Great Stuff — Debunking a Myth: Contemporary Worship is not Inclusive

Found on Matthew E. Cochran’s blog, The 96th thesis:

 

When a congregation begins toying with the idea of contemporary worship, one of the usual driving factors is an attempt to be more “inclusive.” “The Church needs to appeal to more people than the gray-hairs that attend every Sunday. Get rid of that tired plodding organ and get some more lively instruments in there! Why force modern Americans to sing nothing but 16th century German hymns?” The impression that advocates often give is that contemporary worship is something that opens the church up and broadens it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than providing a breath of fresh air, contemporary worship is a narrow and constrictive force that can strangle a congregation.

First, the contention that traditional Lutheran hymnals are simply a collection of music that only old people could like is rather dubious. Consider: The commonly used Lutheran hymnal (LSB) includes songs dating back from almost two thousand years ago all the way to today. Most of its hymns were written centuries before any of our elderly were even born. If they enjoy it, it cannot possibly be because it was the music of their generation–something that only they would like. Generationally exclusive music is, however, precisely what contemporary worship seeks to impose. Rather than selecting the best from a broad ocean of church music that spans cultures, continents, & thousands of years of history, contemporary worship restricts music: first to the last few decades, then to America, then to a subset of the youth. Towards the end of his book, Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism, James K. A. Smith describes a “radically orthodox” church service that he considers to more “catholic” than the services we may be used to. Nevertheless, the mishmash of eclectic chairs, jazz bands, and Anne Sexton poetry he advocates would only appeal to the neo-hipster, Whole Foods, communitarian demographic. That’s about as far from universal as you can get. In the name of being inclusive, contemporary worship excludes everyone but the young and hip by trading the rich heritage found in the liturgy for a handful of passing fads.

Second, Contemporary worship restricts music’s capacity to communicate. Every age has its own insights & blind-spots, and its preferred styles reflect these. One advantage to a broad hymnody is that the excesses of one age cover often the deficiencies of another. Contemporary worship lacks this safeguard. If you compare hymns written in the past 75 years or so to the hymns that preceded it, you’ll quickly notice some general differences in the lyrical structure. Older hymns tend to be built around sentences and make statements. Modern hymns, on the other hand tend to be built around phrases and are designed to give an impression. While the former style serves a variety of purposes (confession, catechesis, prayer, praise, etc), the latter style is suited almost exclusively toward praise and self-expression (it’s no accident they’re usually called ‘praise bands’). Now, while self-expression has very little place in the divine service, there’s certainly nothing wrong with singing praise songs in church. Beautiful Savior, for example, is a classic hymn that makes use of this kind of phrase-based songwriting for precisely this purpose. The problem arises when almost every hymn is like that. Practically speaking, restricting a congregation to contemporary songs restricts them to praise music. By neglecting the ability to make meaningful statements in music, the hymnody begins to forget why we’re responding to God with praise in the first place. When this goes on long enough, all that remains is a desperate attempt to use music to manipulate the emotions into producing what once flowed naturally from what God has done for us.

Finally, contemporary worship generally doesn’t make people feel more comfortable or welcome–at least not in Lutheran churches. In the movie Better of Dead, there’s a scene in which John Cusack’s family invites a French exchange student over for dinner. In order to make her feel more welcome, the hostess serves a meal consisting of French fries, French toast, and French bread. Needless to say, regardless of the hostess’ efforts, the student did not exactly feel comfortable. Frankly, this is pretty much how Lutherans come off when we pander to those young, hip Americans of whom we have only the most shallow understanding by attempting to adopt their musical styles in church. Those we pander to might (or might not) be too polite to say that such imitation looks more like a bad parody, but they’re often thinking it.

Perhaps there’s another thing we might learn from this analogy when we seek to invite unbelievers into the church. The Church is in the world, but not of it. No matter how we arrange our music, unbelievers who visit us are in a foreign land. The last thing an exchange student is looking for is a grossly inferior version of their own culture. The entire point of being an exchange student is to be immersed in something other. If the Church tries to make herself look like the world, not only will she do a poor job of it, but she will deny those who come to her the opportunity to find something more than what they already have. Our heritage is something any generation can be brought into. If we seek to be more inclusive and welcoming, we would do well to embrace it.

