Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Anything that isn't unbiblical is fair game

“The most important thing is determining what it is going to take to reach people that aren’t coming to us,” says Hunter. “Anything that isn’t unbiblical is fair game. Let’s just try it! It’s up to our churches to step up and see what we can do to get the gospel out there.”

http://coffee hour is now church time

I thought readers might find this article interesting. Instead of going to the coffee house. Rev. Randy is bringing the coffee house to church. After the sermon the folks gather for a little coffee clutch.

If you look closely you don't find any mention of holding up the sacraments.


Freddy Finkelstein said...

To quote from the article, "In the front of the room is a simple altar and a screen where Hunter’s prerecorded sermons are projected."

As I have stated on this blog before, I am all in favor of creating opportunities for evangelism. I am all in favor of a congregation calling qualified and competent (i.e. approved) individuals to lead and engage in such efforts, and I am the first to admit that, to this end, there is room for creativity. But that is not what is described in this article. This is intended to be Church -- the article identifies it as such. What's more, it is "Church" where the sermon, and thus Law and Gospel, has become ambiance -- noise projected on a screen -- and what follows seems to be an interruption to the activity people have otherwise assembled for. Such a concept strikes me as neither evangelism nor Church, but an annoyance and distraction from what people would rather be doing -- drinking coffee and having conversation.

The article further states, "We’re trying to keep it from becoming the thing that turned a lot of people away from church."
My question: "Which is what? The Liturgy? Hymns? Sound theology? The Gospel?"
My Answer: I doubt it. I suspect, rather, that it is the thing intimated in the following sentence. The Law. "We’re trying to provide a casual atmosphere where you’re free to talk about what this means to you and how it applies to your life." Coming from pop-church Evangelicalism, this is code for "honoring God by living a God pleasing life." Merit-mongering Law. Even if the thrust of the Law is not the intent here, the expression is totally ambiguous. Which "this" and "it" is being referred to? What the Bible says, or what turned people away from the Church? Both? Either way, what is described is not "Church" -- at least not in any Confessional sense that I know of.

Talking about what the Bible says is a normal desire for every person who has received the gift of Faith. We do it every Sunday, and multiple times a week, at our congregation -- in the context of Adult Sunday School or Bible Study. Many of us laymen engage in further, personal discussion, for the edifying of the body of Christ. Nothing new here. However, "what this means to you" carries no weight whatsoever, unless one is a Pietist. Seriously. This is what the ecclesiolae does -- read Timotheus Verinus (Loescher) or The History of Pietism (Schmid), both recently published by NPH, for details. Koester's Law and Gospel should be considered important, as well. The "what this means to you" approach comes straight from the modern Church Growth playbook, a reprisal of 18/19th Century Pietism, which reduces the Preaching Office to inoffensive good-buddy-ism, and elevates the Priesthood of All Believers to equal station in the Church. Wasn't this matter settled by Walther in 1862, at the convention of the Norwegian Synod -- which was then struggling with the question of lay-involvement in the congregation's ministry, resulting from the leftovers of European Pietism? Further, such discussion ensues entirely outside the context of the Divine Service. It may be part of what Christians do, but it is not "Church."

One thing I appreciate about my own Pastor, and about many Pastors in the WELS I have heard speak, is straightforward and Biblical answers to questions that people have about religion, the Bible, and Christianity. Perhaps that is all that is occurring at St. Andrew's coffee-shop location, and the article was simply poorly articulated. If the coffee-shop thing was described as nothing but a venue for evangelism, I would probably have nothing negative to say. But it doesn't. It is described as "Church," and as an alternative to the Sunday Divine Service. The article describes the Divine Service at St. Andrew's parent location as "a more traditional liturgical style." If the article accurately describes the congregation's sentiments, I predict, "Not for long." Alternative sentiments will come home to roost: alternatives to wholesome Lutheran rites and hymnody (which is non-Lutheran rites and hymnody), alternatives to Lutheran catholicity (which is anti-catholic), and alternatives to Lutheran Confessionalism (which is non- or anti-Confessionalism). Why will they come home to roost? Because it takes intellectual energy to become and remain Confessional and Biblical (which is why sound catechesis is so important -- which also seems to be something that is slipping among us). It only takes emotional drive to embrace the alternatives.

Such is my opinion, so far.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Great post Freddy. I enjoy your insight. You commented on a quote in the article and I too found it interesting but in a different light.
"We’re trying to keep it from becoming the thing that turned a lot of people away from church."
I can’t, and won’t, speak for the folks referenced in the article but I can relate to this. Some insight on me before I elaborate…I’m a PK (Pastor’s Kid) from Mequon but not from the Seminary. That narrows down my identity significantly. I’ve been WELS educated from Kindergarten to Undergrad. Went to church every Sunday. Said my prayers, learned the differences between what I believed and what other “religions” believed. I was a very good, conservative, WELS member.

As I got older, by the grace of God, I kept going to church. Through no engagement of the Church and Change, Church Growth stuff, I started asking myself on Sunday mornings “What am I doing here?”, “Why am I doing this?”, “Am I really worshipping God right now?”, “Why do I believe what I’m saying right now?”. This was very troubling. I shouldn’t have been asking those questions…I’m WELS…I can recite the Creeds from memory!

I went back to the Bible and my Catechism to try and figure out what was going on. Sadly I realized that I was just playing church. I was going through the motions. Not only was I doing that but people that I was close to, some who were un-churched, began to notice this. What a terrible witness I was!

I was pushing people away because they saw me only going through the motions, yet I was the one telling them that they need to start coming to church! I then looked around and realized I wasn’t the only one “playing church” and I saw little to no effort from the pastors or from anyone else in the church to fix this. Nobody was engaged in what they believed. Everyone was content in “confessing” what they believed by coming to church and reading what was placed in front of them. They were content in being a number in that church and they were not engaged.

I once heard a Pastor say to his congregation “If you want to come here to go through the motions and fill our seats to just be a number, please leave. There are plenty of congregations out there that want you as a number and who don’t care if you just recite what they tell you.”. That was it for me. I had to admit that I was just being a number. I realized I had to get into a church where there is Law and Gospel and where I had to become involved and active.

That is what people are looking for. Confessions are not enough anymore. People want to be at a place where they hear God’s Word and see Jesus and not just people reciting things at the same time. Are they rejecting liturgy? I don’t think so. I think we just ruined it for everyone else but ourselves. Are they rejecting doctrine? No, they want more, but they need to see it in action before they can buy into it! Does that mean we have to take a different approach? It appears by your post that you are open to it. My position is that we have must. Anything that isn’t unbiblical must be fair game.

Freddy, in my opinion, that is what is turning people away and what they are looking for. I don’t think it has to do with the Law as you suggest. I attend a rather “contemporary” WELS church now and have almost been in tears because of the Law. I also know that I have not described you in my comments about being content as a number. There is enormous value in being Confessional but we (the WELS) have seriously screwed it up. Many churches do a great job at reciting it but not a good job of living it so we have to change our approach.


Anonymous said...

"Many churches do a great job at reciting it but not a good job of living it so we have to change our approach."

This is a perfect one sentence summary of what Spener taught. For those who are too busy rocking for Jesus or sipping your coffee to know who Spener was, he was the founder of Pietism, the movement that almost completely destroyed the Lutheran church by turning people away from the Means of Grace and focusing people on living for Jesus.

Benjamin Tomczak said...

It's a tightrope we will walk for our whole lives, that is, between Christ for us and our lives for Christ. Because we're called to see and do both.

Paul spent chapters 1-3 of Ephesians talking about Christ for us, and then chapters 4-6 talking about what that means for us. 1 Corinthians is filled with how we live for Christ, in the midst of Paul's repeated proclamations of Christ crucified and those things of first importance (Him for me)!

Yet, as you say, it's so easy to blitz past the means of grace and Christ for us and just focus on me for Christ, WWJD, being purpose-driven, etc., that we can or have, as Pietism does, leave the objective means of grace behind.

Or, we fall off the other side of the tightrope (or the donkey, if you prefer Luther's picture from "Bondage of the Will"), and totally ignore the role of works in our life (as James had to deal with), forgetting that it is indeed necessary for the Christian to live his Christian confession.

We see Paul deal with it masterfully in 2 Corinthians 5: "And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again....God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" (5:15 and 21).

Our life for Jesus is eternally intertwined, based upon, and compelled by Him for me, heard only in the Word, offered only through the objective means of grace -- the Gospel proclaimed, poured, and eaten. Fed on the Bread of Life, there is only one God-pleasing way for us to burn off this energy -- serving Him!

A couple other fine examples of balancing the objective proclamation of Christ for us with the inevitable result of fruits of faith:

"In view of God's mercy...offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).

"But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Anonymous said...

Whenever the discussions move toward the topic of sanctification, I get a little nervous. I really have a hard time discussing the third use of the Law. But maybe that's just me.

If you have a few moments, do a Yahoo search for "Hitting for the Cycle" by Don Matzat. It's a short article and worth the read. I've found this summary of Lutheranism helpful (and in layman's terms).


Freddy Finkelstein said...


Thanks for sharing. Up until the final couple paragraphs, your story very much reminds me of that of a good friend of mine from my own congregation – a competent Lutheran of balanced temperament, in my opinion, and a reliable leader in our congregation. He, like you, is congenital WELS (although not a PK) and was educated in WELS schools. As with myself, and many Christians I know, early in adulthood he finally began to ask himself the same questions that you indicate: “Why am I doing this?”, “What does this mean?”, “Why do I believe this?” etc. He studied and thought, and realized that if he believed what he confessed to believe (and he did believe it), then there needed to be conscious connection between his actions (and especially those in the context of worship) and his public Confession. At first, being himself an accomplished Jazz musician, he headed the direction of contemporary worship and other forms of popular expression, being under the youthful impression that, despite its irreverence, overt emotionalism is the proper and genuine way that one externalizes internal convictions. It took him several years, but he came to understand that he was wrong. Convictions are present in one's conscience, and one's public confession, not his emotional fervor, is the voice of his conscience. Today, my friend rejects contemporary forms, and points to his prior interest in such forms as a maturity problem. He also refers to these same contemporary forms as a problem for our Synod, as something that is drawing our people further away from our common Confession, away from Unity under that confession, and is causing confusion between Faith and Works. He finally points out, from his own personal experience, that it is very difficult for musicians to admit this, that most choose to school themselves in strictly popular forms, are enamoured with the celebrity of pop-performers, and view themselves as more than merely worship accompanists, or as co-worshipers in the congregation. In his experience (and I concur, with my “praise-band” experience as a former pop-church Evangelical), musicians – and especially guitarists and vocalists – see themselves as co-pastors, with their own message to bring to the congregation, and their own means of motivating worshipers to action.

You indicate the difficulty of associating Rites in the context of the Divine Service with living out the Christian faith, specifically, I gather, in corporate recitation of the confession and creeds, the responsories, and probably also the singing of “traditional” hymns. You also quote a pastor who stated, “There are plenty of congregations out there that want you as a number and who don’t care if you just recite what they tell you.” What we recite in the context of the Divine Service is not “just what our church tells us to recite.” Thinking so is a mistake of ignorance – a catechesis problem. What we recite is what we believe. Further, it is what we agree to as a matter of Christian conscience. Moreover, it is the basis of our visible Unity not only as individual congregations, and not only as a Synod, but is our weekly declaration of Unity within the Body of Christ, the Church Universal. I have come to discover that this Unity is the essence of liturgical worship and the seat of our catholicity. Contemporary worship forms, on the other hand, are not expressions of unity, but a visible rejection of unity in favor of individuality; they are not expressions of our catholicity, but of sectarianism. In a Confessional sense, from the standpoint of our catholicity, contemporary forms, far from being relevant, are in fact irrelevant.

This final point is important. It must be realized that our Confessions, the Augsburg Confession especially, stand as our answer to the enemies of the Gospel and of pure doctrine. When the Romans accused the Lutherans of being outside the Church – that is, of being sectarian – Luther, Melanchthon and company, vigorously defended against this accusation, saying we are not outside the Church – we are catholic: “We have not abolished the Mass, we celebrate it weekly, and more often if the people want,” “We embrace the Rites of the Church,” “Nothing is done among us that has not been done since the earliest of times,” etc. (my paraphrases). Catholicity is more than what we say, it is expressed in Churchly practice. When we reject the Confessions, when we fail to consider them, when we act and speak carelessly with respect to what separates us from the Gospel's enemies and what binds us in Unity with each other and the whole Church, we rob ourselves of our defense against the accusations of Rome and all of Scripture's enemies. We automatically exchange our catholicity for sectarianism. This was Richard Neuhaus' point – he hated Church Growth for driving Lutheranism outside of the Church into sectarianism.

One may ask, “How can I make a conscious connection between the words I speak and sing during the Divine Service, and what I believe?” This is an important question. I know very well that many of the individuals I worship next to on Sundays speak and sing the words as if the object is to form the sounds with their mouths in unison with others, without a thought to their content. This is rote practice. It is thoughtless. It is worthless and empty. It is wrong. Yet the solution is very simple. One needs only to think the words as they are said or sung. Make the words your own, and give expression to them as you join with others thinking, “These are my words, this is my confession, this is what I believe, this is what my Christian brothers believe, this is what the Church teaches and has always rightly taught, and I want everyone to hear it!” This is how one connects wholesome Christian ritual with Christian conscience – they pay attention, they think about what they are saying or singing, and give it due expression as word and song proceeds from their conscience. I discovered this for myself. My friend, above, discovered it for himself. No one told us these things – so we were rather surprised to discover one day that we had both landed on the same conclusion. Such a solution, though simple, is a matter of catechesis, for most folks, I would imagine. Pastors must teach these things.

I think these final two paragraphs, above, cover your statement that, “there is enormous value in Confessionalism” -- that is, rather than merely being valuable, Confessions and Confessionalism are necessary. But to the other points in your final two paragraphs, I'll submit that the reason for restlessness, for the desire among the laity for more and to do more, isn't dissatisfaction with liturgical worship, per se, or with Confessionalism at all (and I think you admit this), but is really that teaching among us hasn't caught up with the intellectual capabilities of the modern American. Our own demographic is shifting. We're not principally agrarian or blue collar workers, anymore. We are educated professionals, many of us with multiple advanced degrees. Even those without advanced education are forced, more and more, to engage society on increasingly sophisticated terms. Teaching that is well suited for those without education, does more than leave the rest of us feeling unfed – it is offensive to us. Another member of my congregation, a very competent student of the Scriptures, commented on this very thing recently. Himself having grown a little restless, he has spent some time investigating other WELS churches in the area, only to come back to us simply aghast, deeply offended that he could not find a single congregation outside of ours, where he did not feel as if he was being spoken to as a semi-literate child. Add to this the fact that this gentleman does not have a college degree, and one should see the point.

Anyway, I'll make this the end of another long-winded response. Just know that I have thought what you thought, and others I personally know have thought the same things, as well.

Freddy Finkelstein

Freddy Finkelstein said...


I checked out the article you referenced. An enjoyable and quick read! To quote from that article,

"He continues to run the bases and his understanding of sin deepens. He grows in the knowledge of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. His Faith increases and good works freely flow from his life. Much to his amazement, as he reads the Bible, he discovers that this is exactly what God wants for him.

"As he grows, he learns to love the worship of the Church. He discovers that various elements of the liturgy deal with either the Law, Gospel, Faith, or Good Works.

"The traditional hymnody of the Church enhances his experience of Christian growth. He sings with enthusiasm 'Alas, My God, My Sins are Great,' 'Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness,' 'My Faith Looks Up to Thee,' and 'May We Thy Precepts Lord Fulfill.' In so doing, he is running the bases again and growing."

In many ways, this is what my friend, above, meant when he referred to his flirtation with Contemporary Worship as a "maturity problem." Partly age and experience, mostly just immature faith.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Getting back to the tightrope...

Maybe this is a bad analogy.

Here are my priorities and I'm sure they are the same for all of you.

1. God
2. Family
3. Work
4. Me

You have to admit on the surface it is hard to keep this sequence at times. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic. Sometimes you have to work on Sunday. Sometimes you have to miss that kid's game because you have to work. Sometimes (as a man) you just have to go off to your cave and be by yourself. Sometimes you go on vacation and ditch church. Does this mean I have failed as a Christian? I guess if you view this model as 2-D instead of 3-D or even in another dimension. As long as the perspective of this priority list doesn't change in order of importance and is always running in the backgoround, I'm OK. If it shifts though, I'm in trouble.


Anonymous said...

Wisconsin State Journal - October 2008


>>>The congregation's motto is "Casual about church, serious about God." Communion is still offered every week.<<<

>>> In many ways, the changes are a return to basics — the opposite of a modern approach, Hunter said. "It's keeping it real. You can't hide behind a pulpit or a robe."

The Waunakee sanctuary seats 65 and so far has been averaging about 50 people each Sunday, including some unfamiliar faces.

"Personally, I'll gauge our success by how many new people come through the door who haven't been going to a church," Hunter said. "If it becomes a place where current members just want to hang out because it's cool, then I don't think we will have succeeded."<<<


I can understand the reason for the experiment. While the Word of God is under attack everywhere, in the Madison area assault on belief IS the religion. Even so.... for this area Waunakee is an exception. The village is more conservative than the rest of the county with large Catholic and Presbyterian congregations and families that date back many generations. It remains quite socially conservative even with large growth of new residents who commute out of the village each day. Though many factors can negatively influence a church's success (all derived from sin), it is surprising that Lord & Savior wasn't more successful.

The approach being used at Waunakee is adiophora. Perhaps it will be more successful. Perhaps not. What is really important is teaching law and gospel. Are they following scripture? As near as I can see so far, yes.

The sermons are available online on St. Andrew's website: http://www.st-andrew-online.org/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=5622&sec_id=2361

Freddy Finkelstein said...

“The approach being used at Waunakee is adiophora.”

Adiaphora – the strawberry bubblegum of the Church Growth movement. They keep a wad in their mouth so that they are always ready to spit it out (yes, I've chewed this bubblegum too -- thank God it's finally lost its flavor). Adiaphora for them is nothing but Green Fields and Blue Sky as far as the eye can see, and everything so designated affords the claimant full creative license to dance in the daisies and chase butterflies, unfettered by pesky 500-year-old Confessional documents. Yes, there is freedom, but it is hardly unfettered. Indeed, if one cares to read the Confessions for oneself and take them seriously, it is apparent that our so-called adiaphora is bounded far more narrowly than the free-birds among us wish it to be known.

What is the proof offered that this congregation operates under the umbrella of Lutheran Confessionalism? Why, listen to the sermons, one is told – it's got Law and Gospel, therefore they're Biblical. Well, such advice misses the point – the entire issue has nothing whatsoever to do with preaching (at least not directly), it has to do with Practice.

So, what evidence is there that this congregation operates outside the umbrella of Lutheran Confessionalism? Look at their Confession and their Practice. What I stated on this blog a few months ago (here) applies in this case as we examine a congregation's practice: “But, while Krauth was addressing doctrine, are we not, in our case, looking at Lutheran practice? Yes and no. We are rightly concerned with practice as it is a reflection of what we Confess, and we see evidence of doctrinal error in the practice of the C&C crowd. When those who confess doctrinal unity with us engage in practice that is confusing or offensive, we have every right to demand of them an explanation, and they have every obligation to render one. Drawing the C&C or CG crowd into explanation of their practice, more and more, it seems, exposes their divergence from us and their disregard for anything more than rhetorical unity. So, while we take our queue from confusing and offensive practices endorsed by the C&C church-growthers, our concern is Confessional integrity.” If this congregation gives one indication in their sermons and confessional statements, and gives another in their Practice, they are guilty of offense. Their practice in this case strikes one as open sectarianism. Too bad the FIC “journalists” were too busy celebrating innovation that they didn't also notice that there might be an issue, and go to pains to give evidence to the contrary.

While it may be groovy jargon, “Keepin' it real” in the Divine Service means keeping it Confessional, means keeping the Marks central, means overt and prominent use of the Means of Grace and overt rejection of statistically derived man-made contrivances designed to coerce and manipulate people through clever use of Natural Law (contrivances held out to us by the heterodox in oh-so-many tempting ways), it means subjecting individuality to unity in confession and practice, and it means so much more that CG Church Changers apparently view as the irrelevant trappings of medieval Christianity. I am not impressed by Lutheran congregations so imbued with creativity and so-called “evangelical concern” that they can't seem to actually do “Church.”

The quote at the head of this blog reads, “Anything that isn’t unbiblical is fair game.” The glaring omission in this statement is reference to the Confessions. It should have read, “Anything that isn’t unbiblical, and isn't non-Confessional, is fair game.” Better yet, “The only fair game is that which is Biblical and Confessional.” Too many Pastors, it appears to me, think they are clever enough to recreate the Confessions directly from Scripture – so that whatever they derive directly from Scripture is automatically Confessional. It's becoming apparent to me now, that Rev. Berg was right when he stated on this blog many months ago: “Missouri, for all its problems, at least has a sizeable confessional movement. While Wisconsin has plenty of conservative pastors I could probably count the confessional pastors on two hands. Most of these men have been marginalized or are lying low.”

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Freddy, that's what has concerned me about WELS for quite some time. When I first visited this blog, I was searching for other WELS churches embracing the confessions of the Lutheran church as more than historical documents. I didn't find the results inspiring.

I found Pr. Berg's comment differentiating conservative from confessional to be quite informative. It made me ask if WELS was ever confessional - as defined by what would be commonly accepted in confessional Lutheran circles - and, if so, what happened?

I've come to the conclusion that WELS definition of confessional is quite different. And that is not meant as a judgment. I understand that is the way it is. Kind of Lutheran Lite for better or for worse. Pietism and Reformed theology have and continue to heavily influence Wisconsin's theology. So my concern is what would actually be accomplished by returning WELS to what it was before all of the current mess?

For many of us, the best we can hope for is on the local level with small steps in the direction of embracing the Book of Concord as a faithful exposition of Scripture - and not being afraid to admit that. C&C seems to be a natural result of the influences of pietism, unionism, Wauwatosa and the like. Confessional propositions made on Bailing Water are probably quite alien to many who have grown up WELS.

But knowledge doesn't save. Christ does through faith in Him. We pray for God's mercy and direction. I think this is the way it has always been. Thanks for your posts.


Anonymous said...

Why don't you all "Wake up and smell the coffee?"

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Sorry to walk in late here. I don't stop by as often these days. Now don't all be sad at once. :-) My blogger dashboard just showed a new entry so I just wanted to pop back in and make your day great.

To the post above speaking as to why Lord and Savior did not make it. I can speak to that a little bit. I was a member there as it built the church building and a member of the church council. My middle daughter was baptized there. If it still looks good, I drywalled the basement of the church. If it fell down or my mudding is uneven...I have no idea who did that.

