Would you allow this in your church?

       (you’ll get the idea after a couple of minutes – if that long)

I have it on good authority (Elephant’s Child) that this wedding was held in an ELCA (Lutheran) church.

It does not suprise me one bit.  There are many culturally consumed ELCA pastors and congregations.  There are also many confessional, faithful, Christ centered ELCA pastors and congregations.

A wedding such as that would never take place in our ELCA church, as long as Pastor Mark is there. There will also never be any dancing poodles and plate spinners and sword swallowers at any funerals at Lutheran Church of the Master, Corona del Mar CA as long as Pastor Mark is there.

“Oh, they are just having fun and expressing themselves”.

“What’s wrong with that?”

Hat Tips to ‘Elephant’s Child’, to Frank Gillespie at ‘Putting out the Fire’ and to Darius at ‘Echoes in Eternity’

Advertisements

71 Responses

  1. To be fair to this church, I don’t think anyone connected to the church leadership knew about this plan. The woman minister was a relative of the family, so she may not have been the actual pastor for that congregation.

    I didn’t think about this before, but is part of your issue with this entrance that it has some secular song playing while they dance? If they had danced to some “Christian” song or hymn, would that have been different? I can see that point if that’s your concern. Otherwise, I don’t see anything wrong with some dancing before the Lord (I doubt those were their motives, but I’m not to judge their motives).

  2. I think it is the spotlighting of the self in a fashion that is in line with the culture, and what it values, as opossed to the Christ centered values that ought be a hallmark of the Church.

    Churches ought be counter-cultural and not the tome or place for attention grabbing, individual performances.

    • I think it is wrong to bring cultural relevance into church worship but I’m not sure about a wedding. Isn’t a wedding… a day of celebrating?

      “He who loves not wine, woman and song is a fool his whole life long.” Martin Luther

      “Everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 1 Timothy 4:4.

  3. Yeah, you have a point. But it might be assuming too much to believe that anyone in that wedding (participate or pew-sitter) actually attended that church (or any church, for that matter).

    I don’t expect unbelievers to center their relationships on Christ. In fact, until He came and explained that marriage was ultimately pointing to Him, no weddings did.

  4. “I don’t expect unbelievers to center their relationships on Christ.”

    Me either.

    But I would expect that churches would not allow their sanctuaries to be used in this way.

    I would let them do this in another area of the campus, maybe. Or advise them where they could rent a hall.

  5. But like I said above, I doubt that the church knew this was going to happen. The bride said in an interview that the minister was a relative of hers and knew about it, but pretty much no one else knew. So unless that minister was the pastor of that church (which isn’t necessarily the case, since pastors marry people in other churches all the time), then the church’s hands may be clean.

  6. You may be absolutely right.

    Thanks for that insight!

  7. This video is buzzing all over the interwebs these days and I’ve seen quite a few folks who do not approve of it. Personally, I thought it was great. It wouldn’t work for my wedding, but it was a reflection of the bride & groom, their family and their wedding party. The only problemI have with it is that there seems to be a woman minister and I have issues with that based on what I believe about scripture. But I don’t see ANYTHING else here that is contrary to scripture.

    Certainly you’ve all seen the movie Footloose and know that its ok to dance. 🙂

  8. Not the way I do it, Roger! 😀

  9. Where is the gatekeeper here? When this kind of behavior and music is introduced into the worship of the church just one thing happens: It offers the culture a justification for what is going on in the culture. The old Adam wants, above all else, that someone should tell him that he is right in what he is doing. This kind of tasteless nonsense turns into a deadly poison, in that it prevents the sinner from seeing things as they really are. It supports the illusion of ‘relevance’ and turns it’s back on what is real according to the Word of God.

    This is precisely why the historic worship of the church is so off putting to so many. When the sinner walks into the midst of the historic liturgy they are encountering a truly counter-cultural experience, which is exactly what it is meant to be. A truly Christian worship relevance refuses to allow people to be sacrificed to their own ideas of themselves.

  10. Actually this brings up another thread (sorry) from Steve’s comment:

    “But I would expect that churches would not allow their sanctuaries to be used in this way. ”

    Should the church go above and beyond to ensure, to the best of their ability, that the bride and groom are actually practicing professed Christians before agreeing to the use of the building?

  11. Or even agreeing to perform the wedding in the first place?

  12. Pastor Mark,

    Entering into historic worship involves dying. It involves a death to self. For most these days (including myself) that is not a very comfortable thing to have to confront.

  13. Right or wrong… we live by this philosophy in my congregation:
    “In the essentials – unity.
    In the non-essentials – liberty.
    In all things – charity.”

    Hence, we say “yes” to things unless there is a compelling reason to say “no”. The entrance into the church, no matter how it is done, focuses on the wedding party and particularly the bride. In this instance, it is in a non-conventional but joyful way.

    The processional in the video seemed to be enjoyed by everyone… and I hope that the message of the ceremony was God honoring and a clear presentation of the Law and Gospel.

