Home > Liturgy and Worship Trends > Where is Christ in these songs?

Where is Christ in these songs?

November 1st, 2006
Marketing Advertising Blog — VuManhThang.Com

Findjesus
I received a note from a Lutheran district executive that a parish musician and organist in a Lutheran congregation is interested in a new position of service in the church, at a congregation with a "strong traditional Lutheran music and liturgy." The note indicated that his present congregation has grown and now his duties are more "administrative." I was curious to learn more so I checked the congregation’s web site and noticed they offer a predominantly so-called "contemporary" worship style. Their web site provided a sample of songs sung in their contemporary services. I’ve posted the lyrics of several of them below. They explain why a musician wishing to serve at a parish with "strong traditional Lutheran music and liturgy" would wish to serve elsewhere. Perhaps somebody can explain what, precisely, is "Lutheran" about any of these songs? Where is Christ and His Gospel in them? Where the objective proclamation of Christ and Him Crucified?

Be Glorified

Your love has captured
                    me
                    Your grace has set me free
                    Your life the air I breathe
                    Be glorified in me

 

Your love has captured
                    me
                    Your grace has set me free
                    Your life the air I breathe
                    Be glorified in me

 

You set my feet
                    to dancing
                    You set my heart on fire
                    In the presence of a thousand kings
                    you are my one desire

 

I stand before
                    you now
                    With trembling hands lifted high
                    Be glorified

 

Your love has captured
                    me
                    Your grace has set me free
                    Your life the air I breathe
                    Be glorified in me

 

Oh yeah

 

You set my feet
                    to dancing
                    You set my heart on fire
                    In the presence of a thousand kings
                    You are my one desire

 

I stand before
                    you now
                    With trembling hands lifted high
                    Be glorified

 

Be glorified in
                    me
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified in me
                    Be glorified

 

You set my feet
                    to dancing
                    You set my heart on fire
                    In the presence of a thousand kings
                    You are my one desire

 

I stand before
                    you now
                    With trembling hands lifted high
                    Be glorified

Meet With Me

I’m here to meet
                    with you
                    come and meet with me
                    I’m here to find you
                    reveal yourself to me

 

As I wait, you
                    make me strong
                    As I long, draw me to your arms
                    As I stand and sing your praise
                    You come, you come and you fill this place
                    Won’t you come, Won’t you come and fill this place

 

I’m here to meet
                    with you
                    Come and meet with me
                    I’m here to find you,
                    reveal yourself to me

 

As I wait, you
                    make me strong
                    As I long, draw me to your arms
                    As I stand and sing your praise
                    You come, you come and you fill this place
                    Won’t you come, Won’t you come and fill this place

 

I’m here to meet
                    with you
                    Come and meet with me

Better Than

Better than the riches of this world Better than the sound of my friends voices
Better than the biggest dreams in my heart and that’s just the start
Better than getting what I say I need Better than living the life that I wan’t to
Better than the love anyone could give
Your love is

You hold me now in Your arms You never let me go

And You oh Lord made the sunshine the moonlight and the nightsky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You
Because I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You

Better than the riches of this world Better than the sound of my friends voices

Better than the biggest dreams in my heart and that’s just the start
Better than getting what I say I need Better than living the life that I wan’t to
Better than the love anyone could give
Your love is

You hold me now in Your arms You never let me go

And You oh Lord made the sunshine the moonlight and the nightsky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You
Because I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You

You hold me now in Your arms You never let me go
You hold me now in Your arms You never let me go

And You oh Lord made the sunshine the moonlight and the nightsky
You give me breath and all Your love
I give my heart to You
Because I can’t stop falling in love with You
I’ll never stop falling in love with You

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!
  1. weedon
    November 1st, 2006 at 07:36 | #1

    Um, how do you say, well, ICK!