For all intents and purposes L&S would have been a crusader dream church. Totally old school and all they focused on was having church each week. There was some bickering over introducing the new hymnal. Except for VBS and Sunday School there were no other programs being run. The demographics of the congregation was about 50% over 50. 35% were 40-50 and about 15% under 40.

As to why it failed? Well we left for Calvary in Dallas, TX at the end of 1993 so we didn't see it finally fail but the seeds of failure had already been sown before we even joined in 1991.

The church started as a daughter congregation of St. Andrews around 1987 or 1988. There was no WELS presence in Waunakee and anyone who lived there had to drive down to Middleton to go to church. Waunakee as a community was also growing by leaps and bounds as the new hot suburb of Madison. It made sense to try to establish a presence there. As most all Lutheranism in Dane County is ELCA and the worst kind of it to boot, the environment was not that kind to WELS Lutherans. As the AAL agent for both Lutheran churches in Waunakee and for St. Andrews I got to visit with many of the area's Lutherans. I did not get that sense of general conservatism as was mentioned above. More like grown up hippies who traded their VW busses for BMW's and 3 car garages.

Reasons they failed.

#1 They had an attitude of "if we build it they will come" Their whole existance was focused on getting a building not on building a big "C" Church. Once they had the building...what now? The membership was up to about 135 when they built the church and it peaked about there and started to decline after the building was finished.

#2 There was no real outreach or evangelism done. Mailings at Christmas and Easter. An ad in the yellow pages and the Waunakee paper. A VBS in summer and that about covered it. For the most part Waunakee hardly knew the church existed.

#3 Young families drifted away. Some back to St. Andrew for the school and for youth activities and some to the new mission just starting in DeForest, the next town over.

#4 There was a long pastor vacancy just after the building was finished that no doubt stalled forward progress.

#5 There was in-fighting and bickering over the direction of the church. Not that any particular argument was a better or worse way to go...the problem was that people had their own agenda and own direction and they were not all going the same direction. I guess thats just lack of unity or to use words you might not understand it lacked a "Vision" or "Mission"

Basically L&S is a great case study in how you can't just plop a church in a community and not "do" things. You need to have a common goal/vision/mission. Everyone needs to be engaged in outreach and evangelism. Buildings can be the undoing of a mission church. A church will not grow if it is not actively engaged in its mission. Even if your goal is not growth at all. You still need to pursue a common mission and I would think that mission is always to minister the flock and reach out to the lost.


Anonymous said...

I don't know guys. You walk a tightrope with statements like “The only fair game is that which is Biblical and Confessional.” To me this is equating the Lutheran Confessions with Scripture. You sound like Mormons with their scripture and of the book of mormon.

What I take away from the Confessions is what a sacrament is and how to apply it. Much else regarding worship there is freedom described in the Confessions and ultimately Scripture.


Anonymous said...

Here's another aspect of the discussion that I rarely see raised. When people talk about how contemporary services are more "engaging" than liturgical ones, I would argue that the problem is not the liturgy, but the liturgy done poorly. I have been in many WELS churches where the pastor mumbles through it as though what were going on were NOT special... was NOT opening the gates of heaven. I've been in churches where the Gloria, a joyful hymn given to us by the angels, was sung at the tempo of a funeral dirge.

To say that because the Western Rite shares the Word of God, then whether or not it is done well makes no difference, is to overstate the Scripture. Yes, the Word is how the Spirit works. But if I am a pastor (or a congregation) and my efforts to use the Word are so half-hearted, then I'm not sure why I would expect the Spirit to bless my efforts. To state it more succinctly, if the Western Rite is done badly, when it could be done well, why WOULD God bless it? The pastor and congregtion's half-hearted worship means they are luke-warm towards the Gospel that worship proclaims. Therefore, while confessional, their worship is an affront to him, as Jesus' words to to the church at Laodicea makes clear.

Therefore, I'd like to see more WELS congregations doing what I know some are - looking at how they utilize the Western Rite. Where does the chant from TLH come from? It's it like 18th century Scotland? I honestly don't know. But I can't imagine that 18th century Scotland was a bastion of confessional Lutheranism. Therefore, let's not be too emotionally attached to the chant. Perhaps there's a better musical vehicle in which to couch the Gloria, Agnus Dei, Sanctus, etc. That's VERY Lutheran - keeping the text, but updating the melody - as the vast number of hymns in the "Hymns of the Liturgy" section demonstrate.

To sum up, what I'd like to see is the Gloria sung in all our churches, but a version which might be a better vehicle than page 15 of TLH or page 16 in CW. Same with all five canticles of the Western Rite. I'd like to see them done in a style that - yes - enthuses people. No, I am not an enthusiast. I'm a musician, who finds bad, tired singing a stumbling block when trying to worship.

Maybe, if the Western Rite were done well, there wouldn't be such a rush to contemporary services. (Although, I think the "rush" is sometimes exaggerated. The VAST majority of WELS churches still use VERY traditional worship, in my experience.

Just my two cents.


Anonymous said...

"To me this is equating the Lutheran Confessions with Scripture. You sound like Mormons with their scripture and of the book of mormon."

Well, perhaps you ought to warn your pastor that he's a Mormon then. At his ordination, he vowed to uphold both Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions. I can tell, however, from your comments that your pastor broke his ordination vows long ago.

Anonymous said...

"What I take away from the Confessions is what a sacrament is and how to apply it." - JK

It seems like quite a waste of paper and time if that's all they wanted to write about. But, I think, JK speaks to my point of how the Lutheran Confessions generally are used in the WELS. And again, I don't say that as a condemnation, but more of an assessment of the confessional state of the synod. I know there are pockets within Wisconsin who embrace the Book of Concord as "a declaration of our faith, doctrine and confession." But there exists a general disregard of their perpetual value or possibly a fear of them as opposed to their intended purpose of being "a public witness and testimony of what the Bible teaches."


Freddy Finkelstein said...

"To me this is equating the Lutheran Confessions with Scripture. You sound like Mormons with their scripture and of the book of mormon."

I'll sound off on this, as well. This line of thinking has been addressed on this blog many times before, by myself and others. I'll quote a more recent statement: "I'll respond very simply by suggesting that you investigate a little more fully the reason for having Confessions. The simple explanation, given over and over by WELS and other Confessional Lutherans is enough to address this: To establish and maintain Fellowship, it is not sufficient to say, 'I believe everything the Bible says,' because such a statement fails to answer the very next question, 'What do you say the Bible says?' Confessions answer this question for us. In appealing to the Confessions, we are appealing to what we say the Bible says. In this regard, our Confessions are definitive -- even more so given that our agreement to the Lutheran Confessions is not just rhetorical, but carries with it the force of conscience, as we agree to our Confessions, not rhetorically, but as a matter of Christian Conscience, and as we carry out our Confessions in Practice. Read Ch. V of Krauth's Conservative Reformation on this specifically, and Preus' Fire and the Staff to see generally the importance and outworking of Confessions in our practice. And so it follows, being Confessionally literate is vitally important to maintaining Fellowship."

When true Lutherans subscribe to the Confessions, they do so unconditionally because it is necessary to clearly and unanimously set forth what they are convinced as a matter of conscience the Scriptures teach, to give a clear testimony of the Truth on disputed points and give a firm testimony against error, to be clearly distinguished and separate from the heterodox (who may also claim to meticulously follow Scripture), and, in full confidence, to enjoy unity under common confession. Any qualification in one's subscription vacates his confessional subscription entirely, leaving unclear what the Confessions set forth with all clarity.

Read the introduction to the Formula of Concord (Epitome), which states, in part: “We believe, teach, and confess that the only rule and norm according to which all teachings, together with all teachers, should be evaluated and judged are the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures of the Old and New Testament alone. ...Other writings should not be received in any other way or as anything more than witnesses that show how this pure doctrine of the prophets and apostles was preserved after the time of the apostles, and at what places. Right after the time of the apostles, and even while they were still living, false teachers and heretics arose. Therefore, symbols were written against the heretics in the Early Church [Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian Creeds]. These symbols were regarded as the unanimous, universal Christian faith and confession of the orthodox and true Church. ...We pledge ourselves to these symbols, and in this way we reject all heresies and teachings that have been introduced into God's Church against them. However, schisms in matters of faith have also happened in our time. Therefore, we regard as the unanimous consensus and declaration of our Christian faith and confession ...the first, unaltered Augsburg Confession. ...[A]ll teachings are to be conformed in this way. What is contrary to these confessions is to be rejected and condemned, as opposed to the unanimous declaration of our faith...” (quoted from my Reader's Edition).

Thus, the Book of Concord is as inviolable as its source (the Scriptures), and the various confessional writings it contains (AC, AP, SA I-III, TR, SC, LC, EP, SD, etc.) are equivalent in status and authority to the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. Both Scripture and the Confessions are normative, the Scriptures primarily, the Confessions secondarily. For a Lutheran to pit the Confessions against Scripture, far from elevating the Scriptures, is to rob them both of their authority – is to say that the Scriptures are wrong.

While it is useful to discuss what the Confessions may or may not say, it is entirely divisive to hold the Lutheran Confessions in such contempt as to compare them to the Book of Mormon.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Freddy is dead on with is description of the confessions. They are normative. They dictate not just doctrine, but practice, to the degree that God prescribes practice.

For example, when the confessions speak of us using the Lord's Supper, we are bound to do so, not primarily because we took a vow to uphold the confessions, but because Scripture tells us to do the same. To have a church without the Lord's Supper would make no sense, primarily because Scripture teaches it is a means of grace, secondarily because the confessions teach the same.

A word of caution. I do sometimes feel that some abuse the confessions by writing more into it than they intended to say, or by taking certain applicational aspects of it, and upholding them as principles. We do not ask women to cover their heads, even if the Apostle Paul does (1 cor 11). Why? Because we distinguish between the principle (gender roles) and the application (head covering). The first is timeless and unchangable. The second may change as time goes by.

I have read in some Lutheran blogs that if a church were to use contemporary music, it could not be considered confessional. That is nonsense! It is writing more into the confessions than what is actually there. If along with the contemporary music, the church would toss out the sacraments, then it ceases to be confessional. If the contemporary music was instituted, not after discussion and study, but by the whim of the pastor who fancies himself the bishop of the worship service, that would not be confessional either. But to simply use contemporary music - perhaps even keeping the historic canticles of the Western Rite - has no bearing on whether one is confessional or not.

This is just a word of encouragement to be cautious before we accuse one of not being confessional. You might prove you don't really know what that word "confessional" means.


Freddy Finkelstein said...


You state: “...if a church were to use contemporary music, it could not be considered confessional. That is nonsense! It is writing more into the confessions than what is actually there. If along with the contemporary music, the church would toss out the sacraments, then it ceases to be confessional.”

No, it isn't nonsense. Several aspects of this have been covered here on this blog already. A good place to start, I think, is my response to Ben, here. It is a good summary, I think, with lots of links to other relevant blog entries. In addition, Rev. Tomczak and I had a delightful reparté just before Christmas which you may find interesting, as well -- here. Nevertheless, I will cover a few points worth considering, directly.

One, Contemporary Worship, by its nature, is unavoidably anthropocentric. This has been addressed at length on this blog (read my response to Tim, here, for example). Whether instituted after great discussion, at the behest of an overbearing pastor, or at the insistence of zealous laymen, the anthropocentric nature of Contemporary forms militate against and work to overthrow whatever christocentric vestiges remain after their shortsighted dabbling with the Western Rite and with carefully researched orthodox hymnody.

