Analysis: Contemporary vs. Traditional Worship

Here is a posting that we found on the Vocation in the Valley (yamabe.net) written by Brian Yamabe, one of the commentors on this site. (Vocation in the Valley has been a past Issues Etc blog of the week.) While the arguments put forth below may not convince someone with a contemporary mindset, it will give people with a confessional bend some issues to use in an attempt to retain traditional services at their church. Brian was a delegate to the CNH district convention, and has some insights on that he has posted to his blog.

I’m not a scholar and I’m only a theologian in so far as “everyone is a theologian,” but I’ve been trying to write a paper comparing and contrasting the “traditional” and “contemporary” services that we have at my congregation, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. As I posted previously, I am an ardent supporter of using the historic liturgy for many and various reasons and I wanted to study the two services, as our congregation has them, to see how having two services with two different styles might be affecting our congregation. Let me say that our “contemporary” service is much better at proclaiming the Gospel than any “3 songs and a ‘How-to’ sermon” from an Evangelical church. The basic outline has its roots in the historic liturgy and the sermon is the same one as used during the “traditional” service. That being said there are some major differences in the service. If there weren’t I would have no qualms. In all honesty, I wouldn’t complain if the “contemporary” service was TLH (15) or LSB (Setting 3) set to a guitar. It wouldn’t be my favorite, but at that point, I think I could leave it as a matter of style.

I started the research for the paper by reading through journals, papers, blogs, writing down the order of service for both services, comparing the song from each service, etc. etc. But when I came to write the paper, I had a tough time doing the comparison and contrast I wanted to do because things were so intertwined. It just so happened that I was rereading “It’s Time: LCMS Unity and Mission” and Pastor Harrison’s thoughts on addressing controversies by discussing them. In this way, I could layout what I affirmed and what I rejected. This exercise would then become more than just me spouting off about what I liked and disliked, but it would become a vehicle for clarifying my ideas and having them opened for criticism and correction. So, following the format of “The Forumla of Concord” I present my statement on “Traditional Worship”:

[Status of the Controversy]

[1] A concern has arisen about the use of “contemporary” or “praise band led” worship within our congregation. [2] One side holds that “traditional” worship should be the standard for all worship services as it was handed down to us as the tested means for proper Christian worship. [3] The other side holds that worship styles are mandated neither in the Scriptures nor the confessions and as such we have the freedom to worship as appropriate for our local context.

[Affirmative Statements]

[4] I believe that the historic liturgy is the best vehicle for our understanding of worship which is the proclamation of the Gospel in Word and Sacraments, and our response to those gifts. [5] I believe that all previous additions to the historic liturgy were done to enhance the proclamation of the Gospel. [6] I believe that all previous subtractions to the historic liturgy were done to remove things that obscured the Gospel.

[7] I believe the historic liturgy is the best tool for catechesis in the context of worship. [8] I believe the Ordinaries are a vital part of teaching the faith as they ingrain the basic truths of our theology. [9] I believe the celebration of the Church Year and Feast Days enhances our understanding of the faith by continually walking us through the life of Christ, the lives of the saints before us, and our own Christian lives. [10] I believe most of the hymns found in TLH and LSB are good expositions of what we believe and by singing them, we deepen our understanding of Lutheran theology.

[11] I believe the historic liturgy is the best platform to promote unity within and between congregations. [12] I believe that corporate singing and responsive reading display church unity in our response to God’s gifts and provide a shared experience to all participants. [13] I believe the historic liturgy displays unity with the saints who practiced the same liturgy before us. [14] I believe the historic liturgy acts as a sign-post to others with the same confession of faith.

[15] I believe the prominence of the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font in our church architecture enhances the sacramental focus brought out in the historic liturgy.

[Negative Statements]

[16] I reject the removal of the Ordinaries as they are vital parts of the proclamation of the Gospel and catechesis.

[17] I reject the minimization of the Church Year and Feast Days as they are import for catechesis and the understanding that our faith is steeped in historical events of Christ’s redemptive life, death, resurrection, and ascension.

[18] I reject the removal of responsive readings as they are important for our understanding that worship is a corporate activity.

[19] I reject the addition of a “Children’s Message” as this implies a distinction within the church that does not exist; a simple change to “Teaching Message” or something similar would be acceptable.

[20] I reject the use of “praise songs” as they are largely bereft of sound theological content; a contemporary setting for sound hymnody would be acceptable.

