Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If It Ain't Broke...

...why do you want to break it?

The past couple days I attended a conference for new pastors (1-3 years in the ministry). The topic was building ministry. I was saddened by the Kansas District in their attempt to show the newbies how to do worship.

There were three things I noticed about the conference:
1) Though the conference was called "building worship", it wasn't so much about worship as it was about exposing us to different forms of worship.

This could have been an immensely helpful conference. There are many ways in which we could have talked about building worship. We could have had a workshop that explores the options available in the Lutheran Service Builder. We could have talked about integration of choir/instrumentalists in the Divine Service (even include the soft rock options, if we must cover that). We could have talked about using the Synod-wide hymnal and its different services throughout the church year. We could have had a presenter on building the bulletin (or power point) to better assist with worship.

...but we didn't do anything of the sort.
The Liturgy of Lord of Life
w/ My Thoughts

Instead, we we taken to Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Leawood, KS. It's a marvelous building. They have facilities that can make churches covet. However, the church was designed to lend itself solely to contemporary music. It had no organ. There were no stained glass windows. The altar was moveable. The cross can be removed completely from the sanctuary, and is on occasion. There were no pews, but locking chairs. Which, to be fair, is just fine. The church of God can exist even where there is nothing but his Word. Regardless, in this space we were taken through the steps of contemporary worship.

Here is the liturgy that we used on Monday night. Notice that the formula of worship is rather common among non-denominational churches. Other than the shout out to Holy Communion, it's pretty much the same.

By the way, the confession was a "metaphor" taken from Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. And since this was a metaphorical confession, I guess the forgiveness was metaphorical as well because the Pastor did not declare those confessed sins as forgiven. Or perhaps it just wasn't clear to me that he was saying that my metaphorical sins were forgiven. Which should raise red flags about clarity.

My main question for all this is: Why? Why all the changes, if many of the "parts" are still there?

The following morning, we were taken to St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Kansas City, KS. What an amazing congregation. It is an old established congregation, served by a wonderful pastor. They do such amazing works of service and have such a thriving social ministry, that it would do anyone who wants to know about such things to pick their brains.

At this congregation, we went through what the District Officers said was "traditional" worship. We used Creative Worship. My heart sink when I saw the liturgy. It had been tinkered with among other things. To be fair, the confession that it brings about is a specific one, but it doesn't have the grind in it as when you confess before God that you are "poor miserable sinner" in need of his forgiveness. It's really not all that "creative" as its name sounds anyway.

Again, my question: Why?

2) We are not about forming a unified Synod, but about forming cliques for those within our Synod.

One of the main thrusts of the conference seemed to be to drill in the idea that we have different forms of worship to draw in different kinds of people. There are those that like soft rock, and those that don't. There is the understanding that if we all do our own thing, everything we do is equally beneficial. And we have to offer as many products as possible, so that we reach as many people as possible. I heard it over and over again, some are able to do contemporary worship and some are not able to do it, thus they don't.

This observation is one that brings to light one of the main problems with a "you do your thing, I'll do my thing" understanding of worship. While I know there will never be one unified group of people all doing the same liturgy on Sunday morning, there is something about "one holy Christian (catholic) and apostolic church" that says we are striving for unity in Christ, not only in faith but in the way that we receive our Savior in worship on a weekly basis.

I did not see this striving at all. What I understood was, let me do my thing, and you do yours. It seems that there is a desire not to talk about things anymore. Saying "I'm ok with 'contemporary'," or "I'm ok with 'traditional'," doesn't really cut it. It just keeps us divided and doesn't allow anyone to express concerns that someone may have with their worship.

From what I saw, we are happy being divided and forming cliques within the Synod. Just make sure the nerds don't mingle with the jocks.

3) Are people really going to church for the right reasons? Are they really Christians?

Finally, while it is one thing to say that a certain form brings people into church, but are we willing to go as far to say that it keeps them in the church? The debate is often over getting people to know Jesus, so get them in anyway that is possible. But what about the opposite end? Must people continue to have that contemporary music to remain not only in the Lutheran Church with right doctrine and teaching, but also must they have it to remain a Christian?

Are people going to church for the right reasons? Are they being fed and nourished as they should be? Are they receiving Christ in such a manner that it is to Jesus Christ they cling and no other? I often pose this question, and posed it during a Q&A session during the conference. If there were no organs, and no hymnals, and if there were no electricity for guitars and laser guns (let the reader understand), and there were no instruments but the human vocal chords which sang and preached the Word of God, would there still be members at your church? Would they still cling fast to the teaching of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and hold the forgiveness he brings so dear, that they would stay?

While I will not make judgments on an individual basis, anyone who leaves the church because of personal preference, instead of the false doctrine taught therein, probably doesn't know what Jesus has done for them, nor what they receive from Christ Jesus when the come to church.

