Making music

I can’t remember an issue of The Lutheran Witness I’ve enjoyed as much as your March 2009 offering. I grew up in the WELS and joined the LCMS as a young adult. I’ve been active in church music in some form for my entire ministry. I’m in the music ministry today because my fifth-grade teacher at a Lutheran school, who was the choir director and organist, took the time to mentor me and encourage my interest in church music.

I didn’t have the opportunity the young adults have now at Lutheran Summer Music. It’s wonderful to see that, in an age when digital reproduction and performance of music is popular, we still take the time to nurture youth who have a heart for church music. The comment by Dr. Reed Lessing on page 8 of the March issue is so true:  “When biblical truth and doctrine are set to music, they become devotional, memorable, teachable, and transformational.”

Thanks again for an encouraging issue.

David Hagen
Horicon, Wis.

Thank you so much for your article in the March Lutheran Witness, “Nurturing Tomorrow’s Church Musicians.” It was very heartwarming to learn about the enthusiasm and energy with which the staff and youthful participants joined their efforts in the Lutheran Summer Music (LSM) program. They brought a great deal of sincere love of music, a desire to share that with others, and, in so doing, to bring glory to God, obeying Jesus’ command in Matt. 5:16: “Let your light shine before men.”

They do, indeed, shine brightly, and all the more so because of that shared experience. May it succeed greatly!

I wish that such enthusiasm for organ music was the case here, where, after playing organ for various churches for over 46 years, I have been told that people don’t want to hear organ music anymore. Our new vicar is trying to change that, but our church leaders prefer modern tunes.

Please convey my sincerest wishes to the musicians—that they enjoy long, satisfying careers, especially Whitney Sabrowsky, since she has the same enthusiasm for the organ that I had at her age. My hope is that the staff and supporters of LSM continue to encourage and refine the skills and talents of so many fine young people who love their Lord.

Roger Littge, M.D.
Davis, Calif.

I would like to say “God bless you” for your March 2009 issue of The Lutheran Witness in which you highlighted music ministry and the nurturing of tomorrow’s church musicians, the reference to the list of the 288 Levitical musicians, and the mention of the great composer, J.S. Bach.

It has been an honor and a blessing for me to be an organist in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod for 53 years now, but my greatest pleasure has been to nurture upcoming young organists, three of whom are being nurtured right now—the youngest, 12 years of age.

May God bless all those involved in music ministry in all church congregations!

Annette Newton Haas
Our Savior Lutheran Church
Burlington, Wis.

I was quite surprised that the March Lutheran Witness cover pictured a young musician in front of a traditional pipe organ. I really didn’t see anything in the issue about producing young keyboardists, drummers, reggae, and hip-hop artists for today’s church, let alone tomorrow’s. Classical organ has been great for a long time, but it’s no longer reaching people for Jesus Christ where I live and worship.

Roger Johnson
Jehovah–El Buen Pastor
Lutheran Church
Chicago, Ill.


Your March Lutheran Witness article, “Nurturing Tomorrow’s Church Musicians,” about the Lutheran Summer Music Academy focused solely on traditional, classic worship music. Without questioning the value of this institution or style of worship, there was no mention of encouraging youth or adults whose congregations use blended and contemporary music in worship. With the enormous percentage of LCMS congregations that regularly use contemporary worship songs, instruments, or liturgies in at least one worship service every week, it is truly amazing that our Synod and educational institutions provide little guidance in presenting theologically sound training, music, or worship forms to these churches. To fill this void, some congregations resort to using the “top 40” songs from Christian radio stations, many of which are not appropriate for worship or are not theologically sound.

When will the LCMS understand that we must distinguish clearly between those things of God with which we must dare never tamper (like doctrine), and our manmade traditions and adiaphora which may–and sometimes should change in order to reach people of new generations and cultures? World War I forced many Lutheran churches to give up the German language in America … or they’d probably be using it yet today! The average age of a church member in the LCMS is now 68 years old! Why are 75 percent of our baptized youth leaving the church? While the truth of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the same, reaching youth of Gen-X, Gen-Y, and millennial generations with only classic, traditional hymns and pipe organs may be putting a stumbling block in their way of hearing God’s Word–as much as trying to preach to them in German if they do not understand that language. But instead of then attempting to teach them all German, why not reach them in their own language and culture? The Apostle Paul was willing to be creative and innovative in proclaiming the Gospel, “so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19–22).

Clearly, the “elephant in the living room” of the LCMS currently is worship style, and it is time to discuss both sides of the issue openly. It might be surprising to many traditionalists that LCMS congregations who use blended and contemporary worship are theologically conservative, confessional Lutherans who have no desire to remove a Trinitarian invocation or benediction, confession and absolution, Scripture readings, Christocentric Law and Gospel sermons, ecumenical creeds, the Lord’s Supper or the Lord’s Prayer from worship! Why can’t gifted LCMS musicians and composers rewrite the canticles of the mass in a style and for musical instruments that would be meaningful to young people? Can’t we write good, modern hymns and spiritual songs? How many young people today regularly listen to classical music? But that’s how we present classic worship! Of all of the musical instruments mentioned in Scripture, pipe or electronic organs aren’t once listed (and please don’t try to tell me that the flutes and pipes mentioned in the Psalms are pipe organs!).

What LCMS academy, synodical commission, support group, publishing house, or educational institution can help us provide good quality, doctrinally sound music for blended and contemporary churches that is based on a theology of the cross and speaks the language of people in the 21st century? Step forward … now!

Rev. Dr. Paul B. Dancy
Senior Pastor
Praise Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Ind.

For years, Gethsemane, Tempe, Ariz., has had three styles of worship every Sunday: Traditional, blended, and contemporary. Our church is one of hundreds in our Synod which have multiple and varied worship experiences weekly. Your article about training young musicians was excellent, but there was no mention of the need for musicians who are trained for our kind of congregation. No Lutheran university offers a degree program which includes traditional and contemporary worship forms. This, while perhaps 50-60 percent of LCMS attendees attend a church with multiple worship offerings.

Dave Anderson
Phoenix, Ariz.


Editor’s note: Both Concordia University, Irvine, Calif., and Concordia University Nebraska, Seward, now offer degree programs that include both traditional and contemporary worship forms. Earlier this year, Concordia, Irvine, added a worship-arts leadership minor; also, the university has had a director of contemporary worship arts since 2005. This fall, Concordia Nebraska debuts a contemporary/diverse music program that will offer certification in four areas. Concordia University Chicago, Concordia University Texas, and Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn., also include, or are expanding or revamping their programs to include, experience and training in contemporary worship forms.

With regard to the average age of an LCMS member, the LCMS Department of Research Services reports that it receives several inquiries each year regarding the average/median age of LCMS members. While the Synod does not collect demographic data from its congregations, information gleaned from public surveys and periodic religious surveys tracked by the department indicate that the likely median age (half above, half below) of LCMS members would be in the mid-40s, and of attendees, the low 50s. Likewise, no reliable figures are available on the number of baptized youth leaving the church. Again, however, based on available surveys and research, of the three-quarters of Protestant church members who indicated a period of two or more years of inactivity, approximately two-thirds returned eventually to active participation in a congregation–although it might not be a congregation of the denomination in which they were raised.


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