Category Archives: Traditional Worship

Lessons Learned From Starting A Contemporary Service In A Traditional Church

Worship is so precious for so many reasons, but one thing that impresses me is that we are all so different and we come into worship with differing mindsets and expectations, yet we all leave feeling equally loved and equally saved by the Almighty One.  I cannot think of any other mass gathering where this is the case.  If you go to a ball game, some will leave happy (their team being the winning team) and others will leave angry (fans of the loosing team).  Not true in worship.  Everyone leaves a winner. 
  1. In spite of those who will tell you otherwise, most under 60 will enjoy it, most over 60 will not.
  2. There are members in your church who will fight against it more than your Pastor will.  It’s simply not about personal preferences.
  3. The hardest part for the congregation will be to follow the flow with the repeats, multiple endings, codas, etc.  Add as many instructions as you can in the bulletin to help in this regard.
  4. You will most likely see children swaying to the music and dancing around as much as their parents will allow.
  5. People will understand the lyrics instantly.  Some will see this as being too simple and others will rejoice saying “hallelujah!” 
  6. It is very difficult to put chords to hymns because almost every note in the melody line will be a different chord.  If you haven’t been able to put your finger on it yet, this is the reason why hymns sound foreign to the unchurched who listen to chord based music on the radio.  A seasoned guitarist can find his way through the chordal mud to accompany most hymns.
  7. You should use at least one hymn in a trial contemporary service.
  8. If it’s your first attempt, please don’t use electric guitars or drums.  We’ve been using contemporary service formats for almost 10 years at my church and have still not made this transition.  We are waiting for “contemporary” to be completely and utterly out of world-wide vogue and traditional to be the new thing, then we’ll take the plunge. 😀
  9. Traditionally minded people don’t like change, so if you do attempt a contemporary service, pick a format and don’t deviate from it.
  10. The Pastor should dress the same way he does in the traditional services.
  11. If you don’t use a video screen in the traditional services, don’t use it in the contemporary service either.
  12. Do not put the band in the front.  Put them in the back and out of sight.
  13. Keep the volume down.
  14. Don’t rename your contemporary service to something like “relevant”, “uber”, “celebration”, “passion”, “diverse”, “natural”, “the journey”, “elevation”, “illumination”, “new generation” or any other word that ends in “tion.”
  15. The contemporary service planning needs to be spearheaded by someone who is into contemporary Christian music.
  16. Focus on an ADDITION to the current worship music versus elimination. 
  17. Train members how to sing contemporary music. Consider involving the teen and youth groups if possible. Start off with simple tunes. Start by having the band offer the songs as pre-service selections and during the offering for several months before asking the congregation to sing.  
  18. Ease into the change slowly; perhaps with one service per month, or even one song per month.
  19. It is a very dangerous thought to think that God prefers only one style of music or one accompanying instrument.  The fact is, God is the creator of variety.  If He didn’t like variety, we would have only one type of tree and one type of bird.
  20. Both hymns and contemporary music have God’s fingerprints all over them.  Both can be useful.  Both can be worshipful.  Both can be reverent.  Both can be profoundly biblical.  Both are needed.  Both are important.
  21. A few commandments:
  • Thou shall not mess with “A Mighty Fortress” on Reformation Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “Now Thank We All Our God” on Thanksgiving.
  • Thou shall not mess with “For All the Saints” on Saint’s Triumphant Sunday.
  • Thou shall not mess with “”Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty” on Trinity Sunday.
  • Thou shall not choose any song with a lyric that is repeated more than three times unless it’s “”holy, holy, holy” or “hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”
  • Thou shall not choose songs with sounds in the lyrics like “la, la, la”
  • Thou shall use any hymn that your Pastor calls a “Lutheran Gem” 💎 when requested to do so.  Trust me, this is a strong hint.

…and get ready because we are going to worship the almighty, the uncreated, the timeless, the ageless, the awe-inspiring, life giving Lord that beautifully crafted you and me; that loves us dearly, that continues to love us despite our continual sinning, that has saved us, that has given His life for us, and He deserves to be worshiped in every language, in every nation, in every tongue, in every style, by every generation, and with every musical instrument ever created.  And yes, this can still be done in a heart pounding unity of faith.  In fact, that might just be what’s happening in heaven as we speak.

