"(T)he pastor is to preach from the Bible text how the death of Christ can save even a Christian! Of the many possible themes in Scripture that may be preached, he is particularly to preach as central the forgiveness of sins wrought by Christ on our behalf.

"If the pastor does anything else that eclipses this, he is guilty of forsaking his call. If, for example, he uses the Bible text only for a call to deeper Christian living, he has forsaken his call. If he only placards Christ as an example of what we Christians are to emulate by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, he has forsaken his call. If he only preaches Christ as an answer to some perceived need we may have, other than the forgiveness of sins, he has forsaken his call. If he preaches only some laudable social or political action the congregation should take, he has forsaken his call. If he only does solid Bible-based education on some tangential topic in the Scriptures, he has forsaken his call." (emphasis in the original)

-- Dr Rod Rosenblatt, Christ Alone, Wheaton, Ill., Crossways Books, 1999, pp. 38-39. Dr. Rosenblatt is a professor of Theology at Concordia University, Irvine, Calif. He is also an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod and a co-host of the program, White Horse Inn, which can be heard in this area on KDCR (88.5 FM) Sundays at 8:30 pm.

Guests discuss the 9 parts of The Lord's Prayer with Pr. Todd Wilken:

  1. Our Father Who art in heaven - Pr. Peter Bender, Peace Lutheran Church and Concordia Catechetical Academy, Sussex, Wisc. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-03)

  2. Hallowed be Thy Name - Pr. Paul McCain, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Mo. (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-04)

  3. Thy Kingdom come - Dr. Laurence White, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Houston, Tex. (mp3, 53:59, 50 MB, 2009-Aug-05)

  4. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven - Dr. Scott Murray, Memorial Lutheran Church, Houston, Tex. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-06)

  5. Give us this day our daily bread - Pr. Bill Cwirla of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Hacienda Heights, Calif. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-07)

  6. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us - Pr. William Weedon, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, Ill. (mp3, 54:00, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-10)

  7. Lead us not into temptation - Dr. Steven Hein, Concordia Institute for Christian Studies, Monument, Co. (mp3, 53:59, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-11)

  8. Deliver us from evil - Pr. Steven Parks, University Hills Lutheran Church, Denver, Co. (mp3, 54:29, 22.2 MB, 2009-Aug-12)

  9. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. - Dr. John Saleska, Concordia University Wisc., Mequon, Wisc. (mp3, 54:29, 22.2 MB, 2009-Aug-13)

Mr. Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason discusses the historical Jesus with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:30, 10.66 MB, 2009-Sep-08)

The internet is full of allegations that the historical records of the life of Jesus are examples of a kind of religious plagiarism rehashing dying-and-rising-god fictions of ancient mythology. Read Mr. Koukl's article in Solid Ground magazine about the false connections being made of Jesus to mythology. (pdf , 352 KB, 4 pgs)


Pr. Daniel Preus of Luther Academy discusses Christ-Centered Theology with Pr Todd Wilken:

  1. Law and Gospel (mp3, 35:02, 14 MB, 2009-May-06)

  2. Baptism and Lord's Supper (mp3, 28:30, 11 MB, 2009-May-13)

  3. Conversion (mp3, 33:25, 13 MB, 2009-May-20)

The above discussions are based on Pr. Preus' book, Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center

Why I Am a Lutheran: Jesus at the Center by Pr. Daniel Preus

By Pastor Sean L. Rippy

As one who has written contemporary worship (CW) services in three different congregations, started it in one congregation, who has been raised on much of its music through radio and worship services, who sought for something in CW that he thought could not be found in LW, who actually likes much of the music of CW and who believed firmly that you could make contemporary worship, Lutheran, but has now rejected CW as profane, allow me to chime in.

The primary question in relation to any kind of worship style is to determine whether it is Christian and to what extent it is Christian. For example, Voodoo rituals are said to be a mixture of Roman Catholicism and pagan rites. To the extent that their rituals are "Christian" it would still not be wise to use their worship styles or rites, as most of us would agree that there is way too much paganism (even evil demon worship) involved. I think most of us would agree that even a drop of unchristian theology or worship would be intolerable.

Furthermore, as Lutherans, we understand and believe certain things about the scriptures and about what the scriptures say about worship. In relation to the question of worship, it is important, in order for us to be Lutheran, that we determine what kind of worship is Lutheran. In essence, as Lutherans, we seek a worship that conforms to the Word of God and the Lutheran Confessions; which, in our understanding, is synonymous with Christian worship. (i.e. Lutheran worship and Biblical Christian worship are one and the same)

To this end we ask the question: "What does the Word of God say about worship?"

The Word of God teaches us:

1. To use doctrinally pure material - i.e. no heresies, nor even a hint of heresy (Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; Titus 1:9-2:1, etc.)

2. A particular form which includes:

Hymns (Col. 3:16; 1 Cor. 14:26; Eph. 5:19, etc.)

Prayers (2 Chron. 6:40; 7:15; Psalm 141:2; Luke 1:10; 2:37; Eph. 6:18; 1 Tim. 2:1; 1 Kings 8:33; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4, etc.)

Reading of Scripture (Acts 13:14-15, 27; 15:21; 1 Tim. 4:13; Luke 4:16-22; Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27, etc.)

Preaching which is focused on Christ (Acts 15:21; Matt. 4:23; Mark 1:39; Rom. 10:14; 1 Tim. 4:13, etc.)

