Bishop Obare Takes on the Sacred Cow of Contemporary Worship – Seminaries and President Harrison I Hope You are Listening? by Pr. Rossow

In his sermon at the installation of President Harrison Bishop Walter Obare did the unthinkable. He took on the sacred cow of contemporary worship. Obare is the archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya and is a long-time friend of President Harrison.

The sermon was terse and straightforward in its addressing of the main theme of Scripture which is also the main theme of the short-lived Harrison presidency – sin and forgiveness. It was also terse and straight-forward in its addressing of issues facing the church today. Obare encouraged the newly elected president and officers to maintain the confessional nature of the LCMS by upholding the clear Biblical preaching and teaching of law and Gospel. He encouraged the newly elected to keep the church from drowning in the false postmodern thought that causes man to doubt the clear Word of God and replace it with his own reason, falsely dreaming that God is not behind all that happens and rejecting the miraculous power of God as revealed in Scripture.

He also spoke out clearly against those in the church who falsely teach that homosexuality is a predisposition. He rejected that notion as foolishness since God is the creator of all. “Sin is sin” he said and God does not contradict himself. But of course that was not all that earth-shaking since most everyone in the LCMS, including ex-president Kieschnick have spoken out against homosexuality, although none as clearly as Bishop Obare. What was really jolting and refreshing is that Bishop Obare took on the sacred cow of contemporary worship.

Obare called the “holy liturgy” one of the marks of the church along with the office of the holy ministry. He begged the newly elected to help the LCMS remain a confessional church in the face of postmodern pressures. Contemporary worship was one of the postmodern pressures called out by Obare. He encouraged the newly elected to be committed to the holy liturgy which he said has come down to us in the church through the ages.

 He compared contemporary worship to “the [unintelligible word or phrase] of the Kenyan marketplace that changes every four to six months” and that veers from what it should be. The sermon was a little difficult to understand at this point but the lesson was clear from the aged and wise bishop – contemporary worship is temporary, passing and in league with the earthly lusts of the secularized world. Seminaries and President Harrison I hope you are listening? Everyone I talked to at the installation party said it was a knock-out sermon. Now we just need to listen to it and heed all of its advice.

This is very timely for two reasons. For one, I have just received word from a source today that Concordia Seminary – St. Louis is forming a “chapel band” to lead contemporary worship as a part of its contextual worship efforts. (We will share more with you as this story develops, if it indeed it does.) Concordia Seminary St. Louis, did you hear the sage advice of the Bishop Obare? I personally beg you to listen and heed his advice to stay in the church catholic rather than following the whims of secular culture as though you are some kind of an Americanized Baptist or some such thing.

 It is also very timely because the folks over at Jesus First, who continue to claim to be a growing movement in the LCMS, just today issued their most recent newsletter and amongst other things took a stand in favor of contemporary worship with the following antithesis:

[We cannot accept…] An effort to stymie the creativity and versatility of congregations in worship

We do understand that there are appropriate expectations of what will take place in a service of Lutheran worship. As congregations understand and honor those expectations, congregations can and should use the variety of gifts that are available to them without undue criticism or judgment from others. (Click here for the full article.)

Jesus First is all in favor of evangelism and mission but has been duped by the culture and the American Protestants into thinking that contemporary worship is a godly way to grow the church. But, here is this guy, a bishop no less, straight from the mission field, dumping on contemporary worship. Go figure. Something does not add up.

We applaud Bishop Obare for taking on the sacred cow of contemporary worship. It was even more ironic since his longest trope was an extended analogy about the Maasai people who think that every cow in the world belongs to them. (You can listen to the entire sermon by clicking on this post from Sunday. The link is at the bottom of the post, just above the comments.) The “sacred cow” of contemporary worship does not belong to the church nor does it belong in the church catholic. Bishop Obare sees this perfectly clear, even through his dimming and aging eyes. It remains to be seen if the LCMS and its leadership will see this as clearly.

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.


Bishop Obare Takes on the Sacred Cow of Contemporary Worship – Seminaries and President Harrison I Hope You are Listening? by Pr. Rossow — 212 Comments

  1. 1. Boogie is an LCMS member
    2. LCMS & ELCK are in fellowship
    3. ELCK is in fellowship (oops, that’s membership) with LWF
    4. Therefore, Boogie is by default in fellowship (oops, that’s membership) with LWF.

    Of course, this is the “illogical” and “jumping to conclusions” perspective (let’s get it over with and add “sectarian”).

  2. @Don Kirchner #200

    If you can’t see how it could have been meant benignly, there’s not much to discuss.

    If you think you smell latent ageism, well, I’m sensitive to that myself.

