Stand Firm — Jamming for Jesus: Giving Him My Everything

Found on Scott Diekmann’s recently resurrected blog, Stand Firm:



The video advertisement for the upcoming New Jersey Jam contemporary worship workshop starts out with Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Pastors Greg Bearss and Matt Peeples asking

So what does it look like to really worship God? As we fix our eyes on Jesus, can I worship God with electric drums? Can we worship Him with electric guitar, or via Skype from Knoxville, Tennessee? Can we worship God on a makeshift football field with a makeshift goal? What does it mean for us as we lead others to fix their eyes on Jesus, and to worship Him with everything they are, everything that is within them. Where can we worship Jesus? Can we worship in a movie theater, a football field, a makeshift grocery store? Can we worship in a bar? What can we use to worship God? Can we use our cell phones to shoot texts? What is it to worship in today’s culture, authentically, truly?

After hearing that, a good reciprocal question would be

Is worship primarily about me and my commitment to God, me giving Him everything within me, or is worship primarily about God and everything He’s giving me?

Certainly, there is an element of action on our part in worship, but that work is in response to the Gospel, and ultimately energizes us to serve our fellow man, not God. Article V of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession points us to the primary purpose of worship, which goes unmentioned in the video:

…The chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness (Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, CPH, p. 193).

Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that somewhere in this workshop which includes modules on “worship dance” and prayer stations, there’s also a module on the Apology’s definition of worship. Dr. Martin Noland provides a helpful set of principles which can be used to determine if our worship practices conform to our Confession:

  1. WORD PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans teach, preach, read, hear, and seriously ponder the Word of God (LC 1st part, 92).
  2. SACRAMENTAL PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans receive the sacraments and confess their sins publicly (LC 4th part, 1; LC Brief Exhortation, 10).
  3. REVERENCE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans show respect to God with songs and prayer (LC 1st part, 84).
  4. PETITION PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans ask God for blessings, help, and comfort (LC 1st part, 17).
  5. PRESCRIPTIVE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans obey what is commanded by God’s Word, and avoid what is forbidden therein (FC SD X, 1).
  6. INTEGRITY PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid practices that are deceptive, i.e., which portray themselves as being something different than their true character (FC SD X, 5).
  7. SYNCRETISTIC PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid practices that give the impression that Lutherans have no serious disagreements with another faith, or that Lutherans are getting close to coming to agreement with that faith tradition (FC SD X, 5).
  8. SPECTACLE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid useless or foolish spectacles (FC SD X, 7).
  9. CHANGE PRINCIPLE – When change is being considered in worship, Lutherans will avoid frivolity and offense, and use the criteria of good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the church; and they will consider such change as a community of faith, not as isolated congregations or as “lone wolf” pastors (FC SD X, 9).

The New Jersey Jam contemporary worship workshop seems like it doesn’t line up with Dr. Noland’s list. When the goal is to create a “worship experience,” the underlying foundation can’t be the Book of Concord, but a foundation more akin with those whose theological tradition espouses making a decision for Christ. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate.

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


Stand Firm — Jamming for Jesus: Giving Him My Everything — 89 Comments

  1. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #48 : “When the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod became Baptist, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America became Methodist, I became Orthodox.”–Jaroslav Pelikan, quoted in “Eastern Rite Lures Western Seekers” (2001)

    Pelikan is also quoted by his family as saying that he had not as much converted to Orthodoxy as “returned to it, peeling back the layers of my own belief to reveal the Orthodoxy that was always there.”

    Whether Pelikan said one or the other, or both, he deserted his confessional Lutheran vows, if in fact he ever honestly believed them.

  2. #4 Kitty :@Johannes #44

    Here we go again, Kitty. It looks as tho you may have missed the point: It’s not a question of pipe organs or TLH. The questions are (1) how is worship defined?, (2) how does Rev. Bearss define worship?, and finally what is the content of worship as Pr. Bearss “does” it? Altho I prefer a pipe organ, even a piano (I’ve played keyboard in a praise band), I’m much more concerned with the lyrics of the songs, and the words of Pr. Bearss worship.

    Greetings Johannes,Would you still be opposed to Pr. Bearss style of worship if his definition of worship was confessional and he was using approved lyrics?