Worship which is focused on Christ Jesus (Hebrews 9:1-10:25; Matt. 2:2; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 1:6; 3:1; Rev. 5:1-14; 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 2:2; 2 Cor. 4:5; Ps. 29:2; 95:6; Zech. 14:16, etc.)

The Lord's Supper (Acts 2:42; 1 Cor. 10:16-21; 11:17-31; Rev. 19:9)

Confession of faith/Creed (Rom. 10:9-10; Phil. 2:10-11; 13:15; 1 Tim. 6:12)

Confession of sins and Forgiveness (1 Kings 8:33-34; Prov. 28:13; Ezra 10:11; Neh. 1:6-7; 9:3; Dan. 9:20; 1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:2; Matt. 3:2, 6; Acts 3:19, 19:18; 1 John 1:8-10; James 5:16, etc.)

Grace and mercy coming from God, followed by our praise and thanksgiving (Ezek. 11:19-20; Ps. 103:11-14; Isa 1:18; Heb. 13:15; Ps. 9:11; 47:6; 147:1; Jer. 31:7; Heb. 2:12; Rev. 5:12; 7:12; 19:5, etc.)


3. That the worship service must be done in decency and in good order (1 Cor. 12-14, esp. 14:26-40)

4. That the worship service be reverent (Lev. 19:30; Joshua 5:14; Ps. 5:7; Heb. 12:28; Eccl. 8:12; Heb. 5:7; 1 Pet. 1:17, etc.)

The Lutheran Confessions teach us:

1. The proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one's sins and to seek forgiveness--the ebb and flow of worship: God forgives, we praise Him. (Ap. IV, par. 154; Ap. IV, par. 310; LC 1, par. 16; AC XXI par. 3; Ap XXIV, par. 71f)

2. Christ is the center of worship. (AC XXI par. 3)

3. Outward ceremonies do not make one righteous. (AC XXVII par 40f; Ap XV par. 20-21)

4. Outward ceremonies ("such as the liturgy of the Mass and various Canticles, festivals, and the like") which serve to preserve order in the church may be changed, reduced or increased without sin. (AC XXVII par. 40f, FC X; SD X)

5. "We should not consider as matters of indifference, and we should avoid as forbidden by God, ceremonies which are basically contrary to the Word of God, even though they go under the name and guise of external adiaphora and are given a different color from their true one" (SD X par. 5). (I believe CW falls under this.)

"Neither are useless and foolish spectacles, which serve neither good order, Christian discipline, nor evangelical decorum in the church, true adiaphora or things indifferent" (SD X par. 7). (I believe CW often falls under this as well.)

6. "The real adornment of the churches is godly, practical, and clear teaching, the godly use of the sacraments, ardent prayer, and the like. Candles, golden vessels and ornaments like that are fitting, but they are not the peculiar adornment of the church. If our opponents center their worship in such things rather than in the proclamation of the Gospel, in faith, and in its struggles, they should be classified with those whom Daniel (11:38) describes as worshiping their God with "gold and silver" (Ap. XXIV par. 51).

(These are not attempts at comprehensive lists)

Within these guidelines there are varieties of worship: Matins, Vespers, Compline, The Divine Service (I, II in LW & pg. 15 in TLH), The Service of the Word (a.k.a. the Half-Mass--pg. 5 in TLH), The Deutsche Messe (DS III in LW), Nones, Sext, evening prayer, morning prayer, etc.

Furthermore, there are other worship services which may be created for edifying use in the church--services which must follow the prescribed forms and orders of scripture and the Lutheran confessions.

Now how does Contemporary Worship fit into all of this?

While CW is sometimes very hard to define, over the years I have realized certain commonalities between each service that is called "Contemporary". I have learned these by reading books on the subject, attending conferences, being trained by my vicarage pastors and by trial and error. I have even been told when some of my services were not "contemporary" and why. Through this process of discovery I have learned that the Esse of CW is not Lutheran or Biblical. The Esse is that which is at the core and soul of a thing. It is that which if you took it away, it would cease to be what it was and become something else. In other words, what is it that distinguishes CW and sets it apart from Liturgical worship? And does that distinction make CW unlutheran and unbiblical?

1. CW is distinguished by a focus on emotion--often referred to as "meaningful." CW has accepted the Pentecostal theology of spirituality and has therefore defined deeply-felt emotions as true spirituality. Whether it is more "emotional/meaningful" music, or more emotional/meaningful" sermons, or a more "emotional/meaningful" service, it's still the same focus on the subjective self and emotion. In this line, charismatic preaching is important to CW. Charismatic choirs are important to CW. Enjoyable, charismatic songs are important to CW.  It may be possible that the pastor who engages in CW does not have this specific understanding of spirituality; however it is reflected in his actions and in his CW.

The primary goal of CW is to pump you up, to make you feel more emotional and charged about Christ and this becomes "true" spirituality. It's a pep rally of sorts. Even when this "pep rally" mentality is toned down, the goal is still some form of emotional, uplifting experience. From the CW perspective, excitement supposedly shows your commitment to Christ.

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of the Holy Spirit and true spirituality. True spirituality is not a function of emotion, but rather a function of the Word and Sacraments. True spirituality is not subjective, but objective. True spirituality cannot be found in a song but only in the means of grace.

