An Open Letter on the LCMS National Youth Gathering

First, some caveats.  I am not writing this angrily.  I am not a liturgical nazi (though no doubt some will dispute that).  I have good memories of the NYG when I was a student (San Antonio and Atlanta–which, if you’re keeping track, will tell you how old I am), and I will have good memories of this one (particularly Pr. Tim Droegemueller’s Bible studies, and the presentations by Dr. Craig Oldenburg, Dr. Reed Lessing, and Craig Gross of XXXChurch).  The NYG was obviously professionally done, and everything was done with the highest technology and skill. 

I am not writing anonymously so that I can snipe from behind a pseudonym; if you want to know my whole name, e-mail me and I will tell you (or if you came from Facebook, you already know who I am).  I write this blog semi-anonymously because I don’t want my personal political opinions confused with my work as a pastor to people of all parties.

I am as concerned for the future of our church, which includes these youth, as anyone else.  I have no personal grudges against anyone leading the NYG.  I count some of them among my close friends (although they may not count me so after this).  If you are not interested in having the discussion, please don’t comment.  It’s a waste of your time and mine.  No ad hominems.  If you can’t make your case without them, I will ignore you.  So then, to my observations and questions.

Who could argue that it is bad to see youth excited in a Christian context?  If we’re putting the best construction on it, they’re excited about being Christians along with thousands of other Christians, and they love Jesus.  And if the consequence of that is that they return excited about the Faith and their faith (as no doubt many would argue), then there probably would not be a problem.  But is that what actually happens?  For myself, I recall very little about the mass events or the Bible studies (except that the one in San Antonio revolved around Psalm 46) or the presentations.  I remember some of the concerts at Atlanta (particularly the surprising appearance of the 77s–Mike Roe signed my copy of  Drowning With Land in Sight!), but I think I was mostly excited about so many kids in the same place–or so many Lutheran girls?  (Now, obviously, that may just be an observation on my own superficiality.)  Are thousands of dollars necessary for that?  If Higher Things continues to grow, won’t that same experience be had there? 

I don’t think it’s too hard to conceive that a kid will come back thinking, “Wow, all the people I saw were really excited.  I’ve never seen anything even close to that in my congregation.  What’s wrong with my church?  We need to get a band and some screens and a more exciting preacher.”  And when that doesn’t happen, I guarantee there are more than enough churches willing to take those kids in; if not now, then when they leave for college.  And wouldn’t it be a strange, ironic, and tragic thing if, by trying to excite and engage the kids with things other than the crucified Christ serving us His gifts, we actually drove them to non-sacramental, and something-less-than-sola gratia churches?

So there’s the music.  Music with lyrics that either speak about the attributes and characteristics of God (which allow the actual content of God’s action to be filled in however the singer might choose; or the lyrics are about what I’m doing for God (worshiping, praising, singing, bowing down, living, confessing, declaring–none of which are bad, of course, but if that’s the full extent of it, won’t it eventually militate against the Lutheran theology of worship?  That is, that the highest worship is to receive forgiveness from Christ?)  None of the music I heard in the mass events was heretical, or even necessarily heterodox, but the question is, what should make up the majority of Lutheran worship?  In other words, the music I heard could be profitably part of a private devotional time (in fact, I think that’s primarily what such music creates: a number of individuals having their private devotion, but doing it in a large group).  Lutheran hymns are full of “we’s” and “us” and declaring the wonderful works of God, not dwelling on His abstract attributes.  I think anyone who listens closely to a hymn and a worship song will be able to see that they do not really have much in common, except there is music and people are singing. 

The NYG mass events and the Tuesday “worship service” (quotes, because Lutherans should be about the Divine Service of Jesus Christ, not primarily our own praise of God) were not primarily corporate worship gatherings, except in the sense that there were lots of people there.  Primarily, they were concerts and entertainment.  I’m not denigrating either, except as they masquerade as corporate worship.  When you get to sing along with professional singers, that’s good in its place, but it’s not the Divine Service of the Church.  (At one point, one of the song leaders said, “Okay, we’re going to let you sing this one” and within a couple phrases was singing again.  I thought you were going to let us sing it…)  Again, nothing wrong with that if it’s a concert, but that’s not what it was billed as. 

