Steadfast in Worship — Considering all of the Confessions.

March 1st, 2012 Post by

When I became a pastor in the Lutheran Church, I said that I would perform the duties of my office in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. I promised, with the help of God, to preach and teach and administer the Sacraments in conformity with the Holy Scriptures and these Confessions. (To the best of my knowledge, such statements are standard at the ordinations and installations of Lutheran pastors, at least in the Missouri Synod.)

So, when push comes to shove and the rubber hits the road, what is the result of these statements and promises? What does it mean – that your actions in worship would conform with the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions?

For some, the following passages define their confessional view of worship:

And to the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree concerning the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. Nor is it necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men, should be everywhere alike.  As Paul says: One faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all, etc. Eph. 4:5-6 (Augsburg Confession VII:2-4).

(J)ust as the dissimilar length of day and night does not injure the unity of the Church, so we believe that the true unity of the Church is not injured by dissimilar rites instituted by men… (Apology VII & VIII:33a).

And, most famously:

We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies [church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word, but have been instituted for the sake of propriety and good order] in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God (Formula of Concord: Epitome X:4).


Those who love to quote these passages often act as though these were the final words that the Confessions speak about worship. It is not too much of a stretch to say that any practice could be permissible for them, as long as it could be defined as “useful” or “edifying”.

Yet, after making these statements, the Confessions continue:

… Although it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of tranquility [unity and good order], universal rites be observed, just as also in the churches we willingly observe the order of the Mass, the Lord’s Day, and other more eminent festival days. And with a very grateful mind we embrace the profitable and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline by which it is profitable to educate and train the people and those who are ignorant [the young people] (Apology VII & VIII:33b).

Nevertheless, that herein [making changes in ceremonies and church rites,] all frivolity and offense should be avoided, and special care should be taken to exercise forbearance towards the weak in faith. 1 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 14:13 (Formula of Concord: Epitome X:5).

As I study the Lutheran Confessions, I continue to find much that can be applied today towards this topic of remaining ‘steadfast in worship’.


Associate Editor Scheer’s Note:  With this post, Pastor Nathan Higgins joins the regulars here at BJS writing for a segment entitled “Steadfast in Worship”.  Pastor Higgins was a member of the Bemidji Circuit (one of the best in MNN) of the Minnesota North District  when I served as a pastor up there in the northland.  He is also one of the assistant editors that produced Treasury of Daily Prayer for CPH.  The Rev’d Nathan W. Higgins is a 2002 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  He has served as Pastor at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Long Prairie, Minnesota ( since December 2008 and has participated for many years in the Lutheran Mission Association ( which provides relief in Haiti.


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  1. Rev. Weinkauf
    March 2nd, 2012 at 01:32 | #1

    Our Confessions hold we are a liturgical church. Period. If you enage the CoWO people, make sure to define the historic liturgy is NOT, CAN NOT be an adiaphora, as they twist FC X (cited above) to justify CoWo. I’ll not understand how the whole “universal rites be kept/be observed” doesn’t settle the worship issue. Also helpful…

    “The Mass is held among us and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other like things.” AC XXIV, then its Apol. “Masses are celebrated among us every Lord’s Day and on other festivals. The Sacrament is offered to those who wish to use it, after they have been examined and absolved. And the usual public ceremonies are observed, the series of lessons, of prayers, vestments, and other such things.”

    “Nothing in customary rites should be changed without a reasonable cause. So to nurture unity, old customs that can be kept without sin or great inconvenience should be kept.” Apology XV

  2. March 2nd, 2012 at 09:39 | #2

    ?”The goal of good liturgy is always to transform the lives of people by the Gospel of Jesus Christ . . . The problem today is that our congregations are generally uninstructed, not only in biblical theology and Lutheran liturgical traditions, but worse, they do not know the Lutheran tradition as a positive unfolding of the New Testament and early post-apostolic church, which in turn comes from the Old Testament as practiced by Jesus Himself. They do not know what it means to be Lutheran.” – Dr. Just

  3. March 2nd, 2012 at 09:52 | #3

    The above quote:

    Adriane Dorr

    I’m the editor of The Lutheran Witness. I love Frank Sinatra, bacon, and high heels. I own camo and a red KitchenAid mixer.

  4. Brad
    March 2nd, 2012 at 11:48 | #4

    @Rev. Weinkauf #1

    Yep– it is settled doctrine. A plain reading of our Confessions makes it so.

    But, like the Scriptural revisionist crowd, nothing is settled so long as they wish to “discuss” it, pitting one piece of Holy Writ against another, until the whole is thrown out. Such is the case with those who present themselves as Confessional revisionists. They shall “discuss” the Confessions until the cows come home, pitting one piece of the Confessions against the other, until the whole comes crashing down. Ultimately, like all revisionists, they hope to make their end game play in the chaos which ensues from the deconstruction of foundational pillars. They will find, like revisionists before them, that the lord of chaos and lawlessness will not afford them to be master, but only slaves.

