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

November 20th, 2012 Post by

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.






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  1. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 13:14 | #1

    @Miguel #46

    > 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.

    You may be right but are you talking about LCMS CoWo?  I’ve never been to an LCMS service that looked like a rock concert, but I have read about them.  I just don’t know that they represent the majority.  The LCMS CoWo services I’ve attended have been pretty tame and conventional.

  2. November 21st, 2012 at 13:21 | #2

    @Rev. McCall #41
    Yes, Pastor McCall, you understood me — and did not explain my words in an unkind way. Thank you.

    The question was why we should worry about what the LCMS church across town/state/nation is doing. (It sounded like “NUNYA!”) (I intended to shout, imitating those who cry, “None of your @#$%! business!”)

    It certainly is our business what our brothers in the faith are doing. If my brother pastor saw me leading my flock away from the cross of Christ and he decided to just mind his own business, shame on him! Doesn’t he care about his neighbor, least of all me? If I were unwittingly leading my flock astray, I should want to know. I love my flock and want to lead them to the springs of living water. (Not to mention that a stricter judgment awaits those who would be teachers.)

    I was pithy in my earlier response, because it is such a waste of breath, trying to convince these innovators that they are causing division in the Body of Christ.

    Luke 16:31

  3. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 13:37 | #3

    @Pastor Ted Crandall #2

    You are absolutely correct in worrying about a brother pastor leading his flock away from the cross of Christ. Right or wrong, the majority of LCMS pastors and laymen don’t think having a contemporary service does this. I believe it is those who insist on imposing their worship style on everyone that are causing division in the Body of Christ.

  4. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:12 | #4

    @Rev. Loren Zell #30

    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.

    Hey, so just change the album cover art and you can sell it in the various markets. Then the kids in public schools can all sing the same songs to their various deities!! Unity!!

    Everything so vague it means something different to each one who hears it, therefore we can all agree on the words (if not what they mean) It is the exact opposite of say what you mean and mean what you say.

  5. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:25 | #5

    John Rixe :

    I do see the Alley promoting some Bible centered teaching:
    http://www.thealley.org/about-us/what-we-believe

    From the website:

    7: SACRAMENT – WE TREASURE AND CELEBRATE THE SACRAMENTS
    (Matthew 28:16-20; Titus 3:5; Romans 6:1-11; 1 Corinthians 11:17-23)
    Sacrament is not a Biblical word but it is used to describe Biblical things that God commanded us to do. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are connected to Jesus. They point us to Jesus sacrifice, death and resurrection. They remind us of our sin and bathe us the hope of new life through Him. Jesus commands us to Baptize in His name and to celebrate the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.

    Could a baptist agree with this? I am thinking yes, because I attended a baptist church for a few years when I was in high school. What do you think of this phrasing?

    How does it compare and what does it imply vs. the Small Catechism:

    What is Baptism?–Answer.

    Baptism is not simple water only, but it is the water comprehended in God’s command and connected with God’s Word.

    Which is that word of God?–Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Matthew: Go ye into all the world and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

    Secondly.

    What does Baptism give or profit?–Answer.

    It works forgiveness of sins, delivers from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare.

    Which are such words and promises of God? Answer.

    Christ, our Lord, says in the last chapter of Mark: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

    Thirdly.

    How can water do such great things?–Answer.

    It is not the water indeed that does them, but the word of God which is in and with the water, and faith, which trusts such word of God in the water. For without the word of God the water is simple water and no baptism. But with the word of God it is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.

    Does the Alley’s paraphrase really imply what the Small Catechism states about baptism?

    What is the Sacrament of the Altar?

    It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine, for us Christians to eat and to drink, instituted by Christ Himself.

    Where is this written?

    The holy Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and St. Paul, write thus:

    Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same night in which He was betrayed, took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is My body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of Me.

    After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Take, drink ye all of it. This cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the remission of sins. This do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.

    What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?

    That is shown us in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins; namely, that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

    How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?

    It is not the eating and drinking, indeed, that does them, but the words which stand here, namely: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins. Which words are, beside the bodily eating and drinking, as the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins.

    Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?

    Fasting and bodily preparation is, indeed, a fine outward training; but he is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: Given, and shed for you, for the remission of sins.

    But he that does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit; for the words For you require altogether believing hearts.

    Does the Alley’s statement seem to imply these ideas?

    I know it is much shorter than the statements in the Small Catechism, but does it seem harmonious or does it seem insufficient?

  6. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:30 | #6

    @Mrs. Hume #5

    It seems insufficient due to space constraints. Don’t think a web surfer is expecting much of an exhaustive analysis.

