I’ve been struggling of late with the question of whether using ‘traditional’ worship is at odds with saving the lost. The premise seems to be that the lost are in a culture, and those coming from this culture will be hindered by our worship form.
This premise seems to be widely accepted, with various resulting actions. One option is to have multiple worship services, ‘contemporary’ as a service which is more casual and friendly — theoretically more welcoming to ‘seekers’ — and ‘traditional’ for those who prefer it. Another option is to try and blend the old and new into a hybrid worship which is hopefully more welcoming to the lost, yet retains what we see as good in the liturgy.
However, I wonder if this premise assumes bad doctrine. That we can do something to affect the salvation of an individual beyond that which God has promised.
God promises to work through His Word and sacraments — earthly means combined with the Word and connected to a promise. These are what save. Is not evangelism simply preaching the Word, in season and out of it? Do the lost need something different from the saved? I think not. God saves sinners through His Word. This Word needs to be preached to the lost and the saved.
So isn’t classical Christian worship and liturgy what the lost need? Because where better is God’s saving word delivered to you? Evangelicals worship like evangelicals because they believe what evangelicals believe. Namely, that you need to make a decision for Christ. By utilizing their logic, methods, and ideas for evangelism, are we not accepting their premise?
Scripture described the fallen state of mankind as completely and utterly opposed to God. This individual will not suddenly be interested in God’s saving Word because the music is what he likes. This individual will come to church because the Holy Spirit has worked in him. At which point, what he needs is clear, sound truth. Confession and absolution. Law and Gospel. Not some fluffy ‘praise song’ to make him feel better. He needs liturgy.
So perhaps the solution to our woes of losing existing members and not bringing in new ones isn’t to double down on techniques founded in heterodoxy. Perhaps we simply continue to preach the Word.
Luther once stated that:
For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain which does not return where it has once been. It has been with the Jews, but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have nothing. Paul brought it to the Greeks; but again when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the Turk. Rome and the Latins also had it; but when it’s gone it’s gone, and now they have the pope. And you Germans need not think that you will have it forever, for ingratitude and contempt will not make it stay. Therefore, seize it and hold it fast, whoever can; for lazy hands are bound to have a lean year. — LW 45:352
We in America may be watching the shower pass on. There is only one thing we can do about it. Preach the Word. Teach the Word. Catechize the young, old, and everyone in between. Never let go of the truth which we have. No amount of ‘new methods’ will cause it to return.