Now, I know some of you are thinking that there is no necessary connection between what WE BELIEVE and the “style” of the service.  In fact, this (ELCA) pastor says precisely that.  He thinks you can have Pentecostal worship and people will figure out that the congregation is Lutheran by, well, default.  Seriously?  Do we have a default faith that people will pick up on because there’s nothing else it could be?  (By the way, re: Luther quotes, Luther also said that he didn’t care if people didn’t call themselves Lutheran, but if they denied Luther, they could very well be denying his doctrine.)  Is there really no connection between what we believe and how we worship?  Does it really make no difference to the form of the service whether we believe Christ’s Body and Blood are present or not?  No difference if new life begins at Baptism, or at my decision for Jesus?  No difference if we believe we gather primarily for God to serve us in Jesus Christ or for us to serve God with our praise?  It says nothing about our worship if the band is up front where most people are reduced to observers or if the choir is in back, guiding the people of God to sing out their praise?  There’s no difference if the music is intended to drum up (pun intended) the emotion and the adrenaline, or if it’s intended to support the words?  Really?  Isn’t there something not quite right when there is very, very little to distinguish a Lutheran gathering from any given Baptist mega-church?  (I’m not knocking Baptists; at least they realize that the liturgy doesn’t fit with their confession.) 

I’m not arguing against feelings and emotions; God has created us with them.  But is the music intended, by its beat and rhythm, to create emotion and feeling, or do the feelings and emotions come as a result of the Word of God doing its work?  But here’s the rub: what if feelings and emotions do not come?  Is God still working?  Is it really true that if I don’t feel anything, God has done nothing?  How faithless!  As if God needed our good feelings to do His work.  As if God’s forgiving work did not happen just because we did not have the right emotions.  God is not impotent simply because we are easily distracted, or suffering, or being attacked by the devil.  (And, incidentally, although I like the Leonard Cohen song “Hallelujah,” I’m not sure it’s appropriate for pre-service music.)

Finally, I have to wonder about the mass event presenters.  What does it say to 20,000 of our teenagers when you have pastors speaking on three of the nights (one of which was the worship service), and then on the other two you have a woman and a DCE, who, for all appearances, are doing exactly the same thing as the pastors?  No one is going to say that the woman and the DCE were preaching (well, one should never say “never”), but where is the difference between what they were doing and what the pastors were doing?  I have multiple qualms about criticizing the female presenter, since she was basically telling about her experience of losing a daughter in a car accident.  Her presentation (devotion? testimony?) was about her grief, and I am in no way denigrating that.  That part of it was pretty powerful.  But false doctrine cannot have a pass just because it comes from a grieving parent, especially when she is speaking to a captive audience of thousands of Lutherans.  She went on to make application to the experiences of the youth, but I had the feeling she forgot about Jesus.  She talked a lot about how God knows what we’re going through, and that He knows our questions and our doubts, and He loves us no less because of them.  She talked about how God has a plan for each of us.  But I’m not sure any of that is really comforting without Jesus.  God may know our questions and doubts, and He may love us, but has He actually done anything about it?  God may have a plan for us, but who knows what it is?  How does that help, unless His plan for us is in Jesus only?  

But the worst of it was that when she talked about her daughter being in heaven, she said it was because she had given her life to the Lord.  (Could it be that Baptist worship leads to a Baptist theology of conversion?  Just asking.)  Frankly, that’s simply not true.  Her daughter is not in heaven because she gave her life to the Lord; she is in heaven because Jesus gave His life for her.  That’s not just semantics; it’s the difference between heaven and hell, comfort and despair, life and death.  It matters how we talk, and if we do not recognize how foreign the thought of “giving our life to Jesus” is to “grace alone,” then we have ceased to be Lutheran.  And that’s fine–if you don’t want to be Lutheran.  But how is it acceptable for a Lutheran woman, married to a Lutheran pastor, to say things like that to teenagers who have friends who believe that salvation happens exactly how she worded it?  It matters how we talk, because, ultimately, we will think and believe the same as what we say.  Ask a liturgical scholar how many times the liturgy changed before the doctrine.  It’s not my personal bias, it’s a fact.

I want my kids to grow up in the Lutheran church because I believe it’s the catholic Church.  If it ceases to be that, I’ll be looking for the Church where it is truly catholic.  If I didn’t believe the Lutheran church was where Christ’s Word was purely taught, or where His Sacraments were administered according to His institution, then I would cease to be a Lutheran pastor.  And there is, of course, no guarantee that we will hold to our heritage (which is God’s Word, as the hymn has it).  I’m just begging for us to think a little more seriously about what we’re doing and where we’re leading our youth.  If we can’t do that, we might just as well send them to the non-denominational or the Baptist churches now–because, if things continue like this, that’s where they’re going eventually.



38 thoughts on “An Open Letter on the LCMS National Youth Gathering

  1. Well written, my brother. I pray these conversations begin to take place in our Synod, now that there is a Praesidium that wants to see those conversations take place.

    You’ve done a very fair job of showing that this isn’t just about denying a “style” but about failure to clearly communicate our Lutheran doctrine.

  2. Interesting thoughts. I hear the heart of what you are saying. If I were in your position, I might feel and write the same thing.

    What I have found is that people assume that a certain “form” of worship is more inherently Lutheran than another. This would be, in my mind, the mistake of “Formalism.”

    Confessionally speaking, AC VII makes is crystal clear that prescribing a particular worship style is anti-confessional.