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

Great Stuff — Debunking a Myth: Contemporary Worship is not Inclusive — 80 Comments

  1. Agreed. If you want CoWo, go join another denomination. The divine service is beautiful. It is transcendent and aesthetic, as rich in content as it is in form. It holds to theolgically sound hymns that have been passed downward from generation to generation. It is one of the reasons why I and my family want no part of the modern evangelical church service, which is trend-driven and at times can have just as much of the “this-is-the-way-we’ve-always-done-it” attitude as the traditionalists that CoWos point their fingers at.

    When you try to beat the world at its own game by turning the church into a concert hall (and more often than not this is the case with CoWo, as worship takes a backseat to emotionalism and performance), all you do is jettison the connection with past generations of churches and Christians in favor of doing the newest and next thing. You make the church a house of fads rather than a house of worship.

    Like I’ve said before, snag some of us who have spent our former years in CoWo and interview us sometime; we can tell you quite a bit about the empty husks of CoWo and how unsatisfying they are.

  2. Nevertheless, the mishmash of eclectic chairs, jazz bands, and Anne Sexton poetry he advocates would only appeal to the neo-hipster,…

    Joke: “How did the hipster burn the roof of his mouth??
    A:“He ate pizza before it was cool.”

    IMHO, the hipster would be more interested in the Divine Service rather than any cultural entity trying to be cool.

  3. @J. Dean #1

    snag some of us who have spent our former years in CoWo and interview us sometime; we can tell you quite a bit about the empty husks of CoWo

    Well that makes 2 of us.

    @#4 Kitty #2
    Funniest. Joke. Ever. And IMNSHO, you are dead right (as long as that doesn’t make me a hipster).

  4. “Contemporary worship” is just another name for importing Assemblies of God worship practices into the Lutheran Church. The invocation of adiaphora is just the token nod to the Book of Concord but is really an afterthought.

  5. Great article!

    Get rid of that tired plodding organ and get some more lively instruments in there! Why force modern Americans to sing nothing but 16th century German hymns?

    This may be a false association (though experientially justified). You don’t need an organ to follow the Divine Service, even if it does do a fantastic job of expressing the text. Churches in cultures or communities that can’t afford or access one are not barred from traditional Lutheran worship. It can be done on the guitar or the hand drum just as easily.

    The problem is not with with the use of praise bands so much as the reason for their use. Often the band is introduced to “get with it” and appeal to excitement to generate interest in the church. When this happens, all music more than 20 years old is thrown away, and only songs written for the “praise band” genre are employed. The problem with this is that most of those songs are disposable ditties incapable of being rendered otherwise. Quality music easily transcends its original genre. Try playing the CCLI top 25 on the organ: it just don’t work. But LSB material work quite well indeed in the “praise band” medium, because it is objectively superior.

    Wherever the church has gone, her singing has reflected the culture she was in, in terms of composition, language, and instrumentation. The problem is that most CoWo advocates can’t tell the difference between style and substance. The message behind the methodology of charismatic praise is destructive to faith, period. We have allowed ourselves to teach a false doctrine in the name of being culturally sensitive, and that’s where we shot ourselves in the foot.

    The Roman Catholic church does a far better job of being faithful in this regard than we do. Go to a Mexican village and attend mass: the liturgy is the same, the singing is from approved books, yet the instrumentation and style is very locally determined.

    There is room for cultural diversity in the body of Christ, even if there is NOT room for theological diversity. But we have to recognize that we live in mostly the same culture as our unbelieving neighbors and avoid creating a kind of exclusive cultural ghetto. Oddly, the CoWo CCM uber alles approach does precisely this: it appears quite strange to somebody not immersed in evangelical subculture.

  6. @Miguel #5

    “The Roman Catholic church does a far better job of being faithful in this regard than we do.”

    The Roman church is a polytheistic works-righteousness cult. We, by God’s grace, are the true visible Christian church on earth. I would rather put an icepick through my eye than emulate the practices of the papacy. Thank God for the orthodox Lutheran Church.