[21] I reject the forsaking of the pulpit when preaching as this obscures our understanding that the pastor is called to preach the Word under God’s authority and is not to draw attention to himself.

[22] I reject the use of screens and projectors as they pull our attention from the altar, pulpit, and baptismal font, the symbols of the sacraments around which we are gathered and should be focused.

[23] I reject the use of amplifiers and speakers, and the placement of the praise team at the front of and facing the congregation as these set the praise team apart from the rest of the congregation and detract from the corporate nature of our singing and worship. [24] Ideally, the praise team would not be visible as with the choir, but at a minimum the speakers and amplifiers should be removed and they should be turned in the same direction as the rest of the congregation.

[25] In general, I reject all those things which take away from our distinct theology and tradition as this watering down will cause great confusion in the future amongst the steadfast inside and outside of our congregation, and give comfort to those who would willfully attempt to alter our theology to make it more palatable to the culture.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He’s responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.


Comments

Analysis: Contemporary vs. Traditional Worship — 172 Comments

  1. It’s the ‘why’ of it that is man-centered and completely non-Lutheran: the ‘why’ being simply because you want it, and because you hope to reach those who refuse to understand the gifts inherent in our traditions.
    When you’re only able to reach them with what they want, or with what they’ll tolerate, then you haven’t reached them with anything. You’ve only tickled their ears.
    There’s the rub; there’s where you are; there’s the compromising position you’ve given your church.
    And ‘I don’t see’, after having it pointed out to you, clearly and ad infinitum, is not an argument, but is certainly the bottom-line basis for CW, according to the preeminent justifications of its practioners and boosters.
    But ‘I don’t see the harm’ usually leads to immeasurable damage.
    The most offensive part of this departure, however, is the venom that’s encouraged against the traditional liturgists. It seems that a big part of the justification of it is outright accusation, and that’s a sign of a weak case, even though the case is making inroads. But, take heart: soon, you’ll be able to give up the accusations, to simply gloat over the numbers.
    That’s what hollow victories are made of: dying, but with the most toys.

  2. Pastor Messer and Susan,
    Just a friendly word of encouragement and advice: when we use the “scattergun technique” and try to answer all the red herring excursions and accusations the rev Mark L. has in his posts, our posts lose their focus. This gives him the option to pick a trivial statement over which to quibble rather than deal with the main point. One man’s opinion, but ignore the nits, and stay on the Gospel. We have it, and he doesn’t.
    Use nice tight, well edited single point posts, and as he’s the “change agent” he needs to be answering the “why?” questions not you.
    I think that at this point we’re trying to teach a pig to fly, it’s not going to work, and it only irritates the pig. But, if irritating the pig is the goal, Good Luck, and Good Hunting!
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  3. Matt,

    I love it when good, insightful theological analysis makes me laugh out loud. Thanks for getting my day started with an LOL.

    TR

  4. Ditto, Pastor Rossow, and well spoken, Matt Mills.
    I think I’m ready to shake my sandals as well, in this particular town.
    But it’s been very helpful to me personally, to read all the good and thoughtful prose from the ‘liturgicals’ (read that: Lutherans!) Who knows how soon my own congregation might be facing such a threat? Who knows how I and others at my church, might have to work to convince our own brothers and sisters to resist this false answer to low attendance and zero growth? One day, there will likely be the temptation among us, to go that CW route, and the battle will have the extra bite of being among people who know and love one another, with those whose motives are thoughtful and heartfelt, just not completely thought out nor made with heart *and* mind.
    One thing is clearer after all this (and after many many many such confrontations in many forums and even person-to-person): sooner or later, the CW folk will expose that the first and the ultimate justifications for changing our ways (while protesting that nothing’s really changed) is that it’s what they want. Period. All the other arguments made–and there really aren’t any, that don’t involve Holy Scripture- and BOC-Twister–are just attempts at fear-soothing; of making the bad seem good. But, ’twas ever thus.
    Another thing clearer is that, no matter how cleverly or minutely (insidiously) it inserts itself into a confessional church, all CW accomplishes is division. Division is its mother AND its child.
    Anyway, I thank the good gentlemen for their good tempers, their good words, and their good service, as soldiers, Christian and otherwise. I’d love to have you all to tea. (You can have beer–I’m just not a fan. Nevertheless: I AM LUTHERAN!)

  5. All joking aside, all kidding aside, all snarky comments put away, everything flat on the table, the brass tacks and any other comment.

    Who was joking, kidding, or being snarky?

    I don’t see any difference in what I do with CW and Traditional.

