Sermons and Papers

God’s Mission, Holy Ministry and Divine Service

17th Annual Minnesota Lutheran Free Conference
October 30, 2004

Dr. Timothy C. J. Quill

The footnotes are dynamically linked. Click on the number to read the footnote, and click on the footnote number to return to the text at the reference point.

The topic assigned to me is to “focus on the Church’s mission and how this plays out and is found in the liturgy and in the training of pastors.” I have been instructed not only to “focus on the liturgy and the training of pastors in the U.S.A., but throughout the world.” In an attempt to summarize this inordinate topic, I’ve titled my presentation “God’s Mission, Holy Ministry and Divine Service.” The title endeavors to encapsulate the commonality, inseparability and reciprocity of “Mission,” “Ministry” and “Liturgy.”

“God’s Mission, Holy Ministry and Divine Liturgy.” “God’s,” “Holy,” and “Divine” all say the same thing. The genitives indicate that all three belong to God. The mission to save the world from sin is God’s mission. The Father chose, authorized and sent his Son to atone for the sins of the world. The Son was given all authority and therefore called and sent the apostles who in turn ordained other men to make disciples of all nations. The Holy Ministry is holy because it was established by God and belongs to God. The inseparable connection between God’s Mission and God’s Ministers is clearly articulated in Articles 4 & 5 of the Augsburg Confession.1

Article 4 on “Justification” states:

It is also taught among us that we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sins and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith2

Article 5, “The Office of the Ministry,” explains how this faith is obtained.

To obtain such faith God instituted the office of the ministry, that is, provided the Gospel and the sacraments. Through these, as through means, he gives the Holy Spirit, who works faith, when and where he pleases in those who hear the Gospel.3

The ordinary, regular, ongoing place in which the Gospel and sacraments are preached and administered is in the Divine Liturgy. The sacraments are not administered without the preaching of the Gospel. Preaching the pure Gospel proclaims no other Christ than he who rose bodily from the dead and is truly present with grace in his body and blood in the Sacrament. Thus, Christian worship or the Divine Liturgy is nothing other than the Liturgy of Word and Sacrament, i.e. the Liturgy of the Gospel. Where the Gospel is preached and sacraments administered, the Holy Spirit works faith, “when and where he pleases.” “When and where he pleases” is mission language. “When ... he pleases” eliminates synergistic, Baptist, manipulative missions strategies and revival worship. “Where” applies to where ever the Gospel, catechesis, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are going on, whether here in America or overseas.

Mission, Ministry and Liturgy share a common owner. They all belong to God and through them He is active in creating and sustaining his church. Mission, Ministry and Liturgy are inseparable. You can not have one without the other. God has established no mission apart from the Holy Ministry. The Ministry knows only the Mission given to it by God. There is no ministry without the means of grace which take place where two or three are gathered in Jesus Name to receive his gifts and respond in faith and thanksgiving. There is no true worship apart from God’s Mission and the Holy Ministry. Mission and Evangelism are not separate activities independent from the Liturgy. Certainly, there are evangelism, catechetical, and devotional activities (e.g. daily office) that take place outside of the actual divine service. But these flow from and back into the place where Christ has promised to be present with his preached word and his life-giving body and blood. “There is no separation between liturgy and mission... worship is mission.”4

Mission, Ministry and Liturgy share an intimate reciprocity. A faulty theology of missions leads to in a faulty understanding in the Holy Ministry and a faulty theology of worship. Faulty theology leads to faulty practices.

The Holy Ministry

God instituted the Office of the Ministry. It belongs to God and is a gift from him to his church. Several years ago I visited a small Lutheran Church in Belarus that managed to survive despite relentless persecution under the Soviet Union. The church had been without a pastor for decades. Amazingly the beautiful neo-gothic church building had not been destroyed and was returned to the congregation. Sadly, the congregation had forgotten what it means to be Lutheran and what it means to be a Church. Their Lutheran identity was reduced primarily to that of a German cultural society. I was asked to speak to the congregation about the Holy Ministry. The leader of the congregation was an elderly German woman who, frankly, was quite used to being in charge. She raised her hand and confronted me with the question, “We have been without a pastor for years and have gotten along just fine. Why do we need a pastor?” I responded with reference to Ephesians 4:8-14. After Jesus ascended into heaven he gave gifts to men.

“And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teacher, to equip the saints, for the work of ministry, for the building up the body of Christ, until we all attain the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine...” (11-14)

In short I told the lady, if you don’t think you need a pastor, or you don’t want a pastor, then no one can force a pastor on you. Pastor’s are a gift from God – from Jesus Christ himself. You can not force someone to take a gift. But personally, if Jesus wants to give me a gift, I think I would gladly receive it and do so with thanksgiving. The Holy Ministry belongs to God. His ministers are gifts to his church.

God’s Mission is carried out by God’s Ministers when they do what our Lord has given them to do. In Matthew 28:19-20 they are sent to make disciples by baptizing and teaching. It is called Holy Baptism because it belongs to God and in baptism God is forgiving sins, granting new birth, bestowing eternal life. lt is called the Holy Gospel because it is the Lord’s living and saving Word. When the Gospel is preached and taught, God the Holy Spirit is active making disciples when and where he pleases.