    Great question, and a fair one. Let’s say he has all the elements of Divine Service: Invocation, confession, absolution, etc., etc., Let’s say he preaches a law/gospel sermon (and no references to himself), and doesn’t end up saying, “Jesus died for you, so get to work.” Let’s say that the “approved lyrics” to the songs teach good theology, and minimize the focus on “me and my feelings.” Let’s say I attend a Sunday or two, then make up my mind. Based on my experience with the kind of music, the decibel factor, and the very subjective atmosphere, in this kind of worship, it would be difficult for me to like it. I “did” five years of contemporary worship (not quite as “out there” as he espouses), and that was enough. I noticed that as time went on, the inward focus grew, and the emphasis on law increased. Interestingly, the songs got louder and longer (repeated ad nauseum), and the informality was simply more than I could handle. Short answer: I probably wouldn’t like it, but it would be an improvement over what he seems to be promoting, and my own experience.

    Thanks for your question–I hope my answer is clear.


  3. Here are a few items from “A Glossary of Church Growth and Contemporary Music Terminology” by Leonard Payton, as found in the Modern Reformation Archives, JanFeb95 (you have to be a subscriber):

    “Awesome-an adjective enscapulating the attributes of God which are in bad form to mention.
    Celebration–A Seeker Friendly service where everything is relevant and the music is joyous.
    Confession–Not Seeker Friendly
    Joyous–Music at 120 quarternotes per minute with back beats on beats two and four so the the congregation can clap (and if it is especially joyous, dance). Truly joyous music will not have more than four or five chords as that would detract from the joy. It is especially joyous if drums are present.
    Liturgy–a suspicious word, definitely not Seeker Sensitive
    Overhead–An appropriate object of genuflection. For maximum relevance, the overhead should be places where the Cross was.
    Music–The most strategic conveyance of Spirit-Filledness
    Relevance–That which is most likely to capture affectionate attention.
    Seeker Friendly–Syle decisions more closely keyed to the tastes of the Seeker than in a Seeker Sensitive service
    Seeker Sensitive–anything designed around the tastes of the Seeker, but intended to remain acceptable to the non-Seeker.
    Spirit-filled–Any style of music which feels good.
    Worshipful–Soft and slow. It is especially worshipful if the words are few and the eyes are closed. Drums should be avoided. Music with more than three chords should be avoided.
    Sin–not Seeker Friendly”

    Johannes (been there, done that).

    P.S. You won’t like the definition of “Organ.” (Equated with an accordian).

    p.p.s. Here’s a link:

  4. @#4 Kitty #50
    It would help me if you could find a concrete example to consider. I, myself, have never seen or heard of a Lutheran Pastor using Pr. Bearss style of worship with a Confessional definition of worship and theologically sound lyrics. Why is that? We’re left w/ a paradox: worship style doesn’t save, but everyone who teaches solid Lutheran doctrine on what does save, also seems to use the historical reverent liturgy and hymnody. We’re right back to Lex Orandi Lex Credendi. Don’t fight it.
    Pax Christi+,
    Matt Mills

  5. So here we are. The steadfast indeed. Let’s do an inventory, shall we?

    You guys hate CoWo. I get that. You think it is not confessional. Okay. I disagree with you, but I think it is possible to disagree on that point in a manner that we can still dialogue.

    * Wilkins #5 mocks his brother in Christ.
    * Mames #6 says this is why we shouldn’t fund the seminaries.
    * Missional Mo #13 makes fun of Pastor Bearss.
    * Vehse #31 assembles a list of perpetrators
    * Halvorson #34 implies, quite strongly, that Pastor Bearss is not teaching baptism properly.
    * Mills #35, with the mere wave of his keyboard, dismisses all the people of Lakepointe as outside the church
    * Noland #43, writes a polemic about how real Lutherans follow scripture in a response to a man calling us to love our neighbor
    * Trask #46 uses the very philosophical components identified and nullified by Noland in #43 to attack his brothers in Christ

    To his credit: Lorfeld #18, (who does not appear to agree with Pastor Bearss) proposes a biblical and confessional approach, that I might reword as such –> hey folks, we may not have the same understanding here, so we had better talk this through.

    So, here is my question: Can we as Confessional Lutherans really, really (yes Wilkins, really) sit here and wave our self-made flag of “being right” about our doctrine and then in the same breath, seek to destroy our brother? All in the name of doctrinal purity?

    From my vantage point, there is only one way you can: If you elevate “doctrinal purity” above AC IV as your material principle.

