In Defense of Historical Worship – From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship, by Pastor Sean L. Rippy

Pardon us if you have read this before. If you have, it is worth reading again. This is an old article that our BJS computer guy Norm Fisher, just ran across. It is one of the simplest, clearest apologies for traditional worship that you will ever read.

Norm ran across it on the website of Christ Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls, SD. The author, Rev. Sean Rippy, has served as pastor at Mt. Olive Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan but now it appears that he is studying in England.


In Defense of Historical Worship – From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship

By Pastor Sean L. Rippy

As one who has written contemporary worship (CW) services in three different congregations, started it in one congregation, who has been raised on much of its music through radio and worship services, who sought for something in CW that he thought could not be found in LW, who actually likes much of the music of CW and who believed firmly that you could make contemporary worship, Lutheran, but has now rejected CW as profane, allow me to chime in.

The primary question in relation to any kind of worship style is to determine whether it is Christian and to what extent it is Christian. For example, Voodoo rituals are said to be a mixture of Roman Catholicism and pagan rites. To the extent that their rituals are “Christian” it would still not be wise to use their worship styles or rites, as most of us would agree that there is way too much paganism (even evil demon worship) involved. I think most of us would agree that even a drop of unchristian theology or worship would be intolerable.

Furthermore, as Lutherans, we understand and believe certain things about the scriptures and about what the scriptures say about worship. In relation to the question of worship, it is important, in order for us to be Lutheran, that we determine what kind of worship is Lutheran. In essence, as Lutherans, we seek a worship that conforms to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions; which, in our understanding, is synonymous with Christian worship. (i.e. Lutheran worship and Biblical Christian worship are one and the same)

To this end we ask the question: “What does the Word of God say about worship?”

The Word of God teaches us:

1. To use doctrinally pure material – i.e. no heresies, nor even a hint of heresy (Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; Titus 1:9-2:1, etc.)

2. A particular form which includes:

Hymns (Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19, etc.)

Prayers (2 Chron. 6:40; 7:15; Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; 2:37; Eph. 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1; 1 Kings 8:33; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4, etc.)

Reading of Scripture (Acts 13:14-15, 27; 15:21; 1 Tim. 4:13; Luke 4:16-22; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27, etc.)

Preaching which is focused on Christ (Acts 15:21; Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:39; Rom. 10:14; 1 Tim. 4:13, etc.)

Worship which is focused on Christ Jesus (Hebrews 9:1-10:25; Matt. 2:2; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 1:6; 3:1; Rev. 5:1-14; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:5; Ps. 29:2; 95:6; Zech. 14:16, etc.)

The Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 11:17-31; Rev. 19:9)

Confession of faith/Creed (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:10-11; 13:15; 1 Tim. 6:12)

Confession of sins and Forgiveness (1 Kings 8:33-34; Prov. 28:13; Ezra 10:11; Neh. 1:6-7; 9:3; Dan. 9:20; 1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:2; Matt. 3:2, 6; Acts 3:19, 19:18; 1 John 1:8-10; James 5:16, etc.)

Grace and mercy coming from God, followed by our praise and thanksgiving (Ezek. 11:19-20; Ps. 103:11-14; Isa 1:18; Heb. 13:15; Ps. 9:11; 47:6; 147:1 Jer. 31:7; Heb. 2:12; Rev. 5:12; 7:12; 19:5, etc.)

3. That the worship service must be done in decency and in good order (1 Cor. 12-14, esp. 14:26-40)

4. That the worship service be reverent (Lev. 19:30; Joshua 5:14; Ps. 5:7; Heb. 12:28; Eccl. 8:12; Heb. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:17, etc.)

The Lutheran Confessions teach us:

1. The proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one’s sins and to seek forgiveness- the ebb and flow of worship: God forgives; we praise Him (Ap. IV, par. 154; Ap. IV, par. 310; LC, par. 16; AC XXI par. 3; Ap XXIV, par. 71f)

2. Christ is the center of worship (AC XXI par. 3)

3. Outward ceremonies do not make one righteous (AC XXVII par 40f; Ap XV par. 20-21)

4. Outward ceremonies (“such as the liturgy of the Mass and various Canticles, festivals, and the like”) which serve to preserve order in the church may be changed, reduced or increased without sin. (AC XXVII par. 40f, FC X; SD X)

5. “We should not consider as matters of indifference, and we should avoid as forbidden by God, ceremonies which are basically contrary to the Word of God, even though they go under the name and guise of external adiaphora and are given a different color from their true one.” SD X par. 5 (I believe CW falls under this)

“Neither are useless and foolish spectacles, which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent.” SD X par. 7. (I believe CW often falls under this as well)

6. “The real adornment of the churches is godly, practical, and clear teaching, the godly use of the sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels and ornaments like that are fitting, but they are not the peculiar adornment of the church. If our opponents center their worship in such things rather than in the proclamation of the Gospel, in faith, and in its struggles, they should be classified with those whom Daniel (11:38) describes as worshiping their God with gold and silver.” (Ap. XXIV par. 51).

(These are not attempts at comprehensive lists)

Within these guidelines there are varieties of worship: Matins, Vespers, Compline, The Divine Service (I, II in LW & pg. 15 in TLH), The Service of the Word (aka the Half-Mass – pg. 5 in TLH) The Deutsche Messe (DS III in LW), Nones, Sext, evening prayer, morning prayer, etc.

Furthermore, there are other worship services which may be created for edifying use in the church — services which must follow the prescribed forms and orders of scripture and the Lutheran confessions.

Now how does Contemporary Worship fit into all of this?

While CW is sometimes very hard to define, over the years I have realized certain commonalities between each service that is called “Contemporary”. I have learned these by reading books on the subject, attending conferences, being trained by my vicarage pastors and by trial and error. I have even been told when some of my services were not “contemporary” and why.   Through this process of discovery I have learned that the Esse of CW is not Lutheran or Biblical. The Esse is that which is at the core and soul of a thing. It is that which if you took it away, it would cease to be what it was and become something else. In other words, what is it that distinguishes CW and sets it apart from Liturgical worship? And does that distinction make CW unlutheran and unbiblical?

1. CW is distinguished by a focus on emotion- often referred to as “meaningful”. CW has accepted the Pentecostal theology of spirituality and has therefore defined deeply felt emotions as true spirituality. Whether it is more “emotional/meaningful” music, or more emotional/meaningful” sermons, or a more “emotional/meaningful” service, it’s still the same focus on the subjective self and emotion. In this line, charismatic preaching is important to CW. Charismatic choirs are important to CW. Enjoyable, charismatic songs are important to CW.   It may be possible that the pastor who engages in CW does not have this specific understanding of spirituality; however it is reflected in his actions and in his CW.

The primary goal of CW is to pump you up, to make you feel more emotional and charged about Christ and this becomes true spirituality. It’s a pep rally of sorts. Even when this “pep rally” mentality is toned down, the goal is still some form of emotional, uplifting experience. From the CW perspective, excitement supposedly shows your commitment to Christ.

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of the Holy Spirit and true spirituality. True spirituality is not a function of emotion, but rather a function of the Word and Sacraments. True spirituality is not subjective, but objective. True spirituality cannot be found in a song but only in the means of grace.

This is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one’s sins and to seek forgiveness.   Which means more than that confession and forgiveness are offered in the service, but rather, that the entire service is one of confession and forgiveness through Word and Sacraments. The Lutheran service is penitential and joyous at the same time.

One might also argue that this is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the worship service be reverent and done in decency and good order.

2. CW is distinguished by “Self-Help” or “How to” sermons: “How to be a Better Christian”, “How to be a Better Husband”, “How to be a Christian Leader”.

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of Law and Gospel preaching centered on Christ and Him crucified.

3. CW is distinguished by a lack of reverence- often referred to as less stodgy and “more spiritual” (see emotions above).

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of reverence in worship.

4. CW is distinguished by Pentecostal and Baptist music. By Pentecostal I mean, the style of music was created/brought in by the Pentecostal church, the majority of authors are Pentecostal or Evangelical and/or the songs reflect Pentecostal and Baptist/Evangelical theology, especially as it relates to “meaningful/spiritual” worship (see emotions above). There’s a lot of focus on the individual and what we do for God (usually praising Him) rather than on what Christ does for us. There’s a lot of focus on the Holy Spirit (from the heterodoxical Pentecostal theological perspective).

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of using only doctrinally pure materials.

This is not exhaustive, but sufficient, I think for the current discussion.

One may follow up by asking if it’s possible to avoid some of these dangers and still use CW? In other words, “Is it possible to write a contemporary service using Baptist and Evangelical forms and make it Lutheran?”

