The video advertisement for the upcoming New Jersey Jam contemporary worship workshop starts out with Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Pastors Greg Bearss and Matt Peeples asking
So what does it look like to really worship God? As we fix our eyes on Jesus, can I worship God with electric drums? Can we worship Him with electric guitar, or via Skype from Knoxville, Tennessee? Can we worship God on a makeshift football field with a makeshift goal? What does it mean for us as we lead others to fix their eyes on Jesus, and to worship Him with everything they are, everything that is within them. Where can we worship Jesus? Can we worship in a movie theater, a football field, a makeshift grocery store? Can we worship in a bar? What can we use to worship God? Can we use our cell phones to shoot texts? What is it to worship in today’s culture, authentically, truly?
After hearing that, a good reciprocal question would be
Is worship primarily about me and my commitment to God, me giving Him everything within me, or is worship primarily about God and everything He’s giving me?
Certainly, there is an element of action on our part in worship, but that work is in response to the Gospel, and ultimately energizes us to serve our fellow man, not God. Article V of the Apology of the Augsburg Confession points us to the primary purpose of worship, which goes unmentioned in the video:
…The chief worship of the Gospel is to desire to receive the forgiveness of sins, grace, and righteousness (Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions, CPH, p. 193).
Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt that somewhere in this workshop which includes modules on “worship dance” and prayer stations, there’s also a module on the Apology’s definition of worship. Dr. Martin Noland provides a helpful set of principles which can be used to determine if our worship practices conform to our Confession:
1) WORD PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans teach, preach, read, hear, and seriously ponder the Word of God (LC 1st part, 92).
2) SACRAMENTAL PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans receive the sacraments and confess their sins publicly (LC 4th part, 1; LC Brief Exhortation, 10).
3) REVERENCE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans show respect to God with songs and prayer (LC 1st part, 84).
4) PETITION PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans ask God for blessings, help, and comfort (LC 1st part, 17).
5) PRESCRIPTIVE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans obey what is commanded by God’s Word, and avoid what is forbidden therein (FC SD X, 1).
6) INTEGRITY PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid practices that are deceptive, i.e., which portray themselves as being something different than their true character (FC SD X, 5).
7) SYNCRETISTIC PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid practices that give the impression that Lutherans have no serious disagreements with another faith, or that Lutherans are getting close to coming to agreement with that faith tradition (FC SD X, 5).
8) SPECTACLE PRINCIPLE – In worship Lutherans avoid useless or foolish spectacles (FC SD X, 7).
9) CHANGE PRINCIPLE – When change is being considered in worship, Lutherans will avoid frivolity and offense, and use the criteria of good order, Christian discipline, evangelical decorum, and the edification of the church; and they will consider such change as a community of faith, not as isolated congregations or as “lone wolf” pastors (FC SD X, 9).
The New Jersey Jam contemporary worship workshop seems like it doesn’t line up with Dr. Noland’s list. When the goal is to create a “worship experience,” the underlying foundation can’t be the Book of Concord, but a foundation more akin with those whose theological tradition espouses making a decision for Christ. Maybe it’s time to reevaluate.