Why the Praise Band & I Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together

Breakup1Please note: This post is a response to Pastor Kent Reeders’ response to my post, “Why I Quit the Praise Band.” If you haven’t read those two articles already, please do so as it will provide you with the necessary context for this discussion.The purpose of this response to a response is to highlight how the contemporary approach to worship which Pastor Reeder has articulated in his article (and is practiced widely throughout the Christian Church today) is fundamentally opposed to the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments.

If you’d prefer to listen to this post read aloud, you’ll have to ask your mother to do that for you.

How do you know what somebody believes? Look at what they do. Faith is manifest in works; doctrine is manifest in practice. If you pour the blood of Christ down the toilet, that says something about your doctrine of the Sacrament. If you don’t believe the Divine Service is holy ground, you either don’t believe that Jesus is holy or that He is present in the Divine Service. The denial that we are on holy ground in the Divine Service is a key component of the false theology that undergirds much of what is often called “contemporary worship.”

Consider the following quotation from Pastor Reeder’s article:

“When we’re at church, we’re on regular ground. Regular people come and hear a universal message, and ever since the temple curtain tore in two there is no such thing as designated, particularly holy ground.”

Ironically enough, even Christopher Beatty, author of the contemporary praise song, “Holy Ground” understands that when Jesus is present, we’re on holy ground.

This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy
This is holy ground
We’re standing on holy ground
For the Lord is present
And where He is is holy

The wildly contrasting approaches to worship we see in the Church today aren’t the result of minor differences over human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies, instituted by men (as is often claimed by proponents of contemporary worship). There’s no way around it: if the Divine Service isn’t holy ground, then Jesus either isn’t present or He isn’t holy. I suspect many in the CoWo crowd would insist that the church is holy ground, but in actual practice it nevertheless remains that any regard for the holiness of God (and therefore the presence of Jesus) is absent in many of their services. This is an approach to the Divine Service which is fundamentally opposed to the pure doctrine of the Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments (AC VII). Our practices reflect our doctrine. When our practices are radically different, odds are, so is our doctrine.

The tearing of the temple curtain did not, as Pastor Reeder claims, render all ground “regular”, least of all the church. Jesus remains holy, even after the tearing of the temple curtain, and wherever He is present is holy ground. To call the place where the Lord Jesus comes to serve us “regular ground” borders on the blasphemous. As Holy Scripture says, we have access into the holy places by the blood of Jesus (Hebrews 10:19).

Where the blood of Jesus is, there is holy ground. The Divine Service is not “regular ground,” where “regular people come and hear a universal message.” We are on holy ground, where Jesus comes not merely to speak some generic, universal message, but comes to make you, a sinner, holy.

We shouldn’t enter into the presence of Jesus irreverently or lightly. After all, we worship the same God who burned Nadab and Abihu alive for offering unauthorized fire before Him (Leviticus 10:1–2), and who struck Uzzah dead for doing nothing more than trying to prevent the ark from hitting the floor when the oxen stumbled (2 Samuel 6:6-7). One can’t help but wonder whether or not the general irreverence that David displayed surrounding this incident (his merry making and exposing himself to women; cf. 2 Samuel 6:5, 20–22) encouraged a casual approach to God among the people, which, in Uzzah’s case, proved fatal. As Hebrews 12:28–29 says, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.”

Those who understand that the Divine Service is holy ground understand why what is often called “contemporary worship” doesn’t belong there. Pastor Reeder’s article nicely illustrates a point I made in my original post, that there is usually a deficient understanding of holiness among those who advocate for “contempoary” worship, a style of worship which serves to promote a secular mentality among those who participate in it:

Over vicarage, when I was down in the gym leading the “incredible, postmodern, multimedia-driven, mind-blowing, set your heart on fire for Jesus, burn me alive, extreme worship-experience extravaganza™” (the real name wasn’t much different), I was told not to include a confession of sins, a benediction, or the like, because they are too “churchy.” The goal of this service was to resemble church as little as possible while still being a worship service (!). The keyboard player even left the stage crying one Sunday when we prayed the Lord’s Prayer. “How dare you!”, her husband said reproachfully, “we come here because we don’t want to go to church!”

Granted this may be a somewhat extreme example, but the fact remains that this is the sort of mentality contemporary worship fosters, intentionally or not. Everything has to be common, comfortable, ordinary. Having spent a good deal of time immersed in contemporary worship, it is my experience that most contemporary congregations and pastors have a somewhat deficient understanding of holiness. Holy ground calls for reverence. Praise music may be a lot of things, but one thing it is not is reverent (emphasis added).

How those who make the worship-related decisions for a congregation regard the Divine Service (is it holy ground or isn’t it?) is usually obvious upon entering a sanctuary. What is the architecture like? Is there an altar, pulpit, font, and crucifix? What sort of fabrics adorn the sanctuary? How does the pastor dress? Does it look like a movie theater or a concert venue? What sort of music is being played? How is the liturgy conducted? These things will speak volumes about the doctrine which is confessed at a congregation’s altar (if there is an altar). Just as faith is manifest in works, doctrine is manifest in practice.

Pastor Reeder relates a story about how a couple who once visited his vicarage congregation associated the organ music that was being played with horror movies (Dracula) to illustrate the point that not everyone will regard organ music as reverent. Quite frankly, that strikes me as a very unusual reaction to organ music. I would suspect that at least 90% of all people (if not more) would, if shown a picture of a pipe organ and asked what it brought to mind, would answer “church” without hesitation. Show them a picture of a rock band and you’re more likely to get “sex and drugs” than “church.” Nothing will escape cultural associations entirely, but the Church’s historic liturgy and hymnody have the greatest distance from the culture, since those things were born in the Church. They were created and refined over generations to provide the Church with the most ideal context for receiving Christ and His gifts. Just because Dracula may have tried to co-opt the organ doesn’t mean we should let him have it.

Lutherans, nor even Christians, for that matter, are supposed to “point all people to Christ by whatever means available.” If that were truly the case, there would be nothing wrong with “Blest is the Man Whose Bowels Move.” After all, the digestive system has been fearfully and wonderfully made, and those whose bowels have ceased to move properly would no doubt break forth into the Hallelujah Chorus if only they could relieve themselves.

As to the comment,

“If Lutherans, both pastors and laypeople alike, would stop rejecting diverse genres of worship-useful music wholesale, we would start to see our theologians, pastors, and other theologically trained individuals churn out Gerhardt-worthy (or nearly) texts in diverse and modern styles. Lutherans wrote the greatest Lutheran hymns, and it will be Lutherans who write the greatest contemporary songs. )And we could be 20 years further in this process if you’d stop holding our creative minds back with needless guilt over “acceptable” styles of the worship event.)

