Why Does Lutheran Worship Look So Different?
Part 1: Outlining Different Approaches to Worship
- There are a number of different approaches to worship in the church today
- Emotionalism: The purpose of worship is primarily to stir the emotions of the congregants. The service often starts with a lengthy time of praise and worship, followed by a sermon and prayer. The service emphasizes experience and feelings over doctrine and reverence.
- Moralism: The purpose of worship is to equip the congregation to live moral lives. The songs are focused on following Christ, and the sermon is mostly ethical exhortation.
- Seeker-Driven: Worship should be relevant to the contemporary culture, and its primary purpose is to bring people from outside of the church in. There is no emphasis on discipleship, and the church does whatever it can to attract outsiders, including using videos, rock bands, secular music, etc.
- Roman Catholic: The worship of the church is primarily the work of the priest. The central act of worship is the unbloody sacrifice of the Mass. The congregation participates to an extent, but worship can also be the private act of a priest on behalf of others.
- Reformed: The primary purpose of worship is to honor and glorify God. Strict rules about worship are followed, only allowing for elements in worship that the Bible strictly commands. There are no images allowed in worship, and they do not follow a church calendar.
- How Lutherans view worship
- There are two primary aspects of worship: God giving his gifts, and the congregation praising God with thanksgiving
- Worship is not just about “giving glory to God,” but also about receiving gifts from God
- The gifts God desires to give are: life, forgiveness, and salvation
- The hymns, prayers, and praises of the congregation are always in response to God’s acts. God first delivers, and then the congregation praises him for it. This constitutes a continual pattern of conversation between God and the believer
- First, the believer confesses his unworthiness and sin before God (the confession), and God then declares forgiveness through the pastor (absolution). The acknowledgment of sin continues with the kyrie, and praise to God for forgiveness is given in the Gloria. This pattern repeats itself throughout the service.
- How Lutheran worship differs from the other five views:
- Emotion does not drive worship. Our emotions waver, and we cannot base our faith on them.
- The service is primarily about what Christ has done to save us, not about morality. Moral instruction is important, but only in light of the gospel
- Worship is not primarily for the seeker, but for God’s people. In fact, no one seeks God. This presumes a false view of human sin.
- The worship service is not only the act of the pastor, but the pastor and the congregation both have essential roles in the Christian congregation. The Lord’s Supper is central to the worship service, but it is not act of sacrifice by the priest; it’s the gift of God to the congregation
- God certainly should be glorified in our worship, but God desires to be glorified, not in the abstract, but as the Savior of human souls. We do not need to fear God’s anger for using images in a worship setting.
- Conclusion: Lutherans view worship in a different manner than all other Christian traditions. The service is a pattern of God delivering his people, and his people responding with praise and thanksgiving.
Next week: The Biblical foundations for liturgical worship
You can access the PDF of this outline here: