NOT YOUR GRANDFATHERS’ CHURCH: Visits to Not-So-Steadfast Churches

By Phillip Magness

A couple of years ago, I was traveling back home from vacation with my family and decided to attend Divine Service at an LCMS church in one of the growing exurbs outside a Texas metropolis. Upon entry I noticed a few red flags, but didn’t say anything to my family out of respect for what we Lutherans call “adiaphora” (rites and ceremonies neither commanded nor forbidden by God). After all, maybe there were no hymnals in the pew racks because a recent spike in membership had resulted in not enough to go around. And maybe we couldn’t see a baptismal font because we just had poorly located seats. Still, it was hard to overlook the size of the sound system and the visibility of the sound engineer. Yet this was supposed to be a “traditional” service, and I took comfort that a clearly Lutheran liturgical order was outlined in the bulletin provided by the ushers.

As the service progressed, there were some irritants, like sitting for the Collect, but nothing one could point to as contrary to Lutheran piety. Indeed, it was easy to put the best construction on some of the things, and I was thinking that I could use them as examples of choices congregations make, showing that while some choices might be more meaningful than others, different choices are not necessarily wrong. Who knows? Maybe this fairly young congregation had many people with health problems, and so the pastor was trying to let the people stay seated as much as possible!

Then something happened I’ll never forget. After the Epistle the pastor announced that they were going to “take some time this morning to share the excitement that was VBS” at their parish the past week. Immediately, tracks of Disney-style music blared through the sound system and a couple of dozen kids came streaming down the aisles. Once up front, they began to move and shake–at least the younger girls did. The older ones, especially the boys, looked uncomfortable. But I love the sound of children singing the Lord’s song, and so even as my own children sat up straight in shock with their backs against the pews, I leaned forward in anticipation of something edifying.

But the children didn’t sing anything. Instead they lip-synched to the kids on the tracks. And neither the words nor the tune were worthwhile. Just a cheerleader jingle about being pumped “up, up, up” for the Lord. And as if one song weren’t enough, there had to be an encore! During this second number several of the parents stood up to get a better view with their camcorders, presumably since the second one had some sort of “hand jive” associated with it that older girls seemed to enjoy giggling through. Predictably, the spectacle ended with a vigorous round of applause led by the pastor.

Things could go nowhere but up after that, and the rest of the service was fairly calm. The sermon was heavy on sanctification, with emphasis on “everyone a minister.” This flowed logically into the installation of the congregation’s first Stephen ministers. The folks in the narthex afterwards were friendly enough, and all the buzz was about how “alive” things were at the parish now that their new pastor was getting “so many things going.” Clearly there was more than adiaphora involved in all this mix of new things, and I knew our family would have lots to talk about on the way out of town.

As we drove away my daughter said the service reminded her of a Monty Python comedy skit in which there was an election involving a Serious Party, a Silly Party, and a Very Silly Party. My children had come to know that while we in our family are serious Lutherans, there are some Lutherans who are not serious about doctrine and practice, but are just plain silly. My children had never seen these other Lutherans in action. So my daughter asked, “Daddy, were those the silly Lutherans at that church?” To which I replied, “Yes, sweetie, those weren’t serious Lutherans, they were some of the silly ones.” At which point my older son interjected, “Very Silly!”

President Kieschnick likes to talk about how today’s LCMS is “not your grandfather’s church.” But do our synodical leaders know how silly it is becoming?

Maybe it is time for laymen to speak up and tell them. Grandfather was a Serious Lutheran. So are we.


About Pastor Tim Rossow

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


NOT YOUR GRANDFATHERS’ CHURCH: Visits to Not-So-Steadfast Churches — 16 Comments

  1. We had a similar experience, those not on the road but across town at the “big” Lutheran church. My son noted as we left, “That wasn’t really church, was it? There wasn’t even an invocation!” not bad for a nine year old. They also had no confession, no absolution, and on listening to the sermon not much gospel either.