After having been told by several “experts” in the field that one’s form is predicated by one’s theology and that it is therefore impossible to use Baptist/Evangelical worship forms and still be Lutheran (this principal is very old-so old it is known in Latin: “Lex orandi, Lex credendi”, meaning: the law of worship is the law of belief or to put it more succinctly: “How you worship is how you believe”. Form and substance are intricately united). However, after having been told that it was impossible to use evangelical forms and have Lutheran substance, I tried anyway. I followed Pastor David Luecke’s understanding of “Evangelical style and Lutheran substance”. I fervently believed that it was possible to blend Evangelical style with Lutheran substance and come up with a solid and unique Lutheran worship style.

This is where I got caught up in trying to write a Lutheran Contemporary Worship Service. I knew that one of the things to be avoided was this Pentecostal concept of Spirituality. It was certainly very difficult to avoid in the songs- almost impossible in fact, as most CW songs are predicated upon this singular concept (spirituality is feelings and feelings are given by the spirit without means: “Spirit Rain”, “Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me”, “Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire” etc.- which is obviously not the Lutheran understanding of spirituality or the means by which the Spirit comes to us.)   Furthermore, as I was attempting to write a Lutheran liturgy which could be defined as contemporary, I quickly realized that one of the definitions of CW is that it had to be less reverent and more “spiritual” or emotional in nature. Note the titles of some of these contemporary services: “Celebration Service”, “Spirit Song”, etc. These titles reflect an unLutheran, dare I say unChristian emphasis upon feelings as opposed to the gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. (While a title such as “Celebration Service” can be defended as the celebration of Easter or Christ, sadly, oftentimes the service and sermon themselves reveal this is not the case. Also it is the juxtaposition between “celebration” and “traditional”.   If the “celebration” service is a celebration of joy, then what is the “traditional” service? Whether intended or not, Titles teach!)

What I found was none of the “forms” for CW (for indeed there are general categories that are the same within CW) reflected a Lutheran view of spirituality and worship. It seems that while Lutherans believed and maintained that the Bible says worship must be reverent and Holy, the esse (soul) of CW was less reverent (I believe it’s actually irreverent) and more emotionally driven.

Coming to this realization, I tried to make a Lutheran CW which might avoid these pitfalls. Working on the principal that it surely isn’t the unLutheran view of spirituality and irreverence which the people were requesting, I sat down to prepare the services. In the early days, I actually tried to write my own liturgies, working from CW sources and preprinted CW services, trying to remain faithful to the hymnal. It didn’t take long before I realized: a. how difficult it is to write liturgies as opposed to sermons; b. how easily you can mislead people (heresy) when you thought you were writing something else and c. how quickly the people began to misunderstand worship. For example, when one uses an “Evangelical” or “Pentecostal” term, such as “Praise and Worship”, it carries certain meanings, which our people have learned from the Christian radio and popular Christian books, and which do not correspond to a Lutheran understanding of those words. Or when one sings “Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me”, it carries an unchristian/Pentecostal message, whether it can be understood correctly or not. The author is not saying, “Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, through Word and Sacrament. Oh, and by fresh, I do not mean that I have somehow lost the spirit, since I don’t feel Him right now.”

Later I began to use various combinations of already written liturgical forms. For example, I took a Gloria from one Lutheran hymn book and the Kyrie from another, trying to find more emotionally enjoyable settings- if we sang them at all (we often didn’t because the more chant like tones were considered “a bland expression of the liturgy” to quote Rev. Dittmer) Also, I changed their names to reflect an easier understanding. I might place a popular hymn for the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). I printed everything out in the bulletin (a must for CW). In spite of the heretical dangers of most CW songs, we chose only “contemporary” music for the “hymns” and we had the whole band thing. I tried to choose the least objectionable “contemporary” songs and those that could at least be understood correctly. What I discovered is, they still led the people astray.

In spite of this, I was told repeatedly, “This is not contemporary worship!” I was frequently requested to add more feeling to the service (like the last pastor did) and make it more “spiritual”. I received complaints like: “The service it too strict” (i.e. reverent). “I don’t sense the Holy Spirit any more”. The music director repeatedly implored that the opening hymns were supposed to be “uplifting” so we can “lift the rafters” and the closing hymn had to be similarly “uplifting” lest we leave on a low note. And we had to have several opening hymns in order to achieve the “perfect” worshipful mood.

It is also of the essence of CW that the sermon not be a Law and Gospel Sermon, but rather a sermon about getting through life (as if Law and Gospel did not do this- in fact there might be something to the argument that CW sermons have changed the Lutheran understanding of how one gets through life- not by confession and absolution, but by trying harder). Often times this is defended as preaching the third use of the law- however Lutherans have always contended whether you have a section of third use or not, the Gospel must predominate.   This is certainly not the case in the CW sermons I have heard. I received complaints that my sermons talked about sin. I received complaints that my sermons weren’t applicable to daily life. I received complaints that I wasn’t preaching 10 steps to greater health or a better marriage or whatever.

It was at this moment that I realized that what the people were requesting, was not, in fact, Lutheran worship, but rather a mix of Lutheran and Evangelical/Pentecostal theology in their worship. They wanted Evangelical spirituality and Lutheran communion, two things that are not actually compatible. Eventually, one must replace the other. In fact, Pastor David Luecke has apparently realized the same thing for a few years ago he told a NOW district conference that we need to think of the means of grace as a failed strategy and adopt new forms and substance in order to grow.

What I learned in summary:

1. As a writer of liturgy you lead people astray. Even if you get one week “perfect” that’s only 1 out of 52. (See below on writing liturgy)

2. The CW songs lead people astray.

3. The people who request CW are not requesting Lutheran worship, but a hybrid of Evangelical/Pentecostal worship with a Lutheran understanding of communion added on. (Though this too shall change, I imagine, as the two theologies cannot stand side by side. The one must replace the other.)

It is often falsely believed that if a pastor can write a “good” (often defined as God-pleasing) sermon, then he can write a “good/God-pleasing” worship service. As one who has attempted to write contemporary worship services and as one who has spoken to those who “create” worship services for our hymnals, allow me to say, “This is not true.” Besides the significant point that from my experience most of the pastors who go for contemporary worship do not write (or preach- or even seem to understand) “God-pleasing”- Law and Gospel sermons, and therefore do not write God-pleasing- Gottesdienst- besides that! – Writing liturgy is a different task than writing a sermon. When you write a sermon, you have an entire 15-20 minutes (average) to get your point across. If you make a mistake, or misspeak, you can correct yourself. When you make a point, you can make it in several different ways, using different examples to make sure you don’t miscommunicate. You can still miscommunicate, of course, however, it’s less likely than when you write a liturgy. When you write a liturgy, you have one or two sentences to get it right and that without misleading anyone.

Oftentimes you wind up writing what makes sense to you (the author) but not what makes sense to the people (A situation much easier to deal with in a sermon, where you have more time and more words to explain). This is why it takes liturgies years of writing, discussing and practice before they officially come out. Talk to the people who write liturgies for the hymnals- it takes a group (not 1 pastor) and about 2-3 years to get it right. And remember, for the most part, they’re using already tried and trusted wordings! The simple truth of the matter is, pastors are not trained to write liturgies. We have not taken classes to that effect (primarily because no one thought we’d need to have that skill). And those parish pastors that attend conferences on writing worship services, often wind up taking classes from Reformed/Baptist/Pentecostal sources thus absorbing their theology.

Furthermore in the desire to make Christian concepts more understandable, CW has a penchant for using metaphors and language that are not scriptural and certainly not Lutheran and often misleads, even if they can be understood correctly. One series of CW services I was using used the example of a summer bus trip for the theme of the summer services. The metaphors used during the confession and absolution alone were down right ridiculous and would be humorous if not actually used in a worship service. In replacing the words of the Bible with the words of human understanding, we are leading our people further and further from the Word- a point which might be highlighted by recent Barna research indicating that Christians are becoming less and less able to understand the Bible. Could it be that we’re taking away one of the primary helps to interpretation of the Bible?   The Liturgy?   Historically this is how the liturgy has been used- as an interpreter of the Bible. The Liturgy helps us understand the Bible, but not when you change the Biblical metaphors and words to “modern” metaphors and words.

Also, CW likes to use a lot of Bible passages from the O.T. to replace the wording of the liturgy (i.e. the confession and absolution) and while it is certainly laudable to use Bible passages in the liturgy which, of course, Lutherans do in the traditional services, due to the unfortunate and almost total stranglehold that Pentecostals and Evangelicals have on O.T. understanding through the radio, music and popular Christian books, and because CW often only quotes a part of a Psalm or O.T. passage (usually the praise parts- remember it’s the emotional build up that’s important), it often misleads our own people into believing Lutherans have the same understanding. The Introits and Psalm readings in Lutheran Worship seem to avoid this by quoting larger sections of the Psalms, if not the whole Psalm. In other words, it’s the question of how you quote the O.T. (or Bible for that matter). Are you trying to design an emotional response or center on Christ Jesus?

