|Parlow, Ski, Glende, Bishop Katie and other WELS workers|
went to Andy Stanley's ministry conference.
From Church and Change's List-serve, Which They Shut Down So They Could Be More Secretive
biblical principles for corporate worship
I have looked on the WELS website and the WELS worship website in search of an agreed upon list of biblical principles pertaining specifically to corporate worship. We would like to list the information on our website. I have not been able to locate such a list (admittedly I may be web-challenged). Here is what I have put together, your suggestions and input are welcome! Remember I'm looking for biblical prescriptions pertaining to corporate worship. I've tried to maintain the wall between prescriptive and descriptive passages although there is going to be some cross-pollination.
1. Worship in truth and spirit. – John 4:23
2. Worship the true God only. – Matthew 4:10
3. Worship in an orderly fashion. – 1 Corinthians 14:40
4. Men are to be the spiritual teachers/preachers in a congregation of men and women. – 1 Timothy 2:11-12; 1 Corinthians 14:26ff
5. Strive to do all to the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31
6. Edification of the Church. – Ephesians 4:11-12
7. Regular attendance. - Hebrews 10:24
8. The administration of the Sacraments - Matthew 26:17ff, 28:18-20
"Dream big ... the Word works!
TWO EVER-ABIDING PRINCIPLES:
A. It’s ADIAPHORA
B. Avoid legalism and especially blindly following tradition as Jesus describes in Mark 7:7-13
What's adiaphora, Ray?
Maybe an addition about the predominance of the gospel, or the
centrality of the cross? 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 might be a good "principle
passage" for that (it also makes a nice comment about our attempts at
I think in this list from John is nothing really adiaphoric - execpt
perhaps a bit No 7.
What is legalism? It is not taking the words of the bible just as they
are - if not explicitly symbollical words.
But in general I feel too that we (confessional Lutherans) do not use
our freedom of worship adiaphoras (music instruments, wording, ...) as
much as we could and as much as it would help build the church.
Clemens Erbacher (Germany)
love to stir things up, don't you?
Wow! I'm really missing the point of the comments today...
Who was stirring what up, John?
The bibical principles mentioned in Come Worship Christ and CW:Manual are:
1. Let the gospel be the most important part of worship
2. Let the people participate
3. Let all God's gifts be used in worship
4. Let the experience of the Church be honored.
I agree that these can be aspects of the worship service (and we do have them) but must ask the question: Are all these prescriptive and descriptive principles for corporate worship?
"Dream big ... the Word works!
A thought (brief, as I'm about ready to set out for my part in the local Lent preaching rotation) on the first principal CW:Manual/Luther states:
In the message Ray Miller sent, he mentioned Mark 7, which, along with Pastor Krahn's citation of 1Co 2:1-5, would support the predominance of the gospel as a principle of corporate worship. We're not giving God any glory if we're not naming him and his deeds for our salvation, which relates to principles 1, 2, 5 and 8 in your list, as well. Without the predominance of the gospel, our spirit tends toward the natural man's preferred manner of worship, which would toss all of those other principles out. Come to think of it, I'm thinking that should not only be added, but it should be number 1, while everything else gets bumped down.
In his name,
In an attempt to answer the question I share with you some of my notes from a Summer Quarter worship class.
1. To worship God is to ascribe worth to him (Anglo-Saxon: weorthscripe). See Rev 5:12.
2. The highest worship of God is is to believe in him, that is to fear. love, and trust in him above all things. Giving God my confidence indicates what I think and feel he is worth to me. See Psalm 95:6-9.
3. Christians manifest what God is worth to them, that is, they worship him, by living according to his will. See Romans 12:1-2.
4. Christians also demonstrate how much God is worth to them when they assemble for public worship. See Adam and Eve in the Garden, Noah after the flood, Tabernacle and Temple public worship, and NT Church in Acts 2:42
I think the following point is key to your question:
5. The objective of Christian public worship is not prescribed on the pages of the Bible.
6. In freedom but for good reasons, orthdox and confessional Lutheran churches have continued to carry out the objective of public worship found on the pages of the Bible and demonstrated in the life of the Church. With this objective, believers demonstrate what they consider God's worth to be by carrying out his will for the church, that is, to proclaim the Word and administer the Sacraments.
OT worship was presrcibed and we get glimpses of NT public worship but as point 5 state nowhere in the Bible does it say what public worship must entail.
Just another thing to mention from my notes from that class. It is problematic at best to use passages that describe "worship" in the Old or New Testament to create a paradigm for public worship. The Bible's words for worship express human activity toward God, wheras the patterns of public worship in both the Scriptures and the Confessions reveal a strong emphasis on divine activity. Neither the word worship nor any of the words translated as worship in the NT (latreia, latreuein, proskunein, thr8skeia, sebesthai, leiturgia) are used in connection with public worship in the NT. Words the NT uses for public worship have more to do with assemble than with worship (Mt 18:20, 1 Cor 5:4, Acts 4:31).
Again, John, that's a long way of saying "No, these principles are not prescriptive...descriptive, maybe."
An illustration used in the class was "If a group of kids go up to their dads and ask 'How do you play baseball?' the dads don't hand them a rule book or manual(prescriptive passages). They dads say, "Here, we'll show you how to play."
As I look as worship in the temple, in the synagogue, and Acts, etc... I think those 4 previously mentioned principles are seen.