    What they did have was video projected “commercials” for the wonderful mission work they were supporting, the weekly tally of what had been given, and a lot of “pleasant law” on what we needed to do more of, and how we should try harder. Thankfully we didn’t have to try harder not to sin, as sin was never mentioned.

    I don’t mean to dump on their mission efforts, but I was taught: we love because He first loved us, not because it is our obligation, or to “push over the top”, but service is the inevidable fruit of being graphed to the Good Tree.

    Somewhere along the way silly becomes foolish. And Christ told us what happens to the foolish when the floods come. We give thanks to Him and the countless generations of grandfathers through the ages who continue to build His church on the solid rock of Christ.

  2. Thanks for the story, Russell. You have a great insight when you say “somewhere along the way silly becomes foolish.” Ironically, while we are called to be the foolish ones in the eyes of the world for believing God’s means of grace are what the Church should be about (“Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God”), many in the LCMS today instead seem to want to provide what the Jews and Greeks sought. (“miracles” and “wisdom”) I’ve been travelling around the synod over the past few weeks as part of research I’m doing during a sabbattical and, while I’ve participated in some genuine and encouraging liturgies, I am an eyewitness to the fact that in many places our congregations have totally caved into what used to be called “New Measures”. And that is the greatest foolishness of all: thinking that we can improve on the Gospel and the Sacraments. Lord, have mercy on us all.

  3. For you Minnesotans missing the Vikings & the Twins…. Last Friday night the Twins proudly beat the Arizona Razorbacks 7 to 2 at the Metrodome. What a great game!

    But to reflect on LCMS churches in Minnesota, here is comparison I found to be a bit bizarre.

    The Ballgame verses Divine Service.

    Ballgame – One would think that the crowd had been provided with free sample of Ambien as they sat silent throughout most of the game.
    Divine Service – Entertainment and applause is freely provided.

    Ballgame – The organ at the dome hardly plays a melody until the 4th inning.
    Divine Service –Phenomenal sound systems, bands with drums & guitars, (not that they cannot be instruments of joyful song but if only that were the case).

    Ballgame –Passion for the game and enthusiasm for the players throughout the game gone.
    Divine Service -Hymns posted on the big screen and everyone joins in much like a Mitch Miller sing-a-long and the bouncing ball, performing a side-to-side “wave” as it were.

    Ballgame –Fans go early and stay until they almost can’t see to drive home.
    Divine Service –Skip the Gospel so as not to make the service too long.

    Ballgame – Minnesotans prepare for all the necessities of an evening at the ballpark, the right outfit and of course plenty of cash. They will eat hot dogs and drink their favorite lager.
    Divine Service – Minnesotans arrive late, often inappropriately dressed, leave their wallet on the dresser at home and of course, and leave early. Worst of all they skip the Confession in preparation for receiving food for their souls.

    Why do Minnesotans feel the need to go with the flow? What is happening to our churches? Is this part of the new generation? Soon to be Service at the Stadium at 5:00, Game at 7:00?

    In any case, I ask myself this question, “What was it they came for?”

  4. A nicely vague comment, “Clearly there was more than adiaphora involved in all this mix of new things,” but where’s the discussion of the theology of adiophora vs. the actions taken in this church? How are we supposed to know what this write thinks adiaphora is, according to Scripture and the Confessions, and why he thinks this congregation goes against the same? If this site is really supposed to be about supporting laymen in understanding and promoting the confessions in their church’s, I hope and pray that the Scriptures and Confessions will be used to support the complaints. Complaining for complaining sake does very little to help win the day if there’s no theology to back it up. After all, the use of adiophora in our congregations is highly missunderstood, as the story indicates, but how will we ever fix it if all we do is complain.

  5. Luke,

    You point out a couple of significant things concerning the so called “worship wars,” i.e. that adiaphora call for very careful definitions and that our opining on these matters needs to be backed with scripture.

    Having worked with the author for several years now I can vouch for his desire and ability to ground things in scripture and his aversion to turning adiaphora into matters of confession.

