Great Stuff — Justification Rules on If It Ain’t Broke…

I found this one over on Justification Rules / My Heart and Conscience: Thoughts and such from Rev. Jay Hobson.



If It Ain't Broke...
...why do you want to break it?

The past couple days I attended a conference for new pastors (1-3 years in the ministry). The topic was building ministry. I was saddened by the Kansas District in their attempt to show the newbies how to do worship.

There were three things I noticed about the conference:

1) Though the conference was called “building worship”, it wasn’t so much about worship as it was about exposing us to different forms of worship.

This could have been an immensely helpful conference. There are many ways in which we could have talked about building worship. We could have had a workshop that explores the options available in the Lutheran Service Builder. We could have talked about integration of choir/instrumentalists in the Divine Service (even include the soft rock options, if we must cover that). We could have talked about using the Synod-wide hymnal and its different services throughout the church year. We could have had a presenter on building the bulletin (or power point) to better assist with worship.

…but we didn’t do anything of the sort.

The Liturgy of Lord of Life, with My Thoughts

Instead, we we taken to Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Leawood, KS. It’s a marvelous building. They have facilities that can make churches covet. However, the church was designed to lend itself solely to contemporary music. It had no organ. There were no stained glass windows. The altar was moveable. The cross can be removed completely from the sanctuary, and is on occasion. There were no pews, but locking chairs. Which, to be fair, is just fine. The church of God can exist even where there is nothing but his Word. Regardless, in this space we were taken through the steps of contemporary worship.

Here is the liturgy that we used on Monday night. Notice that the formula of worship is rather common among non-denominational churches. Other than the shout out to Holy Communion, it’s pretty much the same.

By the way, the confession was a “metaphor” taken from Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. And since this was a metaphorical confession, I guess the forgiveness was metaphorical as well because the Pastor did not declare those confessed sins as forgiven. Or perhaps it just wasn’t clear to me that he was saying that my metaphorical sins were forgiven. Which should raise red flags about clarity.

My main question for all this is: Why? Why all the changes, if many of the “parts” are still there?

The following morning, we were taken to St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in Kansas City, KS. What an amazing congregation. It is an old established congregation, served by a wonderful pastor. They do such amazing works of service and have such a thriving social ministry, that it would do anyone who wants to know about such things to pick their brains.

At this congregation, we went through what the District Officers said was “traditional” worship. We used Creative Worship. My heart sink when I saw the liturgy. It had been tinkered with among other things. To be fair, the confession that it brings about is a specific one, but it doesn’t have the grind in it as when you confess before God that you are “poor miserable sinner” in need of his forgiveness. It’s really not all that “creative” as its name sounds anyway.

Again, my question: Why?



If you really want to read more about this conference and what’s going on in the Kansas District, click here to read the rest o the story, including:

2) We are not about forming a unified Synod, but about forming cliques for those within our Synod.

3) Are people really going to church for the right reasons? Are they really Christians?

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.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Justification Rules on If It Ain’t Broke… — 17 Comments

  1. I am afraid that [“us1st” by any other name….seminex comes to mind] is determined to prove that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod can be torn down faster than any half dozen elected last July can rebuild it.

    Last night our Pastor Emeritus told us we must pray for our enemies. He’s right.
    Just now, between one thing and another, I feel like weeping for ourselves and for our children….

  2. Simply put, because in many cases, District leadership is NOT Lutheran.

    This change is much more pernicious than stylistic change. The theology behind the not-liturgy (and let’s be clear, what is shown is NOT the liturgy) is in conflict with a Lutheran theology of worship. Really it embodies what Yves Prenter calls “caritas idealism,” that is viewing worship as beginning with man climbing up to God through moralism, intellectualism, or (in this case) mysticism.

    To be blunt, what you were fed is false doctrine.

  3. Why indeed !
    ____There are no easy answers to the problem of “The Church is not relevant to my daily problems.” I think one answer lies in the loss of the fundamental foundation of Loving education that flowers into that unshakeable knowledge of “GOD BE WITH YOU” instead of the “good bye” into which it has become in our Church! You can not replace that life long house built up by the Christian education of living loving Parents and Church. You can not replace a hard won Living Bible knowledge with easy ephemeral emotional crying and empty “Praise Worship”! This lack of a total Lutheran education ultimately produces a “separate” . This “separation” ultimately takes the final form of a confession. Those who knowingly confess their separation from our Lord and Savior are indeed separate!

    This confession came from the “contemporary worship template” of the LCMS:

    Poorly written at best heresy at worst! WHY?

    Almighty God and Father,
    We, who are by nature sinful and separated from You, confess our sinfulness. We have sinned
    by thinking only of ourselves, not others, by saying words that hurt, not heal, and by our
    actions that do not show love, but indifference. How often we have failed to cast our anxieties
    on You. How often we have failed to live in the oneness You give. Forgive us for the sake of
    our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
    Our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, our Lord. As a called and ordained servant of Christ,
    and by His authority, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

    “separated from You” ???