A lot of the principles Lutherans talk about in worship are indeed prescriptive. For instance:
1. God-centered, not man-centered. (Otherwise it's not "worship," is it?!?)
2. Focuses on the eternal blessings of the Gospel: forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. (cf. the Lord's Prayer, "nothing ... except Jesus Christ, and him crucified." Heb. 10:24 -- all worship reminds us of and prepares us for the Last Day.)
3. Gives God's people opportunity to join in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving. (1 Tim 2, the stewardship passages in Cor. The Lord's Prayer: "Our Father ..." Worship is not a spectator sport!)
4. Gives opportunity for mutual edification (Heb. 10:24).
Just a couple of quickies during a lunch break,
Aaron and Matt,
It would seem to be that the "predominance of the gospel" might be better categorized at a derivative of Lutheran theology and not a direct prescriptive principle for corporate worship referenced in Scripture. I think several of my original eight probably fall into that category as well. It appears there are really are very few prescriptive principles concerning corporate worship in Scripture.
"Dream big ... the Word works!
I think "1. "(="Let the gospel be the most important part of worship")
is a must because this is our agenda as church (of course always with
enough law before that - for not throwing pearls before pigs...).
"2" is a lutheran principle that distinguishes us from romish popists
and similar people that want to make a pastor a little pope and take the
activity in worship away from the believers ("layity") to give it more
to the "professionals" - more than it makes sense in a given situation
or out of pure love for traditions.
"3" is perhaps hard to put into practice because there are so many gifts
and not every gift is helpful while worship (e.g. counting money as a
bank worker is a good gift but how to use it in worship?). But I think
confessional lutheranism is not very strong at that point. There are not
very much variations and bold new ways and methods it stays too often
within a frame that ist too narrow - more than Gods Word demands (while
on the other hand be as confessional lutherans begin to loose a bit our
biblical views concerning doctrine - e.g. gender roles, church
fellowship - while staying mostly very close at traditional worship forms)
"4" I have Problems with understanding that point. If it means maximize
the outcome of experiencing what has been sung, preached etc. instead of
having merely the feeling that it was a quite correct and lutheran
worship service - than I would say: Yeah! That is what we need the most
(while not loosing doctrine and not giving offense by weak preparation
or by clichees). And the biblical norm for that is: Jesus´ example of
using always symbols and parabels and words and storys out of everyday
life. And besides the logic of every day life: I think we will find much
more "norms" and examples in the NT letters and gospels.
But I feel that both lists are relevant and none is complete. The one
has the doctrinal core and the other has some very important (and very
christian because useful for Gods honor) psychological and technical
aspects. I feel these discussions should be much more practiced here and
with much more depth instead of (it is not meant bad or against any
person, but I feel like this and please let me express it) instead of
sharing where we can get cheap equipment or how to divide a DVD on John.
(It is really no critics - its good to talk this and to read it - but is
it the focus of this group compared to a pastoral conference etc.?).
Please let´s increase again our thoughts on these C&C topics even if it
might be sometimes too provocative. (ceterum censeo: dogmatics rule!)
Clemens Erbacher, Germany
"not a direct prescriptive principle for corporate worship referenced in
what is with Paul stating "I knew nothing but the gospel in front of
you"? etc. ...!
Sorry for no citation of a verse or book and that poor english - but I
think this is not only for situations without "vestments" and "organ pipes".
"I think several of my original eight probably fall into
that category as well."
Yes and No. Depends on the conciousness of the "lutheran" principles of
a given person. And I do not trust that every "lutheran" has this always
in mind because I know from St. Paul, from Luther and from Walther how
easy we make the gospel into a law. Why do we think that we are spared
from that at worship service or at thinking about liturgy? Old Adam in us!
If the Gospel is not predominant in worship...if it is only a Lutheran
derivative...than what is to be predominant in worship--what is the
In Protestantism would it not be Calvin's starting point of sovereignty?
The predominance of the Gospel is a theological principle for biblical, confessional Lutherans and certainly a principle that incontrovertibly distinguishes us from most (if not all) Evangelicals. I would hope that no one on this thread would disagree with the predominance of the Gospel in any worship service format, but we would be hard pressed to insist it to be so. We really know very little about the worship practices of the early NT church. The focus of the thread was to identify the worship principles clearly stated in Scripture.
"Dream big ... the Word works!
"Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly..." Wish I had time to write more, but that seems pretty clearly stated, doesn't it?
I guess I could also quickly say that the gospel predominates in Scripture, especially in the Psalms, which were the songs of OT and early Christian worship. I guess you could call that descriptive, but it's descriptive of the character of God's Word, not just descriptive of a custom, preference or particular event. When faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ, when we are told to preach the gospel, when our mission is to evangelize the world (that is, herald the Good News), when Jesus' and John's preaching to everyone is summarized as "Repent and believe the Good News," when downplaying the cross was the sin of Peter that received Christ's harshest rebuke, when without faith it is impossible to please God and the gospel is the power of salvation for everyone who believes, when Christ is our one foundation and anyone who runs ahead without continuing in the teaching of Christ is said to not have God, when the very name of the Christ was chosen by God to be "The LORD Saves"...
I'm not very good with remembering passages when I need them, but I have to say I wasn't too hard pressed to come up with those. I'm certain you can safely insist upon it without going beyond the Word of Christ. When the Bible says that we are not to give up the gathering but rather to get together and encourage one another, that is an insistance upon sharing the gospel. "Encouraging" means calling someone to your side and giving them the strength they need to keep on going. Strength for the true course of salvation is only found in the gospel.