Two, Contemporary Worship was invented by the heterodox to serve their damnable heresies. It does not serve our doctrine at all (for details, read by response to ELSer, here). Practice teaches. This is Lex orandi, lex credendi in action. Further, this is a principle admitted by the confessors when they insisted that the Rites are necessary to teach people what they believe (AC XXIV). And so, we must be diligent to maintain Church practices, especially worship practices, which teach our doctrine correctly. On the other hand, practices which teach falsely, or which by their use would otherwise serve to associate us with the heterodox, are not adiaphora, but are to be avoided as prohibited by God (SD X). Immersion, for example, falls into this category. Contemporary Worship most definitely falls in this category, as well.

Three, Contemporary Worship makes a joke out of our Confessional claims to catholicity (AC XV, XXII, XXIV, XXVIII, etc.). Such forms are not catholic, did not originate among those who claim or aspire to any kind of catholicity, but are bald sectarian forms that boast of their anti-catholic sentiment (read here and here).

On the contrary, it is not nonsense, nor is it reading more into the Confessions than what they actually say, to recognize that Contemporary Worship is not Confessional. It is, however, naïve and incomplete to suggest that the only function the Confessions serve with reference to Contemporary Worship is simply to remind us to preserve the Sacraments and keep them central. The Confessions say much more than this.

Freddy Finkelstein

Freddy Finkelstein said...


You state on 1/16, “I would argue that the problem is not the liturgy, but the liturgy done poorly. ...Maybe, if the Western Rite were done well, there wouldn't be such a rush to contemporary services.”

Speaking purely in human terms, I agree that there seems to be a superabundance of, well, mediocrity in our worship. I see it when I travel, and it distresses me, as well. However, having spent nearly thirty years as a pop-church Evangelical and about three years as a praise-band guitarist, I can tell you for a fact that Contemporary Worship is no panacea – they struggle with the same problem. And what is that problem? Our own sin and weakness of faith.

Many Lutheran congregations in the 70's and 80's left behind their catholic and Confessional heritage, thinking that the “more engaging” music and worship forms of the sectarians would better serve the interests of faith, by removing the “stumbling block” of forms that “fail to enthuse” (as you seem to put it). A disturbing percentage of these congregations (by my estimation) eventually left behind the Lutheran Confession entirely, failing to cure their sin and faith problems with the sectarian worship forms they imported from the heterodox, but having been taught by these forms, and the passions they engender, to trust their own acts of worship as Means through which with Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith. This is lex orandi, lex credendi in action. Under the guidance of then popular Lutheran leaders, like Larry Christiansen (a household name as I was growing up), the teaching of the Means of Grace was mutilated, most notably forcing a distinction between water Baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, in order to justify Worship as a Means of Grace, or specifically, a Means through which the Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith. I know the process. As a young boy, my family was member of an ELC congregation, which, after adopting mild contemporary reforms, grew from ~200 communicant members to ~3000 over the course of about five years. Growth under these circumstances made them confident in error. “Mild” swiftly became extreme, not only regarding practice (which came first), but regarding doctrine, as well. They rejected the use Luther's catechism as archaic and incomplete, and wrote their own materials, where, in order to protect worship as a Means of Grace, I was taught that Infant Baptism was some sort of “salvation by proxy” of the faith of the sponsors. Of course, use of the so-called charismata was embraced and encouraged. There were many other disturbing aberrations and “dabblings,” which are not worth getting into here. Needless to say, this congregation officially left Lutheranism when facing the amalgamation of the ELCA (my family had left long before this).

So, what is the solution to sin? You know it – faith in Christ, and His completed work on behalf of all sinners. What is the solution to weakness of faith? You know that, too – the Holy Spirit, and his work through the true Means of Grace. Sectarian worship forms that take the focus off of Christ and shift it to the man in the pew, that exchange our catholic and christocentric forms for unavoidably anthropocentric forms, are nothing other than forms of robbery in which the Thief delights. Christ is diminished and one of man's three great opponents rushes into the void – the lusts of his own flesh. Sectarian worship forms that themselves beguile the worshiper over time into a pursuit of pleasure, that by repeated experience displaces the true Means and supplants them with a counterfeit, are themselves forms of deceit spawned by the Father of Lies calculated to defraud us of our faith. Indeed, the Devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We must be vigilant. Contemporary Worship is no friend of the Church. Although it may seem to for a time (and this is the danger of applying visible measures, like statistical trends, as measures of faith), it does not strengthen faith. Instead, it excites human passions in ways that mimic the fruits of faith, while in fact starving faith until nothing is left but striving works.

So, assuming that proper Gospel motivation is behind a desire to pursue excellence in worship, rather than to live with mediocrity, are there practical things that a congregation can do to “do the liturgy and traditional hymnody richly” rather than “poorly?” I think that there are.

Whenever instrumentation in the Divine Service draws attention to itself, it distracts the worshiper from his confession and from focus on Christ. Worship accompaniment is nothing other than a companion to the worship of Christians in the assembly. It melts in with the voices of the congregation, and serves only to assist in guiding the melody – much like the individual two pews over who sings a little louder than everyone else. Worship accompanists are nothing other than co-worshipers. That is what makes the organ so perfect as a worship instrument. Despite it's kingly size and wide range, it is almost invisible to the worshiper – it fills the chamber so completely that it has no location, and coexists in unity with the single voice of the congregation. Rock 'n Roll “praise bands,” with their stage antics and entertainment presence, by their nature draw attention to themselves. Likewise do self-absorbed vocalists (men or women designated as so-called “Worship Ministers”), who launch into their own impromptu monologues and prayers in Representational capacity during the worship they are designated to “lead” (and, yes, I know for a fact that this happens in WELS congregations – I've seen it on St. Mark Depere's website, and my own Pastor has indicated to me how upset he has been with a local WELS congregation which has embraced Contemporary Worship, where he has witnessed one of the female “worship ministers” preach her own exhortational mini-sermon, in front of the congregation, during the course of worship!). As distracting as this is, a poorly maintained organ, wheezing, anemic, and out of tune, is offensive to the ears. A poorly trained organist is worse. They draw attention to themselves and away from focus on Christ for negative reasons, and create aversion for the Divine Service itself. Organs, as a simple matter of stewardship, need to be maintained, and ought to be replaced when their service life is ended. Organists ought to be encouraged to continue their training, and I would think that continuing lessons ought to gladly be sponsored by the congregation.

Pastor's Role as Liturgist
Pastors, one would think, would be so full of faith that, in their role as liturgists, they couldn't fail to make obvious the significance of their Representation, and of the congregation's corporate Confession, through appropriate tonal inflection. Sadly, I've heard far too many drones to make this assumption. Pastors ought to make it a practice to examine how they express themselves in public, and make conscious effort to complement their words with congruent inflection.

Catechesis of the Worshiper
Again, assuming that worshipers are genuinely looking to their faith, and, motivated by the Gospel, genuinely aspire to excellence as they offer praise, thanks, and adoration to God, are there practical measures that a congregation can take to assist them to this end as they seek to do so within the context of the Western Rite and traditional hymnody and instrumentation? Yes, I think so. And I think the answer is catechesis.

I mentioned in a previous entry, above, that worshipers ought to be taught to think the words they recite and sing, to take ownership of those words as their own thoughts, and give them their due expression. They need to come to understand the gravity of the words they use, and the reason they are recited together.

Worshipers also need to be taught the meaning of what they are doing, and what the pastor is doing, as they are carried together by the liturgy through the Divine Service. Which parts of the service are Sacramental? Which parts are Sacrificial? When do the Sacramental and Sacrificial parts of the service take place, and where do they take place? When and how is the Pastor acting Representationally, and who is he representing at various points in the service? When is the Pastor to be absent from the Chancel and why?

Worshipers need to be taught the meaning of what they see. The appointments in the Nave and Chancel are liturgical devices, which communicate in the symbolical language of ecclesiastical art. For those blessed with stained glass, these works of art often speak for themselves. But what of altars, triptychs, lecterns and pulpits, fonts, vestments in their variety, paraments, crosses and crucifixes, candelabras, and various vessels of the Eucharist? What do they mean and why are they placed where they are? Why is the pulpit and lectern positioned off to the side? Baptist and Evangelical churches have a single “lectern/pulpit” mounted in the center. Baptist churches generally don't have an altar. Why the difference? The language of these symbols needs to be taught if they are to be used beneficially.

Of course, the most prominent of liturgical devices is the architecture of the church building itself! The neo-gothic architecture is the product of centuries of experimentation, to perfect the functioning of the building with respect the Western Rite. Why is there a bell tower? Why is there a cross mounted on top? Baptist churches don't have crosses, they have spires. Why the difference? Why is the Nave and the Chancel separated? Why are the Sacristies located where they are? Why is the organ and choir located in the rear? Baptist and Reformed churches have the organ and choir mounted in the front? Why the difference? (Related to these questions, unfortunately, is the painful topic of the utter tragedy of modern church architecture...).

The answer to all of these questions is, doctrine -- which emphasizes the importance of teaching pure doctrine through our practice. One of the best books I have ever read on these topics is an old book, by Dr. P.E. Kretzmann, Christian Art, In the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship. In addition to these questions, it also covers the history of the liturgy, hymnology, heartology, and the content of Lutheran liturgy. Published in 1921, it is only available used, now. It would be of great service to American Lutheranism if NPH or CPH would reprint it.

My Further Thoughts,

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Christian Art, In the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship

Thanks for the reference. I went to check it out and found out that the book is actually scanned and available for free online here and here, thanks to being out of copyright.

Anonymous said...

Edifying as usual, Freddy. Thank you. I think one factor which has influenced Lutheranism today is the American Evangelical idea of the focus being on one's "personal faith." I bet you might know the origins of how the catholic faith was basically rejected for today's buffet style, inwardly-turned variety. It would seem this explains why the traditional liturgy isn't sufficient for many today because it doesn't satisfy personal appetite - and proper catechesis is certainly lacking.

I understand faith is "personal" and that you can't be saved just by the church you attend. But isn't faith believing the true, catholic faith of salvation through Christ alone? The rejection of the true faith, as written in Scripture and helpfully explained by Lutheran Symbols, is often fatally replaced by the modern, subjective view.

I don't know if this makes any sense, but I'd be interested to hear more about this development. It seems to be the enthusiasts response to "dead orthodoxy" and possibly at the root of the heresy. Proper catechesis would be wonderful. You may have already addressed this and my feeble mind has forgotten.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Freddy.

In reading your responses, I think you and I would be very close in our understanding of what it means for worship to be confessional. I also reviewed the links to previous discussions. I had read those previously. I've been enjoying following this blog. It discusses important issues in a spirit (normally) of genuine love and concern.

I think part of the dilemma is the definition of "contemporary." There is such a varied understanding on that word. There are those who would say that "contemporary" worship is anything that isn't found in TLH. (That is somewhat of a caricature, but there's always a degree of truth in caricature.) There are those who would say contemporary means praise bands at the front of church with drums and electric guitars. It's a hard word to pin down.

What I was suggesting with the liturgy was the use of services such as Christian Worship, Alternate Settings. It could be done in organ. It could be done in piano. But in making use of a melody that is more "contemporary" (in the sense of familiar to people of this era), it might be a better vehicle for the historic texts than 18th century Anglican chant.

