The Glory Has Departed

Lutheran book boxes sent to three African seminaries -
a third one has been sent now.

Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry

Bethany Lutheran Worship on
Ustream - Sunday, 10 AM Central Daylight Time.
Wednesdays Romans 1-5 in Greek

Saved worship files and Greek lessons are at the live worship link.

which works as too.

Luther's Sermons, Lenker Series
Book of Concord Selections
Martin Chemnitz Press Books

Norma A. Boeckler Author's Page

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson's Author's Page

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Monday, February 23, 2015

WELS Documented - About Worship

The Nativity, by Norma Boeckler

Accessible Worship: How did it start and where is it headed?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Accessible Worship: How did it start and where is it headed?

Did the Melodies of Our Hymns Originate as Barroom Tunes?
Barroom tunes for hymns? This is an oft-repeated claim. It implies that it was the general practice of earlier hymn writers to wed sacred words with secular tunes--and not just any secular tunes. The contention is that they purposely used the music of the rowdy beer hall crowd, so the people who frequented such places would be attracted to the gospel.

But is that historically accurate? It may be for some a comforting and convenient notion, but is it true? If not, repeating it over and over will not somehow make it true.

Martin Luther is one on whom this argument is based. Sometimes, those who want to excuse bringing the excesses of worldly music into the church do so on the basis of something they heard or read somewhere about Luther--that he commonly used the music of the drinking songs of his day and put Christian words to them. We hear about Luther's use of "barroom tunes." But careful research has shown that is a myth. Of the 37 chorales (hymns) written by Martin Luther, here is the source of his music:

-15 original tunes composed by Luther himself

-13 tunes from Latin hymns

-4 tunes adapted from German religious folk songs

-2 tunes that were from religious pilgrim songs

-2 tunes for which the source is unknown

-1 tune taken from a secular folk song

(Source: Robert Harrell, Martin Luther, His Music, His Message (Greenville, SC, 1980), p. 18. )

Did Luther Endorse “Bar” Music for the Church?
From Steadfast Lutherans 
Posted on September 8, 2010 by Pastor Tim Rossow

Editor’s Note: Over on another string Ron Beck asked a great question about Luther and his musical reforms (comment #79). He asked:

    I need your help. Will you explain for me the myth or the history about Luther using bar tunes for hymnody.

On that same string a reply came in, responded with the following helpful answer that puts this myth to rest once and for all.

    Ron, here’s a very good answer to your question from Rev. Peter Berg, who posted this on the old “Motley Magpie” site a few years ago:

Myth: Luther used bar songs in his hymnody. Ergo it’s permissible, even advantageous, to use popular forms of music in the church today. (Note: One of our esteemed editors recently visited the web site of a WELS congregation where the church’s CCM group justified its existence based on the “fact” that Luther used bar songs.)

Truth: Luther did not use bar songs but rather his own creations and the musical heritage of the church catholic. The term bar refers to the type of staff notation used in medieval musical composing*. Luther did wed one sacred text to a popular tune**but later regretted this dalliance with love ballads. The relatively new academic discipline called Sentics has demonstrated that music can independently generate two very different reactions and emotions, termed Dionysian and Apollonian. The first is emotive and turns one inward. It is self-gratifying and clearly anthropocentric. The second, while not denying the emotional impact of music, maintains control and gives room for the intellectual processing of the truth of the text. In the first type, the music dominates the text. In the second, the music is in service to the text.  Christian Contemporary Music, a bad clone of popular music, is clearly Dionysian. Luther called Dionysian music “carnal” and he wrote his music to wean people away from the love ballads of his day.