Don't be shy to include the predominance of the gospel among the clearly stated principles of corporate worship, John. Even in an unordered list, it should still be at the top.
Am I to understand that with your sentence: "Don't be shy to include the predominance of the gospel among the clearly stated principles of corporate worship, John." you are stating that the predominance of the gospel in corporate worship is a prescriptive principle for worship? I have not seen any of our members of the WELS commission on worship make such a statement (perhaps I missed it). I recently read the two worship papers presented out east and don't remember seeing it. To reiterate, we continue to have the Gospel be our focus in worship but believe it to be the result of our Lutheranism and not a prescriptive principle. I hesitate to state a principle is "clearly stated" when I can't give a clear reference. Just sensitive I guess.
"Dream big ... the Word works!
Sounds to me like you're saying the members of the WELS commission on worship didn't clearly state it. Considering that the passages I just quoted clearly do prescribe the predominance of the gospel in the ministry of the church, it sounds more like you're saying that WELS folk just aren't representing the truth clearly enough. Other than the sudden urge to call my friend Pastor Brutlag tomorrow, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to get from what you just wrote there. I'm pretty sure you're not saying that none of the passages I just quoted lead us to make the gospel first and foremost in our corporate worship, but I'm also not sure what else I am supposed to understand from it.
PS Also don't be shy around me to say that it's wrong to add from Scripture and to take away from it. If I'm using Scripture incorrectly, I rejoice to be corrected by the Word through my brother. That's a good thing.
You wrote to Aaron,
"To reiterate, we continue to have the Gospel be our focus in worship but believe it to be the result of our Lutheranism and not a prescriptive principle. I hesitate to state a principle is 'clearly stated' when I can't give a clear reference."
Earlier you referenced "corporate worship." I think you need to define what "worship" you're referring to. If you are simply talking about what we offer to God in our songs, prayers and praises, not to mention our entire Christian life of sanctification, I think you would be hard-pressed to find a "prescriptive" principle that clearly states the gospel is to have the predominance. But when I think of "corporate worship," I'm not just thinking of prayers, songs and praises, but I mostly think about the Word that is shared, not to mention the sacraments that are administered. It gets down to the age-old question: what kind of "service" are we talking about when we speak of "Gottesdienst"--God's service to us or our service to him--or a combination of the two? If you're defining "worship" the way I would, then there is a very clear prescriptive biblical principle that applies, and that's the Great Commission, From a called-worker's perspective, every time we open our mouths to teach God's Word in a corporate worship setting or in the classroom, we are carrying out the Great Commission (but let me make it clear that's certainly not the only place we carry out the Great Commission). Jesus makes it very clear what we are to teach and preach ("everything I have commanded you," Mt. 28:20) and what is to receive the emphasis as we carry that commission ("Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation," Mk. 16:15; "Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached," Lk. 24:47). If you define corporate worship as God coming to us through his means of grace and we then respond by coming to God with our praise and prayers, then we can say the Bible has some definitively prescriptive words to say about the predominance of the gospel. This is not a Lutheran bias, but a biblical one. Walther had it right all along.
Your brother in Christ,
Cross of Christ--Coon Rapids, MN
I believe "corporate worship" to be what we do as a "body" of believers when we gather together for worship , i.e. Sunday worship, etc...
John has asked about prescribed biblical principles for that worship. I have stated before, based on a "worship class" that I took, that the objective of Christian public worship is not prescribed on the pages of the Bible.
The purpose of OT worship, prescribed in the Ceremonial Law, was to point Israel to Christ and his salvation. When Christ came the purpose as well as the stipulations of the Ceremonial Law ended.
Although the NT gives glimpses of public worship in the first century church, its principles concerning Christian freedom apply to first century worship forms in the same way they apply to OT forms. "There is nothing pertaining to the church and its activity which has been prescribed as to outward form, no form for the worship service, the sermon, the prayers, the liturgy, the singing; also no time, no frequency, no duration, no prescribed order of worship ("Are There Legal Requirements in the NT," August Pieper, trans. by Carl Lawrenz in WLQ, Vol. 86, No. 1, p. 37)."
As far as this discussion about the predominance of the gospel in worship, all I'm saying is that nowhere in the Bible does it prescribe, "The gospel should predominate in your corporate worship."
That having been said, the church in it's corporate worship will want to do what we as individuals do in our personal worship. We worship personally by living according to God's will. The church will do the same. It is God's will for the church that it put into action and use the Word and the Sacraments (which you correctly noted, but it is not a prescribed principle for worship). That is a principle for all aspects of ministry. Essentially, public worship and other aspects of the ministry of the gospel are the same in that they have as their purpose to proclaim the great things God has done. Practically, however, public worship and other aspects of the ministry of the gospel are different in scope, goal, and strategy.
In scope, public worship has involved more people than other aspects of the gospel ministry. As to goal, public worship has summarized and solidified the primary teachings of the Scriptures. As to strategy, public worship has placed the gospel in the vehicle of ritual and the fine arts.
(Most of these thoughts are from my notes on the Summer Quarter Class "The Objective of Christian Worship)
Just a request - can the rest of you stop making thought provoking comments on Wednesdays? I should be getting ready for Mid-Week Lenten services .
Boy do I hear you there, Matt. I, too, am trying to get ready. I should probably have just turned off my email client, but it's too late now.
