship liturgy to evangelize the younger generation. In chapter two, the author displays how a proper worship liturgy could help modern young adults, who often struggle with postmodern identity crisis, find strong identity in Christ and how the participatory nature of liturgy provides a unique worship experience that attracts young adults (48–53). Moreover, the author also offers various testimonies made by young adults and pastors from the mission field worldwide to demonstrate the effectiveness of applying proper liturgy in worship. The significant spiritual influences of liturgy and its effectiveness in increasing church attendance provide strong motivation for church leaders to adopt the worship liturgy the author describes.
One aspect that makes the central argument weak is that the author does not provide enough biblical references to support his thesis. Although the question raised by the author focuses on “what is the allure of liturgy for a new generation,” presenting the “why” and revealing the ultimate root of the answer is still necessary (18). Throughout the book, there are only a few direct quotations from Scripture. Instead of offering biblical or theological references about liturgy, the author employs the form, content, nature, and practical effectiveness itself as the ultimate reason and foundation for his argument (22–23). If the author inserted one or two chapters to lay the biblical foundation and drew an explicit connection between liturgy and Scripture’s teaching, the main argument would be more convincing. The ultimate reason to practice traditional liturgy should be rooted in Scripture, not in the increasing number of worshipers or the visible benefits it could bring to the church.
I would recommend this book to pastors and worship leaders who have a sound biblical foundation as an introductory book to recognize the importance of practicing traditional worship liturgy. This book shows clearly that traditional liturgy has elements that form congregations’ minds and spiritual lives biblically. It contains more biblical truth in the program, teaches valuable doctrinal prayers to the congregation, requires more participation, and draws more Christians back to church, especially young adults. At the same time, I would also remind readers that the primary purpose of applying traditional liturgy in the worship service is to elevate the truth and biblical teaching, not to attract the next generation.