  7. I agree with your observation of the contemporary worship movement, but disagree with your assessment of it. Your argument fails by making a blanket statement for all of contemporary worship. Yes, it’s true that many churches across denominations have used contemporary worship styles as an attempt to be attractional or inclusive. It’s dangerous and should be avoided, but it does not describe all of those within contemporary worship expressions. So, to your main thesis, I would say: “Rather than providing a breath of fresh air, contemporary worship is OFTEN a narrow and constrictive force that can strangle a congregation.”

    As the “contemporary worship” movement has grown, I would also contend that it has started maturing. Critics of the shallow, restrictive, praise-focused nature of contemporary worship are no longer just from those on the outside, but there are those who are discovering the blind spots within and correcting. There are a growing number of songwriters who are contributing to the contemporary worship style with songs that are deeply rich & Christocentric – songs that focus on confession, catechesis, prayer, praise, etc. As you know, many contemporary worship songs are remakes of traditional hymns with modern instrumentation. Would you contend there is something wrong with them? Older hymn texts have been assigned newer/alternate tunes within LSB, so why can’t this be done into a contemporary sound? What do we do with traditional hymns that are based on folk tunes – which were contemporary for their day? The Bible is full of examples where the gospel and kingdom of God are communicated through a contemporary context.

    The only way you can have rich hymns across the span of centuries is for songwriters to have written during their time. I thank God that everyone didn’t have your attitude in previous centuries. Can you imagine the church saying the same thing during the 1600’s? They easily could have made the same argument and would still have had a “broad ocean of church music” to choose from. Thankfully, we have continued to have newer musical expressions of the gospel throughout history. Also, in terms of a broad ocean, not all of the hymns throughout history are good. By gathering the best of the best, we understand that there are many other hymns that are terrible and not useful – as I think you would agree. Hymns can be terrible in communicating the gospel and so can contemporary worship songs. We shouldn’t use hymn and songs that are poor in style and content.

    I would also add that it’s helpful having critics who point out the blind spots – even if the criticism is harsh. (Selling out for the sake of sounding relevant or inclusive is dangerous.) The energy should be in helping, leading and equipping these contemporary songwriters, rather than undercutting their efforts. Yes, the hymns and divine service is proven, rich and beautiful. I celebrate it and love it…praise God! May we continue to use it and also learn from it because I am seeing a growing selection of church music within the contemporary worship movement that is good. It’s not on the front pages of the contemporary music scene or on the Top 50 contemporary worship songs, but it’s there.

    Finally, continuing your analogy of the foreign exchange student, I agree that an American family probably shouldn’t attempt French cuisine on a French foreign exchange student. However, the family has an opportunity to learn from the student about his/her native culture, just as much as the student has to learn from being immersed in a new culture. It would benefit both to learn from each other. Rather than being ignorant of French culture and making an inferior version of their food, the student could teach and show the family how to cook French food. In turn, the family would introduce the student to the best of American food. The richness of food becomes experienced in new ways to both the exchange student and the family. The student may not like some American food at first, as they’re not used to certain flavors…and vice versa for the family. (I’ve experienced this in my foreign travels. Over time, I went from not liking their food to greatly enjoying it. I still prefer American food, but I appreciate and enjoy the culture’s expression of food and sometimes eat it here.) So, yes, let’s not make cheap imitations for the sake of impressing/attracting, but let’s also not simply throw out the opportunity for the unshakable, uncompromising truth of Scripture and our theological convictions, which are at the core of the Divine Service, to be placed at the foundation of contemporary worship.

  8. @Jim Hamilton #6

    What Miguel said was: The Roman Catholic church is more faithful to its own heritage than CoWoe is to the “orthodox Lutheran Church.”

    There is wheat and there are tares in every “visible church”. What matters is who God sees in the invisible church.

  9. @helen #8

    Helen, I read what he wrote. Miguel is a good man and very wise. My comments have nothing to do with him. I mean no offense to him or you or anyone else, except maybe the pope, who continues to lead poor, ignorant people into everlasting destruction with his satantic lies. For me, I would rather stick an icepick through my eye than emulate any practices of the papacy. Not saying I’m right. Not saying I’m smart. That’s just my personal opinion.

