Why didn’t this business model come with Church Growth?

On my recent trip out east for the Brothers of John the Steadfast National Conference my family and I had the fine opportunity to eat at one of our favorite “eastern” restaurants, Steak n Shake.  At the second location my children noticed that everything in the store seemed identical to the previous one we had stopped at (sure there were local differences, mainly in the staff).  In fact, they were the same as the restaurant as we remembered back when would get out in Fort Wayne during seminary days.  It got me thinking, since Church Growth folks like to borrow from the business and marketing world, how come they never embraced “franchise” mentality with regards to worship?  How come in regards to worship they chose constant changes instead of the comfort of national familiarity.

 

I remember on vicarage entering the local Wal-mart which had been given a new floor layout.  The entire experience of shopping in that store was frustrating.  I was familiar with their products but noticing that everything was out of order was disturbing.  This is a common experience as LCMS folks move around this country and find new orders and strange practices developed and introduced under the banner of “freedom”.  Worse than that, in some congregations the services change so often it would be like a monthly trip to Wal-Mart to find the aisles juggled and the products on the shelves mixed around as well.  This does not seem to be in “good order”.

I understand that local congregations have traditions, but still why can’t we have some of the same familiarity to bring instant comfort to members of our churches and those who eventually become members.  But there is the key, in restaurants and retail, the repeat customer has great value.  It seems like many would reason that the church member is not nearly as important in our worship practices as the visitor.  That would be like Wal-Mart catering to new customers only and making sure that repeat customers were uncomfortable with their shopping experience.

It seems as though we have lost some of the catholicity of our church body.  We are much more interested in the local congregation than in any congregation around us (or across the country from us).  No wonder, as the ACELC has shown, there are a variety of practices and beliefs that these come from tolerated in our Synod.  It’s time for us to start living out of love for one another – because the current lack of love for the congregation down the road or across the state or country is removing any semblance of “Synod” that we have.  Those who want to have their independent worship free of any bond of love should ask the question of why they exist in a Synod anyways.  All Lutheran congregations who believe as Missourians are a part of Synod, but that means more than a logo, it means more than just a set of beliefs, but it also means some similar practices.

If I can have the same Chili 5-way in the same looking restaurant at no matter what location I find a Steak n Shake, how come I can’t even find that in something which has a much longer standing, supposedly a firmer anchor against the ravages of time and supposedly even more unity?

P.S.  If anyone wants to start a Steak n Shake in Cheyenne, Wyoming please let me know (you would have for sure one repeat customer).


Comments

Why didn’t this business model come with Church Growth? — 74 Comments

  1. I just began a Lenten series on prayer. I started re-reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis and here is an excerpt from Letter IV and I think it is right on target towards the pietisms being expressed here and everywhere (BTW: this is the 70th anniversary of the publication of Screwtape):

    “The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether. When the patient is an adult recently re-converted to the Enemy’s party, like your man, this is best done by encouraging him to remember, or to think he remembers, the parrot-like nature of his prayers in childhood. In reaction against that, he may be persuaded to aim at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, and unregularised; and what this will actually mean to a beginner will be an effort to produce in himself a vaguely devotional mood in which real concentration of will and intelligence have no part. One of their poets, Coleridge, has recorded that he did not pray “with moving lips and bended knees” but merely “composed his spirit to love” and indulged “a sense of supplication”. That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in by it for quite a long time. At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls. It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.

    If this fails, you must fall back on a subtler misdirection of his intention. Whenever they are attending to the Enemy Himself we are defeated, but there are ways of preventing them from doing so. The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity, let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven. Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment… For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it—why, then it is that the incalculable may occur. In avoiding this situation—this real nakedness of the soul in prayer—you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose. There’s such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!”

  2. @ Pam #44
    Be of good cheer! After all, we live in a synod whose favorite joke phrase; and belief, is “We’ve never done it that way before!”