  2. Mike
    November 1st, 2006 at 10:57 | #2

    I hate to hear this. I am planning to leave the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), and this contemporary music (as my friend calls it “Jesus is my boyfriend” music) is what got me started looking for another church. My friend directed me to the LCMS, and I’ve found a church and pastor I really like. I have always been a Presbyterian, and the Lutheran doctrine has literally been a revelation to me … the scales have fallen away from my eyes. However, it unsettles me to learn of this contemporary music movement (and the Ablaze movement) within the LCMS. It looks like the LCMS is trying to become just like what most liberal, mainstream Protestant and Reformed have turned into (and what I am trying to get away from). Am I jumping out of the frying pan into the fire?

  3. SteveB
    November 1st, 2006 at 11:07 | #3

    THis is the same tripe that the children at our Parish School are taught by the leader of the “worship team” from the church that meets at our school. In fact I have heard all of them there. Imagine trying to present a Christ-focused chapel message when surrounded by this stuff!

  4. organshoes
    November 1st, 2006 at 12:40 | #4

    To answer your final three questions:
    1) Nada.
    2) Nowhere. Not even ‘hidden’.
    3) ”

  5. Chi Chi
    November 1st, 2006 at 12:42 | #5

    Any normal, red-blooded, American Christian male would be embarrassed to sing these “Jesus is my boyfriend” diddies.
    Yet another sign that men’s testosterone levels are diminishing.
    Yuck!

  6. MarkE
    November 2nd, 2006 at 07:29 | #6

    Here’s a manly hymn for us, courtesy of St. Patrick:
    I bind unto myself the name, the strong name of the Trinity by invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in Three, of whom all nature has creation, Eternal Father, Spirit, Word. Praise to the Lord of my salvation; salvation is of Christ the Lord!

  7. organshoes
    November 2nd, 2006 at 10:47 | #7

    Manly, yes, but I like it, too. (Apologies to Irish Spring)

  8. Mutti Kerner
    November 2nd, 2006 at 20:36 | #8

    Mike…….
    Make the leap. Plunge into the Lutheran Confessions. Read and savor them. You will find the truth rightly expressed therein.
    I speak as one who left Calvinism, finding the sweetness and joy of the Christ and Him Crucified as a Lutheran. Hear the law and the gospel preached. Receive the Body and Blood of Christ Our Redeemer.
    God’s people always, in Redemptive History, regroup around the Truth and the Word: just as they always need to contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints.
    If you start with the Lutheran Confessions as a faithful recitation of the truth, you will find many a brother and sister in our congregations holding fast to the beauty and power of the liturgy in our midst.

  9. Tom B
    November 3rd, 2006 at 12:00 | #9

    I agree about the aweful content (or lack of it) in these wishy washy songs. I do think that the content (lyrics) are 100% THE most important element, but I don’t think hymns need to be limited to organs – guitars and drums are fine provided the content is not changed.

  10. organshoes
    November 3rd, 2006 at 15:31 | #10

    Just try adding drums without changing the content. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
    Besides, who says organ poses any sort of limitation?
    And, when people advocate changes, no matter how innocuously, why is it always to guitars and drums? Why not to handbells and trumpets? When they say ‘drums’, do they mean tympani?
    Drums and guitars change everything—content ceases to matter if you’ve just gotta have drums and guitars.

  11. Rev. Lee C. Wenskay
    November 4th, 2006 at 07:38 | #11

    This garbage is a totally misguided attempt to reach out to the “youth.” Here’s another question: Has anyone ever asked the youth if they like this tripe? It sounds like a rehash of Peter, Paul, and Mary or some campfire songs. A lot of young people that I have spoken too see it for what it is: An arrogant form of pandering based on the false assumption that young people see this as worship.
    We had the misfortune of being “entertained” by a praise band at our last Michigan District Pastors’ Conference. I say entertained because there was not much of an opportunity to worship.
    Another question: Is it proper to walk out of such a service?
    Lee

