Six Worship Theses for Concordia University Wisconsin

The following theses have been published in The Lutheran Witness in April, 2000.

These worship theses are designed to point the campus community to the Savior Jesus Christ, who offers Word and sacrament, as the only way to eternal life in heaven.


WE CONFESS that worship (Gottesdienst) is our triune God’s service to us and our faithful responses always direct us back to God from whom all blessings flow.

WE DENY that worship is primarily a human activity, which is constituted by contrived efforts at emotion-centered adoration and praise.

What does this mean at Concordia?

Worship at Concordia is always centered in our Triune God’s actions thus the hymns, liturgies and messages must always convey Gods work and not be seen as human activities. The hymns, liturgies and messages are to be evaluated on how well they bring an awareness of God’s gracious activity into the consciousness and appreciation of the students and faculty and staff.

Worship is by and for those who have a living faith. It is therefore a faith-strengthening activity for the campus community as God comes to His people through the means of grace, resulting in evangelism activities by those who hear the word of God and keep it.

Because worship is the central activity in the life of the Christian, daily chapel services flow from and lead toward Sunday worship and participation at the Lords Supper.

Trinitarian creeds and catechetical statements should be regularly incorporated into the chapel program of the campus so that the ecumenical nature of worship is appreciated, yet the clarity of our Lutheran focus is evident.

Worship practices or messages, which are designed to manipulate students, faculty, and staff emotionally are inappropriately geared toward the worshipper and not to the One being worshipped.

Likewise, Concordia’s worship will not be an entertainment event for the audience or a popularity contest for the message-givers. While worship is edifying, engaging, and attractive, the focus must always be on that which is above and beyond the temporal and mundane.


WE CONFESS that worship flows from the Gospel. At the heart and center of all worship is Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for sin. In worship, the living and saving Lord comes to give us life.

WE DENY that worship is based on the Law, namely, that our feelings or gifts supplement the work of Christ.

What does this mean at Concordia?

Our orders of service (liturgy) as well as our preaching must include Gods Word of Law and Gospel. Most prominent will be the saving Gospel which offers the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ.

When we gather for worship, our focus will be on God and not on ourselves. We will avoid going through the motions of the liturgy (ancient or contemporary) as if by such a work we merit God’s favor.

As we strive to engage the hearts and minds of the worshippers, we will try to avoid worship becoming mindless recitation, while valuing meaningful repetition of the Good News of God’s gracious activity.


WE CONFESS that in the liturgy God’s Word and sacraments are proclaimed and administered. Through these means, God dispenses forgiveness, life, and salvation.

WE DENY that the liturgy is a mere form to produce the desired responses in worshippers.

What does this mean at Concordia?

We recognize the great gifts of the liturgy, which have been handed down to us over the centuries. This liturgical tradition includes both the historic service of Word and Sacrament (the Divine Service) as well as the many prayer offices (such as Matins, Morning Prayer, Vespers, Evening Prayer, and Compline) that can provide a framework for our Sunday services and daily prayer. Our campus community will gain an understanding and appreciation of the variety of the Church’s worship life and practice, as we explore and experience these services.

We use the historic liturgies because they have proven to be a reliable way to ensure the centrality of the forgiveness of sins, rather than merely for historic or aesthetic reasons.


WE CONFESS that the purpose of music in the church is to bear the living voice of the Gospel.

WE DENY that music is present for purely aesthetic reasons or for the satisfaction of personal tastes of worshippers or worship-leaders.

What does this mean at Concordia?

appropriate music and art is based on the church year and is in agreement with Lutheran theology. We seek to incorporate all elements of worship including hymns, attendant music, and readings into such a cohesive whole.

Worship must be thoughtfully prepared and skillfully presented. Student assistants must receive careful guidance and direction before serving in campus services.

Although musical styles change, worthiness and craft, skill and suitability are qualities consistent with our desire to bring God our very best.

The use of the visual and performing arts, in particular the use of instruments (brass, bells, winds, strings, etc.) are to be encouraged and cultivated.

The pipe organ remains the best instrument for one person to lead congregational song, because it is a wind instrument which breathes like a singer and produces a variety of sounds.