I’m not sure what a “worship event” is, but then again I suppose novel practices deserve novel language. As to the guilt that’s holding back the creative Lutheran minds out there from writing the greatest contemporary songs, guilt generally doesn’t exist where you don’t think you’ve done anything wrong. Great contemporary Lutheran music is being written. Steven Starke’s hymns are, in my opinion, some of the best in Lutheran Service Book. As I mentioned in my original article, caution is needed when straying from the hymnal (but do note that I suggest that it’s possible to do so while retaining a distinctly Lutheran identity), and I even commend the efforts of “contemporary” music director Miguel Ruiz as being an example of what faithful “contemporary” Lutheran worship might sound like:

There are admittedly some pastors/music directors that try to remain orthodox while using the praise band, though they are few and far between. Fellow BJS author Miguel Ruiz is a music director who makes every effort to utilize modern instrumentation and arrangements that are reverent and thoroughly Lutheran. But as he recently told me, he sometimes feels like he’s the only one trying to use the so-called “praise band” faithfully, and that usually the introduction of contemporary worship in LCMS congregations is “done for terrible reasons and is driven by even worse theology.”

Based on my own experience with praise & worship music, I would agree wholeheartedly with that observation. The fact remains that there’s so much garbage out there, you have to constantly be on guard when straying from orthodox hymns. Ideally, the music director would re-arrange the hymns for his musicians and not depart from the liturgy or hymnody at all. The praise & worship genre has so many pitfalls and nothing of substance to offer that isn’t already found in the historic liturgy or hymnody, it begs the question: why deviate from it?

Or, as Pastor Hans Fiene recently put it,

“This is a bit like arguing that if a film studio send their best people to spend twenty years working on a remake of “Casablanca,” they could make a remake that’s almost as good as the one they already made.”

The Divine Service is not about us pointing to Christ, much less doing so by any means available. The Divine Service is about receiving Christ in His appointed means of Word and Sacrament. There is no room in the Divine Service for shallow contemporary songs that are all about what we do for Jesus, nor is there room for the general irreverence that the praise and worship genre typically fosters. The Church exists to deliver Christ to His people, and nothing does that better than the liturgy. Sorry praise band, but we are never, ever, ever getting back together.


Comments

Why the Praise Band & I Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together — 112 Comments

  1. @Steve B #48
    Again I ask: what is scripturally wrong with traditional worship that is remedied in CoWo?

    We are not called to be “culturally relevant.” The church NEVER will be accepted by this world as culturally relevant, no matter how much our services try to mimic worldly concerts (and let’s be frank: CoWo tends to be much more like a Friday night concert hall than a Sunday morning worship service). As Martin Lloyd-Jones once said, “Our Lord attracted sinners because he was different.” The church will never keep up with the world in sounding “relevant,” even if AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” is played on Sunday morning, like it was here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieshFbrzUW8

    And I know you’re saying “We would NEVER do that at our church!” Well, at the Nazarene church I attended, about twenty years ago when CoWo started to enter the Sunday morning services, I remember them saying “We would NEVER make our worship service about entertainment.”

    Guess what? There’s dancing, loud volume, cheering and clapping after songs (and whistles at times as well), the “Spirit-is-moving-me” charismatic talk about music, theologically horrid songs (Look up the songs “Something happens” and “You’re all I want” sometime, and read the lyrics). It’s entertainment in the name of Jesus, plain and simple. And the people who said it wouldn’t happen have either left the church or have sat by and let it happen. Granted, it took twenty years, and the changes were subtle and slight, but it DID happen.

    And not far from me is an LCMS church that, although it is still mostly confessional, is beginning to allow a lot of very non-Lutheran things in their church (especially things at odds with confessional Lutheranism). Incidentally, this happens to be coming in about the same time that a CoWo service was added to their Sunday morning lineup.

    Our evaluations of CoWo, Steve, are not without warrant. They are not without experience or delivered in ignorance. They are given from testimony, from firsthand participation (in my case, playing guitar, bass, and drums), and from wise hindsight. Do you understand that many of us are not lifelong liturgists criticizing CoWo, but former participants in the movement? We are not speaking of that which we do not know.

    And you claim that you go to a CoWo church that has remained faithful. You know what? I really hope, for your sake and the sake of your congregation, that you are right. I also hope that you are really vigilant about what is and is not allowed in your worship time, that your worship is really Christ-centered and gospel-centered, and not flirting with “the moving of the Spirit” in music or enthusiasm-driven thought. I hope you guys are treating that worship time like worship and not time to sway and clap to mindless, shallow lyrics. I hope your pastor sounds like a Lutheran pastor and not like a metho-bapti-costal Joel Osteen/Rick Warren clone who tries to whip up people into shouting “Amens” with hyped up speech designed to emotionally manipulate rather than preach law and gospel. I hope that your communion time is serious and faithful, with music that really talks about Lutheran sacramental theology and not the American evangelical “saccharine sacrament” understanding.

    I really do hope you’re staying faithful, my friend. Because I’ve seen very little faithfulness in CoWo.

  2. @Steve B #48

    Steve, I didn’t call you any names. If it came across as though I were trying to kick you for holding a different position than I am holding, I apologize.

    Let me ask you this: Is the liturgy and hymnody in the Lutheran Service Book so hard for the modern person to understand as Latin was for German laity in Luther’s day? Earlier, All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall was quoted (I like to argue that this is THE hymn of confessional Lutheranism, since it’s cited by the Confessions). Let’s look at it:

    All mankind fell in Adam’s fall;
    One common sin infects us all.
    From one to all the curse descends,
    And over all God’s wrath impends.

    Is this unclear in some way? I’m honestly asking, because I am a pastor. When we’ve sung this hymn at home, my kids seem to get it. Sometimes, we have to define for them because their all 5 and under, but they get what’s being said. It’s plain English.

  3. Luther’s hymns were also considered heretical by some because they did not quote scripture word for word which was common at the time, but were based on scriptural principles instead. His style of writing was indeed very innovative for the time.

