Friday, November 14, 2008

Traditonal Service - Contempo Service - Rob

This is probably opening up a can of worms here, but isn't that what blogs are all about?

So here goes:

I'd wonder about a pastor who felt comfortable conducting a traditional service and then following it up with a contemporary service. I'd question how true to the confessions the traditional service was if the pastor turned around and did a contemporary service later. It seems to be a contradiction to me - and a "why would you even want to" type of thing.

I guess that hits at the heart of Tim's, JK's and now Ben's argument for the concurrence of both. I haven't had to decide about something like that to date, but we don't have a lot of options around here so I don't know that I'd have a lot of options.

Have at it, fellas.



Ben said...

I have to admit that I don't think I've ever attended a contemporary Lutheran worship service. However, I don't understand why it is a problem to change the style of a worship service as long as the substance remains. Our world was created with variety and diversity. The people in this world are very diverse. Cultures around this world and from century to century are very different. Obviously God's Word needs to be taught and preached in its truth and purity. I just don't see how there can be one and only one way to have a church service.

I've heard the term "rock and roll" church service mentioned. I'm assuming that would be a service that has a band that plays instruments like electric guitars and drums? Are electric guitars evil? How about drums... are they evil? Is it sinful to play an electric guitar or drums during a service? Maybe an acoustic guitar is ok? Are WELS mission churches in Africa allowed to have music during their services if they don't have a pipe organ?

Another comment had been made about the importance of showing the fear of God during a church service. What about showing emotional thanks and praise? What about the pure joy people feel after hearing the Gospel? Is it sinful to express that joy during a service?

One other thought came to me today. When Jesus was here preaching, he told many parables. He reached out to people by telling them parables they could relate to. If he would have come in this day and age instead of 2,000 years ago, don't you think his parables would have been much different? The substance would have been the same, but the style and context would probably be different. If we can reach out to others using different styles that appeal to diverse groups of people, why not? Keep the substance. Keep God's Word being taught and preached in its truth and purity. God's Word does not change. How we approach people with God's Word should change as cultures change.


rlschultz said...

It is good to read your questions which are in the spirit of Christian love. Here are some of my highly opinionated answers:
It is rare to see the style change without the substance as well. Good intentions are fine, but it is not all that matters. The problem with changing style from liturgical worship to contemporary is the desire to ape the community church down the road. The gospel creates its own evangelism opportunities. Our methods, however modern and relevant they may seem, will not save one soul.

Ben said...

I completely agree that our methods will not save one soul. I also agree that changing methods or styles needs to be done very carefully so as not to lose the true teaching of God's Word. However, cultures change whether we like it or not. New tools and instruments are invented that can help us spread God's Word. Pianos and organs didn't always exist. Can you imagine the controversy that must have existed when someone first decided to use those musical instruments in a church service? It's not the instruments that are used, it is the way in which they are used that really matters.

This discussion on methods really intrigues me. We obviously need to present God's Word to people using certain methods. God and His Word does the saving. How does our choice of methods affect people, though? Can our methods turn people away from God? For example, if we replaced the organ at our church with an electric guitar and drums, I'm pretty sure our weekly attendance would drop dramatically. But, what if we added a weeknight service that included an electric guitar and drums, and then saw that our overall attendance went up? Is that good or bad? Like it or not, the methods we use affect whether or not people walk through the church doors for service. If we can use a variety of methods to preach the true Word of God, and increase church attendance as a result, isn't that good?

Using marketing is another interesting topic. Should we use marketing methoods to try to get people into church to hear God's Word? Obviously marketing does not save souls, but is it useful for getting people into the church building to hear God's Word being preached? I'm curious to hear thoughts and opinions on this topic.


Anonymous said...

Ben, I understand what you're saying and it makes sense, yet it's the modern view and a secular rationalism of sorts. Some writings that have been helpful to me with regards to the failings, dangers and emptiness of contemporary worship include "The Fire and the Staff" by Klemet Preus, "The Defense Never Rests" by Craig Parton, and posts by Freddy Finkelstein within older threads of BW.


Freddy said...


It is good that you are investigating these things. I take your posts to be those of genuine interest (and, I think, from one who has been exposed primarily to Church Growth perspectives). Much of what you bring up in your post has been directly dealt with, relatively recently, on this blog. I’ll briefly answer some of the points you make, and then forward you to several posts that deal with these points more fully. If my tone seems sharp, don't take it personally -- I am speaking to the ideas, not at you.