  7. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:33 | #7

    I still think that “definitions” is the reason we never get anywhere in these discussions.  Some of us define CoWo in terms of hard rock and fog machines. Others define CoWo simply in terms of DS4 with guitars.  We’re not talking about the same thing.

  8. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:35 | #8

    John Rixe :
    @Pastor Ted Crandall #2
    You are absolutely correct in worrying about a brother pastor leading his flock away from the cross of Christ. Right or wrong, the majority of LCMS pastors and laymen don’t think having a contemporary service does this. I believe it is those who insist on imposing their worship style on everyone that are causing division in the Body of Christ.

    Causing division and leading astray are two different things. So, I am not clear as to what you mean. When there was no contemporary worship, there was no division over worship style, right? So how can the original style cause division? The division has to be caused by the innovators. Again division is not necessarily leading people away from Christ. These are two different things. People could go to contemporary services and agree with everything in the Small Catechism. So, the question is do they? I will assume that they do because I don’t know otherwise. Does anyone else know differently?

  9. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:41 | #9

    John Rixe :
    I still think that “definitions” is the reason we never get anywhere in these discussions.  Some of us define CoWo in terms of hard rock and fog machines. Others define CoWo simply in terms of DS4 with guitars.  We’re not talking about the same thing.

    Yeah, definitions are the problem. One is clearly defined: LSB. The other is essentially undefined and the advocates resist defining it in an orderly service book like a hymnal. Therefore it can never be judged because it can never be defined. It is constantly changing. At most one could say that one contemporary service at one place at one time was lacking something. To which advocates can say, well that is not exactly what they do. And that is true. It is different every week in every place. Some call that a feature. Some call it a bug. Is it good order?

  10. Bob Carey
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:44 | #10

    @Polly #17 first page

    Polly :
    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.

    Agree here. An important part of congregational singing of hymns is to encourage one another. It’s hard to use your vocal talents to be part of the encouragement of faith when you don’t have the music in front of you.

    I might also add another annoyance of singing contemporary worship songs. Why does the chorus or a portion of a chorus get repeated two to four times at the end of song, often with musical interludes in between the chorus? Did we really not take to heart the chorus the last time we sang it? Did the chorus really say enough about Christ’s work that it deserved two more repeats?

    I could dare some organist to repeat just the lines “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand” three times at the end of the hymn — and maybe with eight bar all stop fortissimo interludes between the repeats for good measure — but I think this would just distract from the Gospel message.

    The repeat of choruses seems more like revivalism to try to get some feeling of faith rather than letting the Word work through song. Any opinions?

  11. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:45 | #11

    Original style doesn’t cause division.  I prefer original style.  Those who insist on imposing original style on everyone cause division IMO.  

  12. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:48 | #12

    @Mrs. Hume #9

    Your point is well taken. I favor everyone using synod approved worship materials.

  13. Jim Hamilton
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:55 | #13

    @John Rixe #12

    I like it when pastors write their own “versions” of the Creeds. No danger there at all. Very sound practice.

  14. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 14:57 | #14

    John Rixe :
    Original style doesn’t cause division.  I prefer original style.  Those who insist on imposing original style on everyone cause division IMO.  

    Yeah, not so sure here. Step one, adopt the worship style of another denomination that doesn’t teach what we teach. Step two, some original members are offended. Some original members complain that introducing the new style implies the teaching of the denomination where the style came from. Step three, blame original members for causing division. I just say this to illustrate how I am looking at it.

  15. November 21st, 2012 at 15:05 | #15

    @John Rixe #7
    FWIW, DS4 does work very well with guitar, and so does DS2. ELCA has a guitar edition of the liturgy for their book, and not just for the hymns like us. CPH, let’s get a guitar edition of the liturgy out so that organ-phobes can make full use of the LSB!

  16. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 15:05 | #16

    @Bob Carey #10

    I agree, Bob.  The repetitive choruses make me want to run downstairs and drink bleach.  On the other hand, can you understand the many thousands of fellow Lutherans that find organ music dreary and weird?  That’s why choice doesn’t seem so bad to me.

  17. Carol Broome
    November 21st, 2012 at 15:07 | #17

    @Mrs. Hume #14
    And then there is Step four–when your children move to a new town and look for a familiar church to affiliate with, the familiar-feeling one is not Lutheran. Biggest danger in the pack.

  18. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 15:14 | #18

    John Rixe :
    @Bob Carey #10
    I agree, Bob.  The repetitive choruses make me want to run downstairs and drink bleach.  On the other hand, can you understand the many thousands of fellow Lutherans that find organ music dreary and weird?  That’s why choice doesn’t seem so bad to me.