    And now let me add two comments:

    *The musical notation was simply a repeat sign, known in Luther’s day as a “bar”. Yes, believe it or not, some wacky American Lutherans saw Luther’s reference to “barred music” in German and changed the repeat sign into a pub!  Why did Luther write positively about “bar(red) music”?  Because it describes the musical form A A B.  He thought that the repetition of the music of the first phrase would help in learning, and then the B phrase would give the balance of variety.  Hence, many chorales are written in this way.  The reason “bars” were used for notating this form was  used to save ink & paper.  Today we simply call these “repeat signs”.  You see this even in 19th and early 20th-century hymnals: the music for the first line ends with a repeat sign, and then the second verse of the first stanza is written in.


    First line of music (A)
    Salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor (repeat sign)
    Good works cannot avert our doom, they help and save us never.

    SECOND line of music (B)
    Faith looks to Jesus Christ alone, who did for all the world atone; He is our one Redeemer.

    **The one instance to which Rev. Berg refers is “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come”.  It is critical to note that this exception proves the rule: the tune we sing to “From Heaven Above” (VON HIMMEL HOCH) is NOT the popular ballad Luther first used, but a “more churchly tune” of his construction that he wrote AFTER he realized that his hymn was going to be used in the church.   What happened was this:  he wrote the hymn as a Christmas gift for his children, using a tune that was a popular “guessing game” song used by masked suitors of the day.  The clever trick: change the “guessing game” from “who is courting you” to an angel playing the game of “Whose is this advent of which I proclaim?”  So it made sense to use the popular tune.  However, when others began singing the hymn, he quickly wrote, in his words, “a more churchly tune”, so that it would be musically appropriate for the Divine Service. 

Issues: The Origins of Reformation Music – Dr. Robin Leaver, 7/30/14

Did Luther use a drinking song as the basis for "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God?

This is a common misconception, but the answer is an undeniable "no."

Martin Luther wrote both the words and the tune for "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (in German "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott"). Carl F. Schalk, a well-known contemporary hymnologist, writes in Luther on Music: Paradigms of Praise (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1988) as follows:

    "Luther also set his hand to the task of writing hymn melodies. It is generally acknowledged that at least three hymn tunes are from Luther's own pen. "Wir glauben all an einen Gott", "Ein feste Burg," and the Sanctus hymn from the German Mass, "Isaiah dem Propheten das geschah." Considering his own musical experience and training, and living at a time when the Meistersinger tradition prescribed that poet and tune writer were one and the same person, it would be strange had he not attempted to give musical expression to his own texts" (p. 26).

    Leonard Woolsey Bacon, in The Hymns of Martin Luther Set to Their Original Melodies (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1883), refers to a near contemporary of Luther's in reporting that the tune is by Luther:

    "It seems superfluous to add to this testimony the word of Sleidan, the nearly contemporary historian, who says expressly concerning "Ein' feste Burg" that Luther made for it a tune singularly suited to the words, and adapted to stir the heart. If ever there were hymn and tune that told their own story of a common and simultaneous origin, without need of confirmation by external evidence, it is these" (p. xix).

In contrast to these definite statements attributing the tune to Luther, one can note that there are scholars who question this. For example, William Barclay Squire in his article on Martin Luther in Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., edited by Eric Blom (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1959) says:

    "The following are the hymn-tunes which have been ascribed to Luther, though none with any degree of certainty: ... 'Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott'" (v. 5, p. 447). One should note, however, that if Luther himself did not write the tune, absolutely no source is given for the tune.

The idea that Luther adapted his tune from a drinking song is probably from a misunderstanding of the tune in "bar form." It is easy to see here that "bar" is a technical term, because it is precisely the same word in German. For example, in Liederkunde, 2. Teil, edited by Joachim Stalmann (Goettingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1990), we find the statement "Luther baut einen neunzeiligen Bar" ["Luther builds a bar of nine lines"] (p. 61).