    Do us all a favor and interact with Matthew 18:23-35 (The Parable of the Wicked Servant) in light of this thread. Show me steadfast as it relates to HESED. Show me steadfast as it relates to AGAPE.

    C’mon folks. Go and learn what this means: “I desire MERCY not ‘doctrinal purity'”

  6. @Thureon Pistuos #56

    Oh, dear. Mr. or Ms. Anyonymous you are pitting the truth of scripture against love. Indeed, you are going so far as to twist the scriptures out of your apparent disregard for the truth as exemplified with your last statement pitting mercy against “doctrinal purity.”

    I am sure you would have a very difficult time with Luther and those who signed onto the Book of Concord, because they all agreed that pure doctrine was not only possible, but that it was heavenly and given to us by God. That it is a gem to be protected and not shelved in the name of “love.”

    However, you are most certainly correct that we shouldn’t “seek to destroy our brother.” After examining this thread I can’t find where anyone here is seeking to destroy Pr. Bearss. What I have seen is that some are frustrated that men like Pr. Bearss have taken it upon themselves to worship in a much different manner than many of their brethren. I see brothers who want Pr. Bearss to come to repentance. I am not seeing calls for his destruction, though.

    While you are pointing your finger, why aren’t you pointing out Pr. Bearss departure from the traditional liturgical practices of this synod and how unloving that is? In fact, why aren’t you pointing out how unloving it is for Pr. Bearss to chase after and practice a church model founded in decision theology? Where is the love in bringing confusion over doctrine and praxis to brothers and sisters in Christ?

  7. @#4 Kitty #50
    I will *bet* you that Pastor Bearss (and for that matter, Pastor Hollmann, both of whom I know from various “way backs” in my life) could *define* worship in a reasonably sound, confessional Lutheran way. However, he still wouldn’t see that his practice utterly contradicts such a Lutheran definition of worship.
    To be sure, language will definitely tend to slip–the confession will eventually follow the practice if the practice isn’t formed by the good confession.
    Case in point: Even what he says of Baptism on his church’s website has an “synergistic” “flavor” to it, even though Bearss seems to be trying to speak in divine monergistic terms: “Willingly”. (et al)

  8. Thureon Pistuos :
    So here we are. The steadfast indeed. Let’s do an inventory, shall we?
    You guys hate CoWo. I get that. You think it is not confessional. Okay. I disagree with you, but I think it is possible to disagree on that point in a manner that we can still dialogue.
    * Wilkins #5 mocks his brother in Christ.

    No, he mocks the language of anthropocentric worship.

    * Mames #6 says this is why we shouldn’t fund the seminaries.

    No, she says this is why *some* don’t fund the sems.

    * Missional Mo #13 makes fun of Pastor Bearss.

    No, he makes fun of the content of the “teaser”.

    * Vehse #31 assembles a list of perpetrators

    Yes, he’s providing basic information. Getting the facts straight is rather important when discussing them.

    * Halvorson #34 implies, quite strongly, that Pastor Bearss is not teaching baptism properly.

    See my last post on that one. Halvorson is demonstrating (since someone else brought up Baptism) how Bearss, et al, talk in this “teaser” and its impact on the doctrine of Baptism.

    * Mills #35, with the mere wave of his keyboard, dismisses all the people of Lakepointe as outside the church

    Oh, for heaven’s sake! Re-read it! He says *precisely* the opposite.

    * Noland #43, writes a polemic about how real Lutherans follow scripture in a response to a man calling us to love our neighbor

    1. Noland’s post is *hardly* polemic. It’s simply a demonstration of historical examples of people using something *other* than God’s own Word to judge a church. 2. To quote Tina: “What’s love got to do with it?” This is about *faith*, not love (and read *Luther* on the distinction). I love both Bearss and Hollmann–and I worry about the direction their *confession* of the faith seems to be taking.

    * Trask #46 uses the very philosophical components identified and nullified by Noland in #43 to attack his brothers in Christ

    Huh? How does what Noland said have anything to do with what Trask said?

    To his credit: Lorfeld #18, (who does not appear to agree with Pastor Bearss) proposes a biblical and confessional approach, that I might reword as such –> hey folks, we may not have the same understanding here, so we had better talk this through.

    Actually, you’ve ignored the biblical and confessional points that have been made in this thread, because you appear to equate criticism with condemnation.