    Those who are determined to stay somewhere between 1849 and 1949 will always believe that anyone who approves of both traditional worship and contemporary worship are steeped in error. The most important thing is to keep your love and your sense of humor (tho I’m sure I will hear about “sense of humor”)

    You just have to get used to the jabs and the prooftexting that will come in replies to your comments. I once had a BJS member tell me that if I had ever possessed saving faith, I had lost it. I figured, Okay, Luther will be good company in heaven.

    I hear your heart as you speak of your family, I know how that must hurt, but the good thing is that you are defending your views in a Christian family. My husband and I are pretty much prevented from speaking of Jesus because a number of our family members are proudly self-proclaimed atheists. Some because they have never considered God; others because they have decided that the church is no longer relevent to their lives. If I could take one of the latter to worship with me, it would be to our contemporary service (at least to begin with) because it would be so different from the church that they have rejected, that they might actually listen to our pastor proclaim the word.

    You are good for BJS! Keep speaking up, and keep Christ’s love alive in your words. Thanks for being who you are!

  3. @Pam #43

    I’m not really sure what you’re saying regarding my statement. I have never, and will never, judge the hearts of people or clergy who prefer liturgical worship. I have, on the other hand, witnessed extreme judgement on this site of people who express themselves in contemporary worship.

    Pam,

    No offense, your comments come off as judgmental. When you claim someone is judging, you are judging. When you criticize someone for criticizing, you are yourself criticizing. That is why it is important to look at the bases of complaints rather than just decry folks for complaining.

    My concern is that contemporary worship is like a downhill slide with ever less structure and content. Clearly that happened in other denominations. Step 1 may be only a little less clear, Step 2 even less clear, etc. Certainly plenty of praise songs are unintelligibly vague and nonsensical. A worship service that doesn’t have objective statements that are clear and direct, for me, is just blah blah blah. What does it mean?

    I guess I have little confidence in innovations to actually be better. We have the historical record of innovations of everything from praying to saints and selling indulgences, purgatory all the way to charismatics and the holiness movement. When people complain that innovation is sectarian, they don’t mean to be unkind. We have just seen it too many times in history. It is a struggle to keep things faithful and not allow our human frailty to corrupt our doctrine and practice.

    So, it all comes back to the bases of the complaints. Are the complaints valid? Luther’s complaints about innovations were very harsh and judgmental. Were Luther’s complaints about innovation valid? That is the point. Criticism can be appropriate if the actions warrant it.

    I would also comment from a purely personal point of view. My husband was born in 1960. Good order in Christian worship was preserved for him 1960 years and he was brought into it by his faithful parents. My parents did not pass it on to me. My youngest son was born in 2006. His father is passing it on to him by faithfully bringing him into it. I do not want his generation to be the last to have it. By the grace of God, people with far fewer resources than we endured hardships to preserve it, defend it and rescue it from those who would abolish and corrupt it, and so can we for the sake of our children, by the grace of God.

    I understand you like contemporary worship and very much want things your way. In the past, it seemed fine to me, too. After careful consideration, I have come to see that it is probably deficient especially because of its instability and changeability. Liturgical worship doesn’t require great talent or vision or creativity to implement. It stands on its own; stable, true and enduring even when pastor is depressed, discouraged, and himself suffering life’s problems. As Pastor Weedon noted, the liturgy is a gift. We should encourage one another to use it to our benefit.

  4. @Mrs. Hume #53

    I do not very much want things MY way. I want them God’s way. And I want the world to see Christians loving each other so that they will know His love.

    As I mentioned before I’ve been at my current church for 27 years. My same two pastors have shepherded me and my family faithfully during those 27 years. They have done this through many of their own personal trials, when they were discouraged and suffering life’s problems. Our services are not deficient in the Means of Grace. We have solid preaching. My husband has beautifully fathered our children and passed our faith to them. As I also said before, one indicator of this is the number of Lutheran seminarians God has called who were shepherded here. We are not deficient in anything because of instability or changeability of contemporary worship. I was also raised in and attended liturgical Lutheran churches for 23 years. My grandfather was an LCMS pastor. My mother and my father are also members of the church I attend now. We have no ill feelings regarding our old churches or anyone who worships in a more liturgical fashion. The only ill feelings come into play when we can’t even have a conversation about our faith with our relatives without hateful, judgmental statements being made by them regarding our church.