  10. It would be hard to overstate how much I despise the papacy and all the horrendous spiritual and temporal destruction that has been caused by the pope’s lies. I feel sick at heart when I consider the millions upon millions of souls that have been lost to the devil because the pope buried the pure Gospel under his festering offal pile of work-righteousness perversions. How many ignorant people have spent their lives terrified by their inability to satisfy God’s Law by their works and, then at death, have been lost to the pope’s master because they were convinced that the Blood of the Holy Son was not enough to cleanse them? I confess that I become a bit irrational at times when I hear anything remotely complimentary about the pope’s kingdom of grotesquery.

  11. @Jim Hamilton #9
    If Rome rejected Luther, it will definitely not listen to anyone in the 21st century. After 500+ years of animosity, what more is there to say. I am not a friend of the Roman Catholic church, nor am I an enemy of it.

    The Evangelicals pose a far bigger threat to confessional Lutheranism than the Roman Catholic church. The non-denominational Church Growth Movement strives to steal sheep from all “mainline” churches – including from Rome. Many “Joel Osteen style” seeker-churches are full of former Catholics.

  12. I haven’t read the book, but I really like the quote
    Extract from Michael Crichton’s Timeline:
    Professor Johnston often said
    “If you didn’t know history, you didn’t know anything. You were a leaf that didn’t know it was part of a tree.”
    He had a term for people like this: temporal provincials – people who were ignorant about the past, and proud of it. Temporal provincials were convinced that the present was the only time that mattered, and that anything that had occurred earlier could be safely ignored…”

    CoWo is an absolutely provincial, White-bread American Suburban rejection of everything the Church should be.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

    @Jim Hamilton #10
    I won’t say you’re wrong, but I will say I can’t think of a Protestant Church (Confessional Lutherans aren’t Protestants) whose lies and festering offal aren’t worse than that of Rome. (I think you’re a bit irrational.)
    If you aren’t a restorationist, you have to admit that the Church was living and active before the reformation. Just think about what that means.

  13. @Lumpenkönig #11

    That’s a very interesting point. I certainly agree that the Evangelical churches pose a very serious threat to the pure doctrine of God. The happy, perky, hand-wavey facade of the non-denominational churches masks a multitude of terrible theological errors: the denial of the Sacraments, the Pelagian heresy, “once saved, always saved,” and on and on.

    That said, so long as the pope and his slaves attack the pure doctrine of God with their despicable perversions, I will do my very small part by exposing them as the demonic anti-Christs that they most certainly are.

  14. Oh sing to the LORD a new song …. (Psalm 96:1)
    …but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thess. 5:21)

    From the main post:
    “…contemporary worship excludes everyone but the young and hip…”

    My LCMS church has both a contemporary and a traditional service. The traditional service does have the older audience, but the contemporary service continues to see a broad range of ages. (One older woman who knows sign language cheerfully signs as she worships, motioning to the rhythm of the music with obvious joy; it is a delight to see.)

    “…contemporary worship generally doesn’t make people feel more comfortable or welcome–at least not in Lutheran churches.”

    The relatively informal atmosphere in the contemporary service at my church does seem to convey greater warmth than the somewhat buttoned-down formality of the traditional service. Even the pastor seems more at ease during the contemporary service.

    “…we pander to those young, hip Americans of whom we have only the most shallow understanding by attempting to adopt their musical styles in church.”

    In my church the contemporary music is provided by group that appears to be mostly under thirty themselves, and youth are included. Musical selections are either chosen or vetted by the senior pastor.

    “…trading the rich heritage found in the liturgy for a handful of passing fads.”

    After 40 years or so now, perhaps the use of guitars and drums, etc. is not just a passing fad. And I understand that many Lutheran churches, including mine, have not abandoned the liturgy for contemporary worship but rather have retained and adapted the liturgy with various contemporary elements. (I developed a contemporary liturgy for my church that way several years ago, and it was evidently well received.)

  15. @Matthew Mills #12

    “I won’t say you’re wrong, but I will say I can’t think of a Protestant Church (Confessional Lutherans aren’t Protestants) whose lies and festering offal aren’t worse than that of Rome. (I think you’re a bit irrational.)
    If you aren’t a restorationist, you have to admit that the Church was living and active before the reformation. Just think about what that means.”

    The Christian church has been in existence since Eden. I’ve never denied that, nor would I. I have never denied the terrible errors of the Reformed sects or any other erring church group. That said, the pope is the anti-Christ. He exalts himself above God and makes salvation dependent upon works and adherence to his perverse whims. That makes him “special.” I may be irrational, but no one will ever mistake me for one of the pope’s slaves, thanks be to God.