    Thus, in my mind, to be totally confessionally Lutheran is to insist on freedom of worship style, not just tolerate it, and certainly not oppose it.

    In any case, you speak and write well.

    Bless you,

    David Housholder
    Huntington Beach, CA

    Many essays on this topic:

    Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch

    Wordwide Podcast:

    And as for the best book on Lutheran theology with Pentecostal expression:

    • David, thanks for the comments. I’m glad it trackbacked to you, because I forgot to do it. You are correct, no one “style” can be legislated. However, not all adiaphora are created equal.


    • “Confessionally speaking, AC VII makes is crystal clear that prescribing a particular worship style is anti-confessional.”

      This is simply an error. AC VII and its Apology make it crystal clear that prescribing particular worship styles as “necessary to propitiate God and merit grace are contrary to the Gospel.” (XXVII, 50-52) But in AC VII “we are not discussing whether it is profitable to observe them for the sake of tranquility or bodily profit. Another issue is involved. the question is whether the observance of human traditions is an act of worship necessary for righteousness before God.” (Ap. VII 34)

      Moreso, “Nor do we include among truly free adiaphora…those ceremonies which give (or to avoid persecution) are designed to give the impression that our religion does not differ greatly from that of [heretics]. Nor are such rites matters of indifference when these ceremonies are intended to create the illusion…that these two opposing religions have been brought into agreement.” (SD. X, 5-6)

      The irony here is that the Lutherans don’t even mention the schwermer because that cannot conceive of the possibility of wanting to give the impression that we worship like them.

      …I know this is long after the debate here has taken place, but still, the incessant quoting of AC VII as “we confess license” is a myth perpetuated by proof-texting the confessions rather than reading them for what they confess to us as a whole. AC VII, long and short, in total, has nearly nothing to say about “not prescribing worship styles.” Quite the opposite, the Apology teaches that we *should* prescribe worship styles for the sake of unified confession and human peace. We only must be crystal clear that they do not justify us or unify us with Christ’s heavenly righteousness. Rather, they are a matter of human unity, for the sake of tranquility in the churches.

      Given the havoc of the “worship wars” I cannot over-commend the wisdom of our Confessions on this matter. They foresaw our warfare, and confessed plainly that restraint is always the preferred option because, in the end, these things do not matter eternally: thus, we each ought to not insist on change, but submit ourselves to the unity which is handed down to us. (Alas, a bit late for that.) For more good confession on this, see ApXV 20-21, and Ap XXVIII 15, and SD X 5-6. Also, reading through the new work “The Unchanging Forms of the Gospel” by Holger Sonntag should be required for anyone wishing to talk about “what the confessions say” on this matter. It is a truly magisterial work.

  3. >>What I have found is that people assume that a certain “form” of
    >>worship is more inherently Lutheran than another. This would be, in
    >>my mind, the mistake of “Formalism.”


    In the historic Church, we call this mistake “Orthodoxy.”

    To quote a good friend of mine who is a priest: “Just because there are more than one right way to do something doesn’t mean there are no wrong ways.”

  4. Pentecostalism appeals to the flesh. Youth ministry is where it is at for those who would lead churches away from Christ.

    I’m not Lutheran, but I sympathize with you, brother. It’s sad to see the departure carry Lutheranism away too.

  5. Good sound bite: Not all adiaphora is created equal. Totally agree with that.

    I still think that my solid stand on AC VII makes me more confessionally Lutheran than all of what I see written here.

    That, and AC IV, are the twin pillars of “getting” the Lutheran thing in missional contextuality.

    It’s not a matter of banning screens and bands to keep our kids more Lutheran.

    A) We are not even giving birth to enough kids to replace ourselves–we are “halving” in each generation.
    B) We are not keeping the kids we give birth to.
    C) We have virtually no clue how to reach kids we didn’t give birth to and lead them to conversion (saving faith). My essay on “Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize” has been downloaded well into five figures:

    The Lutheran Church, ELCA and LCMS, is losing much of a whole generation. When it comes to reaching the next generation, I prefer being on the side of those trying hard to do so rather than on the side of those complaining that they’re doing it wrong.

    And non-nuanced statements like “Pentecostalism is about the flesh.” Where do you even begin with something like that? That’s like “All Republicans are stupid” or something. Please.

    • David, I think it’s a non sequitur to argue about who is “more confessional.”