Very often the end result of Contemporary worship writing is Baptist/Evangelical/Pentecostal theology (form and substance) with the Lord’s Supper thrown in. The Confession of sins is still there, however it is very often not a Lutheran understanding of the confession of sins (most I’ve seen are very weak on sin and either ignore original sin or make sin sound like we’re apologizing rather than confessing. The Absolution is often very anemic and often comes off sounding like an “Oh, that’s okay” sort of reaction to an apology.)

The Benediction is still there (now called a blessing), but it is not a Lutheran understanding of the Benediction. Benedictions in CW are almost always “encouragements” to go into the world and do better. This is not a Blessing!

The creeds are often vacant and if they are present they are either rewritten or simply torn down and built upon anew. They certainly do not represent the concept of an ecumenical creed which has been believed and confessed by all Christians for 2,000 years and unites us in that moment of confession with all those who have passed on in the faith.

Communion becomes McCommunion (a speedy version of lines where the pastor might not even commune some people at all! – certainly not Lutheran).

The vast majority of the songs (and yes I’ve seen a lot of them in my time as contemporary worship writer) are simply heretical. Sometimes they can be understood correctly, but that is no excuse to use songs which in their original understanding are contrary to our understanding of scripture and without extensive study lead the people astray. Those that are not heretical are simply not as good and solid theologically as the hymns we already have. Consider St. Paul’s example of milk and meat. CW songs are at their best, milk (or as I like to use- cotton candy- it tastes sweet to the mouth but dissolves quickly and rots your teeth- not necessary for life and can be harmful) while hymns are meat (good, strong steak- good for you and necessary for life) – not a perfect analogy but useful. And at worst, CW songs are heretical, leading people astray.

Popular CW songs like, “We exalt Thee” or “Great is the Lord” etc. are vague as to whom we are addressing. They can be sung by Christian, Jew and Muslim alike and are centered upon the Reformed concept of the sovereignty of God, rather than the Lutheran emphasis upon Christ. An occasional song here or there which speaks of the sovereignty of God is indeed good, right and salutary. We have a few hymns along these lines. However, Lutheran hymnody is largely centered on Christ and rightly (ritely) so. Christ centered hymns are a hallmark of Lutheran worship. Furthermore, it is the belief (theology) of the Pentecostal church that these songs are designed to “put God on His throne”. They actually believe that you “must” begin your worship service with such songs praising God’s might and power so that God might see the great faith of the gathered congregation and come to that service with His power and might.

In trying to avoid many of these pitfalls, I found my “contemporary” worship services getting closer and closer to the Divine Service in the hymnal. The more pitfalls I avoided, the closer it got to the Divine Service.

In the final analysis I have found that whether intended or not the irreverence and unbiblical spirituality of CW has the ultimate effect of pointing us to our feelings and not to Christ. This makes CW profane, in the truest sense of the word.

“For profanity consists in this: for the sensual gratification or amusement of the moment to give up that which is spiritual and unseen; to be careless of that which is holy, so as to snatch the present enjoyment,– in short, practically not to deem anything holy at all, if it stands in the way of present pleasure.” (Edersheim, Bible History, Old Testament pg. 112). This was written in the context of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage but has application to all things profane.

CW trades that which is truly spiritual and unseen for enjoyment (which CW defines as spiritual). Since CW defines deeply felt emotions as true spirituality, it is no surprise then that they trade true worship for felt needs; again, whether intentional or not.

Finally, remember this, CW is not new. Versions of CW have tried to come into the church through various means: Pietism, Pentecostalism, NeoPentecostalism, and now through the CW movement. As Lutherans, we have conscientiously and consistently rejected their attempts to move us away from our Christ centered worship – until recently.

[Pastor Sean Rippy, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former advocate of Contemporary Worship, discusses the differences between historic and contemporary Christian worship, highlighting where contemporary worship falls short.

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.


In Defense of Historical Worship – From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship, by Pastor Sean L. Rippy — 97 Comments

  1. Pastor Louderback,
    Are you speaking of my use here of my personal nickname, or refering to posting document links?
    You are a Pastor, I would not presume or assume the in depth sem instruction, nor Divine Office & the delicate issues of an office I have never held. I have no personal knowledge or experience, that would not be wise, & one tends to expose their ignorance when one does that.
    However, I played in the playground with the big kids in the business world of government contracts, I know what those contracts are, secrecy agreements/contracts are, signed my fair share, & asked others to sign them. I am painfully aware of what can happen if they should be broken or violated. I also understand, if a document is obtained from a locked secure site or source, obtained outside that locked secure site or source, it does or should cause one to ere on the side of caution. The last one I signed expires in October of this year, 12 years, to be exact.
    Which is an aspect of Pastor Rippy’s article here, to ere on the side of caution, souls are at stake in this.
    I would never have addressed your comment, I do so only because of the office you hold. Any questions?

  2. Truly liturgical worship is not a style at all. It is a theology. This again demonstrates the vast unawareness of the actual status of the controversy which becomes mark of those who promote CoWo. Revivalists of every form will with one mind insist to their death beds that this is only a debate about style, always in the bald face of the constant statements from more conservative types that style is not what we’re disturbed about – not really.

    Yes, Christ is the esse of liturgical worship precisely because liturgical worship, classically speaking, is not a style, but a pattern of sound words about Jesus. CoWo, by nature, can be nothing of the sort because its esse is change – it is an “unpattern.” One can as much claim that Jesus is the esse of contemporary worship as a movement as to claim that 4 oclock is the esse of time.

    If the argument is about style, then its about bene esse, and that is an important debate – but it does not break fellowship. But the argument from the liturgically-minded in this war is precisely that we are concerned that the esse of the Church is stolen by CoWo double precisely because the theology of this wind of teaching has made “style” a matter of the “esse” of the Word’s efficacy in the churches, which is nothing short of a crass Pelegianism in missiology. *That* is the status of the controversy.

  3. I apologize for using Pastor L. It was late and I was tired.

    Pastor Louderback wrote:

    “My argument is that they are looking for worship that they understand and that communicates Christ to them where they are.”

    And my argument is they are looking for worship they can feel and aren’t concerned as much with Christ where they are but with a practical message. To put it bluntly, I’ve never met a person who wants CW who wants what you say above. I’ve occasionally met a few who said they want to hear Christ in the service and then once that statement is explored mean something different than we Lutherans mean. I.e. they don’t want to hear Christ’s word of Law and Word of Gospel but rather connect Christ with a happy feeling, much the same as Pentecostals tend to connect the Holy Spirit with a happy feeling.

    “But you have already stated what the difference is: Christ. If Evangelical services are just law, then our own CoWo services can be completely different in a proclamation of Christ.”

    The moreso as we rid ourselves of the taint of CW style with its focus on Law and emotions. And the more you realize the taint of CW style, the more you’ll find the end result being Liturgical Worship, in my opinion of course.

    “Well, why have the other stuff if they understand this then? Why drape this with language that doesn’t speak to them or that needs to be explained every time a visitor comes to church?”

    Again, I’ve found that people understand most of the language (liturgies update language by the way and still keep it Biblical language wheras CW uses words outside the Bible.) Visitors who are not Lutheran need an explanation precisely because they are not Lutheran- or at least not yet Lutheran. This is where catechesis comes in. If an Evangelical or Baptist comes into a Lutheran church and feels at home that should be a huge warning bell that the service isn’t Lutheran. We are different, we have different theologies- those different theologies are going to make them see our Lutheran services as different until they are taught the errors of their denomination and the truth of the Lutheran Biblical faith. That’s why they call it a conversion. You seem to make the assumption which is a common CW assumption that all Christian denominations are basically the same and one should be able to come into a Lutheran service from an Evangelical service and feel right at home. Or that a nonChristian who has never been taught anything about Christ ought to be able to feel comfortable in a worship service and understand what’s going on. For the nonChristian, they can not understand without the Holy Spirit. They must be taught.

    The worship service is not for the nonChristian primarily it is for the believer- the one who has been taught the Lutheran faith. No one who has been taught the Lutheran faith can understand our worship services anymore than they can understand our doctrinal positions. To make our services understandable to the visitor is to remove essential elements of the Lutheran faith or to put it in language that can be understood diffently depending upon your view. Visitors can understand the words but they can’t understand the meaning behind them until they have gone through Catechism.

    This goes to the root of the argument that you may not know what you are teaching by the changing of the Biblical language in the service. The liturgical language preserves the truth of God’s Word. CW language in so far as it’s human does not. It is maleable at best in its understanding and wrong at worst. And many of the Biblical quotes in CW are quoted out of context and usually in such a way as to highlight the Evangelical understanding of those passages.