    Regarding my comment about people being judgmental on this site of contemporary worship. Stating a fact does not amount to being judgmental. You can rightly dissect contemporary worship or liturgical elements all day long and still not be judgmental. But when you start making fun of people (and we all know that happens here) and determining what their mind is thinking and where their heart is during worship based on what your eyes see, that is a judgmental attitude. It is not a factual statement to say when someone is raising their hands in worship that they are making worship about themselves and what they bring to God. It would be factual to say that it is not something you’re comfortable seeing. So, no, my statement was not judgmental. Just a factual statement.

    Contemporary worship done well is every bit as honoring of God and beneficial in His good gifts for attenders. God does show up at our services too, He does offer His good gifts, He does bring forgiveness, and He does delight in the praises of His people in response to those gifts. He doesn’t withhold His forgiveness if I don’t say the exact words, “forgive me, a poor, miserable sinner” and then have the pastor declare my forgiveness. Believe it or not, He does still forgive me. He does hear my prayers even if I don’t say, “Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.” And everyone here can tear down every word I say and say that I am not “Lutheran” in my worship because I think I’M doing something to earn this, or I believe MY worship is what God wants. Just stop. Just stop. Satan is having a heyday.

    @Perry Lund #45

    I never said that law and Gospel were not proclaimed in our worship, but you assume they are not both there because we don’t use the ancient liturgy? Why would you assume that? Because I said I don’t believe I have to BEG God for forgiveness? Well, I don’t. You don’t have to beg for a gift. But you do need to acknowledge the value of that Gift, your daily unworthiness of that Gift, and your thankfulness for that Gift. Unless they are not paying attention, which is also entirely possible even in liturgical worship, a person will not leave our service without understanding their need for forgiveness because of the Law, and the fact that they have that forgiveness because of the Gospel.

    I’m exhausted and tired of allowing Satan this heyday, I’m signing off.

    @Sue Grabe Wilson #52

    I am of such good cheer! Thank you for your encouragement. I am at a wonderful Lutheran church, I have wonderful Lutheran pastors, friends, and co-workers through whom God is working mightily. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

    And I’m looking forward to Pastor Rossow’s online conversation with the “CG” pastor. I pray it is fruitful.

  5. I consider myself to be a proponent of liturgical worship forms, but also that there is a place for “contemporary” settings for the Liturgy. So, here’s a practical example of what I consider to be good “contemporary” liturgical worship. What do you think of this setting of Psalm 141 from Holden Evening Prayer complete with incense, which we have been using at the church I serve since 2006?:

    http://www.ds-indy.com/home/140000317/140000317/audio/Holden%20Evening%20Prayer%20Psalm%20141.wmv

  6. “Contemporary worship done well is every bit as honoring of God and beneficial in His good gifts for attenders.”

    I think this is part of the issue. The “done well” part. If there were some standardized contemporary version that was reviewed and approved by everyone like LSB was, then contemporary worship might have a better reputation. When people see dancing, light shows, videos, etc actually in the service, it is called contemporary. Now some will say they never bring any of those things into worship and never would. Okay, but we still have the problem that under the term contemporary there is all manner of stuff that appears irreverent and irrelevant to the service.

    Is there currently interest by those doing contemporary worship to draft guidelines to avoid the appearance of anything improper? Consider that those doing liturgical worship. They come together and work cooperatively with their fellow clergy to create the LSB which serves as a stabilizing guide and everything is mutually agreed on. That builds trust.

    When people raise concerns that familiar forms are being used less and less, those concerns seem to be dismissed by people who like to do things differently. There is a sort of attitude of, “Those liturgical types can do things their way, and we will do things our way. They’re okay, and we’re okay.” However the same thing could be said of people who are Christians in other denominations. Lutherans do not say that Methodists are not saved. Lutherans have their understanding and Methodists have theirs. Due to those differences, we are not walking together. So where is the sectarian divide? How far is too far?