  16. @Carl H #14

    Contemporary worship opens the door to doctrinal slackness and error. It inculcates the idea that the “new” is superior and the “old” is outmoded and useless. It promotes the false notion that the orthodox Lutheran church needs to change in order to stay “relevant.” We have the pure doctrine of God. Contemporary worship threatens the purity of that doctrine and should be avoided.

  17. To get back to the original post…. I would point out one more way in which contemporary worship can fail to be inclusive. In dispensing with hymnals and other songbooks, it blocks those who can read music from jumping right in and singing unfamiliar songs. Whereas musical notation in traditional services allows me to figure out where the tune is going, in “contemporary” services I have to sit back and just listen to the praise band perform–sometimes for the duration of the song, other times at least for the first couple of stanzas. And their syncopations and stylistic swoops and flourishes do not tend to make it easy to discern the melody. I definitely do not feel “included” when I cannot participate in half of the service.

  18. J. Dean :
    Like I’ve said before, snag some of us who have spent our former years in CoWo and interview us sometime; we can tell you quite a bit about the empty husks of CoWo and how unsatisfying they are.

    Many confessional Lutheran congregations offer one service only: Contemporary. They abandoned the Liturgy, the hymnal, and most (all?) CPH worship and study materials years ago. All of this was done for the sake of “outreach.”

    Problem: A visitor would never consider walking into a Lutheran church if he or she knew it was Lutheran and/or it used a…..”hymnal.” Solution: Abandon the Lutheran name and corresponding Lutheran worship and study materials and young people will stampede over each other trying to join the Lutheran church. Where is the data to indicate the Church Growth Movement within the LCMS is a success?

    I personally know LCMS church members who have never attended a traditional service. How many LCMS laymen know what a “liturgy” is? If appreciation of the liturgy is an acquired taste, then what would motivate a “missional” Lutheran to attend a traditional service?

    We would love to hear your testimonial, J. Dean!

  19. @Jim Hamilton #6

    I would rather put an icepick through my eye than emulate the practices of the papacy.

    That’s not hateful. Tell us how your really feel. 😛
    No seriously, “faithful” was a poor choice of words. How’s “consistent?” The thing is, as bad as their theology is, when it comes to worship, they stick to their guns. You don’t see any of their churches dropping or changing the mass. To be a Roman Catholic is to celebrate the mass the same way as all the rest. We should learn from their consistency. Of course, if their churches actually had a choice in the matter, I’m sure many of them would have gone experimental by now.

    But keep in mind we did inherit the majority of our worship traditions from them.

  20. @Lumpenkönig #17
    If they have abandoned liturgy, the hymnal and doctrinally approved worship materials, is it logical to call them “confessional”?
    The Confessions say that we have retained the Mass, the Sacraments “every Sunday, feast day and at other times”, regular orders of service, and as far as possible, unity, at least by area, if not in total. Luther said, use the same order and the same catechism, so that people can learn it.

    That’s about as far as it can get from every CoWoe pastor doing his own thing and changing it every Sunday!

  21. @Lumpenkönig #18

    I prefer traditional liturgy.  However, why insist everyone agree?  You should make sure your own church has a traditional service but why worry about everyone else?  I don’t denigrate the outreach motivation.  Of the ten largest LCMS congregations how many offer contemporary worship?  My guess is all or nearly all.  I do agree everyone should only be using synod approved worship materials.

  22. @Miguel #19

    > That’s not hateful. Tell us how your really feel.

    I worry about this.  When will Jim finally overcome his diffidence and come out of his shell?

    Just kidding.  I totally enjoy Jim’s comments.  He is the Lutheran Mark Levin.

  23. Having married into a Roman Catholic family and attended various services, my impression is that the Roman Catholic church is not always consistent in worship. While the creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the celebration of the “eucharist” are always the same, I recall plenty of ditty singing, even in different churches. My father-in-law was often, usually always, upset about the teaching in the “homily” and often about other parts of the service, that I didn’t pick up on. However, I would say that any Roman Catholic can go into any Roman Catholic church and feel comfortable and fit in with the service.

