Worship that Attracts Young People

Lutheran author [Gene Edward Veith][veithblog] highlights [an article from the Washington Post][wp], noting that many young people have embraced the Latin mass (that is, the centuries-old order of worship conducted in Latin), now that the Pope has authorized its use in a wider context. While we don’t use the Divine Service in Latin, what we use is basically the same service as the Latin Mass. In fact, we still use the Latin/Greek names of many parts of the Divine Service (*Kyrie Eleison*, *Gloria in Excelsis*, etc.), as well as the Sundays of the church year. In recent years, many churches have been tempted to abandon the traditional heritage of the Divine Service, with the notion that young people would prefer worship that resembles their popular entertainment. That includes projected still or motion pictures, soft rock or jazz music, and (most tragically) the replacement of teaching that sometimes causes discomfort with messages that come across as “more practical.” For example, “God’s principles for getting out of debt and staying that way.” (I have no problem with God’s principles concerning debt, as long as they really are what the title claims. I would only object to placing this kind of teaching in the Divine Service, where God comes to us for the purpose of giving eternal life, and we respond appropriately.)

[veithblog]: http://www.geneveith.com/?p=84

[wp]: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112301549.html

> Attendance at the Sunday noon Mass at St. John the Beloved in McLean has doubled to 400 people since it began celebrating in Latin. Most of the worshipers are under 40, said the Rev. Franklyn McAfee. > > Younger parishioners “are more reflective,” McAfee said. “They want something uplifting when they go to church. They don’t want something they can get outside.”

Some voices in recent years have also criticized the order of worship, hymns, etc. that we use, saying they are not uplifting enough. I would understand this criticism if I found that our worship did not teach the Gospel of forgiveness in Christ, but it does. So I can only imagine that such critics are looking for a different message. Reading the quote that Veith pulls from the Washington Post, I find it interesting that some of the young people who now prefer the Latin mass consider it to be *more* uplifting. Unfortunately, the distinctive teachings of the Roman Catholic Church also replace the Gospel with a message that has no power to save. Those teachings lead the hearers to rely upon their own merits in addition to God’s grace, and this effectively makes salvation uncertain — even impossible. However, most Roman Catholic errors arose in the Middle Ages, and the Latin mass was already written by that time. So if the young people flocking to the Latin mass pay close attention to the words of the Divine Service, then they will certainly be uplifted by the Gospel.

Transfer of Web Site to Dreamhost Provider

This web site has been transferred to a different hosting provider: . I recommend the new provider to anyone looking for a host for your web site. (If you [decide to use DreamHost,][dreamhostlink] enter our promo code “BethanyConcordia” (no space between) for an additional $20 discount when you sign up for 1 year or more at a time.)

[dreamhostlink]: https://signup.dreamhost.com/

Our old provider is still a fine one, but from here in the Northwest, I’ve been seeing a lot of connectivity problems with them. I think they are located in Toronto, so the distance was probably a real factor. There were enough problems, anyway, that it was worth the trouble to switch. Our new provider is located in California, and is much closer via traceroute (hops through the Internet). The new provider also seems to have a more personal touch, and has some of the same interests that I have in terms of the software they use. The last thing to be updated is the sermon archive, since it’s pretty big. I’m still uploading it now, and it will probably be several hours before it’s finished.

If you notice something that doesn’t work any more, please let me know!

Revealing Question to Ask Your Pastor

I hope that the members of Bethany and Concordia already know my answers to these questions, but if you don’t, I welcome you to ask them. The following is Appendix II of the book [*What’s Going On Among the Lutherans*][wgo]. If you know anyone who may be concerned that their church ought to teach and practice according to what the Bible says, then you should discuss these questions with them. These questions focus primarily on the “liberal theology” (a somewhat technical term) that has been rampant in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America for some time now. Liberal theology is not the only thing that challenges biblical teaching and practice, but it is one of them.

[wgo]: http://www.amazon.com/Whats-Going-Among-Lutherans-Comparison/dp/0810004275

> The following questions are provided to assist our readers in determining the theological position of their pastors.

> These questions should be asked exactly as worded. Your pastor should be able to answer them with a simple yes or no.

