Comment on the LCMS Youth Gathering

This comment came in on an ancient (March 6th, 2010) post of ours, LCMS Youth Gathering Praise Music Now Comes with a Theological Disclaimer. The commenter was someone who attended the conference as a chaperone. To gain context for the comment, you should read some of the other comments on the original post. Tracy makes some excellent points about the gathering, but what’s interesting to me is that two of the youth who attended NYG no longer attend church because they have seen how church “can be done” and are bored at their home church now.

This is surely not what those in charge of the NYG intend to happen; but I’ve seen it myself. The youth come back to their home church, having seen LCMS officials say that this type of worship is valid in Lutheran churches, and .. wind up going to the church down the road that does this type of worship better.

You should talk with your youth leaders about the Higher Things conferences.


I attended the last two youth gatherings as a chaperone, and especially after the last one I have some concerns. I suppose I am more liberal concerning music, and I would agree with others who pointed out that the mass event was more of a big Sunday School gathering than a worship service.

For some of our kids, I think the mass event and gathering was an opportunity to be surrounded by believers, and be really joyful in the Lord (we must admit that joyful is not what most Lutherans are known for). Other kids in our group did not take advantage of the worthy presentations that are available, or focus thoughtfully on the Bible study, or show up anywhere close to on time for the mass event. What I saw overall was that those young people who were opened to a deeper faith growth experience got the most out of NYG and those who came to experience New Orleans received no spiritual benefits. This went just as I had anticipated.

My major concern at this last event was the workshop presenters who had obvious emergent theologies like Bob Lenz, who last year invited heretic and left wing political activist, Jim Wallis to be the main speaker at a huge youth concert event in Wisconsin. He refused to disinvite Wallis after the local Christian radio station withdrew their sponsorship because of Wallis’s appearance. There were also workshops and events that focused on prayer walking/prayer stations (something the Ohio district youth gathering participated in). So, it is the pagan, mystical, universalist practices that are infiltrating the LCMS churches ( just saw an LCMS church website that teaches contemplative prayer online!) that have me most concerned. Doctrine is important, but my Baptist friends are still saved — they do believe that salvation is through grace and not works — they are still orthodox on the essentials, even if they interpret works differently than we do (they consider faith through baptism works, btw). However, the mystic/emergents are universalist (Rob Bell, etc.) whether they admit it outright or not, and that is where the real danger to our kids and our church lies. We had better wake up because that’s where our kids will flee to.

Further, though Lutherans are sometimes loathe to discuss such things, one of the best sermons at the youth gathering was given by a young pastor who has Barack Obama as one of his “likes’ on Facebook. How discouraging. What does it say to lay people when a pastor supports a candidate who is anti-life and anti-marriage?

On a final note, two of our youth (one was a young adult volunteer) who proported to gain the most, spiritually, from the event, have told me that they can no longer stomach coming to our church after being at the NYG and seeing what church should really be like. Of course, I gently but firmly corrected them, but it proves the point made early in the article. They were already bored at our church, but NYG (like having Christmas everyday) spoiled them. That said, we are missing something in our church and I think it is parents who truly are passionate about discipling their own kids. Instead they leave most all of it to the church, and are not relentlessly intentional about growing kids in the faith.

Thanks for the good and thoughtful posts,

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


Comment on the LCMS Youth Gathering — 137 Comments

  1. An LCMS Youth: Whose your Daddy? Are his initials GK? In the words of my daughter Kristin, when she was 2, “It would be much better if I let Kari sit in this high chair but Im not gonna do it” And guess what, we let Kristin sit in it instead of saying no. I say NO to the NYG as is! There is a time for peace in a Synod and a time for war!

  2. @lana h #95
    Helen #93, the septic tank comment is getting personal to my own backyard. Watch it.

    It’s a book title…funny book!

    @lana h #96
    Is the problem that we want Loehe over Walther? I have not said that yet.

    LOL! No, I don’t think so. Most of the men I know who say an occasional good word for Loehe are liturgical Lutherans. They praise God in traditional Lutheran fashion.

  3. @The PPPadre #98
    Bravo to LCMS Youth for “getting” what most LCMS laypeople don’t – worship begins and is primarily comprised of God speaking to us in His Word, but worship includes and encompasses our response (psalms, hymns and spiritual songs).

    Second that! I hope my grandsons (the PK and the one who isn’t a PK, but both Lutheran) can speak as intelligently to the topic!