    So, here is my question: Can we as Confessional Lutherans really, really (yes Wilkins, really) sit here and wave our self-made flag of “being right” about our doctrine and then in the same breath, seek to destroy our brother? All in the name of doctrinal purity?

    Who’s seeking to “destroy” Bearss or any of the rest? We’re asking for confessional honesty and integrity–which *includes* practice–and we are pointing out that
    From my vantage point, there is only one way you can: If you elevate “doctrinal purity” above AC IV as your material principle.

    WHich part of AC or the whole BoC is disconnected from AC IV? It is *precisely* for the sake of AC IV that *all* doctrine should be examined and critiqued, including the doctrine done by our *practice.* And this is precisely for the sake of the *people* being taught that doctrine.

    Do us all a favor and interact with Matthew 18:23-35 (The Parable of the Wicked Servant) in light of this thread. Show me steadfast as it relates to HESED. Show me steadfast as it relates to AGAPE.
    C’mon folks. Go and learn what this means: “I desire MERCY not ‘doctrinal purity’”

    It is precisely for the sake of MERCY that God demands doctrinal PURITY of His Church.

    Why is this concept so hard?

  9. @Johannes #53
    Well-examined. The form would be fighting the intended “function” in such case, and eventually, one will win out over the other, for good or ill.

  10. @Thureon Pistuos #56

    * Halvorson #34 implies, quite strongly, that Pastor Bearss is not teaching baptism properly.

    Well, not really. The teaching might be orthodox, but the practice can contradict and undermine the teaching. The practice can encourage a saint who is despairing of his or her sin to look for his or her assurance of salvation in the worship experience, which is what we do for Christ, rather than in Baptism, which is what Christ does for us. That’s a practice that embodies a nonLutheran doctrine of infused grace.

    I call that InWo, Infusia Worship, and I don’t care whether it is contemporary or not. InWo could be done with pipe organs and a liturgy, if the liturgy were us serviing Christ rather than Christ serving us. It’s not the trap set, electric guitars, overhead projecter, pre-faded and torn denim jeans, and such that are the problem. To assess it at that level is superficial. The problem is, where does the sinner turn? Show me where the worship being taught in the worship turns a sinner back to his or her baptism, as is the Lutheran way of strengthening a despairing sinner’s assurance of salvation. We take assurance from what Christ does for us, that we can see in objective means, so that our assurance is not unstable because of never being able to have confidence in the quality of some inner trait or some participatory experience.

  11. @Thureon Pistuos #56 Given the rejection of our Confessions I say these folks are not of the same spirit. If they really really want to practice Evangelicalism/CGism then there are plenty of places they can go and do so rather than to constantly needle the rest of us because THEY think they are right. IF they feel that strongly about it put their money where their mouth is. Church growth and the feeding of the “seeker” (which is a demographic illusion of CG since no one seeks God) or its seeking “fertile ground” ( like they know who and when to give the Gospel to) is definitely NOT confessional or Biblical no matter how good it makes the advocates feel or how superior for that matter.

    When I say superior I mean how many times have we heard that confessionals do not care about the lost as much as the CGers do? That doctrine can somehow be separated from the evangel? I have yet to visit any LCMS or other CG church that has a coherent approach to systematic theology. For most even their cathetics are watered down. Most also eventually drift toward acceptance of all kinds of error in an effort to “reach out” and not offend anyone. And if they are so concerned about reaching out to the culture why are they still catering to a bygone folk singing/ coffee house crowd? Why do their “worship” services remain praise focused rather than Gospel/God serving us oriented? Why is confession and closed communion often not practiced?

  12. @Thureon Pistuos #56

    You said: * Trask #46 uses the very philosophical components identified and nullified by Noland in #43 to attack his brothers in Christ.

    I see no relationship between what Noland said and what I say. I really liked Noland’s post. Saved it actually. I don’t think what I wrote is nullified by it. If it is, help me out. show me how.

    I did not attack my brothers…. I attacked their errant behavior. It could actually be argued that they are attacking all those who don’t use drums, cell phones, and “makeshift grocery stores”, or mini fake football fields in their sanctuary. They are going to hold a conference to talk about these things. I’m guessing their aim is to persuade….and perhaps to encourage others to do what they do so that they will feel better about what they are doing.