One example. When my church started using CW Alternate Settings, I noticed something. My children sang historic canticles at home. I would hear them singing the Gloria while playing. They really like the Te Deum from the Alternate Settings for Matins. They (ages 3 and 5)didn't sing those when we used the normal Common Service settings, involving chant. You mention the problem is sin. That is always true. But I don't know that my 3 year old's had a sinful distain for Anglican Chant. I think he just didn't relate to it well. But now, in a different setting, he sings the song of the angels. Recently, he had playdate and was singing the Gloria(he loves to sing) and the friend asked him where the song was from. He told him: "The angels sang this when Jesus was born." (We try and educate our kids to the liturgy. I think if there was more education about the Western Rite, there would be less of a move to toss it aside.) Might he have eventually learned to sing the Gloria to himself in Anglican chant? Perhaps. But the point is, he's doing it NOW. (And to be honest, I find myself humming it. Can't say I did that with the chant. Is the problem sinful apathy? I'm sure that's part of it. But I also think the problem was a musical vehicle that didn't serve today's ear as well as a different setting does.)

The comment about the organ being an ideal instrument for worship. I think I'd agree. However, if one were to then question the confessionalism of any church which didn't use the organ exclusively (and while I don't think you'd do that, Freddy, let's be honest, some would) THAT would be the example of writing more into the confessions than what they actually say. To say that if you use a piano on occasion (or even a guitar) your worship is anthropocentric and you are going down the road to reformed theology... nonsense! Care must ALWAYS be exercised. In a church where ONLY the organ is used, members must constantly "test the spirits." But if members are doing that, then to say that using CW Alternate Settings, with piano and flute, will lead to a loss of confessionalism... again, nonesense.

You've suggested some great reading. I actually ordered a book from Amazon. Thank you for that. Curious. Has the paper "The Rite Worship for North American Outreach" by Pastor Jonathan Schroeder. I think it's excellent. And it addresses this issue of what really is "contemporary" well. I think you can find it here if you cut and paste the link.


Thanks for the discussion!

Anonymous said...

Freddy said:

"Under the guidance of then popular Lutheran leaders, like Larry Christiansen (a household name as I was growing up), the teaching of the Means of Grace was mutilated, most notably forcing a distinction between water Baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, in order to justify Worship as a Means of Grace, or specifically, a Means through which the Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith."

I'm alarmed by this statemnt.

Are you saying there is no distinction? Are you saying if a person comes to faith on a Wednesday and plans to be in church on Sunday for his baptism and he is killed in a car wreck on Friday he is SOL?


Freddy Finkelstein said...


I'm not sure how you draw your conclusion. The false teaching I highlight here (which you should indeed find alarming!), is a distinction between water baptism and the Holy Spirit's baptism. For the act of Worship to become a Means of Grace, the experience derived from Contemporary Worship must be attributed to the Holy Spirit's working. The only possibility of supporting such a notion from Scripture is to draw from anecdotal sections of the Bible -- namely the book of Acts -- describing experiences of Christians in the Apostolic Church as "Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

If these experiences (reception of the charismata) are the Holy Spirit's Baptism, water Baptism either ceases to be a Means through which the Holy Spirit works, or is shunted off as merely a preliminary means -- a classic consequence of elevating Sanctification over Justification, where Sanctification becomes "How I stand to gain by my striving for God" (a real danger that comes with the introduction of anthropocentric Contemporary Worship forms). In my case, above, in order to remain "Lutheran," this congregation was required to maintain that Baptism saves. Yet they rejected Baptism as a Means of Grace entirely. So Baptism became a "salvation by proxy," similar to the teaching of the Anglicans and Calvinists. I was taught that Baptism was a Rite in which my Christian parents and Sponsors agreed before God to carry the consequence of my sins (which was satisfied by Christ through their faith) until the time that I was Confirmed, and was, in the eyes of the congregation, competent to make public confession of my own faith. Still alarmed? You should be. Thank God I finally met a true Lutheran -- as a Graduate Student in college (yes, I was a grown adult who should have known better!) -- who had the guts to laugh in my face when I told him what I thought Baptism was all about.

Freddy Finkelstein

Freddy Finkelstein said...


In the past, I've done some journaling, and have touched on some of the points you just raised. I spent a few minutes here this morning and gathered them into a single post. Hopefully, they supply some fuel for discussion.

The Bible makes abundantly clear, that worship is a sacrifice offered to God by His priests: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5), “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9), “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name” (Heb 13:15).

As priests in the Order of the Universal Priesthood of All Believers, this is what we do -- we offer to God from hearts full of Joy and Gratitude. That is, we don’t worship with a mind toward what we want to receive, but with a mind filled with why we are compelled to offer – with a mind and heart filled with Gospel Joy. Worshipers are not investors, calculating how they (or God!) stand to gain by their own act; worshipers are those who are already bubbling over with such Joy and Gratitude that they cannot help but offer it.

This brings up a second point of response to those who insist on Contemporary Worship forms. Most seem to define and work with the topic of Worship as if it were something that is done by a Christian for an hour, one morning per week. Yet, this concept of Sunday Morning Worshiper isn’t biblical. The fact is, worship is something that the Christian does every breathing moment – our sacrifice of praise is something we offer continually. Indeed, the life of the Christian is a life of worship – it is a reflection of his Sanctification (“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” [Rom 12:1].)

Because worship is a reflection of one’s Sanctification, therefore, it will be engaged and expressed from person to person with various levels of zeal and commitment. This is because Christians are also sinners. To require minimum levels of zeal in worship that rise to the level of continuous joy, or of continuously honoring God as a priceless treasure, and further, to make such levels of zeal a requirement of his salvation, rather than observe it as its product, is to belittle the impact of Original Sin, to rob Christ of the glory that is due Him for His completed work of redemption on our behalf, and to assign some of His glory to man for his cooperating efforts.

Let’s be clear on this last point, however. The Joy and Gratitude that uncontrollably bubbles out of a Christian in his life of Sanctification, his life of worship, should indeed rise to a level valuing his salvation in Christ as a priceless treasure. The Law informs us of this. Only because we are wretched sinners are we prevented from truly regarding our salvation as such. God have mercy on us! For this reason, we run to the arms of a gracious Saviour for forgiveness, and redouble our commitment to seek Him where He is to be found, in the Biblical Means of Grace: Word and Sacrament. But rest assured, Christ is still ours, and we are His, as long as we are able to confess faith in His objective promises.

If worship is the life of a Christian, then what happens on Sunday morning? This brings up the final point on which I wish to comment. Because worship is the life of the Christian, the fixation of Contemporary advocates on the Sunday morning experience is really out of place. For this reason, Lutherans don’t speak of a “Worship Service,” instead, they speak of the Divine Service. In the Divine Service, the Christian both offers and receives. Such offering and receiving are referred to as the Sacrificial and the Sacramental parts of the Divine Service. In the former, Christian priests offer praise, thanksgiving, and adoration, and in prayer, they also offer petition and intercession; in the latter, they receive of the blessings of Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit in the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The worshiper's act of worship is an offering of sacrifice, and so falls within this Sacrificial part.

The Divine Service is a corporate event. Therefore, so is the Sacrificial part of the Divine Service. So, while the nature of worship is an individual offering, corporate worship on Sunday morning is a unique event in the life of the Christian, not because it is worship, and not because it is worship on Sunday, but because it is worship that takes place in concert with one’s fellows in Christ. Remember, the Christian worships the whole week through, so Sunday morning is a time set apart, when he worships in unity with those he is in fellowship with. Thus the emphasis in Sunday morning worship is UNITY, not individualism. And so, the Divine Service, especially the Sacrificial part of the Divine Service, follows a liturgy that all worshipers engage in unison, that at the same time is executed in a way that does not interfere with the genuine expression of individuals who are deliberately and thoughtfully engaged with it. Further, among congregations who enjoy agreement in all matters of doctrine and practice, common liturgies are selected, published, and used in such coordination that sister congregations can be said to celebrate their unity with other Christians in the greater fellowship of their church body. Again, one of the main emphases on Sunday morning is a celebration of UNITY, not only locally in the congregation, but in a broader sense as well, among all of those who share their Christian confession in full agreement, and a common liturgy is the vehicle through which this unity is expressed and celebrated. Indeed, it is his catholic declaration of unity with the entire Church Universal.

Thus the Christian is aided in his worship by the liturgy throughout the Sacrificial part of the Divine Service, in unity with his fellow believers, perpetually in view of and in response to God’s service to him through His Means of Grace. It is all about what God has done and does do for the worshiper, not about what the worshiper does for God by supposedly “fulfilling God’s glory through his pining and striving for happiness in Him.”

So the question is, “How is liturgical worship not merely the performance of empty ritual?” This is the chief criticism brought against liturgical worship and traditional hymnody by those who endorse Contemporary Worship. John Piper refers to it as “the empty performance of ritual,” “the grinding out of doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts,” “misguided virtue, smother[ing] the spirit of worship.” Because “the nature of worship is an individual offering of sacrifice,” however, the answer lies within the individual worshiper, not the liturgy itself.

First, does the worshiper come to the Divine Service with a heart bubbling over with Joy and Gratitude toward God? If not, then his sacrifice of worship is probably dead ritual (be aware, this can be said of any worshiper in any order of service: if I worship not from a heart that can’t help but offer to God, but with a needy heart that yearns for satisfaction, that only wants and expects spiritual gratification from the act, then my worship is still dead ritual). Second, does the worshiper make the words of the liturgy his own? That is, as he recites the Confession of Sin, or confesses his faith in the Apostle’s or the Nicene Creeds, does he make the words his own? Does he think, “These are my words, I believe this, I think this way, I feel this way?” As the worshiper sings “A Mighty Fortress”, “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less”, “I Know that My Redeemer Lives”, “Thy Strong Word”, or any number of doctrinally accurate hymns, is he also thinking to himself “These are my words, I think this way, I feel this way, I want God to hear my confession, I want everyone to hear me!”? If not, then his worship is probably dead ritual. But this is not the fault of the liturgy, this is the fault of the sinful and inattentive worshiper.

Further, the musical accompaniment in the Sacrificial part of the Divine Service, while of indispensable aid in complementing the corporate confession of the singing worshiper, does not (and should not) presume to stand in the way of his connection with that confession. If accompaniment becomes a distraction, either because it is (consistently) poorly executed, or because it otherwise becomes the center of attention, the worshiper may well cease to worship and instead begin to focus on his likes and dislikes relative to his musical tastes and to rely on the accompaniment as a crutch for his sinful lack of Joy and Gratitude. A good test is this: if a worshiper does not think and feel the same way while merely reciting hymns as he does singing the hymns with full accompaniment, then a preoccupation with accompaniment may well have become such a crutch for the individual worshiper. He is not coming to worship with a heart full of Joy or Gratitude, but depends on other external stimuli to simulate these responses in him. Again, this is not the fault of the liturgy, it is the fault of the sinful worshiper, who presumes to worship God from some motivation other than his Joy and Gratitude for what Christ as done for him.

Thus, desiring to receive joy from the act worship, instead of worshiping from a heart already overflowing with Joy and Gratitude for what Christ has done for oneself, as well as for all of mankind, is a sinful motivation from which to approach worship, and is certainly not a valid reason for rejecting traditional hymnody or liturgical orders of the Sunday morning Divine Service. While Piper states, “worship is authentic when affections for God arise in the heart as an end in themselves,” he errs when he makes man’s affections the object of the Christian’s striving in worship. The foundation of the Divine Service understands “affections for God” as the source of the Christian’s worship, not the object; and this fact removes the need of the Sunday morning service to carry the worshiper through a cycle of emotions that climax in pure, “God centered pleasure,” or to otherwise act as a catalyst to bring about this result. Such emotions are worked in the heart of man by the Holy Spirit, through the Gospel. They precede and motivate his desire to continuously worship, they are not a narcotic that desperately draws him into weekly worship, and they are not a burden of Law that drives a Christian to strive and achieve. The source of Joy and Gratitude is the Gospel, not the Law, not the service accompaniment; and the catalyst bringing them about is the Holy Spirit, not the “worship leader” or musicians, and not the worshiper himself. Only with a heart full of the Gospel, therefore, and not the Law, is one focused on what God has done for him, and motivated to authentic worship – worship that involuntarily springs from a heart already full of happiness in God.

Anyway, so much for journaling.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Freddy, you didn't answer my question. I get the worship being a means of grace thing. I never have nor never will prescribe to it. Do YOU believe there is a distinction between Baptism with water and Baptism by the Holy Spirit?


Freddy Finkelstein said...

JK -- No, I most certainly do not. There are not multiple Baptisms, only one – the use of water according to the institution of Christ, which, by His authority, is a vehicle for the working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works by Means of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament to produce and strengthen faith, and to teach and remind regarding all that Christ taught. We can point to no other Means through which the Holy Spirit works, nor can we say that he works apart from these Means (or immediately). In the example you cite, a person who receives the Holy Spirit's free gift of Faith by Means of the spoken Word, is saved. Individuals, however, who have supposedly received this Faith, but who refuse Baptism, despise the Holy Spirit and His work, and can only be regarded as outside Faith. In this sense, the Confessions (AC IX), along with Scripture, clearly declare that Baptism is necessary for salvation – not in the absolute sense, but in the ordinary sense. C.P. Krauth has a good section on this, and there are many other good resources on this topic, as well.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Not to answer for Freddy, but there is one baptism (Eph. 4:5) and through it we receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38, Titus 3:5, Jn 3:5). They are one and the same. This is the Lutheran belief.


Anonymous said...

I agree with Freddy when he says that unity of practice is desirable, because it demonstrates the catholicity of the Church. Not just uniform confession/doctrine, but also uniform practice helps mark us as "synod" in the true sense of the word. Using the Western Rite unites us not just with fellow WELSers, but it acknowledges that while we don't have confessional unity / church fellowship with, for example, Catholics, there is an invisible bond of faith, wrought by the Spirit through the Word that the Western Rite proclaims so well.

However, to state that unity of practice would mean identical melodic structure would be to go to far. A study of the churches of Luther's Day indicates that while they generally used the Western Rite, they did NOT use the same tunes Sunday to Sunday. While the Agnus Dei was sung in both Leipzig and Wittenberg, they didn't necessarily use the same tune!

Perhaps I'm reading Freddy wrong, but I find the statement about a good "test" for music being whether one would feel the same reciting the words as singing them. I guess I don't follow that line of logic. As I understand it, and as Luther wrote frequently (although, not in the Confessions, I don't believe) the point of the music isn't just to affect the emotion. (Although, it certainly touches them.) Nor is it just to give glory to God. As Freddy rightly explains, what goes on Sunday morning is primarily directed from heaven downward, not the other way around. But music serves as a vehicle for the liturgy because it makes it so memorably. It allows "the word of Christ to dwell in you richly." I mentioned earlier how my children can sing the Western Rite from memory, something they couldn't do when it was chanted. Music has served the Gospel (and my children) well.

There are always competing applications. The application of not wanting the music to take the spotlight off the Word is a wonderful application. Taken to it's foolish extreme, then all singing should just be banned. Because after all, you should feel the same way about the text whether it is read or sung. But keeping the Word center state (and not the music) is NOT the only application to be concerned with. There is also the concern that the Word might be retained in one's memory, so that, as Freddy rightly says, worship can be something done on more than Sunday morning! To that end, good music is an invaluable aid. And "good" doesn't necessarily mean Luther used it. (Although, something that has survived for five centuries probably has legs!) "Good," I would think," would be that music which allows the believer to remember that which God would have him remember. If that's pipe organ music, so be it. If that's piano music, so be it.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Freddy. Ya had me a little worried for a sec.


Anonymous said...

The latest from President Schroeder...

"One of the most important roles of the COP is to oversee doctrine (what we believe and teach) and practice (what we do in applying our beliefs). When it met, the COP had a lengthy discussion about the importance of retaining our unity in both areas.

Some congregations, in a desire to reach as many people as possible with the gospel, have been considering some new and different approaches and methods, especially in the areas of worship and outreach. Cautions and concerns have been voiced about some of these trends. Expressing the commitment to maintain our synod's faithfulness to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, the COP concluded that "the underpinnings of 'non-traditional' type of worship cannot be ignored" and that we need to be careful to "walk the 'narrow Lutheran road' between legalism—and ignoring and failing to admonish where practices are contrary to or dangerous to the principles of gospel proclamation and the efficacy of the means of grace."

As a result of this concern, the COP resolved that "an ad hoc committee be convened in consultation with the [COP] doctrine committee that can . . . address this issue and produce a study document that can be shared with circuits and also congregations for study and careful evaluation of practices in worship, sacraments, outreach, organization, music selection, etc.""

Thank God for President Schroeder!

Freddy Finkelstein said...


Good posts today, with some points worth responding to. Sorry it has taken me a bit to respond – I've got a day-job, you know... I took a look at J. Schroeder's essay. Fairly decent, even though I disagree with him on some key points, which, I think, are the cause of his rather anemic, “Yes, but...,” support for use of the liturgy. In my opinion, he sets up a narrow opposition between liturgical and contemporary worship, based strictly on the use of texts. Ruling out instrumentation and compositional setting from consideration, he seems to assume that music, apart from texts, is amoral, and in so doing significantly blurs the distinction between Ecclesiastical and Secular forms, between the sacred and the profane. There is a distinction, a rather sharp distinction, between such forms, and in my opinion, we must not only be willing, but should be diligent to recognize the difference – secular and profane amusements have no place in an Ecclesiastical setting, even if one is intent upon dressing them up with sacred texts. Catholicity in worship is, indeed, otherworldly. We should rejoice in this. It is simultaneously an escape from our forced citizenship in the Kingdom of Power, and a declaration of our citizenship in the Kingdom of Grace and of our certain, future citizenship in the Kingdom of Glory, as we in the Church Militant, together with the Church Triumphant, declare the glories of the One True God, and His work on our behalf. It is distinctly Ecclesiastical in form, composition, instrumentation, and text. Our worship, in its catholicity, ought to struggle to differentiate itself from the trivialities of this dying World in all of these aspects. While J. Schroeder defends the liturgy (which I appreciate), he seems to lean heavily on empiricism (“what-works-ism”), and doesn't seem to fully support something distinctly Ecclesiastical. That was 2005, however; maybe he would write it differently, today.

In this respect, I have been occasionally challenged with the notion that “the Church has always freely borrowed from secular music, especially common folk forms, even using common tunes sung in saloons with words celebrating debauchery of various forms.” It has even been said that Luther borrowed from a drinking tune in one of his compositions. I've looked into this, and discovered that there is actually no evidence to support this assertion. An article in the Walther library indicates as follows: "Martin Luther is one of the most misunderstood church fathers with respect to the use of music in the church. Claims that he used tavern tunes for his hymns are used in defense of a music practice that freely accepts worldly associations. Such conclusions bear no resemblance to Luther's writings on the subjects of worship and music. In fact, Luther's actions teach us quite a different lesson. In his search for the right tune for his text Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her ['From Heaven Above to Earth I Come'] , Luther learned about the power of worldly associations. According to the Luther scholar Markus Jenny, Luther's first wedding of this text with a tune was 'a classic example of the failure of a contrafacta.' He set it to a secular dance song that begins, 'I step eagerly to this dance.' The dance and tune were closely associated with a Christmas wreath ceremony that was often held in taverns. Luther found the secular associations to be so strong that he eventually wrote a fresh tune that was free of worldly associations. He then indicated on the manuscript that this new melody was to be used in the Sunday service and with children. Luther's modification of this beloved hymn is indication of his sensitivity to the harmful power of worldly associations in the worship practice of the church."

Prior to becoming Lutherans, my wife and I (prior to our engagement, actually), investigating for ourselves the claims of various Christian groups, spent some time together among the Fundamentalists in the Central Baptist Convention. Themselves using a “traditional hymnody,” they indicated discomfort with accusations indicating that their hymns may have come from spurious secular sources, and may have at one time been associated with “beer drinking” (yup, those Fundamentalists are pretty uptight about this sort of thing...). They had seriously investigated these claims and readily responded that where such claims may seem to be valid, the tunes themselves were not secular folk tunes, but were in fact Church tunes from previous centuries that had become part of popular expression. This begs the question for us today: Who is influencing who? In previous eras, up to fairly recent times even, it has been the Church which has been the dominant influence in society. Western Art itself is a gift of the Church to the World. Popular folk tunes of the past were heavily influenced by Ecclesiastical expression, and the Church's re-use of such tunes is not an importation of secular and profane forms into the Church at all, but a wholesome and catholic continuance of the Church's expression. Today, with respect to Contemporary Worship forms (including their composition and instrumentation) this can hardly be said to be the case. We are allowing purely secular ideas and forms, with purely secular associations, to influence our expression in Ecclesiastical settings. The world is influencing us, rather than the other way around! Especially now, we must be diligent to maintain in our practice the distinction between sacred and profane, and go to pains to uphold distinctly Ecclesiastical forms.

You indicate that you are uncomfortable with the suggestion that certain types of instruments are prohibited, and certain others, required. I think you've noticed from my contributions on BW that I have avoided direct prohibition of, or requirement of, specific instruments, although, I think that a strong case can be made for strongly favoring certain instruments over others, based on their use in popular entertainment genres and based on associations readily drawn from such usages. You will also notice that I have been rather direct in making such cases – and on defensible grounds, I think. There is freedom here, to be sure, but we are called upon to exercise scrupulous care in our freedom – all things may be permissible, but all things are certainly not beneficial. Further, you seem to express concern that only hymns of certain eras are to be permitted, and that nothing new or from non-European sources are permissible as catholic or Confessional expression. I have insisted, and will continue to support the notion, that a catholic hymnody will indeed be dominated by “traditional” compositions, but will also include newer compositions, as well. I will cite myself from this blog in this regard:

“The Lutheran Church -- our Synod in particular -- is a Church united in doctrine and practice. Unity is not a byword with us. Our worship practice, therefore, ought to clearly represent this fact, by our voluntarily avoidance of divergent worship practices and by brotherly submission to one another's approval of our practices. This is accomplished through the publication of our Synod's hymnals, which encourage uniformity in practice, while at the same time respecting adiaphora by providing several liturgical settings and several hundred hymns representing a balanced selection from throughout the church's history. And these hymns/settings were not produced by musically/culturally illiterate pastors or renegade laymen, but by theologians who have devoted their lives to musicology and to providing our Synod with edifying Lutheran worship -- who have been Called by us for this purpose. These men understand our theology, our Confessions, and fully appreciate adiaphora along with it's limitations. Even so, some on the right will criticize their work for being too liberal, those on the left will criticize it for being too conservative. In the main, most will agree that it is suitable, while maintaining preferences for certain hymns and liturgical settings over others. There is sufficient freedom here. More importantly, within this freedom we are still able to express our Unity" (from "CG vs. Contemproary WELS," Here).