    Just stop. Just stop. Satan is having a heyday.

    So, if people express their concerns openly and honestly, then Satan is having a heyday?

    Therefore, we shouldn’t express our concerns? Or what?

    @Rev. James Schulz #56

    Rev. Schulz,

    Do you think there will eventually be some sort of synod review committee to review and recommend resources for those doing contemporary worship?

  7. @Mrs. Hume #57

    @Rev. James Schulz #56

    Rev. Schulz,

    Do you think there will eventually be some sort of synod review committee to review and recommend resources for those doing contemporary worship?

    That is already happening at various levels. CPH influences what congregations use by what it markets. Colleges and seminaries influence what congregations use because they model the style of worship they think is best for future leaders in Synod.

    There is a “spirit” of worship philosophy that makes its way into the collective psyche of a group based on what is taught and/or tolerated. No amount of legislating can eliminate worship forms not encouraged, taught, and modeled through CPH, colleges, seminaries, etc. because there will always be “adiaphora” loopholes to wriggle through. So, the best answer to finding consensus is to get back to teaching the basics of what the purpose of worship is. If we consider ourselves to be “Confessional Lutherans” then we will use the Confessions as the touchstone for teaching and informing the purpose of our worship practices. That “spirit” will then dominate, marginalize, if not eliminate “non-Lutheran” worship practices.

    “Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments.” – Smalcald Articles Part III, Art. VIII, 10

    That’s the “spirit”!

  8. Rev. James Schulz :@Mrs. Hume #57
    @Rev. James Schulz #56
    Rev. Schulz,
    Do you think there will eventually be some sort of synod review committee to review and recommend resources for those doing contemporary worship?

    That is already happening at various levels. CPH influences what congregations use by what it markets. Colleges and seminaries influence what congregations use because they model the style of worship they think is best for future leaders in Synod.
    There is a “spirit” of worship philosophy that makes its way into the collective psyche of a group based on what is taught and/or tolerated. No amount of legislating can eliminate worship forms not encouraged, taught, and modeled through CPH, colleges, seminaries, etc. because there will always be “adiaphora” loopholes to wriggle through. So, the best answer to finding consensus is to get back to teaching the basics of what the purpose of worship is. If we consider ourselves to be “Confessional Lutherans” then we will use the Confessions as the touchstone for teaching and informing the purpose of our worship practices. That “spirit” will then dominate, marginalize, if not eliminate “non-Lutheran” worship practices.
    “Therefore we ought and must constantly maintain this point, that God does not wish to deal with us otherwise than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. It is the devil himself whatsoever is extolled as Spirit without the Word and Sacraments.” – Smalcald Articles Part III, Art. VIII, 10
    That’s the “spirit”!

    Fascinating observation. It is our colleges and seminaries, and what is generally taught and tolerated, which determines what shall be.

    Makes me wonder what the role of synodality shall continue to be.

  9. @Pam #55
    But when you start making fun of people (and we all know that happens here) and determining what their mind is thinking and where their heart is during worship based on what your eyes see, that is a judgmental attitude.

    But Pam, it was Susan, your fellow “CoWo” devotee, who commented on where people’s eyes appeared to be, while they were praying.

    Guess “CoWo” people can be “judgmental”, too?

  10. Colleges and seminaries influence what congregations use because they model the style of worship they think is best for future leaders in Synod.

    Yeah, this is what I have been thinking. It all comes from the top. Laity are not looking for change. Leaders are. Laity mostly just follow. Look at the denominations that went down the historical critical road. That wasn’t lead by the laity either.