    “The difference is, I think we need to approach education in terms of “Here is how to do CoWo better” and you think it in terms of “We can’t do this.”

    No, I thought in the same terms as you did, until I found out that we can’t make CW better because it’s not Lutheran or Biblical.

    “But that is not the esse of CW. That is what you have experienced.”

    The esse of CW can’t be Christ as you have stated simply because it comes from and is used in denominations that do not have Christ in their services and yet still have CW. The primary argument of CW advocates like D. Luecke has been that CW style is neutral and must be infused with the Christ of the Lutheran substance- that is at least a tenable position. But not that Christ is the center or essence of CW. In other words if you can strip Christ out of a CW service and still have CW as is done in other denominations then it’s not the essence of it.

    Unless you are defining having Christ differently than the common Lutheran understanding. I suppose it might be worthwhile to ask what exactly do you mean by giving Christ? I’ve made an assumption that we’re talking about the same thing and that may be unfair.

    Christ is not the center of liturgical worship either by the way. We had to change the RC mass in order to bring it back in line with the Biblical faith.

    What is the difference then? Liturgical worship uses Bible passages almost exclusively. And those “human” words that are used have gone through thousands of years of doctrinal review so to speak. The end result is a worship service that is totally centered upon Law and Gospel. Christ alone.

    In an effort to communicate Biblical concepts better than the Bible can, CW uses human words and metaphors- moving us away from the Words of the Bible and to the individual interpretations of the hearers. It places one more obstacle between us and Christ. At best these words and metaphors are maleable in their understanding and at worst they are wrong.

    And when Bible passages are quoted (almost never exclusively- the commentary on the quotes providing yet again an obstacle to the unadulterated Words of the Lord) they are often quoted out of context or in such a way that agrees with the Evangelical understanding that so many of our parishioners are listening to on Christian radio and in Christian pop/rock music.

    CW also uses songs that are noted for their ambiguity of understanding. I have yet to find a CW song that was theologically specific enough, like say a Luther hymn with all its verses, that an Evangelical would not feel at home singing it- heck the Evangelicals wrote the songs. And while every dog has his day, an Evagnelical or any other denominational song writer for that matter, can’t go far before he’s stepped on Lutheran toes. Even their understanding of faith is different than ours.

    Why the necessity for a new service every week, by the way? Why not make up 1 or 2 or 3 CW service and go with that for the rest of time? Changing it and perfecting it? In my talking to others, it’s because the people want novelty and emotion and I don’t think we ought to pander to this particular request. For some people, the same thing over and over again quickly gets boring (well for most people- me included), and I believe this is a result of our sinful Adam which should be crushed by the law and forgiven for Christ rather than pandered to by creating new worship services over and over. This is one aspect of the style of CW that I think is a result of listening to sinful Adams rather than giving the people what they need.

    “Once again, I think Lutheran pastors ought to be able to use phrases that are not just vague and meaningless and heretical. You know?”

    Great! That, at least is good news. Now the problem may be that I don’t think any pastor wants that either and yet it is done. so it might be worthwhile to see some examples of what you think are not vague, meaningless or heretical CW creeds, confessions/absolutions etc.

    “While I always like a blame the victim mentality, the problem is it is not helpful to the situation. The fact is that people are leaving. So…what do we do? Try to do liturgical worship even better? Is that what your solution is for this? Or…what?”

    To begin with, the very fact that they are leaving shows us a very imporant thing about those who advocate CW- they don’t have a Lutheran understanding of the faith. If they did, then they could not join any other denomination. This then hints at a solution- better catechesis of the Lutheran faith.

    It’s vital to understand what the problem actually is before we provide a solution. If the problem is, they’re leaving because they’re not Lutheran, then we need to do everything we can to make sure that our teaching, words and deeds scream Lutheran while at the same time showing our congregational members the dangers of the other denominations just as much as we show them the dangers of the other religions. We teach what it means to be Lutheran better than we currently are (which I suppose is another discussion and to me part and parcel to the whole CW issue as I believe Lutheran pastor’s have not taught their flock very well since at least the 50’s) and teach against the evil distortions of the other faiths. Teach them to beware of going to Christian Bookstores. Teach them to beware of listening to Christian Radio or tv. Teach them to beware of the false messages in Christian music. Teach them to beware of the false pietistic messages not only in CW songs but also in some of the hymns that are in our hymnals.

    The root of the CW problem goes back farther than the current CW trend and involves the inclusion even in TLH of hymns that have helped shift our people’s views of the Lutheran faith ever so slightly until today they are prepared for the more overt messages of CW songs and style.

    The Bible says in Matthew 28 to Baptize and teach everything Jesus has commanded us. The Word of the Lord is the only way that people will be converted to the Lutheran faith. CW has made the assumption that to keep these people from leaving- rather than God doing something, I/We must do something. We must compromise with the culture in order to keep the people. I believe in the power of the Word of the Lord to change people’s hearts and teach them the truth of God’s Word- which is the same as the truth of Lutheranism. For those that are converted to Lutheranism, they will never leave the Lutheran faith for the Evangelical faith regradless of the style of worship. They will not be able to.

    “Many lay people don’t have the same opinion. But more importantly, many unchurched don’t have that position at all. So, how do we reach out to them?”

    This may be another difference between us. The unchurched or at least, unChristian can not worship. It’s impossible since they lack faith, and while a chance hearing of a worship service or a faithful hymn or a faithful sermon may bring faith through the Word and Sacrament, the worship service is not primarily for the unChristian. It is for the believers. The unchurched must be taught before they can understand any worship service- even the CW worship service. They can emmote better in a CW service and that drags them in, but they don’t understand it any better than they can understand the liturgical worship service.

    For the unchurched that have a Christian background that is not Lutheran, again, they will not be able to understand the Lutheran substance of a CW service any better than the Lutheran substance of a liturgical service until they are taught from the Word of the Lord. They will go along with their false understanding of the faith until someone corrects them. And since CW words are not distinctively Lutheran and can lead people in many different theological directions, and since pastors will not usually address the false theology of the denomination that they may have come from in catechism classes, that may be a long, long time if ever.

    “But once again, you think the response is really one of catechesis? We have not taught our members well enough about the wonders of the liturgy?”

    Yes and no. I think we have to think beyond teaching our members the meaning of the liturgy. I think the answer is to teach our members all of what is means to be Lutheran. I don’t think we’ve done this well since the 50’s. Sure, having a section in the Catechism class and Bible Studies about the understanding of certain aspects of the liturgy may be helpful, but for the most part I’ve found that the more people understand Lutheranism and believe in it, the more they understand Lutheran liturgical worship.

    For example the members of the church I’m currently attending (not as a pastor) have been taught so thoroughly that the ones I’ve talked to, would never attend any other church than a Lutheran church (and not all of those mind you) and would never even think of attending a CW service in any church Evangelical or Lutheran. The Pastors have taught them the truth of God’s Word from a Lutheran understanding and the dangers of the other denominations including the dangers of CW services. We even have a few converts from the Evangelical churches.

    I don’t doubt your intent to bring the Word and the Sacraments centered on Christ to your people, however I just don’t think you understand the taint of CW. It sounds as if you have cleared away some of the more obvious problems of CW, but I’m convinced that as long as a church has CW the service gives an unclear sound- a tainted Christ. And that taint will only be removed as you continue to remove the CW substance and replace it with Lutheran substance.

    “It is both. I don’t want to get too distracted by the whole sanctification issue. I would point you to Pastor McCain’s website and his discussion of sanctification. I hold to his position on the issue.”

    The main point for this discussion is how is Sanctification used in the Worship service? Have you been influenced by CW style to do something that isn’t Lutheran?

    Because the Law always accuses, the Worship service is not the place to retread the Law and call it 3rd use. In fact, you can’t preach 2nd use without understanding the 3rd use. I.e. you can’t understand your sin before God without understanding that this is what God expects of the Christian. When you preach 2nd use- you’re preaching 3rd use. When you preach 3rd use, you’re preaching 2nd use. 3rd use without the Gospel or at the end of a sermon ala Law/Gospel/Law creates either hypocritcal Christians or despair depending on how the hearer hears it. A well taught Lutheran will always hear 2nd use no matter how much you intend it to be the guide (another plug for better catechesis)- only Reformed and Evangelicals and those outside the Lutheran faith lap up the 3rd use as only a guide.

    In other words any pastor that tries to bring self-help into his Law/Gospel sermon with steps and encouragement to do better, is in fact accepting the Evangelical position on this and not the traditional Lutheran position. The steps and encouragement are useless. They can do nothing for us, because the problem is our sinful Adam and not a lack of motivation or emotion or even knowledge. You’re people already know what they’re supposed to do for the most part, if for nothing else than because of the 2nd use. Repeating the Law and calling it 3rd use isn’t improving their knowledge any. Christ alone is our sanctification. And if there is any fight against the old Adam to change my ways, it’s from the New Adam as strengthened by Christ through the Word and the Sacraments, not self-help steps, not encouragement, and certainly not closing with a section of Law.

    I acknowledge, by the way, the struggle with those who would believe that- I’ve sinned. I’m forgiven. Now I can sin again. This is due in part to a lack of good Lutheran education of the laity and in part to pastors who do not provide specific law in their sermons but rather a vague law that “We’re all sinners. Christ died for you.” End of sermon. This is just as wrong as ending with Law, though on the opposite side of the horse.

    “I think some just don’t like to worship in a liturgical style.”

    I agree that this is central to our disagreement. If you diagnose the problem differently, you’re undoubtedly going to come up with a different solution. But part of the disagreement may also be in whether liking a worship service should even be an issue. There are many things I hear from the pastor that I don’t like, but I still need to hear it. We agree on that, I’m sure. So what if worship is like that? We may not always like it, but it’s what God wants us to have. To put it another way, I’ve met very, very few even in the CW camp who HATE liturgical worship, they just have a preference.

    When asked why would God want us to have Liturgical Worship and not CW? I would say because CW leads us away from Christ, while Lutheran Liturgical worship gives Christ and nothing but Christ. or to put it in your situation Lutheran CW provides Christ in so far as it’s Lutheran and Evangelical theology in so far as it’s CW.

    Also, I made the point at the beginning of the paper that I actually like CW songs and music from a human stand point. I like the music. I’ve been moved in CW services. I understand what people are feeling when they say they like a CW service. I even understand what they’re looking for. On the flip side, I’ve sat in liturgical services (more than 1) that I couldn’t stand- the organist was having a hard time. The timing on the hymns was so slow as to literally be unsingable. The sermon was stock. A bad day for the pastor (it happens to all of us). I couldn’t say I enjoyed the service in anyway shape nor form. Yet in the two situations I got nothing but Christ in the liturgical service and got little bit of Christ in the Lutheran CW along with a whole lot of Evangelical law, and Pentecostal emotion. I know, you’re situation is different. So go ahead, show us how it’s different. Give us some examples of a pure Christ CW service.

    In Christ,

    Rev. Sean L. Rippy

  4. Let me apologize for poor phrasing in the above post #53 in relation to Christ being the center of liturgical worship.

    I agree with Pastor Fisk that truly liturgical worship is the sound pattern of words about Christ and that in the example of the RC mass in the above response, they had taken those sound words and added a human understanding, much the same as CW- in this sense, they departed from a truly liturgical worship.

    Thus when I said that “the center of liturgical worship isn’t Christ” I was using a short hand and poorly chosen phrase of “liturgical worship” for that which passes as liturgical in other denominations.

    I’m sorry for the misunderstanding I may have given people.

    Rev. Sean Rippy

  5. Rev. Louderback,

    Thank you for participating in this debate. I disagree with you and your position, but I appreciate your willingness to mix it up with us here. Please help me understand your position better by considering my responses to some of what you have written.

    You wrote, “You, as a pastor leading a CoWo service, have the authority to say what you want.”

    As I understand it the words of the Divine Service are solely the words of God from Scripture. I don’t mean to take your words out of context, but you almost make it sound as if a pastor has some kind of authority in the Church apart form Christ and His word. Presiding over the service means in the stead and by the command of Christ, right? Pastors are not going it alone when they preside.

    You wrote, “The fact is that people are leaving. So…what do we do? Try to do liturgical worship even better? Is that what your solution is for this? Or…what?”

    The solution is to be as faithful to Christ and His word as we possibly can. He will gather His flock when and where He chooses. The congregation on earth is but a remnant of His flock in His kingdom.

    You wrote, “Many lay people don’t have the same opinion. But more importantly, many unchurched don’t have that position at all. So, how do we reach out to them?”

    Show them the mercy of Jesus and share the faith Christ has given us. Make disciples and baptize. Tell them what the means of grace mean to us and put them into contact with Lutheran pastors of congregations who can teach them even more and one day administer the sacraments to them. I know many people who have become Lutheran and who love the traditional liturgy. Some of them have even come out churches which practice CW.

    You wrote, “When you say ‘As I wrote in my response to you, the reason is because I’ve seen it’ for why CW is not Christ-centered, I think ‘Well, come and worship with me.'”

    Many of us can’t come to worship with you any time soon, so maybe you could provide for us one of the services you have designed and let us compare it to one of the Divine Services which have survived the test of time and have been handed down through the centuries. Show us Missouri Synodors how we can improve on God’s word recited in the Divine Services.

    You wrote, “Well, why have the other stuff if they understand this then? Why drape this with language that doesn’t speak to them or that needs to be explained every time a visitor comes to church?”

    Isn’t all of Lutheran liturgy simply the texts or language of the Bible? Words and language we constantly need to read, learn and meditate on. When you preach there is probably an element of teaching as well to help your congregation better understand God’s word. When you are teaching your potential and life long members in Bible study and catechism classes you are teaching them the same Word and biblical language that are in the Lutheran Liturgy.

    Thanks once again for your engaging us in debate.

    In Christ,


  6. As a lifelong Lutheran, former choir director, and all-round music lover, I have struggled greatly with the concept of CW. My congregation offers both forms of worship and justifies this as “personal preference”. Those who disapprove of CW are to keep their mouths shut or risk being scolded or run off by the pastors. Unfortunately, many older, wiser congregants don’t want to “get involved”, and think that “we have to learn to accept change.”

    I have tried to determine whether or not I am being unnecessarily judgmental, but after much soul-searching, I keep coming back to the same conclusion. I believe that CW is very much a “dumbing down” of worship. For example, most of the songs are simple phrases that are repeated over and over, ad nauseum. Also, as has been previously stated by others, it very much encourages emphasis on whipping up an emotional frenzy rather than teaching/learning the Word. It is a meal consisting only of whipped cream, skipping the meat and potatoes.

    I find the whole spectacle quite embarrassing, because I feel that it fails to give God the fear and respect that He deserves and demands. Having the praise team and praise band up in front where everyone can see and hear them is another example of these people focusing on themselves and their needs rather than humbly coming together to receive God’s gifts in worship.

    I am not an old fogy, because I have no problem with listening to modern Christian songs on the radio or at concerts, but they have no place in a house of worship on a Sunday morning. The argument of “keeping the youth interested” is also not valid, because all three of my children were totally horrified when CW was introduced into our church, and they continue to be as offended by it as I.

    When our latest pastor introduced CW to our congregation, he,too, claimed that he would be able to make it very properly Lutheran. But as you have pointed out so capably, this was not possible. The sad thing is that he remains very proud of this “accomplishment”, and it is very disheartening to me to feel that I, without the benefit of seminary training, have more wisdom and discernment than the man who shepherds my entire fellow flock.

    Thank you very much for allowing me to make these comments.

  7. Shauna: Question: You state that your church offers it as a “personal choice”. Do they do it as 100% of the churches that I’ve seen — traditional is 8AM service and contemporary is 10:30 service? I’d just ONCE love to see them reverse the order of the services, and see how many CW “lovers” are willing to show up at 8AM for service.

  8. If we would be honest with ourselves, we’d admit that most of what passes for CW is hardly contemporary. From what I’ve seen (and I’ve seen plenty), it’s “70’s” not “Contemporary”. If it were truly contemporary, I doubt that anyone would show up.

    On the other hand, I’ll venture out on this liturgical limb: Some of the musical settings of the liturgy in LSB are very poor, and could use some melodic sprucing up. They are practically a-tonal, and the organist is challenged not to make the accompaniment sound like “oom-pah”. I have sung in church choirs for 60 years, and directed one for 25 years, and have selected a lot more than one Twila Paris song for choirs. But I know a good tune when I hear one, and I know a poor one, and I know good and proper lyrics & texts as well. What’s more you can’t substitue “Lamb of God” for the Agnus Dei, word-wise. Divine Service IV has all the elements of “orthodox” liturgical worship, and the hymn tunes it uses for the settings are far superior to some of the difficult tunes in other services.
    So I raise the question–is it the words or the music that is at the root of the controversy?

    I will now run for cover…..

  9. It’s kind of the lack of both, Johannes, vs. grounding in both.
    Lack of the Word vs. Word-soaked.
    Lack of musicality vs. sophisticated and erudite musicality.
    Music is about more than emotional expression, and emotions are more than frenzy or experience.
    You are out on a liturgical limb, definitely. I’d put down that saw.

  10. Shauna,
    You wrote,”I find the whole spectical quite embarassing, I feel that it fails to give God the fear & respect He deserves and demands”.
    In the gambit of comments here, longwindedly my own, I have yet to have seen it spoken so well, and so truthfully.
    Well said & well done Shauna, well done.