Willi Apel in Harvard Dictionary of Music, 2nd ed., rev. and enl. (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1969) says the following on p. 80-81 about "Bar form." Of particular importance is the connection of the form with the Meistersingers, as seen also in the first quotation from Carl Schalk:

    "The name is derived from the medieval German term Bar, a poem consisting of three or more Gesaetze (i.e., stanzas), each of which is divided into two Stollen (section a) and an Absegang (section b). ... [The Bar form] found its way into the repertory of the troubadours ... and ultimately into that of the minnesingers and Meistersinger, who called it Bar and used it for nearly all their lyrical songs. It is equally common in the German ... Lutheran chorales and the various compositions based on them (organ chorales, chorale cantatas, etc.). ... Of particular importance is the type of Bar in which the Stollen recurs complete at the end of the Abgesang, thus leading to the form a a b a. An appropriate designation for this is rounded Bar form. Several hymn melodies show this form."

         "A   Mighty Fortress" has the "bar form" A A B A'. One can diagram it thus:

            A    A mighty Fortress is our God,
                   A trusty Shield and Weapon;

            A   He helps us free from ev'ry need
                  That hath us now o'ertaken.

            B   The old evil Foe Now means deadly woe;
                   Deep guile and great might Are his dread arms in fight;
            A'   On earth is not his equal.

Despite the analyses of musicologists, one could still claim that Martin Luther "knew a good tune when he heard it," and adapted it for his own purposes. To think that Luther adapted a drinking song for "A Mighty Fortress," however, goes completely against the practice of the Reformer. This is amply stated by Richard C. Resch, "Music: Gift of God or Tool of the Devil," Logia 3 (Eastertide/April 1994) no. 2: 36, where he makes reference to Markus Jenny, Luthers geistliche Lieder und Kirchengesaenge (Koeln: Boehlau Verlag, 1985):

    "Martin Luther is one of the most misunderstood church fathers with respect to the use of music in the church. Claims that he used tavern tunes for his hymns are used in defense of a music practice that freely accepts worldly associations. Such conclusions bear no resemblance to Luther's writings on the subjects of worship and music. In fact, Luther's actions teach us quite a different lesson. In his search for the right tune for his text "Vom Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her" ["From Heaven Above to Earth I Come"] , Luther learned about the power of worldly associations. According to the Luther scholar Markus Jenny, Luther's first wedding of this text with a tune was "a classic example of the failure of a contrafacta." He set it to a secular dance song that begins, "I step eagerly to this dance." The dance and tune were closely associated with a Christmas wreath ceremony that was often held in taverns. Luther found the secular associations to be so strong that he eventually wrote a fresh tune that was free of worldly associations. He then indicated on the manuscript that this new melody was to be used in the Sunday service and with children. Luther's modification of this beloved hymn is indication of his sensitivity to the harmful power of worldly associations in the worship practice of the church."
        -- Rev. Richard Lammert, Public Services Librarian Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN

What about other hymns?
In earlier times, simple hymn tunes were written to different metres. These were often used interchangeably with various hymn poems. Even today, a look at most hymn books will reveal many tunes that are used more than once. An example is the tune, Darwall, written in 1770, by John Darwell, as a tune for a paraphrase of Psalm 148. Later, it came to be used for the hymns "Come, Thou Almighty King," and "Join All the Glorious Names."

And there were practical reasons for this multiple usage. First, many of the hymn writers were not trained musicians. They wrote poetry, but were not able to supply music for it. So they borrowed a hymn tune already in use. Then, in teaching a new hymn to a congregation, they were greatly aided by adopting a tune that was known. However, to suggest these were previously drunken beer hall songs is ridiculous.

But, let us look more closely at a possible example of a "barroom tune"--or at least one that was formerly used with secular words. It is the melody used for Paul Gerhardt's reverent text,

O sacred Head now wounded, With grief and shame weighed down, Now scornfully surrounded With thorns Thine only crown....

Gerhardt's words are a German translation of a poem attributed to the medieval monk, Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).

The tune which we commonly use for this hymn appeared as a secular love song, in 1601. The song was called "My Heart Is Distracted by a Gentle Maid," and it was published in a collection of music by Hans Leo Hassler, one of the best German composers of the later Renaissance. Significantly, the melody was not wedded with Gerhardt's sacred lyric until 1644, more than forty years later (before which it had been associated with another German hymn for thirty years).