    In your previous post, you made it clear that there was a difference – your TW is non-Mass-abolishing, but your CW is an addition to your “Mass,” which means that it must be something else, and hence, that there most certainly must be a difference between the two. You need to make up your mind dude.

    Both are all about bringing the Gospel — Word and Sacrament — to people. Lutheran, Christian, Pagan–the Gospel comes as the gift of God and creates and sustains faith.

    Except that, in CW (or, CoWo, as you prefer), the Gospel is repackaged in a way that makes it more marketable and appealing to the “consumer,” which begs the question: Is it the same Gospel?

    I do not see CW as “man centered” any more than Western liturgy is “man centered.” I don’t see CW as “entertainment” any more than Western liturgy is entertainment.

    The Western liturgy is “man-centered”? Really? How so? Which parts of the liturgy are people-pleasing and entertaining? Please, do tell.

    On the other hand, it is very easy to see how CoWo is man-centered, people-pleasing, and entertainment-focused.

    If you can’t see the difference, it’s only because you’re not looking properly. But, as I said before, I’m not buying that. I know full well that you can see the difference. I mean, even a seven-year-old can see the difference.

    I’m not being obtuse. I understand what people think. But I simply do not buy the arguments made. They have not been convincing to me.

    Yes, we know, Mark. You don’t buy our arguments, which, to you, means that we must have failed to argue convincingly. And, well, since you and a bunch of others in our synod have decided that worshipping like the methabapticostals is okey-dokey, it must be so. After all, we all know that majority rules when it comes to doctrine and practice. Yeah, that’s right, we see that throughout Holy Scripture, don’t we? God says, “Y’all take a vote and let me know how you want to worship Me. Oh, and keep in mind that I think it would be wise for y’all to design your worship around what people want. Remember to take into consideration the desires of the pagans. Figure out what they want and then design your worship accordingly.” Yeah, that’s what we read, isn’t it? NOT!

    CW is Divine Service. Period.

    Well, I guess since you added your arbitrary “Period” to this statement, it must be so. You win, then.

    But, wait, what if I say: “CW is NOT Divine Service. Period”? Does that mean it must be so and I win?

    I mean…I guess this is in fact the Shibboleth. But this is where I am.

    Here, again, you argue against yourself. You claim, on the one hand, that there’s no difference between TW and CW, but, on the other hand, you invoke “the Shibboleth,” making it clear that there is a difference. In any event, your usage of “Shibboleth” here is most certainly inappropriate, since you are claiming that adhering to a different theology of worship is nothing more than changing the language and practice to fit your cultural circumstances. A common argument among CW advocates, which holds no water. I’d explain why, but what good would that do?

    I’ll answer your other thoughts later on. Right now, it is time for Harry Potter.

    After you’re done with Harry Potter, the only questions I think it would be just nifty for you to answer are:

    1) What is your definition of Sola Scriptura?

    2) Who trained you to do CW?

  6. All,

    Wow did this discussion go bad quick. I’m sorry that it is so because I was enjoying the dialogue. Like many of you I’m not sure this would be productive anymore.

    I do invite you to email me if you would like to continue the dialogue or even give me suggestions. Thanks for the posts and the responses. I have really gained some things to think over.

    Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Weller

  7. It’s easy to say discussions simply ‘go bad’ when people continue to express disagreement.
    But disagreement itself perhaps isn’t as bad as not fully communicating. Those who advocate or have chosen CW have yet to fully communicate, that is, to justify, through anything other than personal opinion their reasons for their actions and positions. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is, from my side, to see a man’s final word on the subject be his own understanding of what he’s done or doing, usually coupled with an accusation against those who ‘disagree’.
    It’s not a discussion of disagreements at all, but a futile exercise between those who justify tradition from outside themselves, and those who remain curved inward, seeking to use worship to satisfy themselves.
    In short, it’s theology against politics masquerading as theology.
    While the synod may doom itself in its toleration of this apparently incurable divide, we know the Word of God and the unity of the Holy Spirit will not die. The church lives on, but the living church is an un-fractured church, not the church that departs from unity, to appeal to and appease its members’, or its pastor’s, tastes.

  8. Jim Pierce,

    Hey–I want to get caught up bit by bit here.

    You said:

    Yes, “holding to what Scripture teaches” is definitely part of what makes us Lutheran, but to stop with that description is to come up short of the full meaning of “Lutheran”.