    Everything we do embraces elements of culture (I define culture here as “the way we do things around here”)… older traditional ceremonies merely embrace another culture from another time. I think we do a disservice to the Gospel when we attempt to sanctify or demonize any particular elements of culture simply because they are new or different.

    • Patrick,

      Lex orandi, lex credendi. The worship of the Church is timelessly set apart from the culture and has been faithfully passed down for over 2000 years. The above ceremony has absolutely no connection to the liturgical, reverential worship that Christ and the apostles practiced, Christianized, and passed along to all generations.

      And why does it matter? It matters because our conception of who we are in relation to God is shaped by the way we pray and worship. Do we come before God, recognize his greatness, fall on our face, and cry “Lord Have Mercy,” or do we come in dancing to Chris Brown songs, expecting our creator to give us fist bumps while we perform somersaults?

      Simply put, this is not the worship of the Christian Church, which is to say this is not a Christian ceremony. The couple would have been better suited to find a justice of the peace.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Adam

      • Adam,

        Interesting points… I can’t help but wonder, however, if the Incarnate Christ were at that ceremony if He wouldn’t have given the groom a fist bump. If the incarnation demonstrates anything, it is how radically God in the flesh identified with the culture where he was born. Frankly, I doubt that our “traditional” ceremonies resemble the wedding at Cana all that much.

        I have yet to see a wedding party of any cultural or theological stripe fall on their face, and cry Lord Have Mercy after the processional.

        I’d rather have an opportunity to share with the crowd in the video the good news of the gospel than send them down the street to the justice of the peace.

  14. Can I get the url? I couldn’t get the YT to play

  15. Good comments, Patrick.

  16. Families have been devastated in this culture. Honor is reduced to satire. My difficulty is not with the entrance per se, as much as it is with my own ability to reconcile it with the mindset that understands the gravity of what is happening. Two people are coming before God to vow a life time of agape devotion to one another, and to partake in the mystery of two becoming one for the purpose of producing Godly offspring. Would our fore fathers who lived in a time when the divorce rate was a small fraction of today’s have approved? Do we, the salt and light in this dark culture bear any responsibility at all for what is happening to it?

    I don’t know. Turning such a momentous ceremony into what appeared to be a man centered talent show doesn’t seem to be a very confidence inspiring way to say to those gathered that the two involved are dedicated to the death to fulfil the vows they are about to make.

    • Dan,

      What you describe as a ritual of “gravity” can also be described as a ritual of “joy”. That they were having a good time, does not negate the seriousness of their vows or their devotion to Christ or their desire for Godly offspring. Undoubtedly our forefathers wouldn’t have approved something so culturally foreign to them. I don’t think the divorce rate has a direct relation to the processional and has more to do with the seriousness of their vows.

      Your argument, taken to it’s logical conclusion, would dictate that all ceremonies be identical with no uniqueness of dress or music or anything that could be construed as a talent or any other kind of “show”.

      • I made a judgement based on the clip. I don’t know these people or the level of their devoutness. Ideally, among other things, these two would have lived celibate lives, spent hours in prayer, as well as in the council of mature Christians, in preparation for this day. They would also take the ceremony very seriously. Very few are in a position to know whether such things were important to them or not. We are left to make judgements based on their behavior as exhibited in this clip. I am not willing to make such judgements, as I said, per se. I, rather, deferred my judgement to society at large which is not quite so discreet.

        I can see why you would elude to where the logical conclusion of my argument would be. Of course if taken that far you’d be right. But the same might also be said on the other extreme too.

  17. Adam,
    Keep up the good work. You are correct in your analysis regarding lex orandi, lex credendi. This has been an important point of study and discussion in various Christian communities for a very long time, as you probably know. But the discussion has been generally limited in it’s seriousness to churches who see themselves as part of the larger, historic tradition. The inheritors of the left wing of the Reformation, who have for the most part disowned their catholicity, have almost universally adopted a worship theology which reflects a pragmatism where worship is built around popular cultural affectations and a studied avoidance of what is loosely interpreted as “traditional” worship.
    But I repeat my comment made earlier on this topic:
    A truly Christian worship relevance refuses to allow people to be sacrificed to their own ideas of themselves.
    This is one of the important arguments for the objectivity of historic worship, where forms that have served the church for centuries preserve the Gospel witness and protect the worshiping congregation from being caught up in faddish subjectivities.

    • I’ve also very much enjoyed you comments, Pastor. Thank you for your kindness and for your important observations.

      Adam

    • I’m getting an impression of how Paul might have felt when debating the Judaizers.

      Our freedom in form during a processional does not preclude the objective message of the Gospel. I have no trouble picturing the brides father giving her away, a reverent reading of scripture, a clear message of the law and gospel, and solemn vows after that processional.

      Actually Christ did seek to be more relevant by taking on entertaining traits of the culture… story telling.