> 1. *Inspiration and Inerrancy* > > Do *you* personally believe that the writers of the Bible were so controlled by the Holy Spirit that they wrote exactly what God wanted them to write? > > Do *you* personally believe that the Bible contains no errors or contradictions? > > 2. *Creation* > > Do *you* personally believe that God created everything in six 24-hour days as recorded in Scripture? > > 3. *Adam and Eve* > > Do *you* personally believe that Adam and Eve were real, historical people? What about Jonah, Noah, and Job? > > 4. *The Words of Jesus* > > Do *you* personally believe that the Words of Jesus, as recorded in the New Testament, were *all* actually spoken by him? > > 5. *Miracles* > > Do *you* personally believe that *every* miracle recorded in the Bible was a real, historical event? > > 6. *The Virgin Birth* > > Do *you* personally believe that Jesus did not have a human father? > > Do *you* personally believe that the Bible and therefore the Apostles Creed contains myth? > > 7. *Deity of Christ* > > Do *you* personally believe that Jesus is 100% *God* and 100% *man?* > > 8. *The Trinity* > > Do *you* personally believe that the Bible teaches of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — three Persons in one God? > > Do *you* personally believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — three in One — as is stated in the Athanasian Creed, one of the three great ecumenical creeds of the Christian church? > > 9. *Atonement* > > Do *you* personally believe that God took his anger for our sins out on Christ — that he was the final blood sacrifice that *appeased* God’s *wrath* and bought the forgiveness of our sins? > > 10. *Resurrection* > > Do *you* personally believe that Christ was *physically* raised from the dead. . . that these *our* physical bodies will be raised from the dead? > > 11. *Immortality of the Soul* > > Do *you* personally believe that man has a soul that survives the death of the physical body? > > 12. *Homosexuality* > > Do *you* personally believe that the Bible condemns the practices of homosexuality? > > If he… says it is no worse than any other sin, say you agree but then *add:* Homosexuality, like all sin requires *repentance* (sorrow over sins) and the faithful resolve that, with God’s help, a person can give it up and sin no more. Do *you* agree with that statement? > > Do *you* personally believe that homosexuality is an acceptable alternate lifestyle ordained by God — a gift from God to be celebrated and enjoyed?

Worship at Home: Family and Household Devotions

God doesn’t tell us exactly how we should use His Word through the week, but it’s clear that we should. This leaves us open to finding whatever fits best into our lifestyle. Since God covers this already in the third commandment, it’s safe to say that it’s quite important to Him. He says (in the wording of our current catechism):

> *You shall keep the day of rest holy.* > > We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching and His Word, > but hold it sacred, and gladly hear and learn it.

Anyone can see that this applies to the divine service on Sunday morning. It also applies to confirmation classes, Bible studies, Sunday School, and other opportunities we have to hear and learn God’s Word publicly.

What we often forget is that the Third Commandment also applies to our own private or family lives. It would be easy at this point for me to say that you must do this or that, and then you will have kept this commandment, but that would not be a God-pleasing way to teach it. Instead, remember first that we can’t keep it, no matter how hard we try, but that God credits us with keeping it through faith in Jesus Christ. He kept this commandment in our place — even in His private or family life. (See how many times He went off by Himself to pray!)

There are a number of resources available to help us in our family devotions. I recommend the *Book of Family Prayer,* but I have also used several other books. I have found it most useful when the book follows the same topics we are covering in the Bible readings Sunday morning.

Every quarter or so, we receive a supply of *Meditations* booklets, a Wisconsin Synod publication that provides a brief devotion for every day based upon a short Bible text. This is similar to *Portals of Prayer* from the Missouri Synod.

There are also prepared devotional books written especially for various categories of people. I saw a devotional for moms at the Northwestern Publishing House web site. The Missouri Synod has also published *My Devotions,* a seasonal booklet of devotions for children.

Of course, there is also the devotional insert that you’ll now find in our church bulletins every week. This includes brief excerpts from the Small and Large Catechisms, parish prayer requests, the current Sunday School lesson (for discussion at home), and Bible readings for morning and evening through the week. You can use as much or as little as you like, so long as it remains doable.

If you would like to include young children in your devotions (which I recommend doing), here is a suggestion that you may not have considered. Use your family hymnal. (You have a hymnal at home, don’t you? You should!) If it’s the old blue or red hymnal, which we call the TLH, I suggest that you use either the Morning Suffrages or the Evening Suffrages on page 115-116. When that would be too long, you can begin with the Morning Prayer or the Evening Prayer on p. 118. In either case, I suggest adding a devotional reading, which could be any Bible text, a devotion from the *Book of Family Prayer,* or from the bulletin devotion insert. If the children in your family need to have things explained to them, it’s a very good thing to pause and take the time — good for them and for the whole family. Don’t be afraid of answering questions. Just stick to what you know the Bible (and your catechism) says, and contact the Pastor (that’s me) if you need to.

The reason I suggest using a simple order of worship for your home devotion, especially with children, is that the repetition is very helpful for learning. It teaches the things you repeat every day, like the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed. It also teaches the importance of hearing God’s Word and responding in an appropriate, respectful way. It even provides a chance to sing hymns together, which is a great blessing in itself. I admit that even the pastor’s family finds this hard to keep up in our own household, but we also know that Christ has cleansed us of all sin, so we need not feel overwhelmed by guilt for the times we forget. Instead, we appreciate all the more that sweet forgiveness He provides us every time we remember.