  12. Holger Sonntag
    November 4th, 2006 at 11:00 | #12

    My favorite praise song is this one:
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Mighty Lord of the whole Universe
    All Thy devotees’ agonies
    All Thy devotees’ sorrows
    Instantly Thou banisheth
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    He who’s immersed in devotion
    He reaps the fruits of Thy love
    Lord, he reaps the fruits of Thy love
    Floating in a cloud of comforts
    Floating in a cloud of comforts
    Free from all the worldly problems
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Thou art Mother and Father
    At Thy feet I seek eternal truth
    Lord, at Thy feet I seek eternal truth
    There’s none other than Thee, Lord
    There’s none other than Thee, Lord
    Guardian of all our hopes
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Thou art Godly perfection
    Omnipotent Master of all
    Lord, omnipotent Master of all
    My destiny’s in Thy Hand
    My destiny’s in Thy Hand
    Supreme Soul of all Creation
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Thou art an ocean of mercy
    Gracious protector of all
    Lord, gracious protector of all
    I’m Thy humble devotee
    I’m Thy humble devotee
    Grant me Thy divine grace
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Thou art beyond all perception
    Formless and yet multiform
    Lord, formless and yet multiform
    Grant me a glimpse of Thyself
    Grant me a glimpse of Thyself
    Guide me along the path to Thee
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Friend of the helpless and feeble
    Benevolent saviour of all
    Lord, benevolent saviour of all
    Offer me Thy hand of compassion
    Offer me Thy hand of compassion
    I seek refuge at Thy feet
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Surmounting the earthly desires
    Free from the sins of this life
    Lord, free from the sins of this life
    Undivided faith and devotion
    Undivided faith and devotion
    In eternal service unto Thee
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    Mighty Lord of the whole Universe
    All Thy devotees’ agonies
    All Thy devotees’ sorrows
    Instantly Thou banisheth
    Oh Lord of the whole Universe
    It’s actually Hindu (Om jai Jagdish hare), but, hey, isn’t that just a detail?
    My point being: “praise” can be multidenominational, even multireligious. The Reformers didn’t think we needed more praise songs in church; they felt we needed more catechetical hymns to teach the faith: law and gospel, word and sacraments, faith and love.
    Some time ago, I’ve done a statistical evaluation of CCLI’s top 25 “hits” for the second half of 2005 and came up with the stats below, which are quite revealing, I think. It’s not that it’s impossible to write half-way decent Christian “pop songs”; it’s just that, even if you did that, no one would sing them anyway. And isn’t the receipe on the back of the CCLI-box that we should use their top-scorers to attract the crowds?? Isn’t being “contemporary” all about singing what the people want to sing?
    So, here are the stats:
    Trinity: 1 (# 10)
    Father: 2 (# 8, 10)
    Son of God: 0
    Son (ref. Jesus): 1 (# 10)
    Christ: 0
    (Holy) Spirit: 3 (# 9, 10, 21)
    Jesus: 13 (# 5, 9, 15, 16, 17)
    God: 32
    Lord: 58
    King: 14
    Glory: 16
    Holy: 61
    Majesty: 7 (# 5, 8, 10)
    Power: 4 (# 5, 19, 22)
    High: 6 (# 1, 2, 6, 8, 19)
    Above: 12 (# 1, 7, 22)
    Heaven: 12 (# 1, 6, 8, 9)
    Savior: 2 (# 5, 17)
    Save: 1 (# 6)
    Salvation: 0
    Resurrection/Rise/Raise/Rose: 1 (# 9)
    Cross / crucified: 4 (# 1, 6, 16, 22)
    Suffering (Christ’s): 0
    Condemnation/condemned (Christ): 1 (# 9)
    Death: 0
    Die (ref. Jesus): 3 (# 9, 22)
    Sin: 3 (# 1, 16, 17)
    Guilt: 0
    Forgiveness/forgive: 1 (# 9)
    Grace/gracious: 2 (# 7, 17)
    Mercy/merciful: 2 (# 17)
    Redeemer/redeem: 1 (# 17)
    Blood: 0
    Lamb: 7 (# 10, 16)
    Love (God’s): 30
    Anger/wrath (God’s): 0
    Faith/Believe: 0
    Gospel: 0
    Law: 0
    Word (God’s): 1 (# 12)
    Baptism, Lord’s Supper: 0
    Eternal life: 0
    Heart: 17 (# 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, 10, 11, 15, 20, 21, 23)
    Water (Spirit): 1 (# 21)
    Justify/justification: 0
    Righteous/righteousness: 0
    Worship: 13
    Praise: 26
    Kingdom (of men): 1 (# 22)
    Love (ours): 7
    Words (ours): 1 (# 19)
    Suffering (ours): 1 (# 3)
    Confess (we – God): 1 (# 4)
    “God,” “Lord,” “King,” and “holy” along with “glory,” “worship” and “praise” (and my heart) are at the top of the list of words used in these pop songs. Indeed, what is Lutheran, what is Christian about that? This is, by and large, no more than First-Article religiosity (if you could have the First Article without the other two!), quite ecumenical, quite interreligious, and great for $$$. The harshness of the law (holy, glory, …) is countered not by forgiveness, but by emotion (love, heart, Lamb).
    As I said at the beginning: Om jai Jagdish hare!

