Tuesday, September 16, 2014

More than liturgy. . .

The strange modern phenomenon of Evangelicals embracing liturgical worship in an effort to reach out to those Gen Xers and such who seemed to be attracted by it stands in stark contrast to the Lutherans who have chosen to abandon the liturgy for the very same reason -- appeal to younger people.  "No so fast..." insists liturgical Christians to their Evangelical copycats.  You can read the well reasoned and thorough response of one liturgical Christian to the borrowings of Evangelicals here.  There is too much for me to cut and paste the article in snippets here so I urge you to read it.  My take is slightly different.  It is the reverse.  Just as this article notes how liturgical worship is the rage among many Evangelicals but suggests toying with forms is not enough to pass muster, so do I content that it is equally ineffective and quite deceitful to toy with Evangelical forms and attempt to retain a Lutheran theology.

The liturgical author is saying that it is not a "style" or a "form" that attracts the folks and therefore one cannot merely keep the same content and borrow an inauthentic "style" to reach out to those who find the liturgy welcoming and not offensive.  What I am saying is that it is equally not a matter of "style" or "form" when Lutherans (liturgical Christians) ditch the appearance in order to mimic Evangelicals and insist that they are still authentic Lutherans and that their faith has not changed.  When you worship like an Evangelical, you will believe like one.  When you believe like a liturgical, sacramental Christian, you cannot worship like an Evangelical.  The doctrinal content and practical face of Sunday morning cannot be at war with each other. 

Those who seem to be attracted the liturgy are smart enough to sniff out preaching and faith that does not flow from and back to the altar, font, and pulpit in a way that is authentic and true.  In the same way, those who seem to be attracted to praise bands, spectator services, entertainment style worship, and preaching that focuses on the immediate more than the eternal can sniff out a lie equally as well.  They will find the discrepancy between their evangelicalism and Lutheran confessional theology and liturgical practice equally disconcerting.

Honestly, sometimes I think we Lutherans are idiots.  We think that borrowing from the Evangelicals who are borrowing from us will somehow not be noticed as antithetical to what we believe, confess, and teach.  Of course we are assured all the time that the people leaning toward evangelicalism have not at all surrendered their doctrine to the altar of expediency -- only their Sunday morning practice.  Again, who are we fooling?  I would suggest we are fooling no one at all.

The folks we are trying attract will not be attracted by evangelical wannabes when they have the real thing available just down the block.  What may be the real problem is that these Lutherans are no longer evangelical wannabes.  They have sold their souls to their worship "style" and have, for all practical purposes, begun to believe like the evangelicals they want to look like. 

We celebrated St. Bart's day only a month ago.  In the Gospel for that day our Lord saw into the heart of this man and found him without deceit.  He was even honest enough to diss the hometown of the Lord.  Would that we had such honesty today.  If there are those Lutherans who do not want to be Lutheran in practice as well as in doctrine, let us be honest and admit it.  If there are Evangelicals who do not want to be Evangelical in practice as well as in doctrine, let them be honest and admit it.  Perhaps we could make a few trades along the way and everyone will be happier.

I once had a family visit our parish after being catechized and a member of one of our LCMS big box evangelical style congregations for a decade or so.  This family found our congregation a great disappointment.  They just did not get how Lutherans could use a liturgy, sing hymns, have a weekly Eucharist, chant the liturgy, baptize infants, etc....  I politely informed them that their issue was not with us but with Lutheranism for they had been sold a bill of goods about what Lutherans are and what they believe.  They promptly ditched us for a big box evangelical place down the road.  But the problem remained, what were they told about Lutheranism in their catechesis and life within the church and did what they were told have a shred of integrity with what our Confessions.  This is my problem.  If Evangelicals want to be Lutherans, I would be happy to catechize them.  But if Lutherans want to be Evangelicals, I would be sad but know we would all be happier if parted company in honesty.


Anonymous said...

I read your blog on a daily basis, and you are right on! Why don't more people comment? Are we Lutherans or some strange mixture meant to get us through this culture?
Come Lord Jesus!

Anonymous said...

I feel the same way. I read this blog also daily. I finally had to leave my previous LCMS congregation as it was trying to become something very different than a Lutheran church. I meet people who feel the same way but we have trouble finding congregations that are being true to our faith. Why can't Synod help us more?

Anonymous said...

This is full of truth. Issues aren't only coming from the style, but from what is being taught in catechism and bible studies as well. People don't know, so they flock to what they are comfortable with it seems. This makes me wonder about Pastors and where they see themselves in the church. If they are always just another person for the congregation to relate to, or when they put on the robes are they supposed to be someone else?

Anonymous said...

My 20-something LCMS pastor once told me that the congregation will not be upgrading to the new LSB. He said that hymnals are for "old people." Yeah, but we are all getting older. At some point in our lives, we do yearn for something deeper.

The common perception is that Synod and district leadership are actively promoting the adoption of Evangelical worship and study materials at the expense of Lutheran ones. Pastors are rewarded by adopting church growth methods and the corresponding theology. As laymen, we are mere sheep led by a shepherd, after all....

LCMS women treat the study of evangelical authors in an LCMS small group setting as if participating in yet another Oprah book club. The majority of small group study guide questions probe participants to express their personal feelings and to reveal past embarrassing, deeply personal life choices. Nope, little mention of Jesus. It's all about me. The men just grudgingly go along, as they know it makes their wives happy.

Regarding the last paragraph of your article, Pastor Peters, I have seen the same thing in my LCMS church. It is as if the departing family were deliberately groomed by the pastor for the big box congregation down the road. Sad.

Halvar said...

Not ordain pastor distributing Lords Supper?

Augustana teaches: "Sakrament reichen" referring to pastor

Anonymous said...

The LCMS is in doctrinal and liturgical chaos, as is evident on Sunday mornings in many parishes. What a mess for our lay people and pastors who must deal with this division and confusion. The beat goes on. Get used to it. It will not change, but we will live like this for a long time to come. But, thank God for the faithful pastors and people who are genuinely Lutheran.