This is my humble rebuttal to the local Lutheran church (and any others like it whether they're Lutheran or not) that decided that it's more than appropriate to replace the Divine Liturgy (a.k.a. "Traditional Worship Service") ON EASTER SUNDAY with a "special service" led by the church's "Youth Group" made up of children, pre-teens, and teens (complete with Welch's Grape Juice and all, because they're kids, and we can't have kids handling alcohol, of course!).
Here's what prompted this in the first place...
So is the "Youth Group Assisted Easter Worship Service" (a.k.a. "The Youth Group Leads Just About The Entire Service -- Including The Preaching of the Sermon!") a common or relatively new practice in Lutheran churches today? My FB feed got lit up tonight with pictures and praises from all sorts of lifelong Lutherans who should know better (Article XIV anyone?) than to encourage and reinforce that kind of doctrine and practice at one local Lutheran church. It's just so sad to see this sort of thing at any time during the year, but especially on Easter Sunday. "Preached The Sermon" as in "Stood Where The Pastor Usually Stands And Instead of a Traditional Sermon By Him, The Kids Share Their Personal Testimonies." Sorry, I should've been more clear that the "personal testimony" was substituted in place of the "sermon" during the service.
As one person commented, "I'm not a fan of 'personal testimony' during church services at any rate, and they're certainly no substitute for proper Biblical teaching by a Pastor."
Yes, those are my sentiments exactly.
Now, please don't misunderstand me here. I'm not talking about the children who sing a hymn at the front of the church, which is a part of the service. That's often beautiful (Jesus Himself even said, "Let the little children come to me"). I'm talking about the children who are instructed to take the place of the Pastor and do anything and everything that he would normally do. I'm talking about having the kids assist him with any and every aspect of the Liturgy throughout the entire service (if we can still call what they do at that point "liturgy"). I'm talking about things like emotional and manipulative devices like "Personal Testimonies" and "Liturgical Dance" performances too.
In short, I'm talking about us having the nerve to redefine worship and thinking it's not only ok to do so whenever we feel like it, but that it's also definitely ok to do so on Easter Sunday of all days.
"Who gets to define worship, what worship is? The one who is worshipped -- not the one who worships. This is something we have forgotten in modern American Christianity. We think that the worshipper gets to decide what worship is, but that's not true. The one who gets to decide what proper worship is, is the one who is the object of worship -- the One who is worshipped -- and He's given us things that comprise Christian worship that the Church has held dear for millennia that the modern Church has dispensed with and abandoned. He's given us the simple preaching of the Word and the Sacraments. And while those hold an excitement for those who believe what they say, and while those do create an experience of a kind, the 'excitement' isn't the point and the 'experience' isn't the point. It's about the objective reality and truth of what God is saying and doing on Sunday morning. And if it's outside of me, and it isn't an experience being generated in me, or, let's be honest, manipulated in me, if it's truly outside of me and it's what God is doing for me on Sunday morning, then it's far more certain than any experience, any excitement, that you can create by any means. When God preaches the simple Law and Gospel of His Word that delivers Christ crucified to sinners so desperately in need of forgiveness, life, and salvation, that's certain, because it doesn't depend on how you feel or what experience it creates. And when He gives to us through those objective means, those things that are outside of ourselves, like water with the Word in Baptism and the bread and wine that really, truly bring Christ's body and blood for us to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins, that's outside of you, and its certainty doesn't depend on whether you experienced it sufficiently or were sufficiently excited by it."
-- Rev. Todd Wilken, Issues, Etc. Comment Line, March 26th, 2014
It never ceases to amaze me how so many lifelong Lutherans can continue to encourage and promote practices that suggest that "Personal Testimonies" are much more effective than simply preaching God's Word and administering His Sacraments faithfully to Christ's Sheep.
It never ceases to amaze me how so many lifelong Lutherans can continue to encourage and promote practices that suggest that "Every Member A Minister" means that anyone and everyone -- including children and teenagers -- can and should be able to do exactly what the called and ordained Pastor does from the altar and pulpit each week.
It never ceases to amaze me how so many lifelong Lutherans can continue to encourage and promote practices that suggest that the best time to experiment with these "new" and "exciting" styles of worship is on a major Christian holiday like Easter Sunday when the church will be packed with more people than usual.
It's never a good time to experiment with and introduce such things into Christ's Church.
In a Lutheran layman's terms, our doctrine will always determine our practice on Sundays, so what do "Youth Sundays" and the "Youth Group Led Worship Service" really say about our doctrinal beliefs regarding the Office of the Holy Ministry let alone the efficacy of the Lord's Means of Grace?
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, Corporate Recruiter, Husband, Father, Friend who lives in the "City of Good Neighbors" here on the East Coast. As another Christian Blogger once wrote, "Please do not see this blog as me attempting to 'publicly teach' the faith, but view it as an informal Public Journal of sorts about my own experiences and journey, and if any of my notes here help you in any way at all, then I say, 'Praise the Lord!' but please do double check them against the Word of God and with your own Pastor." To be more specific, and relevant to the point I want to make with this disclaimer/note, please understand that I'm a relatively new convert to Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism a little more than 3 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/older pieces I wrote for this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that "Old Evangelical Adam" category (and they don't have a disclaimer like this) 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 I 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 footnotes 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 under-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 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!