I was once making a presentation about the importance of missions and pastoral training at Concordia Theological Seminary. When I made reference to our Lord’s mandate to the Apostles in Matthew 28 as foundational to the task of pastors, an agitated layperson insisted that Jesus was not only addressing those in the Holy Ministry but all believers. It is true that Jesus words are, indirectly, addressed to the entire church, but I pointed out that in the text, Jesus was talking to the apostles, not to all believers. Certainly, this does not preclude the importance of lay people witnessing to others in word and deed. Lay people support God’s mission prayerfully and financially. They teach and live the faith in their homes. They support the mission when they bring their children to be baptized and when they encourage their sons to enter the holy ministry. I pointed out that Jesus was sending the Apostle to make disciples. How are disciples made? By baptizing and teaching. So I asked the lady, “Have you been baptizing people lately?” “Have you been conducting the liturgy and administering Holy Communion lately?” A proper interpretation of Matthew 28 does not diminish the Royal Priesthood nor does it falsely elevate the Office of the Holy Ministry to some elitist hierarchy. For an excellent little treatise on the distinction between clergy and laity, see “The Christological Character of the Office of the Ministry and the Royal Priesthood” by Dr. Jobst Schöne5

The attitudes expressed by these two women concerning the roles of the Office of Holy Ministry and the Royal Priesthood is not limited to a few misinformed laypersons. It has become systemic in the teaching, preaching, worship, mission and evangelism practices of the LCMS. District Lay Ministry training programs are sprouting up all across the LCMS in which laymen are given a minimal theological training with no intention of ordination and then put to work in congregations to do “Word and Sacrament ministry.” Mission paradigms adopted from non-Lutheran, Anabaptist seminaries and institutes are used in both American and overseas mission strategies. Often the argument is put forward that this is necessary due to the shortage of trained pastors. In foreign missions, the concern is often expressed that the demand for the on-going financial support of a highly trained clergy will stifle outreach.

It is interesting that Martin Luther spoke to this issue already in the year 1522.

The gospel naturally ought to be preached throughout the whole world, and why is it not? Certainly it is not the fault of the gospel, for it is right and true, profitable and blessed. No, the trouble is that there are not enough people who are qualified to do it. And if a person doesn’t have the qualifications it is better to keep silent than to preach; otherwise the preaching will be false and harmful.6

In 1996 Concordia Theological Seminary established the Russian Project in which over thirty Russian speaking men from the former Soviet Union came to study in Fort Wayne. The men have since returned to serve Lutheran Churches in Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia and Lithuania. In 1997 CTS joined the mission enterprise of the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church in the formation of Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, Siberia. President Wenthe dedicated the new seminary in the summer of 1997. By 2001 the Seminary had out grown its original facilities and moved into a new building in the center of Akademgorodok, Novosibirsk. In June of 2004 the first class of five men completed the five-year program. The ordination of trained pastors continues. The 2004-05 academic year began with thirteen new students bringing the enrollment to 17. The men come from Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgistan, Ukraine, Moldovia and The Republic of Georgia.

The training of pastors in America and overseas is an intensive, costly, time-consuming enterprise. One of the men who studied at Fort Wayne is Rev. Alexei Streltsov (MA and STM from CTS) who serves as Rector of Lutheran Theological Seminary. The LCMS can learn much from this young man. Streltsov explained, “Because of the vast distances in Siberia and the isolation of mission congregations, it is important to have ordained pastors who are thoroughly trained in Lutheran doctrine and practice, other wise serious problems develop.”


The Divine Liturgy

Catechesis and Baptism Lead to the Lord’s Supper and the Liturgy

God’s Mission includes God’s pastors who preach his Holy Gospel, proclaim his Holy Absolution, and administer his Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. In God’s Mission, teaching and baptism leads to the Lord’s Supper, that is, to the Divine Liturgy. A few years ago I visited a Lutheran missionary who had been in the mission field for just short of a year. He shared his delight in the fact that they had recently baptized several people, most of them adults. Out of curiosity, I inquired as to what he used for the liturgy when the newly baptized were communed. This is always a challenge in the mission context when missionaries are still learning the local language and the liturgy and hymnody have yet to be translated into the vernacular. “Oh,” he said, “I am not allowed to give them the Lord’s Supper.” Why, I asked with genuine incredulity. He answered, “its mission policy. We are not allowed to celebrate the Lord’s Supper until after we have been in the country for twelve months.” Catechesis and Baptism lead to the Lord’s Supper and to the Liturgy.

When the Augsburg Confession, Article 5 states that justifying faith is obtained through the Holy Ministry, that is, the preaching of the Holy Gospel and the sacraments, it presupposes the Divine Liturgy. The historic western liturgy was retained by the Lutheran fathers because both its content and form were given shape by and faithfully reflected pure or orthodox theology. Granted, it was necessary to reform and purify the liturgy from theological and ritual abuses that had crept into the medieval Roman Mass. But the liturgy was retained. The Lutheran Church is a liturgical Church.


