Some Thoughts on Worship in Chapel: A Response to Rev. Robert Weinkauf’s Post
This blog (at least the few posts I’ve actually made) has focused on my expertise in church history. I have desired to avoid commenting on any current issues within the Synod on this site because many others already do that here. By the way, I will finally be completing the third part on the controversy on the Lord’s Supper between Luther and Zwingli and their colleagues during the Reformation in the near future. It may relate to the subject of this current blog post.
As a history professor at Concordia University, Nebraska I have a different perspective than Rev. Robert Weinkauf. However, I don’t discount his view nor feel insulted by what he wrote. (That might be easy for me to write since he didn’t criticize my history lectures.) He wrote about his experience from his own perspective. Our administration, chaplain, faculty, and students need to hear his perspective and shouldn’t overreact to criticism. First, I know Pastor Ryan Matthias and believe he understands Lutheran theology and does an admirable job as a servant of the Word for our students, staff, and faculty. I don’t think one can evaluate a man’s ministry based on one 10 minute message. Additionally, I’d like to point out that during chapel on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at Concordia University, Nebraska, we use the Lutheran Service Book. Every Wednesday we celebrate the Lord’s Supper with one of the services from the LSB. Additionally, a group of students choose to conduct Evening Prayer from the LSB on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.
Despite having written these things, I do agree with Rev. Weinkauf’s sentiment regarding the use pop/rock music in chapel or during the Divine Service. I do not believe that rock music and multi-colored stage lighting (that looks exactly like a pop/rock concert) is proper for chapel or Christian worship. Many of us, who became Lutheran because we were fleeing the charismatic-style worship and faulty theology of American Evangelicalism, simply can’t understand why Lutherans would want to squander their rich liturgical heritage for the ever-changing style of post-modern pop/rock music. When we hear pop/rock music in worship, we can only imagine the unbiblical theological traditions that deny baptismal regeneration, the presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Lord’s Supper, the power of Holy Absolution, and the unmerited gift of faith in Christ. That’s certainly my experience and it’s why I don’t often attend chapel on Thursday or Friday. Perhaps, that means we are the weaker brothers and sisters in this situation. If that’s the case, then our brothers and sisters, who may be stronger in faith, should be patient with us and seriously consider the offense to our consciences in this matter.
Unfortunately, our Synod’s congregations, pastors, and commissioned ministers are simply not in agreement on this issue. Can we have American Evangelical style with biblical, Lutheran substance? I believe the answer is no. Others disagree with me. The worship at Concordia’s chapel reflects this reality. Perhaps, our Synod’s Koinonia Project can lead to greater reflection on this matter and closer agreement. Meanwhile, let’s remember that true Christian charity should prevail among us. That divine love may compel us to bear with our fellow Christians’ faults or reconsider how our actions might offend the consciences of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
In the spirit of peace I would like to propose a compromise regarding worship at Concordia University, Nebraska. I propose that worship in chapel on weekday mornings should be conducted with the services located in our Lutheran Service Book. There are many choices there. Then, the various student bands could conduct concerts in Weller Hall, the Cattle Room, or outside (weather permitting) with different styles of music (jazz, rock, pop, classical, etc.) on different evenings throughout the year. In fact, we already have Praise on Wednesday evenings. Why could we not have full concerts? How cool would it be to have a battle of the Concordia Christian rock bands on the football field? I might even volunteer to sing some good tunes from the 1980s, but I don’t think I can hit the high notes from Stryper’s “To Hell with the Devil” anymore.