    As I read this article I think that it demonstrates both. First, I think it is important to realize that this column will be less like a theoligical treatise and more like a liturgical travelogue and so there may not always be detailed scriptural analysis.

    This article is clearly about defending scriptural truths of worhsip. My take away from this article is that the scriptural call for seriousness and reverence in our worship of God is not being upheld in our churches today as it ought to be. Even a child could tell that these were “silly Lutherans” and not “serious Lutherans.” The scriptureal truth involved here is the need for serious worship. As they say at Higher Things, “Real worship, real study, real fun.” When these things meld together, the integrity of each one gets compromised. We should not want to make worship “fun” nor should we want to make fun worshipful.

    Now it may be true that one man’s seriousness is another man’s silliness thus bringing in the adiaphoristic nature of the article’s point. However, we must limit this law of taste somehow. I think that is the significance of the children in this story. It may not always be possible to precisely define silly and serious but at some point, when even a child can sense something is just not right (i.e. this is not the church my father has taught me about and my father is very scriptural) then we have passed from basic serious to basic silly.

    Pastor Rossow

  6. Hi Luke,

    I wasn’t intending to be “nicely vague” with that line, but I certainly agree it could have been unpackaged more. Our editor wanted me to elaborate on this paragraph, but with the space limitations I really wanted to spend more time describing the carnival atmosphere we witnessed, because, as our publisher points out, that was most germane to the overall thrust of the article: even kids could see how silly this all was! Perhaps I should have quoted Paul to remind people about the importance of good order, or inserted other quotations from the Scriptures about reverence, but, given the readership of the Steadsfast Quarterly, I didn’t think that necessary.

    I do think it would be helpful to you and other readers for me to elaborate a little on that “clearly there was more than adiaphora” comment, though. I limit my use of the word adiaphora to worship practice, though certainly one could apply that term to other aspects of the Lord’s ministry in a parish. However, our common Lutheran use of the term pretty much uses adiaphora only when the area of worship is discussed – at least as far as I know! – and so what I was saying there was “clearly there was more than ‘choices made during worship regarding middle things that are indifferent to the Gospel and so are allowed in our Gospel freedom as long as they don’t burden consciences’ going on here”. (Isn’t it easier just to say “adiaphora”?!) And what was the “somethign more” that was so clear to me? Well, reread the paragraph in question: preaching that was more Reformed than Lutheran, “ministries” being authorized independent of the pastoral office, and an emphasis over programs rather than on Word and Sacrament.

    I do concede that I should have elaborated more on the programs in this parish in order to strengthen that last statement. I did not take notes (like I do now!) when I visited that parish and so wasn’t in “reporter mode”. I didn’t want to make any assertions that weren’t completely factual and so was going with what I clearly remembered. But, since you are looking for a little more substance on this point, let me say that the folks “buzzing” about all the “new things going” were probably talking about things I saw advertized in the narthex, such as non-Lutheran speakers, youth going to CCM events, and “small group ministry”.

    Now, I am all in favor of programs. I administer several programs at Bethany! And the small groups may have all been tethered to the pastor, like our Lifelight groups are pastor-led. So I don’t want to overstate my criticism. I think the observation about the silliness of the service vs. the reverence of our grandfathers’ was sufficient enough for this travelogue.

    But I hope you come back and keep reading. Future columns will give you more specifics if you are looking for specific “more than adiaphora” in worship. I have seen and will be writing about open communion, sectarian Creeds, exhortations to charismatic behavior, adn more. And sometimes there won’t be adiaphora involved at all – just poor liturgical practice via misuse of our Gospel freedom.
    Some will chafe at that last point, insisting that no one criticize adiaphora, but I think there is a threshold one crosses when one does too many deviations that are each acceptable on their own. More about that in posts to come! So, welcome to our site, thanks for the comment, and keep reading and writing. We’re here to promote good discussion like this, that our mutual conversation and consolation might build us up in the Gospel.