      You said “If we are to personally engage in life with the Holy Trinity, then we must pray and worship with the same humble piety that is and was reflected by the reverent, orderly worship of Christ and The Church.” That sounds like a new legalism… we must do it “right” to be engaged with the Trinity.

      You said “the entire ceremony was built on man-centered amusement” Really? How do you know?

      If we get rid of all “faddish subjectivities”… much of what we do even in the historic church will disappear.

      Grace & Peace

      • “I’m getting an impression of how Paul might have felt when debating the Judaizers.”

        Paul’s arguments had nothing to do with worship and, indeed, he kept on worshipping in the synogogue, just like Peter and John as they went to pray in the ninth hour at the synogogue (Acts 3). Christian liturgies for at least 1600 years maintained continuity with those earliest liturgies for two reasons. First, they recognized that the piety contained therein was precisely the sort of piety that Christ and the apostles encouraged. Second, they realized that separating yourself from the universal worship of The Church was to separate yourself from The Church. Again, The Gospel was not just words. It was centered on Eucharistic, humble repentance that looked toward God in all things. Anyone who prays the Psalms will begin to see a pattern that looks precisely like the pattern of the timeless liturgies of both East and West.

        “Our freedom in form during a processional does not preclude the objective message of the Gospel.”

        It most certainly does, if by freedom you mean anything goes. Repentence is personal, not just objective, and you cannot preach the Gospel as Lutherans understand it (sorry for the qualifiers), without first confronting people with their sin. Sin, by it’s very nature is self centered, and if you do not hammer at self-centeredness, then you have not preached the law. Do you really think that a congregation of folks amped up on hip-hop tunes are going to like being accused by the law? You’ll be the killjoy pastor who’s just not relevant enough for this age.

        “That sounds like a new legalism… we must do it “right” to be engaged with the Trinity.”

        If by “do it right” you mean we must worship in a way that cultivates repentance (which has at its heart humility rather than self-aggrandizement) , then yes, we must “do it right.” We cannot let people think they have a “you’re good” card just because they heard something objective. If they are not repentant, then they simply will not put the Gospel on, so to speak.

        “You said “the entire ceremony was built on man-centered amusement” Really? How do you know?”

        Because I saw the entrance, which was focused on anything but God. After that performance, the sort of piety that a law/gospel wedding homily requires would have just seemed like water over a fire.

        “If we get rid of all “faddish subjectivities”… much of what we do even in the historic church will disappear.”

        And yet everyone from Christ on worshiped in pretty much the same way, with the same piety, with the same ceremonies, and with the same sense of transcendent reverence. What is it about today’s culture that makes people think they’ve somehow learned a new freedom that just lets them ignore the piety and worship of Jesus and His disciples?

  18. Patrick,

    Christ didn’t seek to be more relevant by taking on the entertaining traits of the culture around Him. He took on human flesh and trampled down the spiritual death that infested all of humanity, all the while continuing to worship in the synagogue. If we are to personally engage in life with the Holy Trinity, then we must pray and worship with the same humble piety that is and was reflected by the reverent, orderly worship of Christ and The Church. If Jesus would have given a fist bump, and perhaps he would have, it would have been, 1). after the very reverential, private ceremony in which the father gave the daughter away, or 2). a reverential ceremony in the synagogue. The wedding feast was not the wedding ceremony.

    In addition, this ceremony undercuts any attempt to preach the Gospel…unless one desires to kill the mood of the ceremony. The Gospel is not merely a way to get people to make mental assent to formulaic, cathartic words. It requires repentance and humility. I ask, how could a preacher preach the law, as Lutherans understand it, without driving the people participating in this ceremony to a spirit of shame? And, really, no amount of Gospel is going to make people feel like celebrating after they’ve come face-to-face with the reality that the entire ceremony was built on man-centered amusement. Indeed, if I were a Waltherian Lutheran pastor, this entrance would have been my worst nightmare, for the law would be a particularly bitter pill to swallow after such a performance.

    As for never having been to a wedding where “Lord Have Mercies” and prostrations occur, come to an Orthodox ceremomy sometime. You’ll see lots of both. 😉

    Blessings in Christ,
    Adam

  19. I wonder if we’re in danger of being the Michal to this wedding dance… disapproving of some show of joy and emotion before the Lord.

    • Darius,

      One cannot be in communion with the Blessed Trinity and not have joy, but God’s way is not a joy that beats its breast and says “look at me.” The joy God gives comes only once man recognizes his own frailty and clings to Christ, his Savior. So, joy??? For heaven’s sake, yes. But Christian joy lives in Christ-centered humility.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Adam

      • Most gowns worn by brides say “look at me”… maybe all wedding parties should wear black to symbolize humility. If we are going to live by the law….

  20. I too, did not think of “Christian joy” when I watched the video, but rather “secular fun”.

    I’m for fun as much as the next guy. But this type of fun ought be done elsewhere.

