The term "Divine Service" is popularly used among the more conservative Lutheran churches and organizations of the United States and Canada. In the more progressive denominations, such as The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the terms "Holy Communion" or "the Eucharist" are much more commonly used.
In the parts of North American Lutheranism that use it, the term "Divine Service" supplants more usual English-speaking Lutheran names for the Mass: "The Service" or "The Holy Communion." The term is a calque of the German word Gottesdienst (literally "God-service" or "service of God"), the standard German word for worship.
As in the English phrase "service of God," the genitive in "Gottesdienst" is arguably ambiguous. It can be read as an objective genitive (service rendered to God) or a subjective genitive (God's "service" to people). While the objective genitive is etymologically more plausible, Lutheran writers frequently highlight the ambiguity and emphasize the subjective genitive. This is felt to reflect the belief, based on Lutheran doctrine regarding justification, that the main actor in the Divine Service is God himself and not man, and that in the most important aspect of evangelical worship God is the subject and we are the objects: that the Word and Sacrament are gifts that God gives to his people in their worship.
Although the term Mass was used by early Lutherans (the Augsburg Confession states that "we do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend it") and Luther's two chief orders of worship are entitled "Formula Missae" and "Deutsche Messe"—such use has decreased in English usage except among Evangelical Catholics and "High Church Lutherans". Also, Lutherans have historically used the terms "Gottesdienst" or "The Service" to distinguish their Service from the worship of other protestants, which has been viewed as focusing more on the faithful bringing praise and thanksgiving to God.
The Lutheran liturgy currently used in the United States traces its development back to the work of Beale M. Schmucker, George Wenner and Edward Horn. Their work took place in the context of a wider North American confessional revival. Between 1876 and 1883, various Lutheran synods expressed an interest in creating a common worship service. This led to the creation of a Joint Committee in 1884 which included representatives of the General Synod and General Council, the two dominant pan-Lutheran groups. This committee appointed Schmucker, Wenner and Horn who began their work in April 1884. A year later, they brought a draft to the General Synod's convention which modified and approved the following order: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Collect, Epistle, Alleluia, Gospel, Creed, Sermon, General Prayer, Preface, Sanctus and Hosanna, Exhortation to Communicants, Lord’s Prayer and Words of Institution, Agnus Dei, Distribution, Collect of Thanksgiving, Benediction. In 1887, the three men presented their final draft to the Joint Committee. This final draft used the King James Version language and Anglican (Book of Common Prayer) translations of the Kyrie, Gloria, Creeds, Prefaces, Lord’s Prayer, and Collects. It also included the Nunc Dimittis as an option. The final draft, with minor edits, was approved by the various synods in 1888 and has become known as The Common Service and formed the basis for every major Lutheran hymnal and worship book into the late twentieth century.