It All Comes Down to This: What Our Closing Words on Sunday Say About Worship

“Go and be the Church.”

If you’ve come to Vintage Church on a weekend at some point in the past six years, chances are you’ve heard this phrase at the end of the worship gathering. More recently, you may have heard someone say, “grace and peace.” But what do these words mean? Though these phrases are usually said after the closing prayer as everyone begins to grab their things to leave for the day, it is these last moments of the worship gathering that truly encapsulate the purpose for why we gather in the first place.

A Prayer for Help

For much of Church history, the closing prayer at the end of the worship gathering has been referred to as the “benediction.” This word first appeared in the 15th century as the combination of the Latin phrase “bene dicere” meaning “to speak well of” or “to bless.” Over time, the phrase combined in Latin to form “benedictio,” which thereafter translated into Old French before finally arriving in Middle English as our modern word, “benediction.”1 While it was originally used to refer to a variety of prayers, most notably before a meal, over time the benediction came to be associated with the closing prayer of the local church worship gathering.

All of this to say, the original intent of the word still pertains to its purpose today. In the same way that the Apostle Paul would close many of his letters to churches in the New Testament, the closing prayer is a public acknowledgment before God that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to apply the truths we have heard from Scripture during the gathering to every aspect of our lives. In a sense, it’s as if we’re saying, “God, thank you for your Word. Thank you for teaching us this morning through our fellowship, musical worship, and the sermon that was preached. We recognize our constant inability to measure up to your righteousness, so we now ask for your grace and the empowering work of your Spirit to allow us to leave this place applying your truth to our lives.” This is what it means to go in “grace and peace.”

A Statement to Motivate

This, however, is only one aspect of how we close out our worship gatherings at Vintage Church. More than simply a benediction, we also end each week with a commission as well. Throughout the life of Vintage Church, we have emphasized that we do not just go to church but are called to be the church in our everyday lives. From this perspective, our Sunday worship gatherings are not the “point” of the church. Rather, they are a “celebration of the point,” worshipping Jesus and equipping one another to continue to serve him on mission throughout the week. Just as we offer a benediction praying that God would help us apply his truth to our lives at the end of each worship gathering, we share the simple commission, “Go and be the Church,” as a reminder of our mandate to holistically and continually live the gospel, love the city, and be the church no matter where the next week may take us.

1Douglas Harper. “Benediction.” Online Etymology Dictionary. Accessed October 6, 2014.