Again, I'm not making the judgment, but am delivering the message. Clearly this last section is less clear than the others, but it should provide a thought provoking question? Do they remain for Jesus, or for the music?


With what we're doing in the Kansas District and throughout the Synod with our liturgies, I have to wonder about Humpty Dumpty. Is the liturgy taking a great fall, or are we egging our father's houses? I'm afraid that before we answer that question as a Synod, we won't be able to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

But that's ok. Because while all the king's horses and all the kingsmen (again, let the reader understand) won't be able to put Humpty back together again...

...the King can.

+Kyrie Eleison+


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

As for me and my house...

It can be a sad, sad thing to see.

George said...

Was there an answer to your question in the Q&A session?

Rev. Kurt Herinhg said...

The conference you attended seems to indicate that, "let me do my thing, and you do yours," is more like, "let me do my thing, it's better than what you do, now why don't you do it too?"

Scott Diekmann said...

There is a certain form brings people into church - it's called Baptism!

Considering that the Kansas District just voted to bring the Transforming Churches Network cylops into the district, I'm not optimistic there's going to be a Liturgical revival any time soon.

Thanks for the excellent post Pastor Hobson. God's blessings as you feed your flock through Word and Sacrament.

Rev. Clint K. Poppe said...

What you experienced is the new "Unity in Diversity" emphasis that is making the rounds in our beloved synod. We have had several courses of it force-fed to us here in Nebraska. My response was to gag and spew...

Christopher D. Hall said...

"Traditional" is "Creative Worship" just burns me up. They cannot see the Consumerist-Worship right in front of them. Seeing but never seeing and all that.

Keep the faith, Jay

Pr. Schroeder said...

Pr. Poppe: in case you are not aware, "Unity in Diversity" has been a slogan of the ELCA! It is always a good reminder that the Greek basis for "heresy" is "choice".

Deborah Vogts said...

Thank you for sharing this. As one of your congregation members, it's good to see your thoughts on this. As stated above, keep the faith, but also, run the distance.

Pr. H. R. said...

Dude, didn't I warn you about the KS District? Your problem, of course, is that you look too cool. They assume you want to be an awesome Worship Leader. Try letting your clergy shirts fade in the sun until they are brownish. Then you won't get invited back.


Jim Woelmer said...

I nominate Pastor Hobson for Kansas District President. Great post!

Amberg said...

I second that nomination!

Pr. H. R. said...

Good golly - I veto the nomination! Fr. Hobson is too good a pastor to put in the district office.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I approve of the nomination with the provisio that the District Presidency is made a part-tine position where the occupant must maintain his current parish. Would that all districts were as Oklahoma.

Pastor Robert Lee Benson said...

Your excellent comments remind me of this culture of "relativism" that we are swimming in (maybe 'through'). Today our culture says "It's all relative." Now the church is infested with this mind-set. It reminds me of Paul Copan who writes, "we live in an era of truth decay!"

Sometimes I think we are forgetting that our theology is deeply imbedded in our hymns and our liturgy/order of service, and so it must be; yet we are teaching our people 'bad' theology in these 'songs' that do not teach and confess the truth of God's Word. Hymns can be compared to painting: are we substituting a Rembrandt painting for a K-Mark picture and thinking it is an equal-value substitute? God help us. Pastor Robert Lee Benson

RevnPadre said...

I just don't know what to say about this blog. I'll pray for you, that God will somehow make you more humble and respectful of those who have gathered together to welcome and support you in your new calling. I doubt they treated you in the way you have treated them here in this blog, so I don't understand the bitterness in your attack.
There seem to be a great many cheerleaders for your scathing review. Since many of them are pastors, and seem to be endorsing your behavior, can I assume you addressed these concerns with those you publicly excouriate to no satisfaction? Or, will this blog need to contain an appology for your appearant 8th commandment tresspass (along with those who 'piled on')?
Not a classy post. Actually, quite pathetic. As I said, I'll pray for you.

George said...

So, was the author of this post privately contacted & rebuked & called to repentance before RevnPadre publicly excoriated him? Just wondering.

Because otherwise a supposed violation of the 8th commandment is being answered with another supposed violation of the 8th commandment.

Amberg said...

Rev. Padre,

Thank you very much for your prayers for Jay. He needs them, as do all faithful pastors.

I pray that God would continue to give him such pious insight into the divisions of our synod, so that his love for you and others in the KS district might grow and bear more fruit than this post shows he has borne.

Thank God for his love for his fellow pastors, and his respect for the pure doctrine that unites him with them, that he is so concerned about our unity!

I again thank you for your prayers. God grant that we may especially pray hallowed be thy name, so that God's Word be taught in its truth and purity and that we, as God's children also live holy lives according to it. But God keep far from us any hint of the doctrine of those who deny the sacraments or the Gospel, since they profane the name of God among us. Protect us from this, Heavenly Father!