Again, I will try to be brief, but I can't believe I'm even hearing this debated in a church of Jesus' followers. Well, "can't believe" is a little strong. Even as I write this I'm studying my sermon on the desertion of the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. And who can forget the rebuke of Peter that I cited previously? It is currently in our nature to drift and to need encouragement. We fall hard all too often when we think we are standing firm.
Anyway, of course there are no legal requirements as to the outward form of corporate worship in the NT. But the predominance of the gospel is not an outward form. It is, as your tagline says, Matt, "The heart of it all." The gospel is our life. It is our salvation. If the gospel is not predominate in worship, we get closer and closer to the altar where the Pharisee is crying, "Thank you, God, that I am not like these others," and further and further from the justified tax collector who worships God by calling on him for help and falling upon his mercy.
The line of thought here that is equating predominance of the gospel with some kind of legalism or speaking where the Scriptures have not spoken is confusing outward form with heart. Without faith it is impossible to please God, and without the gospel there is no faith. I'm quite certain that my previous list of passages was plenty enough to demonstrate the necessity of the gospel and its essential, central place in worship. There is certainly no law for right worship that we have to follow to be saved, but that's because we are saved entirely by God's grace through faith--faith which is given and then nourished through the gospel alone. Based on the heart of the First, Second and Third Commandments (note heart in that statement), worship that is not gospel focused fails to give God all the honor he is due and eventually turns to idolatry. In the life of a Christian, taking the focus off of the gospel in anything is to starve the new heart and to give the old Adam room to establish himself in his deceptive and deadly pride.
I'll just keep getting more and more incredulous if we keep going like this. Don't take if for anger or insult. Just, out of love for me, your brother, and out of love for our Savior and his teachings, please begin any responses by dealing first with the passages I cited. I'm guessing, Matt and John, that you are missing something crucial in the papers and notes you are citing, but, even if you aren't, it wouldn't preclude going back to these passages. "Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly..." (Col 3:16). "Let us not give up meeting together, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Heb 10:25). In Col., the gospel is very explicit. In Heb., the command doesn't work without the gospel at the core of the encouragement.
Gotta go. Sorry for any typos.
In his name,
Matt, please clarify this:
That having been said, the church in it's corporate
worship will want to do what we as individuals do in
our personal worship. We worship personally by living
according to God's will. The church will do the same.
It is God's will for the church that it put into
action and use the Word and the Sacraments (which you
correctly noted, but it is not a prescribed principle
for worship). That is a principle for all aspects of
ministry. Essentially, public worship and other
aspects of the ministry of the gospel are the same in
that they have as their purpose to proclaim the great
things God has done. Practically, however, public
worship and other aspects of the ministry of the
gospel are different in scope, goal, and strategy.
I'm walking away with the idea that WE are doing
something and what we are doing is following God's
Will. Is that possible? If I worship personally by
living according to God's Will, I'm not worshipping
very much. Especially when I'm leading worship from
the organ bench! Even then, I wonder how the service
came off, divine intervention. My mind wanders. I
sin even when I should be paying attention to the
words of the hymns as I play them, as I become
disgusted with those who talk through my pre-service,
offertory music, and hymn preludes. This is telling
me that I did not worship through those services
because I did not follow God's Will.
Worship is our response to God's mercy and grace. We
were created to worship and serve God. We can not do
that in accordance with God's Will. We even mess it
up when God prepares the good works for us!
One more question: Why should we analyze public
worship and other areas of ministry, separating out
their goals, strategies, and focus? It all boils down
to the gospel in a nutshell, John 3:16. Trying to
differentiate each areas goal, strategy and focus is
like attempting to say there is one way that a child
accomplishes language acquisition, in my opinion. It
just happens, differently for all, but happens. Do we
stop using varying methods to teach, no. The wise
teacher, though, will not get caught up in which
method he/she personally likes over other methods.
Food for thought. Guess I can write without pressure,
I had to be ready for a 1pm service already, so no
pressure on preparing music now!
Bay City, MI
Just I quick response to one of your questions about personal worship. It is possible for you to do God's will. When you where brought to faith you grabbed hold of the forgiveness and holiness Christ won for you and you were given the New Man. Paul encourages us to worship in such a way. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy (side note-that's why the gospel will predominate in worship and al ministry), to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship" (Rom 12:1).
I'll think about and adress the other question tommorrow. Sorry, got to get back to work.
Would it rightly be stated that the predominance of the Gospel is the REASON for worship (personal or corporate) while one might argue that it is not prescribed that it has to be the RITE of worship? In my estimation, like justification and sanctification go hand in hand but are discussed separately, you can’t separate the too. So if the Gospel is the REASON for worship, it will also be included in the RITE of worship.
Two cents on a Lenten Wednesday.
Pastor Michael Geiger
Until we can specifically define what we mean by "corporate worship," I think we'll be talking past one another. I view it as "Gottesdienst" (God serving us and we in turn serve him). How is everyone else in this discussion viewing it?
Lenten blessings in the crucified one,
Another quick thought. Perhaps, since we are focusing on corporate worship, we should step back and look at directives applicable to the church. The first that comes to mind is Matthew 28. If the church is directed to go and disciple by baptizing and teaching, i.e., by word and sacrament, it seems to me that all activities of the church, including corporate worship, then need to be in line with and in sync with that directive. Corporate worship then becomes one means, perhaps the primary means, by which the Church disciples God’s people. The gospel in word and sacrament, as the only means of grace, then of necessity must predominate and to do anything else would be inconsistent with Matthew 28.