    This is not a legitimate debate, anymore than homosexuality is a legitimate debate. We have the Scriptures and the Confessions as norm and rule (canon) for a reason. Let those who disregard the rule and norm, go their way, and leave the Church in peace.

  5. March 2nd, 2012 at 12:03 | #5

    Is there a difference between saying, we are willingly doing thus, and saying, we believe, teach, and confess that thus should be done?

  6. March 2nd, 2012 at 12:26 | #6

    I think it may be helpful to distinguish that there is a difference between contemporary and charismatic worship. Charismatic worship is a modern revivalist liturgy that throws the ancient practice of the church away. The irony is, that those using the “edifying” clause are not doing that. They say “it’s useful and edifying to forget the historic practice of the church,” but if you ask them on what basis they consider this edifying, the answer you will get is most likely noses and nickels. It doesn’t edify. It might provide a satisfying emotional experience, but it doesn’t build Christ-likeness into His disciples, and it doesn’t anchor trust in Christ and commitment to His church. If anything, it has caused congregational loyalty to all but disappear from our culture to the point that people will go wherever has the best show.

    Contemporary worship, on the other hand, is not a new liturgy; it’s a new repertoire and musical genre. It is by no means exclusive from the Lutheran liturgy. In my congregation, we often do “contemporary” worship AND the Divine Service together. Granted, most people wanting a hip and cool praise band are just as eager to throw away the mass and become functionally Baptist, but it doesn’t mean it has to be that way if we lay off the organ for a service or two.

    The Lutheran Service book is full of outstanding material for the ordinary of the mass that is metrical. This means that it can be lead easily by a guitar. We’ll sing the Kyrie @ 943, Gloria @ 947, Credo @ 953, Sanctus @ 961, etc… There is no reason we must adopt a charismatic liturgy just to use the musical expressions of our culture in the divine service.

    Let’s not let the conflict become about style. I say it’s about substance at all costs. If we focus the conversation there, I think we will be able to demonstrate more effectively what is truly edifying to those drawn towards consumer trends. You might be surprised how many pietists become more open to the Divine Service if you just let them do the hymns with their guitar.

  7. Martin R. Noland
    March 2nd, 2012 at 13:13 | #7

    Dear Pastor Higgins,

    Thanks for an excellent first post here at BJS, and for setting the discussion on the right track. There is no doubt that the defenders of “alternative worship” want to avoid some of the confessional passages that are binding on LCMS, WELS, and ELS Lutherans. Your approach of bringing ALL the passages into the discussion is the right one, and will bear good fruit.

    Let me recommend a couple of resources that might be helpful:

    1) John Pless, “The Relationship of Adiaphora and Liturgy in the Lutheran Confessions,” in “And Every Tongue Confess: Essays in honor of Norman Nagel” (Nagel Festschrift Committee, 1990).

    2) John Pless, “Toward a Confessional Lutheran Understanding of Liturgy” LOGIA 2 #2 (Easter 1993): 9-12 (available online at

    3) “For the Sake of Christ’s Commission,” the Report of the Church Growth Study Committee, LCMS, 2001.

    4) “Toward a Theological Basis, Understanding, and Use of Church Growth Principles in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod”, the Church Growth Strategy Task Force of the Standing Commitee for Pastoral Ministry (LCMS, Bd for Higher Ed Services, 1991).

    Also LCMS members need to remember that the requirement for “doctrinally pure” worship (Constitution Article VI.4) applies not only to teaching, preaching, and the doctrinal content of worship texts, but also to practices, i.e., HOW you do worship.

    Keep up the great work!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  8. Karl W. Gregory
    March 2nd, 2012 at 13:28 | #8

    I’m beginning to settle on the terms “American” and “Lutheran” for the two camps. “American Worship” is not Lutheran, and “Lutheran Worship” is not American. My DSIII used with the propers is very contemporary with the day, the Church, and especially through the sermon/homily which brings is all together.

  9. boaz
    March 2nd, 2012 at 17:00 | #9

    Good post. I don’t know how anybody can read those passages and think the historic liturgy is mandatory for all Christian churches everywhere in all time, as rev weinkauf and others seem to believe. They assume changes will be made, and that differences will exist. It’s never been otherwise, and fellowship does not depend on it.

    As far as referring to Lutheran worship, it should include all worship that is property called Christian. Does it convey the Gospel? That is the standard. We can debate whether traditional worship best does that, I think it does, but others have different opinions. Luther talked about getting rid of the altar. Would Luther be unlutheran? Lutheran and confessional are synonymous with christian. If you call something unlutheran or against the confessions, you are calling it unchristian.