  11. Calling all Pastors & Elders,
    I will put forward a challenge to you all. I am a mere
    pew- sitter, but I did this, to UNDERSTAND, the comparision & analogy Christ uses in regards to ALL OF US, & YOU DO COUNT.
    Find someone, or through someone, who owns a “herd” of sheep. Find out what animal they use to be the “sentry”, they would be the “shepherd” & “flock” self explaining. Check out & remember the definitions of those terms. Don’t ask many questions before you go into the pen, what to do or not do, just go in. It MUST BE A PEN, as it has 4 walls or fences, (IE church walls). I will give a hint, don’t take anything with you, but what you wear, just walk in, close the gate and sit on the ground…then wait, time is relative, & it may take a while, just WAIT.
    Be mindful & aware, of all you see, in regards to what I said above, sentry, shepherd, & flock. Don’t do anything, just sit & watch, and wait. REMEMBER WHAT YOU OBSERVE!!!
    The flock will send the youngest, the lambs, even this late in the season. They, ARE DISPOSABLE, replaceable….in spring (hint, hint). Make mental notes, of EVERYTHING THE FLOCK, SENTRY, & SHPEHERD DOES OR DOES NOT DO.
    Christ’s comparision is exact, and from my mind & experience, RATHER GENEROUS, at that. Go, find someone, do this, and wait, watch, and give a report here at BJS,of what you saw, in regards to CW, CM, ABLAZE!,TCN, ETC.
    I have, I can, I did, for my OWN benefit, to understand what Jesus said.
    He most loving & generous indeed. Then, and only then, will you begin to understand the weight of the office you hold, understand who you are given charge over, and how important it is with what Pastor Rippy found, what has been spoken of here, etc. Why, would you place, those put in your charge, KNOWING FULL WELL THE CONSEQUENCES OF THOSE CHOICES, THAT WHICH WILL BE HELD TO YOUR ACCOUNT ALONE, WHY WOULD YOU, HAVING THE SLIGHTEST DOUBT, PLACE WHAT GOD HIMSELF GIFTED TO YOU, ALLOW SUCH A PERIL OR DANGER? I challenge you all, who hold the Divine Office, or elder, to try this.
    The OFFICE, is DIVINE, not the one who holds it.
    THERE IS NOTHING NEW UNDER THE SUN, & CW & CM, REPLACING WHAT HAS BEEN FOUND TRUE, AFTER CENTURIES, REPLACED FOR WHAT GOD HIMSELF HAS NOT ORDAINED NOR TESTED. From what I read here, & what I have personally seen, not felt, SEEN, I trust not that which has not been tested, by better men than we (ok I’m a girl so work w/me here).
    My soul is not worth a wager or guess, let alone a “feeling”. Endevor to accept my challenge, you may learn a fair bit of what Christ was so lovingly generous in comparing.

  12. Pastor Mark,

    Hello Dear Brother,

    Before I comment, I must say that I support much of your rationale IN A LUTHERAN CONTEXT. That is partly why I had to leave and become Orthodox according to my conscience as it is shaped by the Tradition (which includes chiefly Scripture, but also handed down Liturgies with actual names attached to them [Chrysostom, Basil].

    When you say that it is possible theoretically for an individual to construct a Christ-centered Divine Service in a particular time and place- you are correct. However, history teaches us that such individuals or movmements inevitably tend to go array without more stringent contraints, or rudders. The Orthodox Church has its Bishops to ensure Liturgical “God-centeredness” by guiding us in that Church to remain faithful to what has been handed down to us (= Tradition). Thus the Faith is safer (although to still be contended for) in the hands of celibate Episkpoi than it is in the hands of mere Presbyters such as you (in a Lutheran context) and I (now in an Orthodox context)- let alone in the orbit of untrained “lay music ministers and SMP “Vicars”. It is all about catholicity! Read Saint Vincent of Lerins for more on that.


  13. Father Hackney,

    It is becoming clearer to me that if there is a realignment of Lutherans that there will need to be some sort of commitment to a rite. We have the beginnings of that in the Book of Concord on what it says about worship but I am beginning to think that it may take more specifics. This is a very new thought for me and it needs much more work. I am sorry that you are now Orthodox (happy for you personally for sure) but think that there is much to be said for committing to a rite.

    I may need to write an original post on this including your comment so that we do not hijack this string.

    Thanks for your thougtful comment!


  14. Friar Hackney,
    Forgive me, should you not be Friar Hackney, which was ordained at St Elias in March, curious thing though, should you be the man, what would an ordained, in the Antiochian Orthodox Church, (or shall we speak plainly),
    Greek Orthodox Church, want or hope to gain, with a small, inconsequencial Lutheran & in the eyes of the church I believe you to be from , who view Lutherans as apostate or lost, or fallen…
    why a site, such as BJS?
    What is it you seek out here, for your own benefit, or for a benefit not to be found likely here?
    Should you not be the man, do I beg of you forgive the/my confusion. Do please clarify, as I have not at this point read a post from such a one from such a thing.

  15. Susan, you and I are usually on the same page, but this time I beg to differ with you, from out here on my theological (or musical) limb, with saw in hand (a musical saw, of course).

    As much as I love the liturgy, whether TLH, or LSB, I don’t find the liturgical tunes necessarily either sophisticated or erudite. I’ll put my musical sight-reading skills against almost anyone, and yet, after more than a year of using the LSB, I still struggle with some of the settings. For instance, DS I, the setting of the Gloria, p. 154, is not particularly melodic, but jumps all over the place. Most of the phrases have an eighth-rest before commencing with the melodic line, and the effect is very oomp-ah, especially as the organ is busy doing its own thing in a somewhat steady beat, adding to the oom-pah effect. This detracts from the words, and, in my opinion, degrades them. It may be an attempt to bring a somewhat contemporary “feel” to the liturgy, but that attempt falls flat in my opinion (no pun intended.) OK, pun intended!
    The offertory in the same service, p. 159, is marginally better. Here are the marvelous words of Psalm 116, and the music just rambles along somewhat aimlessly, with the organ again oom-pahing its own thing. If I were to suggest a “sophisticated and erudite” melody for this text, it would be “Canonbury” L.M., a melody by Robert Schumann (See LSB 551). It would take some creative poet to set the words to this tune, of course. Here is an elegant melody, joyful, singable, not CW, hardly a “German dirge”, and I have no doubt it honors this particular text.
    Enough said–I got places to go and things to do, and I have risked offending you, Susan (I hope I didn’t), and whomever wrote those LSB tunes I dislike. The saw is about half-way thru the branch, but it’s a rather thick branch, being so theologically Lutheran.

    If this posting is still around tomorrow, I’ll continue my tirade. I’m afraid to get started on what I consider to be some of the user-unfriendly and musically deficient hymn settings. I think I’ll save that. I wish to emphasize that LSB has much to commend it, and I did vote in favor of it at Convention. I’d give it about a B+. I’d vote for it again.

    If anyone wished to join me out here on my theological limb, please bring a few sandwiches and a pitch pipe.


  16. To answer my fellow blogger’s question, my congregation’s traditional service is indeed at 8 am, with the contemporary at 1045. This was decided by a cleverly crafted “survey” which quite obviously steered the congregants to agree to that arrangement, although no one seemed to notice the bias in the survey. Now the children’s choirs and special events are ALL done at the contemporary service, because of course no one wants to get up so early with a bunch of kids! So we are raising an entire generation of Lutherans who have no idea what liturgical worship is.

  17. Dutch,
    We have a number of Lutheran (ex pastors) who think they have accomplished something by moving East. I don’t know why Pr. Rossow should be “happy” for this one, as (if I understand it correctly) they trade justification by faith alone for obedience to “tradition”. (Moreover the Orthodox have as many sects and variations as western protestantism; you don’t hear about that.)
    The sainted Kurt E. Marquart, having been born in Russia (or what is now claimed by Russia), had Orthodox relatives and I heard him speak on the subject. There is also a discussion in the Issues Etc. archives with him and Tod speaking of (eastern) orthodoxy. Worth listening to!
    As to what this gentleman is doing here… the Antioch Orthodox in America are so few that any clergyman coming in is a Bishop, but he needs a flock.

  18. So we are raising an entire generation of Lutherans who have no idea what liturgical worship is. –Shauna

    We already have a generation well over 21 defending the system as “what most people want” so the scheme is working well.