“[Regarding what] 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... 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 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” (from "Freddy says," Here).

Thus, I admit change and freedom within the context of catholicity, where freedom exists within the context of distinctly Ecclesiastical expression, and change occurs as the aggregate of Ecclesiastical expression finds inspiration from the best of changing and expanding cultural scope within the Church. But, change will never be of the dramatic sort envisioned by the Contemporary pop-church advocates. Rather, it will occur slowly over time – like changing the temperature of the ocean.

Finally – and I know this is getting long – I'll respond to the concern in your last post, with my “test” for music. My intent was more to test the source of one's motivation for worship, not to test the music itself. Certainly, I don't advocate the elimination of singing or song – such is not even Biblical. However, I think that it is important for worshipers to examine for themselves whether their motivation stands behind and propels their acts of worship, or whether it stands before and draws them into their acts of worship. That is to ask, Is their motivation supplied by the Gospel, or the prospect of gratification in the music? We always want to assume and admit the former, but I know for a fact, that, in Contemporary settings, the latter is usually the case. Again, the endorsement of entertainment-grade anthropocentric worship forms requires us to ask this question, and to actively make measure according to it. Brotherly assumptions necessarily abate under such circumstances.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...


Had you been alive when the decision was made to bring the organ (which you have said lends itself so well to worship) into the worship setting, your opinion as layed out in the first part of that last post, you would have had to been against the organ. I have been to churches with massive organs churning out music so loud it would drown out most WELS praise bands. Rev. Charles Bunow (sp?) who tours WELS churches as an accomplished organist and leads worship frequently is one who can get the most out of an organ. I have never heard anyone complain about him. BTW, I had the honor and privilege to play with him once on trumpet; just so you know I am not all about the rock.


Benjamin Tomczak said...

Fun discussion. There is much here to chew upon, to ponder, to think about more. One might almost say, to read, learn, and inwardly digest.

I haven't seen the citations, so, just in case someone needs them, a couple of valuable places to go in the Confessions on this discussion is to Luther's discussion of the Third Commandment in the Large Catechism and Article X of the Formula of Concord (which I think I saw cited somewhere up above).

You can find the entire Book of Concord online, for free (along with quite a few contextual resources) at www.bookofconcord.org.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Freddy Finkelstein said...


Interestingly, the organ, even up to the time of Bach, wasn't really used during congregational singing. It was used to help the congregation find its pitch, and then the congregation would sing acapella. There was opposition to its introduction, and its use was restricted as the Church experimented -- over centuries -- with organ design and with its proper role. Artistic playing was frowned upon. Anything that elevated the music or instrumentation was viewed skeptically, especially if it threatened to distract the congregation from Christ and the Means of Grace. It's interesting that it wasn't until after Pietism had eviscerated the Church and had begun to dominate her culture, that we find comparatively eager permissivity regarding Church music. The contributions of Enlightenment Rationalism, following swift on the heels of German Pietism, didn't help either, I'm sure (the Classic and Romantic periods following the Enlightenment). We have much to learn from the well-rooted caution of our predecessors. Read the final chapter of Kretzmann's work, above, for more details.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

My emotion always comes from the Gospel and the work of the cross. I don't know anyone in my circle who doesn't feel the same way. Even though some of those songs may have been written with seeker service intent, my perspective doesn't change. I can still be edified by a well crafted song no matter what style. (We use Beethoven's Ode to Joy for the melody of some of our hymns. As many times as I have heard that symphony, it still moves me emotionally.) And we are extremely selective of the songs we play. There are songs that just won't do. Period.

I have to ask you though; does an unbeliever know the difference?

There is a saying. Unbelievers come for the wrong reasons, but end up staying for the right reasons. What do you think about that statement?


Anonymous said...

Bring the sports bar to church, and I will drink to it.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Bring the sports bar to church, and I will drink to it.

Hey if they get saved, who cares how, when and where?

Ben said...

Hi Freddy,

Could you explain how music in and of itself, without words, can be considered profane? Thanks!


Benjamin Tomczak said...

I don't presume to answer for Freddy, but context (as Freddy pointed out above) makes the difference.

Imagine sitting in church, preparing for the first hymn, you've read the lessons, seen which order of service is called for, prepared for Holy Communion, the bells have rung, and then...


Profane? I think so. Because it has been contextualized as the cliched theme of pornography. No words are necessary. Rightly, any organist who introduced a hymn that way, or ushered the congregation out with that tune would find themselves quickly without a bench to sit on. It would be a sick, blasphemous, offensive, anti-Christian performance.

Because nothing exists in a vacuum, it's hard to speak in purely idealistic terms. Ideally, no music, on its own, existing in a vacuum, I suppose (or would hope) would, in and of itself, be offensive. But this just isn't the case. Certain sounds, certain instruments, certain chords, certain melodies evoke responses and associations, and it just can't be helped. And when these associations dim the focus from Christ, or take it off of Him completely, then we either have some serious teaching to do if we're going to try to salvage the form because it has value, or we get rid of it, because it doesn't.

I don't know enough about music theory to speak too much more intelligently to this point. I've read and heard a little about the theory of sentics (the LC-MS worship handbook, "Lutheran Worship and Practice," spends a brief moment on it). It argues that there are two basic types of music -- music that focuses on emotions and response and feelings and music that focuses the attention on the text.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Well there have been a couple good questions, here, today. It's a little late, tonight, but I'll respond the best that I can.

JK asks: “I have to ask you though; does an unbeliever know the difference? There is a saying. Unbelievers come for the wrong reasons, but end up staying for the right reasons. What do you think about that statement?”

I'll answer these questions by addressing the premise: The purpose of the Divine Service is not evangelism. Therefore, the questions, as they are asked with reference to our worship practice, are irrelevant.

There are a couple of points that are relevant in this respect, however. The first, I have expressed on this blog before, in my recent response to Ben: “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 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, which climax’s as Christ is joined with the believer in a most intimate way in the reception of His Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins. 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. ...[Y]ou, 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 are compelled by the Joyous Gospel to offer, it is not what the unregenerate do or have any basis for doing, nor is it a forum which God has provided for them. We should avoid giving such indications in our worship practice.”

Worship is not evangelism. Apart from joining the Company of Saints through Faith, God gives them no place in the pleasure of worship in His presence, but has reserved a place for them in the fires of hell. Moreover, as a Priestly sacrifice, worship is not a service we render to any man nor is it directed to man. It is directed to God, and to Him alone. When we turn the Divine Service into an outreach event, we jettison sound practice, and grossly miscommunicate the Bible's teaching in many ways.

The second point is similar to the first point. It concerns the character of those gatherings assembled under the misconception of “Divine Service as Outreach or Evangelism.” Such an assembly cannot be considered to be a congregation of believers united in full agreement regarding all matters of doctrine and practice, but an assembly of unbelievers and of believers of every stripe – and this is especially the case when it can be shown that provision has been made for the sentiments of the unregenerate and heterodox in such a church's practice. When the purpose of such gatherings is not to assemble orthodox believers for true worship, but principally to assemble the heterodox and unregenerate on the pretext of worship experience, we cannot consider the assembly to be an orthodox congregation. The distinction between “member” and “visitor” is purely semantic in this case, as the purpose becomes primarily an assemblage of visitors, not of believers.

The third point follows directly from the second. Considering the sentiments of the heterodox and unregenerate in this way is essentially to give the dissemblers of Christian teaching a place in the determination of orthodox Church practice. St. John, the Evangelist, in his second Epistle, has much to say in this regard, to wit, those who divide Christ with false teaching are not even to receive a hearing. They have nothing to say to us regarding biblical doctrine or biblical practice. We are told that the unregenerate want rock 'n roll or they won't come. I say, fine. The Church should in no way accept the dictates of the World.

But what about evangelism? It used to be that the cultures of the Church and of Society were close enough that the Church could engage in its own practice with little incongruity (or so it may seem to us now). But such is increasingly not the case today – no, not in the slightest. We just inaugurated a President who has proudly declared that our Nation is no longer a Christian Nation. Indeed, I suspect his election is due, in part, to his public declaration of this fact. Leaders at the helm of society are now boldly steering us headlong away from any outward semblance of Christianity, or of any congruence with it. Those who insist with an air of grave piety that the Divine Service must also be Evangelism, nay, principally be Evangelism, and therefore must also chase after and adopt secular anthropocentric priorities in order to provide meaningful experience for the unregenerate, far from being evangelical or creative, are giving the Visible Church over into the hands of Satan. Learn from the pop-church Evangelicals who long ago gave themselves over to secular culture. Today, there is a precipitous exodus from their number. They have no movement left, they no longer have a voice in society, and in many cases, simply have no church left at all. They have no message, and their practice only communicates a love of the World. They gambled with Church Growth, and lost.

Because Satan is prevailing in our culture, the enemies of Christ in the World – that is, the unregenerate – are more well equipped to identify us and wage war against us. Society has moved so far away from Christianity that there can be no mistake – we are truly alien in this World. The C&C Church Growthers act as if this is reason for us to capitulate, to turn over our worship of God to the dictates of secular whim and then call it evangelism. I call this hysterical cowardice; and in response, I say, we are the Church Militant. Let them bring on the fight. The manifest and growing divergence between Society and Christianity that is being orchestrated by Satan to overthrow the Church, instead reminds us of what the reality has always been, and serves us where, by Christ, we cannot fail to prevail. Indeed, He has already won for us. We have a message that is distinct from anything the world has to offer, and nothing can obscure that now, as long as we remain true and bold witnesses in word and deed, in doctrine and in practice, and proudly herald the Means of Grace.

The Church is impregnable. She is Christ's Bride and He will protect and keep Her. If the Lutheran Church is to remain the True Visible Church, it must remain both catholic and evangelical, it must not succumb to the errors of sectarianism – either in doctrine or in practice. If Lutheran congregations are convinced that true Lutheran and catholic worship is so foreign to the tastes of society that the message of Law and Gospel will fail to be received by them during the Divine Service (a claim I dispute), then I say that the idea of the dual-purpose Divine Service, as worship and evangelism, ought to be abandoned by them. For the Divine Service to remain the Divine Service and thus properly serve the Church on Earth as such, the conflict between worship and evangelism priorities that is foisted upon it needs to be eliminated. Overt evangelistic activity ought to be moved into the community where it has always belonged, outside the walls of the congregation, outside the context of worship, to where the unregenerate actually congregate, where evangelistic concerns can be met with the full freedom encouraged by St. Paul, where evangelists can indeed “Be all things to all people.” Such congregations ought to begin actually sending evangelists out from the congregation into the community. This is where our creative powers ought to be brought to bear, on creating venues and opportunities for the proclamation of Law and Gospel, not just in the context of the Divine Service for the edification of believers (which, of course, ought to continue with all vigor!), but additionally in the strict context of, and for the purpose of, Evangelism.

Changing subjects, Ben asks: “Could you explain how music in and of itself, without words, can be considered profane?”

Let me first define my use of the term “profane.” I don't mean it in the sense that we would use it in normal conversation, as in, “to utter a profanity.” To illustrate this, I set up a distinction between the term “profane” and the term “sacred.” It is much like another similar distinction, “Holy” and “Vulgar.” In these distinctions, the terms “Holy” and “sacred” are essentially synonymous, “Holy” being that which is set apart for God, and “sacred” being that which is set apart for use in Holy service. Remember that St. Peter defines us as a “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people.” To be holy is not only to be “set apart” but to be noticeably different – i.e., peculiar, or “out of the ordinary.” In contrast, the term “Vulgar” means base, common, or ordinary. When we say the Christian's worship is “Holy,” we mean that it is set apart for God, and is by definition “peculiar” with reference to what one is ordinarily familiar with. It is Holy, or set apart, first because of the condition of the believer's heart – i.e., for reasons unseen and unmeasurable. Second, it is Holy, or set apart, in a visible sense, as a witness to this fact. Thus, Ecclesiastical forms stand in contradistinction to Secular forms, to emphasize their Holy nature by their distinctiveness, or “peculiarity.”

If what is “sacred” is set apart for use in Holy service, the “profane” is that which serves vulgar purposes. Music which is profane is understood as such by association. Much as we learn from Luther's retraction of the original tune for his hymn, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come” because of it's worldly associations (as described above), compositions known to serve worldly or pagan themes, or use of instruments associated with worldliness, are profane. We should go to pains to make sure that our use of music and instrumentation serves the purposes of “Holiness” in our corporate worship.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Freddy @ 1205. Many points to ponder and I understand and I don't disagree. Based on this model for worship I would ask; Why bother inviting an unbeliever to church then?

On the subject of music; I've been WELS all my life. I know some C&C folks see the music as a vehicle to bring folks into church. Personally, and this may sound bad, but I am being honest; I could care less if unbelievers like the music. I do. That's why I go to church where I do. So in that context and what you say in your post; Can the service be divine using modern music forms and instrumentation? Certainly this is what Luther did.


Ben said...

Thank you for your insightful comments once again, Freddy. Thank you also, Pr. Tomczak, for your comments. I'm still not convinced that music in and of itself can be considered profane. I do understand that when you associate context with certain music, then yes, that makes sense. Pop and rock music have a context because of the words that have been associated with it. I understand the desire to keep worship music and secular music separated. However, isn't it possible that we could try to influence society by taking what is popular and trying to make it God-pleasing? I guess I'm thinking of Christian rock and pop music. Obviously the danger is that instead of Christians influencing society in a positive way, Christians become influenced by society in a negative way. But, that is the danger we each face every day. I don't lock myself in my house and avoid interacting with non-WELS people for fear of being corrupted. My fear is that as this country becomes more and more secularized, Christians are not actively trying to influence society.

My other thoughts are about worship and evangelism. If our worship services are not to be used for evangelism, why do we even allow non-WELS members to attend any of our worship services? Why don't we have someone at the front door checking to make sure that everyone who enters has a WELS membership card that is not expired? If a non-member shows up at the door, we can kindly turn them away while giving them information for attending Bible information classes. This sounds extreme to me, but does not seem irrational if worship is not to be used for evangelism.

Somehow I would like to see us Christians/Lutherans reach out to society and try to battle against this secular/progressive movement that seems unstoppable at this point. We cannot afford to retreat to our church bunkers and hide quietly as our numbers decrease. We must also resist the temptation to change God's Word to make it more popular and acceptable to society like so many churches and synods have already done. Thanks for the great discussion!


Freddy Finkelstein said...


You both bring up a question that I knew was coming. Essentially, “If worship is not Evangelism, why do we invite unbelievers to church at all?” I'll try to keep my answer short.

Worship is for worshipers. Only God's Priests can offer worship sacrifices that God will accept. By Faith, we all occupy a position in this privileged Order – the Universal Priesthood of all Believers. Unbelievers fall outside this Order. By definition, they are not, and cannot be considered, worshipers.

When I say that “Worship is not Evangelism” I am primarily referring to considerations that go into the ordering of the Divine Service, and specifically not who is to be admitted into the Nave on Sunday morning. The fundamental assumption when doing or planning Evangelism is that the evangelist's audience is/are unbeliever(s). The fundamental assumption in ordering the Divine Service is that true worshipers are assembled to do what only Christian Priests are privileged to do (offer Sacrifices acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ). A completely different set of operating assumptions are at work in these two cases. When we ingratiate ourselves to unbelievers by ordering the Divine Service in ways that appeal to their unregenerate sensibilities and on such bases encourage their participation, we are teaching ourselves that unbelievers are bona fide worshipers, and we are telling unbelievers that their acts of worship are acceptable, or even worse, meritorious. There are also fellowship considerations to be aware of, as well, as I mentioned above.

While the Divine Service is not Evangelism, however, it is most certainly evangelical. A strong message of Law and Gospel permeates the service, and the worshiper is focused on Christ throughout. Knowing this, visitors are readily and evangelically received in the full knowledge that they are in fact non-worshipers, yet, whether they go through the motions of worship or not, also benefit insofar as they receive the message of the Gospel. And I know for a fact that they do. I've seen it happen, and I'm sure many Pastors have seen it happen multiple times. The fact is, the soul ripe for harvest is the one broken by the Law. When such a one enters the Nave and seats himself, he is preoccupied with a desperate hope for Good News. The music is irrelevant. The order of service is irrelevant. The only song he hears is the sweet song of the Gospel, and that is what he responds to.

The simple fact is, we can safely limit our considerations of music and ordering of the Divine Service to that which serves the congregation of believers in true catholic and evangelical expression, in distinctly Ecclesiastical forms.

Freddy Finkelstein

Benjamin Tomczak said...

There's an interesting "News and Notes" comment in the latest Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly by Prof. Daniel Leyrer discussing the topic of the Lutheran Liturgy and evangelism. And it speaks to this thread of discussion, even if only tangentially, as he speaks positively regarding the truth that the Lutheran Liturgy is already an evangelistic tool, because it's where the Gospel is already, through Word and Sacrament! He writes, "In fact, if the order of service is thoroughly gospel-oriented, it cannot be anything but outreach-minded." Not because it's a super-seeker friendly service, but rather because it is "heavy on gospel in Word and Sacrament."

It's worth reading for yourself. Ask your pastor (if you belong to a WELS congregation) to borrow his copy and read, beginning on page 71. I'll reproduce just a few lines:

"As far as evangelism goes, all our 'go' strategies and all our 'come' strategies end up in the same place: church. Sometimes we need reminders that our church services have to be a key component of our gospel outreach into the community. Lutheran liturgical worship, when carefully planned and enthusiastically carried out by pastor and people, does not disappoint in the theater of mission. That's because Lutheran liturgical worship is where the Gospel is" (p73).

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with Freddy and Pr. Tomczak. In the past (and still on occasion) I'll hear people suggest that "prospects" shouldn't be invited to church, but instead be run through BIC and THEN be invited to church. Having belonged to a couple mission congregations, I find this entirely unrealistic. We live in a consumer society. NO ONE is going to consider joining a church until they've attended the worship service. And furthermore, they probably shouldn't! Even if a congregation DID follow that plan (BIC then worship), the confirmand would, under the principle of "test the spirits" want to attend the worship service before joining, to make sure what he learned in BIC was being applied and faithful taught also in worship.

The reality, however, is that our Sunday service will be the first formal contact point most prospects have with the church. It's sort of natural. Perhaps a member witnesses to an unchurched neighbor, sharing Law and Gospel. It's natural for that member to then say, "Why don't you come with me to church this Sunday." That's a good thing. But it's a good thing only because of what happens in our service - Law and Gospel are center stage, what God does for man is stressed over what man does for God (as is seen in the fact that we refer to it as the Divine Service - God serving us). Liturgical worship helps safeguard that these things happen.

The fact that the liturgy stresses truthes and dogma in timeless ways (the Creeds, the lectionary, the Peace, the Benediction) is a good way to remind that prospect that what is going on here is something that is otherworldly. Contemporary worship de-emphasizes that. The atmosphere is casual, like an ordinary living room. The music may speak vaguely of God, but in a style that replicates the pop-culture. This probably doesn't serve the prospect well. When they set foot in worship, while they cannot offer true worship (unless the Spirit has created faith already through the Gospel, which ultimately, only God knows), they should at least get the sense, "Something special is going on here."


Anonymous said...

This is way more complicated than Christ intended. I think there is a line being drawn about music styles that just doesn't hold water for me. I know alot of people attend our church because of the more modern musical forms. And it doesn't get in the way of our worship. Like I said, Luther drew on the styles that were modern in that age. If you are a student of music and listen to a secular pop/rock song and a sacred song in the same style, there is a difference in every aspect of the song from composition to the way it is interpreted and sung. Especially if it was composed with the intent of glorifying God. I can pick up on this immediately. We have made the mistake of using a melody from a secular song and changing the lyrics and there is that strong association.

But I think there is such a strong contrast between traditional church music and more modern forms because of a time disparity than anything else. I was in the choir at a church in Phoenix and we were going to sing more modern pieces. Well, the pieces were modern. Twentieth century modern classical harmony. Charles Ives kind of stuff. That didn't go over very well either.


Anonymous said...

Especially if it was composed with the intent of glorifying God.

I was recently reading a "manual" for composing Christian contemporary songs - "God Songs" by Paul Baloche. He stated that the first concern was to create an emotional response and something that is memorable.

This falls in line with the American evangelical's theology, but not mine.

His intent surely is to glorify God, but without dedicating to proclaim Christ first and foremost, he often misses the mark.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous said...
His intent surely is to glorify God, but without dedicating to proclaim Christ first and foremost, he often misses the mark.

January 22, 2009 11:34 AM"

I liken it to the analogy of the chicken and the egg...and I totally agree...


Anonymous said...

In a television interview, I recall that Robert Schuller once admitted that the entire Crystal Cathedral experience is a "come on" to get people in the door. This includes the "name dropping," the celebrities, the music, the pipe organ, even the positive thinking message.
Then, if and when people become members, they are trained in the teachings of the Reformed Church of Amercia (RCA) of which the Crystal Cathedral is a member and which comprimes, or did comprise at one time, more than half of the membership of that small Reformed church body.
Schuller has had a lot of success with that program. However, I think that we would have to agree that the "come on" service of the Crystal Cathedral stays in the area of the "milk" of RCA teaching(if that) and never gets to the "meat" of their confession.
I have attended WELS contemporary services which I have found uplifting, containing essential liturgical elements, and presenting law and Gospel in a clear and effective way.
However, I feel, and it is only my opinion, that a steady diet of the same contempory worship would become just as monotonous and stagnate as some say is true of the Common Service with organ music.
One thing that is troublesome to me with so-called contemporary worship is the fact that children or new members may attend church all their Lutheran lives and never know there is a historic liturgy, stirring organ music, and a vibrant Lutheran heritage of hymns and yes, I will say it, traditions which have served well the Lutheran church for centuries. If such people move to an area where there is no contemporary WELS worship opportunity (possibly there are no such areas any more!), will they feel comfortable to join a historic, liturical church, or will they seek out a church of another fellowship which offers contemporary worship? By the same token, will a member brought up in a historically liturgical church feel comfortable with and join a WELS church which offers only contemporary worship, if is the only one available? Depending on the answers to these questions, we may will need to ask whether fellowship is being based on scriptural doctrine and scriptural practice or whether it is being based on form. The answer to that question, will in turn, have great ramifications for the future of the synod. The answer may also help us evaluate whether any of our innovative services, whether contemporary or traditional, might be considered "come on" services to get people in a BIC where they will learn what we really teach. We don't want to be guilt of "bait and switch" tactics similar to what Schuller described in his interview about the Crystal Cathedral.