  10. Another John
    March 2nd, 2012 at 17:09 | #10

    I believe Miguel in comment #6 has a legitimate point. The historical service CAN be observed using more modern hymns and some different arrangements. Doing this IS NOT compromising on doctrine.

    MY fear is that there does not seem to be sort of guidelines for these new services. Can’t a service be “Lutheran” for example, if our confession is moved to after the Bible lessons and sermon are given so that those new to Christ might understand its need? We that are more mature in our faith understand that we need to confess our sins; there are others who still need to hear the Law & Gospel first, however.

    Now this is not to say that I am prepared to toss the Creeds and the rest out the door; far from it! but if there are hymnns out there that are legitimately “Lutheran”, (In Christ Alone, for example) why not sing them?

    If we truly think about it, the organ was the first synthesizer. Bach was always complaining about the scarcity of musicians and the organ filled the need. Why won’t our respective synods sit down and consider ADDING (not changing or eliminating the existing) a new liturgy with consideration to more modern music? We could then have some uniformity instead of Pastors “winging it” with all the risks of doctrinal error. Isn’t that why we have the liturgies in the front of the hymnals prepared by the synods in the first place?

    We don’t need fireworks and smoke. I’m not ready for a “Praise Band” up front, either. (You’ll find me in the choir at the back of the church during the historical service) But while we do not need to become “of this world”, we ARE in it and we do need to proclaim God’s Word in a language that the world can understand.

    Help me understand why I can’t have what I see as something so simple.

  11. helen
    March 2nd, 2012 at 21:24 | #11

    There are, as Miguel says, hymns and liturgical portions in LSB that can be done with guitar, if you feel the need.

    What most of us “traditional” people see is the Lutheran service orders being thrown out wholesale (and us with them).

  12. Victor
    March 2nd, 2012 at 21:39 | #12

    @Another John #10

    Miguel @6 has a good point; I also agree with Another John @10. As a student at Concordia Ann Arbor I’ve discussed this issue with some of my fellow students who serve on the Spiritual Life/Worship committee for chapel and devotionals. An organ does not imply orthodoxy, just as a guitar does not imply no-holds-barred American evangelicalism. I do agree that what passes for “worship” music today is most often lacking, but I recall a post on Rev. Weedon’s blog highlighting some of our contemporary hymn and songwriters.

    A few of my colleagues have lamented the obvious lack of theological depth in the contemporary catalog of “praise & worship” music, but also the lack of material/arrangements for alternate (some might say “contemporary”) instruments in the liturgy and other services – and I would point out any string/piano/woodwind combination has been around for at least several centuries ;) As much as I love the organ, it would be nice IMO to see other instruments utilized during the liturgy. God has blessed us with the gift to craft many instruments, why resign them to the dust bin with one sweeping gesture? I am also led to think of Rev. Jonathan Fisk’s clips of African Lutherans offering sacrifices of thanksgiving in their local custom, and wonder if many American Christians are more accustomed to guitar arrangements (NOTE: this isn’t an argument for seeker-friendly/entertainment-driven services).

    And one final thing: in the matter of instruction and retention, Evangelicals do have something going for them. The style and structure of praise band music makes it quite memorable, even after a few hearings (and even when it’s not worth remembering… sigh). It would be awesome and edifying if we could do something for our rich heritage of hymnody to make it more memorable. I’ve only been confirmed since last June, but it’s somewhat disheartening when I can barely remember more than the first line or so of most hymns I hear–with the exception of the OT and NT canticles–or even their titles to look up on Youtube. Perhaps it’s because I will only hear that hymn again when it cycles around the following church year. Couldn’t we write songs with repetitive choruses emphasizing the glorious person and work of blessed Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? In any event, I’d rather tap my foot to “Oh Christ You Walked The Road” than to a song sounding eerily similar to something I could sing to my future spouse.

    Peace be with you friends and fathers.

  13. Old Time St. John’s
    March 2nd, 2012 at 21:48 | #13

    What most of us “traditional” people see is the Lutheran service orders being thrown out wholesale (and us with them).