Then, the hymn was harmonized by Christian composer Johann Sebastian Bach in 1729, and included in his oratorio, the St. Matthew Passion. (This gave the tune its present name, Passion Chorale.) Using this hymn for illustrative purposes, we can raise several important points. (Read article - historical based not WELS based)

Where is Accessible Worship Heading Now?

Accessible Worship - Let's Be Honest
Worship is sacred.  It is divine.  It is solemn.  Worship should be what I think is best.  Worship should be what we’ve always done.  Worship should be different.  Worship is boring.  Worship doesn’t speak to me.  Worship is what we do on Sunday.  Worship is…  Well, what is it for you?  Don’t just give the text book answer, what’s the personal one, the one you actually believe right now?

As we established earlier, worship, especially formal church worship is God’s coming to us in word and Sacrament as a gathered people around the name of Jesus.  In this gathering, as God comes to his people, his people respond to him directly in prayer, song and petition and respond to one another about God and his story of redemption and faithfulness in the form of exhortation, praise and celebration.  Yet fear, both right and wrong kinds of fear, often drive the conversations, debates, battles and wars over what is appropriate in formal worship; over what is God pleasing and what is unacceptable.  It splits families, it splits schools, it splits churches and it splits synods.  Both sides dig in battle lines and find bible passages to prove their viewpoint and how the other is wrong, dying, ineffective, unimaginable and downright sinful.  So to dig into a topic like this I want to just put out a reminder concept that even Martin Luther noted.  That while we acknowledge there are going to be differing stances on this topic, that as Christians we take each other’s words and actions in the kindest possible way and that we do our best to listen and understand the person before we rush to defend a position.  In the advice of many older and wiser people than me “God gave you two ears and one mouth – use them proportionally as it pertains to listening and speaking”.

So here is the basic premise for this blog series now that we have laid the foundation just a bit.  Accessible worship is the idea that we want to do everything that we can to make the peace and joy of the true law/gospel message accessible to as many people as we can in our neighborhoods, families, communities and congregations.  We know this comes from God's word, so we don’t need to water anything down, but we need to do everything we can to clearly communicate the need for a Savior from sin, what sin is and does and that Jesus is that Savior and the bible is the testimony to God’s faithfulness and the basis for “life to the full” as Jesus himself made known to us.  We need to communicate this message in ways that the people can understand and we need to give people in public worship the ability to have a response to the Gospel message so that words, songs and prayers are personal as well as congregational.  In order to frame this topic with better insight and to move us to perhaps some better conversation regarding traditional/liturgical and contemporary/non liturgical settings, I am going to address some key divisive words to help us re-center and deepen our conversation when it comes to acceptable and agreeable forms of worship in our Lutheran settings.

I hope you’ll pray with me and hang with me long enough that God can use his word to encourage all of us who believe so strongly in the concept of Jesus' Church and the formal and personal worship that happens in corporate and private settings and the tools that God has given us to share and proclaim Jesus!  There are a number of topics to get through so I ask your patience as I lay out some of these practical pieces with the hope that the various worship styles/languages/settings may all be seen as viable forms of making God’s word known while giving people a chance to respond in worship.  In other words, I hope we can all practice this advice to “take each other’s actions in the kindest possible way”. - See more at:

Accessible Worship - Is It Really About Style?
I've had the privilege to be part of some great churches growing up and a lot of great mentors in my life.  My life experiences as a meteorologist at Weather Eye, Inc. and the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee running Innovative Weather.  20 years around broadcasting and trying to communicate difficult concepts in simpler terms for people to understand.  Blessed to work in high school and college ministry trying to walk with the next generation well and learn from them as they grow through some common roads that we are traveling.  Blessed to be a husband and father, to be a loved son raised in a Christian household.  And as a touring Christian artist to work with many WELS churches encouraging people and helping build and affirm the Christian culture of those churches.

