The Church that Walther, Chemnitz, Luther, Paul, Moses and Elijah would Attend, A Discussion Between Phillip Magness and George in Wheaton

Last week’s post about  a Matt Harrison presidency and what that would mean for the local parish has led to a helpful exchange between Cantor Phillip Magness of Bethany – Naperville, Illinois and BJS regular “George of Wheaton.” The exchange  resulted in Magness describing how a “non-traditional Lutheran church” can be slowly and deliberately re-made into a church that practices historic Lutheranism.

The exchange began with this assertion from Magness:

December 18th, 2009 at 11:32 | #21
…So “traditional” worship is not necessarily the answer. The answer is simply…..Lutheran worship. Not high church, not low church, not organ church, not radio-music church. Just Lutheran worship. The attendant details (ceremonies, music, art, vestments) may be simple or elaborate, but the piety is unmistakable. It may or may not be your actual grandfather’s church.

But, whatever your instruments and however you may follow the rubrics, it is the church that Walther and Chemnitz and Luther and Paul and Moses and Elijah would attend.

How do we “get there” as the LCMS? First, realize that, by the grace of God, we are already there – in Christ. But the inauguration is incomplete, and so we need church leaders who will uphold the Divine Service, patiently and lovingly catechize the church in all sound doctrine, and produce good resources for promoting and providing good worship.

No, a Synod President is not, can not, nor should not come in and “change things” according to his rule. That path just leads to further change when a new Synod President comes in. Such is the path of structure, organization, and authority that is laid before us in Blue Ribbon proposals and the current Presidium’s approach to “leadership”. Rev. Harrison has outlined instead a churchly path, the path of our fathers. This takes time, but, through the Gospel, wins over hearts and minds so that many more may follow and cherish that which is to be upheld: the Gospel taught in its truth and purity, and the Sacraments rightly administered.

May our Synod uphold this as the model, just as Moses lifted up a snake in the wilderness!

Then “George in Wheaton” asked for clarification.

December 18th, 2009 at 12:23 | #24
#21 – Phil, I’m not sure I understand your point. This Summer I attended a service in a small LCMS church building that was apparently only recently constructed by a congregation that had begun as a mission plant some 12-15 years ago. The “sanctuary” area consisted of a modest size area with folding chairs and a platformed area at the front. There was no cross, no pulpit, and only three strange-looking plant stand-like objects that had been clustered together with a couple of candles on top which I guess was supposed to pass for an altar. Next to those was an electronic keyboard, a “rhythm section,” and three “praise team” worship leaders. Behind the “altar” was a recessed area that I assumed could be used to house a baptistry (perhaps they used a church building contractor who sold them a cookie cutter architecture that would work just as well in any run-of-the-mill evangelical congregation). Perhaps one day they even envision furnishing it with a dunk tank – who knows.

The pastor wore a regular business suit; no surplice or stole of any kind. And, of course, the little musical group played, sang, and led the congregation in the popular P&W music selections of the day. As you might guess, there was no formal liturgy, the congregation owned no hymnals – everything they needed to read or sing was projected on a screen up-front, and the sermon, of course, revolved largely around what it takes for all of us to get along with each other in keeping with gospel-reduction vogue.

How would a congregation like that ever make the quantum leap back to the Divine Service? I could have been in attendance at any Baptist church service! To steal some of the thunder from another recent thread, this is mission reductionism heaped upon gospel reductionism to the hilt. A return to churchly discipline, as that blog poster also points out, is the only way out of it and I would venture to guess that they would leave the synod if it ever came to that.

That led to Cantor Magness describing the slow, deliberate path back to Lutheran normalcy. Cantor Magness has experience with this. He has served in several different congregations where he has refined the worship to better reflect authentic  Lutheranism. Here is his response to George which we offer as a primer for pastors, musicians and laity everywhere who are faced with the daunting task of reforming a parish that has lost its Lutheran soul.

December 20th, 2009 at 16:45 | #41
Hi George,

My point is that we need to focus on Lutheran piety, uphold the best expressions as models, but not diminish other expressions of it in the process.

Now the congregation you described was obviously not worshipping as Lutherans. And you ask a good question: How would such a congregation make the “quantum leap” to the Divine Service? I wouldn’t characterize the jump as that extreme, but it would be a challnege. Here’s the path:

1 – The pastors & the elders need to agree to a vision as to how the congregation should worship and then uphold that ideal as they move toward that goal, teaching and encouraging all the way.

2 – Over the course of about three years, the following changes would be made:

a. put up a cross as a focal point for worship. (“Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’ve come”.)

b. move the altar to a more clear & central location, add a pulpit, and a font. These are the three basic pieces of furniture found throughout Christian history around the world.

c. have the pastor at least wear a collar. Garments evoking Revelation can come later when the congregation is more catechized.

d. using the existing musicians, introduce more Lutheran hymnody to the congregation via the LSB Guitar Edition; CPH’s Hymns for the Contemporary Ensemble; and other resources.

e. teach the congregation that because they are in Christ, their song is the song of Christ, and so we heed what Paul teaches us in two of the few specific instructions about worship we receive in the NT: “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs”. Follow this by introducing Psalm singing in styles that are consistent with the existing way the congregation sings and with the musical vocabulary of the P&W band. These are available from many resources, including, GIA, OCP, and Liturgy Solutions.

f. teach the congregation about the Spiritual songs. what is ‘spiritual’? “Of the Holy Spirit” (according to Norman Nagel). What songs are “of the Holy Spirit”? Easy – the songs elsewhere in the Bible: the Canticles. The Magnificat, for example is a “Spiritual Song”. The liturgy is full of Spiritual songs, and so introduce them to the congregation. Perhaps one a season until they have learned enough Canticles do do a complete Divine Service.

At this point, this congregaiton might still sing their praise songs as an Entrance Hymn and for an Offertory or as a closing song, but with this patience pace they will within two years be singing a Kyrie, a Gloria, various Psalms, a Sanctus, and an Agnus Dei, along with good hymns for the Hymn of the Day and communion distribution.

Finally, by this point they should be getting so much that is based in our hymnals that they can move from projecting LSB resources onto a screen toward getting actual hymnals.

Perhaps as this three-year plan winds down this congregation might want to do other things, such as learn to chant Introits or Psalms, have choirs sing the Verse of the Day, etc. Or they might not. As much as I like having a corpus on the cross, processions, a pipe organ, chanting, full vestments, and other rich trappings of liturgical worship, such is not necessary.

If the congregation in question simply did the things I outlined above, they would be recognizingly Lutheran in 1-2 years and will have become habituated in a Lutheran piety within 3. They would follow the rubrics of the Divine Service, and the focus of the people would be on where Christ gives us His cross-born gifts through the Office of the Holy Ministry: the font, the altar, and the pulpit.

That wouldn’t be “high church” or “low church”. It’d just be Lutheran church. In a way that would be appropriate to their sanctuary and their people. It would be a church none of us would mind visiting, even as we appreciate the different customs of our home congregations.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


The Church that Walther, Chemnitz, Luther, Paul, Moses and Elijah would Attend, A Discussion Between Phillip Magness and George in Wheaton — 77 Comments

  1. Helen :
    I did not intend to be “vicious”.

    Indeed, Helen as “vicious” is a humorous thought.

    But I agree: You cannot lay it all on the Pastor!

    Unless someone else is in charge of the parish’s worship, how can we not?

    And, indeed, if the pastor has allowed that, how is it not still to be laid on him?

    Suffering and death–or wiping dust off of the feet–seems to me to be most proper in precisely this area. I’ve seen guys start a war over living vs. artificial Christmas trees (in spite of the insurance company and fire marshall telling the trustees that a live tree was unacceptable)–forgetting that having a tree at all is not essential, yet turn all meek and mild before a false teaching choir director. (One of the best reasons to have a male choir director: the pastor is more likely to say “no” to a man. At least, if he does he won’t be accused of saying “no” because the choir director is a woman.)

    (Yes, I’m sure I failed at this in the past, too.)

    A soundbite for when someone complains against good hymnody by saying, “How come we can’t sing the pretty hymns (i.e., Methodist dreck) we used to sing?” Answer: “Because we’re busy singing beautiful hymns instead!”


  2. Pr. Stefanski,
    It’s good to start the day with laughter! Thank you. 🙂

    But sometimes the Pastor is talking to a brick wall of WNDITWB! when he tries to lead a Lutheran service. (It might be as simple as the sung service outlined in the rubrics of TLH!) “Catechesis” only works for those who attend it.

    I really wonder how the “contempo” service gets by so easily when it is the real innovation!

  3. Pastor Stefanski,
    I never, thought, that I would see anyone say what you wrote in #51.
    “Unless someone else is in charge of parish worship, how can we not?” Who else is in charge of a congregation or parish? Or Synod for that matter. Thank you, a million times over, for so boldly saying this. We are Christ’s children, & it’s leaders/shepherds are just that-accountable & responsible for the sheep. Does a shepherd blame the sheep that fall in the pit or get tangled in the briars? Ahhh….no, did Christ regale how dumb, thick, or blind the sheep in His parable was? No, He didn’t. Sheep need a shepherd, and it’s a shepherd’s JOB! And if one, JUST ONE, does get lost, stray or misstep, are we all not called to go…..AND GET IT? You are ab fab, & thanks for your post!!!

  4. Christ was talking to an audience that knew all too well how “dumb, thick, blind” sheep are. But too often, people cannot see themselves as that stray sheep!

    [People today can’t tell the difference between a shepherd and hired help either; they think a shepherd is hired help.]

  5. Dutch,
    I’m a little puzzled about your last two sentences.
    The shepherd in Christ’s parable didn’t sit at the fold by the fire and send the whole flock out after that stray. [That’s CEO theory.] He gathered the flock in a (presumably) safe place and went himself.

    (I don’t mean to say we all shouldn’t talk about Christ to any “strays” we meet. If we can bring them along with us, all the better.)

  6. Helen :
    But sometimes the Pastor is talking to a brick wall of WNDITWB! when he tries to lead a Lutheran service. (It might be as simple as the sung service outlined in the rubrics of TLH!) “Catechesis” only works for those who attend it.

    Absolutely…and sometimes that means teaching in ‘non-traditional’ ways. I remember one four-month period where we had a fifteen minute meeting after the Divine Service about every other Sunday.

    The answer to “WNDITWB” is, “Yes, we did; you just don’t remember it.”

    For instance, there are places in the LCMS where virtually no one remembers that there was a time when women didn’t vote in church meetings. That became the LCMS’s new doctrine, remember, in 1969. Even though I was in grade school when that happened–and not a Lutheran, anyway–that seems like ‘just a couple of years ago’ to me because of my time in the trenches of the LCMS…yet, good grief, that’s forty years ago! Put in real terms, that means “all the adult life” of a woman who is 61 and who attended a ‘pioneer’ congregation; indeed, I’d reckon that most women who are in their early ’70s, but were in such a congregation when their kids started in at a Lutheran grade school ‘remember’ woman’s suffrage as having “always been the case.” For women in their early 50s, even more so. (I speak, of course, from my own experience; I haven’t interviewed them all or conducted a scientific survey, etc.)

    When it came to the pastor singing his part of the liturgy in a previous parish, I simply told the truth: “some of the other members requested it; therefore, I’m going to alternate between singing and speaking.” Such a sane, logical, loving, balanced approach (!) quickly shows you who the intolerant ones are. Ditto, the restoration of the chalice.

    A critical juncture at that parish came when a couple of ladies wished to donate a corpus for the altar cross. I hadn’t encouraged them (other than having them, and all other altar guild members, read Lang’s “What an Altar Guild Should Know”), and I made them jump through every conceivable congregational hoop (to the end that even Jack Cascione, in reviewing my conduct, said I had proceeded like a “good congregationalist” and “not at all like a Hyper-Euro”) before it came to a Voters’ Assembly. When a retired WELS pastor made accusations against me in that assembly, he looked pretty stupid to the parishioners…except, of course, those who were intolerant of what could be (and was) easily documented as Lutheran practice.

