You might scoff and think it's absurd to assume that there's a "right" way and a "wrong" way to worship. After all, if God is the focus, then why does it matter how one denomination worships when compared to another?
Trust me, it matters -- it matters a lot actually! See, our doctrine informs our practice. It's that simple. Cling to false doctrine and it will undoubtedly lead to false, un-Biblical practices in the church too.
Ok, but how is Lutheran worship different? Specifically, what are some of the key characteristics that distinguish it from other kinds of so-called Christian worship?
Here's a fantastic overview by Pastor Jordan Cooper about how Lutheran worship is different...
Why Does Lutheran Worship Look So Different?
Part 1: Outlining Different Approaches To Worship
I. There are a number of different approaches to worship in the church today...
a. Emotionalism: The purpose of worship is primarily to stir the emotions of the congregants. The service often starts with a lengthy time of praise and worship, followed by a sermon and prayer. The service emphasizes experience and feelings over doctrine and reverence.
b. Moralism: The purpose of worship is to equip the congregation to live moral lives. The songs are focused on following Christ, and the sermon is mostly ethical exhortation.
c. Seeker-Driven: Worship should be relevant to the contemporary culture, and its primary purpose is to bring people from outside of the church in. There is no emphasis on discipleship, and the church does whatever it can to attract outsiders, including using videos, rock bands, secular music, etc.
d. Roman Catholic: The worship of the church is primarily the work of the priest. The central act of worship is the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass. The congregation participates to an extent, but worship can also be the private act of a priest on behalf of others.
e. Reformed: The primary purpose of worship is to honor and glorify God. Strict rules about worship are followed, only allowing for elements in worship that the Bible strictly commands. There are no images allowed in worship, and they do not follow a church calendar.
II. How Lutherans view worship...
a. There are two primary aspects of worship: God giving his gifts, and the congregation praising God with thanksgiving
b. Worship is not just about “giving glory to God,” but also about receiving gifts from God
c. The gifts God desires to give are: life, forgiveness, and salvation
d. The hymns, prayers, and praises of the congregation are always in response to God’s acts. God first delivers, and then the congregation praises him for it. This constitutes a continual pattern of conversation between God and the believer
e. First, the believer confesses his unworthiness and sin before God (the confession), and God then declares forgiveness through the pastor (absolution). The acknowledgment of sin continues with the kyrie, and praise to God for forgiveness is given in the Gloria. This pattern repeats itself throughout the service.
III. How Lutheran worship differs from the other five views...
a. Emotion does not drive worship. Our emotions waver, and we cannot base our faith on them.
b. The service is primarily about what Christ has done to save us, not about morality. Moral instruction is important, but only in light of the gospel
c. Worship is not primarily for the seeker, but for God’s people. In fact, no one seeks God. This presumes a false view of human sin.
d. The worship service is not only the act of the pastor, but the pastor and the congregation both have essential roles in the Christian congregation. The Lord’s Supper is central to the worship service, but it is not act of sacrifice by the priest; it’s the gift of God to the congregation.
e. God certainly should be glorified in our worship, but God desires to be glorified, not in the abstract, but as the Savior of human souls. We do not need to fear God’s anger for using images in a worship setting.
IV. Conclusion: Lutherans view worship in a different manner than all other Christian traditions. The service is a pattern of God delivering his people, and his people responding with praise and thanksgiving.
[Next Week: The Biblical foundations for liturgical worship]
That's it in a nutshell. Clearly, there are some critical differences that go far beyond mere preference like whether to use an organ or a piano, whether to have red carpeting or not.
Now, if you want to go much deeper with this study and desire to discover what truly makes the "Divine Liturgy" Lutheran worship service (a.k.a. the Lutheran "Traditional Worship Service") such an incredible blessing to us, then please check out the post we published a few months ago...
What Is The Divine Liturgy? Why Is The Liturgy Important? Why Is The Liturgy Everything That Evangelicals Are Looking For?
In a Lutheran layman's terms, I'm glad that Lutheran worship is different, and I pray that more and more Christians will come to appreciate the gift we have in the Divine Liturgy, in distinctly Lutheran worship, because it's everything that Evangelicals are looking for these days, and everything that any Christian needs.
NOTE: Please understand that I'm not a called and ordained minister of God's Word and Sacraments. I'm a layman or just a regular Christian, Candy-Making, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm also a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism almost 2 years ago now. 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 inconsistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and repeatedly point us back to over and over again) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Also, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a Christian "Book of Concord" even existed (Small/Large Catechism? What's that!?!). This knowledge of the Lutheran basics was completely foreign to me even though I was baptized, confirmed, and married in an LCMS church! So, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by those old beliefs of mine. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because they are not blasphemous/heretical, because we now have this disclaimer, and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Most importantly, please know that any time I engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always closely follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible and/or include references to the Book of Concord unless otherwise noted. Typically, I defer to what other Lutheran Pastors both past and present have already preached and taught about such passages since they are the called and ordained shepherds of our souls here on earth. Finally, I'm going to apologize ahead of time for the length of most entries (this disclaimer/note is a perfect example of what I mean! haha!). I'm well aware that blogs should be short, sweet, and to the point, but I've never been one to follow the rules when it comes to writing. Besides, this website is more like a "Christian Dude's Diary" in the sense that everything I write about and share publicly isn't always what's "popular" or "#trending" at the time, but is instead all the things that I'm experiencing and/or studying myself at the moment. For better or for worse, these posts tend to be much longer than most blog entries you'll find elsewhere only because I try to pack as much info as possible into a single piece so that I can refer to it again and again over time if I need to (and so that it can be a valuable resource for others -- if possible, a "One-Stop-Shop" of sorts). Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Feel free to comment/email me at any time. Grace and peace to you and yours!