    Think Lutherans? How does the Holy Spirit within you react to that? Study Study Study only so you know how to size this up. Are you a member of the Communion of Saints? If so do not confess this……………..

    Why indeed these actions documented day after day on this site and others like it, all of them add up to very serious problems. The only thoughts that race through my mind now are my old childhood church hymns that you seldom hear today:

    Stand up stand up for Jesus and Onward Christian Solders.

    This can be corrected but only at great pain and personal sacrifice!


  4. I attended a wedding at Lord of Life about 10 years ago. The wedding was not very Lutheran – no altar, no cross. I felt I had to explain to other people (mostly co-workers) that this was not a typical Lutheran wedding service.

    I followed the link and read the rest of Pastor Hobson’s blog. What I read upset me. The Kansas District appears to be as mad as the Southern Minnesota District. I had heard about Transforming Church Network before, but had never read any of the “stuff” on their web site. From what I can gather is that the network’s change centers around changing the church’s constitution and forming sort of a dictatorship around the senior pastor. The focus of the “lay ministers” is to mine the local community looking for more people to join the church increasing membership.

    I have friends who are Baptists who wonder from church to church, never satisfied. Is this what these people want to do with the LC-MS? It would appear so.

    Is this what Ablaze was all about? Let’s cut the funding immediately.

  5. What is it with the idea of “meal” *then* “Word”? Why do they reverse the Scriptural pattern? *Christ’s own* pattern? How our dear Lord did things is irrelevent?! This isn’t the first time I’ve seen the Supper interposed within some form of the “service of the Word”, or even before it. Has anyone ever heard any rationale for why doing it in this confused “order” is more “effective”? I can’t come up with *any* logical reason to change, so it does cause me to wonder if it is simply crass novelty: “Oh, heck! Let’s just reverse the order for a change.”

  6. @John Marquardt #4

    You see the Transforming Church stuff precisely for what it is–a very good and succinct analysis. Here is the best non-succinct analysis on the subject. Inasmuch as you had not read any of the “stuff”, may I respectfully suggest that you consider it “required reading”:

    and, I humbly offer my own non-succinct corrective, as well:


  7. Rev. Mueller #5

    It is truly the American way, to sign the contract before one reads it, to pass the bill before one studies it (remember former Speaker Pelosi’s “we have to pass the bill to find out what’s in it), to spend the money before receiving it, to consummate the marriage before taking the vows.

    Indeed, the Scriptural pattern of the proclamation of the Word leading and pointing toward the Sacraments is utterly reversed.

    My inclination would be to say that it is evidence of a fundamentally different theology of worship with regard to the nature of preaching and the nature of the Sacraments. But as we are repeatedly told that this cannot be so in the LCMS, it must only be a stylistic difference. Nothing to see here, move along…

  8. @Rev. David Mueller #5

    Pr. Mueller–this goes back to the “Unity of the faith” issue–my latest “subject du jour”. If that Unity is unimportant, then anything goes. If the DP is not concerned about that Unity, then you get what you have observed here. If the synod doesn’t care about that Unity, then it has forgotten the first “Objective of Synod.” You could look it up–Constitution, page 13 of handbook, under “Objectives of Synod (art III, I think). This is an extremely important issue–one which has been left lying in the dust as the bus to relevancy, culture-driven bus to relevancy disappears into the sunset. Yet it was critical in the formation of the districts, and remains the top priority. Or so it says on page 13….
    As I see it, the meal before the Word, is a sure sign that (1) the idea of fellowship (broad defnition) has superceded repentance and forgiveness–and (are you ready?) the Unity of the True Faith, therefore (2), Holy Communion has been debased.


  9. “Here is the liturgy that we used on Monday night. Notice that the formula of worship is rather common among non-denominational churches. Other than the shout out to Holy Communion, it’s pretty much the same.”

    There are two huge differences between this order of service and those found in most non-denominational, Baptist, or other envangelical churches. The author briefly mentions one and completely misses the other. The first is confession / forgiveness. Most non-denominational churches would do anything before encouraging people to regularly confess thier sins to a pastor and would never allow anyone to recieve forgiveness from a pastor. Most of the prosperity gospel preachers never mention that people should be foregiven of anything, much less encourage them to confess it. Even metaphorically suggesting such a thing is never done by Joel Olsteen types.

    The second is the Nicene creed. Most evangelical churches reject the idea of creeds. The few who don’t ignore them completely have a very particularly hard time with Nicene Creed. Christ being the “very God of very God” upsets their apple carts. I’ve known of largely conservative churches who tried to incorporate the Nicene Creed into their service only to have so many complaints that they quit doing it. Again, such a clear description of Christ’s divinity is never ever heard from the prosperity preachers.

    I honestly think that if this guy thinks this service is so utterly disgusting then he needs to take a few months and visit every single church in his own town – regardless of name over the door. It might help him get a little perspective on just how far a church service can be “tinkered” with.

  10. @Johannes #6

    “I respectfully suggest that you consider it “required reading”:

    Very much so!