    Contemporaneous Worship (that is, the worship of God and Man simultaneously) gets into parishes so easily because it is painted as ‘evangelism’ (without the ‘pain’ usually associated with the E-word) and those who resist are painted as hating poor miserable sinners (and Jesus, too), and is usually couched in arguments that it is what Luther ‘really intended’ with the Deutsche Messe, is like unto apostolic worship, and other such nonsense. As usual, the bigger the lie, the more believable.


  7. even Jack Cascione, in reviewing my conduct, said I had proceeded like a “good congregationalist” and “not at all like a Hyper-Euro” — EJG

    LOL! High praise from Jack Cascione.

  8. Helen,
    You misunderstood me! In the current trend in the LCMS, it seems to be the sheep bringing in, & caring for, not the one who is charged & held accountable for!!! What you thought I meant is what is being taught. I meant the opposite!!!! Not everyone is meant to teach & preach! Those who are, those who hold the office, are shepherds! How sad & sorry would a flock be, if sheep were sent out to “save, feed & water” other sheep?! The blind & thick, won’t get far, before the whole flock is lost & wandering. Hence, my inept analogy. Sorry Helen, you & Pastor Stefanski are spot on & kudos!!!!!

  9. Pastor Stefanski,
    I totally agree, women should never have been allowed to vote. What wrath I’ll incur when my Mum reads this. She lead that charge in our church growing up. I knew that was what you meant, & you are most right in it!

  10. Dutch :
    I totally agree, women should never have been allowed to vote.

    I don’t think I actually addressed that issue in that fashion, but since you brought it up…! 😉

    In our parish, the issue came down to relationships and trust: for a congregation to remove “women’s suffrage,” the women have to believe that the men will serve the women’s interests above their own (just as it is to be in a marriage). In our case, the men have pledged to do this and relegated the Voters’ Assembly to ’emergency use only’. That is, if we need to resolve something ‘or else’, we may resort to having a VA meeting. Normally, we just ‘talk through’ an issue and come to agreement on a course of action. Doctrine, of course, is never to be such an issue; it is foundational for the parish and unable to be changed without liquidation.

    Our Constitution and Handbooks can be viewed from the History page of our parish website,


  11. i have been a missouri synod member all my life. and all my life lutheran tradition has bummed me out. Mark 7 should stand true…. do not lean on man made tradition…praise any way you wish… is all good. God enjoys hymms … but GOD ALSO LIKES TO ROCK! HE INVENTED IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD ! SO ALL OF YOU GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE.. GEEZ!

  12. gary :
    i have been a missouri synod member all my life. and all my life lutheran tradition has bummed me out. Mark 7 should stand true…. do not lean on man made tradition…praise any way you wish… is all good. God enjoys hymms … but GOD ALSO LIKES TO ROCK! HE INVENTED IT FOR CRYING OUT LOUD ! SO ALL OF YOU GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE.. GEEZ!

    Let’s see…you’re yelling at everybody to get off of THEIR “high horse” and claiming that God invented a particular style of music?

    Here’s a good example of a song that has absolutely nothing wrong with it–neither with the words, nor with the music–that still should not be used in the Divine Service. If you can watch the video and not know why, there’s just something wrong with your theology/understanding of worship at a very basic level.

    EJG (Of course, Yngwie’s basically a classical musician with a need for decibels)

  13. rev. eric

    nope , if that song was at a church service i see nothing wrong with it. its all good. god gave him that talent (yngwie) and gave him that music . Though yes , we will NEVER see it or even half that energetic at a lutheran church. i am simply talking about energetic music instead of sleepy music. let’s get fired up and celebrate ! meditate at home ; celebrate with your peers !

  14. Gary, God gave us sex to be enjoyed between married people; it is a great gift from Him. That doesn’t mean that it is to be used in corporate worship.