    I think keeping the church counter-cultural is well worth the risk of losing some who think we are boring…or whatever.

    If we give in here, we could give in there, and then before we know what happened, we look and act just like the culture. We might be packing them in at that point…but why are they there?

    I know that I am generalizing, and that there are always exceptions. But it is the general usage of cultural comforts (by churches) that turn the focus on us… and often that is where it will stay.

    • The message of the cross is counter-culture and always will be even if we are culturally palatable. I’d rather scare people away with the offense of the Gospel than shame them away before they hear it.

  21. Acrobatic dancing in the church, and attractive bridal gowns in the church.

    I don’t place equal significance on those two items.

    Am I missing something?

    • Patrick,

      I moved this here because I wasn’t sure if it wouldn’t buried further up. Sorry for the double post:

      “I’m getting an impression of how Paul might have felt when debating the Judaizers.”

      Paul’s arguments had nothing to do with synogogue worship and, indeed, he kept on worshipping in the synogogue, just like Peter and John as they went to pray in the ninth hour (Acts 3). Christian liturgies for at least 1600 years maintained continuity with those earliest liturgies for two reasons. First, they recognized that the piety contained therein was precisely the sort of piety that Christ and the apostles encouraged. Second, they realized that separating yourself from the universal worship of The Church was to separate yourself from The Church. Again, The Gospel was not just words. It was centered on Eucharistic, humble repentance that looked toward God in all things. Anyone who prays the Psalms will begin to see a pattern that looks precisely like the pattern of the timeless liturgies of both East and West.

      “Our freedom in form during a processional does not preclude the objective message of the Gospel.”

      It most certainly does, if by freedom you mean anything goes. Repentence is personal, not just objective, and you cannot preach the Gospel as Lutherans understand it (sorry for the qualifiers), without first confronting people with their sin. Sin, by it’s very nature is self centered, and if you do not hammer at self-centeredness, then you have not preached the law. Do you really think that a congregation of folks amped up on hip-hop tunes are going to like being accused by the law? You’ll be the killjoy pastor who’s just not relevant enough for this age.

      “That sounds like a new legalism… we must do it “right” to be engaged with the Trinity.”

      If by “do it right” you mean we must worship in a way that cultivates repentance (which has at its heart humility rather than self-aggrandizement) , then yes, we must “do it right.” We cannot let people think they have a “you’re good” card just because they heard something objective. If they are not repentant, then they simply will not put the Gospel on, so to speak.

      “You said “the entire ceremony was built on man-centered amusement” Really? How do you know?”

      Because I saw the entrance, which was focused on anything but God. After that performance, the sort of piety that a law/gospel wedding homily requires would have just seemed like water over a fire.

      “If we get rid of all “faddish subjectivities”… much of what we do even in the historic church will disappear.”

      And yet everyone from Christ on worshiped in pretty much the same way, with the same piety, with the same ceremonies, and with the same sense of transcendent reverence. What is it about today’s culture that makes people think they’ve somehow learned a new freedom that just lets them ignore the piety and worship of Jesus and His disciples?

      Blessings in Christ,
      Adam

      • Adam,

        It’s late (I’m in Florida) but I’m a nite owl… so here goes….

        You asked: “Do you really think that a congregation of folks amped up on hip-hop tunes are going to like being accused by the law?”

        I don’t think anyone likes to be accused by the law… even if they walked into the church “appropriately” and they may have danced and tumbled their way to the door of the church… so the difference is about 100 feet.

        If you have 10 minutes, please listen to a sermon I preached on repentance… I’d enjoy your critique.

        Yes!… the Gospel IS like water over a fire.

        You asked: “What is it about today’s culture that makes people think they’ve somehow learned a new freedom that just lets them ignore the piety and worship of Jesus and His disciples?”
        By people I assume you are referring to “Christians” who worship in different forms than you? I make no excuse for any such “people” who ignore the worship of Christ… but for those who do worship Christ, there is perhaps more freedom than you know.

        Thanks for the exercise!

        Pat

    • My point was that gown and the dance both say, as Adam said, “look at me”… if that’s bad, then maybe we should do away attractive bridal gowns too.

      The disciples saw the jar of perfume poured on Jesus feet as wasteful extravagance and perhaps a “look at me” moment … Jesus saw it as an act of worship. I think the disciples are being sided with on this post.

      • Patrick,

        I can think of nothing more humble than a bride who prepares herself in a beautiful manner. Such a bride says, “I bring myself before my groom and the Lord for the most sacred ceremony I will ever participate in.” Humility does not work against beauty, but enhances it. Notice also that the perfume was poured by Mary, and she was weeping.

        I will leave you for the night, but have a blessed evening.

        Blessings in Christ,
        Adam

  22. You are able to hold the line, Patrick. That is great. But what about the next guy?

    When I look around at the landscape of “culturally relevant” churches, I see coffee bars in the narthex, I see motorcycles criss crossing the stage, I see and hear music with such a great beat that it overwhelms the words. I see such a need to be comfortable and cool, and relevant, that there generally is no dying there.

