LCMS Youth Gathering Praise Music Now Comes with a Theological Disclaimer, by Pr. Rossow

We thank a BJS reader for alerting us to this troubling development. Here is a disclaimer on the bottom of the website promoting the bands that will be playing at this summer’s LCMS national youth gathering:

Performers are contracted for a specific Gathering task or presentation at the direction of Gathering planners.  Information on a performer’s Web site may not represent the position of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in its entirety.  The YMO does not necessarily suggest endorsement of the entire editorial or theological opinion of the performer or organization.


Here is a close-up of the bottom of the website as it exists today. We have saved a PDF copy of the page as it exists today.

Bands page of National Youth Gathering Disclaimer

Bands page of National Youth Gathering Disclaimer


This development does not surprise us. It follows the trajectory that President Kieschnick has set for the LCMS – change with the times because this is no longer your grandfather’s church.

Here are some Scriptures that we wish the YMO and President Kieschnick, who by policy is to be the supreme supervisor of the synod, would consider before inviting heterodox praise and rock bands to minister to our youth:

Galatians 1:6  I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.

Romans 16:17  I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. 18  For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites,  and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.

Jude 3  Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

Matthew 10:34  “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35  For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36  And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.

Click here for  a link to a sermon by C. F. W. Walther, one of  the grandfathers of the church,  on preserving the pure Gospel.

President Kieschnick is already according to the LCMS  Handbook the chief supervisor of doctrine of synod in the church and these things are happening. We do not like the prospect of him also becoming the temporal supervisor of the ministries of the synod as would happen if Blue Ribbon proposal #18 passes. Again, we call on the members of synod churches and the delegates to the convention to wake up and restore Biblical purity to our denomination.

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.


LCMS Youth Gathering Praise Music Now Comes with a Theological Disclaimer, by Pr. Rossow — 64 Comments

  1. Dutch #36 & Pr. Rossow #22

    Dutch: You said: “will the statement, ‘we didn’t have enough time to devote’ suffice?” – I answer – NO! and that was my point. I think Pr. Rossow (#22) understood what I intended – that I sense an unbalanced approach to some of the issues identified on the BJS site and IMHO a corrective is to have a more concerted effort to develop and share materials that would better equip each other to recognize and deal with the false teachings underlying the issues identified. What I was advocating for was a means/mechanism to “redeem the time” that we have. I was not looking for excuses.

    I also agree there is a “both/and” effort that is necessary. Congregations – as members of this representative organization called “SYNOD” – WILL be held accountable for their part in allowing these shenanigans to occur under their auspices. Thus, there IS a political element that must be exercised. My ultimate concern, however, is that the politicization of these things PRIOR to a well reasoned and articulated evaluation of the issues — specifically from a SCRIPTURAL standpoint — is a dangerous road to take.

    Like many of the facts brought to light on the BJS site, I appreciate the raw fact being brought to light that NYO has put this disclaimer up. The question I’m posing is WHAT OUGHT WE DO ABOUT THE FACT. Wringing our hands, lamenting both the fact and the underlying need that gave rise to the disclaimer is unproductive. I would even submit that it is COUNTER productive since it wastes the most precious resource we have… time.

    As some dead German who most of us around here love and respect said, the only “power” we have is the power of the Word and convincing (based on that Word).

    From what I’ve seen, much (but NOT ALL) of the discussion surrounding so many of the issues brought to light on this site focuses on OTHER ways to exert power to change things and thus falls into the same trap as the BRTFSSG recommendations.

    That is to say, it seems we, like the authors of the BRTFSSG reports and recommendations, believe there is some OTHER sort of power in the church besides the power of the Word and convincing (based on that Word). For example, the BRTFSSG asserts that there is some inherent power of the vote, the constitution, and the bylaws which bestow that power on individuals in office. Some of the “other powers” in discussions in this particular thread regarding the NYO disclaimer, include, among other things, the power of boycott (in fairness, my own comments, although not intended so, could be read as an endorsement of this kind of power) and the power of endorsing and using alternative organizations.

    What I’m advocating is the use of the ONLY true power we’ve been given, the power of the Word and convincing (based on that Word).

    My argument is the same whether we’re talking about the false teachings of performers (ministers?) Hired/Contracted/(Commissioned?) by Synod to teach our youth at the NYG or we’re talking about the BRTFSSG recommendations: If there is no other power that the church has than the power of the Word and convincing – it is imperative that we carefully examine these issues alongside the Word and present THAT ANALYSIS to convince others of the wrongness of the teaching. Until that is done, the ONLY legitimate power that the church has remains sheathed while we scramble to try to “solve” the problem in some other way. FURTHERMORE: Since the ONLY power given by God to deal with these issues is the power of the Word and convincing – ANY OTHER WAY is, BY DEFINITION, “ungodly” — even if the aims and motives and tactics are “good” in a civil righteousness sort of way. We thus become part of the problem and not the solution.