The Guardian of My Heart

I have a guardian who watches over my heart and my mind.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:7

Why does our Pastor say this to us every single Sunday?

Here’s why….

He will guard your heart and your mind against:

Think about that if you’ve heard Php 4:7 one too many times!

Worship Leader = Pastor

Worship Leader = Pastor

In my denomination, the “worship leader” is the Pastor – end of discussion, and I wholeheartedly support this.  He has given 8 years of his life to higher education, he has pursued a Masters in Divinity and he has learned the Greek and Hebrew languages.  What the rest of the Christian world refers to as a “Worship Leader”, we use the term “Musical Director” or “Musical Coordinator” or “Praise Band Leader” or some other similar term.  This just seems right with me.

So, in the traditional church that predominantly uses hymns, what are the traits of this elusive “Praise Band Leader?”  I can only tell you what traits I strive for after doing this for over a decade.

  1. I stay in the Word as much as possible by reading God’s word, devotional books and praying as often as possible.
  2. The only music that I listen to is Christian music. I keep on top of the new releases coming out of this genre and I collect lead sheets and piano arrangements.  I also make it a habit to categorize all of my music by scripture reference.
  3. I attend church and bible class regularly and am active in my membership. It is an inseparable part of my life and is woven into my daily and weekly routines.
  4. I know my congregation well. I know them better than my own fretboard and believe me that says a lot.  I know what songs they can sing and what songs they will enjoy in worship.  I use this knowledge in choosing music.
  5. I follow my Synod and read as much of their correspondence as I can. I use their APPS, I bookmark and use their websites, I listen to their podcasts and I subscribe to all of their email lists.  I strive to know their teachings and doctrines and apply these principles in choosing music.
  6. I am diligent in my work. I do my worship planning at least one month ahead of time and I submit my song choices to our Pastor so that he can review the lyrics for false teachings (and they do exist in some of today’s music) and for appropriateness for the intended Sunday.  If it’s a new song, I also include a youtube link so that he can not only hear the lyrics but the style of the song as well.  I respect his opinion and never second guess his responses.  I trust him and I learn from him.  He is responsible for our worship and has to answer to God and to his Synodical leaders if things go bad – not me.  I fully understand this.
  7. I am well prepared when I am scheduled to accompany worship. I arrive early, do a sound check and organize my arrangements.  We are well rehearsed and I know what lines I am singing, all the transitions and the song flow.  Sometimes I will express my musical creativity through my guitar playing but never in a showy manner.
  8. I turn the other cheek when someone calls a song a “7/11” song or expresses other hurtful remarks with regards to either contemporary music or traditional hymns because both are worshipful and powerful and because I want to follow Jesus’ lead.
  9. I do my best to fix my eyes on Jesus at all times.
  10. I acknowledge the presence of the Spirit inside me and rely on Him to inspire, to teach and to lead me.
  11. I am not a leader, I am a servant.
  12. I am a sinner. The above characteristics are my goals and oftentimes I fall short.

Thoughts on Peace

Thoughts on Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. – John 14:27

Those are such awesome and powerful words!

Peace in Every Language

Peace Cross
Peace Cross

A few years back my wife gave the necklace photographed at left to me as a Christmas gift.  I like it for many reasons. First, because she gave it to me and had me in mind when she picked it out.  Second, it was hand made by an artisan who lives near us and I know her story and background is as a missionary’s daughter.  Third, the cross depicts “peace” as being universal across all nations and people (it is inscribed with the word “peace” in 7 different languages).  And lastly, it is inscribed with Isaiah 26:3 on it’s reverse side.  I wear the piece to church whenever I think of it and when I travel so that it reminds me of my wife, my savior and his gift of peace to us all, regardless of our nationality or culture.

You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. – Isaiah 26:3

A Peace-Filled Morning

Peace on Mountain Road
Peace on Mountain Road

This was the scene last week as I was driving down Mountain Road on my way into work.  The fog, the mountains, the sunrise and the greenery spoke a serene language of peace to me.  It was a good start to my day. It reminded me of my savior.