    There are many cool, hip churches in Orange County, CA. and there is no dying going on. In fact, rather than killing off the old man/woman, they are doing all they can to keep him/her alive by getting them to improve. The focus remains on the person in the pew rather than on the cross.

    Sure, theological differences are the main reason, but they play right into semi-Pelagianism by making the person’s desire to be comfortable and to not feel like he is out of his element.

    When I go to church, I need to be and know that I am not in my element, but the element of the Living God who is much different than I.

    • I don’t disagree with you Steve about any church that proclaims a semi-Pelagian message… but the problem is the message/theology, not the form. I’ll email you a sermon I preached last week… I could easily have preached it at that wedding too.

      My denomination has worked in southern Chad for many years in a culture that was animistic… exuberant dancing and singing is part of their culture… that didn’t disappear with the introduction of the Gospel but is now completely different in it’s intent.
      The northern part of Chad is Moslem and the introduction of the Gospel there adapts to their cultural forms which are more solemn. The Gospel is the same, but the forms are very different.

      In both Church bodies (southern and northern Chad) the people have been confronted with a Living God who is much different than the people, but the people express themselves in ways that are familiar to them.

      • Patrick,

        Thanks for send me that wedding sermon. You did a great job and I wouldn’t expect anything less from you. You are a great Law/Gospel preacher and I’m sure you would deliver a sermon like that if the folksfrom the wedding party entered the church in the nude.

        I am having a hard time with this issue. I am having a hard time (I think) basically because form usually follows function.

        So if the form is an exercise in non-humility and giving one’self over to the cultre, I worry that the function will be one where the self is elevated rather than the Living God, if not in the message then in the hearts of those in the pews.

        I also worry about the offense to others who are completely taken out of the service now because of the highly unorthodox entrance of the participants. And I wonder how far it can be ratcheted up. If we look around, it would seem that it might never end as one group would try mightily to outdo the next.

        I do understand your desire to reach the maximum amout of people with the gospel, I really do. I’m just wondering if the cost is so high that in the end, the message is lost anyway.

  23. The freedom brought by Christ doesn’t seem to be represented by some of the commenters on here. Rather, it seems like they have forgotten that the Jesus who ate and drank with sinners would most definitely have given a fist bump to someone. Jesus didn’t come for the righteous but the unrighteous. Legalism has no place in the Body.

  24. “One cannot be in communion with the Blessed Trinity and not have joy, but God’s way is not a joy that beats its breast and says “look at me.”

    Adam, I’m sure David’s dancing appeared to be of the “look at me” variety. Yet God sided with David and not with Michal; pretty seriously, in fact. We would be wise to avoid being pharisaical killjoys. Sure, you may in fact be right that they were only dancing to get the attention… but HOW do you know that unless you are judging motives and intentions, in which case you are in error. Unless you know the people involved or have heard them in an interview clearly state that they had no intention of making it a Christ-centered occasion, then you are being a Michal or a Pharisee, judging another’s freedom from the hangups of your own faith.

    And I say this while hating hip-hop. 🙂 But who are we to say that God can’t be worshipped with even hip-hop? God is not in one certain style of music or form of worship… to slightly modify Jesus’ words, He desires mercy, not rigid liturgy.

    • Darius,

      At least we share a dislike for hip-hop. 🙂

      I think many of the things I mention in my latest post to Pat also address your concerns. If not feel free to ask again.

      Blessings in Christ,
      Adam

  25. Pat,

    Thank you as, well. I pray that my words come across in a spirit of charity and love rather than accusation. Sometimes it is hard to maintain such traits in conversations like this. 🙂

    Also, I would very much like to listen to your sermon. Thank you for the invitation. Is it on your church website?

    You wrote: I don’t think anyone likes to be accused by the law… even if they walked into the church “appropriately” and they may have danced and tumbled their way to the door of the church… so the difference is about 100 feet.

    This is fair enough, and I understand the point you’re driving at. Properly applied, the law is painful to all who hear it. Would you agree, though, that the way we enter the Lord’s house for worship has an effect on our receptivity to the work of the law? For example, if I enter the nave quietly and with introspective reverence, would it not make me more open to receiving the full effect of both law and gospel? No matter how well a preacher preaches, if the person receiving the message is not approaching the liturgy in a spirit of contrition, it will not have any effect. The law will just seem like boring old legalisms and the Gospel will not seem sweet, but anticlimactic.

    You Wrote: “Yes!… the Gospel IS like water over a fire.”

    I believe that in Lutheran parlance the law is like water over a fire. The Gospel resurrects the dead sinner after the law has taken its effect.

    You Wrote: By people I assume you are referring to “Christians” who worship in different forms than you? I make no excuse for any such “people” who ignore the worship of Christ… but for those who do worship Christ, there is perhaps more freedom than you know.