Apology XV
“Human Traditions”
We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify. (Tappert 220:38; Kolb/Wengert 229:38)

Apology XXIV
“The Mass”
“...we do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend it. In our churches mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals.... We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments etc.” (Tappert 249:1; Kolb/Wengert 258:1)

Augsburg Confession XXVI
“The Distinction of Foods”
We on our part also retaln many ceremonies and traditions (such as the liturgy of the mass and various canticles, festivals and the like) which serve to preserve order in the church. (Tappert 69:40; Kolb/Wengert 81:40)

One does not choose to join a liturgical church, become a liturgical church, or remain a liturgical church on the basis of personal preference or taste. The liturgy includes aesthetic elements like music, art, and ceremony, but elements of style always come second. Worship forms are based on doctrine. Worship practice reflects and communicates the beliefs of the church. It is true that churches make decisions about how they will worship. Such decisions are particularly important for those doing mission work.

The forms of the historic liturgy have varied, yet share a common structure. They also share a common approach or understanding toward how man acts in God’s presence, or more importantly, how God has chosen to be present and how God acts toward those gathered in his Name. God acts through his Word and Sacrament. Since the 16th century, Lutheran liturgies have retained this historic understanding. Authentic Lutheran liturgies share a common understanding, approach and attitude (fostered through reverent ceremony) concerning how God, who is present in worship has chosen to be present in grace.

Churches make decisions. In one sense the liturgy is an adiaphora. The exact form and details (texts, music, and ceremonies) are not commanded or prescribed in Holy Scripture. But it does not follow that liturgical matters are unimportant or are to be treated arbitrarily. The well-known maxim attributed to Prosper of Aquitaine (d. 463) can be helpful here. Lex orandi, lex credendi. (The law of prayer/worship, the law of belief) The way you worship effects and determines what you believe. Islamic worship makes Muslims. Buddhist worship makes Buddhists. Roman Catholic worship makes Roman Catholic. Pentecostal worship makes Pentecostals. American neo-evangelical contemporary worship makes generic, Arminian, protestant Christians. Lutheran liturgy makes Lutherans and keeps them Lutheran.

But the opposite is also true in a different sense. One can reverse Prosper of Aquitaine’s maxim to read, lex credendi, lex orandi, what you believe effects, determines and shapes the way you worship. Hermann Sasse observed, “Nothing can be liturgically correct that is not dogmatically correct.”


Lutheran Missions use Lutheran Worship

Lex orandi, lex credendi. The way you worship shapes the way you believe. Each generation must be formed and shaped anew in faith and piety – in what it believes and how it prays and lives. One could expand Prosper’s maxim to read Lex credenti, lex orandi, lex vivendi. What one believes establishes the way one worship which together establish the way one lives. This is true in newly established churches among nations that have no history of Christianity. And it is true for congregations in North America that are serious about evangelism-where new converts or non-Lutherans are brought into established churches.

Most, if not all, of you are acutely aware of the current controversy in American Lutheranism over traditional versus contemporary worship (i.e. the style vs. substance debate). The fact is’ much of what claims to be “contemporary” is simply not new. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Pietism and Rationalism movements popularized the false notion that the early church did not use the liturgy, but simple, informal, spontaneous styles of worship. 20th century scholarship has demonstrated that this is simply false and historically inaccurate. The real reason for the rejection of the historic liturgy was theological. Pietists minimized the external means of grace and replaced them with a direct experience of God through the heart. Rationalists placed the mind or reason above Holy Scriptures. Their rejection of the supernatural also led to a penchant for simplicity and intolerance of traditional forms in the liturgy. One can not reject the deity of Christ and the resurrection and still retain a liturgy shaped by a belief in which the risen Lord’s body and blood are present in the bread and wine, forgiving the sins of those who eat and drink with faith, and condemning those who eat and drink with out repentance and faith.

Today’s co-called “contemporary worship” also has more recent roots in the American frontier tradition, or what historian James White has coined as “frontier worship.” The LCMS fathers were very familiar with the dangers of adopting non-Lutheran worship practices prevalent in America in the 19th century. The Second Great Awakening took place between 1800-1830. Revivalist worship forms and the Arminian theology of conversion (that man cooperates in his conversion by free will) had a major effect on every American Protestant denomination, including the Lutheran Church. Friedrich Wyneken came to America in 1838 and formally organized Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne in 1846. In 1839, C.F.W. Walther and the Saxons arrived in Missouri. In 1847, “The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio and Other States,”7 or Missouri Synod was officially organized.

The camp meetings of the early 19th century were the result of the geographical, social and religious conditions on the American frontier. An economic slump after the Revolutionary War caused a steady migration west of the Alleghenies which continued until the 1920s.8 In the rough and isolated wilderness the “frontiersman left many of their social and religious traditions behind as they expressed their distinct individualism in a pioneering spirit.”9 The beginning of the Second Great Awakening is often dated from the first camp meeting that took place in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. People were carving a life out of the wilderness and were cut off from cities and towns, isolated from schools, hospitals and churches. Camp meetings gave them an opportunity to reestablish social contact, catch up on the news, find a spouse for their children and “get religion.” When news spread that a camp meeting would be held, thousands of people literally came out of the woods to attend what was often a week long event.