    If you have heard it every week for your whole life since you were born, how can it be weird sounding? It has to be familiar just because you have heard it so much. Now, that is not the same as loving it. I see that. I have heard Kumbayah my whole life but it never appealed to me. It isn’t weird. Well, it is because it makes no sense, but not in the sense of unfamiliar.

    My concern about contemporary is that youngsters will not get to learn the liturgy in the first place and will be like orphans in own their grandparents church. I think we fail them when we don’t pass it on. We got it, but then we turn around and withhold it from the next generation. It makes me uncomfortable. Like who are we to take these children’s inheritance from them?

  19. John Rixe
    November 21st, 2012 at 15:22 | #19

    @Carol Broome #17
    @Mrs. Hume #18

    Your arguments are good. Catechesis IMO is the most important inheritance to pass on.

    I’m dropping out now since I’m beginning to annoy even myself.

  20. Mrs. Hume
    November 21st, 2012 at 15:33 | #20

    John Rixe :
    @Mrs. Hume #5
    It seems insufficient due to space constraints. Don’t think a web surfer is expecting much of an exhaustive analysis.

    Maybe web surfers are as different as contemporary worship services and some are looking for something very clear and definitive while others are looking for something that they can read their own beliefs into and others are just killing time. :D

  21. November 21st, 2012 at 15:51 | #21

    @John Rixe #1
    John, let me tell you about my CoWo experiences.

    I attend a Lutheran church that is actually not the closest LCMS church to me. I bypass another LCMS in order to attend the one I’m interested in joining now. Let me explain why with a little bit of history.

    When I was a junior in high school and had a “conversion experience,” I left my hymn-singing Baptist church for a more hip non-denominational pentecostal church that had a “praise band/orchestra” along with a choir. Driving beats, catchy choruses (many of which focused on our victories with God on the side), and an OCCASIONAL hymn thrown in at “prayer time,” where the pastor would come forward and call on the Spirit, in which many people “spoke in tongues” (never mind that the manner in which speaking tongues occurs in Scripture is NOTHING like what it is in pentecostalism). From there, I spent the better part of seven or eight years involved with the pentecostal movement, and especially in the Assemblies of God. Lots of music like this, and lots of belief (expressed either expressly or implicitly) that the good feelings and dancing rhythms we experienced were the work of the Holy Spirit working in us, and that we “weren’t being moved” if we weren’t animated during song time. Plus, it HAD to be the Holy Spirit if the worship leader was moved to repeat a chorus a second, or third, or ninth time, because God was supposedly moving people to come to the altar. And if you didn’t come to the altar… well, something was wrong with you.

    When I met my wife (then girlfriend), she was attending a Nazarene church that was just starting to dabble with contemporary music. While most of the music was still hymn-centered, there were a few choruses thrown in here and there (some of which were decent, some not). The church had an orchestra with a drummer (a friend of mine btw) that was starting to play more “contemporary” beats instead of the more march-oriented percussion sequences that were used in the service.

    Within two years, the shift was even stronger to contemporary music. The music pastor was still using the orchestra, but the songs were shifting in favor of the choruses, and the hymns were taking a backseat role at best (in some services they were not used at all). At the time I was still into the CoWo style, but I noted that some of the choruses really didn’t carry some of the theological weight that the hymns did (I’d also like to say that I was working as a radio DJ for a Christian station on Sunday nights, and was introduced to this little show known as Issues, Etc. with a host named Don Matzat).

    After marrying my wife, I joined the orchestra/praise band as the bass player. By then the music was anything but traditional. Even for the brief time in which there were two services (one contemporary, the other traditional), the “traditional” was just the contemporary with a little less drum and guitar. Before long, the traditional/contemporary division was scrapped in favor of what is basically now just contemporary, and it became bigger, louder, and longer over the next few years. The hostility to traditional music was a bit shocking: the guitarist I worked with had (and to my knowledge still has) a tremendous hate for anything that even looks like a hymn; ironic considering that this attitude is often applied to traditionalists by CoWos.

    Over time, the music became more and more emotional-based. We did a piece that was basically an eight minute tear-jerk song that had a theme flirting with Word of Faith/prosperity teaching (look up the song “Something Happens” sometime). We had a song addressing Satan (“Satan the blood of Jesus is against you”). We had a song that had no mention of God whatsoever (“You’re all I want”). And we did these songs more than one time. We had a music pastor who essentially said that he wanted to “blow the congregation away.” That comment was the straw that broke my back, and I resigned from the band.

    I didn’t want to set foot in the music portion of the service from then on. Other things happened which contributed to my departure from the Nazarene church (changed theological understanding for starters, as well as the church bringing in a man who claimed to literally raise people from the dead) but the contemporary service sure didn’t help to keep us there.

