Church – It’s Not About Us…: Duane W.H. Arnold, PhD

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201 Responses

  1. Josh says:

    I could not agree more. Yesterday morning, I preached a sermon that hinted at this, but last night, I taught specifically on this.

  2. Duane Arnold says:


    Thanks… keep preaching and teaching it… it cannot be emphasized too much!

  3. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I agree – and our most important function as Christians is to learn / teach proper doctrine, and to learn teach the proper handling of theology.
    The rest, our feelings and interactions with others will take care of themselves through this.
    As another point, the divine worship service is all (that would be 100%) about God, and none (that would be 0%) about us. God’s mission is to deliver is good gifts of grace and forgiveness.
    Fine article.

  4. Michael says:

    I maintain that the Incarnation is the least appreciated and most misunderstood doctrine in the church as a whole.
    It’s taught backwards…He didn’t come to simply be like us, but to make us like Him.
    The Eastern traditions have it all over the Western ones on this subject…

  5. Josh says:

    MLD – not starting a fight in Duane’s thread, just asking for clarification. When you say the Lutheran service is all about God, do you guys not do any application of the text?

  6. Duane Arnold says:


    You’ve got it exactly right. Gregg and Groh’s book on Arianism showed that the Arians had a really developed soteriology based on Christ as the perfect man, but as Forster pointed out, it did not take us any closer to heaven.

  7. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, in the worship service itself or in life?

  8. Josh says:

    The sermon / Homily / message..whatever you call it. Is it straight bible reading, or is there some application drawn?

  9. Duane Arnold says:


    In the Anglican tradition, there is application based upon the readings for the day. But the expectation is that application really comes through participation in worship – confession, absolution, the Peace, the Eucharist, etc. It is very much Lex orandi, lex credendi …

  10. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, using your thought pattern I would say the application is ‘God for I’d.
    I am think your way would be ‘now what can we do for God’.
    I could be wrong – but West Coast SBC were fond of that.

  11. Josh says:

    “that application really comes through participation”

    Would that be to say, that the discipline of carrying out these acts of worship actually form you into the person God wants you to be? Am I reading that right?

  12. Josh says:

    MLD, I don’t think you are understanding the question, and maybe I didn’t phrase it clearly. Don’t want to get Duane’s thread off track, so I’ll let it go.

  13. Duane Arnold says:


    To an extent. It has been the position of the church from the earliest centuries that worship/liturgy is not only “transformative”, it is also “formative”…

  14. Josh says:

    Duane – thanks. That is helpful.

  15. Steve says:

    The section describing professional lighting, church facilities, worship songs and choruses and attire are all adiaphora. Neither the highly liturgical or the low church setting is recommended in the New Testament. I think Jesus probably wore sandals in the synagog. I wish these preferences wouldn’t always be about measuring ones motivation in regard to their bad theology. So what is the real theology behind a multi-million dollar highly ornate cathedrals and the clergy wearing vestments? Is it honestly to bring the divinity of Christ closer to us or is there some other motivation? I ask, not because I doubt the sincerity but rather the motivations are probably not the same across the board.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    In my limited experience, wrong motivation often stands behind bad theology…

  17. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My comment at 8:25 should have read “God for you.”
    I think auto correct had a Freudian moment 🙂

  18. Captain Kevin says:

    This is gold! Although I do attend a stage and lights type of church, I’ve often sensed that there’s just way too much ME and not enough HIM in our worship.

  19. Jean says:


    “The section describing professional lighting, church facilities, worship songs and choruses and attire are all adiaphora.”

    I think if we were to drill down into these different elements, we would find that they are not all adiaphora.

  20. Xenia says:

    I would argue, however, that a proper understanding of the Incarnation is not about making Christ more like us, but about Christ making us more like him and, in consequence, drawing us ever more into the life of God. <<<

    Eastern Orthodox theology in one beautiful sentence.

  21. Steve says:

    Duane, my point about motivation is we don’t know what people’s motivation is. To use something we don’t know to judge their theology is backwards in my opinion.

  22. Xenia says:

    Steve, when one decides that coolness in more important than holiness, it’s not adiaphora at all.