    Such work is hard and time consuming and absolutely cannot be accomplished alone by a parish pastor while attending to the other important duties of his office. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Thus why I would advocate scaling back on the discussion and attempted use of these “other” powers and finding some mechanism to facilitate the work of exercising the ONLY legitimate power that God has given His Church to deal with these issues — the power of the Word and of convincing (based upon that Word).

    … Oh, yeah, the dead German was C.F.W. Walther — first president of my grandfather’s church.

  2. Rev. Dent,

    Don’t mistake the commenters on this blog for this blog. For every commenter there are dozens of readers not commenting who are appreciative of the information revealed here. (We average 1,500 unique visitors a day.) People are learning all sorts of things that they would otherwise not know.

    Again I say it is both and. It is not just a matter of catechesis. We also need leadership. People have been trying the catechesis thing for years in the LCMS and things are not better but worse. Keep up the catechesis. We can do nothing less. We are committed to it here on this site. However, it is also wise to do what we can to get leaders in key positions who understand the need for catechesis and who can catechize as Synodical President and Bishops. Catechesis and leadership should not be pitted against each other in the LCMS.

    More “both and” to come…


  3. Sandra is right about Higher Things. I attended the 2008 conference as a paying adult day guest, but I liked it so well that I decided to pay to go every day. I may do so again this year if that option becomes available in Utah and I can afford it, the economic situation in California being what it is. (I’d much rather be in Utah than Tennessee, I guess because I grew up in the West and like the drier weather in this part of the country.) I’d gladly volunteer to help out in any way I could and still pay to attend. It’s that good.

    Shifting topics a little:

    This is not a criticism of Sandra or what she said, because I know that the people who chose the hymns from the LSB choose them carefully.

    There are, however, some “hymns” in the LSB that should not be there. I could not believe that “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is in the hymnal and that the Lutheran Service Builder software suggests that this is appropriate for Lent! I wasn’t really familiar with this as it was not in TLH or LW (but was in LBW). If you use Google to search on it, you’ll find that the guy who wrote the words was a “confirmed agnostic” (whatever that means; I thought agnostic meant someone who was certain about God’s existence, but might be persuadeable) and wrote this for a performance on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in 1900. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the “Black National Anthem,” seems more appropriate for civil rights rally (see Kim Weston singing it back in the 1970s at (I had this discussion with both my pastor and Pr. Henrickson when he was in the O.C. recently and both thought it was inappropriate for a church service.)

  4. Not surprisingly, the way the LCMS “outreach” effort is going, this type of “disclaimer should be included in the worship folders, bulletins, and marquees of many LCMS congregations.

  5. May I suggest some excellent reading? “Liturgy and Evangelism in the Service of Mysteria Dei” by Dr. John Pless. Clear thinking and an excellent read. Those who are following the thread on “Lutheran Evangelism” would find it helpful, also.


  6. @Deacon Brian Hughes #48
    Deacon Hughes,

    I could see your point more readily if they changed the tune. Text and tune remain the same. What has changed is the setting.

    I could see your point more readily if the style of the setting were more readily associated with “appeal[ing] to the lasciviousness of Human Nature,” but as the Speedwood style was initiated by Lost & Found, such secular associations are not there. Yes, Speedwood does share some elements with secular styles, but musical styles are so intertwined and borrow so heavily from one another, I am not sure that you can find any musical style that is uniquely ecclesiastical. Even plainsong shared some characteristics with its contemporary secular music.

    The music can and does determine Doctrinal Content if used the wrong way, as this concept of music is not about worship in the Lutheran Sense of bringing out the meaning of the text, the Holy Word of God in Christ’s Person,Nature and Work, but rather to appeal to a Theology of Glory in man’s continued attempt to be Justified by his own ’self chosen’ works and methods.
    This paradigm of music,wedded to the Hymns, as illustrated, does not come from Him who thus inspired the text of the Hymn, as it was taken from the true interpretation of His Word.

    I am not sure what your referent is with regard to “this concept of music.” You have a demonstrative with no antecedent. Much of the music performed by the professional musicians at the Gathering appeals to the Theology of Glory, and I would agree with your critique in many cases. I think you are painting with too broad of a brush when you include Lost & Found in that critique.

    That being said, I should probably include that while I like many of their original speedwood songs, I don’t like their speedwood settings of those hymns. But that is a stylistic choice. I also don’t like any settings/songs/styles that put the words of my Lord in the mouth of a baritone or bass. The musical setting “language” that I most readily speak has the villain/antagonist as the baritone, the authoritarian figure (“Law” in the theological sense, thus theology of glory) is the bass, the “hero”/protagonist is the tenor – so having Jesus as a baritone or bass “speaks” contrary to the Gospel text in my ears. Not everyone accepts or understands that convention, and in other musical styles the bass is the “hero”/protagonist, so I cannot say that it is wrong – it just doesn’t suit my style.