Over the years, I have helped lead in many worship settings from traditional/classical, to contemporary/modern worship settings in our WELS churches and I believe that God has given me something to share that I hope will be an encouragement in the end.  I am working at trying to articulate some of what I have learned as an artist that has been able to travel to different parts of the country and worked with a myriad of different church cultures over the past 10 years.  The end result is a presentation that I am calling "Accessible Worship".

Too often the "style" of worship in our churches gets a lot of sarcastic, even sinful comments ripping up or tearing down one another.  In the WELS, it's actually quite tame compared with the rhetoric of some denominations, but the feelings run deep and over the past 10 years I have not seen much conversation between two primary camps.  Even labeling the camps can be considered derogatory, but like in so many other areas of life there are often two that pull against each other.  Call it Traditional and Contemporary, Liberal and Conservative, Progressive and Orthodox, Right and Left.  In the views of many, these words are used too often to label worship environments, language and culture and in labeling them, we often miss out on some important details.

My effort in a Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) setting, is to actually push past the labels to try to make the point that communication is not simply content, but involves all of the senses and that a variety of worship environments, when filled with the right content, is not only healthy for the church, but biblical at it's core.  Yes, even if it involves an organ with a 40 voice choir, or a worship team led by guitar, keys and drums.

This space is really just a teaser for something that I hope to share with people in the coming months, but while I try to gather thoughts and put them down in coherent and hopefully encouraging and above all, biblical ways, I want to introduce to you the tension in three examples:

A member of a church that worships in a worship environment that is traditional and liturgical in the way it communicates, leaves a worship service feeling preached at, uninvolved and frustrated.  They can't put their finger on exactly what it was.  They might say it was the message, they might say it was the music and the songs written by Yoda, they might say it was the distractions or just life in general, but they leave feeling as though they did not worship.  Yet when you look at the content of what was said and done in worship, all of the important elements were there.  God's word, songs of praise, a lesson, communion, a creed, prayers of the church, a message.  They leave frustrated and wondering what's wrong with me.

A member of a church that worships in a contemporary and non liturgical worship environment and they leave feeling as though their ears are going to burst, like the attended a rock concert and while they felt respected by the people there, they felt the whole thing was irreverent and did nothing to honor God.  They might say it was the lights, or the stage, or the pastor who wouldn't stand still, or the style of the song and the seven 11 simple lyrical content and they leave feeling as though they did not worship.  Yet when you look at the content of what was said and done in worship.  all of the important elements were there.  God's word, songs of praise, a lesson, communion, a creed, prayers of the church, a message.  They leave frustrated and angry at this so called church.

A Pastor, takes a call knowing he's involved in a somewhat impossible task, of trying to be everything to everybody.  Even though he's been warned he can't be and that God will care for those he can't, it's not about him after all.  Yet he has both of these people in his congregation.  He has his own preference on how to conduct worship and he has his own experience set.  Yet his heart breaks for both of them.  Does he take a blended approach to worship "style"?  Does he split his congregation by having both traditional and contemporary offerings.  Can the church culture understand the importance and validity in both when they are done with the utmost respect to God's Word?  When he sits down to talk with them with an aching heart he says to one or the other "what am I doing wrong?".  He doesn't know, the people don't know - they just hurt.

Well I want to speak into this so that both sides and anyone in between can have a chance to sit down and have an honest conversation about things like: "Worship, Communication, Language, Relationship, Evangelism, Entertainment, Performance and Encounter.  I want to take a harder look at the use of Traditional, Blended, Contemporary and Modern worship settings from a WELS viewpoint and I hope and pray that God will remove the fear that is unnecessary and may fill us with a passion for fearlessly proclaiming the whole of the Gospel as has been the heartbeat of so many Christians who have gone on before us.

Please pray for me and those who are my mentors on this topic, that it would ultimately bring Glory to God, clarity to worship leaders and through it all, more people to know the saving power of Jesus Christ and where true Life can be found. - See more at:

Accessible Worship - Entertainment
“While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:” Luke 8:8

“Contemporary worship is all about fun and entertainment”.  It is a quote I have had uttered to me many times and that I have read more than I care to admit.  The lights are dim, there may be a stage, there is a Pastor or speaker who moves around a lot and tells stories and it looks like a concert.  For many people this is not worship and should not be the worship of the church, because it patterns itself after what people call the “entertainment” industry.  Movies, concerts, coffee shops, places people go to check out of reality and be lost in someone else’ story.

In some cases I would agree that if you don’t understand the language or the communication style of the people in those environments it will look like a concert.  I would also agree that there can be a danger in encouraging a “you sit back and relax and watch us worship for you” type of worship setting that is more likely to happen in contemporary and modern worship services than it might in traditional settings.  But that is not just confined to the more contemporary environments as organs and organists can take over or play so loud or monotonously that it can have the same effect.

I want to say that our worship should absolutely entertain people!  Some of you are curious and perhaps offended by that statement.  Some of you might even be a little angry.  Here’s the point I want to make when it comes to the value of entertainment related to worship.  Webster’s dictionary defines entertain or entertaining with these three ideas (I put in the comments between the parenthesis):

: to have people as guests in your home or in a public place (such as a restaurant)

: to perform for (an audience) : to provide amusement for (someone) by singing, acting, etc.

: to keep, hold, or maintain in the mind (to hold one’s attention)

Have you ever thought of your church as a place that hosts guests?  It is why the “greeter program” exists in your church, a modest attempt at acknowledging that we have guests who might enjoy a more comfortable entrance to our church home.  We entertain guests with coffee, baked goods, pleasant smiles and conversation along with a cry room and other amenities to help a guest be comfortable.  That is the church entertaining people.

The negative aspect of entertaining in worship has to deal with the idea of performance, which I will cover in another blog post.  But the short of it is that providing amusement for people by telling stories, singing for them, acting out etc… is generally viewed as that poor form of entertainment.  But that is precisely what a soloist does, or a choir might do, or an instrumentalist during the offering does.  We wouldn’t use the word “amusement” we would say “edification”, but there is an element of performance.

The last one is the big one and it is the reason that I believe we need Pastors and communicators in worship that can entertain people.  It’s knowing your people well enough and using the methods of communication at your disposal to hold a person’s attention.  To help them understand the content (Law/Gospel/Justification/Sanctified living), we need to communicate in such a way as to hold their attention.  Our hope is to entertain our congregation, translated, we hope that God will use our communication gift set to hold the attention of the people to the word of God and the message based on the text.  Jesus himself often spoke in parables to hold people’s attention and to make points in ways that related to the audience he was speaking to, be it poor and bewildered or educated and pompous.  Even his miracles would have entertained people in the best ways (think Lazarus).  Jesus knew how to hold the attention of people.

Entertaining worship can be a negative thing when the focus is not on God and that is always the danger when people stand up and speak/sing for God regardless of the worship setting.  But when our focus is on Jesus and when leaders understand their roles and can lead with servant leadership and confident humility, well let’s just say I hope everything we do entertains people for his sake! - See more at:

Accessible Worship - Performance
“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” Revelation 5:14

“The difference between performance and worship is involvement.”

One of the criticisms that often comes against contemporary worship settings is that it seems to be a performance rather than worship.  The negative connotation comes often because the musicians are at the front of church, visible to the entire church body.  As we talked about before, 55% of communication is what people see and therefore the fact that they are visible often gives the feeling of a performance.  Our experiences with people up front are usually tied to concert environments and orchestral experiences, experiences that we often refer to as a “performance” where we sit and watch or listen to what is happening from the front.  Add to that the notion of worship leading is often foreign to most people in a congregation and the often times the musicians do not understand that they are in fact helping to “lead” worship.  Therefore if they get too energetic or they talk a little too much they come off as performers to some people.  On the other hand if they stand there and don’t move or don’t engage (entertain), there is a disconnect with the rest of the people they are there to lead.