    Maybe many of us have been subliminally affected by this:

    Daniel my brother you are older than me
    Do you still feel the pain of the scars that won’t heal
    Your eyes have died but you see more than I
    Daniel you’re a star in the face of the sky

    Of course I don’t speak for Dr. Rossow.

  3. Miles,

    I have stated that I believe that Rev. Rossow did mean it “benignly, i.e., that he meant well. There simply is no need to be provocative or to try to explain away his poor choice of words.

    So let it go?

  4. When my wife and I are traveling, we endeavor to worship each Sunday–with a congregation that follows the liturgy–and it is not always easy to find a liturgy-following one to fit in our travel schedule.
    This past spring, we found two that declared that they followed the liturgy, and both did, though one projected everything on a screen, and the other had some variation from the liturgy as it is published. We can live with that. But, both of them invited all who believe in Christ to take part in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

    There was a time (more than thirty years ago) when we were interested in the “Charismatic Movement,” but we realized that it was not for us. The church of which I was a member before we became members of an LCMS congregation would have two or three of the “contemporary” songs each morning, singing all of the repetition–and then not singing all the stanzas of the hymns sung later in the service. A few, but very few, of the “contemporary” songs had spiritual meat in them; most , I fear, were not even suitable for young children in Sunday School, as they gave no teaching as to why we should praise God.

    Occasionally, we have noted a congregation that has the traditional service at the later hour, but, as has been noted, it is usually held at the earlier hour. We are of the opinion that those who want the “contemporary” service do not want to get up in time for an early service. I agree with Pastor Sterle (#66) about the necessity of “contemporary” worship. I will add, if it is the band that makes the worship, the people need instruction in the Gospel.

  5. I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ. In this regard, the Church does not seek to be attractive in and of herself, but must be transparent for Jesus Christ and to the extent that she is not out for herself, as a strong and powerful body in the world, that wants power, but is simply the voice of another, she becomes truly transparent for the great figure of Christ and the great truth that he has brought to humanity.

    from B16 of Rome. source

  6. Hey there M,
    Thanks for the head’s up, & shot over the bow. Not to mention, the “understand”.
    Now, I tag you, you’re it. Re-read my above, & be wiser, quicker & sharper than I. Remember, apples & oranges on a plate don’t mix (tried it, doesn’t cleanse any palate).

    Keep apples w/the other apples, & the oranges w/the oranges. Verstehe?, just cause we know how to play tit-for-tat, by watching doesn’t mean it’s right, or we play well, nor is it ever wise to try. Even though, the crow is plated for ya, ya don’t need to take the plate! Verstehe mich bitte? Like I said, tag you’re it. lol

  7. I haven’t read ail the posts here and I’ll probably repeat some concerns. When my children were young we attended the Lutheran church that had a loose liturgy with CW and culturally correct praise bands . They are all approaching or over 40 yrs old now and none of them are in the Lutheran Church. I heard comments from them when we were doing Bill and Gloria Gaither cantatas and many of the contemporary children’s plays that “we were a lot like the Charismatic church their friends went to”. They figured that since their friends church was like ours that their theology was “all right” to. Their friends churches had better praise bands and better “entertainment” and over the years my kids drifted away form the Lutheran church. One of my kids still takes his daughters to an AoG church, occasionally, when the grandkids ask to go to church. The other two kids don’t go at all and don’t want to. I live too far away to affect any change in my kids………………and I grieve for my grandkids (5 in all).

    There is a lot of extenuating circumstance to any choice but I feel I made the wrong one and I am, and my kids and grandkids, are paying for it now.

  8. @John E #208

    John- We’ve all made choices in our lives that we regret. The “could of, would of and should of” ring in our ears as we get older. May God in His great love for us through His Son, Jesus, have mercy on you and your family.

  9. I realize I am very late getting into this conversation – in fact, looks as though it is dead. But will add mine anyway.

    I have attended Rev. Obare’s church in Mombassa, Kenya. The choir is awesome. They sang “not out of the hymnal” songs before church, during the service, when the offering was collected, and after the service. Dancing in step, swaying to the music, in front of the congregation.

    Everything should be taken in context. He was applying his context to his sermon, you are applying yours to his sermon.

    I should explain “not out of the hymnal.” I didn’t recognize them as hymns. We did sing out of their hymnal, words only and in Swahilli, but I did recognize the melodies from our hymnnody.

    I really didn’t recognize it as a liturgy that we use. I assume the parts of the liturgy were there – confession, absolution, Lord’s prayer [I know this was included], creeds, etc. – but I was not able to understand them. They provided a translator for me. He translated the major themes of the sermon for me.

    I really thought I was at a “contemporary” worship service.

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