    When we left, we discussed options for church. I opted to try out a LCMS church just to the north of us, so we visited this church for a confirmation service for one of my students (I’m a Spanish teacher, although I’d rather be selling more of my books as an author, but that’s for another discussion…). In that service, I heard four contemporary songs, two of which were bankrupt of any sound theology at all. I don’t mean weak theology; I mean NO theology. The lyrics basically said something about “The tide rolling in over us” with only oblique references to God. One of the musicians (the keyboardist, I believe) shouted “Hallelujah” or let out some sort of whoop after almost every line of singing, and was basically trying to whip up the congregation into emotionalism. Now, granted, it wasn’t as bad as what one would find in, say, a pentecostal service, but it was quite obvious that several were more interested in grooving to the rhythm than hearing and believing the spoken Word of God. There was a strong encouragement in the direction of experiential “spirituality and audibly and visibly expressing that “moving of the Spirit,” something that 1.) is not found in Scripture and 2.) takes attention off God and puts the attention on the congregants and their experiences, mistaking a feeling they might get at a One Direction or Lady Gaga concert for the Holy Spirit.

    After this came the preacher, dressed and frankly acting in a way that resembled Joel Osteen more than the traditional garb of a Lutheran minister (while I don’t believe that the robe and stole are dire for preaching, there’s something about them that evokes reverence and seriousness when the pastor steps into the pulpit), and he basically talked in a way that sounded more like a Baptist/pentecostal/Nazarene than any sort of Lutheran. Lots of law, lots of woes over America’s bad situation, with a bit of gospel thrown somewhere in there. I left that service thoroughly disappointed.

    Now, I have come to a church that employs the divine service, and I love it. I love the tradition, the structure. I love that the musicians are not center stage but back behind the congregation, so that they don’t become the focus of the service. I love that the hymns are rich in theology and not 7-11 songs (seven words sung eleven times). I love that the music does not override the words (This happens often in CoWo, where good lyrics are overshadowed by the instrumentation and the rhythm). I love that my mind is engaged on what is being said in the songs, rather than becoming distracted by urban grooves or a singer who wants to be the center of attention with improvised embellisment on her song lines. I love that the music is there to undergird the service, not take the place of it. I love that there is order and structure, and that the musicians are not permitted free reign to do another chorus fifty times. I love that the emphasis is on God’s glorification and not my emotional satisfaction or my preference as to rhythm or instrumentation. And I love that I have a connection with my Christian fathers and forefathers who worshiped with many of these very same songs.

    In short, I love the fact that music is where it should be.

    Now, you may be saying, John, that “You can have all of that with a CoWo service too!” Perhaps. But in my experience-and I’ve had literally years of experience in this-when you start going in the direction of CoWo, more often than not it evolves into a form of entertainment and emotional manipulation that seems to follow the world. The Nazarene church I attended just wanted to “test the waters” with regard to CoWo; they now have a front area that is more akin to a soundstage in look and sound than to a church. Where does the process stop? How contemporary is contemporary enough? What happens when the world changes it style? Where do you draw the line at contemporary? I mean, hey, why not have a heavy metal service if it draws people in? Why not have a techno service? Or how about a pair of big screens up front with awesomely produced videos? How about people getting emotionally worked up in the service? How do you deal with them when they claim it’s the Holy Spirit moving them (this pentecostal phenomenon is spreading into other denominations by the way)? How do you handle it when the music becomes more important than the administration of the Word and Sacraments?

    Do you see the problem? When you start moving in the direction of making your church service “hip” and “contemporary,” you start down a slipperly slope. And it’s not as easy to get off this slope as you may think, because it’s a step in the direction of relevancy and pragmatism. Where does your line become drawn?

    I have no doubt that you (John) and other CoWo advocates think that you’re doing this to honor God and to help your church. God bless you for your heart and intentions! But I’m telling you that I’ve been down this road, that I’ve seen where it goes, and that CoWo has a great many unintended consequences that accompany it as well… and many of those consequences are not good. The Lutheran Divine Service has a refreshing aspect to it that I have NEVER experienced in a CoWo. It is a service that makes me better spiritually, theologically, doctrinally, and morally (Yes, Lutherans: there is a place for the third use of the law ;) ). It brings the gospel in a rich and powerful way that the CoWo has to bolster with lights and f/x, and can obscure the gospel in the process.

    I went longer than I intended for this; for that I apologize. But the words had to be said, and the truth has to be known. Lutherans, hold tight to what you have. You don’t need to evangelicalism’s constant flirtation with worldly things in order to have good church.