    Yes, we speedbumps…

  14. Rev. Kory Boster
    March 3rd, 2012 at 16:05 | #14

    Victor #10, thank you for your comments. I was particularly glad to hear of your recent confimation. However, I am concerned when you write that you are part of the committee that plans worship. It is a lot to expect a student and recent confirmand to now be the leader. What sort of training or oversight do you receive? You are on the right track when you question the theological shallowness of what is generally sung as “contemporary”. I encourage you to learn the historic hymns, there is depth there. Yes, some hymns sound foreign to modern ears. I don’t imagine any hymn writer (lyric or tune) does so intending to make it as impossible as they can. People of the congregation I serve had basically banned some hymns for being too difficult to sing. It left out some good teaching and encouragment. So we persevered, we took some time and we learned them (well, many of them). What do you think are the characteristices of a good hymn? Do you agree that hymns should stand the test of time, not being shallow or faddish? You too will remember more of the hymns with more time and exposure. Pop songs are meant to be popular, but should that be the measure of hymns? You are right that hymns teach regarding the person and work of God and especially Jesus, and not just to have something to tap a toe to. That means any collection of hymns has to be multi dimensional, clearly christian, with the verbs pointing in the right direction. How do the hymns you choose speak to the breadth of God’s and Jesus’ work? Being sung in a Lutheran worship, do the hymns/songs reinforce Lutheran understandings of Scripture? I don’t understand the theory of music as well as you seem to, but a question I ponder, is it possible for songs written to be toe tapping, “catchy”, and easy to learn, to also have depth and lasting value? My answer is yes, possible, but it’s difficult. And most aren’t. This “praise song cruncher” by Rev Wolfmueller on Colorado might be helpful to analyzing the question:

    For instrumentation on hymns, you might get some ideas from with the cantor Philip Magness at Bethany Lutheran church in Naperville
    or at his blog

    God’s blessings to you in your studies, at school, and in God’s Word.

  15. Rev. Kory Boster
    March 3rd, 2012 at 16:31 | #15

    Another John #10. I agree that we want the worship to be understood. But I think we underestimate worship when we expect it to be simple. Worship is in many ways contrary to my natural way of thinking; it is counter-cultural. It expresses unreasonable things, truths and promises beyond my comprehension or experience.

    My son played soccer. It wasn’t until I had the rules explained, and I had attended a few games, before I began to understand what was going on and why things happened, and it was different from the football I was used to. In school, I had to learn to read. I had to learn to count. It took time, attendance, and patient teaching (and learning). Worship will also need explaining and regular attendance (and I would add, the blessing of the Spirit) before it is “understood” or appreciated. There are difficult Scriptural words and concepts that have to be explained. But faith precedes understanding. So we believe the Spirit is working even as we repeat the words of the liturgy. I see it in the young children who can follow the liturgy. Can I not expect the same of adults? There are theological truths conveyed in the historic liturgy. Pastors will have to intentionally and continually teach the reasons to avoid empty ceremony or lip-service. We should not expect church to be simplistic concerts or raves. Do you agree that worship should look and sound different from what the world offers?

  16. March 3rd, 2012 at 18:45 | #16

    I’m a big fan of doing the Divine Service by-the-book, and keeping confession at the front end. I don’t know if I’d call it heretical to put it in the middle, but I think there’s something to be said for the spiritually formative effect of a consistent flow of ideas in worship.

    For those looking for contemporary expression, Divine Service 2 in the LSB can easily be done ENTIRELY on the guitar. It is mostly metrical and the chords are simple. I recommend using a flute to double the melody because that will be missed when not using the organ.

    My big concern is, do the Lutheran confessions bind us to a consistent use of the ordinary of the mass, or are some of the extra-biblical canticles somewhat optional? I understand the readings, the responses, the creed, the prayers, etc… But as a music director, I’m wondering if “All Hail the Power of Jesus” name is an acceptable alternative to “Gloria in Excelsis.” I recognize a majority of these canticles are pulled directly from scripture and the creed is part of the ordinary. But is it acceptable to keep the spoken liturgy portions and swap out just the songs for more recent, theologically sound options?

  17. Another John
    March 3rd, 2012 at 20:53 | #17

    @Rev. Kory Boster #15

    “We should not expect church to be simplistic concerts or raves. Do you agree that worship should look and sound different from what the world offers?”

    Yes Pastor, I agree. We do offer something that is so much better than what the world has; we have God’s Word. But sound different? Perhaps. I’m not so sure and I’m still working through the idea.

    We want to communicate with the unchurched and those who have left it. We don’t, I believe, want to put up unnecesssary barriers up though either. Here’s an example that most of us have dealt with already, but I think it will help make my point; Church language vs. people language. Look at how English changed from the time of the KJV Bible to now. We have changed translations to deal with it, but wouldn’t you agree that we’ve almost created “Church Speak” that is different the language we use the other six days of the week? How many of us still recite the Lord’s Prayer in the older style? How many of us are in congregations where some almost resent hearing it in modern English? I sometimes wonder if we have members who believe Jesus spoke in Elizabethian English! They insist on saying it “the original way”. I guess we laymen had better learn some Greek!

    Can’t the same be said about the Liturgy? No, not the parts, but rather can’t it be updated, or a more modern version added? The liturgies we use now certainly aren’t original. Look at our hymns; they weren’t all written by Dr. Luther, some even were written in the last century! Modern hymnns are being written every day. They ALL need to be tested so that as another wrote the verbs are headed in the right direction. But surely SOME are.