  19. Helen adn Shauna–re: Lutherans who don’t know what liturgical worship is. That’s only the half (or 1/3) of it. In deprving them of liturgical worship (even if Johannes doesn’t like the tunes), they are starving the children theologically and may in fact, be leading them away from the faith. The Pied Piper of Hamelin (or St. Louis) played a popular and bouncy tune, I suspect, and all the young people loved it–probably had a great beat. But, in marching or dancing to that bouncy tune, they disappeared. If there were a “big box church” (or “Santanasium”) in Hamelin, that’s where they might be found. You are correct–although I’d put quotes on the name “Lutheran”, if you get my drift.

    Sandwiches, anyone?

  20. I have to say that I agree with some of the comments by the poster of #66 above, though not necessarily for the same reasons he proposes.

    I was listening to an NPR “All Things Considered” broadcast one day in the early 90’s. They had as a guest on that program Thomas Day, who had just published a book entitled “Why Catholics Can’t Sing: The Culture of Catholicism and the Triumph of Bad Taste.” As the interview progressed, it turned out that Day, the head of the music department at a small private Eastern college, was almost always able to detect a student coming from a Roman Catholic background by the disjointed, unsingable chord progression in their class compositions. He went on to point to the negative influence that Irish folk melodies (mostly from Celtic and Gaelic) had on that religious denomination’s music in North America.

    I bring this up in point reference to a similar progression that LCMS hymnals seem to have taking during the latter half of the 20th Century. The Lutheran Hymnal contained liturgies that were not only scripturally based, but were set to simple melodies that were singable by almost anyone. The next work, Lutheran Worship, published in the late-70’s/early-80’s time frame as a post-ecumenical bailout effort with some of the soon-to-become ELCA predecessors synods, began the down hill slide, containing some liturgical arrangements that were down right difficult for the average layman to sing. The latest work is just another step down in that same direction.

    While it is important that our liturgies contain scriptural lyrics, it is also important that they are set to melodies that are singable by the average non-musically talented individual. Although I agree with many of the comments above about CW music containing wording that is largely “me-centered” instead of God centered (and even un-scriptural in many cases), one of my second complaints about it is that much of cannot be sung by anyone but the very talented vocalists. What good is any of it if hardly anyone can sing it? It is simply a demonstration of arrogance on the part of the praise teams or choirs, looking condescendingly upon those average folks who don’t seem to be able to measure up.

    This attitude, too, comes from American Evangelicalism whose views are that, if one is musically talented, then he/she must use that “gift” to the fullest in order to have genuinely worshiped, seemingly leaving everyone else behind in the process, if necessary.

  21. Helen,
    I agree, how is it mere sheep see a mayhaps” disguise, & others don’t? I/we have no clue. If this isn’t what is referenced by the verbage, nor what I could “search”,
    then the error & fault lie completely with me alone, but… if it is, using the office as a cloak for designs & agendas is unseemly at best, deceit at worst. Sad that those who depend upon, are forced to test & search WHAT & WHO they are asked to depend upon.
    Did ya ever think, we would ever have to think, let alone pen these things? If we know what the Word says, yes we should have, we just not may have thought it would be refering to the days we dwell in. Dark but exciting days, but that greatly depends on what & Whom you place your trust & faith on.

  22. Helen,

    It was an awkward way of trying to express what I meant. It makes sense that you would be confused by it. My bad.

    I am trying to keep from personal attacks. Personally the guy must be happy – whatever. Theologically he has turned away from the pure Gospel – that is sad.

    Of course, in the end, anything theological is ultimately personal.


  23. You silly confessional Lutherans, don’t you realize that the hymnal does not appeal to the unchurched? I mean, come on, surely you know that worship in the Lord’s House is supposed to be an evangelistic endeavor – an opportunity for unbelievers to gather and decide whether or not to give their lives to Jesus. Gee whiz, read your Bible will ya? Worship in the Bible is always for the unchurched. The Tabernacle (and, later, the Temple) was erected to be a place where the unchurched would be welcomed and hopefully converted to the true faith. And then, when Jesus comes, He clearly demonstrates that His Father’s House is to be a place of informality and entertainment. Why do you think He becomes angry and turns over the tables? It’s because those tables had hymnals on them and He wants to make it clear that He is not into formal rituals and such. All people are welcome to worship as they please in His Father’s House. And, consider the way the early church worshipped. They met informally in homes and did whatever the Spirit moved them to do. Usually, they met in the homes of unbelievers and asked them how they wanted to worship and then did whatever pleased them. They certainly did not have hymnals, for Pete’s sake! Their liturgy was free and open to whatever the unchurched wanted. All you have to do is read the book of Revelation to see that worship is for the unchurched, and that true worship is not liturgical, as you falsely believe. What’s wrong with you people? Don’t you have a heart for unbelievers? There are people going to hell out there and all you’re concerned about is getting your liturgy correct? Give the people on their way to hell what they want. Conform the church’s public worship to their wants and desires. Hymnals do not appeal to the unchurched. Get rid of them, then. Why would you place a stumbling block before people. How will they be able to make a rational and personal decision to accept Jesus as their Lord if you people don’t get them through the door by giving them what they like? You confessional Lutherans need to get with it!

  24. George in Wheaton, Welcome to the limb–it’s thick enough for both of us. Would you like Peanut Butter and Jelly on white, or Ham on rye? Pass the milk, please. (No Kool-aid up here).


  25. Pastor Messer,
    What a cheeky fellow you are, TOTALLY RIGHT AS IT IS BIBLICAL, but cheeky, very cheeky.
    Thanks for the “cheeky” grin, much needed at this point I wager.

  26. Johannes & George from Wheaton,
    Boy, I sure do hope you all are sittin’ in a mighty big tree, cause there are more people in it than just the two of you! Are sandwiches required or elective?

  27. Dutch – forget the sandwiches. A dram of bourbon and a healthy chaw of tobaccy will suffice. (non-Pietists, remember)

  28. George in Wheaton,
    Ah um…a wee Dram or boot & tobaccy okay? Unbefitting a lady, YES I KNOW, but a Pimm’s or bubbly doesn’t cut it for me. Ich bin Deutsch, so you can fill in blanks, & I’m doing low carb, so bread is out anyway. Thanks for inviting me to the Crow Feast Party. Before I get there, let me know if ya’ll here any cracking wood noises.

  29. Pastor Rossow,

    Thank you for your kind words. I took them in context, and knew that you did not intend to confirm me in my Orthodoxy. I especially commend you for seeing the necessity of having a Liturgy with a definate name and structure in order to preserve the faith.


    I do not know what much to say about your post. It speaks for itself.

    As for Orthodoxy, it does not limit God’s work outside of the former’s canonical boundaries. Like Lutheranism, it often accepts baptism done in the name of the Triune God, and receives converts by Chrismation and reception of the Eucharist.

    Why do I dialogue with Christians of other Traditions of my own? You may want to reverse the question and ask “Why not?” I just finished reading an excellent post on another Lutheran blog where the pastor in charge set forth a great challenge for Orthodox on a Biblical perspective on the wrath of God.

    Now if the adminstrators of this site want to limit this blog to “Lutherans only”, I will gladly exclude myself. But the day may come where we (and other creedal Christians) will need each other more than you would ever know. Was Dr.Robert Preus and Dr. Rosenblatt out west out of line when they not only dialogued with, but also formed the “Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals?” At times they would go at it with the Reformed, but it was all in love. If I ever get testy, or cocky, or am out of line with what I say- please forgive me. But any true theological discussing will include hyperbole, passion and at times what appears to be condescension. But when the dust settles, all of us will stand before the same judgement throne.

    May God have mercy upon, us and save us!

  30. Helen,

    I did not mean to ignore you. Actually, Protestant converts are given much less importance than would clerical converts to the LCMS. In other words, clergy who convert to the LCMS are very likely to receive decent pay, benefits and health insurance. Nothing wrong with that- the LCMS is much larger probably than all Orthodox bodies combined!

    In contrast, converting clergy who are ordained to the diaconate or priesthood oftentimes are “worker priests” or earn much less than those serving in the LCMS. Thus, we are hardly viewed as “prizes” or “important”; indeed, oftentimes it is quite the opposite- and probably rightly so.

    Peace in Christ

  31. Pastor Rossow,

    One more thought. The Western Rite of the Antiochian Orthodox church preserves the ancient Western Liturgy of Saint Gregory the Great. Possibly google it, and you may find some helpful ideas or guidance by examining it.

    In Christ

  32. Just got back from my son’s first football game, (full tackle)!
    I know someone who was engaged to a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, & wanted to know more about it.
    There is a great piece about Pope Saint Gregory I,
    St Gregory the Great,
    Sr. Catherine Goddard Clark M.I.C.M.-Pope St Gregory I
    or you can just google by each title given.

