Why Do We Go to Church? — via The White Horse Inn

From Michael Horton at The White Horse Inn blog.  Horton articulates the issue that seems to be at the heart of the discussion about our worship that usually ends up centering on music and style or preference.  Where one sees bias in another’s opinions, another sees continuity with the past.  Either way we usually end up talking past each other and miss the elephant in the room.  Horton takes on the elephant by asking the question — Why do we go to church?  I think if we grapple with this question honestly, we might be able to work through differences of style or music preference.  What do you think?  The entire article is reproduced below.

Why Do We Go to Church?

How the “Worship Wars” Often Miss the Real Issue
Michael Horton

Where going to church was for most Americans the default setting, today it’s a conscious choice. Many churches tried wooing Boomers back with softness and smiles, affirming images of a God who is helpful for our life projects, and myriad activities for the kids. Many of their children and grandchildren are burned out on it all. Some head for the exit, toward Rome, the East, or the “spiritual but not religious” category. Others are calling the church to be less consumer-driven and to make God the focus.

For too long the “worship wars” have coalesced around style. These are not unimportant questions; how we worship says a lot about the object and significance of the event. However, all the sides (simplistically drawn between “traditionalists” and “contemporary-worship” advocates) in the debates share more in common than any do with the rationale of Reformation Christianity.

Continue reading “Why Do We Go to Church? — via The White Horse Inn”

Music in the Divine Service as the Work of the People — CT Book Review


Christianity Today reviews a new book by sociologist, Gerardo Marti, examining the musical preferences in successful, multiracial congregations.  You can read the whole article here http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2012/juneweb-only/multiracial-church-music.html?paging=off. In Worship Across the Racial Divide, Marti found that the style or musical preferences of individual ethnic groups within the congregation did not matter.  In fact employing a buffet style approach to music to be inclusive of the musical tastes of various groups within the congregation was not conducive to unity in the congregation :

The end result? Instead of bringing people together and transcending racial boundaries, this approach reinforces boundaries—boundaries built on gross,oversimplified stereotypes.It unwittingly even assumes that somehow we have inborn preferences for certain styles of music, rather than tendencies to prefer the type of music we most often hear those around us enjoying. Fact is, musical preferences are learned.

And the musical-buffet approach can rarely succeed, says Marti. People simply are not trained or skilled in the abilities to perform such a wide range of musical styles. Even if a church finds an incredibly gifted worship leader who can do so, the worship leader will not be able to find enough volunteer choir members who can do so.

Marti found that what worked for successful congregations was the participation of the people — the congregation has the opportunity to sing the hymns/songs, be a part of the choir, or play an instrument during the course of the service.

What “succeeds” musically in multiracial churchesisnota certaintypeofmusic or how well it is performed. Rather, it is: (a) people of various backgrounds all practicing together, spendingtimetogether, singing together, worshiping together; and (b) the fact that it is “our choir, our people.”

To get downright sociological, it is the transcendent experience in which worship becomes at the same time a celebration of the group itself and of Godwhohas brought the group together. At its essence, then, what matters is the network of relationships of the people in the congregation,not the type or even the quality of the music.

This conclusion runs counter to the trend of contemporary worship that takes the people’s work of praise and puts it into the hands of a few musicians and singers in a band singing songs that most people cannot and relegating congregational participation to a bar or two of a refrain.  It also runs counter to our politically correct sensibilities that elevates the celebration of diversity to an idol even in our churches.  CT reviewer, Michael O. Emerson, professor of sociology and co-director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University, observes:

I must admit, when I first read this book, the conclusion did not seem right to me. I had previously been in a multiethnic congregation that played only what is stereotypically white music. While the congregation was diverse, with people from several dozen nations, the music was not. I felt distressed by what I thought was insensitivity, and even—to use a fancy term—the musical imperialism of this church.

It proclaimed itself diverse, and it wanted to be a place for all people, but anyone who came had to conform to only one musical style. Sometimes I became so upset by this, and by my participation in it, that I had to leave the service. But what truly confused me is that, as I talked to people in the congregation, almost no one seemed bothered by the one-dimensional musical style. I could not understand it.

