• is not centered in the doctrine of justification (Jesus work), but worship primarily what I do for God. It has good works (sanctification) as its goal, not the forgiveness of sins. Primary focus is ‘Law' based (what we do) rather than ‘Gospel' based (what God does)
• believes that the Word of God (substance) needs something else (style) in order to be effective. Moves from Scriptural teachings appeals to the felt needs and desires of people. The power of his Word is not enough.
• justifies its styles on the practical grounds of evangelism, increased church attendance. By appealing to observable results, it does what “works.” In order to reach people, it uses consumerism tactics, entertainment methods to “move” people. It minimizes the content of the Christian faith in order not to offend.
On account of its frequently changing form, "contemporary worship" cannot be easily cited. Therefore, a description describes some general characteristics usually present. Those are:
• Sturdy doctrinal hymns are replaced with simplistic, repetitive praise songs.
• Doctrinal sermons are replaced with chancel dramas or how-to sermons for Christian living.
• Women given worship authority, which is strictly forbidden in Scripture.
• Worship is made meaningful by meeting the felt ‘wants' of the worshipper.
• Sacramental emphasis is diminished, while sacrificial (prayer, praise, testimonial, etc.) is highlighted. Lay service leadership increased and brought to the front.
• Entertainment practices and music appeal to and manipulate the emotions. Evaluates success on business principles.
• Worship is seen as evangelism and therefore must be understandable and appealing to the non-Christian. (Non-Scriptural principle)
The Liturgy shapes our own personal history as we find ourselves being formed, even if out of habit, by our faithful worship. When our life on earth is about to be completed and we hover on the edge of a new heavenly life, we shall find a deep peace because of the promises of God that had been sung and heard in the countless hours of worship. Even as we are about to leave the company on earth for the company in heaven, we are comforted that our children and grandchildren will still be connected with us as we continue the worship that is done with the "angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven."
Is all contemporary worship bad or wrong?
Certainly not! Yet, we find it strange why Christians would want to worship following patterns of the American entertainment industry. To move away from Christ-center, Scriptural worship and hymns that teach the faith, speak of Christ's work - to songs performed for emotional responses and catering to consumer-driven felt needs. Sadly, contemporary worship removes the centrality of Christ & the Sacraments from the service. Praise songs and the order of worship remove Scripture and emphasize one's emotions and works. (A simply exercise is to count the number of personal pronouns - I, me, my, etc.- and verb usage in most contemporary songs to see where the focus is directed -people's response, feelings rather that on Christ's work, gifts to us.)
Jesus is very clear on how and where we meet him. We don't come to worship to be entertained; we come to meet Jesus the Christ. He is very clear about where and how we meet Him. We meet Him: in the Word of God and its preaching; in Baptism; in the Lord's Supper. He promised to be in these as well as among those who have gathered in His Name. This is why our hymns and songs do not seek to give an ecstatic or escapist experience, but rather a Scripture based, authentic experience. Church is not about singing to screens on a wall, special effects, layers of technology and multimedia displays. Altars, pulpits, and the worship setting are not mere optional props but point us to Christ. In a pattern of worship from Scripture and what the Church has always known. Worship isn't something just ‘made-up' as we go along and adapt to culture. It is the Church that transforms culture - not the other way around.
Style & Substance…a false division
Lutherans put complete and utter trust in the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God (including the Word-instituted Sacraments) to accomplish God's purpose of creating and strengthening faith.
According to Scripture, we are called to worship our God in reverence and awe on sacred, holy ground in a posture of humbleness, brokenness in need of God's forgiveness, salvation and daily help. The “come as you are, casualness” promoted by many churches is not consistent with how God's calls His people to approach Him to worship. Worship using God's Word, hymns that teach the faith, sermons that preach Christ and His Sacraments - are no comparison to man-centered services, simplistic praise songs, and pop psychology, how-to sermons.
What about contemporary worship for the young & others who don't ‘connect' to traditional worship? Contemporary worship is like giving your children cookies and ice cream for dinner. It's enjoyable, they want to come back, it creates an exciting rush. Junk food is what they want, it will keep them going, but is it what is best, is it most healthy? Traditional worship is centered on the highest of praise of God. According to Scripture, the highest of praise is to declare the works of Jesus and seek forgiveness from Him. To cast off something that is so well established and grounded in Scripture in favor of a type of worship that resembles the fruits of the American entertainment industry seems odd to us. Contemporary worship removes Scripture and the centrality of Christ from the service.
Traditional worship IS very much contemporary as it is always relevant and contemporary because it almost entirely of Scripture. A pattern of worship from the Old Testament to today. One may wonder what is going on as we speak and sing the Liturgy. The Liturgy is a vehicle or framework in which God gives us what we need, rather than what we think we need. As we worship, we find ourselves caught in a rhythm, something larger than ourselves. Such an encounter produces reverence, humility, and faith. Much of the liturgies we speak and sing are words straight from the Bible. As we sing or say these words, the Words of God become memorized and deeply rooted in our heart and mind.