    Once again, I’m sorta amazed at this movement away from sola scriptura. I mean, I’m amazed by how comfortable some of us are to say “Well, you can’t be Lutheran and hold to just what the Bible teaches–you need to hold to man-made traditions as well.”

    Did you see Paul McCain’s blog where he posts Walther’s comments about the Lutheran Church before the Confessions? (Check it out here) (I hope that works)

    I would also say that we hold to the confessions because they fully agree with Holy Scripture: the Confessions are true.

    Yes. Where I have difficulty is when we begin seeking to bind others to what the confessions say that is apart from Scripture.

    Take for example the perpetual virginity of Mary. This is not taught in Scripture. I mean, really, we can all be honest and say that there is as much in Scripture concerning purgatory as there is the perpetual virginity of Mary. I have no doubt that pious gentlemen held to the position and they doubtless read this into Scripture–but once again, the data is just not there.

    So when someone in the Confessions refers to Mary as the perpetual virgin, does that really mean that we need to bind others to that? That we must insist that to be a Lutheran you have to hold to this?

    No: we can say “This was a pious opinion at the time; it lacks Scriptural proof, and it is not the point of anything.”

    Does that make sense?

    Why not talk about the liturgy (worship) in terms of the visible marks of the Church? The place where we find Word and Sacraments faithfully delivered according to the Gospel? Don’t we have scriptures that tell us the Church comes together to hear the Apostle’s teachings, to receive the forgiveness of sins, and to partake at the table of our Lord?

    Well, sure, but this is not in any distinction from contemporary worship, which is exactly the same thing: CW has the marks of the church, Word and Sacrament, just as liturgical does.

    If you are focusing the divine service as an evangelism tool, then you have already switched the focus of the service away from Christ and you aren’t accomplishing what you think you set out to do to begin with.

    I disagree completely, entirely, totally with this. Because it is evangelical, it is focused entirely on Christ and the Gospel. Otherwise, how will faith be created?

    I can tell you my experience with CW (and as a former Pentecostal pastor I am quite familiar with CW) is that Jesus our Lord, coming to us with the forgiveness of sins, is not the center of the divine service, instead the law is the focus. I have yet to experience a CW service where the center is not focused on what people do.

    I spoke about this earlier with the whole board–I don’t see why this would necessarily be true. I’ve been to plenty of CW services as Lutheran Churches that point to Christ and not to the Law.

    You know, Lutherans do tend to point to Christ. It is in our blood, you know? (Because of the blood we drink…)

    This example doesn’t make your case, since the book you’re reading did dumb down the language so you could understand the basic concepts involved.

    Well, you know, is the Small Catechism a dumbing down of Lutheranism? I mean, surely we can distinguish between dumbing something down (that is, ignoring complexities) and teaching complexities by breaking down the concepts into understandable bites.

    The Small Catechism does this; I’d like to think my CW does this as well.

    More to the point, you can’t hope to teach doctrine without the use of “jargon”. Indeed, how do you explain the Holy Trinity without reference to “persons”?

    My first year at my church I tried to avoid the word “sin” in my sermons. How do you teach the Trinity without “person”? “We believe that the Father is God, that Jesus is God and the Holy Spirit are all God–not three different Gods, but one united God. How is this so? It is a mystery.” And so on.

    I always try to use language that is easily accessible by others, but I also liberally use jargon where I can define it for the benefit of the “hearer”. We shouldn’t shrink back from jargon.

    I appreciate your compliment–I understand your point, but if you are defining it, why use it you know?

    I mean, obviously we should define and explain words, and we can’t help but use jargon–but I think we should keep it minimal.

    I’m not following you here. What “change”?

    Sorry. I am trying to write quickly (I do have CW services to plan and videos to show, you know) so not always am I clear. I meant that for many people, they simply like the style of praise music more than that of hymns.

    But what does my musical tastes have anything to do with Jesus coming to me, with the forgiveness of sins?

    Nothing. Which is why we can use unlimited musical styles by which to sing, eh?

    If I want entertainment on Sunday morning, then I will listen to my iTunes collection. I go to church to “see” Jesus and to joyously receive His gifts. I don’t go to listen to the tunes.

    Sure…but you do sing as well, don’t you? People have different tastes when it comes to singing.

    Are you with me on this?

  9. Pastor Louderback:

    Perhaps we need to step back and find out how you actually are doing a CW service; is there any way to post a bulletin or order of service. It sounds like what you are terming a “CW Service” is not what most of us are thinking when you say “CW Service” — a service that is completly foreign to most of what we consider a lutheran service.

