Friday, February 19, 2010

Toward Concordia in Christ at Worship: How Did We Get to this Point?

How did worship practice in The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod get to the point where we had to have a Model Theological Conference on the topic to address the Lutheran theology of worship?

I offer the following list as possible factors for the purpose of discussion. They are arranged according to three sections: Potentially Positive, Probably Neutral, Disastrously Negative.

Discuss them amongst yourselves!

+ Potentially Positive +

  • A renewed understanding of the freedom of the Gospel

  • "in the world, but not of the world" (see John 17:16-18)

  • "Sing a new song to the Lord"

  • Explosion of worldwide hymnody/song as fruit of the Gospel

  • Renewal in Lutheran theology and practice:

    • Hymnal Supplement 98

    • Lutheran Service Book

    • The Lutheran Study Bible

    • Treasury of Daily Prayer

    • Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions

    • New Reader's Edition of Law and Gospel (forthcoming)

    • Resurgence in lay theologians in the local congregation
~ Probably Neutral ~

  • Rediscovery/more use of the concept of "adiaphora"

  • Some changes in American culture (some are not negative in and of themselves)

  • (Re)acculturation or (Re)contexualization of Christianity in America

  • The rise of recorded music
- Disastrously Negative -

  • License

  • Weaknesses in Lutheran Worship (1982)

  • Perceived datedness of The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)

  • "Not in, but of"

  • Imitation of culture

  • Some are recluctant to be known as "Lutheran"

  • Lack of catechesis on worship

    • Home

    • Congregation

      • Sunday Morning

      • Sunday School

      • Confirmation classes

      • VBS exposure (or lack thereof)

    • LCMS Colleges/Universities

    • Seminary training

  • Decreasing Bible literacy

  • Decreasing emphasis on music education in public schools

  • Decreased opportunities for "group song" other than "Happy Birthday" and "The Star Spangled Banner"

  • Influence of practical, individualistic Americanism

  • A good theology of Lutheran worship was out of print for 30+ years

  • Outside influence from

    • Calvinism

    • Arminianism

    • Revivialism

    • Pietism

    • Pentecostalism

    • American Evangelicalism

In summary, we can't point ot merely one factor as THE reason why worship practice in the LCMS has deteriorated.

Even the concept of "deterioration" is built on an assumption, but a demonstrable one, that LCMS worship practice was more united in previous decades than it is currently.

In the German and early English days of the LCMS, liturgical uniformity was seen as a good goal for the sake of pastoral care. It now seems that "diversity" is the new goal. And I'm not convinced that it is a good thing. Nor am I convinced that it is largely for the sake of pastoral care.

More is still to come in our series, Toward Concordia in Christ at Worship.