Having said this, I get uncomfortable whenever we talk about Gospel things in a law manner. As Christians, out of love, I can not imagine a worship service where the gospel is not predominate… because I know that it is only through that means that my faith and the faith of my fellow believers is strengthened.
With best regards,
Paul does encourage us to take hold. But isn't it the
Holy Spirit that waraps our fingers around that gift?
And aren't we the ones who in our old nature are like
little children, resisting the 'hold?' I guess I may
have moments where I 'want' to do God's Will, but I
sometimes find that those moments, at times, follow my
own 'agenda.' My hang-up is this:
Everything I do is filthy. Nothing to the cross I
bring. Christ did it all, including the good works or
worship, because God sees Christ's robe of
righteousness around me as I worship. My Father sees
Christ's goodness as I attempt to worship.
Perhaps I'm way too sensitive to this differentiation
of what I do and what our Triune God does because of
my duties in worship. As I weed through contemporary
music, both 'rock' and 'choral' style, I need to be on
the lookout for this idea so that it does not creep
its way into our teaching.
Blessings on your day,
My two cents worth...
"Trinue." "Three-in-one." "Three persons in one God ." "Trinity." None of those specific words or phrases appear in Scripture. Yet the Bible clearly teaches the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the same way there is no one passage in Scripture that specifically states, "Let the Gospel predominate in your public worship." Yet based on the Bible's teachings on Justification, Sanctification, The Means of Grace, the Work of the Holy Spirit, Faith, Good Works (as well as others), and based on numerous passages that have been cited in previous postings (especially Pastor Frey's), how can we be led to any other conclusion about the Gospel's place in worship?
Therefore, without going beyond what Scripture says, we can say with confidence that Scripture directs us to let the Gospel predominate in our worship services. This is not merely a Lutheran principle for worship, but a Scriptural principle for worship.
Pastor Mark Gabb
St. Paul's - Beverly Hills, FL
Thank you. I agree. Obviously my thoughts confused the matter. I was just trying to make the case that those passage weren't "prescriptive" (as John Parlow questioned) for corporate worship. Yet, as you mentioned, based on those Biblical teachings we will want the Gospel to be the most important thing in our corporate worship.
A sincere "thank you" to all those offering insights and suggestions on the topic of biblical principles for corporate worship . . . but I believe we have probably ridden this horse to death. It's time to dismount.
God's blessings as you lead people down the road to Calvary.
"Dream big ... the Word works!
I agree. It is the Holy Spirit's work. But what Paul says still stands. We can and we do worship God by living according to his will. When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices (We give God ourselves not an animal. Included in giving ourselves is what we do according to his will) it is worship.
Yes, the righteous things/sacrifices we offer are filthy rags, but because Jesus has cleansed us they are "holy and pleasing" to God.
I also agree that as you (and I) search for worship material we will keep in mind that worship can come about only after we view God's mercy, as Paul says. We must make sure the people gathered to worship see God's mercy first, then they can respond in worship. We will look for songs with words that let the people "view" the gospel.
You also had a question about scope, goals, and strategies for aspects of the gospel ministry. You said that gospel ministry boils down to John 3:16 and I agree and I think I made that point when I said, "Essentially, public worship and other aspects of the ministry of the gospel are the same in that they have as their purpose to proclaim the great things God has done."
But there are differences in scope, goal, and strategy. For example take public worship and Youth Confirmation Class.
The scopes are different. Pubic Worship has as its scope all church members and visitors to the worship service. Pastor, organists, choir and director, etc... assist and guide that public worship. The scope of Confirmation class is only those 7th-8th graders and their parents. The pastor/teacher is the only servant "involved."
The goals are a little different (yes, the broad goals are the same - applying law and gospel).
And I'm not going to have the same strategy for public worship and confirmation class. I'm not going to use the organ and instrumentalists to help carry the gospel in confirmation class( I'll use music but not in the same way). In worship I will. I'm not going to use the lectionary in confirmation class to walk through the Bible (I'll use Luther's catechism as a guide). In worship I will. In confirmation class I'll seek discussion/dialogue. In worship not so much. Just a few example off of the top of my head.
I hope that clears up what I meant.
I, too, offer a sincere "thank you" to all, but I feel like the ride just got started! John, your biblical principles bring up so many passages that would provide so much edification as we discuss their contexts and meaning, and this discussion about gospel predominance has been awesome and essential--especially in terms of the difference between what's free, what's wise, what's important and what's beneficial in our worship. So many of the questions that occupy our minds and hearts at this stage in WELS history grow out of biblical principles for worship. That was a fantastic topic to bring up, John.
I suppose a person might argue for moving this discussion over to the C&C Discussion group, but it sure seemed like there was a lot of interest here. Perhaps our good moderator could weigh in on that, but, wow, I have been so eager to read the responses on this, plus I've received a couple of phone calls from people who want to weigh out their thinking with me before posting... I even heard from two folks doing work for the worship committee! This has been awesome discussion!
Again, we could always move it to the other group, but this discussion also weighs in so heavily in a practical way when it comes to making decisions about worship music, art and service styles. Stopping now would be like shutting down the Super Bowl at the end of the first drive and saying, "Well, I guess that's enough of that." I mean, even if you're only watching for the commercials, that would still stink.
I hope we can start talking about some of the individual principles Pastor Parlow listed, learning from the passages he cited. I will respect the wishes of the moderator on whether or not to continue the discussion here or over in the other group, however. Not, of course, without some measure of disappointment that I'm fairly certain will not just emanate from me alone, but I will respect his wishes, just as I expect we all will.
In his name,
Rev. Aaron C. Frey
Hope this isn't just a case of venting that will create more heat than
What would you all say about a WELS church/school (not my
congregation) that has an entire (very elaborate) website that doesn't
mention sin, the cross, or any kind of Gospel message whatsoever?
In fact, there is nothing on their website that a Mormon website
couldn't completely espouse. (And obviously no link to WELS!)
And - after pointing this out to one of their Pastors about 6 months
ago, instead of seeing any improvements, they've continued the theme
in mailings & other promotional materials, touting themselves as a
church that stands on the pillars of "The Three Great Charges Given Us
The Great Expectation – Be Faithful
The Great Commission – Go and Make Disciples
The Great Command – Love One Another
Am I overreacting to be outraged??? Would anyone care to set me
straight and defend this as just a matter of adiaphora?? Would you
allow your children to attend school there if it were you?
- Mark Salzwedel
I did find a reference to the WELS on the church's website (I figured out which one you were referring to). I also found the following statement right on the front of their Sunday bulletin, which is also posted on their website:
[GJ - Below is a statement I wrote and published for all to use. Kurtzahn as a CLC pastor did his best to undercut me, then ran away like a rabbit. Ironic that he commends this statement.]
In an age of anxiety, we still believe that peace comes from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
In an age ofI confusion, we still believe that the Bible is the Word of God, inerrant and infallible.
|CLC Circuit Pastors Kurtzahn and Paul Tiefel felt that pancakes on|
Shrove Tuesday were an endorsement of Romanism
and immorality. As the Kardashians would say, "Seriously?"
In an age of guilt, we still believe that Jesus died on the cross to remove the power of sin and Satan from our lives.
In an age of reason, we still believe that God is at work in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.
In an age of constant change, we still believe in the unchanging Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
XXXXXX XXXXXXX XXXXX is a truly Lutheran Church based on the apostolic, Christian faith and is a member of the
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.
Would I personally use language that sounds like Rick Warren and other Evangelicals? No, because I would not want to be confused with them. Would I use contemporary worship as this congregation does? Probably not. But I still see a law and gospel witness on their website, and I still see a confessional reference to the WELS. I have no reason not to believe they are preaching from their pulpit and teaching from their classrooms anything other than God's Word with a clear law and gospel emphasis. I would say, however, that if you do find things objectionable from a scriptural point of view, that you continue to talk to this church's pastors, and if you can't find satisfaction there, then you should talk to the circuit pastor, and so on up the line.
Blessings in the Crucified One,
Pastor Steve Kurtzahn
I'm really not trying to lead people to try to figure out who I'm referring to here to "call them out" in a back-door way, so I don't want this to turn into a detailed critique of this particular church (which wouldn't be proper).
However, I did double-check the website in question and still didn't see the Gospel references you cite. Not saying they aren't there, but they sure must be buried - and they can't be found in the page dedicated to their beliefs/statement of faith.
(Also - to clarify - in double-checking there is a link to WELS - but not anywhere near the "beliefs" section (such as a link to doctrinal statements or confessions))
Still - thanks for pointing out my error. I thought this related to the "letting the Gospel predominate" discussion pretty well and still do, actually. Is it really just a matter of preference as to whether or not our statements of belief, etc. avoid any mention of sin and the cross? That was the point I was trying to make.
(Pastor Kurtzahn - If I'm missing some clear, obvious Gospel presentations on their website, perhaps you could e-mail me privately with those links to set me straight?? It would be beside the point of my question, but would comfort me personally)
Does God’s Word make demands on what to put on a church website (outside of obvious things like encouraging people to violate God’s commands, false doctrine, pornography, etc)? I can think of any number of reasons why a WELS church may choose to do as you described.
To critique a particular WELS church’s website in this forum—personally I don’t believe that’s right (whether you mention the name of the church or not. Now, unfortunately, you may have all sorts of pastors guessing whom you’re talking about—and making the wrong guesses). Rather, make it a discussion about how churches, in Christian freedom, can make use of their websites to fulfill their congregation’s mission.
I think Mark's question is entirely appropriate. If someone uses Google or whatever and "guesses wrong," well, what's Mark supposed to do? Not ask his question? Protect the privacy of a public website to a greater degree than he already tried to? Ask such a generic question that the answer could not be helpful? I don't see any Pharisaic rabble rousing going on here.
You ask, "Does God's Word make demands on what to put on a church website (outside of obvious things like encouraging people to violate God's commands, false doctrine, pornography, etc)?" False doctrine isn't usually "obvious." The most insidious form of false doctrine is when the false consists of what's missing, rather than what's there. A summary of a congregation's beliefs that includes no attempt to proclaim Jesus as the Savior is missing the only thing that matters. God's Word and Name are misrepresented, and the Second Commandment is therefore broken, when the Gospel is absent from a worship service, or a Bible Class, or a summary of a church's belief on its website.
The "Belief" part of a website, for any church that is "evangelical" and "confessional," should be the "easy" part to make outstanding. It doesn't sound to me like this one is outstanding in any genuinely Biblical sense.
Once again - I'm sorry for what appears to be some bad judgment on my part with my original post in this thread. I wish I could take it back and frame this question differently.
Nevertheless, you seem to have taken my bait :-) and steered this in the direction I intended - so allow me to follow up - what are some of the reasons you can think of that would lead a WELS church to omit any reference to sin & grace in their promotional materials, websites, etc?
