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What Luther Says

This Is Contemporary Worship In The LCMS

Yesterday, due to some prior obligations and scheduling conflicts, I attended my church's "Contemporary Worship Service" (as opposed to the "Traditional" service) for the first time in several weeks.

I was treated to such joys as...

*- A continuous loop of various Christian Rock songs to help "set the mood" as "Pre-Service Music" being played over the new $30,000 sound system in our church of 300 or so members (no bells were rung to signal the start of the service since we just waited for the song by Jeremy Camp to stop playing).

*- Approximately 99% of the congregation in attendance were socializing by laughing and talking loudly in the pews when the Opening Hymn ("The Old Rugged Cross") was being sung before they finally decided to stop and join in for the final verse.

*- Public Old Testament/New Testament Scripture readings from the pulpit by a female layman (that were misread and incomplete).

*- A "Children's Message" about "Bells" that ended with the distribution of chocolate candy bells to all the kids who behaved and paid attention (ironically, none of the kids could tell you what the message was about except that they received candy bells)

*- The Interim Pastor's opening to his sermon that gushed over the "Children's Message" right before in which he stated that anything he was about to say to us was likely to be underwhelming when compared to what we just heard taught to the kids (even though it's greatest contribution was not Law and Gospel, but that "Whenever we hear a bell ringing, it should remind us that we need to worship God...").

*- The Interim Pastor deciding that he doesn't need to read any Scripture verses to us -- not even once -- during his ENTIRE sermon since the female layman preached publicly to us already (probably because it's too hard to pin down what God really meant to say in His Word and everyone interprets things differently anyway).

*- The Contemporary Worship Praise Band Leader's penchant for asking us to repeat lines from songs over, and over, and over again (songs that I had personally never heard before until yesterday). The Contemporary Worship Praise Band Leader's penchant for asking us to repeat lines from songs over, and over, and over again (songs that I had personally never heard before until yesterday). The Contemporary Worship Praise Band Leader's penchant for asking us to repeat lines from songs over, and over, and over again (songs that I had personally never heard before until yesterday).

*- The Church Board President standing up and grabbing the mic at the end of the service for a comedy improv session -- errr, I mean to give us a quick update on the financial health of our church -- during which he kept saying that he believes we can finally "take things to the next level" as a church and a ministry (should I run for the hills now or stay as a the lone voice of truth in the wilderness?).

My heart is heavy indeed.

This is what "Contemporary Worship" looks and sounds like in most LCMS churches today. It does not sound "Lutheran" at all, but sounds EXACTLY like all the things I used to hear and see from popular, trendy Evangelical churches, or the very mindset and practices that I recently escaped from.

The worst part? I'm the one who leaves church feeling guilty and bad about myself out of concern that I don't want to be so cynical or allow a critical or grumbling spirit to take root in my heart and mind about my church home and my brothers and sisters there (John 6:43; Philippians 2:14; 1 Peter 4:9; Philippians 4:10-13). Yet, everyone else continues on without a care in the world as the blind lead the blind I'm afraid (Matthew 15:14).

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, I went to church yesterday morning wanting (needing!) to bed fed and to receive His grace and mercy through the faithful preaching of His Word (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4), and I left with an empty stomach that turned to nausea.

Please pray for me and my church family.

[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.


  1. My LCMS church has both traditional and contemporary worship services. The services are the same in several areas -- same children's message, same verses (in both, read by male and female disciples), same sermon (delivered by same pastor), same creed. The style of music and level of formality is definitely different. In church materials, the traditional worship is described as meditative while the contemporary worship is described as praise. As contemporary Lutheran worship is a relatively recent evolution of the LCMS culture, I've been to my fair share of traditional services. Traditional worship is not immune to any of the core criticisms you have made of your contemporary worship: lay readers unprepared (male and female), poorly written sermons (adult or children), song selections that fail to draw the congregation into communion with God during worship (you find contemporary lyrics monotonous -- you may be surprised that some folks find the sound of the organ quite repetitive and monotonous). My family attends the contemporary worship, as you might have guessed. My pastors are very careful that the songs selected are appropriate to the point of the service (confession, absolution, petition, praise). When I watch my children (from 9 to 16) in the contemporary worship, they are listening, they are singing, they are engaged. When we have to attend the traditional worship (if a child acolytes), they are muted, disengaged, and don't connect with the music. They suffer through the service politely -- standing, sitting, kneeling on command. I'm so happy that my church has both worship styles -- our core doctrine is the same in both, but how wonderful that we have found a way to use music to help our disciples of all musical tastes in God's ministry to them. Perhaps your church simply needs to create some policies/guidelines for how the contemporary service is conducted that don't focus on whether the song is played with a guitar or an organ.

  2. Oh yes -- sorry to omit -- here are some verses that call us to praise God through our music. The emphasis is on giving ourselves over through music, not on what the instruments accompanying us are. And for that matter, it calls us to *dance* with joy -- just like King David did -- remember how his wife chastised him? We need to make sure our criticisms aren't coming from a place of feeling uncomfortable by emotional expressions of praise.

    Psalm 150:1-6 - Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

    Psalm 95:1 - Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

    Colossians 3:16 - Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.


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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