  22. November 21st, 2012 at 16:37 | #22

    Mrs. Hume :When there was no contemporary worship, there was no division over worship style, right? So how can the original style cause division? The division has to be caused by the innovators.

    (worth repeating)

  23. Lumpenkönig
    November 21st, 2012 at 22:13 | #23

    J. Dean :
    @John Rixe #1
    Do you see the problem? When you start moving in the direction of making your church service “hip” and “contemporary,” you start down a slipperly slope. And it’s not as easy to get off this slope as you may think, because it’s a step in the direction of relevancy and pragmatism. Where does your line become drawn?

    Relevancy and pragmatism:

    http://issuesetc.org/2012/11/21/1-mans-failed-attempts-to-reach-god-rationalism-and-pragmatism-pr-jonathan-fisk-112112/

  24. Matt B
    November 21st, 2012 at 23:01 | #24

    I strongly dislike the assumption that advocates for contemporary music are only trying to pander to the perceived desires of the world.

    I generally dislike the majority of contemporary Christian music but at verse 9 of the Te Deum in Matins I start to feel pretty confounded myself. Is it permissible to have traditional hymns (or even modern hymns that faithfully draw on Scripture rather than speculation) played on the piano rather than the organ?

    As for worship wars, it takes two to tangle.

  25. helen
    November 21st, 2012 at 23:26 | #25

    @Matt B #24
    Of course you can play the divine service on the piano. Whoever said you couldn’t?
    I love the organ, but a good pianist is better than a bad organist.

    Our church has an organ and a piano and both are used on occasion, as well as a brass ensemble and a bell choir. The point is not the instrument, but the quality of the hymns and whether the instrumentalists enhance or drown out the congregational singing.

  26. November 22nd, 2012 at 12:40 | #26

    It’s this simple: Show me an example of casual, informal worship in Holy Scripture. The very word that we translate “worship” means “to prostrate oneself in reverence.”

    It’s also this simple: Show me an example of worship being designed for prospective “seekers” and/or the “unchurched” (a.k.a. unbelievers) in Holy Scripture.

    I’ve been waiting for 20 years for proponents of Contemporary Worship among Lutherans to provide such Scriptural examples of what they advocate. Something tells me that I’ll be waiting another 20 years (and more).

    In fact, what we find in Holy Scripture is God condemning the Israelites whenever they tweak their worship practices in order to appeal to, or incorporate the practices of, their surrounding culture. Time and time and time again. I’m guessing that He’s probably trying to tell us something. ;)

  27. November 23rd, 2012 at 08:28 | #27

    @Matt B #24
    If the Te Deum of Matins is confounding for you, you should probably pay attention to what is being said. The truth delivered in that canticle is one of the most beautiful confessions and prayers, period. This is not a subjective opinion, the Te Deum, in any musical arrangement, contains the Gospel and the Christian faith. Either you’re missing the boat on that one, or they don’t mean that much to you.

    Of course it can be done on the piano. Churches do that all the time. Come to my church and we’ll do it on the guitar (though we don’t do matins often). The problem, IMO, is not with the lack of traditional churches being willing to expand their instrumentation. Traditional churches have always had ways to include variety from a fully graded choir program, organs, pianos, handbells, hand percussion, wind and string instruments. The problem is that “contemporary” churches refuse to use a traditional Lutheran approach to worship with their modern instrumentation. Find me LCMS churches singing the Te Deum with their praise bands. You won’t. They’re the ones being dogmatic and inflexible, which they ironically accuse traditionalists of.

  28. Mrs. Hume
    November 23rd, 2012 at 12:26 | #28

    As for worship wars, it takes two to tangle.

    Walking down the street, a man grabs my daughter’s purse. I grab him. He hits me. I hit him back. The struggle continues.

    I call out to a passerby who notes, “It takes two to tangle.”

    Basically I reject that calling into question the quality and fidelity of a practice and being opposed by the innovators somehow constitutes nothing more than a disagreement to which no objective standards may be employed by either side of the argument.

  29. Jim Hamilton
    November 23rd, 2012 at 19:51 | #29

    @Mrs. Hume #28

    This is such a terrific point. Well said.

  30. November 27th, 2012 at 11:21 | #30

    Love the reference to Better Off Dead!

    There’s another way that that movie applies, the assumption in the movie is that the old parents are well meaning but too stupid to understand the problems faced by the teenagers.

    It’s a common comic foil used in movies to make teens feel superior and that helps the movie makers separate the teens from their money.

    But this naiveté of youth is also played out in the Church when members and pastors also assume that we moderns are so much wiser in our contemporary experience than all those who have gone before us in the history of the Church.

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