  13. Richard Johnson
    November 4th, 2006 at 11:17 | #13

    Well, nothing can match the song that was sung during the Eucharist at my (ELCA) synod assembly a couple of years back: “There Must Be a God Somewhere.” (I leaned over to my friend and quipped, “Yes, right there on that altar.”)
    McCain: Richard, thanks for this post. If it wasn’t so tragic what is being passed off in Lutheran congregations for hymnody, your comment would be funny.

  14. Barb
    November 4th, 2006 at 11:44 | #14

    We had 3 of this type at our Reformation Day service. Then the tune was changed from a familar hymn that I love to sing. I don’t read music. It totally was not a Reformation day service with the trumpets, tympany. Handbells were voted in at the last voters meeting. I want to find a traditional Lutheran Church to attend this year for the childrens program where the children play out the traditional Christmas story. I have had enough rap and drama at church. I go to the Muny Opera in the summer for that.
    McCain: Are you suggesting that handbells are “out” in Lutheran services? And trumpets? And tympany? Or am I misreading your message? I’d be curious to know what you would consider a “Reformation” service?

  15. Rev. Kurt Hering
    November 4th, 2006 at 13:57 | #15

    The last one is Better Than the other two. It uses the word Lord three times. Quite Trinitarian. I just had to stand to write this.
    McCain: Yes, that’s for sure. No doubt it will be handed down for generations as one of the mighty anthems of praise to the Blessed Trinity, probably surpassing, “All Glory Be To God on High.”

  16. Barb
    November 5th, 2006 at 01:52 | #16

    My statement about the handbells was misleading. I have enjoyed hearing them. It is another change after our services have changed to many contemporary songs like these with praise song leaders. It doesn’t feel like we are worshipping together. Its like they practice before the service and are entertaining us because we don’t know the songs yet. Too much change too fast. Many of us will always be happy worshipping traditional, one service should remain traditional in every church.

  17. November 5th, 2006 at 15:02 | #17

    “Has anyone ever asked the youth if they like this tripe?”
    I don’t. In fact, I can’t stand it. But I’m an organist, so no one ever asks for my opinion.
    In fact, it was this sort of tripe that first got me looking into Lutheranism. I’m sorry, but Jesus is not my “boyfriend”.