This is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the proper, highest worship is to acknowledge one's sins and to seek forgiveness. Which means more than that confession and forgiveness are offered in the service, but rather, that the entire service is one of confession and forgiveness through Word and Sacraments. The Lutheran service is penitential and joyous at the same time.

One might also argue that this is also contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding that the worship service be reverent and done in decency and good order.

2. CW is distinguished by "Self-Help" or "How to" sermons: "How to be a Better Christian," "How to be a Better Husband," "How to be a Christian Leader."

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of Law and Gospel preaching centered on Christ and Him crucified.

3. CW is distinguished by a lack of reverence--often referred to as less stodgy and "more spiritual" (see emotions above).

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of reverence in worship.

4. CW is distinguished by Pentecostal and Baptist music. By Pentecostal I mean, the style of music was created/brought in by the Pentecostal church, the majority of authors are Pentecostal or Evangelical and/or the songs reflect Pentecostal and Baptist/Evangelical theology, especially as it relates to "meaningful/spiritual" worship (see emotions above). There's a lot of focus on the individual and what we do for God (usually praising Him) rather than on what Christ does for us. There's a lot of focus on the Holy Spirit (from the heterodoxical Pentecostal theological perspective).

This is contrary to the Biblical and Lutheran understanding of using only doctrinally pure materials.

This is not exhaustive, but sufficient, I think for the current discussion.

One may follow up by asking if it’s possible to avoid some of these dangers and still use CW? In other words, "Is it possible to write a contemporary service using Baptist and Evangelical forms and make it Lutheran?"

After having been told by several "experts" in the field that one's form is predicated by one's theology and that it is therefore impossible to use Baptist/Evangelical worship forms and still be Lutheran (this principal is very old--so old it is known in Latin: "Lex orandi, Lex credendi," meaning: the law of worship is the law of belief or to put it more succinctly: "How you worship is how you believe." Form and substance are intricately united). However, after having been told that it was impossible to use evangelical forms and have Lutheran substance, I tried anyway. I followed Pastor David Luecke's understanding of "Evangelical style and Lutheran substance." I fervently believed that it was possible to blend Evangelical style with Lutheran substance and come up with a solid and unique Lutheran worship style.

This is where I got caught up in trying to write a Lutheran Contemporary Worship Service. I knew that one of the things to be avoided was this Pentecostal concept of Spirituality. It was certainly very difficult to avoid in the songs--almost impossible in fact, as most CW songs are predicated upon this singular concept (spirituality is feelings and feelings are given by the Spirit without means: "Spirit Rain," "Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me," "Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire," etc.--which is obviously not the Lutheran understanding of spirituality or the means by which the Spirit comes to us.)  Furthermore, as I was attempting to write a Lutheran liturgy which could be defined as contemporary, I quickly realized that one of the definitions of CW is that it had to be less reverent and more "spiritual" or emotional in nature. Note the titles of some of these contemporary services: "Celebration Service," "Spirit Song," etc. These titles reflect an unLutheran, dare I say unChristian emphasis upon feelings as opposed to the gift of forgiveness in Christ Jesus. (While a title such as "Celebration Service" can be defended as the celebration of Easter or Christ, sadly, oftentimes the service and sermon themselves reveal this is not the case. Also it is the juxtaposition between "celebration" and "traditional." If the "celebration" service is a celebration of joy, then what is the "traditional" service? Whether intended or not, titles teach!)

What I found was none of the "forms" for CW (for indeed there are general categories that are the same within CW) reflected a Lutheran view of spirituality and worship. It seems that while Lutherans believed and maintained that the Bible says worship must be reverent and holy, the esse (soul) of CW was less reverent (I believe it's actually irreverent) and more emotionally driven.

Coming to this realization, I tried to make a Lutheran CW which might avoid these pitfalls. Working on the principal that it surely isn't the unLutheran view of spirituality and irreverence which the people were requesting, I sat down to prepare the services. In the early days, I actually tried to write my own liturgies, working from CW sources and preprinted CW services, trying to remain faithful to the hymnal. It didn't take long before I realized: a. how difficult it is to write liturgies as opposed to sermons; b. how easily you can mislead people (heresy) when you thought you were writing something else and c. how quickly the people began to misunderstand worship. For example, when one uses an "Evangelical" or "Pentecostal" term, such as "Praise and Worship," it carries certain meanings, which our people have learned from the Christian radio and popular Christian books, and which do not correspond to a Lutheran understanding of those words. Or when one sings "Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me," it carries an unchristian/Pentecostal message, whether it can be understood correctly or not. The author is not saying, "Spirit of the living God, fall fresh on me, through Word and Sacrament. Oh, and by fresh, I do not mean that I have somehow lost the Spirit, since I don't feel Him right now."

Later, I began to use various combinations of already written liturgical forms. For example, I took a Gloria from one Lutheran hymn book and the Kyrie from another, trying to find more emotionally enjoyable settings--if we sang them at all (we often didn't because the more chant like tones were considered "a bland expression of the liturgy" to quote Rev. Dittmer). Also, I changed their names to reflect an easier understanding. I might place a popular hymn for the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy). I printed everything out in the bulletin (a must for CW). In spite of the heretical dangers of most CW songs, we chose only "contemporary" music for the "hymns" and we had the whole band thing. I tried to choose the least objectionable “contemporary” songs and those that could at least be understood correctly. What I discovered is, they still led the people astray.

