Tuesday, February 9, 2010

This Really Says It All

First of all, let me make something clear up front.  I did not go looking for what follows.  It was brought to my attention by a person posting comments in a thread over at the BJS site, who happens to belong to the congregation in question.  I just don't want to be accused of spending my time searching the net for congregations I can pick on or something.  I don't have time for such an endeavor and, besides, it would leave me in a constant state of depression anyway.  But, I can't help but comment on this, since I really believe it provides a good example of the different, non-Lutheran theology of worship being followed by many in our synod who offer a variety of "worship experiences."

The following appears on the website of Bethlehem Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Lakewood, Colorado:
Worship with Us 
Worship is the most important thing we do together at Bethlehem. This is where we praise and worship God, hear about His design in our lives, and receive forgiveness.
I'm glad the folks at Bethlehem consider worship the most important thing they do together.  But, look at how they describe worship.  It is decidedly backwards, isn't it?  They put receiving forgiveness AFTER they praise and worship God and hear about His design in their lives.  This is not consistent with our Lutheran theology of worship.  We believe, teach, and confess that our praise and thankfulness in worship comes in RESPONSE to the gifts with which our Lord serves us.  The movement in our theology of worship is from God to us and then us back to Him.  He speaks, we listen.  He gives, we receive.  Then, and only then, can we offer our praise and worship in return, speaking back to Him what He has spoken to us in His Word.

Besides that, what does it mean to "hear about His design in our lives"?  This is the way that Americanized "evangelicals" speak.  This is the theology of the Rick Warrens and Joel Osteens out there, who believe worship is the time to hear about the plan God has for our earthly lives.  Can you say, "Purpose-Driven Life" or "Live Your Best Life Now"?

This short statement from Bethlehem Lutheran really says it all.  It reveals the problem with the "contemporary worship" being advocated by so many in our synod.  It is NOT just a different "form" or "style" that puts our Lutheran doctrine into practice; it is a different theology based on doctrines foreign to Lutheranism.

Consider how many "contemporary worship" services begin.  Usually, there is a medley of "praise songs" offered at the beginning, meant to get the worshipers "warmed up."  Praise and worship happens first, before God acts at all.  There is a reason for this.  It is because the methobapticostals and Americanized "evangelicals" DON'T BELIEVE OUR LORD IS PRESENT.  He's up there in heaven, seated on His throne.  So, they go out of their way to reach Him up there with their praise.  The louder and more emotionally palatable, the better.  The more they "feel" the praise, the more "genuine" it is.  It's all about "feelings" for them, since the only way they can "know" whether or not the Lord has forgiven them and is pleased with them is if they "feel" that in their hearts.  That's the only way He is present with them - in their hearts.  He doesn't make an actual appearance in their midst.  He can't.  He's in heaven on His throne.

Our Lutheran theology of worship is completely different.  It is based on the reality that our Lord IS PRESENT among us.  He comes into our midst TO SERVE US with His gifts.  We enter His Holy House knowing how unworthy we are to do so, falling to our knees to confess our sins and plead for His mercy.  He lifts us up with His Word of Absolution, assuring us that we need not fear, for He loves us and has forgiven us.  Then, we sing praises to Him in response to what He has done for us, always being mindful that we continue to abide in His Holy Presence.  Worship for us is a Holy Encounter with our Holy Lord in which we receive His Holy Gifts and praise Him by singing Holy Hymns which flow from His Holy Word.  In other words, worship for us is Holy and reverent! 

Advocates of "contemporary worship" among us can argue till their blue in the face that they're not abandoning our Lutheran theology, but they're just plain wrong.  They are.  They're following the theology of worship of those who advertise their worship like this:
Have you gotten away from the traditional church? Are you interested in a more relaxed worship opportunity? Do you work on Sunday morning? Are you interested in worshipping with high energy, contemporary music? Are you more comfortable in blue jeans than dress clothes? If you answered yes to any of these questions you might find it meaningful to attend Trinity Church's Casual Saturday evening service; "A Gathering of Joy." Trinity United Church of Christ will have a contemporary worship service each Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The relaxed atmosphere of this worship service will emphasize joy rather than guilt and the message will emphasize hope rather than reprimand. Most weeks there is a drama that offers the message in a fresh entertaining format.  A praise band will lead the singing. 
I found this when I googled "contemporary worship," looking for an image to include in this post.  While it comes from a United Church of Christ congregation, it could easily appear on the website of many LCMS congregations today.  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that one could spend a little time searching LCMS websites and find statements very similar to this one on many of them.  And all I have to say to that is:  I rest my case, your honor.      

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