Worship in Every Tongue
Speaking of peace in every langauge, isn’t it great in the traditional churches that we can attend worship in a different language and still know what’s going on because the liturgies are so ingrained into our hearts?  This is a gift!

Peace to all,

Worship Spontaneity

What do you think about this statement:

In one service I attended, their printed program read concerning the Order of Service – “subject to the Holy Spirit”.

Here’s another one:

We get so locked into our agenda, that if the Holy Spirit wanted to do something different, it would ruin our whole “worship” service!

This line of thinking is totally foreign to my cauliflower-like Lutheran ears. My reaction to statements like these is that the Holy Spirit was already involved in the planning that went into the worship service in the first place and is thankfully present in worship whether we leave room for Him or not. As a general rule, I would have to say that I am not a fan of planned worship spontaneity. Call me a dinosaur, a hymn crank, a stand-up sit-down, an intrepid, a liturgical lemon; that’s me. There is enough spontaneity in our services without having to leave room for it, it just happens naturally.

“God Himself is present, Let us now adore Him, and with awe appear before Him.
God is in His temple, all within keep silence, humbly kneel in deepest reverence.
He alone, on His throne, is our God and Savior, praise His name forever!”
– Gerhard Tersteegen

The Spice of Life!

Paul new that variety is the spice of life!

Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  – Eph 5:19,20

But sometimes we forget.  So he said it again:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  – Col 3:16

We need musical variety so our worship doesn’t become routine, stale and boring.

Did you now that we share the gift of music with angels?  It says in Rev 5:13

“Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

So sing to the Lord a new song this Sunday!

Steadfast Believers

Steadfast Believers
by Steve Brown and Mike Westendorf

A few weeks back, Mike posted an article on FaceBook from a Pastor who was quitting the praise band for a variety of reasons. This article was ultimately met with a rebuttal from another Pastor who won’t be quitting the praise band anytime soon for a different bunch of reasons. In between these posts was a plethora of worship gold voiced by believers.

The following excerpts from the FaceBook comments show a fraction of the beautiful faith that exists within our fellowship as a result of the work of the Holy Spirit in and among us.


“We make a big mistake when we try to limit the Holy Spirit to our way of thinking.” – PB

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

“Just because it’s contemporary doesn’t make it bad, shallow, or irreverent.” – SB

Psalm 40:3 He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.

“In reality, everything we humans bring before God in worship is a filthy rag and only made pleasing by the blood of Jesus!” – SB

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. 

“I leave those services (contemporary worship) humming many of those songs all week.” – SA

Jeremiah 15:16 When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty.

“I believe the Holy Spirit worked in my heart through this (contemporary) music to strengthen my faith, it has completely changed me!” – PE

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

“If you disqualify all Christian radio, you are doing what the devil wants you to do. He wins!” – PE

Ephesians 6:11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 

“In the last ten years… the way I worship Jesus has changed. I don’t just worship Him on Sunday or for ten minutes a day. I try to worship Him in everything I do. That includes the type of music I listen to and sing and play.” – DRS

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

“I believe that the Lord has given us this music (contemporary) to reach those people who may not be able to connect with traditional four part harmonies and hymns.” – DRS

“Music is a method of communication and we need to be able to speak everyone’s language. If it’s an organ for you, great, but what about an electric guitar roaring like the mighty power of God?” – SA

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law though I myself am not under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law, so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel that I may share in its blessings.

“I would still rather listen to a Contemporary Christian radio station singing about Jesus even it’s not perfect then a pop station that plays music about stuff that goes against everything I believe.” – DRS

“But for God, worship is a matter of the heart not a matter of form.” – SB

Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.

“We should have services that you can bring a friend to that’s never gone to church and they should feel comfortable and be able to connect with the service. Musically speaking a language that they’re familiar with helps a lot.” – SA

“It was contemporary Christian music that the Holy Spirit used to bring me to faith, and gave me the desire to go to church in the first place.” – SB

“I guess I would say… a feeling of fullness with the Holy Spirit.” – RP

Acts 13:52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.