  23. Duane Arnold says:


    …and High Anglican…

  24. Duane Arnold says:


    Having talked professionally and casually to a multitude of pastors/priests over the last 40+ years, I have some sense of the motives…

  25. Michael says:


    The set up of the church tells us something about the theology.
    For example, the Reformation moved the pulpit to where the altar used to be…demonstrating that the Word preached now took precedence over the Eucharist…

  26. Michael says:


    and even a muddled Anglican like me…

  27. Xenia says:

    My old CC pastor used to get uncomfortable if the worship team got too glitzy and rock-band-like. He enjoyed Praise & Worship music, but he really wanted it to be about God and not about the people. When he and I had our big confab when I left for Orthodoxy, I commented on how empty I found many of the worship tunes and he was quite surprised. He said he really worshiped God through that music. And you know what? I believe him.

  28. Xenia says:

    Ok, gotta bug outta this good discussion as I have a dreadful linguists test to study for.

  29. Captain Kevin says:

    Michael: “…muddled Anglican…”

    I like that! At least you have a firm tradition behind muddled. I’m not sure what I would put in that place. Maybe I’m just simply muddled.

  30. Steve says:

    Xenia,. I agree that’s why I asked about the motivations for highly decorated and expensive cathedrals and churches. I’ve only been in a few Catholic churches and they were absolutely beautiful. Or can I say cool? Some folks are really into all these beautiful but expensive art and statues, etc. It’s really cool! But is it holy? How do we know someone’s motivation?

  31. Xenia says:

    I agree that’s why I asked about the motivations for highly decorated and expensive cathedrals and churches<<<

    Here's the thing about those old gothic cathedrals. Everyone in the community contributed, even dirt poor farmers gave something to the effort. As a result, they felt the cathedral was just as much theirs as the rich nobleman. They felt they were part of the Kingdom of God just as much as the Archbishop.

  32. Xenia says:

    However, I am always suspicious of the motives of medieval Catholic hierarchs ….

  33. Michael says:

    Cathedral architecture was carefully constructed to teach certain theological truths…it wasn’t just about being pretty…

  34. Duane Arnold says:

    Moreover, I’ve led worship in cathedrals and in little county parishes. It’s not about the splendor or the simplicity of the place of worship. It is about what is done in that space…

  35. Jean says:

    So, perhaps the relevant question should not be “behind the thing,” as in “What motivated the original designer of the thing?” (because in some cases we know and in other cases we don’t know), but instead “What does the thing say and teach to someone who is exposed to the thing?”

  36. Jean says:

    For example,

    If my sanctuary has an altar, it teaches conformity to Hebrews XIII, X.

    If my building has no altar, it teaches a low (to absent) theology of the Lord’s Supper.

  37. Duane Arnold says:


    Rather than simply pointing this in a “sacramental” direction (I’ve seen the Eucharist celebrated on the hood of a Jeep) perhaps we simply ask other questions such as, “What do I expect when I enter a building and see a stage?” What is being communicated, and why?

    I’m not here to plead for my particular tradition, but to look at the theology that stands behind how and why things are done…

  38. Steve says:

    Sometimes there is no theology behind why things done a certain way. It could be design by committee where their are lots of voices incorporated or it can be as simple as it was extremely practical. Does the church building need a theology?

  39. Duane Arnold says:

    It reflects a theology… as has been said in numerous posts above…

  40. Josh says:

    What constitutes an altar?

  41. Jean says:


    There are basically three strands of thought that have guided classical church architecture and furnishings:

    (1) Symbolize what takes place there;
    (2) Facilitate worship by pointing hearts and minds to the Triune God; and
    (3) Tell stories from the Bible.

  42. Josh says:

    New testament church didn’t seem to think along those lines.

  43. Jean says:

    “What constitutes an altar?”

    It is a physical place where gifts are consecrated, sacrifices offered, and Christ meets with His people. In Hebrews, it is the place which provides the Lord’s Supper.

  44. Josh says:

    Interesting how much we read through the lens of our tradition.

    I think Duane is right on in this article, but I’m afraid you all thought he was talking to someone else. THe entire church could use his corrective here.

  45. Steve says:

    People confuse and conflate the “church” with a ” church building”. Good theology in my opinion will keep the building out of an ecclesiology discussion. I personally like church outside. Nothing better than an outdoor sunrise Easter service. Nothing but, His people, God and His creation present.