      I’m not talking about “banning” bands and screens; I’m suggesting that it’s counter-productive to try and do what some other church does, because it appears that they have lots of “young people.” If we think we can keep up with the culture (or, even that it’s desirable to do so), we will never be able to keep youth. We will always be behind the curve. The question is, does the Church have her own culture, which will necessarily be in conflict with the surrounding culture (American culture perhaps most of all)? I think it is a chasing after the wind to try and stay on the cutting edge; the Church will always absorb those parts of the surrounding culture that are beneficial, and she should reject those parts that run counter to the message that has been given her by Christ. Obviously, the debate is over what those contrary parts of the culture are, and that’s where the discussion should be had. And each of us has to question if what we think is the Church’s culture is really hers, or a foreign import based on our own individual desires. Since the Church on earth is made up of a bunch of sinners who have contradictory desires, it’s a waste of time to cater to those desires. I happen to believe that liturgies that hew closer to the historic forms (because they have stood the test of time and culture) are going to be able avoid captivity to any one person’s whims.

      As far as evangelism goes, I strongly disagree that we should have an explanation of how conversion happens. Jesus says to Nicodemus that it’s like the wind blowing–we see the Holy Spirit’s effects, but we don’t know the actual process. We only know that the Holy Spirit binds Himself to the external Word. Since Lutherans are not hermetically sealed off from the rest of the Church, I think it’s a question of whether we should look at revivalistic, Arminian methods of causing a conversion, or if we should look at if the Word is truly being preached in its fullness. The second and third centuries seem to me to be a good place to start looking for an evangelism, baptism, and mystagogy process that takes into account the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit when He uses the Word and Baptism to make disciples.


  6. Uh, Lutherans were singing Cohen’s “Hallelujah?”

    That song, while beautifully and artfully crafted, is a deconstruction of the word “hallelujah.” Cohen’s David unashamedly speaks “hallelujah” in his moment of adultery and murder. And similarly unashamed, Cohen himself will “stand before the lord of song” in his own pride, apart from the mediating blood of Christ.

    Either some program director is a moron of the highest caliber and should be fired, or someone played a right nasty joke, or someone is subverting the praise of ten thousand unvigilant Christians.

    Probably all three are true. (the 2nd and 3rd possibilities are almost certainly at work, knowing that we wrestle not with flesh and blood).

    And just because ya’gotta represent when called out: Baptists have liturgy. Maybe by “the liturgy” you meant “Lutheran liturgy.” In which case, yes, Lutheran liturgy would not befit Baptists (especially so long as you all keep fencing your tables – ZING!).

    Romans 5:1,

    • Thanks Joe. You’re right, Baptists have liturgy, just not Lutheran liturgy (which, I think you would agree, would not fit a Baptist’s confession; just as Baptist liturgy would not fit a Lutheran’s confession–that’s the point). And you make a further connection, which I would also make. Whatever argument we might have about closed Communion, I think it follows from our confession about what the Lord’s Supper is and does. Since you (I’m guessing) believe something different about the Lord’s Supper, it’s only natural that you would have a different practice. All of which goes to my point about practice following from belief, and (perhaps more often) vice-versa.

      As to Cohen, they only sang two verses, leaving out the verse about David being overthrown by Bathsheba’s beauty in the moonlight, and standing before the Lord of song. Still not appropriate for the context.


  7. >>The question is, does the Church have her own culture?<<

    That indeed, is the question, isn't it.

    I like you guys. You're smart. I was trained mostly by LCMS people and I miss that part of intellectual Lutheran culture. Missing among huge parts of my ELCA.

    I don't think your excellent question is as easy to answer as any of us might think. Is it perhaps possible that you are over-simplifying the answer by reacting against missional creativity?

    Dave Housholder
    Huntington Beach

    • I, for one, do not believe it is easy to answer the question about the Church’s culture. But if being missional requires giving up the Church’s liturgy, which has been developed over at least 1800 years, to replace it with something that has become fashionable in the last 40, I admit I have some misgivings about that.


  8. Timotheos,

    I would agree with you on how to approach young people who are already in the church and attending regularly. But how, that is, what methods or approaches, does the “church” reach young people (or anyone else, for that matter) who are not in a church? Then the question becomes, should the church (as God’s agent on earth), use current cultural norms to attract people? And isn’t that what Luther did, in part, by using popular melodies with Christian lyrics?


    • Jim, my good friend 😉
      I don’t know why Luther set his words to popular melodies (not bar tunes, as some have said), but I doubt it was to attract people to church, since most (all?) of them were already part of the Church. I also do not believe that what happens on Sunday morning is primarily about evangelism. Evangelism happens when Christians, convinced of the reality of the living Jesus, live their lives where God has put them, and speak His Word when it needs to be spoken. When that happens, they bring those people to hear the Word, until the Holy Spirit creates faith by that Word; then they come to the baptismal font, God puts His Name on them, they share the Supper of the Lord, and then they go out and do it again. As natural as breathing.


  9. “But the worst of it was that when she talked about her daughter being in heaven, she said it was because she had given her life to the Lord. (Could it be that Baptist worship leads to a Baptist theology of conversion? Just asking.)”

    The best Baptist sermon I’ve heard recently was preached form a ‘conservative’ LCMS Pulpit.