  10. Thomas Messer,

    I’m doing something old, something new.

    Who was joking, kidding, or being snarky?

    Me.

    In your previous post, you made it clear that there was a difference – your TW is non-Mass-abolishing, but your CW is an addition to your “Mass,” which means that it must be something else, and hence, that there most certainly must be a difference between the two. You need to make up your mind dude.

    Well, there is a difference between you and me. But at the same time, we are both the same. When it comes to what is most important, we are identical (both are baptized children of God).

    So, I don’t see any distinction theologically in what the services do. Certainly they are different though.

    Except that, in CW (or, CoWo, as you prefer), the Gospel is repackaged in a way that makes it more marketable and appealing to the “consumer,” which begs the question: Is it the same Gospel?

    There is a distinction between making something clear and making something more palatable.

    So, I simply see CW as doing the former.

    I do not see it as making the Gospel more marketable or appealing.

    The Western liturgy is “man-centered”? Really? How so? Which parts of the liturgy are people-pleasing and entertaining? Please, do tell.

    Ummm… You mis-understand my position. Either I did not explain it clearly or you are being obtuse.

    If you are being obtuse, please stop. If you don’t understand, let me try again: I do not see CW as “man centered” any more than Western liturgy is “man centered”. Neither one is focused on the individual, but rather are developed to bring Christ to the individual.

    If you can’t see the difference, it’s only because you’re not looking properly. But, as I said before, I’m not buying that. I know full well that you can see the difference. I mean, even a seven-year-old can see the difference.

    Okay: please explain then. Once again, I’m being completely honest. I don’t see that CW is man centered any more than the liturgy is man centered.

    eans that we must have failed to argue convincingly. And, well, since you and a bunch of others in our synod have decided that worshipping like the methabapticostals is okey-dokey, it must be so. After all, we all know that majority rules when it comes to doctrine and practice. Yeah, that’s right, we see that throughout Holy Scripture, don’t we? God says, “Y’all take a vote and let me know how you want to worship Me. Oh, and keep in mind that I think it would be wise for y’all to design your worship around what people want. Remember to take into consideration the desires of the pagans. Figure out what they want and then design your worship accordingly.” Yeah, that’s what we read, isn’t it? NOT!

    At some point, if you want to say “This is what the Word says,” you have to convince people that it is true.

    No, theology is not run by democracy–but Luther himself asked to be convinced of error of his position by sound reasoning.

    This is not just me, but some of our top theologians. Guys at our seminaries. At some point, you have to be able to back up your claims in a manner that convinces others.

    What is your argument that CW (or CoWo) is inherently man centered?

    Well, I guess since you added your arbitrary “Period” to this statement, it must be so. You win, then.

    But, wait, what if I say: “CW is NOT Divine Service. Period”? Does that mean it must be so and I win?

    I’m telling you my opinion here. This is what I honesty believe. This is exactly where I am.

    So, in our discussions, I just want you to remember that. I’m not faking a position. I’m not ignoring an inconvenient truth.

    I believe that CW is Divine Service. That is the where I stand.

    You disagree? Fine. I’m open to (as Brian Yamabe stated from the outset) a substantive argument that makes your case.

    Here, again, you argue against yourself. You claim, on the one hand, that there’s no difference between TW and CW, but, on the other hand, you invoke “the Shibboleth,” making it clear that there is a difference.

    You misunderstand: the distinction is between “CW is Divine Service” and “CW is not divine service.” That is the Shibboleth that I refer to.

    In any event, your usage of “Shibboleth” here is most certainly inappropriate, since you are claiming that adhering to a different theology of worship is nothing more than changing the language and practice to fit your cultural circumstances.

    This is not an accurate statement of what I believe.

    I believe that CW is not a different theology of worship. That is why we can change the language in order to proclaim the Gospel in a contextual way.

    I’d explain why, but what good would that do?

    I’d like to hear it. Even it does no good, at least I will understand your position that much better.

    1) What is your definition of Sola Scriptura?

    Sola Scriptura is the teaching that the source, the sole source, of all of our teaching, doctrine, beliefs, etc, is the Word of God. The Word of God acts as the one and only judge, rule and the ultimate norm for all that we hold to.

    Now, given that, it is certainly true that we read Scripture through the lens of the book of Romans–and that we read Scripture through the Confessions as well. We hold to the Confessions, because they are an accurate statement of what Scripture teaches.

