Saturday, April 24, 2010

Worship Styles

Tomorrow is Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day for gathering into the name of Jesus to receive from Him the divine service of Word and Sacraments.  As I begin preparations for the divine service each week, I grieve over the many schisms in those professing to be members of Christ’s body.  These schisms are manifested even within the same church bodies, and more, even within the same congregations.

Below are snippets from the “worship schedules” of three LC-MS congregations:

These snippets, as they are displayed on the web page each congregation, demonstrate the schismatic nature of their views of the Church and of the purpose of the Church.

The first demonstrates the definition of Church and Worship that is commonly held among Christians of all of the church bodies.  Tradition is the primary underlying foundation of belief and practice.  The Church and the “faith” of the churches is counted as a “faith tradition.”  Thus some who profess to be Christian are counted as Baptist Christians, others as Catholic Christians, others as Pentecostal Christians, others as OurLabel Christians, and some even as Lutheran Christians.  Then, even within these faith traditions there are further divisions, such as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Each of these have further divisions.  Yet they all practice as one communion, in theory.  In practice they are no more united than grains of sand on the seashore are united.

The three snippets above are all from congregations within the LC-MS.  They call themselves congregations.  Yet they have multiple services with multiple formats.  The first distinguishes between “Traditional” and “Blended.”  What does this mean?  Particularly, with what is the third service blended?  How has this blending been effected?

The second is from a congregation that began with similar terminology to the first, but now has stepped beyond this to label one of the services as a “Service of Testimony.”  By this they are making it clear what they are blending into their congregation’s doctrine and practice.

The third is from a congregation that has long led the way toward blending with that from outside the doctrine that is counted as their “faith tradition.”  Theirs is the most blatant of the three, openly declaring one of their services to be “Jazz/Praise Worship.”  This congregation used the terms “traditional” and “contemporary” in the past.  Now, however, those have become “Worship” with “Jazz/Praise Worship” highlighted and a new service added as “Healing Service.”

So then, within the LC-MS, what really constitutes Worship?  One can find congregations that hold only to the traditional or historic liturgy and others that blend together whatever suits their fancy.  So, using the LC-MS as an example, what really is worship defined to be?  How does this reflect the Faith?

So-called styles of worship do have meaning.  Each style of worship is the practice of what is embraced as important and defining.  That is why people pick and choose between services.  Within the same church bodies and even within the same congregations styles of worship permit people who embrace different things of importance to share facilities and even a name without actually coming together as one.

However, one must ask whether or not they may in fact really be of the same mind.  When tolerance is the accepted practice rather than unity, is tolerance not the uniting doctrine from which the practice flows?  When tolerance has become the accepted doctrine and practice, what is the reason for the members of a congregation or church body to continue?

When people refer to themselves as X-Christians and Y-Christians and Z-Christians, what are they defining the Christian faith really to be?  Is this reflected in their styles of worship?

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