    So, no, I’m not surprised by your report of what this woman preached about. And one reason why Higher Things is gaining in popularity.

    I think we don’t know what our theology teaches anymore, and in that particular pastor having grown up Baptist and attending LCMS Seminary late in life, I don’t think he got the point either. It begs a few questions? Does it not?

    I think we’ve factionated into to camps where both are missing the point. One side going so conservative as to be little different than Baptists. The other side going so liberal as to be little different from Metho-Presby-Costalism. (Using the term conservative and liberal, well, liberally.)

    As for how to reach people?

    I’m less concerned about the music and liturgy as I am about the message. But the music and liturgy set the tone for the message… which I think is your point.

  10. Lawrence,
    Aren’t the music and liturgy part of the message? I think this is part of the problem, we have made the entire Divine Service about the “message” rather than upon the holistic view of God’s gifts of Word and Sacrament. You cannot have just a message any more than you can have just the sacraments.

  11. I am a youth that was at this NYG and part of me is very offended at how small minded you see youth… the statement of “Wow, all the people I saw were really excited. I’ve never seen anything even close to that in my congregation. What’s wrong with my church? We need to get a band and some screens and a more exciting preacher.” and when that doesn’t happen we leave the Lutheran church…. that is equivalent to saying “oh shinny… where’d the shiny go, oh there’s shiny”….. NOOOOOOOO we aren’t dumb. AT ALL. At least my church and i are much more spiritually connected to the Lutheran theology than that.

    Okay, I do definitely agree with everything you are saying about the Lutheran order of worship. the thing about the music is true too…but NYG isn’t just 5 days of church. Or even 5 days of exciting church. NYG is its own beast. It holds an entirely different purpose!
    As a 16 year old who goes to public school in the amazingly liberal California… things get mixed up. My priorities get all out of whack… I lose God to the everyday crap. NYG is a refresher course in God’s awesomeness. That’s why we are singing songs about God’s amazing attributes and not about “we” and “us” because that’s not what NYG is when we get down to it. Yeah, we talk about how WE can do things and look at all US and how we can affect things but we are nothing without HIM! And that’s what it’s about.
    We wrapped up our week with a serves that was just like church at home (times like 50 maybe… and plus all the SHINY) that did concentrate on the main Lutheran concerns of raw unconditional love and forgiveness….
    I don’t think the youth we moved by the lights or the screens or the band or choir or dancers or reenactments or comedy skits or sand art or all that HALF as much as they were moved by the pure untainted awesomeness that is Christ. NYG is a renewal in God. It’s about reminding the youth that get lost in today that God is there holding your hand… that God is your dad. That’s what NYG is about.

    I don’t care if people looked at our time there and could tell OH those kids are LCMS kids… not those crazy Catholics…. So what if we are Black, White, Asian, Pacific Islander, Mexican, Baptist, Lutheran, catholic or Calvary Chapel; GOD is GOD! And he loves YOU and WE BELIEVE and that’s all it takes for his grace. THAT is FAITH. NYG isn’t a marketing ploy for the Missouri Synod Lutherans. It is JUST about GOD (which is exactly what Martin Luther was doing when he left the Catholic Church… or am I wrong….)
    And now you are saying that women cannot profess our faith to large groups of people?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!??! WELLL FORGET YOU!!!! It never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever says that in the bible. I am a strong faith filled young woman and I will SCREAM about my faith at THE TOP OF MY LUNGS from a high mountain for the WHOLE ENTIER WORLD TO HEAR!!! I may not be a pastor but neither were those women. And if you say I am not Lutheran because I would preach (yess PREACH) to the wold of my faith and I have two X chromosomes then you are WRONG my friend just plain WROOONNNGGGGGGG
    And now you’re saying that God doesn’t show us that he loves us? Well if he doesn’t show you (or if you don’t see it) in something out side of Jesus’ death then I’m sorry buddy but how are you alive? I would have killed myself a llloonnnggg time ago. I see God’s love and His plan for me every day threw the people He places in my life and the skills He blessed me with. I am comforted in that every day.
    I do agree with your statement about how she is in heaven because she gave her life to the Lord…. there is nothing you can do… you aren’t giving your life to the Lord….. why would he accept that gross grimy jacked up thing? That’s not the amazing thing… the amazing thing is he takes it and uses it and makes you some thing…. We are dirt… blind, evil, wicked….we are nothing. But by his GRACE we have been saved!
    Now the whole wrap up to your criticism talks about how awesome the Lutheran church is and I agree. But you are bagging NYG as that… NYG isn’t a crash course on how to be a Lutheran and how the Lutheran church should go on a weekly/ daily bases at home… NYG is fuel to our fire of love to God. AMEN!