    In the video, there is much glorification of Man going on, much that is prideful. That’s exactly the opposite of what ought to be done in the service. Jesus was not the focus, no matter how many times Tim repeated the words; Yngwie was the focus.

    God did not give him “that music,” though He did, indeed, bless him with talent. By saying “God…gave him that music,” what you have actually done is to put that music on a par with Scripture, when it is not even on a par with music that actually conveys the Bible’s message of Christ in a way that Christ is the focus.

    The main thing in worship is Jesus, not being ‘energetic’. 1 Kings 18:20-40 shows two types of worship, one ‘energetic’ and one pleasing to God; the difference is, as always, not a mere matter of style, but of focus. If you would get off of your hyper-judgmental anti-Lutheran kick for a moment, perhaps you would see that the complaint isn’t against the style of music, but against where the focus and emphases invariably end up when certain styles of music are used.

    The energy of Yngwie is Yngwie; the energy of Lutheran music is the Word of God. If your local church is playing “sleepy” music, you’ll want to check who the author/composer is; in all likelihood, it’s not Lutheran music at all, but the Word-deprived Methodist songs that some spineless folks snuck into Lutheran hymnals.


  15. ok … lets start over. what i am saying is why can’t we have happy upbeat ” worship ” songs instaed of slow pace “ancient” hymms. hymms are yesterday’s news. today young people want something that wont put them to sleep. i am not just talking of a song’s message. i am talking of atmosphere that gets young folks fired up about the message. my pastor says it is just bait to get them in church. i agreed fully. if a song gets them in the door , then the pastor can take it from there. i know many unchurched. they hate the concept of coming to a boring church. i fully agree with the lutheran doctrine ; that is why i am still missouri synod. but if we cant change and flex our atmosphere for modern times. how are we to communicate the real Word to the youth. how do we get them in the door at our LUTERAN OLD SCHOOL OF THOUGHT church ? pound on them ; drag them ; and say things like “… JUST BECAUSE…” and “… THAT’S THE WAY IT IS…” ? Thought and change have to go hand in hand , and change doesn’t seem to be wanted in the lutheran church. at least not right now.well guess what . for the small amount of time that ” THE ROCK SHOW” was playing at my church , many new people joined. and many new people learned the Word. the band is no longer. But the people are still growing. so don’t tell me it doesn’t work for missouri synod. i’ve seen it.

  16. Gary,

    If the argument were simply rock vs. Bach, the discussion wouldn’t be so animated.

    But often either false doctrine or no doctrine at all comes these “upbeat worship songs”. In our worship, music has to serve the text.

    I was recently asked to sing, “I was There to Hear Your Borning Cry” for an offertory. Go ahead and YouTube the audio; the lyrics can be found here. One doesn’t even have to be a Christian to sing this song; a Mormon could assent to the words just fine.

    We have much, much better hymns about Baptism and the God who instituted it. If you don’t want the ancient stuff, you can get good new stuff: “Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying” (LSB 597) still has the text and tune writers alive.

    Arguments about the age or genre of a hymn/song always take a backseat to the text. We are a confessing church. We need to confess what we believe, in distinction to everyone else.

  17. @gary #66 Gary, you hit the nail on the head “young peopel WANT” (emphasis added). The Divine Service is not about what what we, or anyone else WANTS but about what God gives. The Divine Service is not the evangelism tool you want to make of it.

  18. ok … cool … so , men of worshipful knowledge , how do you get a kid interested in lutheran church . why do they WANT to come . most all kids like music . i am music oriented , not lyrics. as far as God’s message is concerned , i would rather sit and listen to 3 hour lecture lesson than hear old ladies howl out a hymm . God said shout , praise , sing , and crash your cymbals . that is what i plan to do . kids don’t like pipe organs and operatic voices.
    hey , i’m not talking about putting down worship or His message . I am saying that in OUR MAN – made church we just need to spice it up . i do not like MAN’S TRADITION. read Mark 7.

  19. @gary #69

    I know that I am a little late to this discussion, however I just found this site.