The revivals took place in open fields, meadows, or cleared forests. A high “preachin’” platform faced the congregation who used pine logs for pews. “Except for the “mourner’s bench,” a large area remained clear in front of the platform.”10 Theologically the Wesleyan / Methodist perfectionism tradition came to dominate the camp meeting movement. From the platform the preachers emphasized regeneration. A personal turning from sin and to Christ resulted in immediate regeneration. The immediacy of decision and regeneration are illustrated in a typical 19th century camp song.

Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, Come to Jesus, just now,
Just now come to Jesus, Come to Jesus just now.

He will save you, he will save you, He will save you just now,
Just now he will save you, He will save you just now.11

It is revealing to compare the song “Come to Jesus” with the contemporary praise song, “Come, Now is the Time to Worship.”12It was sung in a LCMS congregation two weeks ago. It was the first song of the opening praise medley.

Verse:  Come, now is the time to worship.
Come, now is the time to give your heart.
Come, just as you are to worship.
Come, just as you are before your God.

One day, every tongue will confess You are God.
One day, every knee will bow.
Still, the greatest treasure remains for those
Who gladly seek you now.

In 1802, Moses Hoge wrote a letter to Ashbel Green in which he describes a camp meeting he had recently attended:

In the time of preaching, if care is taken, there is but little confusion; when that is over, and the singing, and praying, and exhortation began, the audience is thrown into what I call real disorder. The careless fall down, cry out, tremble, and not infrequently are affect with convulsive twitchings. Among these the pious are very busy, singing, praying, conversing, falling down in extacies, etc. Then the shout is raised, Glory be to God for a newborn soul. Nothing that imagination can paint, can make a stronger impression on the mind, than one of those scenes. Sinners dropping down on every hand, shrieking, falling down in distress for sinners or in raptures o joy! Some singing, some shouting, clapping their hands, hugging and even kissing, laughing; others talking to the distressed, to one another, or to opposers of the work, and all this at once.13

The emotional catharsis of the experience resulted in a joyous atmosphere of which music was absolutely essential. Both preaching and song centered on one’s personal faith and experiences. There were few hymnbooks and the illiteracy rate was high. Songs had to be learned from memory. This ruled out the more complex texts of Watts and Wesley. “The teaching of these hymns by rote demanded that the tunes be easy, singable, and instantly contagious.”14 Thus a chief characteristic of revival song was the stanza and refrain or chorus response. The preacher would often sing the stanza and the people respond with the refrain. The “call and response” song was also popular.


Call:    Remember sinful youth, you must die!
Response:         You must die!
Call:    Remember sinful youth, you must die!
Response:         You must die!
Call:    Remember sinful youth, you hate the way of truth;
             And in your pleasures boast, you must die!
Response:         You must die!
Call:    And in your pleasures boast,
Response:         You must die!15


The main musical components of the camp song were: (1) simplicity, (2) repetition, (3) emotional fervor, (4) subjective/personal experience, and (5) frequent improvisation.

The typical revival ordo followed a three part structure of (1) Song (or warm up), (2) Preaching, and (3) Conversion (or altar call). It would be Charles Grandison Finney, the greatest revival preacher of the nineteenth century who systematized the revival ordo, and coined the term “new measures” in his famous essay of 1835, “Lectures on Revivals of Religion.”16

For Finney, God had established no particular system or form of worship: “When Jesus Christ was on earth, laboring among his disciple, he had nothing to do with forms or measures. [Jesus commission to the apostles was] ‘Go and preach the gospel, and disciple all nations.’ It did not prescribe any forms, [so] Do it-the best way you can-ask wisdom from God-use the faculties he has given you-seek the direction of the Holy Ghost-go forward and do it.”17

But Finney could and did recommend a form based on pragmatic goals. Not surprisingly, he chose the three-fold structure of the frontier revival service. Finney’s order of service consisted of: (1) A song/praise service or ‘preliminaries,’ gauged to prepare for preaching. (2) A sermon, and (3) A “harvest” of the converts.18

The founders of the LCMS not only had to contend with threats from American Protestants, they also had to contend with influences from other Lutheran Churches. The most influential leader among American Lutherans was Samuel Simon Schmucker (1799-1873). Schmucker was an avid proponent of the “American Lutheranism” movement. In his infamous “Definite Synodica1 Plaform” (1855),

Schmucker urged the Lutheran Church to move away from its past doctrinal superstitions’ to a more rational, feeling-centered Christiamty. Specifically, the church should remove from its confession any reference to four points: 1) the real presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper; 2) baptismal regeneration; 3) private confession and absolution; 4) the use of traditional liturgies.19