    In small part:

    The Transforming Churches Network

    by Scott Diekmann

    “How did we get to this point? Most recently, by a lack of catechesis of the laymen and an abandonment of doctrinal integrity in favor of pragmatics by those who espouse TCN and other Church Growth Movement (CGM) programs similar to it. We have become much more interested in waving a flag around and gleefully exclaiming “Look at me!” As catechesis has waned, a theological vacuum has been created, which has been backfilled with our own works. If you were to remove every CGM thread woven into the fabric of the LCMS, by now the king would have no clothes.

    Luther points out that the Law and reason cannot be overcome without great effort and work. To expend great effort and work is now what we must do if we are to remain faithful, and avoid being yoked with an ever-burgeoning syllabus of CGM programs and to-do lists in the LCMS.

    The Smalcald Articles, written by Dr. Martin Luther, declare about our material principle, justification by grace through faith:
    “Of this article nothing can be yielded or surrendered [nor can nything be granted or permitted contrary to the same], even though heaven and earth, and whatever will not abide, should sink to ruin.” (SA, II, I, 5)
    We are at a crossroads in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. It’s time to make a decision. The result of this decision is not inconsequential. It will determine whether or not our Synod remains faithful. Will we stand on the Word, or will we yield?

    Aside from the momentous doctrinal crises in the Transforming Churches Network (TCN) that we’ve already explored, such as those related to Office of the Holy Ministry and the article of vocation, these issues are symptoms of a more serious root cause. At stake is the Gospel itself.

    For all its talk about evangelism and the Great Commission, the Transforming Churches Network never really gets around to preaching the Gospel. The Gospel has been substituted with a clever gospel of works. Seekers in Triads are bottle-fed dialectic formula, small groups and learning communities are teething on the Church Growth Movement diet of mission only, and pastors are renewed with a steady intravenous drip of the latest leadership materials off the shelf of the nearest bookstore. The flock, that faithful remnant which haven’t yet been driven off, are left to wander in the wilderness in search of spiritual sustenance. For them, the table is never set. They are not the apple of the shepherd’s eye, but rather the discarded apple core, important only in a “what have you done for me lately” sense.

    God grant us the wisdom and steadfastness required to stand firm on our Confession, that we may evangelize and catechize the world, serving our neighbors through our vocations, and leading them to the forgiveness of sins found in the life-giving Word and Sacraments of Jesus Christ. It is the Gospel itself that is at stake. We must not yield.”

  11. @Mark Huntemann #11

    Mark–A great quote. I’d almost forgotten how well Scott writes, and what a fine analysis of TCN he’d done. It’s right on the money. I’m very pleased that you took the time to check it out. Read on: you ain’t seen nothing yet.


  12. Pr. Mueller @ #5,

    “What is it with the idea of “meal” *then* “Word”? Why do they reverse the Scriptural pattern?”

    I attended a district worship conference a while back and one of the discussion questions when we broke up into small groups was “what is the high point or main focus of the worship service”. The consensus in my group seemed to be that it was the sermon. When I said the trajectory of the Divine Service is all toward the sacrament they all looked at me like I had grown another head.

    If one thinks the sermon is the climax then it makes sense to move it later in the order.

  13. Did any of you ever think our gospel message would one day be “Hey, buy the lastest CD from some Nashville songbird that has seven words and you will be saved”? That is what it has come down to. WE do not fight about doctrine or the Lord’s Supper or Baptism. No…………..we fight about the stupid music that is churning out daily in some recording studio meant to make some wanna be half talented singer a STAR. This is insanity. There are actually people who are leaving the church because they don’t have guitars, drums and a
    “to die for” sound system. W H E R E I S J E S U S? Oh yeah, he is working on his latest new cool version of Amazing Grace so we can all groove. Pitiful

  14. @10 – If “Well, we had something that mentioned sin and said the Creed” has become the standard that distinguishes us from the non-denominational Churches, then we are sadly, sadly lost.

  15. @Joe #10

    Because you think I missed the “Confession and Absolution” and the Nicene Creed, let me address your concerns.

    1) The Confession and Absolution was not actually confession and absolution. I alluded to the fact that it was “metaphorical” confession (The Pastor’s explanation, not mine) and actually was not a confession that recognizes that we are sinners. There was no absolution despite what the outline of the service says.

    2) The Nicene Creed. You are correct. They said the Nicene Creed. I’ll give you that, I did not bring that out. Yet, when the pastor says that this was the time of the service that he blow his nose and prepare himself for the sermon instead of saying the creed, you can understand my hesitancy to really emphasize this point of the service. The pastor didn’t take it seriously. Forgive my oversight, I should have mentioned it… and the disdain that was shown for it.

  16. @Rev. Jay G. Hobson #16
    The Nicene Creed…. when the pastor says that this was the time of the service that he blow his nose and prepare himself for the sermon instead of saying the creed,…. The pastor didn’t take it seriously. … I should have mentioned …the disdain that was shown for it.

    We had the Nicene Creed after the sermon. Guess the Pastor, if he had to blow his nose, did it during the sermon hymn?

    Lord, have mercy!

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