Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Story... Same Plot...

Yesterday we had another visit from a family looking for a "Lutheran" Church -- not one with the name "Lutheran" but whose Sunday morning is distinctly Lutheran in identity and yet welcoming.  In this case the family drove for an hour just to get here.  This family is not the first nor the last of those drive past "Lutheran" congregations in their search for a congregation with Lutheran confessional identity and consistent Lutheran practice.  It comes as little surprise to those in most urban or suburban areas that "Lutheran" churches tend to offer at least the option of non-liturgical contemporary worship or to offer at the earliest possible hour a "traditional" service while moving the rest of the worship times to contemporary worship.  It is that way in Middle Tennessee and I would expect that you would find it that way across America.  It is the common complain from the many military and mobile industry families who leave Clarksville:  Where can I find another congregation like Grace?

I wish they were talking about something we were exceptional at but I know what they are talking about is majestic and reverential worship, using the liturgy, using the full musical resources of the hymnal, accompanied by strong Biblical preaching.  Such was once thought to be the hallmark of Lutheran congregational identity.  No matter the size of the congregation or its location, the Lutheran Church was a bellwether of sacramental and liturgical practice shaped by confessional and Biblical preaching and teaching.  Some say worship wars and others say missional identity.... I say consistent sacramental and liturgical identity and practice accompanied by Biblical and Confessional preaching and teaching.  Where this is, the work of the Lord continues as He has promised, the Church grows, and the people of the Lord grow.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Having just moved and also being in the military, we finally solved our problem with the "find a church" menu on Issues etc. It's fantastic because you know what those churches hold-to even before you get there on Sunday.

Anonymous said...

There are two type of church shoppers

1) Those who examine the doctrinal
substance of the parishes they visit.

2) Those who look for a parish where
their family fits the demographics.

The first are serious about their
Lutheran faith and want a solid
foundation on which to build.

The second are just happy to fit in
to a group with similar likes and
dislikes on a social basis.

Colleen said...

We have all those things at our church, and a contemporary service after the traditional. We have the liturgy in both services. The only difference is the music. We hear again and again "I love both services", and we have a huge number of people that do an every-other week kind of thing. Our church is growing while others around us are shrinking, and we haven't sacrificed preaching, law and gospel, or any of the "Lutheran standards". People get fed, every single week. If you are bringing the law and gospel to people, does it matter the definition of the service? In the future I see many pastors preaching to empty congregations , clutching their hymnal as his church empties. "We will never do contemporary music!" he yells, to no one. "Because that mattered more than telling people about Christ!" It sounds like your congregation in particular is healthy and loves the traditional service, but in many urban areas that does not draw people in. Having both services with the liturgy makes sure that the service is ground in Lutheran tradition, while embracing that there are different ways to worship God. (No organ in biblical days, true story!)

Anonymous said...

Colleen is correct. It is possible
to have a contemporary worship
service that includes confession/
absolution, O.T. lesson, Epistle and
Gospel lesson, Apostles/Nicene Creed,
Law/Gospel Sermon, Lord's Prayer,
and Benediction as well as Christ-
centered hymns/songs. When we
realize that in the Worship Service
God gives us His gifts of grace as
we partake of the Sacrament then His
gifts are the focus.

Anonymous said...

Telling people about Christ? That is exactly what the historic liturgy does, in Word and Sacrament. The liturgy is not meant for "seekers", it is the treasure of the Church. There's a reason that the catechumens were dismissed after the Liturgy of the Word in the early Church.

When Lutheran churches become "grounded" in the Lutheran tradition, one sees the sad spectacle of the ELCA which describes itself exactly that way.

Luther had some very specific things to say about why the Lutheran Reformation was a conservative one and why Lutherans have faithfully kept the historic mass without the errors that Rome developed.

There's a new, "contemporary" LCMS congregation not far from my home, but I don't go there. They are hardly distinguisable from the Southern Baptist megachurch a few miles further down.

Converting people is the work of the Holy Spirit, we just plant the seeds that God waters. It is our duty to be faithful stewards of God's gifts. Give me our rich hymns that teach as well as sing the faith, too much contemporary music leans on making a "decision" for Christ, which is totally anathema to Lutheran belief and practice. I’m very glad that my pastor won’t sacrifice that for the numbers game. God has worked through remnants many times nor is a high membership roll proof of faithfulness, as we see at Joel Osteen’s charades.

No, there weren't any organs in Biblical days. Nor praise bands and overhead projectors.

Christine

Pastor Peters said...

