Steadfast On Campus — A Common Order

I couldn’t help but follow the discussion on BJS concerning the topic of worship wars titled “Every Sunday Pro-Choice Sunday?” (Who cares that it’s March Madness!—I’m becoming a BJS addict and I admit it.) This topic captivated me because of its relation to campus ministry! Campus ministry, in my own experience, is where we really see the benefit of a common order of service.

Having a common order, with less variety would be most beneficial for the sake of unity and edification of our people—especially college students. Luther agrees with me, or vice versa. He exhorted the Livonians, “Therefore, when you hold mass, sing and read uniformly, according to a common order—the same in one place as in another—because you see that the people want and need it and you wish to edify rather than confuse them” (LW, Vol. 53; 48).

Over and over again I hear appreciation for the comforting familiarity of the liturgy in the hymnal from college students and their families. One father brought this to my attention when he was visiting his daughter for the weekend. He noted that in the midst of all the change (new scenery, new home, new friends, new school, new worldviews, etc.), the liturgy was the same. It was familiar. It was like home.

Likewise, a few weeks ago, one of our guests at College Hill Lutheran Church, in Cedar Falls, Iowa expressed his appreciation that the liturgy was identical to that which his home congregation used in California!

At the very least, LCMS congregations should be using the hymnals and agendas that are authorized by the LCMS. Paul Lang makes this fine point in his Ceremony and Celebration: “It is only proper… that all congregations belonging to a church denomination should adhere to the orders of service given in their church’s official or authorized and approved service books.” And later he adds, “Such conformity is desirable according to the law of love and the spirit of loyalty and fellowship” (17).

Outside of the campus ministry circle, I heard the comment that a common order of service is boring! Slightly taken aback by the comment, I recalled how I at times used to think the same way because of my own ignorance. I, too, thought the same old repetition and ritual was not good. But my appreciation grew for the liturgy the more I learned about it. The professors at the seminary taught it. They didn’t impose it. And that which I thought was boring became my most highly prized treasure. The repetition and ritual of the liturgy was my longed for nourishment that I needed most. It became a comfort knowing what I would receive each week. The liturgy gives us Christ—His Word, His body and blood, His righteousness, forgiveness, and life.

Luther again writes, “For even though from the viewpoint of faith, the external orders are free and can without scruples be changed by anyone at any time, yet from the viewpoint of love, you are not free to use this liberty, but bound to consider the edification of the common people” (LW, Vol. 53; 47).

Therefore, campus ministry is not the place for innovation. Away from home, these students expect that attending an LCMS campus ministry might be the one familiar thing amid their world of change. (They wonder:  “Why did my church seemingly do everything around the altar when this church seemingly does everything around a stage and drum set? Why did my pastor wear vestments when this one wears jeans? Why did my congregation sing hymns with an organ when this one sings praise songs with a band?  Why does my church use hymnals when this one uses a big screen?)

Neither is it helpful for “home” congregations to deviate from a common order. The youth in our congregations need to be taught the liturgy. (They are sinners too!) Do you want your Lutheran youth to remain Lutheran when they go to college? Then worship like a Lutheran. Use the hymnal. In this way, the Lutheran youth will not be confused when they come to a campus ministry that also uses the hymnal and confesses Lutheran theology. In fact, seeing other Lutheran youth who are of the same mind and confess the same wonderful truth in the Divine Service is by far one of the greatest joys of campus ministry.


About Pastor John Wegener

Rev. John H. Wegener was born on September 22, 1974 in Ames IA a minute after the birth of his twin brother. He was baptized on October 6, 1974 at St. John Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Hubbard, IA where his father (The Rev. Thomas C. Wegener) served as pastor. He was confirmed in 1984 at Faith Lutheran Church of Waterloo, IA. He graduated from West High School in Waterloo and then attended the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, IA where he earned a B.A. in Graphic Design in 1997. In 2000, he began his studies at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, IN. He served as vicar at Emmaus Lutheran Church, in Fort Wayne from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2003. He received his Master of Divinity from CTS in 2004. He was called to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Readlyn, IA and Immanuel Lutheran Church of Klinger, IA where he was ordained and installed on June 13, 2004. He served there until July, 2007 when he accepted the call to serve the campus ministry at College Hill Lutheran Church in Cedar Falls, Iowa near the University of Northern Iowa. He was installed there on July 1st, 2007. John met Ms. Heidi M. Johnson while in college at the church where he now serves as pastor. They were married on August 8, 1998 at Grace Lutheran Church in Waterloo, IA. John and Heidi have four children: AJ, Aleah, Javan, and Michael.


Steadfast On Campus — A Common Order — 20 Comments

  1. Excellent points, Pr. Wegener!

    In the October 6, 1997, edition of Christianity Today, Gary Burge – professor of New Testament at interdenominational Wheaton College in Illinois – noticed this about what his students were looking for in worship:

    “What is going on? What deficit, what paucity of experience in their world is not being met? What drives this irony, this rejection of ‘liturgy’ and this embrace of things that undergird every liturgy?

    In our zeal to be practical and relevant, perhaps we have missed something….somewhere the mystery of God has been lost….many worshipers come looking for more than fellowship, exposition, and exhortation. They seek an experience of ‘the holy.’ They come looking for awe and reverence, mystery and transcendence.

    My students and colleagues are looking for worship that weds dignity and spontaneity, worship that is theologically informed and liturgically intentional. My students and friends are migrating to new spiritual homes. They are looking for…worship services that do not push them into the world merely to be better Christians, but services that become a divine refuge – a divine encounter that lifts their lives and souls to an entirely new plateau.”

    That was a long time ago, 1997! I pray that in our Lutheran “zeal to be practical and relevant” we don’t loose that which so many are now looking for: The mysteries of God delivered through Word and Sacrament in the context of a unifying liturgical divine service.

  2. I will date myself a bit here, but when I first went to college at the University of Nebraska in the 1980’s, our University Lutheran Chapel there was used as a “guinea pig” to test out the then”new” Lutheran hymnal called Lutheran Worship (LW). I learned by heart the liturgy there, and was exposed to the hymn of praise we called “This is the Feast” for the first time.

    This experience served me well, because after graduating in 1985, I entered the US Army and was assigned overseas to Korea. I discovered the Lutheran mission chapel off base in Seoul, South Korea just about the time THEY converted to the LW, and I was assigned to be a cantor there and teach the liturgy to a whole new congregation half a world away.

    However, I was not finished. After finishing my stint in the US Army, I went home and assisted in my Father’s congregation in Dumont, Minnesota as THEY converted from the TLH to the LW, teaching “This is The Feast” and other parts of what is now Divine Service One and Two of the LSB to a THIRD congregation.

    You write “campus minsitry is not the place for innovation”. I can only say that it depends on what kind of “innovation” you are talking about. Since college students are mental “sponges” eager to absorb education, it is dependant on us to make sure that they are absorbing the RIGHT kind of education. Many of the worship service formats now in the LSB were first tested in the “labs” known as campus ministries. Some were good, some were bad. However, I just feel the experience I had proves that the testing of worship formats on campus ministries CAN have very positive effects if it is done right…..

  3. Recent anecdote: in our small mission, we had over 3 cadets (Virginia Military Institute) for lunch after Liturgy (and for the rest of the day! “Rats” need a nest!) and we prayed at table “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest…”. Amen and all 3 exclaimed: “That’s just like the prayer we use at home!” Good article, Pastor.

  4. @helen #3
    My point exactly. Innovation comes in all forms. In my lifetime, the Divine services in the”latest” authorized hymnal have gone from two similar (Page 5 and 15 of TLH) to five in LSB, including material so new it is still under authorized copyright. And that does not include the services included in hymnals in foreign language hymnals (check out Divine Service A in the French Hymnal for another service not in any English Lutheran hymnal in my lifetime).

    Those services had to be written, tested, and revised before they finally were used by the masses. It just so happens that the University chapels have been used by our synod to experiment with these new services for years. My sister Carol has described to me how as an organist the services in the Hymnal supplement 98 were tested at ULC Minneapolis before they were released synod wide. However, that testing also included services that “didn’t make the cut” for various reasons. Testing grounds have to exist for new ideas, all within certain parameters. Within the context of liturgical propriety, I am fully open to such testing. Our church is enhanced by the end results of the new divine services and hymns that come out in the end.

  5. The common table prayer is of moravian origin and not in line with the confessions, which require and prescribe us to pray bless us and these thy gifts…..

    Sorry, couldn’t resist. In all seriousness, good thoughts. unity promotes familiarity, which is a great benefit for those that are struggling or in new environments.

  6. boaz :
    The common table prayer is of moravian origin and not in line with the confessions, which require and prescribe us to pray bless us and these thy gifts…..
    Sorry, couldn’t resist. In all seriousness, good thoughts. unity promotes familiarity, which is a great benefit for those that are struggling or in new environments.

    “Lord Jesus Christ,
    We are your guests,
    May Your gifts
    To us be blest.

  7. Imagine if your University changed its framework to match the contemporary church model. Lectures would be taught by the students. Class discussions would be led and spoken mostly by a leadership team. The quad would be sold and classrooms moved to strip malls. Your homework would consist primarily of recruiting new students. How you feel about a subject would outweigh logic or empirical evidence and your school’s fight song would be changed to a 70’s love song.

  8. Amen, John. Brilliant post! Thank you for your finely worded observations.
    Jim (in MS)

  9. “The youth in our congregations need to be taught the liturgy. (They are sinners too!)”

    This is a great point. The liturgy is for sinners. Jesus does a splendid job of using the liturgy to remind us that we are sinful while He sets our attention on Himself and the wonderful forgiveness he has won for us.

  10. “At the very least, LCMS congregations should be using the hymnals and agendas that are authorized by the LCMS.”

    What if you have a better hymnal available, such as Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary?

  11. @R.D. #11
    “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” (AP XV)

    What advantages of the “Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary” outweigh love, and public harmony? (Trick question, the Confessional Lutheran anawer is “none.”)

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  12. @Matthew Mills #12

    The ELH contains a liturgical service not different from LSB, and has the added benefit of including the Augsburg Confession in the book. You could do worse! [LCMS hymnals had the Augsburg Confession in the German, but somehow it’s been left out since we have English books.]

  13. @LW #8
    Perhaps I am failing to understand sarcasm, if that is what you intend. If so, I apologize. However, I regret, LW, that many college and university classrooms already operate in the CoWo style. Truth has been cast aside. One person’s opinion is as good as another’s opinion, no matter what the basis. Feelings are what matter.

  14. @helen #13
    I guess what I’m saying Helen, is that if we hold the Schwarmer to a standard list of hymnals, we should toe the line ourselves. We aren’t just saying “our orders of service are better than yours” (they are of course, but) we’re saying that “we can discipline ourselves to using only synodically approved hymnals out of love and unity and so should you.” Of course a congregation could do worse than the ELH, but if it’s all down to which hymnal or service each individual Pastor thinks best, we’re going to end up w/ “Babel on the half-shell” (kind of like what we have today in the LC-MS) Our goal as Lutherans has always been liturgical continuity and discipline for the sake of public harmony. W/ the LSB in the pews, no one is going to walk through my church’s door and ask “where did that hymnal come from, it looks different?” Using the terms in the Apology, The disadvantage of needing a few Books or Concord around is out-weighed by the positive value of public order.

    I had to face this on my last deployment before retiring from the USAF. Part of me really wanted to score a Lutheran Prayer Brotherhood prayerbook (they do look kewl). Instead I took my LSB and used the services in there for private devotion. In the end, a solid half dozen LC-MS military folks had done the same: unity and public harmony were had by all. Confessionally speaking, great and uniform trumps uber-great and different.

    Lenten Blessings+,
    -Matt Mills

  15. @backinthefold #14
    Good point. I hope what you say isn’t pervasive throughout academia because if it is it makes me a bit nervous about taking medicine developed by a scientist or crossing a bridge engineered by a graduate of the contemporary university. Now I will wonder if the scientist or engineer was following scientific and mathematic rules in his vocation or just going with his feelings?

  16. @Matthew Mills #12 “What advantages of the “Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary” outweigh love, and public harmony? (Trick question, the Confessional Lutheran anawer is “none.”)”

    I disagree. Hymns teach. LSB, while including many great hymns, include some very bad ones. ELH is far superior on the hymnody front.

    While LSB boasts the old “page 15,” it includes the innovative and cheesy liturgy of LW. ELH does not. ELH uses time-tested and superior liturgies, including “page 15.” My church uses page 15. My 2.5 year old knows and sings the liturgy. My 102 year old grandmother knows and sings the liturgy. When we visit somewhere else, assuming they use LSB, we could walk into any one of the other four available.

    Should my children learn and suffer awful hymns of LSB for the sake of love and public harmony? To the contrary, I contend this is not love nor public harmony at all if it is based on bad hymns.

    My contention is this: If we must be diligent in stepping through the minefield that is LSB, discerning poor from good in our ‘synodically approved hymnal,’ why can we not use a superior hymnal where it is so much more difficult to step on a mine? Or better yet, compile a new hymnal and do it right (better than ELH) this time.

  17. @R.D. #17
    There are plenty of solid hymns and liturgies in the LSB. No congregation is required to use every hymn published in their hymnal, so the choices you give me are clearly a straw man. If you didn’t sing the schmaltzy hymns in the TLH, then don’t sing their descendents in the LSB. If your congregation has bought a bazillion copies of ELH, I’m not here to tell you that your quia subscription requires you to go into debt in order to follow Apology XV, but yes our quia subscription to the BOC 1580 asserts that as a Lutheran congregations we SHOULD value love and public harmony above ALL OTHER ADVANTAGES, and yes we should be passing that love of harmony down to our children. They certainly aren’t going to learn it anywhere else in our self-centered, individualist, secular culture.

    I would never compare the fine Lutheran liturgy and hymnody of the ELH w/ the CoWo schlock being peddled on other BJS threads, but your argument for picking it above LSB is the same as those troublers of the peace, and that should make you think twice about using it. I’ll ask you the same question I’d ask them: what advantages of the ELH outweigh love and public harmony? Read the last paragraph of apology XV before answering, because that’s where I got my “none” answer, I didn’t make it up. I’ll even crank this down a few notches for you, Confessionally speaking: good enough and uniform trumps uber-great and different. That’s what our Confessions teach.

    How far did Luther take unity of practice in his day? Read Pastor Lorfeld’s posts on the Steadfast in Worship string, or Luther’s piece on the elevation of he host. In the later, Luther listed numerous reasons to elevate and numerous reasons not to elevate. He said that it was not something on which consciences could or should be bound, and then he ended by saying that whatever they decided as a group of pastors in their geographical area (Bohemia or Hungary, my memory fails me here) they should do it the same way in ALL of their churches to avoid confusion and offense. That’s what it means to be absolutely free, servant to none, and absolutely bound, a slave to all. I’m not going to fight w/ you over this, but that’s our Lutheran model, and if we Confessionals held that line it would be much easier to confront the CoWo folks.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  18. @LW #16
    Now I will wonder if the scientist or engineer was following scientific and mathematic rules in his vocation or just going with his feelings?

    I don’t think the hard sciences are being referenced above, according to the grad students I know. 🙂 [They sometimes do have to put up with a bit of anti-Christian ad-libbing.]

  19. @Matthew Mills #15
    I guess what I’m saying Helen, is that if we hold the Schwarmer to a standard list of hymnals, we should toe the line ourselves.

    Fine with me. If we could hold the “Schwaermer” to a standard list of hymnals, either the next one would be more Lutheran…. [or less; isn’t that why the fluff is in there now?]. 🙁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.