  11. Helen, Perhaps you have forgotten my answer to your complaint.

    In my reply to you I said, “Remember that my main point was that in both CoWo and traditional services, not all are there with their hearts and minds. And that we need to be cautious in claiming that one is far more meaningful to all worshipers than the other. ”

    Your remarks to Pam, “your fellow CoWo devotee” and “Guess CoWo people can be jugemental too,” reflect that you did not read my response or you have decided that it was insincere, or incorrect.

    I’m sorry that you insist that the entire point of my comment was to judge individuals in a traditional service. The point (which you continue to miss because you are hung up on one example) is that not ALL who attend Traditional worship are focused on the word or the sacraments or prayer. That point was in answer to the claim that in a CoWo service the people are only there to be entertained (in a previous comment).

    I continue to stand by my point (not your accusation) that NO WORSHIP SERVICE (whether CoWo or Traditional) is 100% filled with people who are only focused on worship. However there is a common accusation is that only in CoWo is there misunderstanding, entertainment heart-set, or incomplete teaching. I hope this helps you understand the major point in my original posting.

    As Pam has tried to point out, there are observations to be made based on a person’s actions and words. You are implying that “judgment” is always condemnation, which is not a true definition of the word, except when applied to God’s right to condemn. We are not to condemn, but we are to judge what may be true based on what we observe.

  12. @Sue Grabe Wilson #62
    “NO WORSHIP SERVICE (whether CoWo or Traditional) is 100% filled with people who are only focused on worship.”

    Of course, but the contemporary service is designed to draw their focus to one place and the historically liturgical divine service is designed to draw their attention elsewhere. Have you been following James Gier’s insightful comments on another thread? Paraphrase: ”CW is designed with the purpose to elicit emotional response whereas emotion in liturgical worship is perhaps a side effect but not the focus.”
    (@Rev. McCall #31 )

  13. I imagine the worst interpretation of this idea is what will happen to some church bodies:
    – dumbing down of “service offerings” (I like Steak n Shake but the menu is not exactly esoteric – this is somewhat open to debate ; – )
    – very simplified (again dumbed down) iconography, forcefully and endlessly repeated
    – oriented to grab your attention, get you in, get your money, get you out
    – Wal-Marted
    – in its essence, commercial
    and so on.

    And BTW if you ever get to go to a genuine OLD S n S, do so. There are a couple in Springfield, MO. I don’t know where else. I kind of presume there are some old ones in Normal. The old ones LOOK and FEEL different. They are orthodox. Even S n S must have had its struggle with church growth – and they lost. 🙂

  14. Pam :
    @Jason #22
    Just thought the women posting on this site would like to know the attitude/mentality of those with which they converse.

    That sounds rather judgemental.

  15. Re: TC #63 “Of course, but the contemporary service is designed to draw their focus to one place and the historically liturgical divine service is designed to draw their attention elsewhere”
    and the Gier paraphrase: “”CW is designed with the purpose to elicit emotional response whereas emotion in liturgical worship is perhaps a side effect but not the focus.”

    Since the churches offering contemporary worship have no nation-wide designer who has provided a CW pattern to be used in the service; since each church offers what it believes is a doctrinally proper Lutheran service, the statement above is based on an unproven presumption, making it indefensible, not to mention especially disappointing because it assumes that all contemporary worship services are intended to point the worshiper in an improper direction.

  16. @Sue Grabe Wilson #66
    Sue, This kind of argument really doesn’t wash. The fact that there is a tremendous variety of CW services should not be an argument for ignoring someone’s experience of them. In fact, it should be an argument FOR accepting someone’s own experience, because in the face of a non-uniform, non-national, non-documented pattern (or lack thereof) of worship, only experience can be used to describe it. In the face of such tremendous diversity, the variety of the specifics of CoWo don’t provide a defense of it, but rather an indictment of it. This is partly because the lack of predictable rites and customs call into question the hoped for assumption of doctrinal unity, because if everyone is doing something quite different in worship, there is no reliable check on doctrinally deficient practices or teaching, and a higher probability of doctrinal problems. If that were not so, there would be no need for doctrinal review of worship materials prior to publication–after all, they are written largely by pastors, and yet things creep in that can confuse sound teaching, so review is helpful.

