Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Contemporary Lutheran Worship?

I came across a heartbreaking tale from a Lutheran on the CARM boards: "Deeply upset after Sunday Service." One particular section caught my attention:
And then the singing. Many songs were repetitive, vapid, touchy-feels nonsense songs designed to stoke emotions without singing God's word to you. Imagine my shock when I looked down as saw only the first stanza printed in my bulletin:
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
I post this link because I know Lutherans read this blog (even though many of them won't admit it or link to it, kudos to the Lutherans though who fess up), including Lutheran pastors. If you've got any words of wisdom for the author of this post, you should log on to the CARM  Lutheran forum and help out.

Contemporary worship can infuriate some folks. I come across people angered or hurt by the contemporary worship movement all the time (and before my Roman Catholic readers think their churches have the answer, they don't. Roman churches have their fair share of "contemporary services" as well, with the same sort of angry people fed up with them).

I attend a rather conservative Reformed church. I always come across new faces... people visiting our church, and many of them staying with us after a few visits. It's not that all of them are already "Reformed" looking for another Reformed church. Some of these new folks are refugees from the contemporary worship movement. They've gone to churches on the "cutting edge" of worship... rock bands, light shows, drama, innovation, etc.  For some folks, this "experience" of contemporary worship ceases to be a positive experience and turns into anger and discontent. They leave their contemporary churches often viewed as troublemakers and nitpickers.

When they walk into the church I attend, it's like a flashback to  the 1950's. There's a consistent weekly liturgy that includes readings of law and gospel,  100 year-old+ hymns of response with an organ and piano (and no flashy worship leader with an overhead), there's actually hymn books and Bibles (that people are expected to use) there's at least a 10 minute pastoral prayer, and an expository sermon mentioning sin, repentance, and salvation, condemnation from the law, salvation in Christ, and application as to how to take and apply all of it as one is conformed into the image of Christ.  And, to make it even worse, the children are expected to sit through the whole thing, Sunday morning and Sunday night.

The ironic part to me is that some of these refugees have no idea what "Reformed" is, even after attending for a good length of time. Rather, they're conservative folks that like conservative things. I'm not angered by this irony, I just find it interesting.

Lest anyone think these ramblings are my way of throwing contemporary worship "under the bus," I actually don't have a problem with many contemporary services. I know many people that love their contemporary services, and despite the loud music and repetitive choruses (and um, recall some of Psalms use repetition and the sacred psalmist writes about himself and his feelings?), the "contemporary" minister preaches the Gospel. Give me a Reformed person who thinks the organ is more spiritual than a guitar, and I'm going to have a nice little chat with him about John Calvin's view of the organ and the need for dinnerware. If the minister preaches the gospel, I'll put up with a contemporary service.

The reason I don't gravitate towards contemporary worship has nothing to do with what sort of music pleases God and which doesn't. It has to do with my heart. I began playing guitar as a kid, in and out rock bands for quite a while. When I see a guy in a worship service strumming a guitar, I'm either distracted by how good he is... or how bad he is. If he's terrible, I'm hoping he's going to stop playing soon. If he's really good, there's a good chance I'll be coveting his ability at best, or worshiping him at worst. I'll take the organ and the piano and the dusty old hymns. This keeps me out of trouble. Lights, stages, drama, skits, etc., I don't really need that sort of stuff on Sunday,  but, who am I to say God can't use stuff like this for particular people? Someone told me once that Old Testament worship involved all the senses. Rome's been on to this for centuries. Certainly I think there are instances of abuse and silliness in contemporary worship, but I'm not willing to throw the whole thing out the window. People in different centuries have had different types church services influenced by their culture and sitz im leben. Think this isn't so? Simply do a historical study on liturgy. The church service will never completely escape the culture it's in.

If you're conservative, find yourself a conservative church. In my area, I know of many conservative churches (some that would consider the service I'm in to be liberal!). If your church has gone from conservative worship to contemporary worship, it may be time for you to go. I'm not of the mindset that you should grin and bear it and fight for your conservative worship cause. You're probably going to lose anyway. Why go to church angry and bitter? Go fellowship with people who are conservative like you are.


Rhology said...

Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na
Na na na na na na


RPV said...

The ironic part to me is that some of these refugees have no idea what "Reformed" is, even after attending for a good length of time.

Way to push a button, James. IMO that's the problem with a lot of reformed churches and people.
They don't really know what reformed means.

Yeah, we believe in the Three Forms, but as to spelling out the salient distinctions nada. The whole idea of being reformed, not only in doctrine, but also in worship and government doesn't seem to register.

Hence the worship wars and the conservative versus contemporary thing, as if the 1950's or even the 19th century defined orthodoxy.

For instance overhead projectors are merely a circumstance/indifferent. What one sings off those overheads (because the church can't afford songbooks for instance) is not indifferent.

And while some of the psalms have choruses and are repetitive, they are also inspired. Big difference there.
The downgrade usually goes psalms, paraphrases, hymns, choruses,

Likewise the distinction between piano/organ and guitars. The divide has already been crossed in that musical instruments of any kind were seen as judaizing and a return to OT legalism at the time of the Reformation. At least among the presbyterian and reformed, whatever the lutherans, anabaptist and anglicans thought or practiced.

IOW a lot of reformed churches practice the lutheran/anglican principle of worship or whatever isn't forbidden, is allowed, along with more of a democratic congregationalism. And then they wonder why folks, if not their children end up opting for a more contemporary application of that principle without realizing the pass has already been sold.