In 1811 the number of camp meetings reached the 400 mark. By 1820, almost a thousand camp meetings had been held. Their impact on religious life in America would be felt into the twenty-first century. An analysis of “Frontier Worship” reveals six basic characteristics. It is (1) evangelistic, (2) non-sacramental, (3) experiential, (4) individualistic, (5) moralistic, and (6) pragmatic.20 The theological, liturgical and ecclesial successors for the revival movement can be traced through the revival movements of the 20th century (e.g. Billy Graham), the charismatic movement (Pentecostals and Assembly of God denominations) to today’s MegaChurch/Meta Church movement. A comparison of the Willow Creek worship ordo in Chicago and Community Church of Joy in Phoenix, Arizona (ELCA) reveal striking similarities to the order of service found in the “Frontier Worship” tradition.21

What Lutheran churches in America and overseas are experiencing today in the area of liturgy, ministry, mission and evangelism is not new. Our problem is one of historical amnesia. Pietism (from European and Scandinavian mission societies) and Revivalism from American Protestant missionaries have been setting African Christianity ablaze for decades. My father was a missionary in Africa. While attending boarding school in Jos, Nigeria, I attended my first revival service in a soccer stadium. I was sixteen years old at the time. That was nearly forty years ago. The revival movement was already spreading rapidly already at that time and it is still going strong. In the article, “The Other Gospel of Neo-Pentecostalism in East Africa,” Finnish missionary and theologian Anssi Simojoki provides first-hand insights into the Neo-Pentecoastalism that is presently spreading across Africa and changing the face of Christianity

The religion of salvation becomes a human-centered, voluntary program for the attainment of health, wealth, and success . . . Praise and miracle meetings are weekly mass events in Kenya. On top of that, one is increasingly likely to come across them on television . . .. Instead of the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, the center is occupied with miracles and the improvement of the quality of life, along with temporal blessings from God.22

Four years ago I traveled to Kenya to lecture on the liturgy at a pastoral seminar. I arrived in Nairobi exhausted, jet-lagged and delighted to finally reach my hotel room. I had barely put my head on the pillow when an evangelist with a very loud microphone started preaching at a revival in a field next to my hotel. Later, when I turned on the television, channel after channel was broadcasting programs by American evangelists. All over Nairobi, large billboards advertised upcoming revival meetings. Fortunately, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya is led by Bishop Walter Obare and other leaders who understand the importance of the Liturgy of the Word and Sacrament. The only way to defeat superstition and magic is by some thing bigger than magic, namely, the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and the Holy Body and Blood of our Lord.

The Lutheran Church is a liturgical Church.23 The Lutheran Liturgy is not a concatenation of randomly selected liturgical elements that can be shuffled about like a deck of cards – nor are the various parts of the Liturgy set immovably in cement. There is, however, a logical order to the many parts of the liturgy. Each part confesses, reflects, bestows Jesus Christ to the worshippers in its unique way or permits the worshippers to respond to the gifts given and received with immediate and appropriate thanksgiving and praise. No part stands in isolation from the service as a whole. Each part works and moves together toward the two chief points of the divine service: (1) Hearing the Word of God and the very words of the present Jesus Christ at the proclamation of the Holy Gospel. (2) Communing with the present Christ through the reception of his body and blood in the Lord’s Supper. The reason the Church gathers together for the Liturgy each Sunday is because Jesus comes. Thus, the Lutheran Church follows the historic liturgical ordo of Word and Sacrament as an authentic, time-tested expression of pure doctrine. It does not replace it or blend it with an Arminian, revival ordo of 1) praise music, 2) preaching, and 3) conversion/altar call.

Lutheran Missions Use Lutheran Hymns

The use of so-called “praise songs” or “contemporary music” from heterodox denominations and publishing houses is currently rampant among Lutheran Churches. The common justification is that it is necessary for the sake of evangelism and church growth. The “conditions of membership” clearly stated in the Constitution of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are simply ignored by many pastors and congregations. Article VI states, “Exclusive use of doctrinally pure agenda, hymnbooks and catechisms in church and school.”24

Kantor Richard Resch has offered the following succinct definition of the Lutheran Hymn: “The Lutheran Hymn is a sung confession of the faith.” To sing hymns whose content and music represent a different confession is counterproductive to establishing and maintaining a Lutheran Church. In fact, it leads to division not unity. Lutheran pastors who solemnly promise to perform the duties of their office in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions should take seriously the wisdom expressed in the Augsburg Confession (Article XV, “Human Traditions”), “We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity...”

The Lutheran Church is a liturgical church. Therefore, the Lutheran Church sings liturgical hymns. “There must therefore be a relationship between the hymn and the liturgy. The hymns ought to have the same goal as the liturgy and the liturgy as the hymns.”25 Liturgical hymns are part of the liturgy, not merely adjuncts to the liturgy, extra devotion imported into the liturgy, or employed as support for the sermon.26 One of the most important and challenging tasks in mission work is the translation and composition of hymnody in the vernacular. It requires people who are skilled linguists, trained musicians and competent in biblical and dogmatic theology. For a hymn to qualify as genuinely Lutheran and liturgical, it must meet at least some of the following standards.27

  1.    The liturgical hymn should be Trinitarian.
  2.    The liturgical hymn should be Christological or Christocentric.
  3.    The liturgical hymn should be Sacramental. This is not to say that all liturgical hymns have to be “communion hymns.” However . . . all hymns used with the liturgy ought to                   have an ultimate relation to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
  4.    Liturgical hymns should be clearly dominated by their texts, not their tunes.
  5.    The liturgical hymn ought to be objective. Its content must not comprise an excessively subjective analysis of personal experience.
  6.    The liturgical hymn should have a due regard for the church year.