In spite of this, I was told repeatedly, "This is not contemporary worship!" I was frequently requested to add more feeling to the service (like the last pastor did) and make it more "spiritual." I received complaints like: "The service it too strict" (i.e. reverent). "I don't sense the Holy Spirit anymore." The music director repeatedly implored that the opening hymns were supposed to be "uplifting" so we can "lift the rafters" and the closing hymn had to be similarly "uplifting" lest we leave on a low note. And we had to have several opening hymns in order to achieve the "perfect" worshipful mood.

It is also of the essence of CW that the sermon not be a Law and Gospel Sermon, but rather a sermon about getting through life (as if Law and Gospel did not do this--in fact there might be something to the argument that CW sermons have changed the Lutheran understanding of how one gets through life--not by confession and absolution, but by trying harder). Oftentimes this is defended as preaching the third use of the law--however, Lutherans have always contended whether you have a section of third use or not, the Gospel must predominate. This is certainly not the case in the CW sermons I have heard. I received complaints that my sermons talked about sin. I received complaints that my sermons weren't applicable to daily life. I received complaints that I wasn't preaching 10 steps to greater health or a better marriage or whatever.

It was at this moment that I realized that what the people were requesting was not, in fact, Lutheran worship, but rather a mix of Lutheran and Evangelical/Pentecostal theology in their worship. They wanted Evangelical spirituality and Lutheran communion, two things that are not actually compatible. Eventually, one must replace the other. In fact, Pastor David Luecke has apparently realized the same thing for a few years ago he told a NOW district conference that we need to think of the means of grace as a failed strategy and adopt new forms and substance in order to grow.

What I learned in summary:

1. As a writer of liturgy you lead people astray. Even if you get one week "perfect" that's only 1 out of 52. (See below on writing liturgy.)

2. The CW songs lead people astray.

3. The people who request CW are not requesting Lutheran worship, but a hybrid of Evangelical/Pentecostal worship with a Lutheran understanding of communion added on. (Though this too shall change, I imagine, as the two theologies cannot stand side by side. The one must replace the other.)

It is often falsely believed that if a pastor can write a "good" (often defined as God-pleasing) sermon, then he can write a "good/God-pleasing" worship service. As one who has attempted to write contemporary worship services and as one who has spoken to those who "create" worship services for our hymnals, allow me to say, "This is not true." Besides the significant point that from my experience most of the pastors who go for contemporary worship do not write (or preach, or even seem to understand) "God-pleasing"--Law and Gospel sermons, and therefore do not write God-pleasing--Gottesdienst--besides that! Writing liturgy is a different task than writing a sermon. When you write a sermon, you have an entire 15-20 minutes (average) to get your point across. If you make a mistake, or misspeak, you can correct yourself. When you make a point, you can make it in several different ways, using different examples to make sure you don't miscommunicate. You can still miscommunicate, of course, however, it's less likely than when you write a liturgy. When you write a liturgy, you have one or two sentences to get it right and that without misleading anyone.

Oftentimes, you wind up writing what makes sense to you (the author) but not what makes sense to the people (a situation much easier to deal with in a sermon, where you have more time and more words to explain). This is why it takes liturgies years of writing, discussing and practice before they officially come out. Talk to the people who write liturgies for the hymnals--it takes a group (not 1 pastor) and about 2-3 years to get it right. And remember, for the most part, they're using already tried and trusted wordings! The simple truth of the matter is, pastors are not trained to write liturgies. We have not taken classes to that effect (primarily because no one thought we'd need to have that skill). And those parish pastors that attend conferences on writing worship services, often wind up taking classes from Reformed/Baptist/Pentecostal sources, thus absorbing their theology.

Furthermore, in the desire to make Christian concepts more understandable, CW has a penchant for using metaphors and language that are not scriptural and certainly not Lutheran and often misleads, even if they can be understood correctly. One series of CW services I was using used the example of a summer bus trip for the theme of the summer services. The metaphors used during the confession and absolution alone were down right ridiculous and would be humorous if not actually used in a worship service. In replacing the words of the Bible with the words of human understanding, we are leading our people further and further from the Word--a point which might be highlighted by recent Barna research indicating that Christians are becoming less and less able to understand the Bible. Could it be that we're taking away one of the primary helps to interpretation of the Bible--the Liturgy? Historically, this is how the liturgy has been used--as an interpreter of the Bible. The Liturgy helps us understand the Bible, but not when you change the Biblical metaphors and words to "modern" metaphors and words.

Also, CW likes to use a lot of Bible passages from the O.T. to replace the wording of the liturgy (i.e. the confession and absolution) and while it is certainly laudable to use Bible passages in the liturgy which, of course, Lutherans do in the traditional services, due to the unfortunate and almost total stranglehold that Pentecostals and Evangelicals have on O.T. understanding through the radio, music and popular Christian books, and because CW often only quotes a part of a Psalm or O.T. passage (usually the praise parts--remember it's the emotional build-up that's important), it often misleads our own people into believing Lutherans have the same understanding. The Introits and Psalm readings in Lutheran Worship seem to avoid this by quoting larger sections of the Psalms, if not the whole Psalm. In other words, it's the question of how you quote the O.T. (or Bible for that matter). Are you trying to design an emotional response or center on Christ Jesus?