    I called him Ringo, because this is the iconic figure he appeals too by addressing us from the drum set. Ringo represents the cultural trend that he has hitched his wagon to. He’s not being innovative, he’s simply attaching his church to a worldly trend; not unlike Pepsi using a cultural icon to sell more pepsi. Rock and Roll is popular, so he seeks to make Jesus popular by attaching Jesus to the trend. P> U> Something smells. Does Jesus really need this?

    Trouble is, the Rock and Roll lifestyle is so unlike Jesus! They say they want worship to be “authentic”, but all they’ve succeeded in doing is to add another layer of cultural fluff to make authenticity harder recognize.

    What is authentic worship? Worship which focuses on Christ. He commanded us to baptize, to do communion, and to proclaim the Word. Traditional churches have the altar (communion) the font (baptism) and the Pulpit(word) front and center. In many churches that “go contemporary” the altar and the baptismal font and the pulpit go away and are replaced by the drum set. I think this is very significant and worthy of alarm.

  13. @Thureon Pistuos #56

    Dear Mr. “Pistuos,”

    I was not responding to Mr. Gruener’s call to love our neighbors (comment #25). That is fine and I agree with that. As I said recently on another blog post somewhere, we are called to both love our neighbor AND keep the Words of Jesus, as best as we are able, being sinners on both counts.

    You will notice that I did not condemn the practices of this particular church without further evidence. I was responding to Mr. Gruener’s implied argument, in the second part of his comment, that the “contemporary worship” elements are proven to be good and correct because they are drawing a crowd. I am glad that unbelievers are being brought into a church, if that is what is happening, but I am concerned that they will not be LUTHERAN in faith or practice. Being Lutheran is what I really care about, because only Lutherans get the Gospel right!

    You appear from your comments to have the same attitude of those people who don’t like the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and its doctrinal position. You appear to believe that any discussion of, or disagreement about, doctrine is evidence of a lack of Christian love. No doubt, there are many unhelpful and a few unloving comments here on this blog, but you have lumped all the comments together and condemned them all.

    Would you say that if two scientists are publicly disagreeing about the composition of rocks on the moon that they are lacking in Christian love?

    Would you say that if a public health doctor strenuously argues with his colleagues against putting certain chemicals in the drinking water to counteract a flu virus that he is lacking in Christian love?

    If you are a layman, and discussion about doctrine and doctrinal practice seems useless to you, I can understand that. If you are offended, you should leave the debates to the professionals.

    If you are a pastor, and discussion about doctrine and doctrinal practice is offensive to you, I wonder if you are in the right business–or at least, in the right church. No single pastor and no single professor has all the answers. Debates and discussions are how we all learn together about the meaning of particular texts, the relationships between and significance of doctrines, and the applications of the same to church life today. That is the major part of what the Koinoia Project is all about.

    Major changes in worship practices, in any church body, are akin to putting chemicals in the drinking water. You don’t do it unless you know it will not be harmful.

    I have had forty years of experience with so-called “Contemporary Worship.” In almost every case I have seen, it leads both its advocates and followers OUT of the Lutheran church.

    I am IN the Lutheran church because I know that the waters of American Evangelicalism are a toxic waste. I know that “Contemporary Worship,” as usually practiced, leads Lutherans into that toxic waste-land. Therefore “Contemporary Worship,” as usually practiced, is harmful; exceptions to this include the materials available at Liturgy Solutions (, which are based on Lutheran theology and sound Lutheran practice.

    I have no choice, based on my years of experience and study about this issue, but to warn people about it, since I am concerned about the spiritual welfare of those who go the “Contemporary Worship” way. I will not engage you further in discussion about this, since I have stated my case and doubt that further discussion will be helpful.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  14. I love my Baptist friends. I think they are Christian. I do not interfere with their Sunday morning activities. I do not hate them or condemn them to hell.

    But if they started calling themselves LCMS pastors, while still acting and teaching like Baptists, I would ask them to call themselves Baptists. Does this mean I have stopped loving them and stopped thinking they are Christian? Does it mean I hate them or condemned them hell? Of course not.

    If Pastor Greg were in a Baptist church, I would not mock him, correct his public teaching and practice, or refuse to pay for his education. If he were my friend, I’d say, “Hey, that’s Pastor Greg. He’s a cool dude. He loves Jesus and is a well liked, caring Baptist minister.”