    But still, the Word is the sole source of doctrine. So, even if the church has held to a teaching for years (like perpetual virginity of Mary) if it is not taught in Scripture, it is not doctrine. We can’t bind people’s consciences.

    Now, Christians come together on all sorts of things and say “This is not taught in Scripture, but this is how we are going to do things–if you don’t like it, then, you don’t have to be a part of our church.” So, we elect a President every three years. Nothing in Scripture about that. But a person could not say “Well, I’m going to run for President even when there is not an election, because nothing in Scripture speaks to it.”

    That is my def.

    2) Who trained you to do CW?

    Concordia Seminary. Is that what you are asking? I didn’t go to some other school or something like that. I have seen CW at other LCMS churches and I can’t say where those pastors have been trained.

    Look, Pr Messer, I’m just trying to be clear and understood about my position on CW. I don’t see it as you see it.

    So, you know, that is where we are. You can say that I am wrong–and I’d love some to hear why. You can ignore this–but then we’ll talk past each other.

    But it is not as though I really know better but am pretending differently. That is not the case.

  11. Me thinks though dost protest too much. Pity the poor lay person who has been taught that what happens in church on Sunday is Lutheran. If it looks like something else then how will they know? If it sounds like something else then how will they know? If you don’t even use the hymnal for the “traditional” service what do you do when the power goes out?

  12. Thanks, Michael Ritzman.
    More often than not, if there’s a Lutheran question, it’s been answered on Issues, Etc.
    If only more Lutherans would listen and learn.

  13. ‘The Divine Service is really the care and feeding of the baptized who’ve come together.’
    Rev. Wm. Cwirla, in that very Issues, Etc. broadcast.
    Thanks again, Mr. Ritzman.

  14. As I have been reading this thread, I found myself quoting Hamlet in my mind when reading Pastor Louderback’s comments, “Sir, Me thinks thou doth protest too much?”

    The problem of this debate are the terms – traditional and contemporary. This is the framework for the debate over worship which was put forward by those advocating contemporary worship. The debate rightfully needs to reframed and when it is, it ends rather quickly – when these other terms are introduced historical, biblical, and confessional.

    Traditional worship is always contemporary, because it is happening now, but more importantly it is historical and thoroughly biblical and can be defended from our confessions.

    Contemporary worship obviously is about the here and now which is why it is trendy and fleeting, but it too is also historical, traditional, and confessional.

    The questions then are, “What history?”; What Biblical interpretation?”; and “What Confession is this compatible?”

    Lutheran worship as we have received it is certainly historical, biblical, and confessional.

    Our worship in fact brings forth temple, synogogue, and passover worship richly unified together. All of which Jesus, Himself, participated in, and fulfilled. Lutheran worship brings forth this biblical reality. At its center is the doctrine of justification by Grace through Faith. This is why “traditionalists” so staunchly defend it, because over the centuries our worship has not radically differed in its form from the beginning of the church but has been refined like gold, has aged well like a fine wine, and now shines and sparkles like a well cut diamond.

    Contemporary worship has its roots not in Lutheranism, but in fact its history, tradition, and biblical basis is a conglomeration of Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal theology and practice, which makes it sectarian and heterodox. Justification is not central but these are for each individually – methods for holiness, decision theology, and emotional feeling of the ‘spirit’. These doctrinal foci are not the focus of the bride of on her husband, but rather the focus of the bride on herself. She marvels at how white her dress is and proud she is of her decision to buy that dress and how wonderful and beautiful everyone will see and that makes her feel good about herself. When placed in the refiners fire, the Word of God, it burns like chaff, is sour wine, and shatters like glass.

    Proponents will say that there worship is more effective and makes more Christians, therefore better than traditional worship. But does it really? Does it make Biblical disciples of Christ who here about sin, repent, trust in their Baptism, hear and believe what the Word of God says about them in both Law and Gospel, confess the faith that has always been believed and receive the salvation accomplished for them on the Cross when Christ really and truly comes to them in His Body and Blood, and finally receive the blessings of God in the Aaronic Benediction?

    Or are you creating Sectarians whose focus is not on Christ, but themselves? Are you creating people who come to church so they can be uplifted emotionally. Who come for a pep talk or self help on how to be a better person. Are you creating people in your church whose roots in the faith are so shallow that when something terrible happens in their lives they fall away? Are you succumbing to the culture rather than changing the culture?