Concerning some words in this thread like this:
"what are some of the reasons you can think of that would lead a WELS
church to omit any reference to sin & grace in their promotional
materials, websites, etc?"
"I did double-check the website in question and still didn't see the
Gospel references you cite. Not saying they aren't there, but they sure
must be buried - and they can't be found in the page dedicated to their
beliefs/statement of faith"
"Would I personally use language that sounds like Rick Warren and other
Evangelicals? No, because I would not want to be confused with
them. Would I use contemporary worship as this congregation does?
I´d like to say this:
Perhaps you can talk about sin and law (before gospel/grace talk) better
when the person is in front of you and you can explain it to him in a
personal discussion that is able to give good apologetics for a certain
question or give deeper background information on specific things that
help accept the law/sin but would be too much for a website. I think it
is not wrong to chase people away before they know why we really have a
good reason (apologetics) for what we are saying.
In this statement on the website you can find this, as the beginner of
the thread or whoever else cited it:
"In an age of guilt, we still believe that Jesus died on the cross to
remove the power of sin and Satan from our lives."
Is that not confessional lutheran enough? What do we "hate" about the
"Rick Warrens" etc.? That they speak English as we do? That they speak
an understandeable English? /So much for the question "sound like Rick
Warren". I think not! It is more what they do NOT have: Talking about
original sin (but have this discussion already on the website or the
church wall outside? really?), the sacraments (But we won´t baptize
every new guest the first time he comes to our worship servive and I do
not need to talk about the Lords Supper here! So what is the problem?)
A NEW question here:
Would I personally use a language that sounds like the pope in Rome?
Really? Only because we have romish roots in our church history?
I think Rick Warren (who is definitely a wrong teacher and not very
helpful) might be nearer to our beliefs than Rome (Who is the antichrist
according to our confessions)!
Sometimes I wonder whether it is "church and change" here - but it is
good to have that discussion. I think I should look at the Issues on
WELS page (which might be a really good idea) and discover that they are
perhaps discussing there how they could meet more the language of modern
day people and how to reach out efficiently to unbelievers. Would be
funny - I think I will do it soon! World is sometimes confusing ;-)
I think I know what church the website in question belongs to. If it is the church I'm thinking of, they have the same thing on their bulletin, and they are a wonderful WELS church. I don't think church website content is prescribed in the Bible. Also, is it wrong to take what Rick Warren says and use it for God's kingdom? I've used some on his material before and found it useful.
On a slightly different topic, would it ever be appropriate to remove the word Lutheran from a church sign? Do we have any "community churches" in the WELS? I think mine could be the first. I'm not going to change any doctrine, mind you, just the sign. If someone asked me I would happy tell them I'm WELS and that I love Luther.
The reason for this would be someone could see that I'm Lutheran from my sign and think - "wait I'm Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, etc. and think I can't go there." AND someone could be Lutheran but be completely offended by what confess. Does putting Lutheran on a sign help? I would say it could hurt my goal of glorifying God through the gospel because people would listen to me. After they talk w/ me or sit through worship or listen to a sermon then they can say I can't go there. But could we reach more souls by simply changing a few of our church signs?
Star of Bethlehem
>> On a slightly different topic, would it ever be appropriate to remove the word Lutheran from a church sign?
- IMO, in some parts of the country/world - yes. I think NC might be one of those areas - where "Lutheran" is equated either with Catholicism or with ELCA-style liberalism.
>> I don't think church website content is prescribed in the Bible.
- Do you mean that sarcastically? Of course the Bible doesn't give any advice specifically to webmasters, but it has a whole lot to say about the confessions we give. (Not being ashamed of the Gospel, Peters "rock" confession, etc.). I think that's the heart of my question (which I've really sloppily posed).
Note - my concern isn't that I think we have to present the full text of "This We Believe" on the home page of our websites. But are some of you really saying that in *confessional* areas of our websites, in our promotional materials, etc. - in an area that is *explicitly* dedicated to answer the question "what do we believe" and/or "what are we about" - that the Gospel is just optional???
If this is seen as a "baiting" question, so be it, I guess. It is a sincere question, though. When I see statements like "our church stands on the three Great Commands of Christ" - that's not something I ever remember learning about in Catechism class (or reading in Paul's epistles).
P.S. I'm amazed that my church's tiny little website routinely gets hits from all over the world - I've even seen us directly linked to from Russian and Chinese websites (I have no idea what they were saying about us!). I'd be disappointed to think we view the contents of our websites as inconsequential when millions of people are using the web to study religion and what we believe.
I'd like to hear some comments on this: What did Jesus, the Apostles and
Prophets put on their website/church wall? What was "up front" for them?
For instance, throughout the gospels, the preaching of Jesus and John the
Baptist is summarized as "Repent and believe the Good News" (Mark 1:4; 1:15;
Lk 3:3; 24:47) or "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is here" (Mt 3:2; 4:7).
What kind of stuff did they have "up front," and what's the equivalent of
that in today's culture?
Mark (Lately of Carlsbad?),
I have been viewing the responses on several of these points with some interest and some amusement. I have mentioned to several WELS acquaintances that I fully support the WELS Christian doctrine…but it’s the adiaphora thing that has me really concerned. I’ve seen instances where rationalizing from “Point A” to “Point B”, etc. ultimately to “Point G” leads us to some very legalistic viewpoints. And this can so easily happen when we fail to look outside the box.
I have also pointed out to many WELS acquaintances that to the outside world; i.e., non-WELS Lutherans and to non-Lutheran Christian bodies, our distinction as “WELS” is mostly and generally ignored or worse yet, regarded as unimportant. So, then, what causes us to make a difference to (1) totally unchured people and (2) those who have fallen by the wayside from other Christian bodies? Maybe the answer has already been provided by the Apostle Paul who said that “he would be all things to all people”. Sometimes, we who have been long-time Lutherans, have failed to see that the world has moved away so rapidly from what we could previously hold on to and, thus, need to radically change our approach to witnessing to the lost. Once individuals have come to the conclusion what truly is important then we can get on with the great commandment.
Ray Miller (Lately of Carlsbad)
Hi Ray - yes, its me, now in frozen Minnesota.
I'm afraid you lost me - is there something I suggested that seemed legalistic to you? If so, please spell it out for me - I can be a bit slow. :-)
I've argued the "all things to all people" side many times here in the past too - some would say too much(!) - but there are clearly some matters that Paul refused to bend on and neither should we - even if it means proclaiming something as simple as Christ crucified (a stumbling block/foolishness to the people of Paul's day, but he didn't change his message to gain a larger following).
Well, Jesus had many face-to-face dialogues
And then this: I do not think that the pharisees and not even the
sadducees did ignore the creation account and opt for completely
And do we read of these words you cited in a more "ecclesial" setting -
like discussions with these pharisees etc,?
But what do we read about Jesus words with the other groups? With the
non-religious? Wasn´t it more like that they knew anyhow that they need
a savior and that they wanted to hear more about the forgiveness by
themselves already because they felt that they had sin trouble?
And I think outside there are a lot of people who feel that they are
sinners but do not want to be treated on the beginning like this but
later on they will let you talk about your "opinion" about sex, gay life
style, drugs, etc.. But not before you sit and eat with them as Jesus
did. And this is what I experienced, too.
People like it if we are straight in our talk, but first we have to
invite them into our house for a reason. If we are only addressing the
sin than we are not better than the evangelicals who want to improve the
world with the law.
I think even about talking about very conservative gender roles
etc.(what some WELS people saddly avoid) with new guests, but by
explaining it to them step by step, by first giving them a reason to
trust Jesus as the one who gives rest, by first helping them with
"lutheran" (sorry biblical) gospel for a load on their shoulders that
can be specified later on in more precise law explaining talks.
And do we know all words before John the baptist or Jesus said "repent"
(how much apologetics and good examples for having a need for it came
before it?) and did the people still have a glimpse of what could "good
news" mean - from their old testament knowledge and expectations
concerning the messiah (as you said very well "summarized")!? Do western
people have this today still? Really?
By the way to be mean: I would have believed that these verses you
mentioned are written at all these specific passages you cited precisely
- but also here again (it´s not meant aggressive and please forgive my
minimal irony) is it helping the other person when we are "evangelizing"
them, that we cite the excat wording of the KJV/NIV/... or what ever? I
think Jesus used pictures, special words, symbols, special idioms etc.
that can hardly be translated always word for word into our languages -
like hebraisms etc. and much more. But what is important is the meaning,
the goal, the deeper truth like being lost eternally, having a helper
that helped by being killed instead of us. So is it really always
helpful to be close to a traditional church appereance or to use exact
wording of a known translation that is perhaps too much associated with
not-every-day-settings (not like Jesus words about sheep, fish, trees
etc.). May be we have in german more the problem that many words of the
church are living in a separat "ghetto" that is separeted to the words
everyone uses today.
great idea about the church sign while keeping the best doctrine!
Would show whether the talk about adiaphoric freedom is show or
reallity. Please go for it - but never forget: We dont have doctrine we
hold to doctrine. It is the doctrine that is firm but we are changing
too much. This means practically: we always need to be careful not to
forget a little word of gods doctrine.
I think it is not really hard to find "confessional" lutherans that
forget what God said about really 6-day-creation, about very uncool
gender roles, about strictest church fellowship boundaries, practised
church discipline or cessationism - while saying on the other hand
"don´t touch the liturgy" or "sure I am lutheran" and then quoting more
misunderstood confessions quotes than bible quotes etc..
So in the end I think it might be more dangerous or more expensive for
our energy reserves to change some things in church that might be no
more understood by the rest of the world (which did in former times
definitely know more about church!) - BUT in the end one will be more
alert, more thoughtful because you speak your every day language and
because you rethink everything if you search for a truly confessional
but new way. And my experience is that my claims are true and that those
people can tell you more about Piepers Dogmatics or Walthers Law and
Gospel - but I have seen also bad examples (perhaps because they had to
explain too much why they are changing the church sign ;-) so they had
no more time to be rooted in dogmatics or the dogmatician was too high
Dogmatics rule! :-)
As for the community church, if it gives me a chance to witness for my God, I'll take it. Around here community church sounds better than Lutheran. One woman (Pentecostal) asked me in all sincerity if I believed in the trinity. Fair or not, there are some that give Lutherans a bad name.
I wouldn't say that the gospel is optional in anything - woe to me if I don't preach the gospel - , but the way it is presented is. At this point we would have to show examples that we think are good or bad. If there is heresy - in love , gently , privately point it out and win your brother over. If something is missing that we might like to see, eh. I don't cover the whole counsel of God on a weekend, but I do tell them every week that God loves them unconditionally in Jesus.
As for the web - it is amazing. Only recently do I have more visitors from word of mouth than from the synod web site.
People are searching.
Winston Salem, NC
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Everything Except Lutheran Doctrine