The church is the gathering of the people around Word and Sacrament, the ekklesia.  When this people gathers together in a local congregation for the divine service, it gathers to receive Christ ‘s gifts.  While the reception of gifts is a passive activity, there is action required of the people in this gathering in the confession of sin, confessing the faith once delivered, and returning thanks to the Lord.  This returning of thanks is done in our songs of worship and praise.  This praise is the work of the people,  their leitourgia.  It is the exercise of fellowship and community,  the koininia that binds the people together.  That joyful noise we hear in church sounds much better when the entire congregation joins with the faithful company if heaven.  The music in the church of yesterday and today is the work of all gathered.  It is ironic that we need a study and a sociologist to draw this conclusion for us.

On the Eve of the Mid-South District Convention — Our Connection to the Ancient Church via WMLT blog

On the eve of the Mid-South District convention, Rev. Herb Mueller reminds us of the genius of our Lutheran Confessions. What has sustained us as Lutherans is a dogmatic adherence to these confessions which summarize what Scripture teaches and, hence, a fevernt belief and trust in the Word of God. The 482nd anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession to the Holy Roman Emporer is commemorated on Monday, June 25, 2012. May our pastors and lay delegates be reminded of who we are and what defines our confession, our walk together. May our pastors and lay delegates have the courage and boldness to cling steadfastly to the Word of God as our forbears once did rather than chasing after the latest fads, gimmicks, and programs. God’s Word does what it says it will do and never returns void. Click the link to read the post. http://wmltblog.org/2012/06/our-connection-to-the-ancient-church/

Why Plant Churches? For Market Share or to Proclaim the Gospel?

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.

 In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism.  Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil.  Smalcald Articles, III, VIII, par 9-10.

(This article was originally published on January 28, 2012.  It has been updated and cleaned up a bit)

Earlier this week a church planting team from our LCMS District came to our congregation to talk about entering into a partnership with our congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.  Situated smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, home to the Christian music industry, our congregation is centrally located along what many have termed “church row.”  We are one of the smaller churches along this stretch of road in Nashville, but we are growing.  Nashville and Davidson County boast a population of approximately 620,000 people, 600,000 12 years earlier.  In 2000, there were approximately 591 congregations with 297,312 members.  When the statistics are adjusted for children, the figure jumps to just over 400,000 (Source: Association of Religious Data Archives).  In 2007, the estimated population was 620,000.  The number of churches climbed to 853 and church membership saw a slight increase to 304,238 (Source:  Social Explorer using ARDA numbers).  You can throw a rock and hit a large, mega, or brand new church in Nashville and its surrounding counties.  I may be a little color blind when it comes to distinguishing the colors on the demographic map, but the numbers show pretty close to 50% of the adult population claims membership in a church in Davidson County, the geographic home of the Music City, and more than 60% when children are factored into the equation.  So why plant churches when 262 new churches yielded only a slight increase in claimed membership over a 7 year period in Nashville?   The answer may surprise you. Continue reading “Why Plant Churches? For Market Share or to Proclaim the Gospel?”

Steadfast Lutherans » Great Stuff — Fascist roots of the Church Growth Movement

HT to Steadfast Lutherans for reposting the post linked below from the Intrepid Lutherans blog. The post takes a look at the work of Chris Rosebrough at Pirate Christian Radio which examines the Church Growth movement, its origins and practices. Chris is the preeminent LCMS layman on the topic of the CGM which has spawned the Emergent Church. The EC is attempting to rewrite the narrative of the Christian faith, and, in the process, reinterpreted Scripture to suit postmodern cultural relativism. This rewriting of the Christian story and reinterpretation has given us terms such as the churched and unchurched instead of sinners and believers, authentic worship experience rather than the liturgy or divine service, or fully devoted Christ followers as opposed to Christians. These “movements” sever the last tie to the church that is a factual reality in history. Having abandoned faith alone solely in and on account of the work ofChrist alone, the revelation of Scripture is discarded for the casting of vision, focus on the personal experience of the person with the divine, and execution of list after endless list of things to do to be an “authentic ” Christ follower. Be sure and check out the links in post as they contain highly instructive and enlightening materials. Click the link below or cut and paste it into your browser ‘s address bar. http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=19847