  18. Adam
    November 14th, 2006 at 20:29 | #18

    I agree with most of what you people are saying. I agree that a church should keep totally ambiguous stuff off of it’s worship lists. I think alot of the songs in contemporary worship get almost arrogant, and some are completely wrong.I play in a contemporary christian worship band, and I hope that isn’t a reason for you to ignore what I want to say. You all seem fair minded, and I think you all will be able to at least understand where I am coming from, if not agree with me.
    One thing I think all of you are missing is the intamacy that is diplayed in these songs. The song “Meet With Me” is a call to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit for a personal communion(and not the bread and wine one). It’s directly tied to the verses “Seek and you shall find, ask and you shall recieve” and “If you draw near to me I shall draw near to you.” It is a conversation with Christ. What is so wrong about that?!?! Christianity is about having a personal relationship with the Trinity. “Better Than” Is simply a praise song. The Bible talks about praise and worship, not because they are the same, but because they are different and go together. It is there to get you into a mindset of who you are talking to. Worship should not stand alone, and for the most part cannot. One cannot speak to some one properly if they do not know anything about whom they are speaking to. Praise (which you might note comes before worship) is designed to remind you of who God is, and what he has done. The song “Be Glorified” is a call to Christ for strength. It is trying to say “God, I want people to look at me and see what you can do” It isn’t trying to be arrogant, or presumtuous, merely asking for the honor of being part what God is doing. Should worship be rejected because of how it is delivered? Worship is a life-style, where your actions show God that you are his, and you appreciate what he sent his son Christ to do. Honestly, if you are really worshiping, what the medium of worship is should not matter at all.
    I hope I haven’t upset you. I am just a 16 year old guy, out to try and make a point. I feel that a connection to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, is essential to salvation. I want to say thank you for reading this. I hope it’s helpful, and I don’t in any way mean to sound presumptuous, or like I am trying to say I am smarter than you. I don’t think that at all. Thank you again.
    Adam

  19. organshoes
    November 14th, 2006 at 22:34 | #19

    There are a few conclusions within your thoughtful post that are askew.
    ‘Worship is a life-style’
    Well, that one I’m not sure of what it means exactly. But the Lutheran view of worship is that it is us receiving from God–God’s service to us. The liturgy praises Him–and beautifully and movingly, and in His own words, so to speak–using words He’s given us already. Not sentiments we’ve become attached to.
    And the ‘intimacy’ and ‘communion–not the bread and wine thing’–there’s nothing more intimate than the taking Christ’s body and blood, and no greater attachment to Him, than through that feast, in the presence of fellow Christians. We are at no greater peace with one another, than when we take and eat and drink. Far more intimate than ‘a conversation with Christ,’ which is what prayer is–a one-way conversation, that is. He speaks to us, however, through the scriptures, and more accurately than anything we think we sense Him saying otherwise or elsewhere.
    ‘One cannot speak to some one properly if they do not know anything about whom they are speaking to’
    Well, our hymns and liturgy tell us precisely who it is we are speaking to, though they are most often ways of Him speaking to us, because our hymns (for the most part) and our liturgy (most certainly) are His words, or words from His book.
    With all due respect, Adam, it sounds like it’s an emotional experience you’re after, and probably achieving as well. Granted, you wish to focus your emotions toward something holy; but it always seems to me that praise music is part of an experience–an event–and thus, rather theatric and, no matter how stirring and emotionally fulfilling, rather empty. It might say you believe in Jesus and want to be close to Jesus, but does it confess Jesus? Does it tell who Jesus is–the cross-killed Son of God, the Lamb who was slain, the redeemer of the world? Or does it just say, ‘Jesus, I love you’?
    In the end, it seems to me that contemporary music is sort of being stuck where one wants to be–well-intentioned and all–but unable to move beyond some need to salf-satisfy, as opposed to having it done and given by God Himself.
    You wrote: I feel that a connection to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, is essential to salvation. Well, where exactly does the Word of God tell you that? And how are you then connected to Him? Through your favorite songs? Were you not connected to Him in baptism, because He reached for you?

