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MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS

A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419

 

 

Thursday, November 11, 1999

 

NOVELTY IN WORSHIP

 

"...no novelty has been introduced which did not exist in the church from
ancient times..." (Augsburg Confession XXIV:40 [German]) Tappert. Since this is from the German version, it is not in the English Triglotta.

 

Someone asked about “contemporary worship” at their WELS church. The term is just a smokescreen for Reformed worship. When you see the draft of the catechism chapter of Thy Strong Word, you will be shocked at the exact relationship between the words of Reformed Church Growth leaders and the leaders of WELS and the Missouri Synod.

 

If someone rejects the Means of Grace, then the worship service will reflect that. If someone thinks the Word of God is dead without our help, then the worship service will give that away. If someone believes we have to market the Gospel, or make it appealing and reasonable, then Gottesdienst will be more like the Jay Leno show. In fact, it already is among many Lutherans intoxicated with Fuller Seminary, Church Growth, Willow Creek, and Community of Joy (ELCA, Glendale, Arizona; not my fault).

 

The Lutheran Confessors argued that they were not introducing new forms to the Christian Church. Now we have the spectacle of WELS and Missouri introducing something “new” which is not new at all. It is simply Calvinistic or Zwinglian worship, and not a very good imitation of it.

 

Contemporary really means faddish. I went through all the fads of Lutheran worship in college and seminary. Nothing is more tiresome than some new gimmick each week to “spice up” worship, to make it “appealing to youth.” Many variations can be introduced to create some differences, without being faddish. The congregation may learn to sing the “Te Deum” or have one service where the liturgy itself is explained. The pastor may vary his sermons just by studying Luther or Loy each week and modeling his sermon after those men. Why are Luther’s sermons great today, after 450 years? And yet sermon books from a few years ago are kindling! Luther taught from the Word and did not reflect the fads of society. He ignored them for the most part, but he gave many earthy examples that still make people laugh out loud today. They do not laugh because they are jokes, but because the truth can be funny.

 

The worship service should be majestic, whether simple or ornate, low church or high, and give glory to God alone. The intent behind the contemporary service and sermon is to turn the Sunday hour into a time to recruit new members. Poor deluded pastors, scared to death of their statistics, are told that people are longing for “how to” sermons (translation: all Law). The pastors are told by Fuller Seminary professors that people hate the liturgy and won’t come back for it. I say, “Good, and take your recreational drugs with you.” What conversion can take place if we teach man to worship man? Of course, that is the easy route. “Let me entertain you. Let me make you smile.” No one can shoehorn the Means of Grace into that philosophy.

 

I know the officials and senior pastors are wild with panic. Chart the membership. How much of it falls below the age 40 bracket? How much in the over 70 category? Yikes! Now, the scary part – look at the giving and attendance of the two groups. It is also lopsided. Most of the total attendance and giving will fall in the over 70 group. “Yeah,” says the Boomers and the Gen-Xers, “They got nothing else to do. Sunday is the best time for children’s sports and going to the casino.”

 

The liturgy and the Scripture readings preserved the Lutheran Church during the age of Rationalism, when pastors gave sermons on building roads, bridges, health, and other secular concerns. They were being practical and besides, like today’s pastors, they did not believe in anything. But they were stuck with the old forms. The old forms, which date back to Judaism (appointed lessons, chanting, hymns glorifying God rather than tapping the emotions), could not be changed then. So the residue of the Word, in the liturgy, readings, Creeds, and hymns, worked efficaciously. Later, people saw the folly of the sermons in the age of Rationalism.

 

If we have a useless, non-believing pastor, his sermons will probably be mostly chaff. However, the rest of a decent liturgical service will still accomplish God’s will through His Word. But, if  the minister gets away with dumping the liturgy and Lutheran hymns, the trend toward Unitarianism is difficult to stop. One trick is to have one traditional service and one “contemporary” (Zwinglian) service. Try that on your wives. Have one traditional wife and introduce a contemporary wife. “I love both of you equally.” Will either one believe it?

 

We become what we worship, because our actions are rooted in our beliefs. That is why Israel was prevented from aping contemporary worship.

 

KJV Deuteronomy 13:2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; 3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. 5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.