  17. “We must finally make the time and effort to come to a broad consensus on who we are and how we shall live and work together.”  – Pastor Harrison, It’s Time 

    As we have for decades, we continue to talk past each other.  How many hearts and minds have been changed as the result of these recent threads?  Not even one.  Is there a possibility for consensus or do we even want it?   I think there could be Bible-based guidelines for contemporary worship that would be acceptable to 85% of LCMS (at least the laypeople).   I can’t find hardly anyone on BJS beside myself who even wants broad consensus.  It’s too much fun going over the same arguments for another ten years.

  18. @John Rixe #68

    We could develop guidelines for CoWo most could live with, I believe, but one of the key arguments for CoWo is the right to have non-uniformity in worship and the absolute determination to exercise that right, so I think that that needs to be addressed first. What are our key operating assumptions about worship? Are they Scriptural? Are they Confessional? Are they loving to the Churched? To the unChurched? Where can and should we bend, and where should we remain strong and unyielding?

    We are not unified enough on these questions to even talk about guidelines yet–because we can’t even start from a point of consensus on whether they should exist or be followed.

    And frankly, I’m aghast at this. It’s terribly sad.

  19. I am a little behind on all the threads but did notice this and will try to incorporate it into the discussion. If we don’t be sure to remind us on the comments. I think the comments on those discussions will be most significant.

    BTW – the LCMS has already tried this twice and COWO’ers, who tend to be a bit renegade by nature, have pretty much ignored it both times. The head of the commission on worship, I believe it was Brauer but I could be wrong, about 15 years ago put out a list of the bare minimum of confessional worship. (It was like invocation, gloria, readings, sermon, etc.) and then with the publication of LSB there is somewhere a book of approved COWO songs. But of course, any kind of structure is too much structure for COWO.

    Of course there is a third attempt, likewise ignored. I think it is Divine Service 5 in LSB – the Srvice of Prayer and Preaching. It is very much a scrubbed down version of authentic Lutheran worship. If COWO’s were serious about being LCMS Lutherans they would buy LSB’s and use that service half or so of the Sundays and year and because they like variety, they could use the other four Divine Services the rest of the Sundays.

    Until we get it through our thick heads that COWO is all about the personal choices of Boomers to do stuff that tickles them, we will get nowhere in this debate. I beleive Harrison thinks 85% of LCMS’ers can figure that out and agree to worship out of the same hymnal. I think he might be a little optimistic but we shall see. The Micro Koinonia Project is intended to explore the thesis on a micro level.

  20. BTW – I know the mind of the COWO because I was one. It is all about just doing stuff that makes me happy, jazzed, comfortable, and whatever isn’t what my boooooooooring traditional Lutheran parents did in church. It really is that simple. There are some nuances to it but in the end, that is what it is. I don’t know Mark all that well but I think I know him well enough to know that is what it is for him as well. We’ll see. Despite my tone here, I am ogood pen-minded. I like a adventure. Even one where I am unsure of the destination.

  21. @Sue Grabe Wilson #62

    > I continue to stand by my point (not your accusation) that NO WORSHIP SERVICE (whether CoWo or Traditional) is 100% filled with people who are only focused on worship. However there is a common accusation is that only in CoWo is there misunderstanding, entertainment heart-set, or incomplete teaching. I hope this helps you understand the major point in my original posting.

    That’s not the point. The cowo I have attended
    – deliberately part ways with tradition. This leaves laypeople with the task of discerning truth and orthodoxy from scratch, on their own. We are not always equipped to do that. We trust / and don’t trust the shepherds. I do not trust them to have the competency to make up something time-tested each week. That is a contradiction in terms anyway.
    – omit signicant parts of the traditional service. Why?
    – use a style that does not make me feel prepared for death. How I feel is secondary, but why trample on it?
    – put undulating female bodies up front. Why create that issue? Oh, I know, any man that’s such a pig as to be bothered by that is unredeemable, right? Feminism?

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