    Phillip Magness, Cantor
    Bethany Lutheran Church and School
    Naperville, IL

  7. Luke:

    Regarding adiapora and its present use within the LCMS I am reminded of what was stated by Luther and recorded in C.F.W. Walther’s treatise The Form of a Christian Congregation.

    In Luther’s Sermon on Good Works, 1520, he wrote; “A reminder of such common prayer that at the close of the sermon the absolution is pronounced and a pulpit prayer is offered for all Christendom. But the present use and custom should not be the end of it, but it ought to admonish us to pray throughout the Mass [that is, the service] for the needs to which the pastor alerts us. . . O God, grant that a congregation would attend the service in this way and would pray so that a corporate, serious, cordial prayer would arise to Him from the people! How immeasurable would be the benefit and help that would follow upon such prayer! What more terrifying thing could happen to all the evil spirits! What greater work could be done upon earth! By it many devout people would be preserved and many sinners would be converted! For truly the Christian Church on earth has no greater power or work than such a common prayer against all foes which attack it. The evil spirit well knows this, and therefore he does all in his power to hinder such prayer. He allows us to build beautiful churches, to contribute much, to play, to read, and sing much, to celebrate many Masses, and to indulge in all kinds of show without measure. That he does no regret; indeed he helps along so that we regard such things as the highest good, and he lets us think that we have accomplished much by doing all this. But when this corporate, powerful, and fruitful prayer is submerged in all that and imperceptibly is omitted on account of such pomp, than he has what he is after. For where prayer is neglected, no one will take anything from him [the devil], nor will anyone resist him. Hence when he notices that we desire to engage in such prayer, even if it were under a thatched roof or in a pigsty, he certainly would try to prevent it, and he would be more afraid of the pigsty than of all the high, large, and gorgeous churches, towers, and bells which may exist anywhere without such prayer. Nothing depends on places or buildings, where we come together, but [all depends] solely on this invincible prayer which we offer rightly together and waft up to God.”

    All of what Luther alludes to regarding a common prayer can be ascribed to the liturgy. When we dilute or omit the liturgy, we have diminished our common prayer.

    On that same note, again from C.F.W. Walther’s The Form of a Christian Congregation, Walther quotes Fredrick Balduin ” Schisms, that is, divisions, are disagreements in the church which, because of ceremonies, works, and respect for persons, are incited among those who otherwise agree in the articles of faith; such disunities not only are the source of great offense but also inflict serious wounds on the church.”

    Pseudo-Lutherans insistence on their right’s of adiaphora, have been and still are dividing the church and causing much controversy and offense.

    Rev. Toby Byrd
    Pastor, St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
    Honey Grove, Texas

  8. Tim and Phillip,
    Sorry if I sounded like a butt. I’m just tired of hearing people who twist the Scriptures to argue for tradition when they’re truly more interested in the tradition than the Scriptures. Now I don’t know if this describes Phillip or not, but I guess what I was saying is that more detail would have helped to clarify that issue with me.

    Now to follow up: I would imagine that a trained child would recognize what he or she was trained to recognize. That doesn’t mean the training was necessarily correct when examining the Scriptures or the Confessions regarding “silly” vs. “reverent” worship, adiophora, etc. So, I am not necessarily convinced that a child’s opinion of “silly” really makes a difference in this case.

    Secondly, what do we use to “limit this law of taste” (Tim’s comment)? Do we use the Law like Rome? Who gets to set the limit? What’s the judge or baseline? This is mainly why I’m against those out there who try to fit the Scriptures into their traditions instead of appreciating everything the Lord allows – or doesn’t speak too…Adiophora… – in Scripture, even if that person prefers one particular tradition over another.

    From Scripture: Was David silly or tasteless when he danced in his ephod? Those house churches in Scripture didn’t have crosses in them – I would imagine – and I’m sure they didn’t have liturgical paraments. Since it’s not very liturgical, at least visually, does that make it sillier than what we do traditionally?