    • Hey Rachel,
      Thanks for commenting. I did not mean to suggest that youth are stupid or easily turned to “shiny” things. It’s not just youth! We’re all attracted to the next, the better, the new, the impressive. I’m glad that you did not take that attitude back to your church, and find it lacking, and go looking for a church that looked more like the NYG. Because they’re out there. I’ve been to them.

      A couple other things. I am not saying that women or girls cannot share their faith and bear witness to what Jesus has done in their lives. Every single Christian, of every single age group, of both sexes, bears witness daily to the Image of God that is being renewed in them by the Holy Spirit. My issue is not even with a woman sharing her story of grace through a terrible tragedy. It’s with how those Mass Events are going to be “read” by those who go. If you didn’t see it as a worship service, then it probably makes no sense. And maybe you’ve never been to a church where the liturgy goes songs-sermon-songs, but that’s basically what the Mass Events were. So, no, I do not believe that women should preach the Word of God publicly in what looks to me like a church service. And if you want to “forget me” over that, then you’ll have to forget St. Paul, too.

      I think you may be confusing your private devotional life with the services of God’s House. They are not, and they should not be, the same. You are right, if you want to stand on your heard, so some aerobics, listen to some worship music, sing some songs, in your own private devotion, there’s probably nothing wrong with that. But that’s not what the services of God’s House are for. Paul says that “all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Corinthians 14:40), and part of what that means is that no person gets to do whatever they want in church. No person–not the pastor or any of the people–gets to have his or her own preferences or opinions dictate what happens. We all come together as one Body, not primarily as individuals, so we should not primarily be singing individualistic songs or doing our own “worship” during that time.

      I get what you’re saying about the NYG not being the same as the things that happen week to week, and you’re right, it shouldn’t be. But here’s a question for you: shouldn’t it at least reinforce what Lutherans believe and teach? Or do 25,000 youth and youth leaders mean that none of that old, stuffy Lutheran doctrine applies?

      I appreciate you writing on here, and I’m glad that you feel passionate enough about Jesus to tell anyone and everyone. Keep it up.


  12. oh and a comment on the debate of TV SCREENS BEING OKAY IN A CHURCH (sheeeesshhh people let us breath alright.. or will you tell me i’m doing that wrong too?)

    if we don’t update then HECK we’d we writing on stone tablet cuz that;s what Moses did… i mean jeez. do TV screens really effect our relationship with Christ? i mean that’s what it’s all about… so what if i say bendiction first, then have some comunion then do some arobic exorcise in there them sermon then confession lords prayer then call it a day!


    that’s what it’s about.

    and btw the Lutherans have been on the cutting edge of technology since the begining… i mean printing press… first book mass produced was the bible… THANKS YOU MARTIN LUTHER…. so if anything we should be the ones with the bigest tv in the whole world…. gezzzz

    you guys are all so technical… so what….. it’s about God…. not about how pure our worship is… or how RIGHT it is… i mean if i wanted to praise God while standing on my head i could…. you guys act like there’s a sercret code to getting to heaven… you must enter the right way or worship to get there… PLEASE

  13. I am a Roman Catholic, not a Lutheran, but I enjoy the exchange of ideas on this blog since I started reading a week or so ago.

    Anyway, not being Lutheran, I cannot give an entirely informed opinion on the in-fighting between the different sects of Lutheranism as to whether or not your denomination should adopt the Baptist and Evangelical practice of Mega-Church Stage Shows. However, as a Catholic, I must say that I fully agree with Timotheos. Sunday Mass or worship service is not about concert stage productions designed to draw in the younger, hipper congregate. Sunday is day to reflect on Christ and His place in our lives. I know that our churches do not agree wholly on Christ’s presence in the Eurcharist but it would appear that, by Timotheos’ comments on the subject, that we both agree that He is present in some form. And that is where our focus should be during the celebration of the Mass, not on larger than life stage productions that shift our focus away from the center of our worship.

    • Lutherans believe that Christ’s Body and Blood, which were conceived in and born from the womb of the Virgin, crucified, resurrected, and ascended, are the same Body and Blood that we receive in the Lord’s Supper. But we believe that there is still bread and wine, and we don’t try to define how the Presence happens (i.e., Transubstantiation). We would also emphasize that Christ is giving us the fruit of His sacrifice, rather than the priest or pastor offering Christ’s sacrifice to the Father.

      But I agree with you that that is the high point of the Divine Service (as we call it); or, the “source and summit” of the Christian’s life.



  14. Um, with regard to what you wrote: yes, yes, yes, yes and all kinds of yes. Preaching to the choir, perhaps, but I believe all of that quite strongly. Brothers think alike, eh?