    I do worry about consistancy throughout our services. I abhor what I see as the wild wild west out there with good intentioned Pastors coming out with their own concoctions. I like to know that the liturgies we use have been reviewed and tested for error. I am comforted to know that when I travel I can attend church and be familiar with the service. I want to worship, I don’t want to have to review what I’m reading for the first time while worshiping, checking it to what we believe. If it’s in the hymnal I have that reassurance.

    I don’t want to see the historical services scrapped. In fact, I believe they will outlive the “contemporary” ones. I believe that our younger, less mature brothers and sisters as they begin to understand more, will, with guidance, migrate over to the traditional ones. But in the meantime, let’s not intimidate them; let’s feed them their milk. We can do that without raves and concerts and praise bands up front, while at the same time giving them a style and tempo of music they understand.

  18. Rev. James Schulz
    March 3rd, 2012 at 20:58 | #18

    @Another John #17

    “How many of us still recite the Lord’s Prayer in the older style?”

    We do at my church for one reason because that’s what most un-churched or de-churched people remember and feel comfortable with. We recite the Lord’s Prayer in KJV to be “real, relevant, and relational.”

  19. Another John
    March 3rd, 2012 at 21:42 | #19

    It’s the way I prefer it as well, if ony for the beauty of the language even if it is a bit archaic.

    But now, what about the Sunday schoolers we’re teaching? Shouldn’t we teach them in a language they understand? Isn’t that the point? We’re going home some day and they’re going to be our church leaders. Don’t we want them to pray instead of recite? How often do we drop thou, thy, thine into our conversations?

    We who’ve been churched for a long time are used to the organ. Others see it as “quaint”. If we can remove a stumbling block so that they can hear His Word, shouldn’t we consider it at least?

  20. March 3rd, 2012 at 21:56 | #20

    @Another John #19

    “We who’ve been churched for a long time are used to the organ. Others see it as “quaint”. If we can remove a stumbling block so that they can hear His Word, shouldn’t we consider it at least?”

    It’s not quite that simple, since many people think that praise bands in the chancel are stumbling blocks to hearing God’s Word.

  21. WELS member
    March 3rd, 2012 at 21:58 | #21

    “How many of us still recite the Lord’s Prayer in the older style? How many of us are in congregations where some almost resent hearing it in modern English?”

    I was used saying the “newer” version for a few years then we transferred to a different congregation nearby. They said the older style at the traditional service and newer style at the contemporary service and kids learned the “newer” version in school and Sunday school. Finally, the church decided to have all the services say it in the “older” way. Now I find myself stumbling through every week so I say kind of a mixed version myself.

  22. Rev. James Schulz
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:10 | #22

    @Another John #19

    I should have said “pray.” We do pray the Lord’s Prayer and our Sunday schoolers understand the language. It’s really not that difficult. But you are correct in that some day we’ll change over to a more contemporary version. But it’s not a battle worth fighting right now in my situation. I only mention it to illustrate the point that one person’s idea of “contemporary” and “relevant” is not necessarily another’s. In fact, my research indicates that the younger generation is starting to look for worship that looks, sounds, and feels not like what they experience at the mall, movie theater, or rock concert. They are looking for a “religious” experience that liturgical worship delivers, complete with organ, smells and bells.

    So, those of you who argue for liturgical worship, just hold on. While other churches change over to contemporary worship forms, the crowds will come back to liturgical churches. Be ahead of the curve.

    Disclaimer: Do liturgical worship not because it’s the next trend, but because it is the best at delivering the forgiveness of sins through Word and Sacrament.

  23. Another John
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:15 | #23

    @Ted Crandall #20
    And I would agree wholeheartedly. The focus is Christ, not musicians or singers and dancers. But why, in the right service, can’t they be back where the organ is? I’m not advocating theatre lights or Pastors in Aloha shirts. I believe we need to be orderly and not disrespectful to any of our membership. I’d prefer always having an historical service if it came down to a choice of just one or the other. But when there is room for a second service and there seems to be a desire for it, why not try adding one? With proper leadership and good fellowship, I believe it is possible to keep just one congregation and not two.

  24. Rev. James Schulz
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:25 | #24

    @Another John #22

    Re: “But when there is room for a second service and there seems to be a desire for it, why not try adding one?”

    Because the divine service is the source and summit of all parish life. It is the only activity of the church where the 16 year old can and should worship with the 60 year old, where people of all races and backgrounds and cultures can and should unite in their expression of faith. In Scripture the church is described as a body where each part is connected and does its part for the benefit of all. Offering a variety of worship “formats” encourages (even though subtly) a divisive and selfish spirit within the body of Christ, the Church.

  25. Another John
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:26 | #25

    @Rev. James Schulz #21
    Pastor, in a round about way, I think we’re saying the same thing. I do believe as newer/younger members do mature, they will come back to the more traditional. But right now, I want them hearing The Word. I want them hearing what Christ has done for us, not some stuff about what He would do.

