I was chatting with one of my Lutheran friends this morning and she said, “Sunday the choir is singing ‘Day by Day’ and we’ve jazzed it up quite a bit. We haven’t told pastor so he’ll be surprised. But he likes contemporary music anyway.”
That got me to thinking… That sounds like something I’d expect to hear from a member of practically any church body, except Lutheran.
Although I love my friend dearly, I have to ask: What is it with all these Lutheran Baptist-wanna-be’s? Being raised Baptist myself, and being the daughter of a Baptist minister, I have to say ~ You Lutherans don’t know what a treasure you possess! Please don’t trade it off for something else designed to appeal to human emotions, intellect and feelings!
A church body’s doctrine is reflected in its worship and music. Yeah ~ it is… think about it. Pick up a hymnal ~ any hymnal. Then pick up a Lutheran hymnal. Compare the songs. What are they about? Who are they about? Is it full of “I, me, my, mine” or is it full of Christ?
Before my husband’s application to the seminary could be accepted we had to go through an interview with our District President and a couple of other pastors. That is the process. During that interview one of the pastors, knowing my background, asked me, “was becoming Lutheran hard for you?” My answer was, “YES ~ Absolutely! It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because it required me to examine my entire belief system: what do I believe and why do I believe it?”
I had been an unchurched Baptist for several years. But a Baptist, none the less, so I considered myself. I knew the Bible very well. And knowing the Bible I knew where to look in order to defend my Baptist beliefs.
Many years before that pre-seminary interview, before I met my husband, I had visited several different types of churches. Afterall, we were all worshiping the same God, weren’t we? So what does it matter if we do it in our own unique way?
The Pentecostals had very loud services with lots of praise music and wave offerings, both of which reflects their theology of glory. There were always people standing or sitting as they pleased throughout the service. And sporatically, during the service, there were people loudly raising their arms speaking in some unknown ‘language’. Sometimes there were two or three people doing it at the same time! “Woah now ~ wait just a minute! What the heck is going on here?”, I thought to myself. It really freaked me out… “This is really different… but I suppose it’s okay, as long as they’re sincere… after all, who am I to judge a person’s heart or the way they choose to worship?” I used to say that I was going to church there to get my ‘battery’ recharged. I was a ’seeker’, so I attended those services until I left feeling just as empty inside as I had when I began.
Baptist from the age of 10, I felt more comfortable in a church where there was singing from the Baptist Hymnal, no one disrupting the service. There was more order and there were no surprises from the choir. Every congregational song was led by a paid Director of Music. Then the pastor would deliver a wholloping sermon as he beat the pulpit with his fist. His job was to make people feel so guilty, so evil, so wretched and unworthy that they’d come forward during altar call at the end of the service. And he did a good job of it too! During altar call the pastor stood in the pulpit or at the front of the church urging people to come forward and ‘accept’ Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. ”The first step is the hardest,” he would say. “… once you step into that aisle you’re on your way home.” So I treked down that aisle. And I did it again and again and again. But I couldn’t get that peace that they said comes from ‘knowing’ Christ. There I often heard the word “grace” but the Gospel was used to beat people into submission to God. It wasn’t presented rightly. The idea is this: Jesus Died for You ~ you should live for Him. Like I *owed* him something in exchange for my salvation. His love was not unconditional. I lived in a perpetual state of doubting my salvation and I was constantly asking myself if I really meant it when I went forward and prayed the ’sinner’s prayer’. I was never sure of my sincerity. So I profaned the blood of Christ by believing that if I tried hard enough, I might be able to earn this ‘grace’. I was even Baptized twice ~~ because I wasn’t sure that I really understood what I was doing in my Baptism. What I was doing?? What WAS I doing??? What a mess I was.
Many years later, I sat in on an adult “information” class at a Lutheran church (LCMS). It was extrememly uncomfortable but I stuck it out for 3 weeks. And I let that pastor and everyone else in that class know how horribly wrong they were about baptism and communion. Oh Yeah ….. I let them have it. The pastor just wasn’t looking at the scriptures rightly, and I was going to show him. But I couldn’t out argue him. “This guy’s tough,” I thought. And it was aggravating, so I quit going. (As it turned out, that very pastor was one of the men attending the pre-seminary interview! Scary? You bet, but it made his day.)
After that, I didn’t visit any church for a long time, but I still considered myself Baptist.
Then I met my husband…. And this could turn into a really really long story so I will spare you the details, which you can read in some of my previous posts here.
Let’s get back to that pre-seminary interview now… I was sitting at a round table with some ‘big-wig’ Lutherans who would determine my husband’s future so my knees were knocking. Like I said earlier, becoming Lutheran was the hardest thing I’ve ever done – even harder than childbirth. In childbirth you know what you’re working toward. But examining your entire belief system requires some brutal honesty.
It was at that Baptismal font the day our baby was baptized. On that day I tried to resist what the Holy Spirit was working in me, but He was stronger than all my Baptist beliefs. For it was at that Baptismal font that I saw close up for the first time what the true meaning of grace is. I saw the pure and unconditional grace of God’s love for my little three week old son, who was helpless to do anything for himself, being poured out on his little head. And as the tears streamed uncontrollably down my cheeks, I knew that this was a work of God.
Not long after that I began adult Catechism with the pastor. I was fortunate enough to be the only person in the class. So I could ask him anything I wanted to. And I could argue fiercly as I wanted to. This pastor, God bless him, was kind and patient but firm in his explanations. He showed me what the scripture says about Baptism and Communion and salvation. It was all there – plain and simple. So how could I continue believing anything different than exactly what scripture said? I couldn’t, and I didn’t.
And here I am.
Having wandered far off the topic I expected to write about, I will say this:
YOU Lutherans who want to worship in a Baptist or Pentecostal way don’t know what a treasure you possess in Lutheran Worship. The Liturgy = scripture set to music.
Simply stated, the evangelical protestant worship service is about going to church, giving to God, and doing for God because He is ‘worthy’ of honor, praise, and glory and it misses the mark – completely.
Don’t throw out the Liturgy in exchange for “feel good” stuff. We Lutheran Lutherans go to church to receive. Yes, we give back too. But the primary thing we receive are forgiveness of sins, salvation from death and the devil, and God’s pure, unconditional grace distributed to us in the two sacraments Christ established for us for His purpose.. and the Liturgy points us to Christ and Christ alone. The Liturgy shifts the focus of worship from “I, me, my, and mine” to Christ and what He has done for us.
One difference in musical text that has particularly struck me is this: The Baptist hymnal says “my salvation” while the Liturgy says “thy salvation”. Whose salvation is it anyway? Yours or His?
So, if you ever consider surprising your pastor with some happy clappy feel good music, think about the text and what it is saying. Is it full of “shine Jesus shine” or “I, me, my, and mine”? Or is it about Jesus Christ alone and what He does and has done?
Just a post-script: I know there are true believers in other Christian denominations. And this is true. However, we must be able to recognize the error in their beliefs and practices. And we must not try to be like them in worship. We must continue to defend and protect the purity of Lutheran Doctrine and Lutheran Worship.