    But if he started calling himself a Lutheran…

  15. Well, okay folks. From that push back I can see that you guys think you are right and that you have the the duty and the authority to slam dunk other pastors. Okie Dokie.

    I’m reminded of this thought from the Apology XV (49):

    This topic concerning traditions involves many difficult and controversial questions, and we know from actual experience that traditions are real snares for the conscience. When they are required as necessary, they terribly torture consciences that omit any observance. At the same time, their abrogation carries with it its own evils and questions.

    I know you are not saying that the liturgy is necessary for justification, but you are saying it is necessary in order to be Lutheran.

    But agree or disagree, the spirit of this whole thing is just downright rough and tumble. And, far from the spirit of the confessions.

    More from the Apology XV (52):

    In this very assembly we have sufficiently shown that, for the sake of love, we will reluctantly observe adiaphora with others, even if such things may prove to be somewhat burdensome. We judge that the greatest possible public concord which can be maintained without offending consciences ought to be preferred to all other interests.

    Blessings on your ministries.

  16. @Todd Wilken #65 It is no different than the enthusiasts who are more concerned with Christ in them than Christ for them. EVERYTHING for the decision for Christ/feeling oriented depends on really really “experiencing” Christ. But what happens when your “feeler” is not providing you with that emotion? Has God left you when you really really are felling little or nothing?

  17. @Thureon Pistuos #56
    I was’t making fun of any of the LCMS’s cool pastors, I was just welcoming you to the new culture of the missional Missouri Synod. We used to relate more to the “Church Lady”, but not anymore. I’m just welcoming you to the party. It’s kind of like Wayne’s World. It’s a good time, not stuffy and dry like the Church Lady’s church. You do like to rock and roll, don’t you? Maybe we should all just worship in a bar or something, it might loosen us up a little and give us a little sense of humor or maybe I just need to go and take some of Garth’s Ritalin.

  18. @Missional Mo #71
    “Maybe we should all just worship in a bar or something, it might loosen us up a little and give us a little sense of humor…”

    As one who is solidly on the side of Divine Worship, and very orthodox, I can’t resist a response to your “worship in a bar” statement. Here’s a paragraph from an early LCMS missionary (and teetotaler) in Wisconsin, about 1860 or so:
    “From Menomonie I hurried over the river by ferry, then rode up the hill to a saloon. I said,
    “Are you German?” The answer was, “Yes, sir.” I told him who I was and what I wanted. He said, “Yes, people are here, but where could we meet?” I said, “Here is plate enough.” He said, “Do you want to preach in a saloon?” I said, “Certainly!” He said, “Alright.” He took my horse to the barn, and pointed to a door to the family. I remained overnight. In the morning quite a number arrived. I said part of the hymn verse, sang and they sang also. After singing I leaned my back against the counter behind which stood the whiskey bottles and preached. Soon the door opened and somebody looked in, then slammed the door. So it happened again and again. It was so funny I had to be careful not to laugh. After the sermon I baptized two children.”

    I’m not advocating church in a bar, but back then, one did what one had to do. I sincerely hope this loosens us all up a little.


  19. @Johannes #72
    This bar circumstance you describe is different….even charming and God-pleasing. That’s because it’s not an affectation. The pastor did not choose the bar to be groovy.

  20. @Johannes #72

    Dear Johannes and BJS Bloggers,

    Great story, Johannes! That’s one that has to get published in the CHI Quarterly someday.

    It is interesting, too, how the presence of a congregation in worship “drove out the demon rum,” i.e., folks who wanted to drink were prevented from doing so. Similar types of phenomena are recorded for outdoor revivalists, especially in cities. I am thinking here of George Whitefield’s revival in Philadelphia, witnessed and recorded by Ben Franklin.

    I have stated before that I am not against the use of drums, electronic instruments, projection screens, “rock” music, etc. Nor are all “praise band” lyrics heterodox. These things can be used in Lutheran worship if filtered through Lutheran (i.e., biblical criteria), and sometimes just common sense.

    But we in the LCMS don’t have any mutually-agreed-upon criteria for worship. I don’t even think that our official doctrinal reviewers have mutually-agreed-upon criteria for judging submissions of songs, hymns, and worship forms–except to say that in a general way they agree or disagree with the Scriptures and Confessions.