I have a stack of bulletins from LCMS congregations who incorporate praise songs into their so-called contemporary and blended services. The song, “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever,”28 was part of the opening praise song medley at a Missouri Synod congregation.

Over the mountains and the sea
Your river runs with love for me,
And I will open up my heart,
And let the Healer set me free.
I’m happy to be in the truth,
And I will daily lift my hands,
For I will always sing of when Your love came down.

I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever,
I could sing of Your love forever.

Repeat Entire Song

Oh, I feel like dancing, it’s foolishness I know;
But when the world has seen the light,
They will dance with joy like we’re dancing now.
Repeat Chorus

This hymn meets none of the standards for a genuine Lutheran hymn. There is no mention of the Trinity or of Christ. A Deist, Buddhist, or New Ager could sing this hymn. It is certainly not sacramental in any sense. The song has absolutely no connection to the appointed Scripture readings for The 11th Sunday after Pentecost (which were included in the bulletin). Its focus is subjective not objective. Even though it refers to God’s love, the emphasis is on what I am doing and feeling. “I will open up my heart.” “I will daily lift my hands.” “I will always sing.” “I could sing.” “I feel like dancing.” I do not know the tune, but I suspect the tune drives the words rather than the words drive the tune.

Liturgical hymns confess Christ and the Gospel within the changing variety of the Church year and different parts of the liturgy. By singing hymns, the congregation confesses, teaches and preaches to one another. Thus the words and content of hymns are important – extremely important! Personal views, interpretations, feelings and musical preferences are not important. A proper Lutheran hymn is a shared confession, a biblical confession and a united response of praise and thanksgiving to common gifts received. Hymn writer Stephen Starke’s observation is priceless: “There are Lutheran pastors who would never permit a Baptist pastor to preach a sermon in their pulpit, but see no problem in regularly putting the words of Baptist hymns into the mouths of their people.”

A similar observation was expressed by Rev. Saulius Jouzaitis concerning the reemergence of the Lithuanian Lutheran Church from under Soviet Communism. “It doesn’t matter that much what tunes and words people prefer listening to in the secular music, but we must be concerned about what is sung in the Church. If we are concerned about the Lutheran Confessions and desire to build a Church with a true Lutheran identity, we must be concerned about the hymns and liturgy. These are the outward faces of the Church. Church members and visitors will seldom, if ever, read the Lutheran Confessions, but they will hear and sing the Liturgy and hymns.” The reason we are concerned about the Lutheran Confessions, Lutheran identity, and that Lutheran missions lead to Lutheran churches, is because we are concerned about the Gospel.

Wilhelm Löhe (1808-1872) in Drei Bücher von der Kirche (Three Books on the Church) appealed for liturgical recovery in the church as a defense of doctrine. He wrote: “The true faith is expressed not only in the sermon but is also prayed in the prayers and sung in the hymns. In this way the liturgy will serve the church as a new defense against its enemies.” Both in the 19th century and today in the 21st century, many Lutheran Churches have lost their familiarity with their own historical forms of worship — these forms must be retrieved. What Löhe had to say to Lutheran Churches in the 19th century is still salutary for Lutherans today: “A habit must be developed again, and what has become unnatural must become natural through practice.”29 I teach Lutheran Worship at the Seminary. This year I asked the class how many come from congregations that use Lutheran Worship or TLH. There were two men who have never used any hymnbook in their Lutheran congregations.

In an article titled, “Sacramental Hymnody in American Lutheran Hymnals During the Nineteenth Century,” Peter C. Cage begins with a thought provoking quotation: “If all our records were destroyed, from our hymnals alone the future historian might learn, at least approximately, the religious, intellectual, and doctrinal history of our Church.”30

In Matthew 28:19-29, our Lord commanded, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them . . . and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always to the close of the age.” Baptizing and teaching, catechism and baptizing lead to the Lord’s Supper and therefore to the Liturgy where the Lord is present to the end of the age. The teaching never ends. In the liturgy the teaching continues for life. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

The Lutheran fathers knew well that the liturgy teaches the laity. They stated in the Augsburg Confession, Art. 24, “The Mass,” “After all, the chief Purpose of all ceremony is to teach the people what they need to know about Christ.”31 The liturgical church year and lectionary orders the instruction in such a way that it is centered on Christ — His person and saving deeds. In the liturgy one not only learns historical facts about a person named Jesus Christ, one learns from Jesus. The lectionary assures that the entire counsel of God is proclaimed. The Church Year and lectionary prevents the pastor from always preaching on his pet topics and personal agenda. Instead, the pastor preaches a lot of Jesus into the people. You want people to have a bigger faith? Give them a bigger Jesus. You want people to have more faith? Give them more Jesus.