    I’m just having a hard time seeing where we draw the line when we’re the ones defining what’s tasteful and what’s silly. “If it’s the liturgy then it’s tasteful because that’s tradition and I’m used to that.” But something that isn’t tradition (often times) automatically becomes silly etc.? I just don’t buy it yet. And I’m looking for a solid confession of Scripture make me buy it. Unfortunately even the Confessions allow for changes in worship depending on the situation.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love TLH. And yes, I agree that some things are beyond silly. I just want to make sure we’re holding on to our liturgical traditions for Scripture’s sake and not for tradition’s sake alone. And although our liturgy is filled with Scripture, as it should be, I don’t see a mandate for it in that same Scripture. Couldn’t some other form of liturgy be used to reflect Scripture with decency and good order as Paul requests?

    And Phillip, I understand that you weren’t “trying” to be vague. That’s just what it was. Forgive me if it seemed that I was accusing you of doing it on purpose. Not my intent.

    I too have no problem calling a spade a spade. And if this church and its choir was “silly” then I’m glad you called them on it. But the vagueness of your travel blog didn’t let me know enough about what they did or didn’t do…how they did it…etc. for me to be able to examine the Scriptures and Confessions and decide according to that whether the church was wrong for truly being silly or if you’re just one of those Lutherans who treats tradition as an idol. And since I don’t know you yet, I was expressing my desire for more detail so that I could compare your theology regarding Adiophora and the actions of this church with Scripture and the Confessions.

    Interestingly enough, the Pharisees were probably more reverent than our grandfathers were. But their worship was silly because it was based solely on the law. And God hated it. And so, I’d just like to know what you think is reverent according to Scripture and why. I’d like to know what you think isn’t.

    Just some thoughts to keep this going.


  9. Toby, you said: “All of what Luther alludes to regarding a common prayer can be ascribed to the liturgy. When we dilute or omit the liturgy, we have diminished our common prayer.”

    But what if we pray with another form of “common prayer?” Why does “The” liturgy have to be the only form? Why is it automatically reverent and other, not so traditional practices, are often automatically not? And again, who gets to define reverent? Sinful humans? Can we really prove that TLH 15 is actually reverent enough? How much is enough?

    And I love Luther and Walther, but just because they say something doesn’t make it automatically correct. Their statements too should be reviewed by Scripture and the Confessions.

    You also said this: “Pseudo-Lutherans insistence on their right’s of adiaphora, have been and still are dividing the church and causing much controversy and offense,” in response to the quote from Walther below:
    “Schisms, that is, divisions, are disagreements in the church which, because of ceremonies, works, and respect for persons, are incited among those who otherwise agree in the articles of faith; such disunities not only are the source of great offense but also inflict serious wounds on the church.”

    But here are my questions: When I read this quote, my impression is that it’s the schism itself that’s controversial and offensive, not the “insistence on adiophoral rights,” as you suggest. Could Walther instead be saying that it’s Schismatic and stupid for people, who agree on the articles of the faith, to make such big deals out of “ceremonies, works, and respect for persons”? That is to say, aren’t the articles of faith more important than “ceremonies, works, and respect for persons”? And so, if we’re going to criticize something as being silly and irreverent, couldn’t he be saying that it’s poor theology and doctrine (when it comes to the Articles of faith) which is truly divisive and not necessarily the “practices”? Practices, I might add, which God and our Confessions speak much less about? Yet it’s these exact things and not the articles of faith that divide us Lutheran’s today!

    BTY, if I’m right about this Walther quote then Phillips article would be considered schismatic. Unless of course he could show that this congregation went against the articles of faith. And that’s why I asked for the clarity in the first place.


  10. Hi Luke,

    You make excellent points about traditionalism. I agree with Pelikan that “tradition is the living faith of the dead” while “traditionalISM is the dead faith of the living.” So I, for one, certainly don’t seek to make an idol out of TLH. In fact, as nice as the Common Service is, we usually don’t follow that ordo (now LSB III) at Bethany. Our practice is shaped and informed by our rich liturgical heritage, but it is not dictated by one expression of it.

