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Does The LCMS Church Hate Families (Or Just The Red-Headed Stepchild)?

Sorry for the provocative title to this post, but I wanted to get your attention in the hopes of generating a discussion on this topic.

Does the LCMS Church hate families?

No, of course not!

Ok, so then what would make me even ask such an absurd question?

Well, I was just thinking about how my local church treats the "Traditional Worship" service each week like a red-headed stepchild when compared to the "Contemporary Worship" service. The former takes a back-seat while the latter gets to ride shotgun. Why is that exactly?

I'm of the firm opinion that we "Confessional" types who prefer to attend the "Traditional" service are left feeling like the church hates us (or, more appropriately, hates her rich heritage, history, and tradition). Why is that exactly?

I completely understand that this is a subject that has been addressed by many others long before me (and with deeper analysis and thoughtful responses I'm sure), but I just have to chime in here, especially now that I'm beginning to learn more and more about what it means to be a "Confessional Lutheran" let alone why we believe what we believe.

So, yes, I'm a Confessional Lutheran, but I'm also a husband to one wife and a father of two small children. Luke and Amelia attend the private elementary school that is a ministry of our church. Naturally, the church and school have decided that any time there's an opportunity for both to highlight the merits of the other, then they will do so exclusively during the "Contemporary Worship" service. Why is that exactly?

The worst part is that a majority (who am I kidding? it's more like 100%) of our family members and friends regularly attend the "Contemporary Worship" service from week-to-week. I know church is not supposed to be a "social club," but fellowship is essential, and it's challenging to engage in the kind of fellowship I know we need as Christians (especially my wife and kids) when everyone we know (or those we know best including all the other children in our congregation and from the school) only ever attend one particular kind of worship service.

In addition, anyone with kids will tell you that it can be EXTREMELY CHALLENGING to leave the house on time each Sunday morning so that you can actually get to church on time each week. Consider that we have a 20-25 minute drive too. Unfortunately, the challenge is increased exponentially (at least, in my family's case it is) if we want to attend the "Traditional Worship" service, which is held at 8am on Sunday mornings instead of 10:30am like the "Contemporary Worship" service is. What tends to happen is that we sometimes have no choice but to go to the late "Contemporary Worship" service even despite our best intentions attempts to make it to the "Traditional" one.

QUESTION: Who decided that the "Traditional Worship" service should be exception rather than the norm?

At this point, it's important for me to mention that I hope you don't think I'm whining about our predicament. I'm not looking for pity or to demonstrate a "poor me" poor attitude either. Plus, I know that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world only wish they had this kind of "problem" that I believe we have. I mean, many of them meet at another person's house secretly whil risking their lives each and every week. I get it. I really do.

I also understand that we should never treat God and our faith as something that we "try to fit into" our own schedules as if they were mere accessories to this life called The American Dream, but that we should eagerly want to spend time with the Lord, attend church for His means of grace through the Word and Sacraments, and to fellowship with other believers in His Church. In other words, I should just quit complaining and do what I have to do to make it work for me and my family.

Still, even though they would never admit it publicly, I get the distinct impression that my local LCMS Church can't wait for the day when the "Traditional Worship" service can be phased out and retired completely.

I hate to be so cynical and morbid about it, but at times it's almost like they're just waiting for all the Senior Citizens to get called home to Heaven (or to become Shut-Ins) so that they only have to worry about one worship service each week, and so that they can finally make "Contemporary Praise Songs," "Liturgical Dance," "Children's Sermons," "Teen Youth Group Skits," the "Pastor As Comedian," and the "Giant Movie Screen With Surround Sound" a regular part of the Divine Service, which is to say a regular part of the Life-Affirming/Improve-Your-Life-Today brand of "preaching" delivered from the pulpit each and every week.

That might be a difficult pill for some to swallow, but it's what I've been witnessing first-hand following my escape from American Evangelicalism to (what I thought was) a Confessional LCMS Church, and I keep praying that it won't get worse.

How did we ever get to this point though?

It has been said the one who defines the terms always wins the debate, and this can certainly be seen with the rise of the contemporary Christian music movement. XXX The real question of the contemporary versus traditional debate has never been "Can churches use forms and traditions in the present time in order to praise and worship God?" Who would argue with that? So why the contemporary versus traditional labels? Because those who started the debate framed the debate with those words in order to sell their trust in Prosperity-driven worship without ever having to mention her name.

In the same way, more recently the phrase contemporary worship has been introduced, not to describe what the movement actually is, but to sell the movement as the kind of up-to-date, prosperous "style" that every postmodern person likes to think of himself as naturally inhabiting. Contemporary is a positive word, intended to build a positive image. What could be more practical than contemporary? What could be more beneficial than praise?

Meanwhile, the other "style" is decried with dogmatic sounding words like traditional (ideas we get from dead people) and liturgy (no one really knows what that word means, but it sounds old and stagnant so it can't be good). These words are intended to build a negative image, the picture of an awkward, dusty building full of gray-haired, boring people. Such words can only describe backward places, trapped in "maintenance" mode ministries (negative), and adamantly opposed to being "mission-minded" (positive). What could be less Spirit-filled than tradition? What could be less meaningful than liturgy? Praise we can sell. Lament, not so much. With the terms predefined to favor the selling of one "style" over the other, the real debate is kept far out of sight.

What is the real debate? It is whether the planned emotional manipulation of unsuspecting worshipers is the Holy Spirit's model for evangelism and "doing" Church, or whether it is a diabolical error intended to rip the free grace of justification right out of the heart of the Evangelical churches. Is that thing we call "contemporary worship" just traditional worship, only not so boring because it is now set to a guitar, or is it a new tradition of radicalism that is more exciting precisely because it makes room for the worship of our own fleshly passions? Is it just another "style," or is it the cultural Sitz im Leben of capitalism manifesting itself as a spirituality and selling itself as counterfeit Christianity? Is it just some "new measures" for doing what we've always done, or is it a whole new song and dance sung to the tune of Prosperity? From where I'm sitting, the centuries-long history of the movement and its reliance on Prosperity's language to define the debate out of existence, so that the debate is never allowed to take place, speaks volumes, on the real state of the predicament. Without even knowing it, the vast majority of American churches are following lockstep in Finney's tradition of using innovations in excitement to manufacture predetermined outcomes that are then used as "proof" of the Holy Spirit's presence.

The threat of contemporary revivalism is not the use of guitars or amplifiers, but the hidden assumption of i ts history, the root of a movement to "change" the Church in order to make it more possible to find proof of God by pointing to positive experiences we are having right now. Jesus and His cross are not enough. Promises made about the Last Day don't draw crowds the way promises about the present do.

*- Rev. Jonathan Fisk
Broken: 7 "Christian" Rules That Every Christian Ought To Break As Often As Possible (pp.133-136)

Couldn't have said it any better myself.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, I will continue to prefer that my family attends the "Traditional Worship" service more often than the "Contemporary Worship" service even though it (and I suppose, by extension, we) will be treated and viewed as the red-headed stepchild.

It's ok though. Really, it is I've been a red-head all my life and I've recently been adopted anyway (1 Corinthians 1:9) so it's all good.

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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