    [I happen to be in a discussion by e-mail with the younger one about “gospel” music now. (His Mom has the car radio tuned to it.) I’m glad he is willing to trade ideas with me.]

  4. @The PPPadre #100

    Appreciate this, Padre.

    Over time, I’ve come to the opinion that the best “praise” we can give God is to leave a Word-laden church service and go love our neighbor as forgiven people. I think God delights more in that response than any tear-filled, hands-uplifted, toe-tapping song I can sing. And it disturbs me when some folks want to make “praising God in church” the focus and point of worship.

    Glad to read LCMS Youth’s view on the subject. Now back to lurking.

  5. @lana h #101

    First off, it’s “Who’s” your daddy, not “whose.” Secondly, I have no idea what your analogy/argument involving your daughter is trying to say, it’s very incoherent. Thirdly, I don’t know what side you are on, “peace” or “war.” If you want to shut down the NYG, I would say that is on the aggressive side of things, or “war” (again, your word, not mine). I have no problem with anyone who does not want their youth to attend NYG, just don’t shut down something that is spiritually beneficial to a lot of other youth. I mean no disrespect in any way, I respect your opinion.

    @The PPPadre #100

    Thank you! We are in agreement.

  6. @T. R. Halvorson #96

    It is gratifying that you received the respect that others and I have sent your way.

    Next to the Word in worship is the Sacraments, but I will nevertheless pass over that for the moment to discuss music. We all know how powerful Luther said music is. Nobody but nobody has anything on Lutherans for the development and godly use of music.

    Today, in the contemporary worship scene, however, you have to go looking to find music that comports with Lutheran theology. Almost all of the music that has currency in the scene is Arminian, Reformed, Pentecostal, Charismatic, and the like. That’s why it is difficult to make recommendations, because there is almost always at least one fly in the ointment, and often is is more than one or more than a fly. But if a decision has been made to use contemprary worship music, at least one can do better instead of worse. You can select the more substantive stuff, and you can select the stuff with the least deviation from Lutheran theology.

    As an example, you could do worse than In Christ Alone. This song was composed by Keith and Kristyn Getty who as a rule are more substantive than other contemporary worship music composers. Of course, not even our most beloved, traditional hymn writers could produce consistently substantive stuff. Lots of their works have gone by the wayside. The same is true of anyone today, including the Gettys. But at least they think of things like composing a whole album of music that takes off from the Apostles Creed. In Christ Alone is part of that project.

    In Christ Alone has been recorded many times by many artists, and one that you might like is a rendition of Geoff Moore (long time rocker of Geoff Moore and the Distance) and Adrienne Liesching (South African rocker who was frontwoman for Benjamin’s Gate, and is now married to Jeremy Camp, and now goes by Adie Camp. She was Liesching at the time of the recording.). You can find it in a bizzilion places on YouTube, and here is one.

    If you give a listen to this, try counting the orthodox doctrines represented in the lyrics. The first verse is mostly devotional, but try to keep up starting in the second verse: Incarnation, humiliation, life of suffering, crucifixion, sin, wrath, vicarious satisfaction, death, burial, resurrection, blood atonement, victory, justification, assurance, preservation, second coming. For all that, the key thing is that the song is about Christ, which sets it apart from a lot of contemporary worship music.

  7. @An LCMS Youth #24
    “The reality is that without using more diversity in our worship we will cause youth to fall away from the church, and ultimately endanger their salvation.”

    I don’t see how this can be true if worship and the creation and sustenance faith are gifts of God.

  8. @T.R. Halvorson #106

    True, it is a little harder to find CW songs compatible with Lutheran theology (In Christ Alone is probably my favorite CW song, thanks for mentioning it!) Our own actually has a very helpful page that the former Commission on Worship evaluated a decent list of about 100 CW songs for their conveying of Lutheran Doctrine and includes recommendations for when to use a song in relation to the Church year. This way anyone could find CW songs that contain theological themes. Here is the link (you can link to the list of songs from this page). Lets also not forget that though many of these songwriters are not Lutheran, neither are many of the hymn-writers found in our traditional worship.

    Thanks for the discussion!

  9. @boaz #6
    Amen to that. Get rid of the whole thing! I attend an evangelical protestant university, and in our worship class we learned about different types of worship. I tell you that it was completely full of marketing and sales schemes! We even went to Cabellas to learn why people drive 2 hours and stay for 3 hours to visit this store. I know why….PEOPLE LIKE TO SHOP FOR HUNTING AND FISHING STUFF!! It had absolutely – I say again, absolutely nothing to do with Christ, the church or anything. We even watched videos of sales and marketing professionals “preach” to large crowds at Willowcreek Community Church. I was so mad most days that I was shaking as I was driving home from class. It seemed as though I was the only one in class that this bothered. I was the only one speaking out against it in class, anyway. Amazingly, I still got an A in the class.