You Question: Are electric guitars evil? How about drums…
My Answer: In your statement you make the fundamental assumption that forms, including music and instrumentation, are amoral. This is a false assumption, and the liturgical principle of lex orandi, lex credendi informs us of this. You further (apparently) assume no distinction between Ecclesiastical and Secular forms, that they are (or ought to be) equally nothing but worldly reflections of popular culture. This is also wrong. Just as the Church is distinct from the World, so are its forms and its culture, reflecting our true citizenship in and of the Kingdom of Grace. Moreover, under these false assumptions, you draw the conclusion that popular forms taken from Secular pop-culture apply without negative consequence in an Ecclesiastical setting, that lyrical content alone constitutes the “substance” of worship. Again, this is wrong. Forms are of great substance, which is why we confess in AC XXIV that Rites are necessary to teach the people what they believe. The corollary is that we avoid practices that do not teach what we believe, especially those that overtly teach what we believe to be false. The fact is, “contemporary” worship forms, which Lutherans are increasingly guilty of borrowing from Evangelicals, Charismatics, and Pentecostals, including their music and instrumentation, have been carefully chosen and developed by these heterodox to teach their false doctrine – namely, Worship as a Means of Grace, and Religious Experience as Assurance of Salvation. Since, for them, overt zeal in worship is no small factor, the music they have developed for the worship setting is chosen in a calculated attempt to manufacture and manipulate powerful emotions. Worse, under a (now defunct) Church Growth paradigm, such forms have been further exploited to “draw the un-churched” by transforming the Divine Service into entertainment-grade performances, thus taking the focus off of Christ (christocentrism) and placing it on man (anthropocentrism). While many among us are becoming entranced and seduced by these powerful gimmicks, the rest of us are active sounding the alarm and feverishly working to reverse the damage, before we ourselves are compelled run in horror. Here are some previous entries from this blog that you may find interesting: Alternative Missions (or, Tim’s Debut) & Liturgical vs. non-Liturgical

You Question: What about the pure joy that people feel after hearing the Gospel? Is it sinful to express that joy during a service?
My Answer: Of course it is not sinful to express “pure” Joy in the Gospel! By asking this in the context of a defense for contemporary forms, however, you erroneously equate the use of contemporary forms with the expression of “pure” Joy. “Pure” Gospel Joy bubbles uncontrollably out of a true Christian, with or without musical accompaniment. In the context of the Divine Service, such expression is present in his Worship sacrifice (as it would be in all expressions of his faith), as he joins those with whom he shares Unity, and in unison with them confesses his faith and expresses his Joy and Gratitude in word and song. In such a setting, the emphasis in worship expression is not on the individual; rather, it is on the unified and corporate expression in which the individual takes part. This corporate expression, which cannot function outside of the context of unity, is guided by a liturgy addressing two parties, the Minister and the Congregation, and carries them together through the Divine Service, keeping them together centered on Christ, rather than themselves or the antics of others. An orthodox hymnody is essential support to the objectives of the liturgy, likewise is accompaniment to serve the liturgy and hymnody without interfering with it. Accompaniment should not be used as a catalyst for emotions which ought to already be present “purely” as a result of the Gospel, nor should it be allowed to develop into such a crutch for Christians in any congregation. In such a case, accompaniment replaces the Gospel, and is employed to artificially manufacture what true Lutherans place their faith in the Holy Spirit to produce through the Gospel alone. Here is a previous entry from this blog that you may also find interesting: Difficulty in Rooting Out Church Growth

You State: The world is diverse, therefore worship forms ought to be equally diverse (my summary from your first paragraph)
My Answer: You seem to be unaware of what our Confessions mean when they define Lutherans as “catholic.” By this, we certainly do not confess that we are “Roman Catholic,” but that we are a church which “remembers” and “imitates” (Heb. 13:7-9) those who have faithfully served the Gospel throughout the church’s history. Dr. C.P. Krauth describes it best, I think, when he declares that the church catholic thus represents the outflowing of 2000 years of Christian faith and practice into the present, and projects it into the future (in his context, he is speaking of the utter necessity of well-educated Pastors, fully trained in Church History and Classical Studies like Western Civ., etc., and that those without such rigorous training are not fit to be Pastors, because they are incapable of effective catholicity). And so, in terms of our Rites, our Confessions inform us that we use nothing that has not been with us since the earliest of times (and this excludes, of course, what may have existed in earliest of times, but has been since rejected and is no longer “with us” – such as supposed “Apostolic Rites” dredged up by those who despise the Western Rite). In context, this applies directly to the Western Rite, but by extension, also to modified forms of the Eastern Rite (which is also a catholic Rite). In terms of our hymnody, catholicity is an aggregate of expression from across all cultures over the history of the Church. And so, worship cannot be said to be “catholic” if historic forms do not dominate, especially if there is disproportionate representation from strictly “contemporary” sources or modes of expression. Since the heart of Lutheranism has historically been Germany and Scandinavia, it makes sense that hymns and musical settings from these parts of Europe will have greatest representation in orthodox Lutheran hymnody. Over time, this will (and has been) change(ing), as Lutheranism spreads and as influences of orthodox Lutheran expression from a broader cultural spectrum find their way into our hymnody. In short, practices derived exclusively from, or dominated by, either “contemporary” influence or “local culture,” are not catholic and therefore, not Lutheran. Here is a useful article addressing this topic (along with others): Why is the Lutheran Church a Liturgical Church?

