You May Be Practicing “Contemporary” Worship If… Help Us Create Our Top 50 List, by Pr. Rossow

While Klemet  and President Forke discuss  “Contemporary” Worship  on a more abstract level, I thought it might be of some use for the rest of us to compile a list of specific examples of “contemporary” worship that we have encountered through the years. Let’s see if we can get up to 50 specific examples (maybe it will turn into a top 100 list).  The reason we put “contemporary” in quotes is because the divine service done properly is contemporary. The historic liturgical worship of the church has always included music written by “contemporaries” including settings and arrangements of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs that may have even been composed the week before they were presented in the divine service.

So we are using “contemporary worship”  in the sense of that approach to Christian worship that does not enhance the traditional liturgy used in the church for some 2,000 years, but instead looks to replace it with a less formal worship that is more in keeping with pop culture.

Here are the rules of the game. Please be specific. List an actual practice of contemporary worship. You can also list examples of doing the liturgy in ways that accommodate pop culture. Along with your example, give a brief description of how it undermines or lessens the historic, traditional approach to the divine service. Since we most likely will not all agree as to what shall be on the list (I am anticipating some lively discussion), I will be the final arbiter of what goes on the final list.

Let me offer a first entry.

Applauding Special Music Selections

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging and publicly thanking musicians, even with applause but it has no place in the flow of the unfolding drama of the liturgy. The liturgy is not a performance. It is God coming to us in word and sacrament and our getting caught up in praise to Him in the expression of the faith born in us by those means of God’s grace. At our parish we occasionally thank our musicians with applause but we do so after the service has concluded and we always do so in acknowledgment of God who has given his church these musical gifts.

Whose next? Let’s here your examples as we try to educate the synod on the do and don’ts of genuine Lutheran and scriptural worship.

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.


You May Be Practicing “Contemporary” Worship If… Help Us Create Our Top 50 List, by Pr. Rossow — 156 Comments

  1. Phil Magness or anyone who with a knowledge of Luther,

    Thanks for the response. Was Luther’s sung creed a poetic, hymnic “dynamic equivalent” (like the supposed Nunc dimittis of Hymnal supplement 98) or was it a translation befitting such an ecumenical symbol? Oftentimes those who do not faithfully transmit the Tradition down use poetic license in order to “reach the people” in their “own language”. It is an easy slippery slope to fall down. For, no one who does such a thing thinks that he is changing anything “essentially”. But paraphrases are not translations; we need scribal pens with an ear for music when dealing with scripture and liturgy- not contemporary poets.

  2. For Dutch and Christine,

    I commend both of you for your heartfelt posts.

    “The presence of an altar (not alter, if you please) says something very significant about Who we worship, how and why. The altar is a symbol of Christ and the sacrifice He made on our behalf. The Lutheran Reformation was a conservative one that didn not seek to jettison it’s evangelical and catholic roots.”

    The above quote is Christine’s, and I think it encapsulates the most important thought; that you have whatever basics you need to differentiate the altar and the presence of Christ from the congregation engaged in worship. In Christine’s church, it seems their rough existence incorporates a Christ-like spirt; this is truly humbling and extremely refreshing.

    No offense intended, Dutch, but if you pay attention to some of the posts there is a fair amount of focus on minor issues, arrogance, and an intent to excoriate the CW style for the purpose of defining traditional Lutheran worship. While it may be helpful to define the unacceptable, to do so crassly and for entertainment (at the expense of others who are not here to explain or defend their reasoning) is shallow and ineffective; it undermines the purpose, particularly when many of the bloggers find minor material and physical formalities equal to maintaining liturgical elements.

    When it comes to doing for others, I agree with you that having an unboastful attitude is certainly the best kind of charity. However, I was not asking people to “proclaim” their good deeds; but I did intend to provoke those posting here to think about whether or not it really matters if someone is wearing jeans, has a pocket that shows their wallet or can of chew, carries a water bottle or a cup of coffee into the sanctuary, etc. These inclinations reflect upbringing and social class, not liturgy. So in this respect, I would rather be worshipping among the homeless and a bunch of do-gooding missionaries than people who will demand I pitch my water bottle or frown at my coffee. Fortunately, I don’t chew or smoke!

  3. @Tilly Patts Matthews #152
    So in this respect, I would rather be worshipping among the homeless and a bunch of do-gooding missionaries than people who will demand I pitch my water bottle or frown at my coffee. Fortunately, I don’t chew or smoke!

    Fortunately for the rest of us, evidently.
    Anyone above the age of two who can’t be taught to refrain from eating/drinking for an hour has got a problem. And they frequently make a mess and leave it for the ushers to clean up. Most churches have “cry rooms” for them (which they ignore).

    Leave your water bottle in the car and your coffee at Starbucks (or in the church narthex if you will deign to drink their coffee). Please.

    The only sustenance you should need in church is distributed from the altar.

    This post is meant to explain, not entertain.

  4. Helen,

    I think this irritability signals you have a problem, one that has little to do with the “sustenance” of the altar. If what is distributed there really matters, these types of personal habits are of little consequence.

    It is illogical to assume that people who bring in water or coffee do not throw out their trash.

    On Sunday I am one of the people who straightens up the sanctuary. The job is easy, and I do it with a smile. I don’t find this task to be a burden, nor doI dislike the presence of toddlers or crying infants. I do not see them as having “problems”. Coffee drinkers and messy babies: bring em on! The more the merrier! My job in Christ’s church is to serve others, not whine about it.

  5. Do any of us get the impression that we seem to be shouting at each other? That the “lively discussion” that Pr. Rossow predicted has, in some measure, lost the civility that ought to characterize this, of all websites?

    It appears that having water (or coffee) in the pews is pretty important to some of us. It’s significant that my objection to them was voiced in Post #1, and it’s still rearing its head in Post #152. Water bottles have become an icon for those of us (snobs, I gather) who object to them, and those of us (snobs, I gather) who view them as a badge of honor. Water bottles and coffee cups, it seems, are metaphors for the whole business of the worship controversies that trouble us.

    Johannes the Dry

  6. Pastor Rossow didn’t have time today to start a new post on this topic, and I’m shutting off comments on this one until he has time to write a new one. I understand it is his intention to attempt to continue this discussion in a more civilized fashion by starting a new post.

    Please be patient and hold further comments until a new post is published on this blog.

    Norm Fisher