  10. @An LCMS Youth #107

    In situations where a decision has been made to use contemporary music, another terrain that can be mined for music that comports with Lutheran theology and even fits into the structure of the traditional liturgy is music that was originally produced as Scripture memorization aids.

    For a couple of examples:

    Jude 25 used as the Doxology,

    1 John 1:8-9 used at Confession and Absolution,

  11. @An LCMS Youth #107
    The big difference between the CW artists and the hymns we find in our LSB is that the hymn writers never plastered their metrosexual pictures all over the front of CD cases or sing like men who are either gay or have been castrated. If my very-manly father came to a church service and heard these homo-erotic songs he would puke. This is why many men don’t want to come to church. They don’t want a boyfriend in Jesus. They need a strong Savior, a Warrior Savior, one Who died for His friends.

  12. An LCMS Youth: Thanks for correcting the spelling mistake. I knew it was wrong but I did not know what was correct. Lashing out at you is wrong. It should be at Norm Fischer who put the video of the last NYG on this website and it contributed a lot to the election of Matt Harrison. Rev. Todd Wilken even wrote on this website during the last convention that the CW church growth movement was leading us into apostasy. That was placed on this web right before the final vote for the synodical president. I agree with Todd Wilken but do not want the LCMS to go in the episcapate form of structure. I just told my husband that our pastors or the most important thing to keep us in the faith. Mormans sing all our solid hymns but are they in the faith following the teachings of joseph smith? Catholics say we dont like lutherans or Luther but we will take their Bach and hymns at Christmas. Interesting that Bach is more important than Justification. Pastors are so important to lay people to explain and teach the Bible. If they teach false teaching or misinterpret it then pastors become wolves in sheeps clothing leading the sheep astray from the Savior. We have checks and balances in the LCMS structure based on Gods Word. We dont want to come together at convention and pretend we are one in Christ if there are groups leading us into apostasy. The NYG at times seems to do that.

  13. Lutheran hymnody is so amazingly awesome, so God glorifying, so rich and full of theological truths that nothing else is needed. This is coming from a guy who used to play drums in a heavy metal band! I don’t want the style of music I used to play in church. I want to hear CHURCH music in church.

  14. Helen, you remind me of an old friend of mine who was an LCMS school teacher. She was brilliant like you. I mean that as a compliment not sarcasm. I was laughing about the septic tank comment because we have a bad system that I felt was done on purpose. This present paranoia. At least I can laugh at the smelly water sitting in my backyard after we gave a company 5000 dollars in cash to put a good working system in.

  15. @An LCMS Youth #65
    The gap in communication is between the parents hand and the youth’s backside. Once that connection is made multiple times and the youth of the day are taught to be respectful then the church can move ahead with its mission and stop worrying about sales and marketing tactics to try to keep over-entertained brats in church.

    Disclaimer: I’m not a church leader or pastor. These are the opinions of Paul and they do not represent the LCMS or Steadfast Lutherans.

  16. Paul: Thanks for your comments!

    Firstly, I would never force anyone (like your father) to go to a church service that features songs that would “make them puke.” I know a lot of kids and men who think that Bach and other classical musicians are the “gay” (to use your word) ones. After all, they did wear some pretty interesting outfits back on the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries! 🙂 I respect that you, like me have an honest love and preference for traditional Lutheran hymnody. But not everyone thinks that way.

    I am glad you were able to speak up in your worship class. But honestly, you can’t blame them for having a class that reflects their views. For example, if someone attended a Jesuit college, they would hear RC theology in their class, just as a non-Lutheran attending an LCMS Concordia would hear sound LCMS theology. It comes with the territory.

    Once again, thanks for the comments!

  17. To an LCMS Youth, I like Paul too, especially on comment #ll5 because he knew exactly what I meant by the high chair example. Maybe you did not get it because I failed to tell you that Kari is my youngest daughter and we were at a restaurant and she was only 9 months and needed to be in the high chair. Kristin could have sat in a booster chair. The point was I was giving her what she wanted instead of what she needed. The fighting that is going on in the LCMS with parishoners and pastors over style of worship needs to stop. That is why a hymnal and form of worship structure that every LCMS congregation follows is so important.