  15. Pingback: Steadfast Lutherans » Great Stuff Found on the Web — Stand Firm on Reviews of the 2010 LCMS National Youth Gathering

  16. Interesting words! I am Lutheran and love the Lutheran doctrine and worship. I thought about taking some kids to the gathering this summer but its too expensive and there are Christian concerts close by to take them to for less money. We did send a deposit in fall thinking we were going to go but now we decided not to go. But lcms says we can’t get our deposit back. We paid $100 per person to go. 7 people signed up to go. This is a lot of money that could be returned and used for something else. I am beginning to wonder if these large youth gatherings are becoming just money makers. How sad! If these events are truly to grow closer to God, His Son, and learn His Word so He can be glorified through us, then why so pricy. Why not plan an event that is free or little money. $300 for gathering, hotel fee, plane fare: expensive! Jesus paid our debt because of His grace and mercy and there is nothing we can do to pay him back, we are sinners except love Him, love and desire His word, and desire and do His will.

  17. My daughter is attending her 7th Gathering. After years of her attending Camp Lutherhaven as a camper and counselor, I was surprised at her devotion to Divine Worship. She and her pastor husband dislike contemporary worship, which appeals more to baby boomers more than young Lutherans.

  18. I see you went to the gathering in 2010 that really changed my life and brought me closer to God an Jesus. It’s funny though because you don’t think it affects the youth the way you say you want it to. Without the We Believe gathering I don’t think I would be living the life I am now. I was a freshman in high school that year and I was stuggling a lot with myself and my faith. That surprised me, I thought tht being a pastors daughter I would never struggle with my faith. I was completely opposed to going to the gathering. No New Orleans is gross, no I don’t want to go to church for a week. I came up with many reasons why I didn’t want to go. But I did end up going, and I thank The Lord that I did! He works in mysterious ways and the gathering was one of them for me. Yes the gathering is hyped. Yes there are thousands of youth and better bands and speakers than most churches. That doesn’t mean you go back wantig exactly that. I went back changed. I got so much more involved in youth group, my parents weren’t telling me to go to church, I was begging them to be there more. And honestly, so what if the speaker talking about her daughter messed up a little, we all do. I get it, it was a pretty big slip up but she was the speaker that touched me the most. She, to this day, is the one who made me buy a journal and write in it. Such a teenage girl thing to do,right? That journal has done so much for my relationship with God. I dot just write about my life, I have conversations with god. And after every signature of my name there’s a verse. Again, God works in mysterious ways. Every verse at the bottom of the page would always be related to what I wrote, whether it was guidance or comfort, anything. Yes I am a Lutheran, but before that, what I learned at this years Live Loved gathering, is that I am a child of God. Everyone is, so why does it matter if the speaker screws up or the music gets your emotions going. I’m a child of God, I am loved. I am loved, not because I am a Lutheran, not because I’m a Christian, but because I was fearfully and wonderfully made. So if that’s what I take away from the gathering why does the nit picky stuff matter. You leave NYG differently. There is no doubt about that. You leave with stronger faith, you leave with questions worth looking into, and you leave with the knowledge that you are not alone.

  19. Well said Danielle. I think the main problem I have with this article and the comments that follow is the fact that everyone is consistently quoting doctrine that was written by us as humans. If you think that God cannot accept a song of worship based on whether or not it meets traditional and doctrinal guidelines, you are limiting God. Did not the Pharisees and Sadducees fall prey to the doctrine written by themselves? Did they not become so blinded by their strict formalities that they could not see the Son of God standing right in front of them?

    When that woman said her daughter was saved because she gave her life to God, she was not discounting the fact that her daughter was able to give her life to God because of Christ’s sacrifice. She was affirming that God saved her daughter’s life, her daughter’s soul. Do we need to specify which manifestation in the Trinity of God is responsible for this? Are not the Father, Son, and the Spirit all God? Are they not all responsible for her daughter’s salvation?

    And to say that you are Lutheran because Lutherans are catholic is rather confusing. What does it matter to say, “I am Lutheran” or “I am Baptist” or “I am Catholic”? Does that not defeat the purpose that Christ intended for us? If it was about being a specific denomination, the Gentiles would never have had a chance. If it was about a certain doctrine and strict lifestyle, Christ would not have reached out to the lowest of the low. As a hand, can you say that you are more important than the feet? As an eye, can you say you do not need the ear? We are the Body of Christ. Every part of the body needs the other parts, no matter how differently the move or how different they are in the functions they perform. Christ tells us to love and reconcile, not nitpick, judge, demand, and condemn. Christ tells us to go out and feed his sheep, not worry about the time of day his sheep started baaing or walking around or from which pen on His land the sheep originally came from.

    I think that before we worry about doctrine and what we as humans decided was important for our religious salvation, before we worry about a careless word you feel was missing, before we worry about the placement of musical notes on the staff endangering our eternal salvation, we need to be concerned with the tasks God has placed before us, with the important task of loving, encouraging, and bring hope to those who are unloved, discouraged, and hopeless.