    I think I understand your concern in this. The short answer from an Orthodox perspective is, yes, there is some freedom to work within the liturgy. The key, though, is that we work within the same liturgy that The Church has continually prayed rather than creating a whole new liturgy. This is where the spirit of Vatican II has done both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism a terrible disservice. People now see forms of worship as being an adiaphoron element of our connection with the Church of all ages. When we recognize, however, that the faith was primarily prayed and worshipped rather than discussed and thought upon, one realizes that to change worship so dramatically changes the whole picture of what a community of faith actually is. The Church is an organic, shared, universal, timeless community of faith that is grounded in common prayer and purpose. It was through a humble, reverential, and shared piety that Christians sought to pass this rule of prayer on from one generation to the next. The tragedy of Vatican II is that it gave the impression that the way a person worships has no effect on the way he lives his faith, or on the way he percveives his connection to the Church Triumphant, to use a western term.

    Back to the wedding video, this is why I say that this entrance is not Christian. I say it not to slander, but as a reality. One cannot separate that this entrance shares no semblance to universal Christian piety or form. It looks like the culture; not The Church.

    Again, I’ve enjoyed our conversation Pat. Thanks again for the offer, and I look forward to listening to your sermon.

    Blessings in Christ,
    Adam

    • Hi Adam,

      No, I don’t perceive your words as accusatory. This is a healthy debate and a needed one. You have been gracious.

      I have found myself at ministerial gatherings where I have been treated as “unclean” because I represent a “non-liturgical” church body and that has been one of my biggest disappointments in ministry. I grew up in a liturgical setting and have a love and appreciation for it but happen now to be serving in a different setting. I left those ministerial gatherings not feeling like I was loved as a brother in Christ, but rather judged by an elitist group who bore no resemblance to a crucified carpenter.

      You asked: “Would you agree, though, that the way we enter the Lord’s house for worship has an effect on our receptivity to the work of the law?” Not necessarily. The Word of God is powerful and the Spirit does His work often times without any cooperative preparation on our part. Personally, I like to enter worship with a settled and anticipating frame of mind, but I don’t necessarily think that everyone who walks into the church has done that or that it is a requirement.

      You wrote: “if the person receiving the message is not approaching the liturgy in a spirit of contrition, it will not have any effect.” That seems to be putting sanctification before justification and minimizes the power of the Word to accomplish its purposes.

      I guess we were speaking of the water & fire metaphor differently… I see the law as starting a fire (revealing my sin and God’s hatred of it) and the Gospel as Good News that refreshes and puts out the damning, troubling and raging fire. (What Christ has done).

      I would restate your sentence: “The Church is an organic, shared, universal, timeless community of faith that is grounded in common prayer and purpose.” to read instead: “The Church is an organic, shared, universal, timeless community of faith that is grounded in Christ.” Your sentence is man and performance centered.

      I’m not minimizing the importance of worship but merely asserting that it doesn’t always look the same. Yes, worship does indeed effect the way one lives and perceives ones connection to the Body of Christ… both militant and triumphant.

      You said “this entrance is not Christian” … Entrances are neither Christian nor non-Christian… people are one or the other. The people entering the church in that video may or may not be Christian… I hope they heard the law and the Gospel in the message of the wedding that day and were transformed by it.

      The bottom line in this discussion is a difference of opinion about what is “essential”… I have a narrower view of essential… Grace, Word, Christ alone. Others would include “form”. Yes Form does follow function, but, forms still may be different from one person/congregation to the next. Unity not uniformity.

      Again, I have a strong appreciation for historic liturgies, but not to the exclusion of other worship forms where people are gathered in Christ’s name.

      It’s easy to make fun of and argue extremes (rollercoasters, pink poodles, jugglers, cage fighting and drive by communion). I think absurdities miss the essential point.

      I’m not advocating hip-hop processionals, but I wouldn’t shame, demonize or send those people packing either. My hope would be that they would encounter someone at my church that loved them and shared a message with them that gave them even more reason to dance.

      • Hi Patrick,

        Certainly we are all unclean, so nobody has the right to treat anyone as lesser. I am sorry you have experienced that, and I pray that others will treat you with respect and humility in the future.

        “That seems to be putting sanctification before justification and minimizes the power of the Word to accomplish its purposes.”

        Personally speaking, I’ve never been able to figure out how a person puts one before or after the other. This was an issue that was always very difficult for me to live as a Lutheran; not understand, but live. I understood how it was supposed to work itself out, but do people really live their lives in this manner? For example, I don’t wake up each morning and think, “now I’m accused, now I’m justified, now I’m being sanctified.” It always worked itself out as one thing, and I tend to think of the faith as one thing; a life of faith, rather than a series of processes to be delineated. Did Christ objectively justify? Yes. But whether I choose to put on that justification matters all the time. So, when I think of entering a Church, I do think of what the purpose of a homily should be, but I don’t think of it in linear time. I think of it more as a continuation than a new start, which is why I don’t see the way a person enters a wedding, or a regular Divine Service, as disconnected from the rest of the service.