    In almost all cases the richness that we have received and are to share from the Gospel is reduced in contemporary worship, which is in fact, the root of contemporary worship in Missouri. The Gospel Reductionism that began in the mid-twentieth century has brought upon us this blight. Sin is rarely addressed, therefore Law rarely preached. Christ is not on the cross, and so the Gospel lacks power. The means of grace are reduced in importance in favor of testimony and feelings of the heart. The Office of the Ministry is changed to reflect this. Pastors are inspirational speakers who are professional friends who make you feel good about yourself.

    I am not even going to deal with the adiaphora issue because that is just childish the way that is used.

    Contemporary worship is heterodox and sectarian. Period.

    Pastors who think that they can somehow keep the substance of Lutheran doctrine and have a different style are at best naive, and at worst completely dishonest.

    One last thing, you cannot as a member of the Missouri Synod practice such things confessionally or constitutionally. It is not compatible with either the Book of Concord and the Constitution of our Church Body. And because of this it is not compatible with ordination vows made to God.

    One big word – Repent.

  15. Also we need to consider that Lutherans did advocate the same things in the early 1800s. Samuel Simon Schmucher advocated the Definite Platform which essentially was the American recension of the Augsburg Confession. American Lutherans’ worship in America had blended in with that of the indigenous denominations – the Methodists, Baptists, and Revivalists. The New Measures of Charles Finney were being advocated. Highly subjective emotional hymns and songs leading up to the inspirational speaker who would convert the masses, who had likely already been converted but it didn’t stick so to speak.

    Lutherans are doing the same things today. The New Measures of today is the Church Growth Movement. Many would rather give lip service to the confessions and do something else. Our worship is blending in with the “cultural Christianity” around us.

    When speaking with a DP recently, he confessed that CW was on the way out. He confessed that the main group interested in it was Baby Boomers, and that for the most part the younger generations were not interested in it.

    CW is fleeting and fleeting fast, and just like in the 1800s, God’s people are waking up. Lutherans will return to their roots. May God grant this quickly.

  16. Another way of thinking about worship removes time and culture altogether.

    Worship should be timeless and reflect the worship of Heaven.

    The Divine Service is the Eternal Triune God meeting His Temporal Church on Earth with His gifts.

    The eternal swallows up the temporal in the foretaste of the feast to come. Heaven descends as the Son of God makes Himself present for us to eat and drink and we worship Him with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.

    This is not something that is German in culture, it is in fact, supercultural. The western rite developed in many countries and has come to us from the culture of the Church.

    This reality should be considered as the God of the Bible, the whole Bible, comes to us. We cannot worship Him in some Marcionite way disregarding His Almighty power.

    This reality is not rightly considered when we sing shallow repetitive praise songs that tell God how awesome He is or repeatedly tell Him to Shine over and over again.

    He does not need your praise but He desires it. What is required is repentance and faith.
    These are better expressed in the timeless and super-cultural worship that has come down to us through centuries from the Church.

  17. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod at its 2001 convention adopted Resolution 2–05A, “To Continue to Foster Discussion on Worship,” that stated:

    That congregations and their pastors, musicians, and other worship planners be reminded that worship practices in their local setting have broader implications which affect other congregations throughout the Synod and the church-at-large.

    Synod at its 1998 convention adopted Resolution 2–10, “To Build Consensus in Worship,” that stated:

    That we remind one another of the promise we have made to use “doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks, and catechisms,” both to preserve the truth and for the sake of good order.

    That everyone heed the advice of Dr. Martin Luther who, in writing to the Christians in Livonia, penned words that speak directly to our time and place:

    I pray all of you, my dear sirs, let each one surrender his own opinions and get together in a friendly way and come to a common decision about these external matters, so that there will be one uniform practice throughout your district instead of disorder. (Luther’s Works, 53, 47)

    Dr. Martin Luther, in the above quoted letter to the Livonian Christians, also states:

    Now when your people are confused and offended by your lack of uniform order, you cannot plead, “Externals are free. Here in my own place I am going to do as I please.” But you are bound to consider the effect of your attitude on others. By faith be free in your conscience toward God, but by love be bound to serve your neighbor’s edification, as also St. Paul says, Romans [15:2], “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him.” For we should not please ourselves, since Christ also pleased not Himself, but us all.

    But at the same time a preacher must watch and diligently instruct the people lest they take such uniform practices as divinely appointed and absolutely binding laws. He must explain that this is done for their own good so that the unity of Christian people may also find expression in externals which in themselves are irrelevant. Since the ceremonies or rites are not needed for the conscience or for salvation and yet are useful and necessary to govern the people externally, one must not enforce or have them accepted for any other reason except to maintain peace and unity between men. For between God and men it is faith that procures peace and unity.