Instruction takes place on many levels in the liturgy. Through hymns, psalms, canticles, chant, readings, prayers, and sermon. It is something other than mere lecture or classroom lesson. It is one thing to give a lecture on the importance of showing respect to God. It is quite another to bow, or to kneel for confession, prayer and the reception of the Lord’s body and blood. Thus the Augsburg Confession, Art. 24, “The Mass” states:

Our churches are falsely accused of abolishing the Mass. Actually, the Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence (summa reverentia celebratur). (Latin)32

The Apology, Article 24, adds:

In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of lessons, prayers, vestments etc.33

It is not enough to simply celebrate the Lord’s Supper every Sunday.34 It must be celebrated in a way that fully expresses, teaches and extols the rich theology of the real presence. Several years ago I attended a LCMS mission congregation that proudly celebrated the Lord’s Supper every Sunday . But in order to attract the unchurched, they discarded the historic liturgy in favor of a so-called informal, user-friendly contemporary service. Non-Lutheran praise songs led by praise bands replaced the organ. The texts and music were emotive and subjective. The sermon was modeled after the style of TV talk show hosts. The pastor causally walked about the room, informally engaging the congregation, avoiding the theological language of the church and punctuating his discourse with personal stories, illustrations and jokes. The Service of Holy Communion was slashed to include only the Lord’s Prayer and Verba. There was no Sursum Corda, no Preface, no Sanctus, no Agnus Dei, no vestments, and no chalice. Sacramental hymnody was replaced with sentimental background music which set an emotional spiritual mood more fitting a church which confesses only a spiritual presence. The service met the felt-needs of the people but failed to teach and foster reverence fitting an encounter with the living God, where even the angels cover their faces in reverence.35

Similarly, I am completely baffled at “conservative” pastors who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, the six day creation, literal interpretation of the Jonah narrative, oppose the ordination of women, practice closed communion and yet see no problem with hiring a polka band to accompany a Sunday morning Polka Service which includes the Lord’s Supper. I am utterly nonplused that they fail to see the crass irreverence in singing the Sanctus to “Roll Out the Barrels.” But, they insist, it “gets people into church.” Do these men really believe the Lutheran Confessions to which they subscribed faithfulness in their ordination vows? “The Mass is retained among us and is celebrated with the greatest reverence.” Can a Lutheran pastor presiding over a polka mass make such a claim?

The decision expressed in the Augsburg Confession, Art. 24, to retain the historic liturgy (purified of medieval abuses, in particular the sacrifice of the Mass) along with its ceremony and vestment and conducted with even greater devotion and the greatest reverence was made for theological reasons.36 One does not choose to join a liturgical church, become a liturgical church, or remain a liturgical church on the basis of personal preference or taste, nor on the preference, taste, demands, requirements and felt needs of unbelievers and “unchurched.” Lutheran missions lead to Lutheran churches. Lutheran churches are liturgical churches for theological reasons. Doctrine and practice can not be separated. Lutheran practice reflects, teaches, confesses and lives out Lutheran doctrine. This was true in Wittenberg in the 16th century and it remains true today, whether in a suburban mission congregation in the United States, a mission congregation in Siberia, a congregation in urban Nairobi, or a village congregation in the hill country of Sri Lanka. Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran Churches with Lutheran pastors, Lutheran Preaching and Lutheran Liturgy.37


1. Articles IV & V of the Augsburg Confession is one of the best mission statements ever produced

2. The Book of Concord, ed. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959) 30.

3. Ibid., 31.

4. Thomas H. Schattauer, “Liturgical Assembly as Locus of Mission,” in Inside Out: Worship in an Age of Mission (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999) 3.

5. Logia Books, 16205 Fifth Avenue North, Plymouth, MN 55447.

6. Martin Luther, “Receiving Both Kinds in the Sacrament,” AE 36:259.

7. Die Deutsche Evangelische-Luthensche Synode von Missouri, Ohio und andern Staaten. The name was changcd to “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Others States” (Die FvangelischeLuthererische Synode von Missouri, Ohio undandern Stauten) in 1917.

8. In 1790, 94% of the American population lived within the original thirteen colonies. By 1820, one-fourth had migrated west outside the former colonies.

9. Ellen Jane Lorenz, Glory Hallelujah! The Story of the Campmeeting Spiritual, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1980), 27.

10. James Sallee, A History of Evangelistic Hymnody, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978) 30-31.

11. Donald P. Hustad, Jubilate! Church Music in the Evangelical Tradition, (Carol Stream, IL: Hope Publishing Company, 1946) 128.

12. MPW2 56; by Brian Doerksen; © 1998 Vineyard Songs; CCLI #874857.

13. Lorenz, 27.

14. Williarn J. Reynolds and Milburn Price, A Joyful Sound’: Christian Hymnody, (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1978)

15. Hustad, 128

16. Charles Grandison Finney, Lectures on Revivals of Religion, William G. McLoughlin, ed., (Cambridge: Havard University Press, 1960) 250.