  26. Another John
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:50 | #26

    @Rev. James Schulz #23
    “Because the divine service is the source and summit of all parish life.”
    I would have hoped it was the Bible. But I think I know what you meant. I will pray and chew on this for a bit.

  27. Rev. James Schulz
    March 3rd, 2012 at 22:56 | #27

    @Another John #26

    The divine service is the source and summit of all parish life because it is the one event in the schedule of the church where most members meet most of the time with the full bounty of God’s grace in Word (the aural Bible) and Sacrament (the visible Bible).

  28. March 4th, 2012 at 08:18 | #28

    @Another John #17
    John, I’m a lawyer. I often find that clients do not understand the language of the law even though we have weeded out most of the legalese and gone to plain common english communication. I am not a doctor, and I find it awfully difficult to understand much of the terminology used by physicians in the medical records with which I work and use in my practice. The same for engineering, construction, music, art, etc. It is the task of those trained and steeped in those disciplines to explain them and make them accessible to your average person. The reason for this is to prevent someone who is untrained in, for example, brain surgery, from picking up a scalpel and operating on you. Rigorous training is required that takes years to initiate someone into one of these disciplines, and yet one of the greatest errors we make in the church is to dispense with the training and teaching, and immediately insert people into the life and worship of the church. A six to eight week course of adult instruction for someone who has been Baptist, Pentecostal, or Church of Christ all their life is not sufficient training and discipleship to gain a good understanding of Lutheran Theology and Practice. Our dear revs here have to spend, for the most part, 4 years in training before they are turned loose on the church at large. And yet what we have taking place in our congregations is that these 6-8 weekers are being admitted directly into the life and worship of the church with no understanding of what the Divine Service is and does, AND being allowed to assume leadership positions that directly affect the worship life of the church (spend some time in the mid-south where we are jettisoning all things Lutheran/sacramental in favor of being like every other emergent, big box church growth church around and you’ll see how this plays out in practice)!!

    Having “church language” rather than “world language” understandable by all gives us all an opportunity to walk with a new denominational convert or christian. Jesus spoke in parables so that outsiders would remain blind, deaf, and dumb (paraphrasing). He gave His church — all who are called out of this world into His body — the meaning of the parables. Those who are called out are sanctified by Christ, set aside for a holy purpose. As Paul says we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds in Christ Jesus, not by conforming to the world in word, deed, teaching, etc. Sure we should teach others in ways that they can understand, using analogies with which they can relate. But Christ’s kingdom is not of this world and the Divine Service is that kingdom manifest for us on earth. And Jesus gave His bride the charge of making disciples through baptizing and teaching. How can we teach if they already know all the language?

  29. Another John
    March 4th, 2012 at 19:51 | #29

    @Andrew Grams #28
    And yet the Holy Spirit had Matthew, Mark & Luke write their Gospels to three different cultures so that they could understand it. And then made sure they were written in the people’s language, koine. Not classical, but rather the common.

    It seems to me that a concerted effort was made to spread the word as far as possible. The point of my reference to “Church Language” vs the world’s language was not that we should dumb down the Word, but rather remove what seems to some as artificial; something that many of us slip into on Sunday only to take off and hang up with our suits until next Sunday. Sometimes I think (and I have not concluded this yet) that Gregorian chants don’t help this. We as a group don’t do a very good job of living the Word and are rightfully called on it by the world.

    Our Lutheran seminaries are somewhat unique. We insist on our Pastors to learn the ancient tongues so that they can read the scriptures themselves and not rely on what someone has told them what they say. Time after time we’ve been shown we’re right in our understanding of the Word. Our seminaries produce good theologians, but how much time is spent on “pastoring”? (No, I’m not talking about teaching psychobabble, but relating to the unchurched in a way they can understand us.)

    I’m not advocating eliminating our liturgies. I’m not advocating abandoning the Church year or not protecting the Lord’s Supper. None of those things. I don’t want the Spiritually dead telling us how to run our church, either. But I do want to to remove unnecessary stumbling blocks. I’m not sure of how we do this.

  30. Another John
    March 4th, 2012 at 19:57 | #30

    I am enjoying and learning from this conversation, BTW.

  31. Rev. James Schulz
    March 4th, 2012 at 20:08 | #31

    @Another John #29

    Which words do you consider stumbling blocks?:

    Saints? (Actually, the NIV11 has already eliminated that word)

    There is no way around the fact that the culture of church is counter cultural and should be. Those coming in from the world are just going to have to be patient and learn “church speak” because many of the words the church uses best communicates the biblical message it intends to convey. In fact, the world will never understand.

    I don’t expect my doctor to change the way he talks about my medical condition. If he says I have angina, I’m not going to criticize him or expect him to ask me next time we meet “how’s that chest pain caused by reduced blood flow to the heart muscle?”