  24. Contemporary Worship, as most people have come to know it, is not inclusive to those who hold Scriptural and Lutheran Confessional beliefs.

  25. Respectfully, 

    Formal traditional worship is not inclusive to many other thousands who hold Scriptural and Lutheran Confessional beliefs. Where are the young people stampeding to get into formal, traditional services?

    “Different strokes….”

    Here we go again 🙂

  26. On new services: “Some have the best of intentions, but others have no more than an itch to produce something novel so that they might shine before men as leading lights, rather than being ordinary teachers-as is always the case with Christian liberty: very few use it for the glory of God and the good of the neighbor; most use it for their own advantage and pleasure.”

    “As far as possible we should observe the same rites and ceremonies, just as all Christians have the same baptism and the same sacrament of the altar and no one has received a special one of his own from God.”

    “But it would be well if the service in every principality would be held in the same manner and if the order observed in a given city would also be followed by the surrounding towns and villages.”

    -Dr. Martin Luther
    “Luther’s Works Volume 53”

  27. @Jon #7
    “So, yes, let’s not make cheap imitations for the sake of impressing/attracting, but let’s also not simply throw out the opportunity for the unshakable, uncompromising truth of Scripture and our theological convictions, which are at the core of the Divine Service, to be placed at the foundation of contemporary worship.”

    Contemporary worship already has a foundation. It is emotional, decision driven drivel. Luther dealt with it in his time as well. He called them “schwarmgeisterei”, those who flitted after the latest and greatest emotional, spirit seeking movement. This is the biggest fallacy around, that somehow one can simply exchange the foundation or external trappings of one system with another without any influence or negative results. If tomorrow I told my family we were going to start dressing and acting like Native Americans, yet we would still be Irish at heart, people who looked at us would think one of two things, either we were nuts and completely off our rockers or else we were very, very confused individuals. Yet somehow this will work when we do it to the church?

  28. I have never liked CoWo for a variety of reasons. 1. The theological content is extremely thin. In the past I’ve evaluated this music according to the words, and in most cases, there is very little if any Biblical Theological content. Most of these songs could be sung by a Mormon, or a Muslim.

    2. They are primarily intended to make the listener “feel good.” The worship service is our time with God who comes to us in His WORD AND SACRAMENT. That means it is time to listen, learn, reflect, repent. It is a time for thinking and consideration of what God is teaching us. Injecting positive emotions is contrary to this, especially if there are things we need to feel bad about, repent of, and reconsider our actions and attitudes toward God and our neighbor.

    3.CoWo reflects the 20th century attitude that the church needs to put out a service to boost people up, make them feel good, etc. We should remember that the greatest preacher and teacher of all time did not have a huge group of followers. We need to reflect on these words. Lk 6:26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.

    Finally CoWo is popular “because it works” Yes, false teaching and false practice often attract big numbers. My goal as a pastor is to be faithful, to teach God’s word clearly correctly, and teach them all things, whatsoever Jesus has commanded.

  29. Pastor Ted Crandall :

    You should make sure your own church has a traditional service but why worry about everyone else?

    Because they are our neighbors.
    (Luke 10:29)

    Dear Pastor Crandall,

    Are you saying that by blogging and commenting against a stereotype of CW (which may or may not be present in any particular LCMS church), that you are acting as a Good Samaritan would act as defined by Jesus in your reference of Luke 10?

  30. @LW #32

    Here’s where the definitions get fuzzy again.  I’ve been to many CoWo services that although informal were liturgical, theologically pure and used CPH materials.  
    …also, not “cheap imitations” but skilled pastors and musicians.

  31. @DA #34
    What in the world does the parable of the good Samaritan have to do with discussing CoWo? Unless the implication is that CoWo practicers are spiritually beaten down and left for dead by the MethopentaBaptist practices they have encountered and are in need of a good merciful person such as Pr. Crandall to help restore them to full confessional health. 🙂

  32. Jon @ 7 wrote: “Your argument fails by making a blanket statement for all of contemporary worship. Yes, it’s true that many churches across denominations have used contemporary worship styles as an attempt to be attractional or inclusive… but it does not describe all of those within contemporary worship expressions.”

