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. I agree that much of the CW revivalist camp falls into the categories put forth, causing division and stirring up the people. However, just because some who also use a similar worship service as I do also include under that umbrella false teaching and false doctrine doesn’t mean the false doctrine should be tied to the CW. They are two separate things.

    I would argue that what drives false doctrine is the numbers game. For example many who have CW have given up closed communion for the sake of their visitors. It is possible to have CW and practice closed communion.

    We have to be very careful that we don’t corollate realities that don’t need to be corollated. Though I appreciate the caution, I would be willing to have any pastor worship with me and my congregation and when they spotted false doctrine, point it out.

    Simply because CW and sound Lutheran doctrine and practice haven’t been combined well before does not mean they can’t be. Arrogant? Perhaps, but I am trusting not just my theological abilities, but also those of the laity and my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    thanks for your comments.

    Pastor Robert Weller

  2. Robert,

    Thanks for patiently reading my comments.

    To your question, can the church ever change anything or when can it. What I have learned is that yes, the church can and does change things. The LSB reflects this well.

    The LSB has not ignored CW. I am not the best equipped to demonstrate this (as you can tell from my history I am not a really big hymnal fan by training as is my friend and fellow commenter above Dennis Peskey – it has become a learned behavior for me at around the age of 30 so I still depend on others to be my liturgical conscience – we have an incredible cantor who selects music for us and a great associate pastor who knows this stuff from youth) but here are four examples I know of off hand:

    1. There is a Twila Paris song in LSB (#550). This of course is pure American contemporary music.
    2. There are numerous Marty Haugen songs in LSB. He writes liturgical type stuff that has a more modern feel to it. It is not Dove Music awards type stuff but it is also not Gregorian chant.
    3. There are also a few Taize community pieces in the LSB. Again, not Dove Awards stuff but different than chant and Lutheran chorales.
    4. Our own Cantor Phillip Magness has some pieces in the LSB. He is Haugen like but with a little more of a jazz piano feel.

    The liturgical tradition adds and subtracts all the time. Allowing our trained music people to lead for us on this is salutary.

    Notice that the “contemporary” stuff added this go around is not limited to the Amy Grant type stuff but reflects a far broader range of musical style and is thus more catholic which is a good thing.

    Hope this helps. Thanks for listening.

    Tim

  3. Pastor Weller,
    I guess I have trouble getting past two things.
    The first is a question I asked our last CW visitor: AC XV requires of you that you observe the usages in the Church “which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.” The Apology adds “for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages.” The Church is broader than your circuit, and you are definitely “refusing to observe adiophora with others.” What are you using to trump “the usages of the church,” and the “public harmony” to which you tied yourself in your ordination vows?
    The second point flows out of the first. If this has something to do w/ reaching non-Christians for whom the Western Liturgy is a stumbling block (and what else would justify such a violent end to “public harmony?”) isn’t there in CW the implicit assertion that Word and Sacrament aren’t enough? Aren’t you left w/ cultural relevance as a means of grace, or at least a necessary precondition? If I can by a stylistic change turn an enemy of Christ into a disciple of Christ, what does that say about Art IV, and Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Creed?
    Sorry for the long quote, but I think Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer was right on target when he wrote: “Every attempt to impose the gospel by force, to run after people and proselytize them, to use our own resources to arrange the salvation of other people, is both futile and dangerous. It is futile, because the swine do not recognize the pearls that are cast before them, and dangerous, because it profanes the word of forgiveness, by causing those we fain would serve to sin against what is holy. … Our easy trafficking with the word of cheap grace simply bores the world to disgust, so that in the end it turns against those who try to force on it what it does not want. Thus a strict limit is placed upon the activities of the disciples, just as in Matt 10 they are told to shake the dust off their feet where the word of peace is refused a hearing. Their restless energy which refuses to recognize any limit to their activity, the zeal which refuses to take note of resistance, springs from a confusion of the gospel with a victorious ideology.”
    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  4. Pastor Weller:
    I appreciate your earlier response to my post.
    But a church that maintains more than one *traditional* service is not dividing the congregation in the same way.
    People choose which *traditional* service simply because of the preferred hour; but people choose which *style* of service simply because of the style.
    If the hour of traditional service were for some reason not available to me, I’d have to think and pray long and hard, to consider attending something that would undeniably be completely unfamiliar to me. In that instance, I, a member of your congregation, would suddenly be as lost as the unchurched.

  5. Related to Susan’s writings, one thing that I’ve asked many times and never gotten an answer .. in my experience when a church has both traditional and CW services, they assign the traditional one to 8:00 AM and the CW to the late service on Sundays.

    I’d love to see just one church with them in reverse order. How many CW worshipers are dedicated enough to it to get up for an 8AM service? I see many coming into my church late service late — see the tendency of young parents with youngsters to attend the late service (given the difficulty of getting two or four kids up and dressed), and wonder just how much of this church is really that committed to the CW “version” or just happens to like attending late service?

    I fully agree with Susan. You are dividing your church by having different services; you are taking away the option for members (or visitors) looking for traditional services to attend your church.

  6. Pastor,
    Thank you for joining in. It is quite surreal to be having this discussion in this forum when I actually meant for it to take place in person at some point. (Note: always remember who you’ve friended on Facebook 🙂

    I agree that having 2 services whether of similar style or not has the potential to divide a congregation. And as you said, “… it really hasn’t divided our congregation in any measurably bad ways.” I would also agree that it hasn’t divided our congregation, but I would argue that we are living, at least to some extent, on borrowed capital. The core of the congregation was largely around when there was only one service and I believe those existing relationships are a large reason there is little division. If we look down the road a few years and the number of these existing relationships dwindle, so will our unity. As a newer member of the congregation, I only know a few members from the 2nd service. My interaction with regular attenders of 2nd service is largely through Bible study and men’s group, but the overlap represents a small percentage of the entire congregation. And as membership changes over time I don’t see this situation will improve.

    My practical reason for writing this paper was concern for my daughters and the youth of our congregation. Without growing up in the distinctly Lutheran proclamation of the Gospel using all the gifts of the historic liturgy it will be easier for them to slide comfortably into a non-denominational church when they are left to their own devices. I am walking proof that our historical form of worship is a life preserver in the sea of American Evangelicalism. It’s certainly not a panacea, but I think there is something to be said for engraining in them the word of God and our entire theology as confessed in the historic liturgy.

    I would like to thank all the commenters for their respectful treatment of Pastor Weller. My intent was never to put him in the spotlight like this and your gracious attitude toward him has lessened my remorse in putting him in this situation.

  7. Brian,

    As I stated I am happy to talk about these things and I am glad you brought it up. I don’t mean to say that I don’t think the congregation will end up being divided by services, only that it happens in any congregation with more than one service. you are probably right about our living more unified on borrowed time. Yet while we may have many members who don’t know people in the other service, I guess I don’t see how that should be detrimental to a congregation. If both services are represented by church leadership and all members are seen on equal footing, then the church should be able to move forward together. I know this may sound too “ideal” and not very real, but I have to operate on what I would like to see happen and strive for it rather than being pessimistic.

