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Worship wars


In Lutheran circles, we tend to use the term “Divine Service” instead of "Worship Service." Why is that?

Our liturgy, the way we conduct services, is called “Divine Service” because in it, God (the Divine being) serves us. He forgives our sin and strengthens our faith. This happens because our liturgy is based on the Bible, the Word of God. Most of the elements in our liturgy are exact quotes from the Bible, and the rest convey Biblical concepts. The liturgy as we have it today is the product of two thousand years of work by the church, adding elements and removing them according to context and appropriateness. Over the centuries, many different liturgies have been developed for different purposes and with different emphases, and given that the Lutheran Service Book is the fourth hymnal the LCMS has had since its founding (Anyone remember the black hymnal?), clearly we continue to develop the liturgy.

Worship WarsThis inevitably raises the question of what forms are proper and what are not. The Bible does not command or even suggest a particular format, so we are in the realm of Christian freedom here. The Augsburg Confession, a summary of Lutheran beliefs, says, “It is enough for the true unity of the Christian church that there the Gospel is preached with one accord according to a pure understanding and the sacraments are administered in conformity with the Divine Word. It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that uniform ceremonies, instituted by human beings, be observed everywhere.” (AC VII, p. 2-3) Yet with freedom comes responsibility, so as we consider different forms, we always need to ask a few questions:

Why are we choosing this form?

What advantages does this form have?

Is it Scriptural and thus in agreement with our doctrine (teachings)?

Is it Christ-centered?

Whether we choose new hymnal or old, traditional or contemporary, we have a responsibility to each other to make Christ the center of the service and the cross our focus. In doing so, God continues to serve us and feed our souls to “strengthen and preserve us in the true faith to life eternal.”



  • Rev. B. 5 years ago

    This is most certainly true. ;)

    I would also offer, that as Lutherans, we are connected to the broader Church of Christ, and so must also consider the implications of our worship patterns in a catholic context. The Lutheran Reformation was never about free-wheeling, willy-nilly alterations of the sacred, and we should not construe our freedom in such a way. To do so makes us practically and functionally schismatic, in addition to other complications and consequences of dumping historic patterns of Christian worship.

    Grace and peace.