  32. Martin R. Noland
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:37 | #32

    Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Since the title of this post refers to “all of the confessions,” I direct your attention, if you are seriously interested in this topic, to the single best resource published right now; James L Brauer, “Worship, Gottesdienst, Cultus Dei” (St Louis: CPH, 2005); available here:

    Dr. Brauer’s book contains full text of all the passages in the Book of Concord that deal with worship, along with some commentary. He doesn’t set forth his own opinion or interpretation, just the text themselves with minimal necessary commentary.

    As Pastor Higgins reminds us, all pastors, other LCMS church-workers, and congregations have vowed, through membership in the synod, to uphold the Book of Concord and everything in it “without reservation.” This is not a matter of my opinion versus yours. These are plain and simple texts that have to be upheld and properly applied. If you disagree with the Book of Concord, you ARE free to leave the church.

    Proper application of these confessional texts will first ask: “What type of proposition is this? Prescriptive, proscriptive, or descriptive.” If prescriptive or proscriptive, then application is straightforward. “Prescriptive” means you must do this. “Proscriptive” means you must not do this.

    “Descriptive” propositions are more complex. They explain what was happening in the 16th century Lutheran church. It can be difficult to determine whether they are prescriptive-for-us, proscriptive-for-us, or simply historically descriptive and not applicable to us today, but it doesn’t mean it is impossible to determine these things for such passages.

    Finally, you need to pay careful attention to the definition of terms as they were used in the 16th century. You need to ask what all is included in a term and what is excluded. For example, the Lutheran Confessions frequently use the term “Mass.” Why do they sometimes approve of that term and sometimes disapprove of it? How can you tell which meaning is being used?

    All of our pastors have been taught these principles of interpretation, or at least they used to be taught them (I have no idea what persons without M.Div. degrees have been taught; or what they know about interpreting texts). So, at least the pastors with M.Div. degrees should be able to come to some sort of consensus on what is required, forbidden, and allowed in worship for LCMS congregations. If laymen learn the principles of interpretation, and are willing to apply them in an objective way, then they can make a contribution too.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  33. Another John
    March 5th, 2012 at 21:55 | #33

    @Rev. James Schulz #31
    None of those words. Those are all apropriate to study in depth so that someone new can understand exactly what we mean by them. They are important in truly understanding how amazing the Gospel is.

    I’m not doing well at making my thoughts clear. We’ve actually wandered a bit from where my question is.

    I would love it if somehow we could inject a newcomer to church with an instant understanding of just exactly what we’re doing as we worship. I understand these things do become apparent with time. Being a Lutheran christian all my life, I was raised with the Liturgy. I’m not puzzled by it; I find it a comfort. Just as was posted earlier, this is a moment where that 16 year old and that 60 year old do “commune”. I certainly wouldn’t want to estrange our current membership. Yet, we are to preach to ALL nations. That means the young, unchurched, too.

    We do need to trust in the Holy Spirit as we do our work. But that doesn’t necessarily mean we can refuse to update our service (not dilute it) at the risk of creating a church museum. What do we lose if we use a more modern style of music, or create new lyrics is we’re saying/singing the same thanks or praises? Bear in mind now, I’m not advocating tossing what we have out. What I am asking is why can’t we ADD an alternative that has been peer reviewed for error?

    Whoops, getting called away to work… be back.

  34. Rev. James Schulz
    March 5th, 2012 at 22:37 | #34

    @Another John #33

    Perhaps an analogy would be helpful. I am “unchurched” (but not so young) when it come to the game of cricket, you know, that weird English kind of like American baseball sport. The history of the game of cricket goes back to the 16th century. The game is so embedded in not only English culture but also American culture that even I use terms such as “sticky wicket” and “bowled over.” Cricket is so influential that in the late 19th century, a former cricket player living in Brooklyn, New York was responsible for the development of most of the common statistics and tables used to describe American baseball.

    I would not expect the game of cricket to change for me because I don’t understand or appreciate the game. I would not expect cricket players to dress, speak, or play the game differently in order to make the game more popular with me or anyone else. I would have to adjust my taste and expectations to cricket, not the other way around.

    The same is true for the Liturgy of the historic universal Christian Church. It has been fine-tuned over the centuries to best deliver the forgiveness of sins through Word and Sacrament. We can do some things to help the un-churched (and the insiders) understand the Liturgy better (English instead of Latin/German; print out the service in full, and yes, new musical settings), but an overhaul of the basic structure of the Liturgy is not necessary.

    Unfortunately, those who advocate an alternate worship experience are offering the format of the Evangelicals, which teaches a theology that the Spirit comes to people not through Word and Sacrament.

