Every 3 years the LCMS puts on a Worship Conference focusing on preaching, worship, singing, and music primarily. What I can gather from mailings and online info, is that it focuses extremely heavily on the new hymnal, traditional liturgy, hymnody, chanting, handbells, choirs, and formal instrumental ensembles. Is there anything wrong with that?? NO! I love all of those things and I feel they are an essential part to praising our Lord. They should be done well in order to heighten the congregation’s ability to worship our Lord fully in a service. A conference is a great idea! I want that to be said before I make my next point: what are we doing to prepare our (LCMS) church body for alternative styles of worship beyond the hymnal? Some people may call this style contemporary, but I’ll blog about my issues with that word some other time. Yet, despite my reservations, I will continue to use this term for the sake of the understanding of my audience.
This blog is not for or against contemporary worship, but a desire for the preparation of worship leaders/musicians to come. Everyone has to admit that the contemporary style is growing more and more each year in our Lutheran churches (all churches-but I’m focusing the talk on LCMS today). How will we prepare our musicians, worship leaders, pianists, guitarists, vocalists, etc for this task? These worship services should not be there just to appease those in the congregation who want a different style, but rather be given the same attention and professionalism we give to our “traditional” services. So when and where does this happen?
I suggest that this happens in our Concordia University System. This is where we train up pastors, teachers, DCEs, DCOs, missionaries, deaconesses and in some cases, our musicians. Shouldn’t we train up our contemporary worship leaders there too? I thank the student-led organization called FISH at Concordia, St.Paul for developing my skills and passion for worship leading. The school offers a Church Music Major, but only for choir directors and organists. You can play guitar in this program, but where are the skills and methodology of worship taught to our future leaders? Not the history of worship (of which there is a class- and extremely beneficial) but the planning, process, creation, scope, reason, and leading of worship.
A music director in an LCMS church today needs to have the knowledge and ability to lead worship music from the hymnal and current contemporary worship styles. If we are to preserve the Biblical foundation (especially in worship) which our LCMS church is based upon, we must be prepared to train our church musicians for an ever-changing church of the future.