  46. Duane Arnold says:


    That was the point. In the modern era, much of our time, effort and attention is spent substituting “the human for the divine…” The issue here is theology… not, “I like this…” or “I like that…” Indeed, even going down that path seems to prove the point.

  47. Duane Arnold says:


    “People confuse and conflate the “church” with a ” church building”.

    Give us a little credit. I think most of us are well aware of the distinction.

  48. Xenia says:

    Steve, but there is theology behind your preference for an outside service. You have a theology about the use of physical objects such as altars, chalices, vestments, icons, crucifixes, bread, wine, holy water, chrism, etc. in the worship of God. Your theology says that none of these things are important and in fact, may be non-Christian. Your preference for outside services that are “free,” (you might say) from man-made traditions is reflective of the entire stream of Protestant thought as it culminates in your preferences.

    Theology is everywhere. 🙂

  49. Xenia says:

    I think I should have said “evangelical” instead of “Protestant.”

    But it did start with the Reformation, where all the good stuff was stripped from churches and replaced with a big old pulpit.

  50. Josh says:

    I think that Steve is saying that those things (nor an outdoors service) are prescribed in Scripture, and thus there is freedom.

  51. Josh says:

    “where all the good stuff was stripped from churches ”

    Nevermind. If even Xenia has to get in on the mud-sling, I’m out. You guys enjoy your perefect sacramental churches. Once the rest of us stop commenting you can go back to condemning one another over whatever separated you in the first place.

  52. Steve says:

    Duane,. When I looked up the word ecclesiology, to my surprise the first definition is the study of church buildings. I always thought ecclesiology was the study of the church, so this definition caught me off guard to put the building as the first definition. But I can see even in my own tradition where we tend to emphasize the building as the church. It’s a correction I’ve heard a couple times from our own pulpit. I didn’t mean to be condescending but it is something we all needed to be reminded of especially when it comes to church budgets.

  53. Duane Arnold says:


    It’s not the “stuff” (as I said above) it’s the theology.

  54. Xenia says:

    Josh, forgive me. I did not mean to sling mud.

    I do think icons and crosses are good things.

    Please come back and I will not say anything more.

  55. Duane Arnold says:


    I don’t know what theological dictionary or systematics in which you looked up “ecclesiology”. If the first definition is the study of church buildings, I’d throw it out…

  56. Josh says:

    Duane, I understood your post. I don’t think anyone else did. I’ll continue going about this methodology in my own world, and maybe one day, we’ll be perfect like the others here.

  57. Xenia says:

    Josh, all I meant to say (and I should have left it at that) is that even a preference for outdoors services is based on theology, just as a preference for ornate churches is based on theology.

  58. Steve says:

    Josh, thank you. You said it well. It’s freedom. The outdoor service only works for me when the weather is perfect. Maybe once a year. I don’t understand why that has to have a huge theology behind it. Gosh, if you want to use your silver chalis than go for it outside. We humans spend way too much time in doors. Go outside and get some vitamin D every now and then if possible. My theology in this situation is probably our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Go get some sun light. It will do the body some good.

  59. Josh says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Xenia. And I agree with your last comment.

  60. Duane Arnold says:


    We all operate in our own worlds. An example: For almost 300 years most Anglican churches had a baptismal font to the side of the nave or in a side chapel. Baptism was usually a private, family affair. In the last 50-100 years the font has been moved in most Anglican churches to the entryway of the nave and baptisms are now generally done in public, not private, services. This was to reflect the theology that we enter the Church through the waters of baptism. I think this is a good change. We make use of the physical to communicate our theology… for good or ill.

  61. Duane Arnold says:

    If you want to deal with theology, don’t start with Webster’s dictionary…

  62. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Xenia, all the good stuff was not thrown out with the Reformation – at least in the Lutheran Reformation which was uniquely different from what the Reformed and the radical reformers did.
    Walk into most confessional Lutheran churches today, even in America and you would have difficulty distinguishing the looks and liturgy from an RCC.

  63. Duane Arnold says:

    I think it is fair to say, in both the case of Lutheranism and Anglicanism, much has been re-claimed since the Reformation. A great book about what was lost is, ‘The Stripping of the Altars’ by Eamon Duffy.

  64. Xenia says:

    MLD, that was why I posted my follow-up post.

    My sister’s LCMS has a really spectacular crucifix hanging over the altar area.