  18. @An LCMS Youth #116
    You are totally right about me not being able to blame them for having a class like that. As a matter of fact I knew I would encounter stuff like that, but took the risk anyway. It is otherwise a very good university. I was pointing out that a big chunk of the evangelical Christian world views the Christian life and conversion as something that is to be marketed. We were even taught that it is probably a good idea not to use the word church in the church’s title, or to display a cross, so people won’t feel like they’re at church. Very sad.

  19. At the end of the day, I always knew that I would be on the side of the
    pastor. I told Rev. Don Matzat once on KFUO that we’re sending them out to our own LCMS congregations like lambs to the slaughter. My grandson Ben at a very young age made fists and flexed his muscles telling us we need to be strong and that is what I tell these men going out into the battlefield of our congregations. Sometimes the men sent to the congregations may not have their heads screwed on straight due to some problems at our Seminarys and Concordias. Thats when the people step in and lovingly get the pastor some help. The pastors coming from our seiminarys must embrace the same form of worship and hymns in order to bring peace to the parishes. People that have joined the LCMS and do not hold to all our teachings must be told in love that we will not submit to theirs if they are incorrect. If thay cant deal with that, the door swings both ways. Souls of the sheep have been placed in the hands of our earthly pastors by Christ himself. We as lay people must respect that. If they are false teachers as Luther experienced at the time of the Reformation than we must address that in love if possible. If not then a few cuss words are ago considering that Luther stood against the whole Holy Roman Empire armed only with the correct interpretation of Gods word and sacraments. Unity and peace would be great in the LCMS but not based on giving up sound teaching and practice. That goes for Christendom as a whole too. The Bible fortells that in the end people will not tolerate sound teaching. We have been in the end times ever since Christ ascended into heaven.

  20. @Lana h #114
    At least I can laugh at the smelly water sitting in my backyard after we gave a company 5000 dollars in cash to put a good working system in.

    YIKES! I wouldn’t find that funny at all!

  21. Moderation. I just knew at the end of the day I would be with the pastors. I just didnt know I’d be one. Problems in the LCMS lie with the parishoners who are not in the word but think they will dictate to the pastor what direction the church will go. Some are in the word and dictate to the pastor what direction the church will go. How did the LCMS get to the place its at and how will it walk together again in peace and unity are two questions I cant answer.

  22. @Paul #111

    This is why many men don’t want to come to church. They don’t want a boyfriend in Jesus. They need a strong Savior, a Warrior Savior, one Who died for His friends.

    You are onto something there. I often think of the miltary aspect of Jesus defeating my enemies. Col 2:15

  23. @Paul #118
    We were even taught that it is probably a good idea not to use the word church in the church’s title, or to display a cross, so people won’t feel like they’re at church. Very sad.

    The really sad thing is that new “lcms” missions are being built and operated on the “Let’s keep ‘church’ and ‘lutheran’ a secret” principle. And it’s not so much the kids as the leftovers from the 60’s and 70’s who are gung ho about it.

  24. T. R. Halvorson :@Paul #111
    This is why many men don’t want to come to church. They don’t want a boyfriend in Jesus. They need a strong Savior, a Warrior Savior, one Who died for His friends.
    You are onto something there. I often think of the miltary aspect of Jesus defeating my enemies. Col 2:15

    It’s not just the guys that like to sing “The Son of God Goes Forth to War”

    The Son of God goes forth to war
    A kingly crown to gain.
    His blood red banner streams afar–
    Who follows in his train?
    Who best can drink His cup of woe
    Triumphant over pain,
    Who patient bears his cross below,
    He follows in His train!

  25. @AnLCMSYouth #116

    Hello, I have been interested to read your comments as I would have said exactly the same things about 5 years ago when I was still a youth…

    I am now quite adamantly against contemporary worship because of the exegesis on various texts provided on this site, Issues Etc., and Worldview Everlasting among others.

    Consider this, could we insert the word “worship” into your earlier comment…For example, if someone attended a Jesuit worship service, they would hear RC theology in their service, just as a non-Lutheran attending an LCMS worship service would hear sound LCMS theology.

    The problems that arise in contemporary worship is that it provides a different theology, a false, dangerous to faith theology.

    Our liturgy is texts taken from the Bible. We are speaking back to our God what He has already spoken to us. In this way, we know it is not dabbling in false teaching. The problem is not with “music” or style. That problem really only arises when it creates irreverence, i.e. a person singing or playing an instrument, whatever it may be, detracting from the altar, font, crucifix etc.