    To Gary I say check out the Higher Things link on this web site. My congregation attends the Higher Things annual conference that focuses on confessional lutheranism. During the conference the youth will attend at least 10 worship services all taken from The Lutheran Service Book. These services are the highlight for the kids. My son has attended 4 of these conferences and I have attended 2 with him. They love the oldest and hardest to sing hymns. The lyrics are just as important as the music. There is a purpose to having hyms. First and foremost we are given the gift of salvation through the lyrics that hold the message of the gospel. Secondly the music is there to help us focus on the words that are sung not to entertain us.

    I believe that contemporary worship has contributed to the loss of LCMS membership. I grew up in the 70s and 80s when we ushered contemporary worship into our Lutheran Schools and Churches. We became like all the other evangelical churches. So as adults it was easy to leave the Lutheran Church because we could not see the difference between our church and the church down the road. It looked and felt the same. We did not keep a focus on our confessions and what makes us Lutherans

    And by the way I know a ton of kids that love pipe organs. My daughter is one. And no she is not a nerd. She is a cheerleader at her Junior High and very outgoing. However she does love to participate in the high liturgical service and is working on graduating from playing the piano to playing the organ.

  20. I’ve got to ask one question to all of you who ridicule praise band leaders as being “full of themselves” and that question is how about all the cantors who are “full of themselves” and standing at or behind the altar who love “to be the center of attention”? Heck even one of the contributors is CANTOR Phillip Magness.
    To the person criticizing a praise band for being next to the altar and playing during communion, could not an organ being blasted be just as distracting during the sacrament?
    I fall in the middle, I prefer traditional worship, but unlike many of you, I realize it’s a preference not a requirement. Do I have problems with many of the things you mention? You better believe I do! Some things, like a worship band I heard play a Nine Inch Nails cover are just down outright WRONG. Other things like churches having worship in the gymnasium when they have a perfectly good sanctuary to use or changing the wording of creeds and confession are not necessarily wrong, I’m just uncomfortable with churches doing those things.
    Either extreme is wrong. Uber contemporary pastors and leaders are wrong in the assumption that young people don’t like old hymns and liturgy. Likewise I know many older folks who love contemporary worship. And why is Yngwie Malstean even being brought up in this discussion?

  21. Also if anyone things that Rev. Harrisons election and upcoming presidency are going to “rid the LCMS” of the practices you so despise, you better open up your eyes. Number one, that is not going to happen, as someone mentioned above, pastors and elders must agree to take the church “back in that direction”. Number two, the practices many of you mention and despise were going on LONG before Kieschnick was ever in office, they are nothing new.

  22. ok … i am hearing that old does not like new , and that new is bad. so , what is wrong with looking for a new musical sound that covers all the old bases ? all i am saying is that times change , kids change , but why throw old style at the youth ? only style has to change , not the message. i simply stated my opinion that i prefer new style music over old pipe organ hymns. what if we covered a hymn with electric guitar and drums and a quicker beat ? would that be ok ? i am still hearing most of you say that LCMS is not LCMS if it doesn’t have a style that is 100 years old . Basis needs to remain , but style needs to change. I hear a lot of FEAR here…wow

  23. Gary,

    If you are hearing fear you are not listening. I am the pastor of the church Cantor Magness serves at and we have a squeeze box leading Silent Night at the midnight mass as we process out with our candles lit. Does your congregation use a squeeze box on Christmas Eve? I bet they would be afraid of it. We also use Gregorian chant and Taize services for midweek Advent services. Would your congregation ever do that? They are probably to afraid for that stuff.

    You just aren’t listening man! You are reading with your own perspective about what the historical liturgy is and it is the wrong perception. Shame on you for imagining things and demonizing people. WWJD?


  24. the fear i hear is of newer style fitted with existing practice . squeezbox ? really ? Different yes . New , no. And yes , my old school styled LCMS church would be afraid . They really dislike changed . Including musical style . I am not talking lyrics , just style. Can’t this church be the same ole confessinal church but with a more upbeat atmosphere ? I have seen more people FEARING God literally than praising him and being happy about it . Key , HAPPILY PRAISING HIM ! halleluiah

  25. I’d just like to quickly confess that I have not read all the comments, so I may be saying something that has already been covered.