    Even the famous Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL, founded by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy has abandoned the “traditional” vs. “contemporary” service dichotomy because according to the current pastor “the result was the unintentional development of two different churches under one roof. And it wasn’t healthy.” Read the story here:

  35. March 7th, 2012 at 16:08 | #35

    @Another John #29
    Don’t confuse mission/outreach with the Divine Service. The first is the Spirit working through each of us in our vocations through the Word to draw unbelievers (As an aside: I do not like the word “unchurched” because it implies that people are already saved they just don’t know it, and all they need to do is be churched, that is attend church and that’s what makes you saved.) into the Body of Christ which is the church. The second is where God comes to man in Christ gathered around Word and Sacrament through the servant of the Pastor where we receive the gifts of forgiveness, life, strengthening of faith in the preached Word and the Body and Blood of Christ placed on our tongues. In the Divine Service, we are made holy and acceptable to God. And contrary to outsiders’ opinions, the Divine Service is NOT for unbelievers, but for believers in Christ.

    “It seems to me that a concerted effort was made to spread the word as far as possible. The point of my reference to “Church Language” vs the world’s language was not that we should dumb down the Word, but rather remove what seems to some as artificial; something that many of us slip into on Sunday only to take off and hang up with our suits until next Sunday.”

    I did not read into your statements that you were suggesting dumbing anything down. I do hear in what you are saying, though, that maybe critiques from outsiders should influence our practices. In the days of Roman persecutions early in the life of the church, believers were described as cannibals because we feast on the Body and Blood of Christ. Thank God the Words of Institution have not been changed!

    I do get what you are saying, and that is we do need to do a better job of teaching the faithful to articulate what we believe, teach and confess. The converse of that is also true: we need to be better hearers and learners. Teaching requires disciples who submit to the authority of the teacher, and are committed to learning what is being taught. The ultimate teacher is God the Father in the person and work of Jesus Christ, working through the Spirit in Word and Sacrament. His Word is life and comfort. Above all, it is truth. Many doubt that the Word is indeed true, and think that the pastor preaching on Sunday morning is just speaking his opinion of what He thinks God said or did. That leaves the hearer then to pick and choose what he wants to believe as true, and dismiss many things simply because they seem artificial. Which brings us back around to the purpose of the post — what does God’s Word say about the Divine Service and what do we, as Lutherans, confess the Scriptures have to say about Divine Service? How are we to apply these to questions like we are discussing now?

    “What do we lose if we use a more modern style of music, or create new lyrics is we’re saying/singing the same thanks or praises? Bear in mind now, I’m not advocating tossing what we have out. What I am asking is why can’t we ADD an alternative that has been peer reviewed for error?”

    It’s funny, those are the questions that should have been asked on the front end of the worship debate, years ago. Too often, though, at least as I see it we succumb to manipulation, emotion, and fear whether based on numbers, parents realizing their kids aren’t coming to church, or the church is shrinking due to age, disinterest, or whatever reason. The response has been do whatever is necessary to reach them using whatever methods are out there, and we’ll check the consequences later. But absolutely, we have to ask those questions and have real discussions about them. I think I would ask, though, what do Scripture and our confessions permit us to do in the Divine Service? How can we act within the freedom we are given and remain faithful to Scripture and our confessions (NOT how far can we depart from Scripture and our confessions and still remain faithful — which many are now not so much asking, but actually doing, but that is a whole other discussion)?

  36. Another John
    March 7th, 2012 at 17:56 | #36

    @Andrew Grams #35

    Thank you. You’ve fomulated my thoughts and questions better in one post than I have in all of mine.

  37. March 8th, 2012 at 14:17 | #37

    @Another John #36 You’re welcome. I have had a lot of recent experience wrestling with these questions. The folks around BJS are great resources, teachers, and learners.

  38. helen
    March 8th, 2012 at 16:42 | #38

    @Another John #33
    Yet, we are to preach to ALL nations. That means the young, unchurched, too.

    We are preaching to the “young [formerly unbelieving]” in liturgical services here. And they understand it!
    Do you suppose they might understand it in your neck of the woods, too, if you were teaching them?

    “What Andrew Grams said.” :) Thanks, Andrew.

    I think I would ask, though, what do Scripture and our confessions permit us to do in the Divine Service? How can we act within the freedom we are given and remain faithful to Scripture and our confessions (NOT how far can we depart from Scripture and our confessions and still remain faithful — which many are now not so much asking, but actually doing, but that is a whole other discussion)?

  39. helen
    March 9th, 2012 at 13:07 | #39

    @Rev. James Schulz #18
    “How many of us still recite the Lord’s Prayer in the older style?”

    We do, and have done in the several LCMS churches I have attended in the last 10-15 years, even the one being led into “CG”.

    A professor at an elca school in the area abandoned his reputation as a Luther scholar to become a “liberation theologian” [Is that fad still functioning?] but he drew the line at the “modern” Lord’s Prayer. That prayer, he said, should be the same for his daughter and his grandmother.

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