    The NYG is a place where youth can be encouraged that their little group is not the only group their age that follows God, a place where they can be renewed. I went to the NYG as a teenager and it changed my life. And though I no longer classify myself as a “Lutheran”, but instead a Christian, and I go to a church that chooses not to proclaim a denomination, I cannot wait to bring my own youth group to the gathering. This is not because of doctrine or denominational influence, but because Christ said, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, so there shall I also be.” The NYG is a placed fill with God’s Holy Spirit. And the experience of being amongst so many believers is an incredible impact on anyone.

    It saddens me that you feel that the gathering is lacking in true worship to God. I will say this to you, though you obviously disagree: It is not lacking. David danced before the Ark of God, almost naked, dancing to fast and joyful music, and God looked on it with great favor. The gathering is no different with the intentions it has and the way everyone else sings and dances with the intent of worshiping God. The experience you want your youth to have is not necessarily the experience that God wishes them to have by going to this event. Perhaps this event is not for you. Perhaps God intends a different experience for you. Or perhaps you were not seeing God’s presence because you were too focused on finding fault in the unimportant details. I do not say that in judgment, but in an attempt to hold you accountable in love. And I may be entirely wrong. That is between you and God. But perhaps you should consider whether or not you are more focused on the details that only God can control and determine and not focused enough on the broader and less political tasks He has given to us all. I know that I need to continually refocus myself onto just doing as He asks and not trying to think about everything logically and restricting myself from doing because of doctrines written and told to me by other men and women.

    I pray that God blesses you and whatever the cause of your concerns are, whether they be spiritual blinders or just a need for a different kind of worship, that God will provide you with a spiritual release and continue to guide you down the path that will give you peace. God bless you, your family, and those around you.

    • I suggest that all of you read Broken by Jonathan Fisk and consider whether you have not fallen prey to American-style moralistic therapeutic deism. Perhaps you don’t see it, but you have essentially made my case for me about the NYG and its effects.

  20. I’m a member of LCMS but many of my friends go to other churches that do hold concerts with Christian music, bands, singers, etc. Yes, they get emotional but strange as it seems, I know more who attend those kinds of events that study God’s Word, rely solely on the Blood of Christ for their salvation and know that even when hard times hit and their emotions aren’t on a mountain top, they continue to trust in Christ. In fact, most know it isn’t that concert their church held or the bands that play on Sundays that brings them closer to the Lord. They know it’s Jesus and nothing but Jesus. If they know this, I don’t see the problem of enjoying the emotion of praising Him together with music. They tend to not hold back when an opportunity comes to tell someone about what Jesus has done for them, for all. I honestly believe that we are to bring in as many as Christ leads to us, however we can bring them in, with whatever He gives us to bring them in. Faith is God’s work alone. But we are the hands and feet of Christ and as such, we can’t ignore what will cause others to even begin to want to find out who Christ is, seek God’s Word and through the Blood of our Lord, become part of the household of God. ‘Shout and make a loud noise to the Lord’. God tells us if we don’t praise Him, he can make the rocks praise Him! The old German hyms are fine but for me, I can’t even sing them. I don’t read music and where some of those notes go, I can’t. Many times I just have to read along and take the words into my mind, my heart but I can’t sing them unless we suddenly sing something that’s a bit easier to sing. Also, in the Bible, though the focus is on what Christ has done for us, there is also a lot of ‘I, me, we’ in there too. It’s not because of anything WE do for the Lord, but because of what He does for us that we can now say, ‘I belong to Christ’. ‘I praise Him’, He helps me’, He has forgiven me’, He holds me’ ‘We can trust Him’. There are also parts of the Bible that show us where people of God were greatly depressed and had conversations with God that I would have thought…Oh no.’ We tend to judge each other on how we worship more than the fact that Christ has caused us to worship Him in both solitude, with the church, with family, with friends, to praise him also with others who believe, with songs, with music, with words and yes, with our emotions. As long as we come to know the Truth of God’s Word how dare we talk against whatever HE choses to use to bring yet another non believer into faith in Christ. If Christ is doing the leading, if Christ is using us to bring them in, if Christ choses to use the gifts we’ve been given to cause 0even one to seek Him, ‘because Christ causes the seeking’, then let us use what we’ve been given to do what Christ would have us do. Because after all, He will continue what HE has begun. We shouldn’t take it upon ourselves to think it’s US who’ve made sure by old sounding or new sounding music that others will truly believe. Non of it is us. It’s all Jesus and HE knows what He’s doing!

  21. I am very saddened to see the effects of American-style moralistic therapeutic deism in these comments and in connection with the NYG. In the past I was once also seeking an emotional experience with God until I found Lutheran doctrine that truly pointed me to the riches in Christ outside of my personal feelings and experiences. Thank you Timotheos for writing this article. Please don’t give up at trying to educate us on this subject.

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