Very often the end result of Contemporary worship writing is Baptist/Evangelical/Pentecostal theology (form and substance) with the Lord's Supper thrown in. The Confession of sins is still there, however it is very often not a Lutheran understanding of the confession of sins (most I've seen are very weak on sin and either ignore original sin or make sin sound like we're apologizing rather than confessing. The Absolution is often very anemic and often comes off sounding like an "Oh, that's okay" sort of reaction to an apology.)

The Benediction is still there (now called a blessing), but it is not a Lutheran understanding of the Benediction. Benedictions in CW are almost always "encouragements" to go into the world and do better. This is not a Blessing!

The creeds are often vacant and if they are present they are either rewritten or simply torn down and built anew. They certainly do not represent the concept of an ecumenical creed which has been believed and confessed by all Christians for 2,000 years and unites us in that moment of confession with all those who have passed on in the faith.

Communion becomes McCommunion (a speedy version of lines where the pastor might not even commune some people at all! Certainly not Lutheran).

The vast majority of the songs (and yes I've seen a lot of them in my time as contemporary worship writer) are simply heretical. Sometimes they can be understood correctly, but that is no excuse to use songs which in their original understanding are contrary to our understanding of scripture and, without extensive study, lead the people astray. Those that are not heretical are simply not as good and solid theologically as the hymns we already have. Consider St. Paul's example of milk and meat. CW songs are, at their best, milk (or, as I like to use, cotton candy--it tastes sweet to the mouth but dissolves quickly and rots your teeth--not necessary for life and can be harmful) while hymns are meat (good, strong steak--good for you and necessary for life)--not a perfect analogy but useful. And, at worst, CW songs are heretical, leading people astray.

Popular CW songs like, "We exalt Thee" or "Great is the Lord" etc. are vague as to whom we are addressing. They can be sung by Christian, Jew and Muslim alike and are centered upon the Reformed concept of the sovereignty of God, rather than the Lutheran emphasis upon Christ. An occasional song here or there which speaks of the sovereignty of God is indeed good, right and salutary. We have a few hymns along these lines. However, Lutheran hymnody is largely centered on Christ and rightly (ritely) so. Christ-centered hymns are a hallmark of Lutheran worship. Furthermore, it is the belief (theology) of the Pentecostal church that these songs are designed to "put God on His throne." They actually believe that you "must" begin your worship service with such songs, praising God's might and power so that God might see the great faith of the gathered congregation and come to that service with His power and might.

In trying to avoid many of these pitfalls, I found my "contemporary" worship services getting closer and closer to the Divine Service in the hymnal. The more pitfalls I avoided, the closer it got to the Divine Service.

In the final analysis I have found that, whether intended or not, the irreverence and unbiblical spirituality of CW has the ultimate effect of pointing us to our feelings and not to Christ. This makes CW profane, in the truest sense of the word.

"For profanity consists in this: for the sensual gratification or amusement of the moment to give up that which is spiritual and unseen; to be careless of that which is holy, so as to snatch the present enjoyment--in short, practically not to deem anything holy at all, if it stands in the way of present pleasure" (Edersheim, Bible History, Old Testament, p. 112). This was written in the context of Esau selling his birthright for a mess of pottage but has application to all things profane.

CW trades that which is truly spiritual and unseen for enjoyment (which CW defines as spiritual). Since CW defines deeply felt emotions as true spirituality, it is no surprise then that they trade true worship for felt needs--again, whether intentional or not.

Finally, remember this, CW is not new. Versions of CW have tried to come into the church through various means: Pietism, Pentecostalism, NeoPentecostalism, and now through the CW movement. As Lutherans, we have conscientiously and consistently rejected their attempts to move us away from our Christ-centered worship, until recently.


Pastor Sean Rippy, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former advocate of Contemporary Worship, discusses the differences between historic and contemporary Christian worship, highlighting where contemporary worship falls short with Pr. Todd Wilken on Issues, Etc. Classics. (mp3, ~25 MB, 53:48, 2003-Oct-23) 

Issues, Etc., Classics were broadcast on KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and other stations around the country. Phone number and address mentioned are no longer valid.

Pastor Sean Rippy, Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan, a former advocate of Contemporary Worship, discusses the differences between historic and contemporary Christian worship, highlighting where contemporary worship falls short. (mp3, 53:48, 25 MB, 2003-Oct-23)

Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone numbers and address mentioned are no longer valid.

See also Pastor Rippy's article "In Defense of Historical Worship - From a Former Advocate of Contemporary Worship"

The Sheep Judge Their Shepherds - Dr. C.F.W. Walther (12 pgs, 198 kb) Booklet (6 pgs, 193 kb) printable Click "printable" for PDF version

The Judgment of the Sheep Over Their Shepherds

Matthew 7:15-23
Eighth Sunday after Trinity
C. F. W. Walther
(Translated by Rev. Donald E. Heck)

Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Dear friends in Christ Jesus.

God's Church on earth has always been a militant Church. She has always been oppressed and persecuted by the world and its mighty; even within the Church herself men have continually arisen, who have spread false doctrine, obtained a following, and thus harassed the Church, causing division and offense. In the Church of Adam was self-righteous Cain; in the Church of Noah, Ham who despised his father; in the Church of Abraham, the mocker Ishmael; in the Church of the prophets many false prophets who preached and the Lord had not sent them, who falsely comforted the people and misled them into idolatry. Almost everywhere even in the apostolic Church where the Gospel was preached arose heretics who caused splits, yes, often destroyed whole flourishing congregations. St. Paul classes among those especially Alexander the silversmith, Hymenaeus, and Philetus. St. John names the entire sect of the Nicolaitans. Thus it has continued until this very day.