    Additionally, while I certainly would never argue with the fact that liturgy teaches the faith, I don’t believe it is the only method and I probably would argue that it isn’t even the first and most important biblical method. I would say that the family should be, as biblically mandated, the primary teacher of the faith. You do a great job because you recognize your vocation as head of the family. Too many families turn over the teaching of the faith to the church. I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but one of the premises of my dissertation is exactly that families have turned over to the church responsibilities that God has given them.

    Worship, traditional and contemporary, can be a place where faith is grown and even born, but the family should remain the primary dispenser as they use the church and the means of grace provided their to teach the faith to their children.

    Hope this helps and probably sparks some more discussion. I thank all of you for your respectful, but frank responses. To my brothers in the ministry I thank you for wrestling with these issues on a daily basis.

    Pastor Robert Weller

  8. I would only hope that heads of household have a church that faithfully teaches them what to teach their children.
    Pastor Weller says:
    >…while I certainly would never argue with the fact that liturgy teaches the faith,I don’t believe it is the only method and I probably would argue that it isn’t even the first and most important biblical method.<
    But it’s perhaps the best and most consistently available method within the the walls of the church.
    Would it not be better for a pastor to spend his time preparing to teach his flock about liturgy, than to spend it cobbling together an alternative?

  9. Robert,

    First of all, I appreciate your willingness to dialogue on this forum and your desire to defend what you believe.

    With that said, I believe you have started down a very dangerous path. I have been involved in three different LCMS congregations that introduced CW. What you have stated thus far sounds so eerily familiar. All three pastors (actually, five, since one of the congregations had two associate pastors) in these congregations said the exact same things I hear you saying: I will always choose the songs; I will keep our Lutheran doctrine in place; Things won’t get out of hand, etc. In all three instances, they were unable to stop the beast from taking over. There is nothing distinctively Lutheran about their CW anymore, and, while two of the three congregations still offer what they label TW, even those Services have been widely taken over by CW.

    I know, I know, you’re not going to let this happen. I guess only time will tell.

    What I do know from experience is that when you begin to shape the way you do things in church based upon what people want, you are opening yourself up for all kinds of abuses to enter in. We sinful human beings always want more. Give us an inch; we want a mile.

    So, what happens when it’s not enough for the praise band on the side to lead the congregation in a few praise ditties you’ve determined are not too awfully bad? What will you say to those people who want to dabble a little deeper into the pool of CW? It will be very difficult for you to convince them that it is not right to dive in deeper, for you’ve already set the precedent for catering to their wants and desires.

    But, all that aside, I am curious as to how you would respond to my earlier post to Mark Louderback (#82). Granted, Mark has dove in to the CW pool much deeper than you have at this point, but the same questions I asked of him are worthy of an answer from you. How does what you’re doing jive with your confessional subscription?

    I think your parishioner, Brian’s, concerns about his daughters, and the youth in general, are spot on. We Lutherans have already been dabbling in CW long enough to see what affects it has had on a generation raised on it. I know lots (and I mean – lots!) of former Lutherans (many family and friends) who have left Lutheran congregations for congregations of other denominations (or non-denoms) where the entertainment is “bigger and better.” Having been raised on CW, when you ask them why they would leave Lutheranism for Americanized evangelicalism, they look at you like you’re crazy, for they really don’t see a difference – well, except that the praise band at the Church of How Are Ya is much better than the one at So and So Lutheran.

    Certainly, you are right in noting that much of the issues we face today has a lot to do with Christian parents not taking their vocation as seriously as they should. But, isn’t that all the more reason for the Church to remain faithful to her traditional doctrine and practice? I’m really not following your argumentation on this one. In a day and age when everything is fast-paced, superficial, and marketed to appeal to, and satisfy, our own wants and desires, I believe it is important for the Church to buck that trend and remain a constant place, and source, of eternal substance, as un-stained by the world as it can be.

    Thanks again for the dialogue.

    Pax,
    Tom

  10. Tom,

    I would be curious as to what things started to show up at those churches that allowed the “beast to take over”. Were there warning signs that the services were drifting seriously astray? I guess my hope, and I say hope simply because as you correctly stated we are all sinners, is that I will continue to dedicate myself to faithful teaching and preaching. I pray for parishoners like Brian who are willing to question me and find out my reasons. Where there is an issue I hope it will be brought to the forefront.

    I don’t deny that what I am attempting had been attempted before, but I still believe there is truly a way to be faithful, Lutheran, confessional and offer something other than a hymnal only service.

    Thanks for the comments.

    Pastor Weller

  11. The nut of it, though, Pastor Weller and others, is that an alternative is offered simply because people want it. Not because it’s better or even good. Granted, you’ve expressed your determination to make and keep it good; but ‘good’ wasn’t what people wanted, and it’s being ‘good’ wasn’t what brought it about. What brought it about was that people wanted it. Why do they want it? Simply because they do.
    Well, really, it’s a little more complicated than that. But only a little more…

  12. Pr. Weller,

    Out of interest, why do you keep the “praise band” to the side? Is there a particular scripture that forbids you from having them at the front of the congregation? Was your choir (and/or organ), prior to your move to a CW service, located at the back? Or was it located at the side of the church? If the choir has been in the back, can you explain why the “praise band” can’t be located there, too? The point with my questions is that I suspect your “praise band” is already creeping up to front and center, where most “praise bands” are located in CW services. Just as the temptation to start CW at your church was based on the premise that you didn’t find any clear scriptural mandate against CW, the same point may eventually be made that there is no clear scriptural mandate forbidding the praise band to be at the front of the church.

    I also wonder what music genre you are accommodating in your CW? Is it 70s to 80s pop? I can guess that it is, since baby boomers typically don’t like hip-hop, rap, and the various rock sounds of today.

    If you are trying to be relevant to those in your community, have you studied what their musical tastes are? For example, if you found that the community favored Rap music, would you and your elders consider weighting the songs in your service towards “Christian Rap”? What music genres would you consider “off limits” for the divine service?

    It continues to puzzle me that many CW services cater to the sounds the baby boomers of the congregation want. Or, for that matter the congregations who adopt CW play popular Christian radio tunes as if the “unChurched” in their community really care for such music. When I was an atheist the last thing I wanted to listen to was somebody crooning out “Jesus songs”. Nevertheless, it is puzzling that a congregation would adopt CW, in the name of being missional and wanting to make the divine service more accessible to non-Lutherans, and then they don’t play the sounds the demographics of their community might suggest would be more palatable to the “unChurced”.

  13. I can’t help believing that CW is basically us having gotten way too comfortable in our own skin.

  14. In the particular congregation which I witnessed “just start” a CW service yet with the intent to keep it under control, as described above, “what happened” before the band moved from the balcony to the front (and yes, it started behind and finished in front), was that the Pastor’s theology began to be changed by the new liturgies and songs he was singing.

    It’s as simple as the ancient rule: lex orandi, lex credendi. It took years. But it happened. When I left, he was writing his own creeds and letting his members teach the PDRivenLife in their home groups. This from the man who said to me, “As long we keep it about the Word, it must be useful.” One must then be patient with me for not trusting the intentions of men who say, “Yes, but we’ll do it right,” to have much bearing on the debate. They are not the first to look at the ring and think, “But I will use it for good.”