    There are plenty of “praise songs” that can work their way past a test of lutheran doctrine (usually do not do the best job of teaching lutheran doctrine though, but many hymns fall into this category as well and I would shy away from those also). The issue, is worship focused on the worshipper rather than Christ and His gifts and saving work. In a Biblical view, we are recieving His Gifts of Word and Sacrament rather than coming to give a human work of praise. A person who is in disagreement with our Lutheran Confessions would think otherwise.

    Use whatever instrument you wish or no instruments (as long as it is with reverence), the issue comes when we remove the Words that God gives us (liturgy) and replace them with something WE like better. Its not about me praising with a talent or whatever, but about Christ’s work and the means of Word and Sacrment that he uses to deliver His gifts to us, through the person (pastor) he has chosen to do it. These are gifts we NEED and every living person NEEDs them, much more than they need to like something. The Church’s business is the forgiveness of sins.

    Please accept my comments fraternally. I grew up in an lcms church that has been on a steady crash course with evangelical theology. I was, like yourself, a lover of “traditional worship” “liturgy” etc., words i did not understand at the time. I was fine with CoWo as well, not really having a defense for either. Learning what worship is (what I understand from the Scriptutres would be, Christs Gifts in the Divine Service) helped me learn a defense for the liturgy, speaking the Words given us by the Holy Spirit, back to our God.

  26. “It is an essential condition of any traditional religious service that the space in which it is conducted must be invested with some measure of sacrality … if an audience is not immersed in an aura of mystery and symbolic otherworldliness, then it is unlikely that it can call forth the state of mind required for a nontrivial religious experience.”

    [This seems to be a good argument against Communion Services in football stadia and the like, which call to mind other emotions!]

    “I believe I am not mistaken in saying that Christianity is a serious and demanding religion. When it is delivered as easy and amusing, it is another kind of religion altogether.”

    [And this is an argument against trying to combine worship and “fun” (unless “worship” is the useless cotton candy sort already).]

    Both the above quotes from Neil Postman, Amusing ourselves to death. Ch 8 “Shuffling off to Bethlehem.

  27. This kind of thing really bothers me in our district. I can’t, in good conscience, promote much of what passes as youth gatherings to our youth… what’s funny about that, in a sad kind of way, is that our youth are beginning to figure out that what’s being marketted to them is more Baby Boomer angst than anything “relevant” to them.

    Depressing, frankly.

    @helen #2

  28. @Brad #128

    My impression and opinion are that a good chunk of baby boomers are obsessed with their image and legacy. It is as though this one segment thin kthey have all the answers to the world’s problems, and that they are the only ones who possess such knowledge. Maybe their angst is that they have not been able to bring about “world peace.”

    Instead of foolsihly deluding ourselves with our own important relevancy, why don’t we try to clearly present (i.e. get out of the way of) the pure Gospel of Jesus and all He has done to save us. I hear that is a timeless story and works for all generations. And I do think younger generations have already started to shift away form boomer nostalgia.

  29. @helen #129

    I am always thankful for the grace God bestows on our youth– it is miraculous that the cultural soup they are stewing in has not degenerted them into broth.

    However, one of the challenges I find, is how to promote the idea of an alternate youth conference, while serving in a district and a synod that is promoting something else. Many of our parishioners are old LCMS folks, who figure that if the Synod and the District promote it, it must be right.

    All the while, the stew bubbles…

  30. @Brad #131
    …that if the Synod and the District promote it, it must be right

    [Your “old LCMS members” need to get out more, personally or on line!]

    You can argue that Higher Things is a Synodically approved RSO.
    What could be more “kosher” than that. (sarcasm mode here)
    You can also say it’s “the newest, the latest, “what’s happening now!”

    And besides all that, it’s (trumpet here) LUTHERAN.
    Praise the Lord… in Lutheran liturgical style.

  31. Our youth group just got back from Higher Things, Las Vegas University version, as enthusiastic as always.
    ISU, Normal, Illinois is next, I think. If adults unattached to a youth group want to see what happens there, HT has a program called “Higher Things for a day” which is well worth taking a day off for! Four of us did, when HT was in San Antonio. You get to a plenary (full group) session, several break out sessions and two worship opportunities, also lunch on campus with the group. It was a great day!

  32. @helen #135
    Oh, John, I should mention that the veith topic really goes off the rails in the comments.
    I wouldn’t bother with them past 25 or 30. [They forgot about, “Do not feed the trolls!”]

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