But this is not limited to just contemporary bands and worship settings.  When the choir gets up to sing for the congregation, we tend to think more highly of it because it is “sacred” music, but if the choir does something a little more upbeat, the criticism is that it’s a performance.  Or if there is a Pastor who chants the liturgy for the people, if he is too enthusiastic, it seems to border on the performance side of things.  Or even the organist, if they are too ornate and long in their interludes between verses or if they are too loud in their playing… yep you bet – performance!

In all my experiences in WELS worship settings, the difference between performance and worship is involvement.  Some of this involvement is directly tied to the way that the contemporary band or the choir or even the organist leads.  If they lead with a clear expectation that the people have a voice, and then work to create space for that voice to be heard, then we move from performance to involvement.  For some people, simply listening is enough because they are deeply connected to the words and the music.  Because what they are hearing leaves them connected to the song and the message it is conveying, they are not simply taking in a performance, but the song/music is part of their worship because they are involved though they don’t show an outward expression.

For the organist, for the choir, for the soloist and for the praise team, it is very important for us to remember that if what we are doing is to be part of the worship of our church, the way we move from performance to worship is to give the people a song to sing.  For some people it will be a vocal song to sing, for other songs we might ask their hearts to sing as we tell the story through music.  Our songs give voice to a prayer and then encourage their voice to join in.  It is true that a soloist has a different role, sometimes the choir is set to sing for the people because the music is beautiful, but complex.  Sometimes the band chooses a song that has an edge, is difficult to sing or is creating tension that the message is meant to deal with.

My hope is that before we throw around that word and start accusing various groups of being a performance based entity uninterested in worship, let’s really think about what that means and let’s admit too, that our own biases, likes and dislikes go a long way in making that statement.  In other words, our judgment of others in the realm of performance may be as petty as not liking a person in a choir and therefore not liking any of it.  If a group is over the edge on performance, let’s use kind words to build them up and help them move from performance to worship – giving the people a voice, verbally or internally, to join in with the praise of God’s people. - See more at:

Read More:
Accessible Worship - An Introduction 
Accessible Worship - Communication
Accessible Worship - Worship
Accessible Worship - The Heart of Worship
Accessible Worship - Words Matter

The Future of Accessible Worship

How Can We Keep From Singing Your Praise?
By Steve Brown - I am a member at Messiah Lutheran Church in South Windsor, CT - a member of the WELS. I worship, I write, I pray, I play guitar and I sing as I help to lead worship.

Attention WELS and ELS Churches Using Contemporary Music!

I would like to create a database of churches in our fellowship that are currently using contemporary music.  As this list grows, we can use it to contact one another for help, for prayers, for resources, or just to have someone to talk to that share your beliefs.

I am calling this project “How Can We Keep from Singing Your Praise?”  Because…

God has put a new song into our hearts!
We can respond to the Gospel with a new song!
We are kindred Spirits!
God blesses Unity!
We see the same truth!
We sing the same truth!
How can we keep from singing your praise?

Recently, a WELS worship leader in TX asked me who else was doing contemporary worship in the WELS besides me.  I knew of only a handful of churches and none near TX.  How pathetic is that?  Hence the need for this list.

Please consider adding your name to the list and also feel free to pass the link to other WELS/ELS churches that you know are using contemporary music.

If you need a definition for using contemporary music and worship I would try this test out. Have you used the Getty and Townend song titled “In Christ Alone” and accompanied it with anything other than an organ (as in piano and guitar)?  Have you heard of Chris Tomlin? Have you hosted the Branches Band at your church?  If you’ve answered “yes” to all these questions, then go ahead, be bold and sign up. Oh you can just go ahead and sign if only one of these are true and you want to belong to this group because we are not exclusive!

You can add your contact information at the following link: