Great Stuff — “…My wife dragged me, kicking and screaming…”

Found on Scott Diekmann’s blog, Stand Firm:



On Higher Things Radio episode 137 on May 27th, 2011, Pastor Jon Sollberger shared his experiences while in a church praise band. This is a powerful quote, because it contrasts the often un-evangelical emotional roller coaster ride that you’re treated to at many “contemporary” church services with a doctrinally sound proclamation of the Gospel, in which the Word does its work. This quote comes at the 31:15 minute mark :


This was a couple lifetimes ago, and I was very much involved in the church where I grew up – that church was all about the show and how it made you feel. And so I was a guitarist and I got into that, and we really did the whole thing where we got everyone going via the music, the beat, the feeling, the great progression of the music. That’s how we equated successful worship. And then I took my act out on the road, I traveled all across the country, I did recordings of this so-called Christian contemporary music, I lived it, I performed it, I produced it, I recorded it, and spent a good decade doing this until I actually found out that I was burnt out on it. …It’s a very successful thing outwardly speaking. I mean, all we had to do was show up, plug in, and play, and we had an instant reaction and enthusiasm from all the people, young and old, both, and it was really something. But then you start to – it becomes normal to us, all the music and the generational feeling that it creates – and we started evaluating our worship experience on how the people were reacting to what we played. I mean we could get ‘em up there with some fast paced high energy music, we could get them to be very very mellow and contemplative with some slower, more heartfelt type of music, and when we didn’t get those reactions we didn’t feel that the Holy Spirit was at work because obviously the people weren’t reacting – there was no “success.” After a while you kind of just get burnt out on this sort of thing and that’s when I kind of quit the whole church thing for quite a while and my wife dragged me, kicking and screaming, into a Lutheran church, and I really saw that there was a difference there. I thought it was a cult. I thought it was spare, Spartan. I didn’t think there was any spiritual energy there. I thought it was way too formal, and I could not wait to get back for the next service. And I didn’t know why obviously, but it was because the Gospel had been not only preached, but presented within a context and in such a manner that nothing else got in the way, not my feelings, not how I was doing, not how well dressed the people up front were or anything like that, or how impressive they were to me, but simply the Gospel – that I was a sinner who had been saved by the grace and merit of Jesus only.

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


Great Stuff — “…My wife dragged me, kicking and screaming…” — 7 Comments

  1. I am with you…but…why is it not wrong for me to love the emotional movement of the Divine Service? Is there not an intentional emotional movement to the service? Do we not add to it at times with better (more well played) music so as not to distract or detract from the Gospel proclamation? We design our sanctuary to proclaim something to both our minds, but also our visual sense. So, can music with the guitar and drums be okay in the same light? In humbleness I ask.

  2. Richard, I can only speak from experience, knowing that experiences are often deceptive. Music, such as the “high energy music” described above, often causes a physical reaction that plays on our emotions. In the same sense, lyrics and sermons can bring about sentimental and romantic feelings, even if the words are of little value. In our traditional, Sunday service, I am, more often than not, moved emotionally. Whether it’s the confession, prayers, songs, sermon, or communion, the substance and cause of that emotion is always, always, always the gravity of my sin and the sweetness of the cross.

  3. Hi Richard. It’s not wrong for you to love the emotional movement of the Divine Service. There’s an intentional preaching of Law and Gospel in the liturgy as we speak back to God what He has spoken to us. That certainly can be emotional, but that’s not the primary intent of the service, to bring out an emotional response. Yes, music with the guitar and drums might be okay, depending on how it’s done, although when you start playing rock and roll type music with a backbeat, that’s probably not suitable. If a service is set up in such a way that the intent is to manipulate the people with the music in order to better facilitate their “decision for Christ,” then things have truly gone off the rails. I’m glad you feel emotional in the Divine Service – I feel the same way. That emotion should be coming in response to, as Kathy put it, the recognition of the gravity of my sin and the sweetness of the cross.

  4. And the church service should be orderly and of good quality to give honor to God, to fitly set His gifts to us of Word and Sacrament, rather than to arouse emotion–the arousal of emotion is fine, but should not be the purpose.

  5. Pastor John Sollberger wrote: “After a while you kind of just get burnt out on this sort of thing and that’s when I kind of quit the whole church thing for quite a while and my wife dragged me, kicking and screaming, into a Lutheran church, and I really saw that there was a difference there.”

    So Lutherans are indeed the “frozen chosen.”

    I do wonder where Pastor Sollberger would be today if Mrs. Sollberger would not have been able to find an LCMS church that still used a hymnal.

    Some people grow bored with the monotony of the same two or three Divine Service settings and the same stale hymns, week after week, year after year. Do you mean that Lutherans are now getting bored with the same contemporary worship service, with the same two or three praise bands, singing the same set of stale Evangelical pop songs, week after week, and year after year? Fascinating……….

    Bored with contemporary worship? Take it to the next level by having your pastor promote music videos for your church:

  6. Do you listen to much Lutheran music? Do you hear the kettle drums and dozens of string instruments used, surely you can’t miss the trumpets and flutes. Most of the hymns you hear Lutherans sing, are Methodist hymns. It always twists my gut when someone is asked what their favorite Lutheran hymn is, and they name one of Charles Wesley’s best, with no idea it’s a Methodist hymn. They think, if it is in the Lutheran hymnal, it must be Lutheran. Whoever made the decision to put all of these sectarian hymns in our hymnal is probably having, in heaven, a good dressing down by CFW. May it last for ages and ages.

    Lutheran hymns speak and sound very differently. Lutheran hymn tunes can be rendered in many types of music. I particulary like the jazz take on them that the Swingle singers do. And the Swingles sing a cappella. From my readings, at Bach’s churches the organ did not accompany hymn singing which was all done a cappella with singing leaders to keep them on pitch and rhythm.

    And, a Lutheran church is not spare and plain, it is painted with Bible passages and Bible stories from walls, to windows, to ceiling, as Luther suggested we do it. A Lutheran church is cluttered, as any pictures/paintings of Lutheran churches will show, before the second or third reformation hit. There is the altar, made of stone and touching the ground, facing east. There is a painted and carved altarpiece that might just scrape the ceiling with Jesus at the pinnacle waving his banner of victory. There is a gallery built so that more people can fit in to hear the long sermon. The gallery is also painted and carved, every inch.

    There might be a 3rd story to the gallery to hold the choir, the instrumentalists, and the organ and organ console. The organ case will be carved, painted and decorated to a fare thee well. There will be statues and epitaphs set up all around the church, inside and out, mosaics, inside and out. There will be an ornate or high quality pulpit, lecturn, and baptismal font, all done with great taste and expense to make the worship space very emotionally intense to your eyes and ears. We’ll get all of your senses during the service. Bach’s hymn 4-part settings will make you tap your toe. And, at Bach’s churches in Leipzig, the sexton/sacristan will kneel to the right of the altar when the words of institution are read and ring the little consecration bell, to get your rapt attention to a mystery of mysteries happening right here, right now.

    Architechture took a turn to the minimal, see CTC Ft. Wayne, in the 20th century. I gave thanks to God for the first post-modern building I ever saw. Remember Bauhause, if you couldn’t use it, throw it out. Giant cubes of featurless glass. Like the man said, it was interesting at first, but we found a way back. Interesting that Dessau and Wittenberg should be so close on the map. Interestingly, the churches in Wittenberg have gone through the 3rd reformation, the Unionistic, something for everybody look. It you took out the Cranach altar and the large gothic crucifix at Luther’s St. Mary’s, there would be nothing else in that building today that would tell you it had ever been a Lutheran church. It’s a union church now, so we can’t be overtly Lutheran there. Castle church is a union church too with statues of Zwingly and Calvin and give another few decades and maybe well get statues of the great German philosophers as well.

    Ever inch of a Lutheran church should be preaching to you in sight. I look and there’s Noah entering the Ark with all the animals. I look, and there is Jesus holding the infants saying, let them come to me. I look and there is the transfiguration. At the heart of the altarpiece, in typical Lutheran fashion is the whole crucifixtion scene. John and Mary, the two criminals. On the pulput is the 4 evangelists with Christ in the center panel.

    Everything I see is preaching at me the Word of God. A hugh empty space of #7 beige trimmed in #24 Tan, speaks to me too. It says, these people must be cows who don’t even know what the barn door looks like. Graphic art, illustriative art, very beautifully and humbly painted cartoons speak. If I did not speak, the very stones on the ground would speak out. A sermon lasts an hour (at Bach’s time), the talking pictures tell their story whenever you can see them. (The whole service lasted 4 hours, from 7am to 11am, at Bach’s time, and he was responsible for several churches. He was a very busy man.)

    No, a Lutheran church and Lutheran music is not clean and plain. It was born in the Renaissance and grew up in the Baroque period. How could it be otherwise?

    But are we really just asking can we worship using the local Bierhall Oom-pah-pah band, or do we have to use the church musians? I hear that in this thread too. I got an idea, why don’t you just ask Bach and his Superintendant if that would be OK. They could have done it so easily and saved a lot of money on that stupid choir school. But they didn’t, strange. Must have had money to throw away.

  7. The Venerable Weedon talked about feelings in the Divine Service a few years ago on Issues, Etc. Here is a transcript:

    Pr. Weedon:

    There used to be a pastor in this city named Timothy Quill.

    He once told a story: he was a Circuit Counselor, a pastor who helped other pastors in the area, and a person had come to him complaining, saying “You know, I just don’t get anything out of my pastor’s worship service. Nothing. Nothing.”

    And Quill puckered his brow and said. “I’m confused. Does your pastor speak to you the Word of the Absolution and does he forgive you sins in Jesus’ name?”

    And the lady says “Oh yeah, he does that.”

    And he said “Well, does he read from the Word of God to you?”

    And she goes “Well, Yeah, yeah … he does that that every week.”

    “Does he preach to you about the forgiveness of sins that’s yours because of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection?”

    And she says “Oh, every week … without fail … he does that.”

    “And does he put into your mouth the Body and Blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?”

    And she goes “Well, yes … without fail.”

    “Then I don’t understand. What is it you’re not GETTING out of worship? You get the forgiveness of your sins, you get the gift of eternal life, you get the Lord’s Body and Blood. What were you’re looking for?”

    And the answer is: “I was looking for a feeling.” But then, as she listened to Pastor Quill talk, she walked away thinking ‘Well maybe there’s a little more going on here than my feelings alone.’

    The gift of God in worship — the gifts of God — are objective and real whether you feel great about them or whether you feel nothing. And that’s one of the most beautiful things about Christian worship. It doesn’t DEPEND upon your feelings.

    Pr. Wilken: Should we be anti-feeling?

    Pr. Weedon: No. When the feelings are there enjoy them, as they are in every other part of your life. You know? And when they are not there, don’t sweat it. They’ll come back.

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