If you have the *Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary* (ELH) at home instead of the TLH, then I suggest that you use either The Office of Prime on p. 108 for devotions in the morning, or The Office of Compline on p. 128 for devotions in the evening. Just replace the Chapter with the devotional reading for the day. You can skip the Hymn, or even try to sing your favorite hymn from the previous Sunday.

Some days you will have less opportunity for devotion than others. Remember that God has made no law about this, so you can skip a day when necessary. You can also vary the devotions from time to time. When you have a strong habit of daily devotions, you may find that you really miss it on days when you had to skip. That helps you to appreciate God’s Word all the more the next time you hear it.

Finally, I’ll mention an important caveat. The prepared devotions like we find in the *Book of Family Prayer* or in the *Meditations* are very helpful, and often provide important insights that we may not have found elsewhere. However, anything that is not inspired by God — anything that is not Holy Scripture itself — can also be wrong or misleading from time to time. Read, but read with your eyes open, remembering what you have been taught in your catechism.

If you have any stories about the benefits of devotions, or the struggle to maintain them on a regular basis, feel free to include those as comments to this post.

The Value and Importance of the Way We Worship

There is great variety among Christian Churches in the way they worship. Yet in recent years, a growing number of congregations have adopted what’s being called a “contemporary” style of worship. Since I have to work Sunday mornings, I haven’t been able to experience these things first-hand. However, I do understand that this trend raises an important question. How valuable or important is the way we worship? … to us? … to God?

If the success of churches is measured in the addition of new members, then the most successful churches have different priorites than we do. The priorities and methods of “megachurches” was recently touched upon by a Wall Street Journal [editorial][wsj]. To such churches, the “worship style” is merely another variable that should be adjusted to attract the greatest number of new members. But we have to ask whether God agrees with this point of view.

[wsj]: http://www.opinionjournal.com/forms/printThis.html?id=110010768

One pastor in our synod keeps a regular weblog on current activities in his family and parish. Some of you have met Pastor Abrahamson, who is a good personal friend of mine. In [a recent post][post] on his blog, Pastor Abrahamson explains why he instructs the children in his Wednesday School about the liturgy. (“Liturgy” is the word for the order of worship that Christians use in the Divine Service.) He writes, “The point is to enable the students to know where each part of our worship services come from in the Bible, why they are used in the service–especially at this particular part; and how to explain to others who don’t know why we do things the way we do.”

[post]: http://theabrahamsons.blogspot.com/2007/11/makup.html

He goes on to write:

> So many today in Confessional Lutheran Synods are turning to contemporary worship forms as a way to keep the youth from leaving their congregations. In reality, I think that they are yearning for kings like the other nations have. Now many of them have trained up a generation which has no outward liturgical mark that would distinguish it from the Methodist church or any E.Free church. So, it’s no wonder that the kids are leaving in droves. They can’t see or feel any difference. Why should they stay? And now some leaders within Confessional Lutheranism are promoting this garbage as if it’s the answer to that loss, when it is in fact the main contributing factor to that loss. If there is no difference in worship form or format from the reformed churches, why bother with attending an Orthodox Confessional Lutheran congregation when you’re away from home?

Later in the blog post, Pastor Abrahamson presents some quotes from the Formula of Concord. (That’s one of the [Lutheran Confessions,][boc] which express exactly what Lutherans believe, and are normative for our doctrine because they are in full agreement with the Bible.) The topic of these quotes is “adiaphora,” a word for the teachings or customs that are neither commanded nor forbidden in holy scripture. The quotes show that there are times when some things are not allowable, even though they would be in other circumstances. Pastor Abrahamson applies these quotes to the question of “contemporary worship,” ending with some powerful examples of the value and importance of the way we worship.

[boc]: http://www.bookofconcord.org

If you have some experience in these matters, or if you would just like to ask or discuss something related, this blog is an appropriate place to do so. You can leave comments on this post, though you may have to create a login for yourself first. If you would rather not discuss it in such a public setting, we can bring up the topic in our Bible classes at church.

Addressing the Risks of MySpace

Everything in live involves some amount of risk. We do what we do because we are ignorant of the risks involved, or because those risks are tolerable to us. That’s life in an imperfect world.

When we know that there are risks to our personal safety, or the safety of others, in what we do, yet we don’t care about them or do nothing about them, then we are being reckless. It’s tempting God, something that Jesus refused to do in Matthew 4:7.

So if we want to do something that we know involves risk, we must do our best to avoid recklessness. In other words, we should reduce the risk.

Using MySpace has risks, just like many other online activities. MySpace may be even riskier, because there are predators looking for vulnerable kids, specifically on MySpace. So I recommend that parents and kids both take time to learn the risks involved in their online activities, and take steps to reduce those risks. Here are some starting points:

* [I Keep Safe.org](http://www.ikeepsafe.org)

* [10 Commandments for Kids Online](http://www.komando.com/kids/commandments.aspx)