    Nevertheless, both you and your preachers should diligently seek to promote unity and to hinder this work of the devil, because God appoints the devil to do this in order to give us occasion to prove our unity and in order to reveal those that have stood the test. For in spite of all our efforts, enough factions and disunity will remain. St. Paul also points this out when he says, II Timothy 2 [:20], that there are both noble and ignoble vessels in the same house, and immediately adds, “If a man purge himself of such people, he shall be a vessel sanctified for noble use, useful to his master and ready for every good work” [v. 21]. (Luther’s Works: Liturgy and Hymns, J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed., vol. 53, pp 47–50. Fortress Press: Philadelphia)

    Synod’s first constitution stated:

    Synod holds in accordance with the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession that uniformity in ceremonies is not essential; yet on the other hand Synod deems such a uniformity wholesome and useful, namely for the following reasons:

    a. because a total difference in outward ceremonies would cause those who are weak in the unity of doctrine to stumble;

    b. because in dropping heretofore preserved usages the Church is to avoid the appearance of and desire for innovations;

    Furthermore, Synod deems it necessary for the purification of the Lutheran Church in America, that the emptiness and the poverty in the externals of the service be opposed, which, having been introduced here by the false spirit of the Reformed, is now rampant.

    All pastors and congregations that wish to be recognized as orthodox by Synod are prohibited from adopting or retaining any ceremony which might weaken the confession of the truth or condone or strengthen a heresy, especially if heretics insist upon the continuation or the abolishing of such ceremonies. The desired uniformity in the ceremonies is to be brought about especially by the adoption of sound Lutheran agendas (church books). (emphasis added)

  18. Dear BJS,
    First of all, stop calling worship anything but what the LORD says it is, WORSHIP.

    It is an action we do, we bow, we listen. God feeds.

    Psalm 95 my friends. Sermon on the Mount from Jesus. Jesus teaching in the temple, etc.

    We come into His courts to listen and be fed. If we utter a thing, let it be proper and not, never get in the way of His teaching.

    It is Biblical Worship, of a setting that just happens to be Lutheran liturgical.

    Yes, even high Church guys like me. I still (and Matt Mills it is part of the LSB) now bow and enter with prayer to His Courts for Worship.

  19. I’ll be honest; for me, this is not an issue about being contemporary versus being traditional. It is an issue of race and culture. There is one thing in America that blacks have had a huge impact and that is Gospel music. It is the one thing that racism could not suppress, could not eradicate, and could not denigrate – until now.
    Gospel music declares the victory of God over the schemes of satan to defeat, defile, and destroy God’s people. The descendants of slaves saw their liberation in the Exodus, and their deliverance at the Jordan. The victory of Christ at Golgotha, for them, was not just about heaven and hell, it was about the works of man to dehumanize and demean them, defeated by the Blood.
    You all have dragged me into a “war” that actually has nothing to do with me, except when you say that only the songs that you have embraced are acceptable, only your structures are sound. I say, “I, too, sing” the Gospel. My songs are not shallow, vapid repetitions of insipid affection; They sing, not of my great love for God, but that “there is no greater love than when…Jesus went to Calvary to save a wretch like you and me.” Songs that ask, “Is my living in vain,” and confess “No! OF course not! For up the road is eternal gain!”
    I don’t want to change the liturgy; I find it to be a beautiful expression of what God in Christ has done for us. I only ask to be allowed to celebrate my freedom that I have found in Him, for “I found in Him, a resting place, and He has made me glad.”
    Blessings!

  20. @Delwyn X. Campbell #170

    Good points.  I believe most Lutherans welcome and love Gospel music.  IMO it is a separate catagory and not to be confused with contemporary Christian music much of which is “shallow and vapid.”

  21. @Delwyn X. Campbell #170

    It is an issue of race and culture. There is one thing in America that blacks have had a huge impact and that is Gospel music.

    True, and it is worship when they sing it! And beautiful.

    My college has had a choir of reputation around the country and the world. But the first year they tried to “reach out” by singing Gospel music, they fell flat. That collection of (primarily blond Norwegians) didn’t get it and couldn’t do it.
    Next time I heard them, they had acquired a lead baritone who was black and had obviously been brought up on Gospel. He had taught the whole choir and it was good!

    I have been a guest in a black congregation, celebrating the dedication of their new church. The liturgy was Lutheran; the music was sublime!

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