        “I would restate your sentence: “The Church is an organic, shared, universal, timeless community of faith that is grounded in common prayer and purpose.” to read instead: “The Church is an organic, shared, universal, timeless community of faith that is grounded in Christ.” Your sentence is man and performance centered.”

        I like your tweak very much, though I would point out that prayer is nothing more than clinging to Christ at all times. When Paul exhorts us to pray continually, I don’t believe he means it in the sense that we’re doing a work, but that we’re turning to Christ and life in the Trinity at all times and in all ways. And that is, I believe, the purpose of The Church.

        “Entrances are neither Christian nor non-Christian”

        If a person seeks The Church’s blessing then I cannot see how the entrance is disconnected from God’s presence. A Christian wedding should have Christ at the center, from start to finish, even if the words of the Gospel aren’t being spoken explicitly.

        As for what worship is and should be, I’m content to let sleeping dogs lie. I think we’ve both presented our positions pretty well and I doubt we’ll reach consensus. That said, I really do appreciate the conversation, and wish nothing but good things for you and your congregation.

        Blessings in Christ,
        Adam

      • Adam,

        I’ve enjoyed the exchange. Thanks for your insights.

        Yes, that sermon is posted on the church website… it was delivered 3/1/09… “Repent and believe the Gospel”.

        I agree that Justification and Sanctification (positional) occur simultaneously. I was referring to an unbeliever who comes to church. I think we get it wrong if we expect that they come in a sanctified manner.

        Together in Christ,

        Pat

  26. How to reach more people for Christ:

    We set up a roller coaster in the church parking lot. It takes the congregants on a 3 minute ride with a couple of loops and ends up down the center aisle of the sanctuary where they disembark the cars and take their seats in the pews.

    We pass out 3 softballs to everyone and then roll out the portable dunk tank/baptismal font. After someone knocks the person in the water tha pastor will speak the promises over them.

    Then we have a great Law/Gospel sermon and some prayers. Holy Communion with some awesome wines (they can have their choice of the best wines) and some delicious artisan breads.

    We will pack them in! And they will tell all their friends, and we will reach a great many with the gospel that we might never have had a chance to reach.

    Don’t be legalistic! Let’s do it!

    (catch my drift?)

  27. Hey Steve,

    You forgot about the dancing pink poodles, trapeze artists, plate spinners and jugglers. Maybe we could rename the congregation…how about ‘Cirque du Saints ‘? Of course, since a river never rises above it’s source, ‘Cirque du Saints” will never rise above ‘Bozo’ theology.

  28. Steve, you forgot about the Ultimate Cage Fighting Christ… unfortunately, at least one church has already done this theme, so it’s not a parody.

    • LOL! Now, this is funny, and it actually brings up a personal conundrum I’ve had. I love UFC, so what does that reflect about my feelings on humility and selflessness!? 🙂

  29. “Ultimate Cage Fighting Christ…”

    Why not?

  30. The only three people I know who could take Brock Lesnar are you, me, and maaaaybe Shane Carwin. 🙂

  31. Hmmm…sounds like we have a considerable crowd gathered here that would have disapproved of David’s dance before the Lord…Now just what were they doing in the OT that might have caused similar antics????

    • Nancy,

      Two things: First, shakin’ your groove thang to Chris Brown songs isn’t dancing before the Lord. Second, David wasn’t engaged in temple worship. I’m sure that his worship in the synogogue was reflective of the reverence of Jewish liturgies.

      So, no there’s nothing wrong with David’s dance. In fact, we Orthodox have an icon commemorating the event!

      http://www.comeandseeicons.com/d/lkg03.htm

      Blessings in Christ,
      Adam

  32. Patrick,

    My point about “the absurdities” is that who’s to say what is absurd and what is not?

    When you let the culture dictate what “goes” inside the church building, it can go anywhere.

    And why not? If the law and the gospel are present in the sermon, then why should we care what else the culture wants to bring in the door?

    We ought care because the culture is ALWAYS WRONG when it comes to the things of God. They do not care about the church and are quite happy to redefine the church.

    The last thing anybody needs is to have themselves handed back to them inside of a worship service.

    • Steve,

      I think you’ve hit upon the crux of the problem here!

      I am culture neutral and sin sensitive. You and some others here are sin AND culture sensitive.

      Your prayer (in church at least) might be: “Lord, deliver me from my sin and culture”

      My prayer (in church and elsewhere) might be instead: “Lord, deliver me from my sin and transform my culture”

      I believe many aspects of culture can be transformed into instruments of praise.

      I believe Luther was more of the thought that whatever isn’t forbidden is permitted… and other reformers thought whatever isn’t permitted is forbidden.