FWIW I do not consider a liturgical service with the recognizable form of the Divine Service but with "contemporary" music to be contemporary worship. Most people define contemporary worship as non-liturgical and non-sacramental. While I might prefer "traditional" hymns I cannot complain that the use of one musical instrument invalidates the Word and Sacrament but where the Sunday service is transformed into entertainment, where the church year and liturgy are absent, and where what is done there is hardly different from that which any denomination or any non-denominational church might do, I must complain about the lack of faithfulness to Lutheran belief and practice to which we pledged adherence in the Confessions...

Zach said...

Me and my family are one of those newcomers to confessional Lutheranism. Have been attending a solid Lutheran church with the Divine Service since last September. I visited another LCMS church prior to that in my hometown. Literally 3 or 4 minutes away. One weekend was enough. So we drive past that church and go another 30 minutes or so to an LCMS church that offers the Divine Service and no seeker-sensitive drivel. I would drive twice that far if I had to.

I would love if the one nearest would give up some of their nonsense. The one sermon I heard was all the other drivel and I had heard in my non-denom/ Baptist/ charismatic days. A little gospel nugget, but the main thing was what I needed to be doing... Ugh.

Colleen said...

I love the liturgy, the sacrament and I also love an acoustic guitar. Trust me, it is possible. Our church is very strict about what songs are let in for the contemporary songs - they must be God-centered (not me-centered) and not bring the focus onto the singer. There are no "I Choose Jesus" songs. I understand people preferring traditional music, but when you start to honestly pretend that God loves a hymn more than a contemporary song with lyrics straight (and only from) Scripture, then I feel that's getting into some weird territory. While numbers should NEVER be the driving force behind the church, your demographic is something to keep in mind. Churches shouldn't add a contemporary service to hook people, but rather because they realize that people need to hear the word of God and SOME people will be turned off by the traditional music. Praising God is praising God, no matter the instrument - be it a voice, an organ, a flute or a guitar.

Terry Maher said...

Telling people about Christ?

Tell them WHAT about Christ -- there's lots of versions out there.

The whole question of seeker-friendly services would not even come up were we not confused about one thing and ignoring another.

1. Who is the seeker? It's not us. God is the seeker, and he comes seeking to serve us -- that's why we call it the Divine Service -- in Word and Sacrament. Yes, the definition of the service does matter, and precisely that Law and Gospel be brought to people. That is why the phrase lex orandi lex credendi, the order of prayer is the order of belief. That is why the Augsburg Confession was explicit about retaining the usual ceremonies and readings previously in use (previously, not refashioned in the manner of Rome's latest council) for the sole reason that they are needed to teach the people what they need to know about Christ (article 24).

2. We ignore what was mentioned in an above comment -- the Sacrament will not and can not be understood by "seekers" and it is nonsense to try to make it so when in view of this fact "seekers" were originally excused before it began.neano

Colleen said...

Also, I feel like when you say "Seeker-Sensitive Drivel" what you should say is "Unchurched people who are seeking out God, but might be turned off by service or music they don't understand." Is it really so bad to seek out those who don't know Christ or to try and make church a bit more comfortable for those visting, un-churched people who are nervous but need to know Christ? Seeker Sensitive? Yes please! You can still stay try to the teachings of the LCMS AND open your doors to those who haven't grown up with the liturgy in their veins.

Also, having a contemporary service with the liturgy is not akin to Joel Osteen. In any way.

hn160 said...

We moved from the east coast to the west cost. On the east coast we were in the ELCA but when we moved, I was determined to find a church in the LC-MS. I went on the Internet to find our present church that is both confessional and liturgical.

Terry Maher said...

The commenter did not say that having a contemporary service with the liturgy is akin to Joel Osteen. In any way. She said that having large numbers of seekers who find your services attractive is not an indication of "telling people about Christ", of which Joel Osteen is a prime example.

Anonymous said...

Also, having a contemporary service with the liturgy is not akin to Joel Osteen. In any way.

Actually, that is not what I was addressing. I was addressing the issue that some people are very impressed by numbers in and of themselves; because of the current poor state of knowledge of Scripture and church history Osteen comes across as very "successful" on account of the numbers he draws in.

I'll never forget seeing a book signing by Osteen at which a couple came up, the husband gushing "I'm Catholic and my wife is Jewish and we just love your services!"

Americanization is just as much of a danger in Christianity as that of any other culture.

Christine

Anonymous said...

I posted my comment about Osteen before seeing that Terry had addressed exactly the point I was making about Osteen (the same could be said of Robert Schuller whose very "contemporary" ministry is now in bankruptcy). Thanks to Terry for his comment.

Coming from a Lutheran and Catholic background I have also seen what these types of worship wars have done in the once liturgically unified Church of Rome. Ironically young Catholics are craving more of their own historic worship as opposed to the options A, B, and C that developed after Vatican II.

Christine

Colleen said...

Joel Osteen...maybe the anti-Christ?

Colleen said...

(Said as a joke, before I get ripped across the board...)