Mrs. Colleen Campbell discusses the sexualization of girls with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 14:29, 5.9 MB, 2009-Aug-27)


Mr. Craig Parton, author of The Defense Never Rests, discusses Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 25:58, 4.5 MB, 2008-Jul-01)


Pr. Wilken: "Can we talk about evangelical style and Lutheran substance and really make any sense?"

Mr. Parton: "Somebody who says they're going to do Lutheran substance and evangelical style generally means they don't know anything about either subject. So you ask them, 'What is Lutheran substance?' and you get a vacuous stare, a couple of things said, unlikely correct. Then you ask them, 'What's evangelical style?' And they'll inevitably be wrong because if they're Lutherans, they're thirty years behind the times, and their idea of evangelical style is not what's being done out here in California at the leading evangelical centers."

Mrs. Rebekah Curtis on Issues, Etc. discusses How Girls Dress with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:00, 10.5 MB, 2008-Sep-22)

See also Mrs. Curtis' article, "Hey Good Lookin'," in the Summer 2008 issue of Higher Things Magazine:

A girl's wardrobe can explain a lot about her. (I mean, Kathy Luder wears ladybug necklaces. What does that say?) So how should a Christian young lady dress? Can she wear a mini-skirt or does she have to wear a dress the size of a tent? If you're interested in maintaining your modesty, Mrs. Curtis is here to help.



Criteria for Discerning the Usefulness of Praise Songs

Determining the truth of what someone is saying is impossible if the person isn't actually saying anything. This is the great difficulty of assessing praise songs commonly used in the church. The nature of modern praise songs makes them difficult to make them useful judgments regarding their fitness for use in the church's worship. Often the songs are written in sentence fragments, thought and phrases rather than a regular sentence with an subject, verb and object. Simple questions are often unanswerable: “Who is this talking about?” “What does this mean?” “What is the relationship between one phrase and another?”

When I was a child we would play a game on the 4th of July. Some smarty would take a tub of Vaseline and slather up a watermelon and toss it into the swimming pool. Dozens of kids would try to get it out of the water. Any time you thought you had a hold of the melon it would squirt out of your arms. This is something of the difficulty in making a clear judgment about such ambiguous lyrics. (Of course this ambiguity is a big part of the problem.)

What is needed, then, is an objective method of judging the usefulness of a praise song for edifying the Lord's church and bringing the comfort of the forgiveness of sins.

Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller, Hope Lutheran Church, Aurora, Co. discusses Lutheran Evangelism with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 26:32, 10.4 MB, 2009-Jun-23)

Pr. Wolfmueller is author of the article A Lutheran Theology of Evangelism, and co-host of the program, Table Talk Radio.


Pr. Wilken: "Is it possible to care more about evangelism than the evangel?"

Pr. Wolfmueller: "I think that distinction, right there, is just precisely outlining the difference between a pastor and a church bureaucrat, or maybe a Christian and a church bureaucrat. For one of the Lord's Christians, the thing, the theological blood that beats through our heart is the evangel, the good news that Jesus lived and died on the cross for our sins, that He rose again for our justification, and that even now He stands before the Father pleading our case, on our behalf, that this good news, that everything that God has done for us, this is what makes a Christian.

"If you start to care more about spreading that news or getting that news out there, and you care about that more than the news itself, then I really think you've finally become a church bureaucrat and what you're interested in is organizing people or aligning people to be busy about the news of telling the Gospel but you never actually get around to telling the Gospel itself, to speaking the forgiveness of sins."


UPDATED! Pastor William Weedon was recently interviewed by Pastor Todd Wilken on the Historic Liturgy (24 Parts):

  1. Part 1: Introduction (mp3, 57:20, 23 MB, 2012-May-10)

  2. Part 2: Confession (mp3, 57:19, 22.9 MB, 2012-May-25)

  3. Part 3: Absolution (mp3, 57:20, 22.9 MB, 2012-May-31)

  4. Part 4: Introit and Gloria Patri (mp3, 57:20, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-12)

  5. Part 5: Kyrie (mp3, 57:21, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-19)

  6. Part 6: Gloria (mp3, 57:16, 22.9 MB, 2012-Jul-26)

  7. Part 7: Worthy Is Christ (mp3, 57:20, 52.8 MB (128 kbps), 2012-Aug-02)

  8. Part 8: The Salutation and The Collect (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Aug-09)

  9. Part 9: The Readings and the Old Testament Reading (mp3, 58:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Aug-16)

  10. Part 10: The Gradual and the Alleluia (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Aug-23)

  11. Part 11: The Epistle and the Gospel (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Sep-20)

  12. Part 12: The Creed (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Sep-27)

  13. Part 13: The Sermon Hymn and Hymns in the Divine Service (mp3, 58:20, 23.3 MB, 2012-Oct-04)

  14. Part 14: The Sermon (mp3, 58:19, 23.3 MB, 2012-Oct-11)

  15. Part 15: The Intercessions and Prayers (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-15)

  16. Part 16: The Offertory and Offering (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-23)

  17. Part 17: The Preface and Proper Preface (mp3, 57:20, 23.4 MB, 2012-Nov-29)

  18. Part 18: The Sanctus (mp3, 58:51, 23.5 MB, 2012-Dec-06)

  19. Part 19: The Our Father and the Verba (mp3, 1:11:20, 29 MB, 2012-Dec-13)

  20. Part 20: The Pax Domini and the Agnus Dei (mp3, 57:19, 23.1 MB, 2013-Jan-10)

  21. Part 21: The Distribution and the Distribution Hymns (mp3, 57:19, 23.1 MB, 2013-Jan-31)

  22. Part 22: The Nunc Dimittus and Post Communion Collects (mp3, 57:20, 23.1 MB, 2013-Feb-07)

  23. Part 23: The Benediction (mp3, 57:20, 23.1 MB, 2013-Feb-28)

  24. Part 24: Conclusion (mp3, 57:30, 23.2 MB, 2013-Mar-07)

Pr William Weedon, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Hamel, Ill., discusses the Historic Liturgy with Pr Todd Wilken (10-part series):

  1. What is the Historic Liturgy? (mp3, 53:47, 25 MB, 2003-Jun-10)

  2. Preparatory Service: Invocation, Confession and Absolution (mp3, 53:49, 25 MB, 2003-Jun-17)

  3. Word Service: Introit, Kyrie, Gloria, Salutation and Collect (mp3, 54:14, 31 MB, 2003-Jul-17)

  4. Word Service: Scripture Readings - Old Testament, Epistle, Holy Gospel (mp3, 53:44, 31 MB, 2003-Jul-22)

  5. Word Service: Creed, Hymn of the Day, Sermon/Homily (mp3, 53:44, 37 MB, 2003-Aug-05)

  6. Word Service: Prayer of the Church, Offertory, Offering (mp3, 53:39, 37 MB, 2003-Aug-19)

  7. Sacrament Service: Preface, Proper Preface, Sanctus (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Aug-26)

  8. Sacrament Service: Lord's Prayer, Verba, Pax (mp3, 53:45, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-02)

  9. Sacrament Service: Agnus Dei, Distribution, Nunc Dimittis (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-09)

  10. Sacrament Service: Thanksgiving, Salutation, Benedicamus, Benediction (mp3, 53:43, 31 MB, 2003-Sep-16)

Issues, Etc., Classics (before June 30, 2008) originated at KFUO-AM in St. Louis, and were broadcast on other stations around the country. Phone number and address mentioned are no longer valid.

Dr Steven Hein, Concordia Institute for Christian Studies, Monument, Co., discusses the Attributes of God with Pr. Todd Wilken (mp3, 54:47, 21.9 MB, 2008-Nov-26)


Pr. Wilken: "Are you worshiping the true God?

(I)f your preacher doesn't get you to the cross every Sunday,
he hasn't gotten you to the true God.
He's gotten you to a reasonable facsimile,
but not the true God.

If he doesn't get you to the suffering, the bleeding, the dying of Jesus Christ for you at the cross,
(he) may have said many true things about God,
but God has not revealed Himself to you, yet.

This is why whether you are preaching or praying or singing on Sunday morning,
when you go to worship God,
make sure it's the true God
and not just your preacher's reasonable facsimile
or a god of your own invention.

Make sure it is Christ and Him crucified, raised from the dead, for you and for your salvation."

Pastors' Roundtable on The First Article of the Creed - God the Father, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-13)

Pr. Timothy Mueller, St. John Lutheran Church, New Minden, Ill. and St. Luke Lutheran Church, Covington, lll,
Pr. Steve Sommerer, Messiah Lutheran Church, Carlyle, Ill., and
Pr. Charles Lehmann, St. John Lutheran Church, Accident, Md.

Excerpt on Theistic Evolution:

Pr. Timothy Mueller: "If evolutionary teaching is true, and theistic evolution that things came into being by this billions of year process directed by God somehow, then God is the author and the source of evil and death. But the Scriptures tell a radically different story that God created everything good, and it is man's sin that plunged the world into such trouble and misery that we have. And Christ is the Redeemer of man and in Him all creation will be redeemed."

Pastors' Roundtable on The Second Article of the Creed - God the Son, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-20)

Pr. Dan Kistler, Our Savior Lutheran Church, Pacifica, Calif.,
Pr. Warren Woerth, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Arnold, Mo., and
Pr. Mark Nebel, St. John Lutheran Church, Red Bud, Ill.

Pastors' Roundtable on The Third Article of the Creed - God the Holy Spirit, with host Pr. Todd Wilken and guests (mp3, 54:30, 22 MB, 2009-Aug-27)

Pr. Rob Jarvis, Zion Lutheran Church, Morris, Minn.
Pr. Greg Schultz, St. Peter Lutheran Church, Campbell Hill, Ill., and
Pr. Paul Hemenway, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Ill.

printable (29.5 MB)

Issues, Etc. Journal, Summer 2017

More than a decade ago I wrote “A Listeners Guide to the Pulpit.” At the time, my goal was simple: I wanted to help the average Christian sitting in the pew to tell the difference between good preaching and bad preaching. I dealt with the most egregious forms of bad preaching I could think of, and I thought I had covered it all. I hadn’t. Since then I have become aware of other kinds of bad preaching, some of which I had engaged in myself. To fill in the gaps and confess to my own bad preaching, I offer this update of the original essay. 

Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting and even entertaining... 
Most of their sermons were terrible.

How hard could it be? You go to church. The preacher preaches. You sit and listen. Easy, right?

But how do you tell the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? What makes good preaching good, and bad preaching bad?

For several years Issues, Etc. has been doing on–air sermon reviews. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Joel Osteen, D. James Kennedy, T.D. Jakes, Robert Schuller, Joyce Meyer, and many less well–known preachers. We’ve reviewed the sermons of Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Eastern Orthodox, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and others. Most of these preachers were speaking to packed auditoriums and to worldwide television audiences. Most of the preachers were dynamic, engaging, interesting, and even entertaining. Most of the preachers are considered the best of the best preachers in the world.

Most of their sermons were terrible.

I don’t make this judgment based on my own subjective tastes or my own personal standard. I make this judgment based on the objective difference between good preaching and bad preaching.

Is there an objective standard for good preaching? Yes. It is a standard every Christian should know and use every time they hear a sermon. Every Christian needs to know the difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon.

God’s Two Teachings

St. Paul writes to the young preacher Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Paul says that God’s Word of truth must be handled with care. To rightly divide God’s Word is the preacher’s first and most important task. Nineteenth–century theologian, C.F.W. Walther describes what Paul means in his famous treatise, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel:

The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other; viz.[namely], the Law and the Gospel … Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguished from each other the Law and the Gospel. (C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1928, pp. 6 http://www.lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/lecture-01.html, 30 http://www.lutherantheology.com/uploads/works/walther/LG/lecture-04.html.)

Walther was simply following the leader of the sixteenth-century reformer Martin Luther. Luther explained this critical distinction between God’s Law and God’s Gospel and the danger of ignoring it:

It is therefore a matter of utmost necessity that these two kinds of God’s Word be well and properly distinguished. Where this is not done, neither the Law nor the Gospel can be understood, and the consciences of men must perish with blindness and error. The Law has its goal fixed beyond which it cannot go or accomplish anything, namely, until the point is reached where Christ comes in. It must terrify the impenitent with threats of the wrath and displeasure of God. Likewise the Gospel has its peculiar function and task, viz. [namely], to proclaim forgiveness of sin to sorrowing souls. These two may not be commingled, nor the one substituted for the other, without a falsification of doctrine. For while the Law and the Gospel are indeed equally God’s Word, they are not the same doctrine. (Martin Luther, “Sermon on the Distinction Between the Law and the Gospel,” Luther’s Works, St. L. Ed. IX, p. 799.)

Through His Law, God shows us His will. Through His Law, God tells us what He requires and what He forbids. Through His Law, God demands perfect obedience in thought, word and deed. Through His Law, God shows us that we have not done what He requires and have done what He forbids. Through His Law, God says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Through His Law, God calls anything short of perfect obedience sin.

Through His Gospel, God tells us what He has done in Jesus Christ to save those who have broken His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has done everything He required of us by His Law. Through His Gospel, God shows us that Jesus has been punished under the Law in our place. Through His Gospel, God answers the perfect demands of His Law with the perfect, sinless death and resurrection of Jesus. The Gospel says, “What the Law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom. 8:3–4).Through His Gospel, God answers the requirements of His Law with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. Through His Gospel, God makes no demands whatsoever. There is only the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

What does this have to do with difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon? Everything. The essential difference between a good sermon and a bad sermon is whether or not the preacher rightly divides and applies God's Law and God’s Gospel. A good sermon must show sinners their sin and show sinners their Savior. Again Luther writes:

This difference between the Law and the Gospel is the height of knowledge in Christendom. Every person and all persons who assume or glory in the name of Christian should know and be able to state this difference. If this ability is lacking, one cannot tell a Christian from a heathen or a Jew; of such supreme importance is this differentiation. This is why St. Paul so strongly insists on a clean–cut and proper differentiating of these two doctrines. (Martin Luther, Sermon on Galatians, 1532.)

So these two, Law and Gospel, must always go together in every sermon. They must be carefully divided in every sermon. God's Law must show us our sin, and God's Gospel must silence the Law’s accusations against us with the perfect life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us.

This is not to say that a good sermon will ONLY do this. Good preaching, according to Paul, does many things: It rebukes, reproves, admonishes, corrects, comforts, encourages, trains and teaches (Rom. 15:14; 1 Cor. 10:11; Col. 1:28; 3:16; 2 Tim. 2:4; 3:16; Titus 1:9). But whatever else good preaching does, it must above all rightly condemn us on account of our sin and declare us innocent on account of Jesus. 

That was a Good Sermon?

"Translations, and I don't downgrade them, translations are, at best, the first-ranked commentaries. An English translation, Spanish, Japanese, German, or whatever, whoever made the translation, it tells us what he thinks the original Hebrew and Greek say. Well, as Luther said, 'That's not good enough for a pastor to work from a commentary, a translation. He must work from the original Hebrew and Greek.' And, Luther said this also, now take this with the love, 'If you don't preach from the Hebrew or Greek in the pulpit but from a translation, your people should not let you get into the pulpit to preach.'"

-- Dr. Louis Brighton, Concordia Seminary, Revelation (video mp4, 44 MB, 22m59s)