We stress that the choir’s primary function is the teaching and leading of the congregation’s singing of the liturgy and hymns.

Because our worship is directed to God, the location of the choirs and instrumentalists should encourage congregational singing without attracting the primary focus to themselves.


WE CONFESS that worship is catholic (that is, universal). The gathering of God’s people around Word and sacrament reaches across cultural and social barriers to transcend both time and space.

WE DENY that worship is defined by the tastes and preferences of an individual or group of worshippers.

What does this mean at Concordia?

Worship at Concordia will be shaped by the historic liturgical rites of Christendom, signifying that students and faculty of various Christian confessions are included in the corporate prayer and praise of the church.

All services of daily chapel, Sunday morning, and other occasions at Concordia are public worship and will be conducted in accordance with the doctrine and practice of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.

Orientation will be provided new students and faculty on the scriptural principles of the LC-MS regarding pulpit and altar fellowship for the sake of genuine Christian unity.

Concordia’s chapel is a teaching chapel. The academic and musical resources of the University will be utilized to teach students the theology and practice of worship and to introduce them to the rich treasures of Christian liturgy and hymnody.

The celestial dimensions of worship, which unite us with “angels and archangels”, should be clearly demonstrated through the selection, explanation, and use of appropriate liturgical texts.

Responsibility for planning and evaluating worship rests with the campus pastor in consultation with the theology and music faculty. All rites, ceremonies, and music used in worship at Concordia will be evaluated according to the public teaching of the LC-MS.
Sermons or Bible messages in chapel will normally be given by those called to preach in the church. Exceptions are made for male church work students and faculty who have been trained by the campus pastor or other appropriate faculty.


WE CONFESS that the environment of worship should be theologically sound, aesthetically pleasing, and spiritually edifying.

WE DENY that art and architecture are neutral factors in a setting for worship.

What does this mean at Concordia?

The architectural setting and artistic elements utilized in our worship experiences and environment will conform to Lutheran theology and practices.

The centrality of Word-and-Sacrament will always be evident in the worship settings of our community the altar (or table of the meal) and pulpit (or table of the word) are equally prominent, with the baptismal font demonstrating its use as the site of our initiation into the Christian community.

Christ Triumphant will always be depicted as the incarnate Christ crucified in accordance with our Lutheran theology of the cross.

The furnishings of the chapel, including the seating, paraments and vestments, will be used to enhance a sense of holy awe, reverent wonder, and spiritual adoration.

Imagery drawn from the patterns, precedents and motifs of Scripture (e.g. Exodus 25 and 31) will be crafted using the natural objects of God’s creation by His skilled people to celebrate His saving work in Christ our Lord.

While tastes may vary, only the best will be incorporated into the worship life of this community. The best will be prepared by skilled artisans (students or professionals) supervised by the faculty of the art and theology departments.

Soli Deo Gloria

Dr. John Behnke, Chairman, Music Department
Rev. Dr. Paul Grime, Board of Regents
Dr. Kenneth Kosche, Professor of Music
Rev. Dr. Timothy Maschke, Chairman, Theology Division
Rev. Dr. Paul Naumann, Campus Pastor
Rev. Harold Senkbeil, Vice President, South Wisconsin District
Rev. Dr. Edwin Suelflow, Chairman, Board of Regents


These Sixth worship thesis prepared for the Board of Regents by the following:
Dr. John Behnke; Rev. Dr. Wayne Braun; Rev. Dr. Paul Grime;
Dr. Kenneth Kosche; Rev. Dr. Timothy Maschke;
Rev. Dr. Paul Naumann; Rev. Harold Senkbeil;
Dr. Gaylund Stone, Rev. Dr. Edwin Suelflow


Six Worship Theses for Concordia University Wisconsin — 12 Comments

  1. Perhaps Thesis 4 is the one that needs to be taught
    in the local parish. Everyone should be in agreement
    on the other 5 statements.

    Thesis 4:” The purpose of music in the church is to bear
    the living voice of the Gospel. We deny that music is
    for the satisfaction of personal tastes of worshippers
    or worship leaders.”