    Interestingly, at the time I entered that parish, I was ambivilant to CW, but my experience and observations there taught me much about the very real theological, philosophical and historic reasons for avoiding it. “What you draw them with, you will have to keep them with.”

    It has been said, “We have to be very careful that we don’t corollate realities that don’t need to be corollated.” Yes. Equally, we must not to ignore the correlation of realities that, when studied carefully, are quickly proven to be correlated, even by secular philosohical standards.

    Finally, I agree profoundly that the home is the primary *location* for teaching the faith. As the father of three daughters, I am ever amazed at the adequacy of our primary *method* for teaching the faith in our home: the liturgy of the Church. In this way, it is important to recognize that the distinction drawn above between “home” and “liturgy” is not really valid. Home is a place/people, liturgy is a method. It’s where AND how. In the home, the greatest gift we as a family have is the variated liturgies which keep us daily in and around our dear Lord’s revealed Words about Jesus, what he did for us, and what he’s coming again to do.

    To my four year old, there is no more relevant/contemporary song in the entire world.

    +pax Christi+

  15. I thought this tweet from Pastor McCain was appropriate:

    ptmccain: Thought for today: If we give people no clear, compelling reason to be, and remain, Lutheran. Guess what? They won’t, and they don’t!

    Having contemporary services in our church is just one step down the road to sending our youth off to other churches.

  16. Or else it’s one giant step down the road to simply BECOMING the other churches.
    It’s like apologizing for being Lutheran. Instead of confessing it, some Lutherans apparently repent it.

  17. Susan R. writes, “Or else it’s one giant step down the road to simply BECOMING the other churches. ”

    That reminds me of the following citation from Marquart’s “Liturgical Commonplaces”.

    (2) The worship of God is not a means to an end (e. g., “‘evangelism’”), but is an end in itself. It is in fact the ultimate purpose of the church (Eph. 1:12,14; Phil. 1:11; 2:10,11; I Peter 2:5), and must give meaning, direction, and impetus to all particular functions and activities of the church, including the great missionary task (Matt. 28:19,20). This means that the church’s public liturgy, that is, the Service of Word and Sacrament, dare not be treated as a public relations exercise, as these words are usually understood: The idea, for instance, that the Service should be “meaningful,” that is, clear and obvious to any casual visitor who might pop in from the street, is shortsightedly pragmatic. A “service” tailored to such a misguided ideal would comprise a melange of threadbare banalities, which even the casual visitor is likely to find unbearable after the third time-not to speak of the faithful who attend regularly for threescore years and ten. People who come to the church seeking divine truth do not expect it to be huckstered like soap or soft drinks, with mindless jingles. Indeed, they respect the church’s uncompromising celebration of mysteries which are not at once transparent to the uninstructed. A few years ago, for instance, an American lady walked into a Russian Orthodox monastery in New York State, and was so impressed by the service in church Slavonic, of which she did not understand a word, that she promptly willed all her wealth to that monastery, saying that here alone had she found people who really prayed!”

  18. Susan, #116: My Father-in-law used to say “Keep your doctrine pure — you will never be able to compete with the baptist or non-denom church down the street”.

    No matter what WE do, we are 20 years behind the church down the street, and will never catch up to them in any attempt to present an “entertaining” service.

    Jim: Thanks; I just went through another editing session on that document to fix some of the OCR errors (Thanks, Helen!), and that paragraph really caught my eye.

    The worship of God is not a means to an end (e.g., “‘evangelism’”), but is an end in itself.

  19. “This concentration on ritual alienates most modern readers in the Western world. We have little appreciation for the function and significance of ritual, even though our daily life is, to a large extent, governed by unconscious rituals and ritualized forms of behavior. We, rather curiously, think that ritual robs us of freedom and spontaneity. Since it imposes conventional patterns of behavior on us, we scorn it as impersonal and mechanical, empty and cold, lifeless and meaningless. At best, ritual may show what we have in common with each other and so be used to express how we feel in a conventional way. At worst, we fancy that it alienates, dehumanizes, and enslaves us; it robs us of our subjectivity and individuality.”

    Care to take a guess who originated this quote? After reading through one hundred, eighteen responses and meditating on all that has been written, I remembered what a wise professor once taught me, “When reading Scripture, ask why?” I applied the same advice to this ongoing (and enlightening) discussion. In conclusion, I found myself returning to the above quote which speaks directly to what has been written.

    Words such as impersonal, mechanical, empty, cold, lifeless or meaningless are used in describing traditional, liturgical worship. Words such as freedom, spontaneity or individuality have been associated with contemporary worship. Throughout, the claim is made that the Scriptures do not establish a particular hymnal, form or style which dictate how we should (or must) worship.

    I will conclude with two sentences from the paragraph which preceeded the above quote. For the meaning, you be the judge of the value of its content. I quote:

    “The book of Leviticus consists, by and large, of ritual legislation. By his Word God institutes the essential parts of the divine service for his interaction with his people at the sanctuary.”

    Concordia Commentary – Leviticus by John W. Kleinig pg. 20

  20. We have our praise team off to the side to keep Christ at the center of our worship. In our traditional service the choir and organ are in the balcony, but space simply doesn’t permit for the praise team to also occupy that space.

    In reference to what genre we use for our music, I think it stands on its own. It is a new church music genre that doesn’t easily fit into the categories typically offered : rap, hip-hop, etc. I guess I take issue with the idea that we are trying to appeal to what people listen to on the radio. I believe that CW music is actually its own genre that happens to have some radio stations that play it. Most of you probably have a radio station that offers Christian contemporary music. As I listen to our local station there is a ton of stuff that I simply wouldn’t use for worship for a variety of reasons: bad theology, too hard to sing, or it is simply poorly written. For those same reasons I reject the use of some hymns in our hymnal, “Earth and all Stars” comes to mind.

    Finally, for now, I don’t believe we are trying to be like the church down the street. We aren’t looking for “butts in the seats”. We are seeking to use all First Article gifts to the glory of God and the proclamation of the gospel. No cutting corners theologically, no simply doing what works!

    Thanks for the dialogue.

    Pastor Robert Weller

  21. With respect, Pastor Weller, in your last post, you’ve nearly completely ignored all the argument to the contrary, and simply restated your original case, with the added statement that you’re not trying to be the church down the street.
    Yes, we have radio stations that play CW. I don’t listen to them. I won’t eat in an area restaurant on Sundays because that’s wheat they play. They might as well be playing plain pop or pop-country music, because, except for the occasional mention of God or Jesus or The Lamb, I wouldn’t know it was ‘Christian’ and not straight pop.
    You haven’t answered what prompted your adding a contemp. service, though you’ve claimed to be using all the gifts of God, etc. But, frankly, I’m not buying that. If those musical gifts are so worthy, then why not add them into a liturgical service? Why depart form liturgical form?
    Who attends these services? Do only the people who like each style attend each service? Will people not attend an alternative? Is that why it’s being done in your church, to accommodate those who must have CW or they’ll go elsewhere? Are they not being gifted enough by the Divine Service, that they must–and I stress the word MUST–have a different form?
    If it’s just a genre, and a worthy enough proclamation of the Gospel, why do you have to spend so much time vetting it and tweaking it, to make it fit within Lutheran theology? How can you say it stands on its own, when its only standing is its popularity–its appeal, and, by your own admission, not its depth or grounding in the Gospel?
    Is it not a sound you’re after? Is it not the appeal of the genre itself, that has won it a place at the table?
    Did I become Lutheran because I *like* the liturgy, or because I believe what it says?
    Will some of your people only remain ‘Lutheran’ if they can do so on their own terms?