    But I wrote: “When a congregation begins toying with the idea of contemporary worship, one of the usual driving factors is an attempt to be more ‘inclusive.’ ” So I’m not sure who you’re arguing with here. Frankly, most of your post comes off as though you didn’t read carefully.

    I would like to add two things, though. First, an affirmation: Good hymnwriters should indeed be treasured by the church (not that I or anyone else I’ve ever encountered has said otherwise… so again, I’m not sure who you’re addressing). The catch is that penning a good hymn requires one to be both a good musician and a good theologian and to understand how the two relate. This is a fantastically rare combination in contemporary America. Trying to structure a worship service entirely on such rare gems is a very difficult proposition that, though it may or may not have other merits, is still not inclusive for the reasons I already gave. We should teach theology to gifted musicians so that their hymns may take their place among the classics. Nevertheless, refusing to adopt contemporary worship as a practice (in other words, refusing to turn the Divine Service into a laboratory where contemporary musicians can experiment until they mature) does not “undercut” anyone.

    Second, a caution concerning your extension of my analogy: ‘Musician’ is a legitimate vocation, and we can indeed learn vocational skills from believers and unbelievers alike. Likewise, a Christian’s past experience (placed under the judgment of Scripture) might help himself and others understand how to reach out to unbelievers. However, everything on Earth outside of the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Satan. Embracing that kind of cultural diversity bears rotten fruit. There is nothing of value to the Divine Service that a believer can learn from an unbeliever simply by virtue of his being a foreigner in our Kingdom.

  33. Rev. Loren Zell :I have never liked CoWo for a variety of reasons. 1. The theological content is extremely thin. In the past I’ve evaluated this music according to the words, and in most cases, there is very little if any Biblical Theological content. Most of these songs could be sung by a Mormon, or a Muslim.
    2. They are primarily intended to make the listener “feel good.” The worship service is our time with God who comes to us in His WORD AND SACRAMENT. That means it is time to listen, learn, reflect, repent. It is a time for thinking and consideration of what God is teaching us. Injecting positive emotions is contrary to this, especially if there are things we need to feel bad about, repent of, and reconsider our actions and attitudes toward God and our neighbor.
    3.CoWo reflects the 20th century attitude that the church needs to put out a service to boost people up, make them feel good, etc. We should remember that the greatest preacher and teacher of all time did not have a huge group of followers. We need to reflect on these words. Lk 6:26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
    Finally CoWo is popular “because it works” Yes, false teaching and false practice often attract big numbers. My goal as a pastor is to be faithful, to teach God’s word clearly correctly, and teach them all things, whatsoever Jesus has commanded.

    Thank you Rev! I think your comments are the most insightful I read in this thread!

  34. John Rixe :
    …Of the ten largest LCMS congregations how many offer contemporary worship?  My guess is all or nearly all.  .

    St. Paul Lutheran Church in Des Peres, MO uses only the LSB and they worship over 1000 every weekend…No CoWo there…

  35. @Rev. McCall #40

    It’s pretty funny that we are speculating about what Pastor Crandall meant, so hopefully he will weigh in on this :).

    To be clear, my concern has to do with what appears to be “blogging and commenting” about a stereotype of CW, as opposed to getting “personally involved at a cost” with our neighbor like what Jesus talks about in the parable.

    Peace

  36. @John Rixe #27
    Respectfully: Are you freaking serious? Start with me and my wife. Follow with the numerous people I’ve met online and in person who have walked or are walking the Wittenburg trail.

    Sure, maybe not teenagers, but they haven’t learned to think critically or for themselves yet. They’re still led around by the nose by the merchants of cool. Seriously, you’re arguing that high-church liturgy isn’t inclusive just because adolescents would rather go to the glam show that looks like a rock concert than immerse themselves in God’s Word and receiving his grace? That’s not even an argument! The natural man will always gravitate to things that appeal to his inner narcissist. That’s not justification for indulging it just to fill seats.

  37. @Walter Troeger #40
    There might be, depending on what they use within the LSB!

    @Alan #39
    “The catch is that penning a good hymn requires one to be both a good musician and a good theologian and to understand how the two relate. This is a fantastically rare combination in contemporary America.”