  20. Holger Sonntag
    November 15th, 2006 at 10:15 | #20

    Adam, organshoes (as always) already made a number of fine comments. Let me add my own 2 cents worth.
    Worship as a life-style, I probably agree with you on that one phrase a bit more than organshoes, but I think organshoes is right on in pointing out what’s central in worship: God coming to serve us in the means of grace: the word, the sacraments. That’s central to worship because that’s what saves us eternally because that’s how God initiates and establishes and maintains that saving relationship between him and us. This relationship we call faith in the promises of the gospel. It’s as simple as that. And faith in God’s promise, faith that lets God do his job of saving us, faith that thus fulfills the First Commandment, is already the highest worship anyone could possibly offer to God.
    But then there is, of course, fruits of faith as described and demanded in the 10 Commandments. And there you see that at the top of the list is the Second Commandment. It is really all about using God’s name rightly by teaching his word rightly and by praising him and praying to him. First God serves us, then we serve him in the vocations he’s given us. That starts at church, but it goes on at home (children, parents, spouses) and the work place (employees, employers) and in society at large (citizens, civil officers). All this can be described as worshiping God because we express our appreciation of God by doing his will.
    Alas, as sinners this kind of active worship of God will never be perfect — and that’s a terrible sin! Yet, our passive worship, faith in Christ’s promise, is always perfect albeit sometimes weak. We’re forever saved by faith, not by works, simply put.
    Ok, that’s the basic stuff. Some specific points: Sure, there’s nothing wrong about having a conversation with Christ or praying to the Trinity. But, as organshoes already indicated, where do CCM pieces actually point us to God’s answer to our prayers in absolution, in preaching, in scripture, in baptism, in communion? You get the impression, and the so-called Sinner’s Prayer, I think, really says a lot about this type of piety, there’s a lot of praying going on on our part, but not much talk about God’s answer to our prayers; this answer is kind of left to our feelings and emotions (“I just know God spoke to me” etc.). This is dangerous!
    Sure, there’s nothing wrong about “intimacy” with Jesus, but Lutherans are interested in the solid foundation of this intimacy. This again leads us aways from our desires and longings for such intimacy; it again leads us to what we call the means of grace. In other words, you want to be close to God, that’s a good thing. Yet how is this done? Do your prayers and praises get you there? That’s what Pentecostals believe. Lutherans don’t believe it. Remember, we’re saved by faith in the gospel, not by praising God or having the right emotions toward God (these are merely the fruits of faith). You can also say: we’re close to God because he comes close to us in word and sacraments (there’s a reason why the Lord’s Supper is called “communion,” as organshoes pointed out so well: mainly not because we get close to each other (as Evangelicals believe who write most of CCM), but because God draws close to us).
    To sum it up: we should praise God, we should pray to him, we should have a personal relationship with him, we should serve him by serving our neighbor 24/7 — absolutely agreed! But let’s put first things first: God speaking to us in law and gospel; God actually answering our prayer for forgiveness in real time in absolution; Jesus drawing close to us in the gospel in word and sacraments; Jesus dwelling in our hearts by faith in this gospel. These latter things comfort us, actually still our hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. The former don’t.
    A good worship service helps us keep first things first. That’s no small feat when you consider that our sinful nature, strangely, can put up with good works such as praising God. But it can’t put up with faith in the gospel. As Luther once put it, faith in Christ alone slays the monster of trust in one’s good works. In other words, it’s relatively easy to deck the old Adam out with all sorts of shiny good works that look religious and impress the world; the old Adam won’t exactly like it, but can handle it and perhaps even gets a kick out of all the “religous” adulation this generates for himself. But without faith, all these glittery things are the most damnable abominations to God. (And without faith, there’s a need in “religious” people to have really extravangant good works to shine most brightly — sound familiar?)
    The old Adam is kind of a legalist, if you will. This is why we need gospel-focused liturgies and hymns that are not primarily about our prayers and our praises, but about God’s words and works. The gospel isn’t just for the beginners in the church, unless you realize with Luther that we all remain beginners till we rise from the dead on the Last Day.

  21. Mark
    January 22nd, 2007 at 21:19 | #21

    Mmm…this is tasty stuff. I’m a college student, and on Fridays I go to a Christian fellowship group. It’s supported by the local Assemblies of God church, and this CCM stuff is rampant. I was raised Lutheran, and I still go to an LCMS church in town. I have difficulty singing it, and indeed, I now feel guiltier after reading some of these posts, but I know that hymns are far better than this shallow stuff. It’s just never felt right to me; the majority of my friends go to this, and I’d feel kind of bad leaving (I’ve been going for more than two years), but I can’t help but feel a little cynical about the whole thing. My post is a little convoluted, but I’ll just say that the previous posters have hit it on the head with what I’m thinking. Thanks.