  7. @PPPadre #56
    “I also don’t like any settings/songs/styles that put the words of my Lord in the mouth of a baritone or bass. The musical setting “language” that I most readily speak has the villain/antagonist as the baritone, the authoritarian figure (”Law” in the theological sense, thus theology of glory) is the bass, the “hero”/protagonist is the tenor – so having Jesus as a baritone or bass “speaks” contrary to the Gospel text in my ears.”

    I understand your personal preference here–no quibble. However, when you give a listen to Bach’s St. Matthew or St. John Passions, Jesus is sung by a bass. And, given the way Bach has orchestrated the passions, it works wonderfully. I can’t imagine him as a tenor or even a baritone. But–as you say, it’s a matter of personal preference.


  8. @Rev. Joel A. Brondos #50
    Don’t we have any good confessional LUTHERAN guitarists and musicians singing lyrics that confess the Scriptures in a way that doesn’t deviate from the Lutheran Confessions?

    Actually, I know a man with an advanced degree in music added to his M Div. He’s good; so far his primary job is parish Pastor but he also teaches music.
    He’s a confessional Lutheran, so I doubt you’ll ever see him invited to district or national youth gatherings.

  9. Hi brothers:

    As a person with an interest in the Lutheran music of the 1600’s, I thought it might be useful to say that much of the sacred music of that time set the words for Jesus in the bass voice. Even before J.S. Bach. I’m not saying that it has to be that way today, it’s just an interesting historical observation of what you might have heard if you lived at that time.

    There is definitely a connection between a worship song’s style and substance. If you change substance, the style will shift too. If you try to sing a Lutheran substance song to a different style, you might think it works for a little while. But just like walking on the bar of a fence, eventually you have come down on one side or the other. That is, you eventually have to change the substance to match the style (which seems like what is happening at the NYG), or you have to abandon the style and use a more fitting one.

    Style relates to substance like fruit relates to a tree. That may be why I liken contemporary worship like trying to grow thistles from fig trees and thorns from grapevines. Or perhaps like growing an orange from an apple tree. Lutheran substance and Neo-Evangelical style just don’t fit together.

    One more thought. Amos 5:23 indicates that God hates the music itself that accompanies and transmits a heterodox theology. That should make us stop and think about the implications of welcoming groups who play theologically heterodox songs at the synod’s youth gathering.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Fullerton, NE

  10. A lot, in terms of style, depends on what we grew up with and are familiar with.

    When I was in High School, my choir director (also a member of a neighboring LCMS congregation) was teaching us to sight read using the solfege method (do-re-mi…). When his congregation switched to LW, he brought the TLHs to school and used them for the music we were sight reading in 4 parts. A lot of the kids had trouble because the chorale style of the arrangements was foreign to them. As a life-long Lutheran, this was right in my wheelhouse. Half the time I didn’t even need to look at the music (so much for learning to sight read).

    As I have learned other musical styles, it is more difficult to anticipate what is coming next because I am so used to the chorale settings of TLH. Some of these styles are beautiful, some are rather dissonant in my ears. They all use conventions to serve the text (like whether Jesus is a Bass or a Tenor – never a baritone, though – baritones are the bad guys), those conventions can be quite different, but they all serve the text in their own style.

  11. It would be helpful, indeed revealing, to see this whole business in the larger context. I commend the following to all for study and reflection:

    “Liturgy and Pietism: Then and Now, By Dr. John Pless.”

    It’s an eye-opener and may even give a few of us an “aha” moment.

    Johannes (aha!!)

  12. All of you are obviously old school, traditional worship, responsive reading, full liturgy kinds of people. Let me be the first to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with this in any way shape or form. Now to the things that you won’t necessarily like.

    Contemporary music is a form of worship. David Crowder’s “How He Loves Us” is about God’s infinite love for his children. Show me scripture that refutes the lyrics to this song. Take any of the songs from the various artists on the WOW Worship cd’s (there are several) and show me how this is contrary to scripture. I don’t believe you can.

    Many who have a certain distaste for contemporary music say that a piano or organ (nothing else) must be used and that congregants must stand in a prone position with no movement. I can show you scripture contrary to this.

    Psalm 150

    1 Praise the LORD.
    Praise God in his sanctuary;
    praise him in his mighty heavens.

    2 Praise him for his acts of power;
    praise him for his surpassing greatness.

    3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet,
    praise him with the harp and lyre,

    4 praise him with tambourine and dancing,
    praise him with the strings and flute,

    5 praise him with the clash of cymbals,
    praise him with resounding cymbals.

    6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.
    Praise the LORD.

    God delights in music and our dancing. We should not constrict people to the old fashioned, unfeeling ways of worship. If we are praising God and things are “liturgically sound” (which everything was approved by the liturgical board for the Gathering) then what’s the problem?

    I understand many of you will disagree, but that is your opinion. The youth are not just the church of the future, they are the church of now.

    1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

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