How many words is a picture worth?

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Here is a recent picture from my former congregation.  What does this picture say?

The baptismal font in the lower left corner shows that there was a baptism.  So this was not a concert.  The pastor was wearing red.  The liturgical color of white for Easter was being displayed.  The altar and a statue of Jesus were covered up by a big screen TV.  (Normally, in this congregation, only the unused pulpit is covered by a TV screen).  What else does the picture say?

The Facebook caption for the photo is: “Sunday Worship with Koine.”  (Built on the Rock, St. Peter Lutheran, Appleton, WI).  Koine is known for playing only hymns out of the hymnal, but the lyrics displayed on the screen say: “I pulled my coat tight, against the calling crowd.”  That doesn’t sound like a hymn, but who knows.

This picture has captured some attention on the internet.  For example, LCMS Pastor Todd Wilken (the host of Issues, Etc.) used the picture as “a general illustration of how contemporary worship distracts from the focus on the Word and Sacraments.”  (The Bare Bulb, “An Act of Aggression,” comment).  Does this picture illustrate how contemporary worship distracts from the means of grace, or does it illustrate genuine Lutherans using all their God given gifts to the best of their ability?

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4 thoughts on “How many words is a picture worth?

  1. What does the picture above say? It looks to me like Christians praising and worshipping God in His sanctuary similar to what the writer of Psalm 150 wrote about. Todd Wilken’s comment that the picture is “a general illustration of how contemporary worship distracts from the focus on the Word and Sacraments” is ludicrous and unfounded. The grace of God is not delineated by the location of the baptismal font, the pulpit, what the pastor is wearing, a statue of Jesus, or even the cross for that matter. That grace is solely God’s word and the sacraments. If God’s word and sacraments were being spoken and dispensed then I see no reason to complain or judge what this congregation was doing at that particular worship service.

  2. I cannot say how much this saddens me. I’ve been a fan of Koiné for quite some time, but to see that they would put themselves before the altar and the Word of God…

    If this were a concert that would be one thing, if they were plating their hymns, and songs (the non-hymns they sing, that I’ve heard, are rather sound doctrinally) to the side or in the back of the church that would be one thing, but to place them in front of the Divine Liturgy. Sad.

  3. There appears to be a lot of assumptions about this picture. It is dangerous to associate contemporary worship with detracting from God’s Word. We often use slide shows during sermons and our screen partially blocks the alter. Does that mean we are detracting from God’s Word?

    I do not believe this church did anything wrong except post a picture that would “cause others to stumble”, although I know that was not their intent. Churches need to be more careful about the pictures they share on the Internet. An innocent picture can cause a lot of problems for churches. This is an excellent example of the backlash that can occur.

  4. To: stmatthewswinona,

    “Does that mean we are detracting from God’s Word?”

    Yes. Simply the fact that you have a slideshow takes the dignity that the Divine Liturgy, the Word of God and the sacraments deserve away. It detracts, or distracts from the Word. It’s the equivalent of having a children’s sermon in the service. It dumbs things down, and panders to sentimentality.

    Causing others to stumble is a very serious matter, but you are correct in regard to our reactions. More information is necessary. Perhaps this is a concert. After all the pastor is not vested. If this is a concert and not a worship service I’d say it is completely meet and right, but that’s a big if.

    You are not correct, however, when you say that churches need to be more careful abut what pictures they put up in the internet. What they need to be more careful about is assuring that their practice is in concord with their dogma.

    A Lutheran service should never look like the local Mega-Church mishigas, Baptist blow-out, or Zwinglian psalm sing.

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