  33. Johannes: Have not been a victim of the oompah-treatment by the organist. But then, I’m the organist, and any oompah on the organ is strictly for Lawrence Welk fans.
    I guess you’re looking for something more melodic than chant.
    Personally, I think our liturgy may be too accompanied overall, regardless of organists’ errant styles. I imagine that traditional church-folk have become as dependent upon accompaniment by an instrument, as CW congregations are upon a big screen. While us traditionals depend upon an organist’s lead (often at our peril), the CW’s follow the bouncing ball.
    But I don’t know any lovelier sound than our small Wed. nite congregation, praying Vespers a cappella.

  34. Susan–I misspoke. I think it’s very difficult for the organist to avoid the oom-pah effect, but, of course, it can be done correctly. I don’t consider the two examples I gave as chant. They are neither melodic nor chant, as far as I’m concerned. If I recall correctly (and the organ part is no longer printed, for reasons that escape me), the organ is playing in half notes, while the “melody” line is moving right along in quarter, eighths, sixteenths, dotted quarters and who knows what. I’m sure that if done right, the oompah disappears. You may be right about more organ than necessary. And don’t get me wrong–I love chanting–it’s not just about melody. But nobody wants to take the time to do chant well–it’s got to “move along”, so much is lost. If you’re going to set the liturgy to something other than genuine chant, then it ought to be singable, reverent, elegant, etc.

    I hope I’m making myself clear here.

    Rev. Messer makes an incredibly important point. If, as he says, worship is not for the visitor, but for the worshipper–the Christian, then we ought to revisit this whole business. Genuine liturgical worship is counter-cultural, and so, it needs to be learned. That means it needs to be taught. The pastor’s membership classes should include lots of teaching about worship, and the prospective new members need to be brought along somewhat gradually. This opens up a new perspective on worship that needs study, and if I’m correct, a completely new approach. We come to receive God’s gifts–forgiveness of sins, life and salvation–things that are transcendant. Worship needs to be approached that way. One more reason why CW (with or without screens) cannot measure up–it is about as transcendant as a football game.

    Back to the limb…(sawing sound…….)

  35. Rev. Stefanski–thanks for the “Of course!” But I have to wonder if it’s happening. My guess is that it is not, your “Of course!” notwithstanding.


  36. Rev. Stefanski–ooops. I missed the link to the book. Looks like something that ought to be in pastor’s library.

    Are you going to write one on Contemporary Worship?

    Ooops–time to duck for cover again!! Just kidding. Honest. Really.


  37. Rev. Stefanski–Let me see if I have this right: The content of that book on CW equals the content of CW. I think that may be an overstatement. I’ll check it out.


  38. Friar Hackney,
    I never intended to confront you on any personal level, HOWEVER, I am a child of the past, both present & distant how ere you may choose to find thus. I do understand the great differences of our preceptions of the faith, I do know who, Pope St. Gregory, Gregory the Great, Santos Gregor, is, as I am also a child of world/chruch history. If I ran rather rough shot, as in bull in fragile geschaft, forgive me, I beg you. You are new here,(AT VERY LEAST, NEW TO ME HERE). I have seen 3=5 ELCA families depart the Lutheran demonination in preference to the Roman Catholic one. I do & is understandable, look upon such injections with a degree of suspicion. I do grieve the fact, that by my inept verbage, I gave you cause, for my words to you to doubt your Faith, as both of ours, are rather, different. You just seem, as I have been here since January 2009, to be the first, of the “Returned Orthodox” faith, to comment here, on rather a sticky wicket of a subject.
    We or some, have read comments from the Vatican or those subject of the Vatican, have made the call for “repentance” for all Lutherans, “maybe they will depart their heresy, repent, & seek out the TRUE CHURCH”. (My Italian & Latin are sorely lacking, spoken per the recent ELCA decision. I read many an EU & International paper every morning, so I have a very immature knowledge of such. Forgive any inference that I doubted you committment to CHRIST HIMLSELF:


    That error was mine alone. So much for limb sitting.
    I am rather a “top chef” of how to plate crow, how to make it palpable, never tasty, but palpable, as not to choke on said when consuming.
    However, as most here are rather unaware of,
    Pope St. Gregory the First, St Gregory the Great, Gregory the Author, I do beg more info for their sakes.
    LCMS website has a fair bit, however, it does negate what it posts, depending upon the date published.
    I am truly sorry, if I personally offended you, however, you must take into account (though you may not be aware) of my experience, my departure from LCMS to WELS, and the reasons therein. I offer my hand in conceedence, do you offer yours? I do pray so, as I intended to confront you post & stand, Fr., not your personal Faith. Curious, how is it the “capital letters, a note of respect” are rarely
    used, here, there or anywhere?

  39. As the volunteer choir director at my church, I have occasionally written worship services that make substantial use of contemporary music (with the oversight of my pastor). My approach involves applying a rather strict filter to any music being considered. Songs must be:

    1. Doctrinally sound.
    2. Singable.
    3. Clear in what its lyrics communicate.
    4. Not overly repetitious.
    5. Without language that says, in effect, “This is what I’m doing for you, Lord.”
    6. Without language that focuses on — or seems to require — feelings of personal spiritual elation. (Certainly the focus is best on the Reason for joy, regardless of the degree to which joy might be felt at the moment.)

    A very small fraction of the published music that I have reviewed passes that filter. But among the pieces that make the short list, the use of selected contemporary songs within a familiar liturgical structure has had the effect — as God has given the grace — of eliciting among our church members a refreshed appreciation of what our worship entails. Some lyrics that have been consistently fitting are these:

    Between the confession and absolution:
    “Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.”

    Following the absolution:
    “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord.”

    Where the Sanctus is normally sung:
    “Alleluia, for the Lord God almighty reigns! Holy, holy, you are Lord God Almighty. Worthy is the Lamb. Amen! ”

    Before communion:
    “Come let us worship and bow down.
    Let us kneel before the Lord our God, our Maker
    For He is our God and we are the people of His pasture
    And the sheep of His hand.”

    “My God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you.
    I will seek you in the morning, and I will learn to walk in your ways
    As step by step you lead me. And I will follow you all of my days.”

    “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it.”

    We continue to use hymns with the contemporary liturgy. A well-crafted contemporary service conducted with due reverence will not clash with the musical idioms common to our cherished Lutheran hymns, I should think, but accommodate expressions of worship from many times and places.

  40. Shadowy,

    We do not write any new services but we do use a handful of CW songs during the course of a year. Once or twice a year we will sing “Open my eyes Lord, I want to see Jesus” during communion – very appropriate.


  41. Dutch,

    Orthodoxy has even responded to its various challenges by developing in its praxis. That is why it now has only celibate Bishops, but ealier in its history it knows that it once had married ones. In the same way, I was trying to be helpful to my brothers by suggesting a real, named, identifiable Liturgy. As for Gregory the Dialogist (as he is known in the East), the Western Liturgy bears his name. I ask that at his intercession the many godly western christians may once again find stability in what was once their heritage and treasure; and the means by which they received the body and blood of Christ.

  42. Friar Hackney,
    God’s Grace & Peace be to you! I am SO VERY THANKFULL YOU RESPONDED TO MY COMMENT TO YOU, I have watched, as I offended you, & have offered my hand, in philos (I’m a girl, so I don’t the latin term for it) to you.

    Friar Hackney, in what you so lovingly wrote, that would be the sticking point for us, would it not? The definitions of praxis & orthodoxy, between you & I. I am aware (though inept & immature as I may be) the basic definitions of yours, as you are aware of mine. Mine, myself, mine, have always begun to be defined, beginning with a Book, or rather a love letter. And of course, a list, of 95 questions, nailed to a door, by a wee man named Martin Luther. That is where we so very much differ, you & I. How could I return, to something, which was “exposed & questioned” so eloquently, to be out of orthodox, according to the Scriptures, over 600 or so years ago, by so much better than I? My intercession, knowing full well your great concern for me & those here, has always depended upon, began, and shall end with SOLA CHRISTOS.
    Christ promised us that in His Word, above & beyond the created. Hence one of the many differences in our orthodoxy & praxis. I do pray, you have found His Peace & Comfort in what you sought, as I, have so mercifully & Grace filled, found in mine, (S.C, S.F, S.S. & S.G!). I do pray you can take the offer of repentance as to my offence to you, but that, is all I can truly offer in this. I cannot depart, that which has, been proven true, in the Faith & Denomination, in which I have been instructed, tested, and accepted. As you, have chosen yours.
    Most respectfully,
    In Christ Always,

  43. My apologies.

    There have been several good questions and comments asked of me here and I have not gotten back to them.

    I’m sorry about that. I do not mean to do a drive by or some hit and run. I do intend to answer questions and give responses and continue the discussion.

    I beg for a bit more time that’s all. Of course, threads like this have a life cycle and this one might be dead already. Nevertheless the issues that are being discussed are not dying out soon. So for me the discussion is still important and one I would like to continue.

    Just not yet. Not today. Thanks for your patience.

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