    This! But if I may add to your requirements for hymn writers:

    -Understands the language in which one is writing so as to be intelligible (so many fail)
    -Understands the theological language so as to not depart from the “pattern of sound words.”

  38. John Rixe :
    @Lumpenkönig #18
    I prefer traditional liturgy.  However, why insist everyone agree?  You should make sure your own church has a traditional service but why worry about everyone else?  I don’t denigrate the outreach motivation.  Of the ten largest LCMS congregations how many offer contemporary worship?  My guess is all or nearly all.  I do agree everyone should only be using synod approved worship materials.

    For the sake of consistency, every LCMS church should offer at least one traditional service. My LCMS church offers both traditional and contemporary services, and I am content with that. When increasing numbers of LCMS congregations replace the traditional service with contemporary worship, then that is reason for concern. Furthermore, what if I get a job relocation and must move? In some parts of the country, the only available LCMS congregations within driving distance offer contemporary services only.

    When new LCMS mission starts do not use Lutheran worship and study materials and have no plans to do so, then how can they be called Lutheran? I can understand not wanting to reveal Lutheran identity on the church website and church sign. You do not want to frighten away potential converts. What happens after you get them in the door?

    @Jim Hamilton #13

    Potential post-Evangelical converts (Evangelicals and non-denominational laymen) insist that the Catholic church is the church of the devil. They also believe that the Lutheran church is “Catholic Lite” and must be avoided at all costs. Therefore, as a Lutheran, I wince when I read about Catholic bashing.

    At what point are the people inside the “this is not your grandfather’s” hip and stylish LCMS church exposed to Lutheran theology? Could the church at least tuck a little blurb identifying it as Lutheran at the bottom of the bulletin? Would bible studies include books by CPH?

    The Alley was started in 2009 by Dr. Nadasdy (elected MNS district president in 2012).

    Do you see any Lutheran theology being promoted here. Look! Beth Moore!:

    http://www.thealley.org/resources/bible-study-material

    How successful are the Regional Outreach Conferences in filling up the pews. I see MNS is spreading its vision with the assistance of the Lutheran Hour:

    http://www.lhm.org/roc/guests.asp?id=21084

  39. @John Rixe #35
    Yes, many churches using contemporary music also combine it with traditional worship elements to form some kind of a bare-minimum divine service structure. But that’s not the majority of the CoWo churches. The ones I’ve seen throw it all out and copy the liturgy of the big box megaplex down the road.

    Not to mention, the CoWo they are using is usually very non-substantive. The top CCLI from 15 years ago that tends to dominate LCMS services may not be completely full of abject heresy, but then again, they’re hardly full of anything. Fluff. Our churches are outright foolish for getting rid of their hymnals, because the truth within is food for the hungry soul. I’m not saying we should never sing something that isn’t in the hymnal, but once you get the big screen, it’s suddenly too much work to hold a book. The treasures that are inexcusably lost when a church decides to spin the latest hits to draw a crowd are iconoclastic. This goes so far beyond an issue of preference. Everybody knows the hymns go over great with the younger generations, if they are rendered energetically, so why are we getting “set lists” from a secular industry?

  40. @John Rixe #35
    “Informal” worship, come as you are, casual service…Scripture knows nothing of this. There is no such thing as casual repentance, informal holiness.

    All can participate in the liturgical service. CoWo services excludes the weakest among us: who can’t read (old and young); those with mental disabilities; those with poor, no vision; those with failing faculties. My father, my sister and many can not participate at CoWo services. That is wretched. Indefensible that they by nature are not welcome at CoWo LCMS churches. And the defense of CoWo is to “scratch itching ears” of the young or popularity in numbers? Lord have mercy.

    The Lutheran Confessions do not allow for CoWo if someone would take the time to read them.

  41. @Rev. Weinkauf #47
    CoWo and its incessant need to keep relevant and ever-changing with the times is by its very design excluding to those who are old and approaching death. That is because CoWo is about entertaining the living (more like distracting them). Death is a bummer, so CoWo will not engage that or actually work with souls to prepare them for it. Real worship is about preparing you to die. Liturgy does that over and over again so that when you struggle to remember names and faces the Creeds, Prayers, Kyrie, Benediction, Nunc Dimittis is still able to come out.

    As far as informal goes… Revelation certainly makes worship seem rather informal!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.