    My Comments:
    To have the music based on the church year and in
    agreement with Lutheran theology would eliminate
    much of the confusion in some parishes today.
    The local pastor still needs to be involved in the worship
    planning, despite the advent of “Worship Committees”
    in some congregations.

  2. Gets my thumbs up! Those of you who have grown up in the divine service should pull aside one of your brethren who are ex-pentecostal or ex-Baptist and talk to one of us about why we left behind the “Rockin’ for Jesus” scene.

  3. Does this mean they finally got rid of the student led praise band “Resounding Joy” that used to lead a contemporary worship service about once a week for chapel?

  4. The following theses have been published in The Lutheran Witness in April, 2000.”

    This was twelve years ago. Does anyone know it they are still following their theses, or if they have strayed from them? I am asking the question because I do not know and would like to know.

  5. @Miguel #4
    Problem was they weren’t all that good so their nickname around campus was “Resounding Noise”. 🙂

    @Noreen Linke #5
    If this was published in 2000 I can say for certain that the contemporary chapel once a week was going on well after that as well as contemporary “bible studies” with praise songs being led by the campus chaplain during the week. (Myself and all my siblings attended CUW with the last of us graduating in 2010.)

  6. I venture to say that not one of the Universities in our Concordia System would subscribe to the theses posted here, to our shame. (Mequon is the campus I was most uncertain about, and since this was posted as ‘Six Worship Theses for Concordia University Wisconsin’ I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.) If we want to get serious (rather than just ‘talk’) about our Lutheran identity as the LCMS, I think we should commit our schools to these rather than the Methobapticostal practices presently not just allowed, but encouraged.

  7. @Noreen Linke #7
    I agree. I will wholeheartedly say that the names of the faculty on this are all wonderful and mean everything they say. Dr. Maschke’s “Gathered Guests” is a wonderful book. Unfortunately the names that are absent speak volumes. They are some of the faculty who openly promote and encourage worship that is in fact contrary to these theses. It’s a shame really, but just like in real life the confessionals tend to be in the minority.

  8. @Rev. McCall #8
    They are some of the faculty who openly promote and encourage worship that is in fact contrary to these theses. It’s a shame really, but just like in real life the confessionals tend to be in the minority.

    Maybe even more than in real life… and this is where faithful Lutherans hope their children will learn to follow after them! Friends of mine currently have a student at Irvine. She attends and belongs to a confessional LCMS church off campus. On campus worship isn’t that, in her opinion.

  9. My two oldest daughters attended ULC Minneapolis. My middle daughter went to CSP, and like Helen’s example above, drove quite a distance to attend ULC because ‘worship’ in campus chapel wasn’t Lutheran worship for the most part. And we all know what has been done to ULC Minneapolis…….

  10. We should have exemplary, hymnal-based, Word-proclaiming, Sacrament-serving worship at all of our Synodically sponsored institutions of higher learning.

  11. I went to CUW and graduated in 2010, and while CUW does deviate from these theses with a praise band once a week and weak preachers more often than I’d like, I think that this is nonetheless a good framework to have and to show those who are preparing to serve in the various services. That being said, this is the first time I’ve seen these- 2.5 years after I graduated. These theses should be required reading for anyone wanting to help in the service.

    That being said, during the four days of the week when there isn’t a praise band, Dr. Behnke (and Dr. Kosche before he retired) have done and still do a great job at crafting the music to fit the readings. The organists, whether faculty or students, lead the service with skill and reverence, and I know of no other educational institution, save CTS, that actively works to promote the rich Lutheran traditions among its students. Yes, there’s flaws and reasons for cynicism (the praise band during chapel, and the contemporary “Haven” on Sunday nights), but there’s also reasons for joy (evening prayer services 3 times a week, liturgical services with communion on the major festivals, etc.).

    Where preaching is concerned, the theological faculty preach regularly- everyone preaches once a month. It’s often the non-theology-department pastors in the staff that do the worst job at preaching, probably because they are separated from a pulpit and don’t work with God’s Word regularly. I can think of VPs and others who frankly shouldn’t be preaching. It is extremely rare that a non-pastor delivers a message, but it does happen from time to time.

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