Steve’s Conclusions: So you might be wondering, why do these people, that place a value on contemporary Christian music; worship in a traditional, liturgical, confessional and hymn-loving setting? The answer is quite simple. We are in agreement with the doctrines and biblical interpretations of this denomination. This is where God wants us to be. We are one body and we commune with one another in unity. Our fellowship is defined by our biblical beliefs based on the absolute inerrancy of scripture. The Gospel is the glue that binds us together and we realize that musical style should not even make the list of fellowship discriminators.

In essence, these responses do show that contemporary music connects on a heart-felt level with some people in the same way that hymns do with other people and this involvement of our hearts is crucial for our worship. The big issue is that there needs to be a Christian relationship based on love that understands and accepts the need for these stylistic differences because the adherence to scripture and doctrine can be maintained, and in the end our objective is to share God’s words in whatever methods that works best.

Yes, we differ in things like musical taste in the same way as we do in our choice of clothes, but this is just part of being the diverse body of Christ that God intended us to be. In the end, we may not be steadfast Lutherans, but more importantly, our hope is to be steadfast but humble believers and followers of Christ.

Simply stated, “Christ’s Love is Our Calling!”

Mike’s Conclusions: As I read the comments of the two viewpoints from the original pastoral blog posts and the responses that we see from many people, it continues to reinforce the idea of effective “communication” and “language” within our worship settings. A simple way to define worship in our settings is that “God comes to us (word and sacrament) and His people respond to Him (praise) and one another about Him (proclamation)”. Another thought about worship is that we are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Regardless of what your worship preference is, “the mountaintop”, the best ever worship experiences will always include all four of these elements. Lastly is the idea that communication is much more than the words we say, but it also is the way we say them as well as what people see when words are said and what the overall “environment” says within the context of those words.

When I read these comments and the scripture passages that Steve beautifully related, it continues to reinforce the notion that people receive the communication of God’s Word and the stories of His faithfulness differently. When they respond to God, they long to have the words and melodies that allow them to praise and proclaim Christ that involves the heart, soul, mind and strength. We want to communicate back to God and back to others about our God who has been faithful to us and to me personally.

Because we are varied people, we speak different languages in worship and certain styles and environments of singing, songwriting, and yes – even listening, engage people differently in worship. If we truly desire that people hear God as He comes to us with the fullness of the Gospel message, and if we truly desire and hope that people can and joyfully respond to God through praise and proclamation, then we must realize the beauty that contemporary worship can offer, especially when it is birthed out of the biblical understanding of Jesus that we joyfully preach in the Confessional Lutheran church with songs that have a powerful effect similar to the way as traditional hymns do.

God paints in beautiful colors, I love it when our worship includes the languages, environments and communication styles of traditional, blended, contemporary and modern worship settings married to our understanding of the true Gospel message.


1 Corinthians 12:15-20 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

How the Traditional Church Does Contemporary Music

How the Traditional Church Does Contemporary Music

1. We do it well. Everyone sings confidently and whole-heartedly, not just the band.
2. We don’t use smoke machines or special lighting, in fact you might not even see the band as they are in the back. They are not the focus.
3. We don’t introduce new songs every week. We teach new songs when needed. We develop a library of great songs that we rely on.
4. We choose songs based on their lyrics; to match the day’s scripture readings, to match the theme of worship, to fit into the church season, or to speak a truth that is timely and needs to be heard and sung.
5. We chose music that is singable for the common worshiper.
6. We chose music that is catchy, relevant, biblical, Christ centered, grace-filled and truthful. We chose music that our worshipers will sing after leaving the church.
7. We don’t put all of our music into a set. Music is strategically used throughout the service to serve a special function and for appropriate responses.
8. We don’t just project lyrics onto a screen because words are hard to sing without the musical notations. We either project lead sheets or provide hard copies including the musical notation. We obey copyright laws because it is sinful to do otherwise.
9. We pray over song selection, so the Holy Spirit has a say in our song choices.
10. We have our Pastors review the song choices and especially the lyrics prior to use.
11. We plan weeks, sometimes months in advance.
12. We pray that you do the same or better as we are still learning.