    The way I see it is that there are basically two sides to the debate. On the one side is the “anything goes” camp, led by David Luecke’s books promoting “Evangelical Style,” the “Fellowship Ministries,” and more recent groups and organizations. On the other side is the “uniformity based on tradition” camp. Their position is safe, i.e., those who follow it can be assured of doing Lutheran worship, and I would be content with it myself, but it does not hold up well against attacks by the “anything goes” camp.

    My position–and I don’t have books or organizations behind me, just Martin Luther and Martin Chemnitz–could be called “partial uniformity based on Scriptural criteria.” It is the only position that makes sense to me, and that agrees with everything I have found in the New Testament and the Confessions.

    I am hoping that the Koinoia Project produces something along this line for the section on worship, because I believe it is the one position that everyone who honestly affirms our scriptural and confessional principle could agree with.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. Rev. Michael Trask :@Johannes #72 This bar circumstance you describe is different….even charming and God-pleasing. That’s because it’s not an affectation. The pastor did not choose the bar to be groovy.

    Of course, I understand–your point is well taken. I just wished to point out that although hardly groovey, and a teetotaler to boot (altho he did like a beer now and then), that missionary, like so many, preached where he could. As I said above, I just couldn’t resist. No offense intended, nor a defense of grooviness.


  22. @Thureon Pistuos #69
    Were you to add AC XV:51(And nevertheless we teach that in these matters the use of liberty is to be so controlled that the inexperienced may not be offended, and, on account of the abuse of liberty, may not become more hostile to the true doctrine of the Gospel, or that without a reasonable cause nothing in customary rites be changed, but that, in order to cherish harmony, such old customs be observed as can be observed without sin or without great inconvenience. ) to the section you quote from 52 (And in this very assembly we have shown sufficiently that for love’s sake we do not refuse to observe adiaphora with others, even though they should have some disadvantage; but we have judged that such public harmony as could indeed be produced without offense to consciences ought to be preferred to all other advantages.) it becomes quite obvious that your “More from the Apology XV (52)” applies more to the innovators (CoWo) than the traditionalists. The CoWo folks are the ones refusing to observe old customs that are not in themselves sinful. The CoWo folks are the ones valuing public harmony below their own thirst for novelty and are therefore opposing both the spirit and letter of Apology XV. (Oh, and cherry-picking BOC quotes out of context.)

  23. Somebody send some confessional help our way…

    This is my District, Mid-South. Unfortunately this stuff plays well in this area. In Nashville where I am, it is the heart of the Country and Christian music industry, mega church extraordinaire, and pop-Christianity run amok. We are home to Thomas Nelson publishers which churns out spiritual brain candy daily. And don’t forget Lifeway Christian stores, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention (I was so beside myself in the CSL bookstore not too long ago, surrounded by real substantive theological and spiritual tomes, I was sorely tempted to lock myself in and absorb as much as I could before returning home). I can sit in my local Starbucks and listen to conversations of producers, band leaders, and worship leaders talking about how you have to have a full scale production for church anymore — lights, bands, videography, graphics, the whole 9 yards. Lutherans are a well hidden minority, vastly outnumbered in size and resources. Yet, in our LCMS churches, you can throw a rock and hit a budding music artist or a praise band in waiting. And the praise bands really are not all that good although they really think they are and then we give them thousands of dollars for ear pieces so they can hear themselves better. The real confessional musicians whose music and lyrics incorporate hymns and the Word of God cannot get play time within the church. If it has been on the radio though, you can bet it will be in the staple of 8 good songs that are rotated over and over and over and over and over again each month. Whether or not the songs actually bear any relation to the lectionary readings (still used for the most part). Then a New Song is thrown in to mix things up, or requests are taken. That whole Contemporvent worship parody plays on in real life in some places. Conventional wisdom says that you have to have this type of worship to compete with the other denoms and generic big box churches, to reach the “unchurched” or other visitors, we are doing a grave disservice to our youth and those who are starving for the Gospel. Really that is code for panic and desperation because numbers are dwindling, or, better yet, just downright coveting the success of our bigger, more successful neighbors. Israel wanted a king like all those nations around them, why shouldn’t we be just like everyone else?

    People here a starving for solid food, for the real meat of the Gospel. Deep, meaningful Bible studies are well attended. And doctrine, although thought divisive by some contemporary worship folks, takes hold if one remains persistent and firm in conveying it. Our kids want to study books of the Bible in Bible study. Yet they are given short lessons on current events from pop-evangelical organizations where Lutheran theology has to be imprinted over the top of those materials — and who has the time to train youth leaders to do that?