  22. Matthew J. Surburg, M.D.
    January 27th, 2007 at 16:42 | #22

    Mark,
    Don’t despair. Being involved in a Christian fellowship group, although they may have some poor theology, does not automatically make you a flaming heretic. Speaking from my own experience at Purdue in the early 1990s, I can say that some fellowship groups are more Lutheran-friendly (or at least less hostile) than others. True, if the one of which you speak is tightly connected with an Assembly of God Church, you’re probably not going to find an environment that is hospitable to sound Lutheran doctrine. Obviously, you cannot expect to change that in a significant way. Nevertheless, if “A little leaven leavens the whole lump,” you can still have a positive impact while retaining and building on the friendships that you already have there. Allow me to share a couple of thoughts.
    1. The cross, the cross, the cross. Although the “praise” music of many churches and groups from a Reformed background does not emphasize Christ crucified the way we would wish, chances are, when push comes to shove these people truly do believe in Christ crucified and risen for them. Unfortunately, the theology of glory which so permeates these groups tends to minimize the importance of the cross. You did not elaborate a great deal on just what influence you might have in this group, but one thing that you can do is try to bring each discussion (inasmuch as it is within your ability and duty to do so) back to the cross. The people in these groups are not accustomed to hearing the cross emphasized, but they are unlikely to disagree. Although there are many topics which would need to be brought up only with great care (e.g., Infant Baptism, Real Presence in the Lord’s Supper, Office of the Ministry, use of the liturgy, etc.), Christ crucified and risen as the focal point of our faith should not be one of them. If anyone does give you grief over this, refer them to I Corinthians 15:3-8, with a special emphasis on Paul’s use of the words “of first importance.”
    2. It’s helpful from time to time to clarify exactly what “praise” is. The opposite of praise is criticism, and in dealing with people, whether in interpersonal matters, at work, or in a formal evaluation, it is very important to be specific. For instance, if I tell my wife, “You don’t appreciate anything I do,” she is unlikely to take me seriously. On the other hand, if I tell her, “It hurt me when you washed the dishes again after I had already done it, because they were not up to your standards,” (hypothetical situation, this has not really happened) she is more likely to listen. The reverse is also true: if I tell her, “I think you’re wonderful,” well, that’s true, but it’s much more meaningful when I say, “I love the way you are creative in finding ways to distract or occupy the children when they are unruly,” (true statement). Praise (and criticism) is most meaningful and effective when it is specific.
    The same is true with God. We can tell Him that He is holy, mighty, awesome, etc., etc., etc., and that is all true. However, what is much more helpful for us, because it reminds us of foundational truths, is telling Him specifically what He has done for us.
    3. Being in college, you probably don’t have a lot of time to spare on extracurricular reading. Nevertheless, there are a few resources which might be very helpful for you, both now and in the future. “The Defense Never Rests: a Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel” is a very interesting book in three parts. It chronicles the author’s odyssey from agnosticism to Christianity, and also chronicles his experiences with churches that used a “contemporary” approach and critiques the issues inherent in that approach. Finally, using the type of reasoning that he would use in arguing a case in court, he gives a defense of why it is eminently reasonable to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. “The Spirituality of the Cross: the Way of the First Evangelicals” is another outstanding resource which sketches how a sound doctrinal understanding is applied in the challenges of everyday life. “The Fire and the Staff” is a little longer but goes into more depth in highlighting the underlying problems with “contemporary” worship. Finally, “Concordia: the Lutheran Confessions” is very large and a little daunting, but it includes a daily reading guide (at least it did in the first edition, I have not had a chance to look at a second edition yet) which takes you through the entire Lutheran Confessions in one year. This is an invaluable resource for someone who wants to understand our doctrine beyond knee-jerk arguments. And if you don’t have that much time on your hands, “Why I Am a Lutheran” is a much more condensed version that covers the highlights. You can save on shipping by pooling with other people from your congregation into one order. (And no, neither Pastor McCain nor anybody else reimbursed me for plugging CPH products). :-)

Comments are closed.