Thursday, September 6, 2012

FW: The First Thing to Go




Feed: Steadfast Lutherans
Posted on: Tuesday, September 04, 2012 9:47 PM
Author: Todd Wilken
Subject: The First Thing to Go


For every contemporary-music-ruined-my-church story, there is an often-untold prologue. Before the music changed, something else changed.

What was the first thing that disappeared? Was it the Trinitarian invocation? Was it the Confession of Sins and Absolution? Was it the Scripture readings?

What was put in its place? Was it announcements, mood music, a devotional video, or a and-the-moral-of-the-story-is drama or skit?

Often, in Lutheran circles, the first thing to go has been the Creed. Lutherans have been confessing one of the three ecumenical Creeds (the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian) every Sunday since the sixteenth century. In fact, these Creeds are the first, and most essential statements in the Lutheran Confessions. Every confessional Lutheran pastor and congregation subscribes unconditionally to these Creeds.

Yet, the Creeds are often the first to fall in the worship war.

It starts with tinkering. The pastor paraphrases or punches-up the language of the Creed on a Sunday or two. Later, he might compose one of his own; a "special" creed for a special occasion.

These changes are well-intentioned, but ill conceived. They seem minor and inconsequential, but they aren't. With the first change, the Creed itself –the historic, universal, ecumenical Creed– is already gone. Even if the pastor brings the "old" Creed back next Sunday, the deed is done. He has already taught his congregation that his new creed will do just as well as (if not better than) the original.

It is surprising how easy it is. It is surprising how quickly congregations surrender, sometimes without a fight at all. If the pastor were to propose a new wording, or a substitute reading for the United States Pledge of Allegiance, the congregation would run him out of town on a rail. But, change the words of the Christian Creeds, and the congregation humors him. After all, the pastor is just being creative.

It isn't surprising that the Creeds are often the first target of the worship warriors. Remember, the worship war is about Doctrine. The Church's first line of defense against doctrinal change and innovation are the Creeds. Any good soldier knows that you strike the most important targets first.

In the privacy of his study, with a few key strokes on his laptop, a pastor can replace the Creed, while two thousand years of Christians roll over in their graves.

Whether he knows it or not, this pastor has fired the first salvo of the worship war into his own congregation. He has declared war. His sanctuary and chancel are now his field of battle. The parishioners may prove to be his allies, they prove to be his foes, but either way, there's a war on. Sadly, most of the congregation won't even notice that they've been conscripted until the fog of war has rolled in around them. But by that time, it will be too late. You're in the army now.

Before it is over, the Creed will be gone altogether, along with many other things once considered essential to Sunday morning. Few will remember what Sunday worship used to be. Within a generation, no one will.

This is an excerpt of an article titled, "Behind the Music: The REAL Worship War"
from the next Issues, Etc. Journal. Subscribe for free by clicking the button below.

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