Sunday, August 17, 2008

Report from the Church's Front Lines, continued

This morning we worshiped at another Lutheran congregation, this time one affiliated with the Missouri Synod. They are more conservative in theology than the Evangelical Lutheran Church and this was apparent in the service. There was a strong Biblical (and Lutheran) emphasis on the Gospel, with particular focus on the inability of humans to keep God's law and the work of Christ fulfilling the law and securing a righteous standing before God for those who come to him by faith alone. The pastor's message was an exposition of Romans 10, challenging the congregation to have "beautiful feet" in sharing this message with others.

In terms of worship style, the service consisted as much of non-denominational evangelical forms as liturgy. It contained liturgical elements—confession of sins and absolution, the Nicene Creed, and communion—however the service was structured around the Biblical text expounded in the message rather than Scripture and sermon fitting into a larger unity.

The building was fairly plain, with banners. The music was led by a small worship team, who sang to keyboard accompaniment and recorded music backgrounds. We sang a contemporary hymn, two praise choruses and a gospel hymn. All service elements were projected on a screen as well as written in the bulletin. One Scripture, the Gospel for the day, was read. The pastor gathered the children to the front for a children's message. During the offertory, a soloist sang and a slide show was projected.

If the pastor had not worn a robe, I could have easily imagined myself in a non-denominational evangelical, Bible-teaching congregation. The atmosphere and actions were all very familiar to us. One characteristic of the congregation that impressed me was the diversity of ages. There were lots of little children, but also a wide span of generations in worship together.

The service we attended was advertised as the "blended" service, while the later one was marked as "contemporary." I'm not sure what that means, because the first was a fairly typical contemporary evangelical worship the elements of the liturgy. Perhaps they don't sing any hymns at the second service.

More reports and reflections to come...

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