    Regarding reverence, I did the best job I could of describing what I saw within the space provided and within the limited bounds of my mortal memory. I wish I had a video to show you, perhaps you would then be convinced. Unfortunately, reverence has a degree of relevance to it.

    However, since these folks were largely from my culture (American, Southern, White, Suburban, Lutheran), I feel pretty comfortable saying they crossed the line. Like one of the justices said once about another distatesful matter, “I don’t know how to define it, but I know it when I see it!” And, Luke, I saw it. I appreciate your wanting to put the best construction on it and say “but what about?” to every detail, but I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. Sometimes a bunch of little things that are in and of themselves unoffensive can add up to becoming offensive.

    And I think that’s where I’ll leave it: I think congregations like this give offense by having practices like this when they put LCMS on their door. They are purporting to be of a certain piety shaped by the culture of our communion, but then do things that are contrary to that piety. Given that relevence is relative, it seems the only practical way around that in our multicultural world is for congregations to have the integriy to worship according to the identity they advertize. But, thee’s the rub: “This is not your grandfathers’ church”!

    So maybe things would be better if the fried chicken churches served fried chicken and the hamburger churches sold hamburgers. Then folks who are offended by “cold ceremony” won’t be offended and folks like me who are offended by “let me entertain you today” won’t be offended.

    Finally, I do appreciate your thoughts about Walther. I certainly don’t want to be sectarian in my posts. I would suggest that one can figure out precisely where Walther is coming from by looking at his liturgical practice and also at things he wrote concerning those who were trying “new measures” in his day. Given his steadfast liturgical piety and strong language against “Methodistic” incursions into the liturgy, I am pretty comfortable in my belief that he’d take my side on this one – and concur with your rejoinder to stay as focused as possible on actual practices.

    And, to be clear, the “actual practice” should not be TLH, LSB, or whatever ordo that happens to be in a church book. That is not the “common prayer”, at least not in my understanding. Whether there are two or three readings, whether this or that Canticle is sung, whether the Creed is before or after the sermon, are all adiophora. That’s why I wrote it was odd – not wrong – that we sat for the Collect and then wrote that my plan before things got out-of-hand was to teach my children about adiophara and remind them that the real practices are the reading and singing of God’s Word, the preaching of the Gospel, the forgiveness of sins, the proper administration of the Sacraments, all done reverently in good order.

    But the scent there was just not of the flower we know!

    Thanks for keeping this going. I look forward to getting to know you better, and pray you will consider joining us.


    In Christ,


  11. Hi All,

    This post is to clarify a few things from above but probably not as much to comment on the ongoing discussion. (We’ll see how well I can do that!)

    With that: Forgive me if I sounded accusatory. I wasn’t intending to accuse you of idolatry. I was hoping to say that some people out there in LCMS land do make idols of the liturgy (including TLH), but they do it because they fear change, they care more about traditionalism, and have other personal vendettas. They do it for these reasons instead of finding Biblical and Confessional reasons to support their steadfast defenses.

    I find that many of these types of people call themselves “confessional,” “traditional, and/or “conservative.” Unfortunately, because they don’t use the Scriptures or Confessions to defend the tradition they prefer, (or they use them poorly), they’re not really Confessional. Because of the same they’re traditionalistic and not truly traditional, and they ultimately end up conserving the right things for the wrong reasons….and usually use bad theology to support their stance. And because I, at this point in my life, see more of a mandate for the liturgy from History than I do from the Scriptures or the Confessions, I tend to care more about the reasons and theology by which we defend such traditions.

    Interestingly enough, a few of these same people often perpetuate their propaganda through publications like this one. And I was just hoping for more detail from the story to be able to determine whether this was a legitimate gripe based on the Gospel, good reason, and sound theology, or if this was a gripe based more so on feelings. But I hope I didn’t come across as accusing you of idolatry.

    Walther: I would most certainly agree with you that Walther would be on your side as well. And I love Walther. But he is definitely one of those theologians who bases his confession on the Gospel, good reason, and sound theology. And so, when I read the quote – if I’m understanding it correctly – it seemed to defend my position more than it defends tradition for tradition sake. That is, it seemed to say that those “traditionalistic,” “conservativeistic,” and “confessionalistic,” folks who defend traditions (like the liturgy) to a fault, and leave no room for things like praise, thanksgiving, joy, and service etc. – because everything has to be reverent – are the truly schismatic ones.

    And I think this kind of thing happens because such persons see words like “liturgy” and “reverence” and they only have one preconceived definition for each word. And I just think when we look at all of Scripture and the Confessions, reverence and liturgical structure might not be so narrowly defined as some would like to make it.



  12. Hi Luke,

    You are getting more general now, which makes this less productive, I think. Because there is so much adiaphora in liturgical practice, I agree with Nagel that it is best to be specific. Indeed, you were seeking more specificity on the church I reviewed in question.

    But now that you are getting more general, I would like to say that I agree with you that some do make idols out of TLH – just as some make idols out of the praise team. Looking at your post on the Athanasian Creed, though, I think I have found where we disagree: you don’t think precedent matters; I do. And my reason is NOT because I think we should be deriving doctrine from practice. No, I am not part of the “lex ordendi, lex credendi” crowd – at least not in the aspect that I seek to create a “liturgical theology”. While what people in the pew believe certainly IS shaped by how they worship, I don’t buy into the whole “primary theology”/”secondary theology” dichotomy. My reason for disagreeing with you is becasue I DO think that the church is more than the local congregation + God.
    As one of my favorite contemporary songs says: “It’s not just me and Jesus, its me and Him and you all.” I believe we are to walk together as a church family, and so think it important to have churches in our synod where people can go from one church to the next and feel like fish out of water. Seriously, as much as you eschew seem to eschew precedent, I am 100% confident that I could devise a worship service derived from adiaphora I’ve personally witnessed this past month at 10 different liturgies in 5 different churches that would make even you unfomfortable!

    Please also remember that everything is not black-and-white. Some things are right, some are wrong, but some ways are just better and some are worse. So, I’m not saying it is necessarily a sin for the congregation to spend 10 minutes watching a mixture of pumped and embarrased kids lip-sync and do the shook-a-loo to loud booming Disney music while parent pull out their camcorders and then wildly applaud. I’m just saying that it’s silly. Very silly. And there’s something wrong in our synod when that sort of behavior is not discouraged but ENcouraged by district and synodical officials and consultants.

    Some people think doing this kind of thing is what is needed to reach kids and their parents. For what it’s worth, my own kids had their backs glued to the pews as if their hair were starting to fly up in schock like in a Peanuts cartoon!

    Finally, in your last comment you pitted reverence against joy, thanksgiving, praise, and service. I don’t think one should do that. The scriptures say things like “serve the Lord, fear Him always” and “Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” The Venite bids us to “make a joyful noise” while at the same time it tells us to “let us worship and bow down” and “kneel before the Lord, our Maker.” It is such an easy exercise to flip through the Scriptures and see verse after verse that does not pit reverence against love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness. The fruits of the Spirit flow from faith. And faith is not irreverent!

    I’m all jiggy with having a good time, Luke. I’m no pietist. I’m am all for having a good time in church. At Bethany we raise the roof in joyous song and have great fellowship. It really shouldn’t matter what instruments we use, but I think for your sake you need to hear that we (gasp) use guitars and percussion along with our keyboards (piano and synth, not just organ). We don’t do page x every Sunday. We are not reprstinationists nor traditionalists.

    But we are Lutheran. And we are serious about our sin and reverent toward our Savior as He gives the precious gifts of life & salvation in Word and Sacrament through the forgivness of sins He bestows on us from the Cross. Yes, the Cross. The one He bled and died on FOR US. That’s prety serious business, and while it is a very GOOD thing, I just don’t think the shook-a-loo lip-sync is an appropriate way to nurture our children in a faith formed by the Word of God.

    Let me turn the tables on you, brother, and ask: where in the Scriptures might there be a basis for this new custom which I am suggesting is very silly? I’m not trying to be snarky here, but turnabout is fair play.

    Looking forward to your thoughts.



  13. Cantor,

    Thank you for sharing.
    Did you make it the English District? There is a LCMS Mission there called Epic, perhaps this synodical president’s pride and joy. The lead clown Tim Kade and the audience is beyond silly and foolish. Go to there website they actually have a label Think Church is Boring. Their answer is they do too. Surprise, surprise. If you do make it to their box office, let us know this weeks experience. Didn’t they do Star Wars and the Sex Series? Go Church Growth! Stay Ablazed!
    As a parent of three, I’m guessing, Luke don’t have children. Could be wrong, he might a proud dad and have a camcorder to boot!

  14. I know I’m late in joining the party here, and maybe this thread has already run its course, but I have to comment, since I have heard the same arguments, put forth by Luke here, time and time again from people trying to justify Contemporary, Church-Growthish, “Worship.”

    First of all, the onus to provide Scriptural and Confessional backing is NOT on those who simply wish to continue in the traditions handed down to them from generation to generation, but rather on those who desire to break free from those traditions and begin doing either a new thing, or copying things from the traditions of those with whom we Confessional Lutherans are not in doctrinal agreement, the same traditions which, in fact, our Confessions themselves condemn.

    This fact is often overlooked in the “Worship Wars” debate. Those advocating new “forms of worship” often do so by going on the attack, evading their own responsibility to provide justification from Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions for the new things they are doing, and putting the onus on their opponents to prove them wrong. Then, when their opponents oblige them and show them from Holy Scripture and our Lutheran Confessions that what they are doing is, in fact, wrong, they pull out the trump card called adiaphora.

    It’s really a rather clever game to play, but that’s all that it is – a game.

    Adiaphora does not mean, “Anything goes.” Adiaphora does not trump the theology of worship held by the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, the same theology of worship found throughout Scripture and taught throughout our Lutheran Confessions – the theology of worship which believes and understands the true dynamic which takes place in worship, namely that we are invited into the Holy House of our Holy God, where He is present to hear our confession of sin and to gift us with forgiveness, life, and salvation through His Holy Word and Sacraments. In response to these miraculous and wondrous gifts, we sing praises to our God, but, in so doing, we must remember that we are still in His Holy House and in the midst of His Holy Presence.

    In other words, Divine Service is an awe-inspiring, reverent event. Where in Holy Scripture or in our Lutheran Confessions is it described otherwise? Where is the precedent for the entertaining, “get down with Jesus,” laid back, people-centered “worship” being advocated by so many today? Where?! And, don’t give the example of David dancing, for that doesn’t even come close to applying (read the context of that passage).

    The truth is that every single time we encounter what we call “worship” in Holy Scripture, it is a holy, reverent, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” event. In fact, both the Hebrew and Greek words for “worship” mean something completely different than what is popularly thought of as “worship” today. To “worship” in the Biblical sense is to prostrate oneself in reverence before the LORD. This meaning is completely lost on those who think that “worship” is a time to bee-bop along with the praise band and “give our all for Jesus.”

    If you want Scriptural proof for the theology of worship to which we Confessional Lutherans are supposed to adhere, just give the second half of Exodus a good read. I know, I know, that was then, this is now. Really? How so? Has the God described there, the God who is so particular and demanding about how He is to be worshipped, changed? Has He somehow become less Holy? Is there less cause now to show Him reverence and awe?

    And, yes, I am well aware of the fact that the curtain was torn in two when Jesus died on the cross indicating that we all have access to the Holy of Holies now, but I just can’t find anywhere in Scripture where that translates into permission for us to party down in the Holy of Holies now. But, then again, I don’t have to. The onus is not on we who defend and follow what has been handed down to us, but on those who abandon our traditions.

    In Christ,
    Pastor Messer

  15. Rev. Meser, Thanks be to God. Insights like your are often overlooked. I appreciate it learned teacher. May His Divine Service be reverent and For God’s Glory Alone.

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