17. Gordon W. Lathrop, “New Pentecost or Joseph’s Britches? Reflections on the History and Meaning of the Worship Ordo in the Megachurches,” Worship, (Vol.72, No.6, Nov.1998) 530.

18. Lathrop, 531.

19. Lawrence R. Rast, Jr., “The Doctrine of Justification in American Lutheranism,” in 2001: A Justification Odyssey, (St. Louis: The Luther Academy, 2002), 48.

20. Rhoda Schuler, “Worship among American Lutherans: A House Divided,” in Studia Liturgica, (Vol.25, No.2, 1995) l76-77 Concerning “moralistic” Schuler observes, “No other period of American history boasts the creation of as many societies for moral improvment as the nineteenth century.”

21. See the articles by Gordon Lathrop and Rhoda Schuler for a detailed analysis of the structure of contemporary worship at Willow Creek and Community Church of Joy and their similarities to the “Frontier Tradition.”

22. Concordia Theological Quarterly (Vol. 66, No.3, July 2002) 271-72.

23. AC 15:1, “Church Usages.” “With regard to church usages that have been established by men, it is taught among us that those usages are to be observed which may be observed without sin and which contribute to peace and good order, among them being certain holy days, festival, and the like.” Tappert, p.36. See also Apology 15:38 “Human Traditions,” “We gladly keep the old traditions set up in the church because they are useful and promote tranquillity, and we interpret them in an evangelical way, excluding the opinion which holds that they justify.” Tappert220. See Also Ap. 15:20-21.

24. Article VI,4. Page 8.

25. Harold W. Schiebert, The Hymn and the Liturgy,” in Concordia Theological Monthly (Vol. XXIX, No. 5, May 1958) 321.

26. Schiebert, 331.

27. Scheibert. Numbers 1,3,4,5,& 6 are adapted from Scheibert’s article, “The Hymn and the Liturgy.”

28. MPW2 #63; by Martin Smith; © Curious? Music UK; CCLI #874857

29. Quotes from Frank Senn, Christian Worship, 580.

30. Concordia Theological Quartedy, (Vol.66, No.3, July 2002)195. Cage is quoting from A. J. Weddell, Evangelical Review 17 (April 1866) 211.

31. Tappert 56:3.

32. Tappert 56;1.

33. Tappert 249:1.

34. “A church that does not continually gather around the Supper must undergo secularization. It must irreversibly turn into a piece of the world, because the Supper establishes the boundary between church and world. The destruction of the Supper is followed by the disappearance of the living remembrance of Jesus from the hearts of Christians, especially of his suffering and death.” Sasse, 420.

35. Sixty-five years ago Hermann Sasse wrote a warning that is amazingly applicable to conditions in the Lutheran Church today. “A warning is in order for anyone who undervalues and disdains the special blessing of the Sacrament of the Altar: Let him beware lest he lose the Sacrament altogether and along with the Sacrament the Word also! How often have people imagined themselves to be gathered in Jesus’ name,when in fact they were only gathered in their own! How often have they believed themselves able to subject the presence of Christ to sense perception – we can only accept this claim on trust – when in fact they have merely imagined this presence! How often have people believed themselves to have experience the communion of saints when what they experienced was not the communion of the Holy Spirit but just a communion of the pious flesh! Hymns such as Zinzendorf’s Herz und Herz vereint zusammen (“Heart and heart made one together”) have never been sung with greater ardor than in the worst sects known to church history.

     Just as the Holy Spirit is not an object of our psychological experience but is only knowable by faith, and just as the church is not an “article of sight” (Sehartikel), but rather an article of faith (Glaubensartikel), so likewise the communion of saints can only be believed. It is a state of affairs within the church that is inaccessible to all psychological experience and to all sociological perception. We would not know anything of it if God’s Word did not tell us that it exists.” “Church and Lord’s Supper: An Essay on the Understanding of the Sacrament of the Altar,”1938, The Lonely Way (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2001) 398-99.

36. The decision flows out of and is the reasoned, logical result of articles 1-23. Particularly important in forming this view are Articles 4 & 5, “Justification” and “The Office of the Ministry [of the Gospel and Sacraments],” Article 7, “The Church,” Article 10, “Lord’s Supper,” Article 14, “Order in the Church,” Article 15, “Ecclesiastical Rites,” Article 20, “Faith and Good Works,” Article 21, “The Cult of Saints,” and Article 22, “Both Kinds in the Sacrament.”

37. Sasse, 429. The Sacrament can be rightly administered only where the Gospel is purely taught, and the proclamation of the Gospel can remain pure only where Christ’s Sacrament is rightly celebrated. Just as continued celebration of the Sacrament keeps the church’s proclamation from ending up as mere dogmatic theology, so likewise constant care for pure doctrine must protect the celebration of the Sacrament from sinking into cultic mysticism and magic. Word and Sacrament, Gospel and Lord’s Supper belong indissolubly together, because Christ the Lord is present in them and through them builds his church on earth in divine omnipotence and love. This he does neither through the Word alone, nor through the Sacraments alone, but through them both together.>

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