I have often written of the way prayer has been turned into a sacrament and, truth to be told, Lutherans are not immune from writing about prayer in this way and elevating prayer to a place of prominence equal to the means of grace normally acknowledged by our Confessions. But as easy as it is to attach sacramental grace to prayer and turn it into more of a transaction than conversation, prayer is not the only one of several usual suspects for replacing the Scripturally mandated sacraments.
Certainly the Charismatic Movement has declined in prominence but it is still a viable and effective movement -- especially in Africa. Back in the ancient of days when I was ordained, district pastoral conferences sometimes pitted pro and anti speakers on just this topic within Lutheranism (I recall Howard Tepker debating Richard Jungkuntz at one such gathering). Perhaps its greatest fruit is that it has left a lasting imprint upon the contemporary worship movement and that has fully entrenched itself in nearly every Christian tradition.
The contemporary worship movement was born of the Charismatic Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s. Evidence of this connection lies particularly in the musical style that was passed from the charismatics to the contemporary worship crowd and with it the understanding of the purpose of this music. This connection forged a musical style that was rooted in a particular understanding of the Spirit in worship. This musical style was less about praise and worship (as it has now become identified) than about a vehicle for changing the mood and introducing the Spirit to bring the assembly to a common spiritual place. The purpose of singing and the character of the congregational song (both performed for and for participation in this song) was understood sacramentally -- though seldom was this term used. It was believed by the charismatics and now by the contemporary worship crowd that the music of worship was a means through which God was encountered in the Spirit, and almost uniquely so.
- congregational song and the music of worship was a primary means of intimacy with Jesus
- the music of worship was not about God but addressed to God
- the pronouns of this song were predominantly first person
- the song tended to include repetitive phrases more than an unfolding narrative
- the time of singing was essential to worship and often occupied a larger segment of the worship time than even preaching
- the tone of the music was intensely personal and sensual
Since most of these congregations thought they were adopting a form but not a new theology, many were unaware of the impact a simple decision on what music will be used would make on the very nature of their denominational identity and confessional integrity. I would submit that it is impossible to adopt the style and exclude the theological suppositions that gave this style its birth and in which its expression flourished. The very nature of this music has contributed to a commonality of Sunday morning experience that transcends the confessional identity of the church so that people who move are much more likely to choose a new church home which fits the worship style they had than to choose on the basis of what is believed and confessed by that church. In the end the worship service itself was no longer the assembly of the church speaking and singing praise to the Triune God as much as it was a means of evangelism, outreach, and attraction to those not yet of the faith. The end result is that many of these congregations have relegated the Sacrament of the Altar to a secondary service with the primary sacramental focus of Sunday morning the music that ushers in the desired atmosphere of intimacy and sets the mood for the work of the Spirit, culminating in the "sermon" and its invitation to faith.
Liturgical communions like Lutheranism find themselves with not only mini-denominations within their traditional structures but with a combative and testy atmosphere, the aptly named worship wars, that have further divided and alienated people within the same national church body from each other. This is, at least in part, due to the significant impact of the charismatic movement upon traditionally non-charismatic churches. Missouri's own Renewal in Missouri (RIM) may no longer be much of a factor in the church but it has left its permanent mark in the great divide between those whose worship is primarily word and contemporary song and those whose Sunday morning is marked by the full Divine Service, sacramental preaching, and the great Lutheran chorales.
For more on this topic, read here.... The result was that the songs themselves and the style itself became the focus. Particularly in mainline congregations influenced by the Church Growth Movement, “contemporary worship” was a technique for reaching out—the concept of “praise and worship” as sacramental/encounter was diluted at best.