    The syrupy sweet, how to live the life of the Christian, I’m ok, you’re ok, spiritual legalism merely skips rocks across the surface of our lives and does not plumb the depths of the waters that rage beneath most folks in the pews. The let’s worship in a bar, mixed martial arts gimmicks, and “top shelf,” “fired up,” “pumped,” “super-excited” come win tickets to a ball game at church, church for a specific demographic/target market challenge us to have a good time, be together for a baptism bash. But this is the model being used for church planting here. And I will give them credit — these guys are in the community doing good, doing outreach. They have powerful stories, with tearful testimonies with real people who do not look like most folks in a typical Lutheran congregation. I really struggle with this model and the place it has in our synod and in the life of the church in general because I know it is coming right here to my town sometime soon and I will be asked to support it. The numbers tend to come with their efforts, but the question it raises for me is what kind of staying power will there be? There is a difference between mission in the church and ministry/discipling. And despite these numbers, there are a lot of vacancies in my own Circuit, a couple of which would have been well suited for a young buck like Rev. Fisk, who has the hipness of youth, but has been drowned in the Baptism of the Cross and is not afraid to go deep. Unfortunately, he has been swallowed up by a good confessional congregation. Can you guys start a church planter training station up there at Bethany and send some good, solid, confessional pastors our way?

    There is a lot of work to be done down here, and me and others who share these convictions and are working to get the pure Gospel and all of it out there sure could use some help. There are more of us than anyone realizes down here — people are asking the right questions, they just do not know where to go for the answers yet.

  24. Along with Pastor Harris, please include my name as well.

    My info and paperwork can be found

    c/o Bishop David Stechholz
    English District


  25. @Martin R. Noland #74
    I’ve tried to address just those questions in my “Unchanging Forms of the Gospel” in response to the CoP’s eight Theses on Worship ( There I argue, based on the confessions and Luther, that our worship needs to be normed by both faith and love.

    Faith’s norms in the context of worship are specifically not the holy scriptures as such but the means of grace as they have been instituted by Christ with their respective concrete external forms, which are basically humble along the lines of the word of the cross (1 Cor. 1-4). Evidently, those parts of the worship service that have not been instituted by Christ should conform to what he has established lest there be dissonance or conflicting messages / forms in worship. If such dissonance arises then there’s the need for re-formation in worship, as done, e.g., by Luther in his day.

    Love’s norms in the context of worship are that we should, for the sake of the weak but also for the sake of the preservation of doctrinal unity (specifically for the preservation of the purity of the means of grace), move forward jointly when it comes to changing those parts of the worship service that have been added to the means of grace (specifically, to the Lord’s Supper) in the course of church history.

    “Jointly” means not every congregation doing their own thing or things on Sunday morning, but those who are joined in confession doing their thing together and uniformly, out of love.

    Love’s voluntary uniformity you arrive at in this way is a fine reflection of the uniformity of the Christian faith and life as they are prescribed by God in his word.

    Maybe that’s a start for discussion.

  26. Thank You Dr. Noland,

    One of the things I often mention in this regard is that even practically, one has to look at what becomes of the institution over decades or centuries. How many little sectarian projects have I seen that were going to destroy all the surrounding parishes by their growth and vigor which, in about ten years, cease to exist. Meanwhile, the little RC parish nearby chugs along confirming, in the religion of the anti-christ, three or four a year. It’s likely been doing the same for a century or two. So if I had to pick a “model” it would not be the heavy-nitrogen/light compost variety. Anyway, the video appeared to be something like retro-1997 -another huge problem. Cultural relativity is such a moving target. It will be interesting to see Mr. Bearrs when he is the pastoral equivalent of the present Mick Jagger.

  27. Shield of Faith (Pastor?),

    If you are interested, another regular contributor here has a rather complete book which takes up to what degree the Confessions agree with the idea that the liturgy in structure and content is adiaphora. You can do a search on Amazon and find Dr. Sonntag’s critique of the Theses on Worship by the COP. I really think it might change your mind entirely regarding the relationship of the doctrine of adiaphora to worship.

  28. My apologies, I’m just figuring out that the “reply” above a comment doesn’t start a little sub-discussion directly beneath but goes to the end. So in the words of Nixon “mistakes were made,” and in the words of Carter “Ahmm a larnin.”

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