  4. @Frank #4

    I agree Sam. It all seems a little bit nit picky and pharisaical to me. Prescribing one way and only one way of worship seems to be missing the point. What is worship? If a praise band brings Christ to me through lyrics and notes, why dislike it so much? Even if you dont prefer it, why can’t you say “if it works for you and your people, go for it” – trusting that good theologically sound men are giving the go ahead and know what they are saying yes too. Why lumpy all cowo together? What the mega church down the street is calling contemporary worship may be completely different than what Pastor Reeder is doing. If my church had a praise band, I was there pastor, and did worship fitting and orderly according to what God tells me in his Word, I dont think when I stand before my Lord on the last day he will say, “Why in the world weren’t you using something out of the hymnal?!”

  5. @J. Dean #51

    “Again I ask: what is scripturally wrong with traditional worship that is remedied in CoWo?”

    You have asked this same question at different times and in different ways without receiving a direct answer.

    I guess I’m pondering out loud here, but I wonder if it’s because any answer given will inevitably reveal doubts that the Holy Spirit truly works through the Word of God.

    I’m having trouble thinking of a possible answer that wouldn’t doubt the Holy Spirit’s work. Language is certainly not the problem, as Pr. McKinley showed in comment 52.

  6. Steve B, do you have sources on Luther and the restoration of the liturgy that a lot of scholars don’t? I have never read anyone (except people advocating COWO) say the things about Luther and the liturgy that you are. I’ve done a lot of research on it on my own and in university, if there are more sources I could read that speak of the things you say I’d love to read them. Also, by Luther’s time there were MANY hymns written that were not just quotes of Scripture, Venantius Fortunatus and Bernard of Clairvaux come to mind immediately but there are many others.

  7. @Josh K #56

    Steve B,
    Shall I continue Josh K’s recitation of hymn writers/hymnals? How about a hymnal dated 1524 titled, Etlich Cristlich lider Lobgesang und Psalm (Some Christian songs, canticles, and psalms). The very first hymn in this collection is Luther’s ‘Dear Christians, One and all, Rejoice’ – all ten stanzas sung to the tune most commonly used in our 20th and 21st century Lutheran hymnals in America. The second hymn in this collection is by Luther’s coworker Paul Speratus, ‘Salvation unto Us Has Come’. Jumping to the 20th and 21st centuries, how about Martin Franzmann, Jaroslav Vajda, Herman Stuempfle, Stephen Starke, Fred Pratt Green, Timothy Dudley-Smith, Brian Wren, Christopher Idle, Carl Daw, and Thomas Troeger, Chad Bird, and Richard Resch. This information came from a wonderful video and study put out by Concordia Theological Seminary titled, ‘Singing the Faith’. The correct information is out there, you just have to be interested enough to look for it.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  8. @Sam #54

    Because it’s not about “worship”, as the WE vid so excellently articulates. Please watch the entire vid in #34, (if you can get past the goofy cat stuff in the beginning). Until I learned that the DS is not about “worship” – a paradigm completely foreign to most Americans – I too saw the “traditionalists” as a bunch of sticks-in-the-mud.

    We keep talking past each other because we have entirely opposite purposes for what Christians are there to do on Sunday mornings. Unfortunately, ugly comments comparing to Pharisees and legalism is entering the fray, just as the vid mentions it always does when CoWo is debated. Predictable, sadly. 🙁

  9. @J. Dean #51

    I think that’s the $20 question. I’d even go more simple than that: “What is traditional worship unable to do that CoWo can do?” Really I see only two answers to that question:
    1. CoWo fits my personal style and desires better.
    2. CoWo reaches people who are lost (which inherently implies that the Holy Spirit is somehow unable to work through God’s Word unless it is presented in a particular style)
    Good question! I too eagerly await a response!

  10. @John Rixe #60

    That’s the wonderful thing about the divine service: it strips away a great deal of impediment to what’s being said in the songs. When you have only an organ as accompaniment as opposed to a rock band, it’s amazing how much easier it is to focus on what’s being said 🙂

  11. @John Rixe #60
    That’s really just re-phrasing the question. Still unanswered then is “How was/is traditional worship impeding the work of the Holy Spirit? Why, if it was not seen as impeding for close to 2,000 years, is it suddenly stifling the Holy Spirit?”

  12. If a Kirby vacuum salesman comes to my home and wants me to buy his $3,000 vacuum, he first has to convince me my old vacuum cleaner isn’t doing an adequate job. I would say that CoWo hasn’t convinced me that traditional worship was/is faulty and that I need to exchange it for something new.

  13. I just throw this out. I’ve seen historical liturgical worship done so badly that it did not lead anyone to a more reverent worship. God still came to us through His word and sacrament to be sure, but it was painful. I’ll through this out too (and this is my last comment. I don’t know how all you pastors have so much time to put into these blogs!). People hear music differently the way they hear languages differently. In many parts of Asia, the musical settings that we classify as traditional Lutheran hymnody is sometimes banal and distracting, not reverent. It takes years of trial and error and hymn writing to find out what musical styles/genres are “reverent” in a particular culture. Even small gestures mean so much. Making direct eye contact in one culture means “sincere”, in another it means “threatening”. Understand that when you say traditional liturgy “is” reverent, you are saying this through some pretty thick lenses of cultural background and presupposition. No one is saying the LSB version of the liturgy is bad. In general, I prefer it over most contemporary stuff (at least in North America). I think Steve B. has also said so. What is banal is you BJS folks looking down your noses at the masses, quoting Latin, and telling people what “reverent” really means, and that they will not have true worship (or will have degenerate worship) unless they do it exactly they way you do it.

  14. A common, contemporary song written by Bill Gaither, that we used to sing all the time at my former Assemblies of God church in Dallas, Oregon:

    Title: We Are Standing on Holy Ground

    Chorus: We are standing on holy ground
    And I know that there are angels all around
    Let us praise Jesus now
    We are standing in His presence on holy ground

    The chorus was so enthusiastic and emotional, usually we would just sing that. But I guess there are verses to it as well that you can find if you just Google the song. I don’t think the song is widely utilized or well known anymore though.

    Even an A of G church–contemporary and decision-based as it could be–had the respect and honor of our Lord’s presence enough to acknowledge the truth and pervasiveness of His holiness among us.

  15. **
    Speaking, with that last comment, in an attempt to under-gird the statement in the main article that said:

    “Ironically enough, even Christopher Beatty, author of the contemporary praise song, ‘Holy Ground’ understands that when Jesus is present, we’re on holy ground.”

    **

  16. As one commenter said above, we are just talking past each other and this conversation has become fruitless. Someday, we’ll all be singing with Jesus in heaven and worshiping him in the way HE intended, and we’ll likely find out that we ALL missed the mark on so many things, including how we worship. But then again, that’s why Jesus died for us. Maybe instead of spending all of this time debating, we should be spending it telling other people about God’s free forgiveness through Jesus Christ.

    Forever your brother in Christ!

  17. @Steve B #68

    “Maybe instead of spending all of this time debating, we should be spending it telling other people about God’s free forgiveness through Jesus Christ.”

    The problem is, debate is necessary when something is detrimental to the church.

  18. John Rixe, I agree with you on much. I would like to hear an answer to the question though, from anyone really. I have examples of worship services from as early on in the church as possible. They are incredibly similar to what we have in the Divine Service today. I look back and I see that, by and large, the structure and style of worship remained remarkably consistent over 2,000 years. People much smarter than I have, within our own Lutheran history, kept a remarkably similar style of worship for over 500 years. I believe that is a huge historical precedence for me, or anyone, to presume needs changing. It is presumptuous to think that something that worked so well for 500 years and is grounded firmly in God’s Word suddenly is ineffective in this day and age. And even if I did think CoWo were a “better” way, for the sake of unity in my church body alone I would not practice it.

  19. @J. Dean #69

    Maybe if the debate was based on the correct premise it would be useful, but most commenters keep lumping me into this COWO crowd. I’ve never even heard that term before I came to this site. Based on the comments, I’m assuming when you refer to COWO you are referring to the type of worship that focuses on banal praise music being played by a band and in a concert type setting. I am not, nor have I ever advocated for this type of worship, so lumping me into that crowd is not useful.

    What I do advocate is, that under the principle of having freedom in Christ, we use different styles of music with a variety of instruments to sing “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit” and “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” all based on the truths of scripture, sound doctrine, and within in a liturgical structure.

    For those of you who love the old hymnody and liturgy, that’s wonderful. I’ve never advocated for doing away with it, but whether you want to admit it or not, it is your preference. You can tell me all you want that there is no preference here and that it’s all based on something completely divine with man having no hand in it, but God did not write the old hymns and liturgies, man did. And they were “contemporary” at one time. Are they scripturally correct and do they facilitate the work and gifts of the Holy Spirit? Yes, but only because of the WORD, not because of the style, and only when people can understand it.

    That being said, there are many who DO NOT relate to or understand the old hymnody as a result of cultural differences. Many old hymns have meters, rhythmic styles, and melodic intervals that sound foreign to different cultures, and for them can be difficult and frustrating to sing. Many use vernacular that is hard to understand because they use verbiage and expressions that are not used anymore. And as many have acknowledge here, if the music itself gets in the way, if it frustrates people, if the lyrics are difficult to understand, then it is not conveying the message of Christ, and is not useful for worship. The fact is, this is indeed the case for many people who have not grown up Lutheran and have a different cultural background. Should we just say, “well tough, this is the ways its been done for a 1000 years and if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” Unfortunately, I’ve personally heard people say that, and many do go somewhere else. They go to the reformed, feel-good churches where they get watered down or false doctrine. I have a heart for Hispanic outreach. Should I just tell them to become German or else?

    We Lutherans have a wonderful tradition of being true to scripture, so why not seek to share the truths of scripture in a way that people can understand and relate to. Otherwise, we may as well go back to worshipping in German…or Latin.

    Now if you want to debate me on the entirety and spirit of what I’ve said here, I welcome it. But if you’re going glom onto on one sentence and take it out of context so we can keep talking past one another, then I’ve got better things to do.

  20. @Rev. McCall #70

    Still unanswered then is “How was/is traditional worship impeding the work of the Holy Spirit? Why, if it was not seen as impeding for close to 2,000 years, is it suddenly stifling the Holy Spirit?”

    There are several thousand LCMS congregations that have at least one service incorporating contemporary worship.  Are they and their pastors motivated just by selfish personal desires?  I believe they are motivated by attempting to better communicate to the cultures of their own neighborhood.  Please see Comment 65.

    “We want to encourage reconsideration on the part of those who would treat the liturgical deposits as a finished work. We want to encourage reconsideration on the part of those who would replace entirely the voices of the past with the voice of the present. In other words, we want to make full use of the worship treasures of the past, present, and future.” – Pr Matt Harrison, Today’s Business, Issue 1, May 2013

  21. @J. Dean #73

    Nondenominational-style forms and music, i.e. CoWo, is more emotional. For some that is superior because it captures and keeps attention. For others, it is inferior because it leads the worshiper to rely on emotions for the certainty of God’s love rather than the objective promises of God delivered through Word and Sacrament.

  22. @J. Dean #73

    Many thousands believe contemporary worship communicates better in certain cultural situations. Please see comment 65 and 71. I gave you the answer but I can’t make you understand. 🙂

  23. @John Rixe #75

    John,

    Thousands practice Open Communion too and often justify the practice based on the notion that it’s offensive and snooty to do otherwise. Still doesn’t make it right just because a bunch of people do it.

    I’d like to know how many who use and promote home-grown/CoWo methods actually put the band in the back of the sanctuary and refrain from clapping after each set. Likely not many.

  24. @John Rixe #75

    Alright, let’s go down this road. Is it right, then, to make the music format that of, say, gangsta rap or heavy metal in the name of “communicating better in certain cultural situations?”

    Is it alright to play Highway to Hell in the sanctuary (as I provided a link for in comment #51) in the name of relevance?

    At what point does relevance give way to truth? Because if we’re going down this road I can justify a great deal in the name of “relevance.”

  25. @J. Dean #77

    “Is it alright to play Highway to Hell in the sanctuary…”

    Seriously? No one here would say yes to that. That kind of hyperbole does nothing for this discussion. It seems that every time you guys refer to CoWo, you are always referring to the extremes. There is a great deal of newer music out there that is very scripturally sound and very reverent, such as some of the hymns by the Gettys, as well as new liturgies by Haas and Haugen. Or is it that you think that anything not in Hymnal may as well be AC/DC?

  26. @Steve B #71

    It is not a coincidence that the “mega churches” have adopted the seating and atmosphere of a movie theater. I don’t think people go to the movies as much as they used to, but nonetheless it is a familiar setting with positive connotations. You can have bucket seats. These are more comfortable than pews, and you don’t need to sit next to anyone. People are also used to being entertained and are not used to participating in group settings such as one finds in liturgies. Therefore it is much more comfortable to listen to a professional band and a polished poet/preacher give a message. This is greatly preferable to listening to amateur organists or amateur bands.

    People are not used to seeing men dressed in robes with colorful scarves hanging around their necks. They are not used to seeing people pray to the wall like pastors do when they are praying in Church. People are not used to Church. Should we make Church an un-church?

    Then we have the offensiveness of the Gospel. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “The natural man cannot accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.” This is easily borne out in the message we communicate to those who congregate. We tell them to escape this wicked generation, that they should fear God’s wrath, that Jesus has won forgiveness by his death and resurrection, that this is communicated to us with a splash of water and some words, that Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead, that all will be resurrected with their bodies, that those who are together with Christ will live with him forever in heaven, but all who do not believe will suffer eternally in hell. All of this is totally offensive to modern man. In a congregation that is only concerned about getting bigger, it is very easy to ignore all of this, or downplay it, or wait until newcomers are initiated before it is talked about. Again, the “mega churches” know what they are doing when they do not talk about that stuff. They give sermons about practical stuff like how to be a better father, or how to be content when we don’t have everything we want.

    Well meaning people have chucked the old altars, pulpits, pews, sanctuaries, organs, vestments, crucifixes, and other things that people can’t understand. All the while they have said, “We are not changing the doctrine. We are only making this treasure more accessible.” Unwittingly, I think, they have changed their teaching as well. Or they have become ashamed of it. St. Paul in 2 Corinthians says that he did not huckster them. He spoke the plain truth. The Corinthians didn’t like the plain truth that the Christian life is necessarily one of dying and being resurrected together with Christ. They wanted the glory now. St. Paul said that the Christian life (and the Christian Church) is hidden under much suffering, troubles, persecution, weakness, etc. But the ministry of the Spirit is there and that is what makes the church.

    I agree with you that we are not bound to certain instruments, hymns, services, etc. The only thing that can unite us is the plain truth of Jesus Christ and him crucified. The solution to legalism is not to fight more about what can and cannot be done. Legalism is taking our orientation and being from the Law rather than the Gospel. It is just as legalistic to imagine that we will be blessed by using guitars as it is to imagine we will necessarily go off the rails if we do not use an organ. Luther did not use “bar tunes” (a myth, by the way) because he wanted to empty the saloons and fill up the churches by entertaining them. He had one thing that he wanted to get across: the message of salvation. Those who love what he says in his hymns will, at the very least, tolerate the music because they recognize a kindred spirit.

    I think that the unrecognized problem in our “worship wars” is that there is an issue that is deeper than the particular decisions involved in worship. There are spirits who, in the name of evangelism, want to do away with the teachings of man’s guilt, God’s wrath, the necessity for repentance, the recognition that Christians must be separate (2 Corinthians 6:17), that men and women are different from one another by nature and therefore have different God-given roles, that Holy Communion is a holy food for holy people and therefore is not automatically open to all. I am sure there are many more offensive teachings that practically every congregation is embarrassed about and feels stifled in their “growth” by them.

    So I think there is a testing of the spirits that is necessary in what we do in worship. The most important question, I think, is “Why is our heritage being altered?” Changes are necessary, as you have repeatedly pointed out. But changes can have unforeseen consequences and evil motivations–even if such motivations appear to be good (such as being successful or missional or evangelical). Many, many of our people are willing to sell the birthright of our Gospel for the porridge of making people happy. In fact, it is natural to do just that. It is only by the Holy Spirit’s grace that we don’t. Is it sinful to use a different liturgy (everbody’s got a liturgy, by the way)? Not necessarily. Why are you doing it? The answer that it makes things more accessible is unsatisfactory to me. The children of God are different than the people of the world. That is a necessary distinction. Change the medium and you change the message (Marshall McLuhan). Sometimes the medium and the message need to be changed. But there are a lot of apathetic, bored, parishioners who would get much further ahead if they were told to repent and pay attention to what God is telling them through the great heritage that we have received, than trying to scratch the insatiable itch for novelty.

  27. @Steve B #78
    Ignore the extreme then and answer the question. What is acceptable in the name of relevance? If not ACDC then what about Pharrell or Megadeath? (Both done in LCMS churches) Where is the line? Who decides?

  28. @Rev. McCall #81

    We should be using only synod approved worship materials. That’s who decides, but it can only happen through persuasion and voluntary agreement.

  29. @Michael Holmen #80

    Michael, I very much appreciate your thoughtful comment, and I agree with much of what you say. Although, I don’t agree that the medium will necessarily change the message. I’m no church historian, but I’m pretty sure that worship in the church in which Paul was preaching, was quite different than it is now. It had some of the same elements such as prayers, preaching, singing hymns, Lord Supper, & baptism, but the medium was certainly different. They certainly did not have ornate, grand cathedrals and organs.

  30. @Steve B #85

    You hit on the important point, but I mean something different: The worship that I have in my church IS the same as it was in St. Paul’s time. Our only worship is to believe God’s promises. If we do not have the same worship as St. Paul then we are not the same Church. Of course (and this is what you mean, no doubt) external things have changed. These necessarily change. But we possess the same Spirit of faith by whom we say, “I believed, therefore I spoke.”

    When Luther was battling Zwingli and the others who did not believe in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament, there was an interesting difference between them. Zwingli and the others didn’t believe that Christ was present, nonetheless they wanted to get rid of every last vestige of the Papists. Their argument was that they should do the Lord’s Supper in the exact way that we read about it in the Bible. Therefore, they reclined at table and did their best to recreate that first Lord’s Supper.

    Luther insisted on Christ’s real presence but he didn’t care to what extent our celebration of the Lord’s Supper mirrored the original so long as Christ’s institution was not corrupted. That is, that we have both bread and wine and the Words of institution are spoken. The churches could keep the things that they had received so long as they did not conflict with the Gospel.

    Why bring this up? Luther believed that he was carrying on the tradition of the Apostles just as much or more than Zwingli even though the surrounding externals of the Lord’s Supper were different. Zwingli thought that he was in conformity with the apostolic tradition, too. But he was not. He broke faith with the Apostles which is a much greater break than what either of them were doing externally in their congregations.

    Most people, if they saw Zwingli in his service and Luther in his would say that Zwingli was obviously the one who was more in line with the Apostles. People pay more attention to the outward things than they do to the teaching.

    So I worship exactly like St. Paul, St. Peter, St. Mary, Moses, Abraham, and Adam worshipped. What worship is there except to believe in Christ and his promises?

    Why can’t we just do whatever we want, then, with these externals? There is a lot of freedom in these matters. The Christian Churches in Africa have a tradition that is their own. We have ours. We are one in faith despite these man-made differences. But here’s my question for us Lutherans here: why do we hate our heritage so much? Why don’t we want to learn from it? Why do we go running after the descendants of Zwingli and want to copy them so badly? Perhaps it is the very stupid thinking of the Baby Boomers who didn’t want to be like their parents or grandparents.

    I don’t think I can say that rejecting the hymnal is forbidden, but I can say that it is stupid and that those who do it just might make shipwreck by setting out all on their own. I do not think that our Divine Service and especially our hymns are random products of creativity. I think they have been shaped and formed by the Gospel in all its fullness (including those things to which contemporary Christianity and society are blind). If people are so stubborn that they do not want to learn from these teachers who have come before us, then they might get what they deserve even if they create huge congregations with gobs of money. What does it profit a congregation if she gains the whole world but loses her soul?

    It is false doctrine to say that we must all be the same. It is contrary to the Gospel and Augsburg Confession Article VII. But that doesn’t mean that everyone can do whatever they please and expect to get praised for it. I think those congregations that catechize their people to hate Lutheran hymns and love the values of those who are foreign to us in spirit are doing themselves and their descendants a great disservice. I don’t think they will continue to be Lutheran (hold the true doctrine of Christianity), even if the name Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod remains.

  31. @Steve B #82

    I suppose i walked into that. One should expect a childish answer when the other person clearly has no intelligent argument to make.

  32. There isn’t enough room in the Synod both for those who hold to the Divine Service and those who practice CoWo.

  33. @John Rixe #83

    I agree! But that should not mean that as we wait for others to voluntarily come around we ignore their deviations from said approved materials. 🙂 If one truly wants to play, say, Huey Lewis and the News as part of worship (St. John, Elisville) then submit it for doctrinal review and wait for it to be approved.

  34. @Nicholas #88

    And I think John Rixe unknowingly touched on that. Set aside Scripture and the Confessions, how in the world can we walk together as a Synod when most CoWo proponents can’t even honor their word as members of Synod to use only Synod approved materials?! There is room I suppose, as long as we continue to abide by a “me first, who cares about anyone or anything else” type attitude.

  35. Rev. McCall I would be embarrassed by your last comment. I cannot imagine my pastor responding to a fellow Christian like that even if you felt slighted.

  36. I find this whole discussion of traditional V. contemporary interesting but very exhausting. I was placed in the middle of a worship war at a church and labeled by people on both sides. I am an organist and trombonist. I grew up listening to pop and rock on the secular stations and finding certain CCM artists that I like. The current state of CCM sounds just like a Top 40 secular station. I literally cannot tell the difference between the stations. Contemporary worship takes on this secular sound and tries to make it holy. For some, it works. However, others may have a great time at church rocking out but miss the message of salvation, the reason for atonement. Many of these CCM songs ARE about an individual. Think of “Above All” where at the end the lyrics “He took the fall and thought of me above all”. It wasn’t just about one person, it’s about all humankind. That message can get lost. The first song written in the Bible comes from Exodus. The people praised God. There is no mention of me or I in it. The big thing about contemporary worship is to look at who wrote the songs: musicians who give performances, concerts. Many of these songs are not for corporate worship or liturgical setting, they are meant for performance. Also look at who helped the idea of praise and worship: Carman Licciardello. He is a performer. His website says his concerts are a rock and roll Billy Graham Crusade. While this can be great, a church must continue Jesus’ work, the need for salvation from sin. Now on a side note, the above article states that everyone thinks of an organ is for church is not always true. True worship is voice alone. The early Christians refused to allow the organ in churches due to the hydraulis organ. This organ was used during Roman orgies and powered by a river. Now, The Mighty Wurletizer is your organ for movie viewing. We have one here in Akron. It’s nice to hear and great to play!! I also think of 1960s folk rock with their organ. Think “Come on baby light my fire” or “96 Teardrops”.

  37. Pastor Andersen, as a former member of a praise band in an LCMS church, I agree 100% with both your articles. And my band was one of the more theologically orthodox ones. We used Calvary Chapel’s Praise book for much of our music, and were constantly correcting poor theology, adding verses for the Spirit to songs which only referenced the Father and the Son (this from a song book coming from a church with a giant dove as its logo), and x-ing out songs that were unredeemable, such as the “Jesus is my bearded girlfriend” genre. When I finally found a pastor and congregation whose doctrine AND practice where solidly confessional Lutheran, matching what I’d learned during my years at Concordia, Irvine, I fled there, without looking back.

  38. @Elke #91
    Embarrassed? Not hardly. 🙂 The man was asked (politely) legitimate questions over and over again and he refused to answer them. Instead he gave a playground retort of “Apparently you do”. That’s a childish answer when one has no argument to stand on. Apparently you do not have children or you would have recognized this teenage defense immediately for what it was! 😉

  39. @Rev. McCall #87

    “I suppose i walked into that. One should expect a childish answer when the other person clearly has no intelligent argument to make.”

    I think I provided fairly intelligent response in my previous comments (see #71) that sufficiently answered the question, yet you apparently did not read them, accept them, or understand them. When people don’t listen, or they respond with irrelevant hyperbole, I tend to get frustrated. For that, I apologize. And for the sake of not being impertinent, I will answer your question once again.

    We draw the line with the truths of Scripture. As I have said, the examples of contemporary music that have been sited here have been the extremes. There is a great deal of scripturally sound, new music that is very worshipful and reverent. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit and Scripture, God gave us the ability to discern. It’s that ability to discern that allowed our predecessors to embrace or reject a swath of new (contemporary) music that has been created since the reformation. Do we, in this day, have any less an ability to discern than our brethren of the past? Were the forces of sin and negative cultural influences any less then, than we have today? No, they are not. As such, in the spirit of scriptural discernment and in the light of the freedom we have in Christ, we are able to continue to explore and introduce new music into our worship, just as we’ve done for the past several hundred years.

    And to clarify once again, I am not advocating rock concert style worship services or CoWo as you have described. Beyond the abhorrence of this style of worship, the original article implied the we must stick to the old hymnody and should not seek to introduce anything new, and that the only worship worthy instrument is the organ. THIS is what I am taking issue with. To say “this is the way it MUST be done” is legalistic. Within a liturgical structure, we should have and do have a great deal of freedom to implement different styles of music and instrumentation.

    Truthfully, I’ve said all I can about this. Admittedly, I do not have a Theology Degree (only a measly degree in Molecular Biology), so it’s possible that for some of you, I am not qualified or “intelligent” enough to make these arguments. I do believe, however, that I am guided and supported by the truths of scripture, and above all else, that is the foundation on which I always try to stand.

    Once again, I bid you peace in Christ.