  22. A brief P.S.:
    I’d like to commend and applaud the pastors within the Missouri Synod who just say ‘No’: ‘No’ to splitting their congregations in this way, and ‘No’ to such a rejection of the plain Gospel proclamation in the liturgy, and ‘No’ to those within their congregations, and among their brother pastors, who so relentlessly seek it.

  23. Wow – this was a chat room, not a posting 😉

    And before I say anything else, let me add that I think an extended devisive dialogue like this – while maybe good in spirit (even loving Christian-spirit at that) – is too much simply the devil enjoying our daggers.

    Hardly can I add much that has not been said in one form or another already… As a lifelong Evangelical LC-MS member, I can at least add my support for holding to liturgical worship.

    On that note, let me add that when I grew up at our Lutheran school, we closed each week with Friday afternoon hymn sing. As I recall, sometimes we gathered in the gymnasium. I think it was after the school outgrew being able to sit in the bleachers with everyone able to see the overhead projector screen, we moved to the sanctuary. In my opinion, this was a great time for CW – not Sunday AM. We sang both TLH as well as “campfire” songs. (As an aside, I see it as unfortunate that since then – some 25 yrs ago – the congregation has added a form of CW on Sunday AM – probably some 10 yrs ago. By the way, we also held Wed AM chapel service in school.)

    Pertaining to some of the comments throughout this post…

    With all respect to those pastors who delve (or dabble) into CW (and certainly not for me to be judgemental), but how can one think that one is not being devisive (to the church at large), let alone not self-serving/proclaiming in saying, thinking, or practicing that some congregations have certainly fouled up doing CW, but we can do it right? There have been reminders throughout, as in I Corinthians 4.

    And I understand the statement against dividing a congregation with an early/late service, but restating, this is not changing style. It’s often maybe a matter of preference (or laziness), but certainly as well may be a matter of availability. I know some CW congregations that will also add to their argument in that they intentionally don’t hold their CW time simultaneous with Sunday School hour to encourage their CW goers to participate in SS. Bah!

    Pertaining to a few specific comments. Somewhere way back it was mentioned about our culture at large just does not get our liturgy. And that’s correct. We as a church and as Christians are different. We are alien. We are marked. We are chosen. From the early church to the last. From Hebrews 11:13 to I Peter 2:11. It’s good to be different.

    And Pr Louderback, you mentioned you thought it might be meaningful to even show a different cross for different meanings/effects. I’m sure it could be. You could show a different one each week. Each day. Each minute. And then the church down the street would project one (or more) moving around the room… and then the church down from them would have holograms of crosses… and then down from them holograms that danced in and amongst members…

    As for the 6.75 vs .25 and convert vs recruit discussions… I don’t think I’d be the first to suggest giving the Holy Spirit a little credit for knowing how and when to grow a person’s faith. I think our pastors are safe to stick to the Christ-centered cross-focused Gospel.

    And Pr Weller, from your “exit” interviews, did you ever suggest that those members (or visitors, or whoever) attend a Lutheran and/or Liturgical study with you? We will encourage (or at least offer the opportunity for) existing members to attend our new member classes with these studies. Studies to explain the heritage, tradition, and theology behind our liturgy. Often in our youth board and/or on youth events, we’ve discussed how wonderful and enlightening it might be if we could extend some of our cathechism and other studies and youth teachings to our entire congregation.

    And 2 verses to close – 1 as was mentioned before – don’t be discouraged, dust your feet off and move on. And 2, to always be taken to heart, Phillipians 4:7 The peace of God, which trancends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

  24. My family and I have left two LCMS congregations primarily because of the issues of CW and what it means to be a practicing Lutheran. We left the first congregation because we weekly attended the late service and, as Norm has pointed out, the late service became the time for the new contemporary service. When we moved to town and joined this LCMS congregation it used the red hymnal so I figured it was a solidly Lutheran congregation. We didn’t realize the church was planning to switch one of its services to a contemporary service. We could have tried to get up for the traditional 8:00 service, but we didn’t really want to because we had lost some of our trust in the pastor and members of the congregation. The more we had gotten to know this congregation the more we realized they weren’t really Lutheran in the sense of the word we were used to. Lutheran doctrine was secondary to most of what they were about.

    The second congregation was a totally different experience. It was a larger congregation and it had more members who were well catechized even if their percentage was still low. They had what I guess you would call an abbreviated Divine Service. It followed the Lutheran liturgy to a certain extent, but was all printed out in the bulletin and left parts of the historic liturgy out. As time went on projection screens were added, more and more of the liturgy was written by the pastor, his sermons became less and less about the Gospel of Christ, and we knew it was time for us to move on. The praise band and CW came shortly after we left.

    I left both of these congregations for several reasons. I considered myself the weaker brother who was offended by the new contemporary worship which I couldn’t stand. I was actually angry while being served by God in worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I didn’t fit in with these Christians and for the first time I felt like an outsider in an LCMS congregation. My angry response to this new kind of Lutheran Christian gave be a great deal of guilt. I knew it was not in their or my family’s best interest for us to be joined together as a congregation and now I am wondering if we belong together even in the same synod. I also believed that staying in these congregations would be harmful to the faith of the members of my family.

    My family came from a beautiful little confessional congregation where we had been taught in many ways to lead a liturgical life. I would be working at my job and at the same time going through the chief parts of the catechism or singing the Lutheran liturgy and hymns in my mind. My two year old daughter was becoming familiar with parts of the liturgy from the worship service and was actually starting to sing along. After we moved from this congregation these things were being lost. Now my daughter could no longer follow along with the new and ever changing forms of worship. My liturgical rhythm of life became a thing of the past. I know I alone was to blame for this, but at the same time I believe I need the help of my local congregation and pastor to back this practice up by what we do in worship and Bible study.

    I’m just a simple guy and I am sure I have oversimplified many things I have written here, but I know Jesus has constantly revealed Himself to me and my family through historic liturgical worship services where His Word and Sacraments are always found. This kind of worship service was all I ever knew before I was 30 years old. Maybe it is my week sinful self getting in the way, but I can not say that the Gospel of Jesus has always been proclaimed as clearly in my limited experience with CW or the other innovative worship services I have been a part of.

  25. 125-You are NOT alone. I am currently in a very similar point in my life. It ain’t easy being Lutheran but it sure beats the altenatives.

