Mega Lutheran Churches

Two Sundays ago I visited two Lutheran (ELCA) mega-churches in Minnesota, where my wife and I attended a wedding. These two churches are much larger and more Evangelical than any Lutheran church that I know back East. There’s lots that I could write about, but let me keep it short and sweet for now.

What I experienced:

  • Large, welcoming, easy-to-navigate, family and handicapped-friendly facilities that resembled large assembly halls/auditoriums more than traditional church structures
  • People who genuinely were glad to see us at worship
  • Praise worship led by well-rehearsed rock band who did a great job at both churches
  • Worship that began with several enthusiastic songs, followed by prayer, reading, lengthy sermon, closing prayer (ie, no liturgical form similar to that found in the Lutheran Book of Worship or With One Voice)
  • Worship leaders constantly offered their insights and perspectives that intend to explain, instruct and otherwise frame the hearing of God’s Word for the listeners. They did this through a several-minute intrdocution of a bible reading, the sermon, and through the prayers and (spontaneous?) commentary offered throughout service.
  • Very few traditional liturgical elements – Lord’s Prayer said at both, Holy Communion not celebrated at either church today, Apostle’s Creed said at one of the churches, and no kyrie, prayer of the day, etc. etc..
  • Not clear to me to what being Lutheran means to these churches (to be fair I only spent one service at each of these churches, and didn’t attend any adult education classes). At one church’s bookstore, they didn’t have a single book about or by Martin Luther (I asked one of the staff people who looked up the store’s inventory on her computer).
  • Pastors and worship leaders who dressed casually (no albs, robes, stoles, or clergy shirts)

As much as I appreciate that these churches have something good going, I fear that this style of worship depends too much on the personality, style and/or perspectives of the pastor and worship leaders. Like it or not, the lectionary and church calendar offer a discipline and structure that a looser style just doesn’t offer. Additionally, these two mega churches actually offered less Scripture than most traditional liturgical churches offer (think of the three readings, the psalm and the scriptural citations that make up the liturgy in traditional-style churches!).

These churches were missing the liturgy – something which really embraces and expresses the Christian experience (confession, forgiveness, praise, word, peace, meal, blessing, etc. etc.). Now what I really want to see is a church that does the liturgy in a daringly engaging, lively, culturally-relevant way. That would be a treat!

Published by Chris Duckworth

Spouse. Parent. Lutheran Pastor. Veteran. Jedi. Political Junkie. Baseball Fan.

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