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Gottesblog

A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Pygmalion

Lutheran parishes and parishioners start down the American Evangelical worship road for a variety of reasons - I think most would agree that a desire to be relevant in the current culture is most widely stated as the starting point. The idea is that this culture in this time, unlike any before it, must have the whole of Christian worship turned toward its own expectations, musical styles, cultural symbols, etc. The liturgy, of course, is always being tweaked, grows, changes, etc. In the past, this had been a slow (and not always steady) process. But this generation of (American Boomer) Christians needed something more. The Church's liturgy was putting people off. They couldn't connect. The liturgy had become a stumbling block - a barrier to people hearing the Word.

That's the theory - or rather the explanation given by the American/Evangelical/Contemporary/Relevant Worship Movement within Lutheranism. Of course, behind that explanation often lies at least sympathy with (and often full on agreement with) the Arminian view of conversion. Thus the numbers game: if your church is not growing and the community around you is growing, you are, ipso facto, being unfaithful.

In fact, that is the best test to find out where a person is on the road from American-Evangelical worship to American-Evagelical theology (of course, that is where the road leads! What'd'ya think?): "What would you say about a church in a growing community that is itself stagnant in membership or shrinking? Is it a faithful church?" If a person says, "No, obviously unfaithful" you know they are approaching the end of the road. If a person says, "Faithful! They are obviously martyrs for the truth" then he is a sad victim of fighting on his oppenents ground (NB: I have never actually met with such a one - but I've been told more than once by interlocutors that they exist.) The correct answer, of course is, "Not enough information to make that call."

At any rate...all this came to mind as I was reading over what appears to be the latest evidence that the LCMS bureaucracy has followed the American Evangelical Worship road right into downtown Grahamsville: Pray2009. Pardon me, that's, "PRAY2009."

PRAY2009 LCMS Intercessors Gathering
We have no conception of what the Lord desires to birth through a group of consecrated Lutheran intercessors that will be obedient to gather and seek His face, celebrate His salvation, proclaim His glory, and lift the great name of Jesus. You really ...want to be in the number to see what the Lord is going to do as he meets us in St. Louis. Peace . . .

(No conception, indeed. And then "birth" later in the same sentence - a joke? After all, the Lord's going to "meet [us] in Saint Louiee". . . )


Now, you can debate the theology of prayer all you want. I'm sure it would be a profitable discussion. A pastor of any experience has surely had an encounter with a prayer answered beyond what he had dared to hope for - and such a response often chastises the Christian for his indolence in prayer. Prayer is a gift of God - and we should boldly and with all confidence ask our heavenly Father as true children would.

But is the PRAY2009 hullaboo what true children do in speaking to their true Father? I'm open to having the debate - but this much is undebatable: such things are incontrovertably foreign to Lutheran theology and practice. So where did this "consecrated intercessor" business come from? Sir, thou knowest. And how did Lutherans come into contact with such a theology of prayer? With people who practiced it? Again, sir, thou knowest.

With apologies to Bunyan, once young Lutheran starts walking down the Worshipful Road to Terrestrial Relevance he's going to encounter folks who don't exactly have the Small Catechism on the Lord's Prayer memorized. And it's going to rub off. And here we are.

But that's the bureaucracy - and reflects their experience in walking that road. They learned to worship from the "successful, growing" churches in American Evangelicalism. And they went to their conferences and learned more from them on church management, prayer, and everything else. And they followed the techniques, and sure enough, their churches grew. So they became successful. And they got elected.

But this is not the Synod as a whole by a long shot. Thanks be to God for hardscrabble, Midwestern farmers and hardnosed rustbelt union factory workers and truckdrivers - they can smell the Baptist in this a mile away. And these folks like beer. And they know what Biblical prayer is like: more like, O Lord, open my lips... than Father God, I just want to praise You...

Our verbal ticks, our "pattern of sound [or unsound] words," the accent of our prayers, if you will, confesses more about our theology that we might think. Say a prayer, and it won't take a Dr. Higgins to tell you where you grew up, what your influences are, maybe even how often your parish offers communion.

Not a matter of indifferent things, indeed.

+HRC
Pr. H. R.10 Comments