  26. Pr. Weller (@ 121),

    Thank you for answering some of my questions. I want to clarify that I wasn’t stating your congregation is intentionally trying to appeal to what people in your community listen to on local radio. Instead, my questions where asked to hopefully turn the wheels of thought around reasons why you have chosen one genre of music over another, if your intent is to make those in your community more comfortable with liturgy. In other words, what criteria did you actually use to choose “Christian pop” over, say, “Christian Rap”? You answer that question with some good answers—”bad theology, too hard to sing, or it is simply poorly written.” Interestingly enough, the answers you provide as to why you wouldn’t use some music in the divine service are the very same reasons many here have offered you as to why CW shouldn’t be used at all.

    I don’t have really anything more to add other than the above clarification which I hope is helpful.

    I appreciate the time you have taken to address my questions and comments, and of those of others, too. Thank you.

    Jim Pierce

  27. I’ve shared this before, but it’s an apt occasion for sharing it again.

    Attached to all of my pastor’s emails is this little tag:

    A lady said to her pastor, ‘Pastor, the liturgy doesn’t say what I mean.’

    The pastor responded, ‘Dear lady, you must learn to mean what the liturgy says.’

  28. All,

    Thanks for your continued dicussion. I guess I would like to pose another question regarding how a practice or worship pattern becomes acceptable in a church. This is really an ecclesiology question. When is something accepted by the church and what voices in the church make that decision? I am not talking about individual congregations. As I stated previously I don’t think individual congregations should do anything in a vacuum. But how does a worship song or pattern become accepted by the church at large?

    This isn’t as easy a question as you may think. As a Lutheran synod we have to maintain an ecclesiology that isn’t completely congregational, “Everyone do your own thing”, on the other hand we all know the historical danger of having a top down authority structure, Rome-like. I have been operating in what I believe to be an appropriate tension. I have sought input from my brothers and sisters in Christ, near and far. Though I know some on here would disagree with me, I don’t believe I have violated the confessions or my ordination vows. So the end question is how does a practice become “codified” in the church?

    Thanks for your responses.

    Pastor Robert Weller

  29. Rev. Weller,

    You ask, “how does a practice become “codified” in the church?”

    It seems to me that in Protestant church bodies people vote for practices with their feet and church leaders decide based on the number of feet and their own ideas.

    Lutherans are different in that we hold to the order handed down through the one catholic or universal Church by our Lord. Errors which have crept in, foreign languages, and small stylistic practices have been changed, but at its heart our order of worship is like that which has been handed down in Christ’s Church through the centuries. I wasn’t around 1500 years ago, but I imagine people chanted and sang the Psalms and Scripture much like we do today. If our ancient ancestors and church fathers came back today they would be comfortable in a traditional liturgical worship service, but I am not sure they would recognize some CW as Christian worship.

  30. Hi Pastor Weller,

    You’ve asked some excellent questions in this thread, and I hope you and I might have opporutnity to discuss how best to deliver God’s blessings and promises in worship that is meaningful to the hearers in your particular situation.

    As far as your question about codification goes, you describe well our desire to avoid letting everyone “do their own thing” while at the same time eschewing a popish hierarchy. We walk together motivated by the Gospel, and in the love that Christ gives us by faith we make decisions together and agree to walk together by those decisions – even when that means that we must decline to do things that are permissible for us for the sake of preserving the unity we highly prize.

    This process manifests itself in our synod via our constitution and via various convention resolutions – such as the 1995 resolution exhorting congregations to confess only the three ecumenical Creeds. Where pastors and congregations walk according to the parameters our synod has agreed upon, unity is preserved even as much diversity is allowed.

    I would welcome the chance to explore with you in detail how these ideals might manifest themselves successfully and convincingly in your particular situation. Dr. Nagel has taught wisely that in discussing worship, “It is best to be specific.” Feel free to contact me off-list or at Bethany if you would like to share ideas as to how the musciains in your congregation might best serve the Gospel.

    In Christ,

    Phillip Magness

  31. Dear Pastor Weller,
    Historically for Lutheranism (and I believe I could say Confessionally) worship has been “codified” through the acceptance and promulgation of set church orders. That was done through the Consistory process in Reformation era territorial churches, and in the LC-MS through the very well regulated process of collecting, vetting, accepting and publishing hymnals. The “codification of worship” is precisely what was just accomplished through the publication of the LSB. It was an example of “the Church in this place and time” exercising its Confessional latitude and “according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God.”
    By rejecting the liturgies that the Church has “in this place and time” set up as “most useful and edifying to the congregation of God” it appears that you have become schismatic, and have broken your ordination vows.
    Again, ACXV requires of you that you observe the usages in the Church “which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.” The Apology adds “for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages.” The Church is broader than your circuit, and you are definitely “refusing to observe adiophora with others.” What are you using to trump “the usages of the church,” and the “public harmony” to which you tied yourself in your ordination vows?
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  32. Pastor Weller, it seems to me a non-argument argument, and a great convenience to you personally, to simply state you ‘don’t believe’ you have violated the confessions or your ordination vows.
    And then there are those likewise convenient words and phrases, as your having sought input with this not-so-easy question, and the ominous ‘top down authority structure, Rome-like’, and ‘operating in…an appropriate tension.’ Then the deflection of the argument with a new question, that’s really not been part of the discussion, or any answer to any previous question to you, or a clarification of any position.
    These statements, and the follow-up question, merely seek to justify that which you’ve already done. But, in your seeking counsel, what cautions did anyone give you against going contemporary? Did anyone suggest it was a tension you could easily avoid for yourself, and how much weight did you give such cautions?
    Meanwhile, you still have yet to state what was your purpose or motivation for the shift in practice. What–and whose–need or needs did you seek to fulfill, that historic liturgy wasn’t already fulfilling? What were people missing beforehand, that now they receive, because, in a post-modern move, you’ve given them options?
    What would they be lacking, if you’d have just said, ‘No’?

  33. Susan,

    I ma sorry if you feel I have been evasive, though I don’t believe I have. So I will answer the questions you asked as succinctly as possible. We started the CW service to offer the Gospel to a people who would not come to worship in the traditional setting. We chose to offer them a worship setting that would still deliver the unaltered gospel to them and would be comfortable for them. In no way did we compromise any of the church’s teachings. I know many will go back to my ordination vows and the Book of Concord about not changing the “mass”. I would argue we didn’t change the “mass” just put it into new music.

    If you want to argue about the music I would caution against the equally dangerous presumption that the liturgy as we have it in the Lutheran hymnal is the only way that the gospel may be appropriately delivered. Now we have really subjected the gospel to the liturgy.

    I know people do not like the CW services they have seen, but I would invite you to come to ours. Come and listen and tell me what is in violation of the Word of God, the Book of Concord, or my walking together with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Thank you for your passion, we need it in our beloved Synod.

    Peace in Christ,

    Pastor Robert Weller

  34. pastor Weller writes:
    We started the CW service to offer the Gospel to a people who would not come to worship in the traditional setting.
    Which answers a question I asked days ago:
    Will some of your people only remain ‘Lutheran’ if they can do so on their own terms?
    Here we go–again!–designing the gift, before we’ll accept it.
    Like I said: cheers for the pastors who stand athwart people’s felt needs, just saying ‘No.’

  35. Robert,

    Regarding your comments about music, I commend to you an excellent article written by Kantor Richard Resch titled, “Music: Gift of God or Tool of the Devil.” You can find it here:

    http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar19.htm

    As for your contention that your contemporary service is not abolishing the Mass, per our Confessions, all I can say is that I have yet to attend a contemporary service in a Lutheran congregation that has not been guilty of abolishing the Mass, to one degree or another. I suppose there’s a first time for everything, although I really cannot fathom how you can celebrate the Mass “with the highest reverence” and how you can claim to be keeping all the usual ceremonies and such when you are, in fact, using praise songs outside of our tradition.

  36. Will some of your people only remain ‘Lutheran’ if they can do so on their own terms?

    Susan R.,

    Bingo! No matter how well intentioned pastors may be, when they abandon those things which have been traditioned to us and replace them with what people want, they have established a “people-pleasing” precedent that will be nearly impossible to ever overcome. Plus, as I noted earlier in this thread, the results are already in on this whole game: People who have been raised up on the candy of contemporary worship have little to zero problem leaving Lutheranism for Americanized “evangelical” denominations. It’s happening as we speak.

    But, all pragmatics aside, the real problem here is theological, for when the Church begins to design her worship on the basis of what people want, she has already lost and fallen prey to the temptations of the father of lies. Satan is really good at what he does. He’s been perfecting his craft for over six millenia. He sticks with what he knows and continues to seduce the children of God into abandoning the Word with the original question of temptation: Did God really say?

    Having been involved in this tiresome debate for nearly twenty years now, I am convinced that Satan is having a field day in the Church. When leaders of church bodies and trained pastors cannot see the flaw in the methodology of giving the people what they want in worship, they have bought into Satan’s deception hook, line, and sinker.

    Satan puts before them the seductive fruit of relevant, people-pleasing, entertaining worship and it looks pleasing to the eyes and good for food, so they bite. And the wily serpent of old slithers away in glee!

  37. Pastor Messer, and Susan,
    I wonder if there might be something else behind Pr. Weller’s “We started the CW service to offer the Gospel to a people who would not come to worship in the traditional setting. We chose to offer them a worship setting that would still deliver the unaltered gospel to them and would be comfortable for them.”
    Why we are actively attempting to induce people who prefer an American Neo-Evangelical style of worship to our Churches? (Especially when Pastor Weller himself acknowledges this style to be incompatible w/ our theology to the extent that he needs to spend hours of extra time that could go to the cure of souls, or playing w/ his kids hand-crafting his CW to avoid promulgating the theological errors of its creators.) As counterintuitive as it sounds, it might be that despite all our Confessions say to the contrary, the CW folks see the LC-MS as “the only saving church.”
    If they deny that this is a “market share” or “numbers” driven program, what’s left? This might be absolutely off base, but I’m running out of alternatives. It might be that they fear that God is unable to save sinners in the churches that invented CW; that God’s life-giving Word returns to Him void when spoken in the churches whose decision-based anthropocentric theology is perfectly consistent w/ CW’s style.
    At the risk of fighting a straw-man of my own construction, I for one disagree w/ that belief. That’s why I am perfectly content to allow those “people who would not come to worship in the traditional setting” to find worship that “would be comfortable for them” in one of the roughly gazillion Neo-Evangelical storefront conventicles available to their itching ears. God has used many such heterodox communions to create saving faith, and He has even used them to produce faithful Lutherans like Dr Veith, and Gottesdienst editor Rev. Fr. Burnell F. Eckardt Jr. and where His word goes out, He will continue to do so.

    Pr. Weller,
    Your question about the “codification” of Lutheran worship has an historical answer, and I gave it. If you doubt the degree of liturgical unity required by Luther, and the other reformers, read the reports of Luther’s visitation of the Saxon Churches, or his letter to the Bohemian Christians, or his correspondence on writing liturgies for other territorial churches (e.g. Dr. John Bugenhagen for Pommerania if memory serves.) Why did you ask the question if you didn’t want the answer?

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  38. WOW! Look at the comments. This has taken on a life of its own.

    Which is no surprise is it? After all, CW is indeed the topic of our Synod right? Something that the co-called “Confessional” crowd needs to address. Especially when one of their own is having the service.

    If we would, I’d like to address a few larger issues and then answer a few questions that I was asked, oh, 50 messages ago. I am sorry about my delay, but I am a busy pastor–oh, who am I kidding! My wife and I got popstar for the Wii (it is like Guitar Hero) and I’ve been rocking out. It’s awesome.

    Inevitability

    Much of what is written follows this logic: what you are doing might seem good now–but it will lead to legalism, Baptist theology, etc.

    Why is this? Why?

    Let me put this another way: there is anecdotal evidence that the liturgy leads to a denial of justification.

    Look at the Eastern Orthodox Church–they have the liturgy and rejection justification. Look at the Roman Catholic Church–the liturgy did not keep them from denying justification.

    Look at our own Synod: who leaves for the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church? Those who support the liturgy.

    So, is it legit to say that the liturgy pushes one to reject Justification? No, that’s silly.

    And it is just as silly to say that CW pushes one to be any of the various things that are expressed in this thread.

    Oh, sure, people can state opinions and come up with vignettes to “demonstrate” their point–but that is hardly convincing. It is mere opinion.

    Brian Yamabe wrote his initial paper in order to promote substantive discussion on the subject.

    Why will CW lead a church to do anything that is not Lutheran?

  39. Thomas Messer,

    re you keeping your oath? Is your practice consistent with your confessional subscription?

    I mean, I find it very difficult to fathom how guys like you, who endorse and promote CW, can keep a straight face when you confess that you are “not abolishing the Mass.” That’s exactly what you’re doing, and you know it.

    I find it interesting that this is the tact that you (and others) are taking. Having failed to convince others–and we must include Pr Weller in this–that liturgical is really the only right way to proclaim the Gospel, we now get this position, a blatant rejection of Sola Scriptura in an attempt to bind consciences to human tradition.

    Let me repeat: your position is stating that human tradition needs to be held to in order for a person to be a Lutheran.

    Now, in answer to your question: your question is a legalistic one, therefore I will give it a legalistic answer:

    I have not abolished the Mass–

    and if I may, you want to talk about an issue that brings offense, that is the use of the English word “Mass” in connection with Lutheran worship. The English word “Mass” refers to the false theology and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding worship. We ought not to use the term.

    But I will speak your language and use the term–because that is what I do. That is why I do CW, eh?

    I have not abolished the Mass–we have traditional worship each and every Sunday. Each and every Sunday we use the Western liturgy. I don’t have LSB in the pews, but we have the digital files and rights and use them for our bulletin.

    So, my contemporary service is something I do in addition to my “Mass”. Therefore, I find myself in compliance to the demands of human tradition that you place upon me in order to call myself a Lutheran.

    No, doubtless my response might not seem adequate–but then legalistic responses seldom are.

    Now, as for your amazement: I hope that you have caught on that both Pastor Waller and I were raised in liturgical worship. We understand what Gottesdienst is (even if I can’t spell it). I see my CW service as one of giving the gifts of God to His people. (But then, the gifts that strengthen faith are the gifts that create faith as well.)

    I think it is because we are trained in this that we feel pretty comfortable to do contemporary worship.

  40. Pastor Louderback,
    Welcome back! I can’t claim to have digested this entire train, but I don’t think it’s at all accurate to synopsize the Confessional opinion as “what you are doing might seem good now–but it will lead to legalism, Baptist theology, etc.”
    And, if one side bears the burden of answering the big “why?” questions it is certainly the side advocating change, not the side striving for continuity. So I’ll recycle my unanswered questions from #85 and #103:

    As AC XV requires of you that you observe the usages in the Church “ which may be observed without sin, and which are profitable unto tranquility and good order in the Church, as particular holy days, festivals, and the like.” And as the Apology adds “in this very assembly we have shown sufficiently that for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages.” What are you using to trump “the usages of the church,” and “public harmony” if not the apparent effectiveness of CW to fill pews?
    If this has something to do w/ reaching non-Christians for whom the Western Liturgy is a stumbling block (and what else would justify such a violent end to “public harmony?”) isn’t there in CW the implicit assertion that Word and Sacrament aren’t enough? Aren’t you left w/ cultural relevance as a means of grace, or at least a necessary precondition of grace? If I can by a stylistic change turn an enemy of Christ into a disciple of Christ, what does that say about Art IV, and Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Creed?

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  41. Matt Mills,

    My name, is LOuderback. O. Not A. I mean, if I am going to be called a heretic, at least call me by my proper baptized name.

    I am not criticizing you for “Proclaiming the Gospel,” but for changing the proclamation of the Gospel to appeal to the cultural mindset of visitors whom you yourself referred to as “heathens.” (You can of course retract the “heathens” word, but that would make your foray into CW look like “sheep-stealing” rather than Evangelism.)

    Re: heathen. I used to use the terms un-churched and de-churched to reflect the fact that most of the people that I run into came from the church. I don’t have people who don’t know who Jesus is. I don’t have to explain “Back in those days, they used a cross to kill people.” You know?

    I myself would be much more happy to use the term “heathen” to refer to say, those in India who have never heard the Word. But then, a confessional said “Why do we use the term un-churched?” So I quit using it, because once again, the distinction (those who grew up in the church and left vs those who didn’t grow up in the church to begin with) is in some ways not as important a distinction as the fact that they are without Christ.

    But getting back to the point: why not take on their cultural mindset? Why not speak in a language that they are familiar with, that they understand? Why don’t we use music that they listen to?

    I mean, we have a partnership with a Spanish congregation. They speak in Spanish. The preacher preaches in Spanish.

    I see it as the same thing.

  42. Two final comments, and then I have to go:

    I find it amusing that people say “Oh, it is selfish for people to want to sing how they want to sing,” since I have little doubt that most people who sing hymns LIKE to sing hymns.

    I mean, they are worshiping in a style that they like.

    For them to say “Well, it is selfish for you to want to worship in another style,” is hardly credible.

    If people were saying “Ugh! I hate hymns. I hate liturgical worship. I hate worshiping this way. But I also hate grapefruit–nevertheless it is good for me.” then I could buy the argument more.

    They are not: they are saying “We like this worship and it is selfish of you to like another type.” I don’t buy that.

    Finally, in terms of division: some of the pastors here were doing CW twenty years ago. Twenty years! I mean, really can it honestly be said to cause division now?

    That is to say: is it legitimate for people to limit other’s freedoms by insisting that their actions are divisive? Our Synod has approved the use of CW, we’ve songs approved, we’ve got many congregations doing CW–I mean, what else does the Synod need to do in order to demonstrate that this is within mainstream Lutheran behavior?

    At what point is the divisive behavior from those who place human tradition on the level of Scripture and insist that to be Lutheran, the western liturgy must be followed?

    Okay. Sorry to be brief in sharing my thoughts. More later on.

  43. Matt Mills,

    What are you using to trump “the usages of the church,” and “public harmony” if not the apparent effectiveness of CW to fill pews?

    Once again, you mis-state what CW is about. You can continue to try and have this be about some sort of coarse “WE want people!” thing, but it will not take.

    I care about proclaiming the Gospel message to people. I am free to try and experiment with different ways to do this–as I have said, we see the example of Paul and he himself states that we are free.

    So I am free to try and proclaim the Gospel in such a way that is contextual to the people of my community. In fact, I think it is a gosh-darn good idea.

    If this has something to do w/ reaching non-Christians for whom the Western Liturgy is a stumbling block (and what else would justify such a violent end to “public harmony?”) isn’t there in CW the implicit assertion that Word and Sacrament aren’t enough?

    No. That would imply that they only proper way to bring the Gospel is by liturgical worship. Word and Sacrament are indeed enough. They are distinguished from the liturgy, which is a form of worship–a human invented form of worship–that brings Word and Sacrament to people.

    I am saying that CW is another way to bring the Word and Sacraments to people.

    Aren’t you left w/ cultural relevance as a means of grace, or at least a necessary precondition of grace?

    If a person does not understand the words that you use, can they understand the Gospel?

    Do you watch Mad Men? The TV show takes place in the early sixties, and there is a woman who works as a copy writer. Her priest is reaching out to her and asks for advice on the sermon. “Make it clear” she says, “The sermon is the only part of the service that isn’t in Latin. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.”

    For some people, you can see that the liturgy is a fine proclamation of the Gospel. That is why I do not discard it at my church. For other people, CW is a fine proclamation of the Gospel. That is why I have it at my church.

    What unifies us–indeed, what it is that truly makes a Lutheran (certainly not whether one uses the western liturgy or not) is the Gospel. Justification is the foundation of our faith.

    And this is why CW is acceptable under AC 15 (and please–I find the use of foreign numbering system to be quite unnecessary in America. Let’s use Roman numerals for watches and the superbowl.) Because we ought not to be burden people’s consciences. The proclamation of the Gospel message in Word and Sacrament is what makes a Lutheran.

    And it most certainly can be done in CW. The fact that I had an adult baptism is clear indication of that.

  44. Pr. Louderback,
    I’m sorry for misspelling your name, but if you can use Schwärmer songs, why can’t I use Roman numerals?
    If you can’t see that the Apology XV’s “for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages” is fundamentally incompatible w/ your “I am free to try and experiment with different ways;” and if you can’t hear the sense of community, and the brotherly love in the first statement, and the self centeredness in the second, it’s time to send the dust from my sandals to Springdale, AR.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  45. Matt Mills,

    I’m sorry for misspelling your name, but if you can use Schwärmer songs, why can’t I use Roman numeral?

    Well, because we are IN Schwärmerland, not in Rome. 😉

    Sorry, can’t help it.

    Uh, Jesus was refering to people rejecting Him as the Christ–this did not give anyone permission to walk away from their arguments when they don’t convince others.

    Remember: if you want to restrict someone else on their actions, you are the one who needs to have a high standard to demonstrate the need to do so.

    Community? You called me a heretic. What “community” exactly do we share? Please, there is no community here. All I see is people trying to quote the law at me to get me to change my actions.

    But my actions are motivated by the Gospel. Even if you don’t listen to me, you can still see this clearly in Pr Weller’s comments

    (And for this note, I actually don’t know Pr Weller, I’m not saying that he agrees with or supports my positions–I’m just saying “Read what he wrote and this is what you see.)

    My position is to spread the Gospel message. That hardly is a “self centered” position.

    Look at it from this way: do you see the work that Pr Weller puts into his service? If you were being self-centered, why do the extra work?

    No: you mis-understand my position. To state again: CW has been around for many years, many churches practice it, our Synod has stated it is okay–what more needs to be done to say that this is not an offense?

  46. I really try to promote dialogue on this site and have more patience than any other blog host I know but once in a while the time comes to retire from a string.

    Matt Mills has the right idea here. It is time to shake the dust.

    It appears to my judgment, and I could very well be wrong, that Pastor Louderback appreciates the fight more than what is being fought for. There is just too much poor logic to have a decent dialogue.

    For example, when he says the justification for CW is that he just wants to proclaim the Gospel, this is clear foolishness. The historic liturgy proclaims the Gospel so there is no need to go to CW, unless of course that need is one of the dozen reasonable critiques that have been offfered above that are simply trumped by “the desire to proclaim the Gospel.”

    As another example, claiming Paul’s theology of freedom as a defense of CW is such a worn out, simplistic, old as my tie-dyed T-shirt 1960’s anti-authoritarian ploy, that is just not worth trying to debate. Once the freedom card is played there are no rationales that can top it. Personal freedom trumps all reason; it’s just that it is not what Paul or Christ are about.

    Until Pastor Louderbeck reads a few books on basic logic we will be flailing away aimlessly. If others want to continue boxing at shadows you are welcome to and even encouraged to do so. For me, I am with Matt. I am ready to go on to another village.

    TR

  47. Dear Pastor Louderback,
    Your position on the liturgy is a symptom, not the disease. This is at heart an Art IV issue, an so it is a Gospel issue. If one can by a stylistic change turn an enemy of Christ into a disciple of Christ, Art IV, and Luther’s explanation of the third article of the Creed are just plain wrong.
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  48. I find it interesting that this is the tact that you (and others) are taking. Having failed to convince others–and we must include Pr Weller in this–that liturgical is really the only right way to proclaim the Gospel, we now get this position, a blatant rejection of Sola Scriptura in an attempt to bind consciences to human tradition.

    That others have not been convinced by the plethora of theological arguments, based on Scripture and our Confessions (as well as the history of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church) by me and many others in no way makes our efforts a failure, but rather is a failure on their part to listen.

    Why don’t you do us a favor, Mark, and provide us all with your definition of Sola Scriptura? That’d be a neat place to start, I think. For I am quite sure that it is guys like you, not guys like me, who have blatantly rejected that principle. Your understanding of Sola Scriptura, which you have provided in other forums, is nothing more than the generic Protestant understanding of “Me and My Bible.” That’s not even remotely close to what we Lutherans mean by this. But, you know that, don’t you?

    What you, and others like you, want is your own brand of Lutheranism that you can make up as you go along, cherry-picking this and that practice from those whom our Confessions themselves condemn. You think you have the “spirit” of Lutheranism down, while we confessional types remain bogged down in the mire of the “letter” of Lutheranism. Can you say Samuel Simon Schmucker? I knew that you could.

    Let me repeat: your position is stating that human tradition needs to be held to in order for a person to be a Lutheran.

    Yes, my position is that human tradition needs to be held to in order for a person to be a Lutheran. That’s why I read and studied our Lutheran Confessions and was willing to pledge my loyalty, and subscribe unconditionally, to them. I know such a thing sounds odd to your new-age brand of pseudo-Lutheranism, but hey, call me a radical traditionalist if you will, I still believe that our Lutheran Confessions are a correct exposition of Holy Scripture and define what it means to be Lutheran. I know, that’s crazy talk these days, isn’t it?

    Now, in answer to your question: your question is a legalistic one, therefore I will give it a legalistic answer:

    Yes, Mark, I’m a legalist for asking you how your practice jives with the unconditional subscription to our Lutheran Confessions you were required to make to become ordained in the LCMS. How legalistic of our synod to require such things, eh?

    I have not abolished the Mass–
    and if I may, you want to talk about an issue that brings offense, that is the use of the English word “Mass” in connection with Lutheran worship. The English word “Mass” refers to the false theology and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church regarding worship. We ought not to use the term.

    I am sorry that you are offended by the term “Mass,” although not surprised, given the fact that you are obviously offended by having to adhere to our Confessions.

    But I will speak your language and use the term–because that is what I do. That is why I do CW, eh?

    Thank you for condescending to the level of our worn out Confessions – that’s awfully kind of you.

    I have not abolished the Mass–we have traditional worship each and every Sunday. Each and every Sunday we use the Western liturgy. I don’t have LSB in the pews, but we have the digital files and rights and use them for our bulletin. So, my contemporary service is something I do in addition to my “Mass”. Therefore, I find myself in compliance to the demands of human tradition that you place upon me in order to call myself a Lutheran.

    Oh, I see: You have not abolished the Mass at one of your Services, but you have at your CW service. Yeah, that makes sense. You’re living up to your confession and appeasing my “legalistic” demands of you by keeping “human tradition” at your traditional service, so it’s okey-dokey for you to abandon that “human tradition” and do your own thing at the other service. Yeah, ’cause that’s how we Lutherans roll – as long as you do the Lutheran thing a little bit here and there, you can go ahead and to the methabapticostal thing, too.

    Do I even need to argue further? ‘Cause I’m thinkin’ that I could just go ahead and say, “The defense rests, your honor,” at this point.

    No, doubtless my response might not seem adequate–but then legalistic responses seldom are.

    Yes, definitely doubtless. Your response is supremely absurd. But, I suppose that’s to be expected since it’s a legalistic response to my silly legalistic question.

    Now, as for your amazement: I hope that you have caught on that both Pastor Waller and I were raised in liturgical worship. We understand what Gottesdienst is (even if I can’t spell it). I see my CW service as one of giving the gifts of God to His people. (But then, the gifts that strengthen faith are the gifts that create faith as well.)

    If you truly understood Gottesdienst, you wouldn’t dream of abandoning it for your people-centered CW “style” of “worship.” Different theologies of worship, dude! But, you know that. You’re not fooling me one bit, here!

    I think it is because we are trained in this that we feel pretty comfortable to do contemporary worship.

    Here’s the question, Mark: Who trained you to do CW? Answer that one and you might be onto the reason we stodgy confessional types are so opposed to it.

  49. Thomas Messer,

    If you truly understood Gottesdienst, you wouldn’t dream of abandoning it for your people-centered CW “style” of “worship.” Different theologies of worship, dude! But, you know that. You’re not fooling me one bit, here!

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

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

    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.

    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.

    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.

    CW is Divine Service. Period.

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

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

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