Related to this point, you also seem to define “culture” as “what is contemporary” – which isn’t true at all. In fact, the reverse is true. Those who understand and benefit from culture are not so narrow as to insist that “culture” is what’s “contemporary,” but have and express an active knowledge and appreciation for what makes a culture what it is: its history. Thus, a cultured individual can appreciate a performance by local (contemporary) talent at the corner establishment on Friday night, can enjoy a Saturday evening Classical concert, and arrive at Church on Sunday morning eager to engage the Rites of the Divine Service in distinctly Ecclesiastical musical forms. A cultured person is one who understands and appreciates artistic expression for what it is in its native context, but doesn’t demand that all artistic contexts coexist in some sort of shared artistic hegemony, or worse, as a lowest common denominator of pluralistic equivalency. Those who make such demands are neither wise nor “cultured,” but ignorant and narrow. The point is, the Church is distinct and separate from the World, just as the local bar (and the musical entertainment it provides) is distinct and separate from a concert hall. There is every proper expectation for the Church to have its own “other worldly” culture and forms of expression. On the other hand, it is individual Christians, in the Domestic Estate, who are in both the Kingdom of Grace and the Kingdom of Power, not the church; but, while we are in both Kingdoms, we are only of the one Kingdom, not the other. Our expression, including our forms, ought to represent this fact unreservedly and most pointedly – especially when we are on our home turf (at church, that is). Here is another pertinent blog posting: CG vs WELS Contemporary

In your final paragraph you make the assumption that the Divine Service is, or ought to be, focused principally on Evangelism and/or Outreach. This is a false assumption and an abusive redirection of the purpose of the Divine Service that is being promoted by C&C Church Growth advocates. Evangelism is specifically not the purpose of the Divine Service, nor should any self-respecting Lutheran allow it to become the purpose of the Divine Service. The Divine Service, as a worship setting, is a forum in which the believer is focused on Christ and His completed work on our behalf, is guided in responsive expression that only believers can offer to God, and which climax’s as Christ is joined with the believer in a most intimate way, as he receives His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins in Holy Communion. Reducing the Divine Service to (the now defunct theories of) Church Growth anthropocentrism, by refocusing the service on the pleasure drives of the unregenerate and concealing the Sacrament to spare them offense, is nothing short of tragedy. If you have followed any of the above links, you, no doubt, have already read the following, but I think it is worth repeating: “‘Any practice which elevates worship experience as an Evangelical tool, to a status anywhere near equal to the proclamation of Law and Gospel, is abusing both Worship and the preaching of Law and Gospel. Worship is a forum in which those with faith in the objective promises of God's Word offer their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him on the basis of His completed work on their behalf. Those without faith have nothing to offer in such a forum. In fact, their offerings are offensive to God -- the Bible states directly that He turns Himself from such offerings, and rejects them. To draw unbelievers into the church on the pretense of worship experience is to sinfully draw them in on the false pretense of the efficacy of their worship sacrifice. The fact is, God hates the worship offerings of the unregenerate...’ Worship is not evangelism. Worship is what those with faith in the objective promises of God do, it is not what the unregenerate do, nor is it a forum which God has provided for them. We should avoid giving such indications in our worship practice.”

Just Trying to Help,

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Freddy doesn't disappoint. Thanks, man.

A misconception I suffered during my evangelical days in a dynamic mega-church's worship services was the concept of worship itself. Our "best worship" is receiving what He has to give us. Yes, we do sing and pray - but even those are (or should be) Gospel-laden and so directed toward us as recipients, praising what He has done for us. When analyzing lyrics, determine what is the object of the verbs (not my idea). Is it focused on what God has done or what we are doing - or even on how are we different because of what He has done but the focus still being on us?

The purest worship is celebrating and receiving Christ and Him crucified. It's actually "getting something" as opposed to our concept of giving something. This contradicts the focus of the emotionally-manipulating, the praise music, the things popular of the times, the works-oriented, the mission oriented service, etc.

But Freddy's is much more solid, so, what he said.