    I grew up in a traditional congregation, so that is what I am used to. When I left home for college, I realized that most people in my four(ok ok five)-year-home just do not do things the same way. It took some getting used to, but I started to realize something that I think is the reason the older generation has such a problem with change. Every congregation I have been to with contemporary worship has used songs that are not theologically sound and has practiced open communion.

    The first issue is problematic because singing is the memorization of the masses. Yes, memory exists work in your adult life. It is a frightening thought I know. But think about this. We are to bind the Word to our hearts and heads (Deuteronomy 11:18)…. Doesn’t that sound an awful lot like memory work?

    I agree with closed communion. But mostly I find it odd (not surprising exactly, just odd) that there is such a correlation.

    Another thought on the whole music thing: Words without the music promotes a certain type of singing – split second singing. Unless every member of the congregation knows the tune already, they are singing less than a second after the notes are played and learning the song as they go. The problem is that then the knowledge does not actually stay. Singing is like learning a language. If you have not had instruction, you have to hear the tune several times (which is why there are preservice music and communion hymns) before you can actually sing it. This is also why children should be in church (so often little ones are taken out for children’s church or they are stuck in a cry room where it is just not the same).

    There is also the problem of tripping up others (Please disregard if this anecdote is not applicable to the situation of anyone around you). When we have songs that sound exactly like secular music, how is a non-Christian or new-Christian supposed to tell the difference? I have several friends that join me at the one traditional congregation I have found simply because it is completely different than what happens in the world.

    Personal preference thing: When the words for a song are projected on a screen, I have no idea what the tune is. I freak out and am no longer focused on God.

    Um… also… upbeat and being happy about praising God…. When my mother first became a Lutheran, she had questions. One was why are Lutheran hymns so sad and slow. She was used to… well I’ll use her phrase… “happy clappy” music in churches. Here is the problem – emotion, while not entirely evil, is misleading. What if I am upset about something that has happened in my life? Am I supposed to suddenly be happy? No, but I am supposed to still praise Him. It is NOT about the emotion. Sometimes life is good or God has blessed me (and I actually noticed for once) and the emotion is an added bonus. My mom was the one who reminded me the most not to buy into the idea that I needed to feel something to be worshiping correctly. I’m not saying that we can just go into worship disengaged. I’m not even saying that we somehow get more out of worship if we are stones. I dance to the good ole’ Lutheran favorites and what contemporary songs I know. I’m just saying that if we expect an emotional response as our sole assurance that we are right with God (or if we expect to be able to force ourselves into a particular emotion or mental state when we worship) then we are focused in the wrong direction. That is why the settings in the hymnal are called the divine service… Its about what God does for us.

  26. @Susan #26
    When my mother first became a Lutheran, she had questions. One was why are Lutheran hymns so sad and slow.

    Lutheran hymns are slow because the old pump organs couldn’t be played any faster, IMO.
    We had one in our house when I was growing up. “My son, the Pastor” had a country church [in the 1990’s] which was using a ‘pump organ’ which had been “updated” with an electric motor to drive the air. It was still slow.

    It is possible and preferable to play most hymns up to tempo but you have to train the congregation to expect it. He started by getting an electronic keyboard to use with the choir.
    They progressed to an electronic organ and now have a small pipe organ.

    Having said all that, there are some hymn tunes which are sad and slower because the music is appropriate to the text.

    The kind of music that is accompanied by tambourines from the pew (I was there, once.) doesn’t have the “Lutheran” problem. 😉

    All that was a side comment to a post I agree with in the main. You are right about singing (and regular use of the same order) being the way that children of all ages learn.
    It doesn’t need to be “frightening”. Catechism begun as soon as a child can read (or sooner) isn’t “frightening”. (Being handed a new book and told to memorize it at 12 or 13 might be.) 🙁

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