      If culture is ALWAYS WRONG… be careful with Easter Egg hunts and Christmas Trees and some of the tunes of hymns in your church. Their origins may be suspect. While you’re at it, you better reconsider electric lights and air conditioners as they’re just cultural comforts. Maybe we should throw out English and only speak Hebrew. The list is very long as I think about it.

      Pentecost threw open the doors to cultures.

      I don’t want to redefine the church… but neither do I want to define or confine it more narrowly than Christ intended.

      When someone is a new creation in Christ, doing something in worship that is culturally familiar isn’t necessarily handing their old adam back to them… it merely is given new significance.

  33. Patrick,

    We are in the world, but not of it. I don’t pray to be delivered from the culture. I am to be a part of it, and I am.

    But the culture is not neutral, it does not value the church, or Christ and is not interested in the cross. It is on the ascendency, and interested in the things of this world.

    It is into this lostness that we speak to those who need the new life that Christ gives, and not the other way around. We don’t affirm what they have got going on, and say ‘let’s do church like that, it’s cool’ (as happens in far too many places).

    Fun is fun, and church is church. You don’t need fun to have church. ‘Fun’ can overwhelm what the church is there to do, and change what the church is there to do.
    That said, we do have fun in our congregation. But it is a byproduct of the fellowship we have in Christ.

    When someone is a new creation in Christ, there is no need for cultural relevance, the Word and the Sacraments are enough.

    Technological advances in comfort do not threaten to overwhelm the Word with competeing words that give rise to the old Adam. It is the heart that needs to be made uncomfortable, and the Word (the Law) does a pretty fine job of that…hopefully.

    And we are careful with symbols. We are very careful not to let the symbols rise above the Christian meanings for which we use those symbols. If the symbols lose their Christian identity, we ought get rid of them.

    We are also very careful with the hymns we use as well. If they put an emphasis on what we do, say, feel, or think…then we think twice about using them and replace them with Christ centered hymns that emphasize what Christ has done for us. We are even free to change the wording towards that end.

    • Steve,

      I have a numbering system that I use with all music in the church… both hymns and contemporary choruses.

      I give a hymn or a contemporary chorus a #1 if it is rich in God centered theological content and teaches a lot. (There are alarmingly few hymns or contemporary choruses that hit that mark).

      I give a song a #2 if it is theologically sound but not particularly rich in content.

      I give a song a #3 if it starts with “me” … “I praise, love, adore you” kinds of stuff.

      A #4 is thrown out…. “I have decided to follow Jesus”.

      I instruct my worship team to use as many #1’s as possible and to always have #1’s in the service. #2’s are fine too… and I want no more than one #1 in a service.

      We too have changed words to make them theologically sound.

      The arrangement/tune/instruments… are neutral. That’s where “culture” is okay.

      We are IN the world but not OF it… this isn’t “home”… we are aliens who by the grace of God are ambassadors in a foreign land. We are charged with the task of communicating the WORD to people using their language (culture) but without sin. Jesus – Son of God & Son of Man did this.

      When Jesus encountered the woman at the well and spoke of worship, I think she was left with not “how” to worship but rather “who”.

      You wrote: “You don’t need fun to have church”… but if it happens, it’s not necessarily evil nor overwhelming. Jesus is LORD of ALL.

      You wrote: “When someone is a new creation in Christ, there is no need for cultural relevance, the Word and the Sacraments are enough.” That is true for me personally, but not for those I’m charged to reach… I think it’s a dogmatic statement that lacks scriptural evidence.

      Paul wrote: 1 Cor 9:21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel

      I think we as Christians sometimes speak so disdainfully about the “world” that we forget “God so loved the world that he gave…”

      I think this is the first time we have disagreed but it has been kind of fun to flex this muscle a bit.

  34. Patrick,

    Glad you’ve found a good system to keep out the (or cut down) the use of questionable hymns.

    I see what you mean about Paul. I try and do that as well. I just don’t want the church itself to do it. I can make adjustments so that they’ll listen to me when I speak of Christ. But I don’t think that I want the church to try and adjust to each personality or cultural whim that comes along.

    Yeah, we disagree here.

    I still think you are a great pastor. I don’t think I could handle it if I found someone that I agree withy 100% of the time.

  35. Yes. But I think he was refering to himself.

    I too, think we as individuals should be all things to all people, as individuals, dealing with individuals.

    But I’m not so sure the church can, or should do that.

  36. Wait…my memory seems to click in that somewhere it is written…Oh, you foolish Galatians….*; ) Or, was that something like…to the pure…all things are pure….

  37. Holy crap, Steve. After reading this thread, all I can say is I’m thankful to God I don’t go to your church.

    And you thought Mormons were legalistic. So you’re free to drink a beer in front of your pastor, but ringing in a joyous event with a joyous dance celebration is a no-no?

    Whatever. Michal had nothing on you.

  38. Bridget,

    There are plenty of churches out there where anything goes.

    So have at it.

    We just hold to a more traditional worship. We feel it keeps us centered on Christ, and not on our whims.

    Thanks, Bridget.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: