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Monday, September 10, 2007 

One Of These Things, The Answer

Now it’s time to answer my own question and tell all you good folks where I was going with my One Of These Things... and One Of These Things... Part Duex posts. Before I give you my answer, let me just say that you folks that read (and can somehow make out and comprehend) the dribble I write are awesome. Only one commenter fell for the “trick question” and that wasn’t even for the post I intended to be the punch line. We’ll get into that a little later in the next post though.

The one of these things that wasn’t like the others in my first post was picture number 1. All of the pictures but number 1 are of rock concerts. Number 1 is of an event that is meant to be a worship and praise service for youth.

Most of you knew where I was going with this because of previous posts. I've asked the question before and I'll ask it again, if something has to be explained as church to youth is it really church at all? My thought is almost always no, it usually isn’t church if it needs explanation. That kind of reasoning is reserved for art and in my humble opinion, is always suspect.

How many kids come back from national gatherings (this applies to all Christian denominations, not just LCMS) walk into the sanctuary, and wonder why they have to sing hymnody reverently and are not able to throw balloons and beach balls around as part of the Divine Service. How many kids wonder why, if they feel so inclined, can’t just break into dance during a Sunday morning service, again, if they feel so inclined? What are kids to think when they can’t receive the same emotional high because the music is not loud enough nor are the songs sung playing on the local contemporary Christian music station? How many kids will look for a new church given the chance when told by modern day Schwarmerei who bow their knee to those living in purple palaces, that they are the best the church has to offer only to return to a congregation that says Christ offers all and did all? This playing on the emotions of youth, I would argue, makes it difficult for the same youth to make any identification with church if in fact one exists or existed at all.

Back when the Augsburg Confession was written the old Lutherans were accused of trying to reinvent or abolish the Divine Service (back then it was called the Mass). This simply wasn’t true. In Article XXIV 1-9, confesses;

Falsely are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass; for the Mass is retained among us, and celebrated with the highest reverence. Nearly all the usual ceremonies are also preserved, save that the parts sung in Latin are interspersed here and there with German hymns, which have been added to teach the people. For ceremonies are needed to this end alone that the unlearned be taught [what they need to know of Christ]. And not only has Paul commanded to use in the church a language understood by the people 1 Cor. 14, 2. 9, but it has also been so ordained by man's law. The people are accustomed to partake of the Sacrament together, if any be fit for it, and this also increases the reverence and devotion of public worship. For none are admitted except they be first examined. The people are also advised concerning the dignity and use of the Sacrament, how great consolation it brings anxious consciences, that they may learn to believe God, and to expect and ask of Him all that is good. [In this connection they are also instructed regarding other and false teachings on the Sacrament.] This worship pleases God; such use of the Sacrament nourishes true devotion toward God. It does not, therefore, appear that the Mass is more devoutly celebrated among our adversaries than among us

The article goes on to condemn various Roman church’s practices using Scripture as the rule and norm not false doctrine held up by tradition. I know what some of you are already thinking; “but Frank, see, church tradition isn’t the rule and norm, the Bible is! As long as they hear the Bible, they are in church, so your argument has already fallen apart.” On the surface that does appear to be the case. But those who think that missed the part of Article XXIV that says certain ceremonies are needed to teach young and old bronze agers alike that our practices should reflect and even promote the theology given to us in Scripture.

Many of the people that I’ve talked to, both young and old, prefer that our youth attend a worship service that looks like a rock concert always seem to point out what an emotional event a national gathering was for both the ragamuffins as well as themselves. That’s fine. I am certainly not going to say that a tear has never rolled down my cheek during the singing of a hymn, more that once this happened to yours truly. However, Christianity as experiential spiritualism shouldn’t be a reason for attending what we put forth as a national event.

If we as Christians look for an emotional high, we are only looking inward and we’ve taken our eyes off Christ and his cross. Emotions are human and for that reason, emotions can lie and can be manipulated. The whole reason we do what we do in the historic liturgy is to focus on Christ and His gifts. Nothing that we feel will change what Christ has done for us and continues to do for us when we gather as a congregation.

For the record, I speak from experience on this matter. This is why I’m so passionate about Word and Sacrament being the center of the church and why I believe it’s so important to properly catechize youth. When I was growing up, I too looked for that elusive high I felt outside of church. That led to me spending fifteen years as an atheist because I couldn’t distinguish an emotional event from God’s gifts.

If one teenager or child has to have it explained to him or her that the purpose of a youth gathering worship service, whether it be a national Lutheran gathering or that little Baptist church on the north side of town, is not an “uplifting and emotional” experience but the administration of God’s gifts, then we all did something wrong. When we do this, we knowingly or unknowingly, emotionally manipulated our children into thinking that God’s gifts are dependent on how they feel.

Next post I’ll explain the reasoning for my choice for the One Of These Things, Part Deux post.


This month's Lutheran Witness article congratulated those faithful pastors who taught these kids to scream and clap during Law & Gospel sermons. This is outrageous!

I'm with you on this one, Frank. I think that most former evangelical-types-turned-Lutheran are, too. It seems that it's the lifelong Lutherans that often don't know the danger, because they haven't seen the other side of the fence and participated in it themselves. When you're "stuck" with Lutheran theology your whole life, you take it for granted. When you convert to Lutheranism, it changes your previous theology of worship.

I spent a good part of my youth trying to emotionally manipulate people into believing the truth through worship experiences. I thought I was sincere in what I was doing, and I was encouraged by those around me who also simply didn't know any different. We wanted people to be saved and uplifted, and thought that anything that might produce a favorable reaction might do it and shouldn't be looked down upon. It was me being juvenile and demanding my own way and celebrating my own creative expressions, really, but it takes a LONG time to see that in yourself and 'fess up to it.

Frank, is there any reason why you don't like any non-standard (in your mind), non-traditional form of worship?

I'm just trying to grasp how you can say that everyone else is doing it wrong, but there are numerous examples of non-traditional churches that great churches. I actually attend one myself.

We're all different people, we're wired differently, and as such we can worship differently.

I'm not saying that you're wrong in your views, we are all entitled to our own opinions, but maybe if you just open up your mind a little bit, you might actually see that some of the non-traditional churches are doing a good thing. What's wrong with bringing a person to Christ? If a church does that, and it's different in it's approach, but still teaching a specific theology (Lutheran or otherwise) is that wrong?

Kirnkorner-- I think my reply to Frank above might help illuminate a little.

I used all those arguments myself throughout my youth and even partway into my 20s. I was sure I was open-minded and all those who might dare to disagree were narrow and didn't really appreciate evangelism or "diversity." It takes a long time to de-program when you've been fed something as entertaining and potentially popular as a worship agenda formed by giving people exactly what they prefer every week, rather than something that challenges them and deliberately transcends their pop-culture, Monday-to-Saturday desires.

When I became a Lutheran, I had to grudgingly admit that ancient, liturgical worship actually unified people precisely because it didn't rely on personal tastes, preferences, or the lastest Christian publishing fad. Church had its own language, and that language was Scripture, and an aesthetic that was purposefully alien to the rest of our weekly lives. I stopped at my family's evangelical church during vacation last year, and went to the "traditional" service, which had Gaither songs merely 50 years old or so. The attendees were sparse, mostly old people. None of the younger folk wanted anything to do with them when it came to worshiping God. It was so sad that contemporary music had divided this worshiping community among generational lines. Even their "traditional" worship was based on fairly contemporary, emotion-driven musical preferences. Liturgical worship helps avoid this me-centered approach to worship.

If worship really were about expressing our individuality, backgrounds, and creativity, contemporary worship would make sense. A lot of theologies of worship allow for this. Lutheran theology does not, because they don't believe this to be the point of worship.

I had to ask myself, "Why is it that only in modern times have we become content with preference-driven worship? Maybe there's some connection with a consumeristic society and an increasingly emotion-based sense of truth. Why didn't our ancestors demand their favorite popular music in a church service? Maybe we shouldn't congratulate ourselves for being so much smarter and hipper than they were. Maybe they understood something we've forgotten today!"

Kelly, Here is my initial response to your first comment… don’t sell yourself short, there is no doubt in my mind you were just as sincere and enthusiastic as were the people that were encouraging you. There were and are more people than we can count that were sold that bill of goods and did promote it.

From those who followed Paul and preached a new gospel at Galatia to the revivals in the mid 19 century led by Charles Finney to our more postmodern problems, Christ’s Gospel has always been under attack. Those that promote these “new” ways to bring the lost to the church and lead the faithful away hate the Gospel, hate the office of the Holy Ministry, and they hate Christ.

Unfortunately, we ARE all just dumb sheep who are easily led astray. All too often we all sign onto something that sounds good but at it’s heart attacks God’s gracious undeserved gift of salvation by coming up with works of our own.

You were sold that bill of goods and so was I, but thankfully you didn’t have to go down the path I did to recognize what was wrong. This subject is just one of the reasons that I pick the fights I do. I do try to explain these things to those that are “stuck” but I don’t often get very good results.

My response to your second comment… as usual, you communicate and convey the argument better than I ever will be able. It’s that whole slack jawed thing.

kirnkorner2001, thanks a bunch for the comments. This thread all started because one of our kids came back from a national gathering saying that he liked it (the evening service) precisely because it didn’t remind him of church. Again, if it has to be explained as church, I have trouble with it. If Christ and His gifts can’t clearly be seen and His gospel has to be interpreted or explained, how is that efficacious to anyone, youth or elder alike.

That’s why I like and included the beginning of article XXIV of the Augustana. The way we do things in during the Divine Service says something about out theology. If we gage the event whether it be on Sunday morning or at a national event on how emotional we get that says something about us. On the flip side of that, if we let God’s gracious gifts through and on the account of Christ be the focus, that also says something.

The question here is really; who’s running the verbs?

While I can agree with you on some of your points, it all comes back to we're all trying to get to the same place, and what's wrong with doing something "different" if we are trying to bring people to Christ?

I'm not claiming to know all about Martin Luther, heck I wasn't there. However, if you've read about him some, you can pretty much piece together that he was a "rebel rouser" in his day. He stood up against the Catholic church, and in that time, it could have gotten you dead in many unpleasant ways. He was "different". So here we are 500 years later, and some Christian churches are doing something "different", and now we have a bunch of people saying we're doing something wrong. Seems like history is repeating itself.

Go back about 2000 years, and there was this guy who said a whole bunch of things that was against the religion at the time, he was "different" too. He also claimed he was the Son of God. He died a brutal death because of that, and through Him we all have a chance to be saved today. Sometimes "different" isn't so bad is it?

Luther was a great man, he did what he thought was right, and he stood up to some very powerful people of his day, and even though he could have been put to death because of his stance, he kept at it. However, Martin Luther didn't die on a cross to save me.

Kirnkorner2001, I don’t think this is a Lutheran issue at all, but I’ll tackle that in that vein anyways. Sometimes different is good. For instance, Dr. Luther while keeping the Mass in Latin at first did switch over to the German eventually. That change was good as the people need to hear God’s gifts proclaimed with their own ears. However, he retained the order of the Mass. He did though remove the reoffering of the sacrifice of Christ every as a human work during said Mass as it contradicted Scripture. Again, a good change.

But the confessors did retain the order of the Mass and more faithfully and with more reverence than the Roman church was capable of understanding. The Romans thought the offering up as a sacrifice Christ’s body was a human work, and that is the whole reason for Article XXIV of the Augustana.

If you look closely at what the old Lutherans confessed, it was not them that had proposed something different but rather the Roman church that had went astray. Over and over the Church fathers are quoted right after Scripture to prove that they just want to go back to where Christ was the center of the church and not human works. Luther was a rebel rouser as you say but only to the extent that he thought Christ should be the head of the Church and not an earthly bishop sitting on a throne in Rome.

I’m getting the impression that you think I’m following Luther, I’m not. Luther plays no part whatsoever in my salvation. It is Christ and Christ alone that I confess.

Everyone loves co-opting Luther for their purposes, whether they're Lutheran or not. ;o) The fact is that Luther deliberately avoided excessive change to the Divine Service, unlike many of the radical Reformers who came after him (ancestors of modern evangelicalism). Luther did not have a "whatever seems to work, let's do it" approach. That is a *modern* idea called pragmatism. And it is truly deadening.

How can it be bad if we're all just trying to bring people to Christ? Well, for one thing, church is for Christians, not unbelievers. You are initiated *into* the church; you don't bring your sinful preferences to God's house and try to shape worship in your own image. Secondly, any technique that is based on passing fads and marketing can falsely be sold to the unsuspecting consumer as the work of the Holy Spirit, when in fact it is not. It's simply their own ears being tickled by stuff they naturally enjoy. Fads get old, new worship forms get outdated and boring, and the person moves on to find someone else who will give them what pleases them. Worse again is when, like me, they realize that so much of what they enjoyed and considered to be "spirituality" was just emotional manipulation, and for their adult life they view the faith of their younger years as a bit of a joke and perhaps something that can't be taken seriously as an adult.

I don't mean to judge or knock people's motives for these new measures they hop onto the bandwagon for. I've been there, I know the arguments, and I don't presume to look into people's hearts. But I know that I personally simply didn't know any different until I looked at the first 1,970 years of Christianity and a bit of humility kicked in. And I know that you can't simply say, "Jesus was different and it got him killed. Luther was different (though I don't know much about him) and it almost got him killed, too. Therefore, people who promote contemporary worship are martyrs too because they're 'different'! History is repeating itself!" That's a non-argument that is difficult to take seriously.

I wasn't going to post another comment on this, but after our church service today, I felt that I had to. We had a powerful message today.

@ Frank
I was under the impression that you were Confessional Lutheran because that's what it says on your "About Me" section. I don't want to put a label on anyone, and that wasn't my point at all. I was just trying to get across from one Lutheran to another that Martin Luther was a great man, but (as I already stated), he didn't die on a cross to save me. I used the term rebel rouser, and maybe that was sort of wrong. All I know is that he wasn't well liked by the Catholic Church at the time. He also had some great writings, but none of them compare to the truths of The Bible, and he did enlighten a few folks about those truths; for that I am forever greatful. I don't take any other works of man and try to put it with God's word. Mormons do that with their Book of Mormon, and I believe that The Bible should stand on it's own. No additions, no subtractions.

My only reason for posting here in the first place was to try to get across that not all non-traditional churches are bad. I attend a non-traditional Lutheran church, and I grew up in a traditional Lutheran setting, so I know both sides of the coin. I still go to the traditional church with my mother and father when I'm visiting. However, it seems that a lot of folks there are just reciting the ritual, and not getting much out of the service. I am challenged by my pastors frequently, and we have an open dialog with each other. Again, I hate to keep repeating myself, but we are all different, I walk and talk differently than you, I learn differently than you, and even spiritually, we are different. I'll ask again, what's wrong with doing something different if we're all still praising God? We even talk differently than Luther did, why can't we worship differently?

@ Kelly
I didn't mean to co-opt Luther for anyone's purpose. I was just merely stating fact: he was a great man, but he didn't die on a cross to save me; Jesus paid that price for me 1500 years before Luther was around.

Church is only for Christians? WOW!! Where do the non-christians go? Oh wait, I'll welcome them to come to my church with open arms. We don't have any initiation procedure for people attending our church, and quite frankly; I don't know if I would be interested in any right of passage that I have to take in order to attend a church. We do offer classes for those who are ready to take next steps in their faith walk, but anyone can attend our church no classed required. In fact we are always inviting folks to attend our church.

I promote our church as much as I can. If it comes up in conversation, I tell them about it, then I invite them to join us some Sunday. If they take me up on the offer, that's great; if not, that's ok too, and I won't ask a second time. I hardly ever bring the subject up myself though because I don't like pushing my beliefs on anyone, but once you open that bottle; I'll spew out as much as you want to hear. We are all free to make our own decisions on how we choose to worship. Me a martyr - hardly. I just like spreading the good news of Jesus Christ. I never push anyone to attend our church, but I welcome ANYONE who wants to enter through that door. It's not for everyone, that's why there are LOTS of different churches around. If they don't appreciate what we're trying to do (and not everyone does), I hope that they find a church that they are comfortable with.

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"However, it seems that a lot of folks there are just reciting the ritual, and not getting much out of the service." On what basis are you judging these people's faith? It they trust the power of forgiveness coming to them through Word and Sacrament, how can you possibly say they're not getting much out of it? This is the problem: "getting something out of church" becomes equated with outward-based, emotional involvement, not the objective work of the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacrament..

Of course people can visit church who are unbelievers. It's great that you invite people-- I never suggested we shouldn't-- and I pray that they would be convicted by the Word they hear there. But the Divine Service is for Christians because church *is* Christians. The "initiation procedure" is baptism! Unbelievers should be receiving something in church that *is* alien, something utterly unlike the comfortable lives of unbelief they have been accustomed to. We have seen more and more how the outside world is telling Christians how to "do" church, as though they are somehow better versed in communicating the truth about God in worship than centuries of believers. I've seen multiple books in Christian bookstores where *atheists* are instructing Christians how to worship in order to attract people! This is a sign of ugly desperation in Christendom. We no longer believe that what we have is good enough for the consumer-savvy unbeliever, and as such, we've turned church into just another marketable product.

Yes, we've bought the idea that church is about making people comfortable and doing things their own way, rather than humbly submitting their own personal tastes to the universality of the church as a whole.

Rev. Fisk describes the damage this way:

"The overall decline in American Christendom speaks this fact for itself. The death of countless small congregations is as much a cause of the north american "missional" movement, as of their own rejection of orthodox theology. It's a both/and in many cases.

But there is no question. Who is church-shopping? NOT the unchurched! lol. The only ones church shopping are disgruntled Christians with even more disgruntled kids.

Who wants praise and worship in Lutheran Churches? Not the converts to Lutheranism from other denominations or world religions! Just the bored, low church pietist Lutherans who don't even know who they are anymore.

Sad facts. Painful facts. I'm glad the evangelicals on the front lines of the movement are fessing up. I doubt LC-MS circles will come close to such honesty. We've hopped on the bandwagon only too recently and with too much strife caused by our "missional" motivations to turn around five years later and say, "oops, we were wrong.""

Kirnkorner, feel free to comment as many times as you want. As you may have guessed, I enjoy having a good conversation or two. My missus often asks me how I can carry on a conversation with somebody that I completely disagree with and still enjoy the conversation. Well, I think dialoguing is just plain fun as long as both sides are able to admit there are in fact differences and don’t say lets just agree to disagree. The fact that all of us here are going back and forth without name calling or screaming you’re a heretic is an indication that I’m not alone in that regard.

Yes I am a confessional Lutheran and proud to say so. But I don’t think all things need to be addressed from that perspective. I think that the subject being discussed has broader implications than just the tiny Lutheran circles I travel. I’ve touched on it and Kelly has taken it on full bore the subject of what is really the focus of what is being presented as contemporary worship.

Kelly is (obviously) very passionate about the subject because of her personal experiences. I’m (obviously) very passionate about the subject because of my own personal experiences. I traveled down a very bad road that I hope no youth would ever go down because I was trying to get an emotional high that couldn’t be repeated. Everyone that I’ve talked to concerning the national gathering keep bringing up the emotional impact and the tears streaming down the kids faces as the highlight of the event. To those that think that was a highlight, their own words convict them. The number one highlight should have been Christ. But that’s not what is mentioned!

I haven’t said contemporary worship is bad nor have I said that the way I worship is the only good way. What I have questioned is why thing are being done the way they are to elicit an emotional response that will not be duplicated back in a home congregation. If our kids come back and say they thought the event was cool because it didn’t remind them of church, I think we need to take a serious look at why they say that.

Kirnkorner, one more thing, Kelly is absolutely right in her argument that church is only for Christians. That may sound harsh and exclusive and it is. Unbelievers have no need to go to church because they either they believe they are just good people or they reject the fact that they always fall short of God’s perfect law.

With that being said, keep inviting those around you to your church. It should be all our hope that those you invite to church see that they are condemned under the Law and recognize the fact that Jesus has fulfilled the Law in our place and be brought to faith by God’s grace in Christ. You are doing what you are called to, to confess your faith in Christ. We should all be so bold (and not just on blogs ;-)!

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  • From The Haut South
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