  40. Hello again, present company:

    I can only offer the credentials of a studied, “prospective-AG-pastor-gone-Lutheran-layperson.” Nevertheless, since the perspective of the church is in view here, I would like to formally address the question that was most straightforwardly put forward by J.Dean @ #51.

    This question was supported by Rev McCall at #59, #63, and #70. The matter was then broadcast in BOLD type; reapplied in exasperation by J.Dean @ #73, and followed up on by Pr. Jim Shultz @ #74 in an attempt to provide an answer that only raised a flag on matters of perspective…a flag that didn’t actually reveal the underlying core of the debacle.

    So here goes. I know I’m long-winded, so I’ll try to employ what has been known as the hallmark of wit. (Brevity.)

    First, to speak to Pr. Shultz. As one who has been desensitized to the catharsis of, “CoWo,” as it were, through the natural, endocrine process resulting in tolerance, (as well as an act of God that pulled me through literal insanity at the very young age of 18 and still leaves my nervous system scarred today), I know that I can say, with confidence and deep conviction, that CoWo is NOT more emotional. Mystical yes, with its own nature’s emphasis on the inner experience, but definitely NOT more emotional. That statement is purely a matter of perspective. Personally, even having experienced the epitome of CoWo “alter time” emotion, I am more emotionally wrecked by the first line of, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence,” than a hundred repeated choruses of, “Blessed Be Your Name,” by Matt Redman. To a life-time Lutheran, the emotional perspective may be quite a bit different than a young, life-time charismatic.

    And it–CoWo–does not keep the attention of young charismatic worshippers. Maybe at the first attraction, but the keyword there is, “keep.” This fact is true even with kids, who really have no idea what’s going on–except for where the emphasis on value, within the worship system, is placed. And the kids know the truth, be it ever so subtle. THAT issue–my generation of kids denying Christ in mass quantities and leaving the entire church behind, BECAUSE THEY KNOW CoWo, and its end, and have turned away from the very smell of it, with its inability to sustain the worshipper–that is exactly why I write, in order to expose the deep innards of the regime. It took an act of God, at a time when I could have denied the faith with many of my friends who were alongside of me in the teenage years of my generation, to bring me to the depth and purity that is CONFESSIONAL Lutheran Liturgy. Amen. (So much for brevity, or my own wit for that matter.)

    But enough with the large caps and the fallacies regarding attention-keeping or emotional potency. Here’s the answer that I would like to proposition to the church, speaking to the core, causal nature of the entire phenomenon.

    It’s an answer–or an issue rather–that Paul treated in 1 Cor 4:7 with a question of his own:

    “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

    Look up the context of that passage. What did they “receive.” And still more puzzling, why would they boast as if they, “did not receive it?”

    The heart beats in the ministry of James. Or the controversy that he Apostolically sprung in the hotness of his zeal at his jealous care of the Bride–seen in his letter as directed by the mind of Christ. We can all see the hot zeal that James had for the, “living faith,” which God requires. However, we know from Galatians 2:12 that, “certain men came from James.” And we know that, “when they came he [Peter] drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.”

    There we see the withdrawal. The boasting, “as if you did not receive it.” The issue that Paul addresses in that very passage of Galatians, and treated in 1 Cor 4, (as mentioned before). Namely: the shame surrounding the cross, and the fear that its shame brings. (Even though our Lord endured, and despised it; see Heb 12:2).

    At this very issue, even the apostle to the Jews–Peter–who was in Antioch among many Gentiles, “was not in step with the truth of the Gospel.” Paul cast a firm judgment on Peter’s conduct, saying that he, “stood condemned.” But what was Peter doing that could be condemned so? What was Paul striking at?
    Let’s stop and address an elephant of the passage. Yes, narrowly, Paul was addressing freedom. To that the CoWo proponent will immediately jump on board and say, “what are you talking about Chris?” You make a case against yourself. But that’s just it: CoWo does not offer freedom–it masquerades as though it does. When you dance with CoWo for long enough, you may not even feel her slow and steady dagger when it pierces through your once-hot heart, (however much warmth your remaining life-blood may still provide you).

    That was the issue before Paul, indeed. Freedom. And when certain men came from James, all the pillars of the Church, save maybe two, (James and Paul), began to sway. Shame is a powerful manipulator. But Christ, held out in the ministry of the Gospel, was Paul and James’ immovable rock of life. The Rock that touched Peter–Cephas the rock–right between his downcast eyes.

    Something that these, “men from James,” said was powerful enough to put even Peter into fear. What was this fear? I believe it is the same fear that motivates the, “CoWo Party.” The fear that if we don’t change our worship practice by submitting to the prevailing cultural likeness of the day, we will lose souls for Christ. I know that this is what drives AWESOMELY intentioned CHRISTIANS to run after CoWo. But it is folly of the mind, and its error has no value in, “stopping the indulgence of the flesh,” (2 Col 2:23); a grave issue which the whole letter of James speaks to as well. In fact, the issue is all over Scripture, because it is so primal to our corrupt and UNHOLY way of thinking. Though Peter first cowed to the “Circumcision Party,” as chronicled by Paul in Galatians, he learned his lesson among the Gentiles, as we see from 2 Peter 2:18-22:

    “For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”

    The defilement that Peter speaks of is that of the heart, which becomes hardened and returns to the practice of the law for salvation, the propping up of the worship of God by the inner willpower of man’s effort. Not the restful reception of the Gospel, pumping the heart of faith, but the striving to make the senses actually “feel it better.” Make it more real…somehow, more true. (Paul speaks to the super-apostles here. Was he as trained in speaking as they? Or as persuasive with his oratory skills? Yet he DID have knowledge). The CoWo experience offers wonderment and high passion. The thrill of having the best of both worlds. We build ourselves up and even begin to see foreign objects as blessings. But once the despair sets in–the despair that our enticing desires and pursuant work of our hands will always bring–then and even before, all the fury and deception of hell becomes unleashed in the slavery of bitter fear and hardness of heart. First starting in beautiful light; leading to unsettling confusion; and finally ending in the worse state of the entanglement of darkness. Read the passage again carefully. Promising freedom, though corrupt…enticing through “passions of the senses” after escaping the defilements of the world through the knowledge of Christ…yet being entangled by them again??? The Pied Piper plays well here. A rhythmic; melodic; tear-filled; gay; spinning-’round; ministry of the Gospel indeed. Pneumonia to the lungs…and food in an utterly different form. As different as leavened bread found in vomit appears.

    Mark me well: it is the sway–the fear–of the popular morality of the current culture that deceives CoWo ministers and drives them to succeed in their venue. The fear and deception of the devil surrounding lost souls. Fear that we must all face. Fear that should not force away our hand from the grasp that holds to the steadfastness of faith coming from being planted in God’s omniscient means and method, according to His purpose of mercy and compassion. Those who desire a movement rely, under layers of denial and the boasting of glorious methods, most horribly and primarily, on the seduction of the senses and the begging of belief. That is where the trust and the hope of the movement, in the effort to save souls, is placed. I am speaking the truth: why else separate from what already stands, unless the belief exists that something else—something fresh—could do much better? Such is not the work of the Lord. Such is not where our trust and ministry is placed. Such reliance was not put forth by Christ, who said, “man does not live on bread alone, but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” See how much they desire a following–not wishing to depart from the church, but to change it from the inside out? To change what is already pure? To cause movement? Why…..? Because they are afraid that without it, the church will suffer and perish. Just like the people of Israel in Canaan, who thought that the Word of Promise would not stand against such giant foes. And the fearful spies incited the hardening of the people.

    The generation that I come out of laughs at this fear and cowering. They mock it every day. The guitar strum is pathetic, and the drums are not hard-core enough. Not until the voice of Christ would be extinguished or rendered indistinguishable would their sound be tolerable in their eyes. When they see the purposes and holy actions of living faith, faith that rejects their own way, snuffed out and shrouded by common practice and mimicry. That, to them, is where they will finally accept you. Then they will flatter you and make you feel good and believe whatever you say. But respect you, they will not. No one who eats vomit among the world is respected…that is only for dogs.

    But find a man who shamelessly plays the organ. Who submits to the holy order of the elders and overseers. Who knows the shame of the world and still plays on… At THIS the world DOES turn their head in acknowledgment. Look at the demons who respected Paul, but beat the seven Judaic Sons of Sceva, who tried to invoke the name of Jesus without actually knowing the “good Name” of our Master.

    The world gives “the power unto salvation” a wise order of respect, in shuddering and fear, but bleeds those who shrink back and succumb to the fear their dominion demands. In hatred it waits for the well-sought-out time of persecution to arise, in which they will drink the blood of the faithful. But those who shrink back are merely used…pawns that serve a means to an end. Those who minister according to the gospel power–the administration of the forgiveness of sins–will never be accepted, since the world knows of its power to save; its opposition.

    Stop making the postmodern generation laugh and be as wise as they are. Innocent of their ways and methods, but wise to their game. Be different than them and set yourself apart—way apart. And in so doing make yourself attractive to the children, who observe houses of wood and brick and steel. All of them they might accept, but only one will gain their love and admiration. Do not win their hearts by using methods of flattery or seduction–they will leave you in the end and will unmask the true quality behind your ministry. Tell them the truth. Give them the words of life and explain to them the secrets of heaven. That will be enough for them—sufficient, in and of itself. They will not depart from your house in the end, though they will be tested.

    Brothers, I submit these faithful wounds only in zealous love and confessed compassion, remembering that it was the secret desires of my own heart—not merely the outside allure–that sought after the intoxicating movement in the first place.

    Be those who desire to suffer for the kingdom, not avoid hardship in favor of luxuriant and attractive comforts.

    In love, your confessing, unwitting, Lutheran little brother,

    Christopher Jager
    Tillamook, OR
    Redeemer Lutheran, LCMS

  41. (John Rixe #72
    “There are several thousand LCMS congregations that have at least one service incorporating contemporary worship. Are they and their pastors motivated just by selfish personal desires? I believe they are motivated by attempting to better communicate to the cultures of their own neighborhood.”)

    John,

    I was trying to get to the end of the discussion before wrapping up some thoughts, but pressured by time and some of the apparently intentional obfuscation I have been plowing through, this comment is the one that “snapped” me. I could not let it pass unresponded to. So here it is…

    First century Jewish leader Saul of Antioch (later known as “St. Paul”) also was clearly not “motivated by selfish personal desires”. He was motivated by his love and zeal for God and for his (admittedly Jewish) neighbors. That is why he officiated at St. Stephen’s stoning, and that is why he was on his way to Damascus. Our intent has no actual bearing on our effect. (Insert cliché about road work and a certain “warm climate”) The intent of the U.S. military in shipping used blankets to the Native Americans was humanitarian. Its results many have termed “genocide”. “Several thousand” Elvis fans can be wrong. Dead wrong. When I was very young I severely burned my hand. Because she had been lead to believe it was the best thing to do, my mother put butter on it. It was only later that she discovered that her “well intended” action actually sealed in the heat and the pain and retarded healing. Many years later when she told me about it (because I’d been too young to remember the incident) she still felt bad for what she had done to me, because she could only see in hindsight how wrong she had been… after the damage had been done.

    This is why so many here are being so “nit-picky” (as one commenter has labeled it). The stakes are so high. These are not merely temporal issues (if “temporal” is too “archaic” and difficult a term for some today, it is because it has been denied them ever since it was excised from the Confession and Absolution {<=digression; sorry}). This is beyond pain. This is beyond death. The consequences are eternal. “Our intentions” be damned. They are just one on the many things we cannot allow to dictate what we do to the Church. (I’ve not time to even get started on how “Christian freedom” continues to be abused in this issue!)

    Please do not take this as a personal attack, John. It is much broader than that, and you usually appear to be trying to be balanced and willing to hear, which is appreciated.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

    p.s. If no one of the “Christian freedom” persuasion is willing or able to answer J. Dean’s question, can you just admit it’s all about you and shut up? If you want to be honest about where emotional, subjective (“enthusiastic” in the theological meaning) worship can and will eventually lead, go listen to the Heidi Baker segment from Chris Rosebrough’s March 23 “Fighting for the Faith.” We’ve inherited a very nice yard. Why do you all want to go play in the street?

    p.p.s. …another day.

  42. A couple things: I grew up in the Church of Christ but left that denomination for many of the same reasons I read in this article. I did not realize that C of C and Lutherans were so similar. 🙂 I agree that our times of corporate worship should be reverent and holy but instead of making “Sunday morning” holier than any other, everyday needs to be lived in reverence and the fear of God (Acts 2). Secondly, Hebrews tells us that we are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10.24), meaning that each situation calls for us to think of how best to inspire our brothers and sisters toward God. There is not one way to do that. And finally, it is my experience that we have entered an era of rich song writing that is extremely orthodox and edifying. It is odd how we perceive the same times so differently.

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