June 20, 2017 - Did You Like Today's Worship - Part 2
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Did You Enjoy Today's Worship - Part 2
Having considered the true, Biblical nature of worship in my previous article, I wish to turn our attention to one facet within worship that, I believe, is not only wrong but dangerous. I am referring to entertainment.
Today there is much emphasis placed on the necessity for worship to be entertaining. This is perfectly evident in the elaborate productions taking place on Sunday mornings in many mega churches and far too many Lutheran congregations. It is equally apparent in the way people talk about their Sunday morning experiences. “I really enjoyed the music.” “I was so moved by the service.” “The worship today touched my heart.”
Please, do not get me wrong. I am in no way opposed to being “moved” by what takes place on Sunday mornings. I would hope that our hearts, and not just our minds, are engaged in the worship service. The difference is that the Divine Service should not be orchestrated to induce an emotional response. If one is moved emotionally by the Word, that is wonderful, as long as the emotional response, rather than the Good News of Christ’s life, death and resurrection, does not become the focus.
Why am I opposed to entertainment having such a major role in worship? Am I against entertainment? No. The problem is that the more we focus on entertainment the less we focus on the Word. In reflecting on my statements in quotation marks above you will note that it is not the truth of the Word that moved the person but the experience. The problem is that we are increasingly demanding that to be entertained. Whether what we are hearing is completely faithful to the Word of God is not really the issue. We are people who expect to be offered a feeling, not demanded to think! More than ten years ago Reformed theologian James Boice commented on this situation when he wrote:
“I am convinced the great problem in America today is that people are not thinking. It’s a cultural phenomenon that has spilled over into the church. It is not just that there is a lack of a Christian way of thinking – a ‘Christian mind’ – but that there is hardly a mind at all. In our day and age people, Christian and non-Christian alike, just do not think. We act and we react, but we do not consider and contemplate. There are many ways to explain this phenomenon: secularism, relativism, materialism, or just the fast pace of our lives. But we cannot overestimate the fact that our society has become so obsessed with entertainment that it has never learned to think. And this is because we have embraced a television culture rather than the print-based culture of our ancestors.
“Do not get me wrong; I am not crusading against television. I would just as soon watch a movie on television as go to the theater. It is cheaper and I can do it in the comfort of my own home. There is nothing wrong with that. But we must stop believing that television is making us think. Television does not make us think; it entertains.” [“Wanted: Thinking Christians” by James M. Boice, Modern Reformation, July/August 1994]
That the secular culture is setting aside critical thinking for entertainment is dangerous. That Christians are doing so is horrifying, for it makes them vulnerable to deception, even to the point of losing the faith. That Lutherans, especially Lutheran pastors are promoting this way of thinking displays a real ignorance of the true Means of Grace! Many Christians forget that Jesus commanded allegiance, not only of our hearts, but also our minds.
Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37).
Due to Christians not thinking critically, when an author quotes Scripture, especially in large sections, what they write is received as correct regardless of whether the passages are being quoted correctly (i.e., Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer, etc.). Such blanket acceptance can prove fatal (spiritually) and ignores how Satan works to deceive. We must realize that Satan has no problem quoting Scripture, albeit in a twisted fashion. If Satan did not hesitate to quote from God’s Word in tempting Jesus (Matt. 4:6ff) he is not above doing so today.
By becoming a culture that feels rather than thinks we distance ourselves from the historic, Apostolic church. The Apostle Paul commended the hearers in Berea, not for their being “real,” being sincere or showing great emotion to what he said, but because they checked his preaching against what God’s Word actually said (Acts 17:11).
So if entertainment is not to be at the heart of worship, what is? Let’s let the Apostle Paul answer that question.
And I, when I came to you, brothers, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:1,2)
Every Christian should insist that Christ crucified for the sins of the world be at the heart of the Divine Service, the foundation for every sermon, and the very reason for gathering together in the house of God. It is this divine proclamation that separates the Christian faith from all this world’s many man-made religions. Leave out the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and you end up with nothing more than a social gathering couched in religious garb, a “feel good session” to help one get through the week. If the worship “experience” is focused on the “experience” of the worshiper, it is not focused on the Word and the Sacraments.
May all Christians today emulate those first Christians who sought, not an emotional experience, but the Word of God in all its truth and purity!
And they continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers (Acts 2:42).
To read more of what the ACELC has written on this subject, please refer to ACELC Error Document III, The Divine Service and Liturgical Offices. This document gives further details about what Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions have to say about worship. It documents when the LCMS officially recognized that some LCMS congregations had turned away from the orders of service in our hymnals and the historic pattern of worship. The LCMS response, or lack thereof, is also documented. The ACELC’s 2013 free conference was “Christ for Us: Divine Service.” The presentations for this conference are on our website. You can view them by clicking HERE . Also, if you would like, you may also view/review the “ACELC 7 Theses on Worship.”
The Rev. Rick Pettey
Pastor, Zion Lutheran Church
Gravelton, MO, and
Trinity Lutheran Church, Fredericktown, MO
(573) -783-2405
Register Now for the upcoming ACELC Free Conference "Christ For Us: The Order of Creation" which will be held on August 29-30, 2017, at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Lincoln Nebraska; the business meeting will be on August 31.
If you are on board with what we are doing in the ACELC we encourage you to join as a Congregational Member, or if your congregation is not yet ready for that step you may join as an Associate Member.

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