  65. Xenia says:

    Actually, my follow-up post doesn’t answer your 11:50. I wasn’t thinking about Lutheranism when I was visiting the old cathedrals in Great Britain with the smashed-in faces of the Virgin Mary. I do not believe the Lutherans would have done that, nor do I believe modern Anglicans would do this. Passions ran high in the 1500’s and people did things then that I doubt they would do now.

  66. Josh says:

    Di you guys read the article? 🙂

  67. Jean says:

    We’ve discussed a little about the church architecture and the altar, which again (together with candles) in classical churches were designed to teach Christ’s presence in the Divine Service and what takes place there, the elements in a classic Christian service include other biblical elements:

    “And they devoted themselves to” (i) the apostles’ teachings, (ii) the common offering, (iii) the the Lord’s Supper, and (iv) the Lord’s Prayer. It appears that in many if not most contemporary services (iii) and (iv) have been done away with or marginalized.

    Psalms are a part of the service (Col. 3:16) as are hymns and spiritual songs to the end that “the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” I wonder if that standard for Christian worship music is still followed in contemporary worship music? Do any contemporary services include congregational praying of the psalms?

    The Confession of Faith has been a standard part of classic Christian worship going back to the NT. I haven’t seen confessions of faith used in the contemporary services I’ve visited. Why were they done away with?

    Then there is what has replaced these classical elements and what a difference those changes have made in terms of theology?

  68. Steve says:

    Duane,. You are the one that said most of us are aware of the distinctiin between a church and it’s building. I guess you are only referring to those on this blog. The word has multiple legitimate meanings and we need to be careful with context and many confuse the two. In fact I do every Sunday when I say I am going to church. What I mean is I am going to the church building.

  69. Josh says:

    Nope. Didn’t read the article. Just found, yet another, venue to say “My church is the right one, yours is not”.

  70. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The furnishings of a church also speak directly to your theology. In Lutheran churches it has been common to have the baptismal font at the entrance to the sanctuary. The parishioners come in, dip their fingers in the baptismal water, cross themselves as a reminder that they entered THE CHURCH through their baptism.
    Many groups have a different theology about baptism and how one enters the church – so they would never think of doing such – at worse they find this theology and practice revolting.

    To match this up to the article, we do not find this as an ‘add-I’m but pointing people to the work of Jesus.

  71. Xenia says:

    Do any contemporary services include congregational praying of the psalms?<<<

    I do remember that a lot of CC worship songs were Psalms set to music.

  72. Duane Arnold says:


    Time to put on your shades… ?

  73. Josh says:


    Hello (hello…hello…hello…)

  74. Duane Arnold says:

    OK… Apart from the EO, from the fifth century forward, church architecture has developed. In the medieval era, as the Eucharist was often only received by the people at Christmas and Easter, the altar became increasingly separated from the people. Rood screens began to be used. As baptisms were familial affairs, there was usually a separate chapel for the font. At the Reformation, may of these things were changed BECAUSE OF THEOLOGY!!! Many, if not most, of the screens were brought down, to reflect a new theology of frequent reception of the Lord’s Supper. By the 19th century, however, in both Anglicanism and Lutheranism (apart from the Scandinavians) reception became infrequent once again. Church arrangements changed in the late 19th and early 20th century as patristic and liturgical studies indicated frequent reception, the font at the entry way, etc. THEY CHANGED BECAUSE OF THEOLOGY!!! What we see around us in the contemporary situation is also owing to a theological perspective. Often, it is rooted in “Jesus is my best friend” theology. Almost everything, whether among the EO, the Anglicans, the Lutherans, or the CC down the street has a theological basis… It’s not about the stuff, its about the theology…

  75. Jean says:

    In terms of the church worship service, there is a Greek word, “eusebeia,” which basically means “right reverence”. That word can be translated “piety,” but in modern translations is often translated “godliness.” However, to the modern reader, “godliness” typically connotes a moral quality and directs the individual inward, rather than piety or right reverence for Christ, which in worship focuses the individual outward to Christ from whom all blessings flow.

    This move has profound consequences

  76. Jean says:

    Churches are then generally organized to deliver primarily either (a) moral advice to Christians who then advance their sanctification, or, on the other hand, (b) faith, the forgiveness of sins, peace with God and rest, to Christians who come as beggars looking for the bread of life, apart from the law.

  77. Duane Arnold says:


    I’m afraid that is a blanket statement lacking in nuance… I’m not sure that the entire Christian community across the globe can be so easily described…

  78. Xenia says:

    Jean, it’s not that binary.

    At my parish we are given, what I believe you might call, “moral advice” from the Gospel and Epistle readings or from the example of Saint’s life. This is for the purpose of what you are calling “advancing our sanctification” and I am all in favor of it. Yet we also receive forgiveness of sins through confession and the reception of the Eucharist.

    So not so binary as you suggest.

  79. Em says:

    worth repeating and repeating and…

    “As Forster observed, “…the strife still continues in the heart of men, ever prone to substitute the human for the divine…”

    I would argue, however, that a proper understanding of the Incarnation is not about making Christ more like us, but about Christ making us more like him and, in consequence, drawing us ever more into the life of God. “

  80. Jean says:

    Duane and Xenia,

    I agree. You are both correct. It is not binary.

    However, in John’s Prologue, he writes: “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

    The Jews had the law of Moses. In fact the whole world has the natural law. You don’t need to become a Christian or go to a Christian church to learn the law. I’m sure there are loads of moral non-Christians out in the world who could run moral circles around most Christians (especially me).

    Therefore, there is something unique about Jesus and in fact something indispensable about Him that we all desperately need, which is entirely apart from the law. If that is true, then shouldn’t a Christian church worship service focus on and distinguish Christianity from all other religions and philosophies on offer?

  81. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks…

  82. Duane Arnold says:


    We’re not going down this “Law and Gospel” road… Save it for catechism class…

  83. Jean says:

    Okay, Duane. As a last observation, then, I’ve heard many Protestants lean on the language from John 4 for why they worship in blue jeans, from a stage, with no cross, etc.:

    “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.”

    They rip this verse out of context to argue for a stripped down version of worship, while never really understanding “What is truth?” So, while I think that the law/gospel distinction is relevant and important to the topic, I am very grateful for your writing and more than willing to submit to your direction of the discussion.

  84. Steve says:

    So let’s not talk about law or gospel? Hmmm. I guess lighting and architecture and choruses and church buildings is what Jesus emphasized?

  85. Duane Arnold says:


    It may play a part, but I think it has much more to do with ignoring the work and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the Church over the course of some 2000 years. We somehow have to believe that we’ve discovered something “new”. It’s akin to a person who reads a book and all they will do is talk about that book as the answer to all questions… until they read the next book, attend the next conference, etc. If we really believe that the Holy Spirit works in the Church and has done so since Pentecost, to ignore that work is almost a denial of the efficacy of the third person of the Trinity. What we lack in the modern era is humility…

  86. Duane Arnold says:


    This is not the Lutheran Hour… and, by the way, it’s the proper distinction of Law AND Gospel…

  87. Jean says:

    Totally agree, Duane. I’ve made that argument here, and it wasn’t received well.

  88. Steve says:

    Duane. I’m not Lutheran. I’m reformed and the law gospel distinction is just as important to me as it is to Lutherans.

  89. Duane Arnold says:


    We do our best to stay on topic… although it is often a bit of a struggle.

  90. Josh says:

    This was a good article. It’s a shame it doesn’t apply to Lutherans, Anglicans, Orthodox, or Catholics. Duane, you should change the title to: Baptists – It’s not about you.

  91. Jean says:


    The article does apply to Lutherans. We, like all human beings, are naturally curved in to ourselves. The Latin term is Incurvatus in se. Therefore, the classical liturgy forces us against our fallen nature to look outside ourselves.

    The modern “it’s about me,” paradigm of Christian worship has infiltrated many Lutheran congregations. We see the short term benefits of church growth strategies. We see the (human) glory of large membership congregations. We are tempted by the devil to equate numbers with the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we Lutherans benefit from Duane’s reminder.

  92. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – I don’t know what you are talking about. My very first comment at 7:51 this morning agreed with Duane’s article and I emphatically said it is not about us.

    “As another point, the divine worship service is all (that would be 100%) about God, and none (that would be 0%) about us. God’s mission is to deliver is good gifts of grace and forgiveness. Fine article.”

    The funny part is that you objected to this and made a claim that application is all about us, although unlike the Baptist sermon, the Lutheran sermon is not about application – it is about revelation – who Jesus is and what he has done, NOT what we must do. Seriously, wouldn’t that be a terrible sermon, the pastor telling us what we have to do?

  93. Josh says:

    Funny, I didn’t object. I asked a question which you never answered.

    What’s the old saying though, “bit dog hollers”? May be just a southern saying.

  94. Josh says:

    Look, Baptists need this correction. The rest of you have made good cases for why your tribe already has it all down.

  95. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I answered at 8:25 but you said you did not want to discuss / disturb the thread.
    I stand by my answer – the divine worship service is about God – not me.

  96. Josh says:

    You answered something I didn’t ask.

  97. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Your question after I asked for clarification was “The sermon / Homily / message..whatever you call it. Is it straight bible reading, or is there some application drawn?”

    My answer was that the message is “God for us” – it is the revelation of God and his nature. Do you have an application? After such good news, such freeing from the bondage we suffer – do you bring your congregation back under the law (application) and send them off in the same manner they came in?

    I walk out thinking and thanking God for what he has done – I no longer walk out mentally organizing my new weekly To-Do list. It’s about God, not me / us.

  98. Duane Arnold says:


    We ALL stand in needing to take this on board. Josh, do you realize that you are forcing me to agree with MLD? Truly, the Apocalypse is here…

  99. Josh says:

    MLD – Application and law are not synonymous. Again, you make a great case for why your group has no use for this article.

  100. Josh says:

    Duane, all I’ve seen is great reasons from everyone about why their group is already ahead of this curve.

    I’ve just admitted that Baptists need this.

  101. Steve says:

    For the most part I get Duane’s point. However, there was talk about the alter. Wasn’t the alter associated with the temple and isn’t our bodies the temple of God? Seriously asking, why wouldn’t we be somehow part of the worship service? It’s a serious question and I hope I don’t get shut down as a heretic just for asking a seemingly reasonable question.

  102. Xenia says:

    The Orthodox Divine Liturgy, which hasn’t change much in many centuries and only changes slightly from week to week, IS all about God and I will not apologize for saying this.

    We have various problems but I don’t think this is one of them.

  103. Xenia says:

    Steve makes a good point when he says the we ourselves are a part of a worship service because it is we ourselves who are doing the worshiping. Pronouns like “we” are bound to occur in a church service and what’s the problem with that? “We praise You, we worship you, we bow down before you O Lord….” <— That's an Orthodox hymn.

  104. Jean says:

    No one has said Christians are not part of the worship service. The word “liturgy” means “work of the people.” In that liturgy or work, Christians pray, praise, give thanksgiving, offer the sacrifice of a contrite heart and our offerings, confess our faith and our sins, preach or listen (depending on our vocation).

  105. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Whatever we so in the service – pray, praise, worship, give money, however you describe it, it is still about God and not about us – at all.

  106. Jean says:


    “Wasn’t the alter associated with the temple and isn’t our bodies the temple of God?”

    A temple is a divine dwelling place. So, Paul could refer to the Christian as a temple of the Holy Spirit, because He dwells within the Christian.

    The temple is also Christ and His body where they gather for worship, e.g., “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

    There is also a heavenly temple, which Moses, Isaiah and John the Evangelist saw in visions, and which provided the pattern for the earthly Tabernacle and Temple in Jerusalem.

    Hebrews says that Christians “have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.” In other words, the Jews (or for that matter any other non-Christian religion) have no right to eat the Lord’s Supper from the Lord’s table.

    The altar is where God meets in a sacramental way with His people. In the OT, the priests on duty ate holy food sanctified on the altar of burnt offering. Today, Christians are priests who come to the Lord’s table to eat holy food sanctified by Jesus Christ.

  107. Josh says:

    That’s basing a whole lot on one verse from Hebrews…but OK. I won’t chase that rabbit right now. This rabbit, I will:

    “Whatever we so in the service – pray, praise, worship, give money, however you describe it, it is still about God and not about us – at all.”

    Is there seating in Lutheran churches? Are those seats there in case God’s legs get tired? Obviously, if we made seats “all about God”, we’d make them with padding too.
    AC? God don’t like to sweat on Sunday morning. See, it’s 100% about God and 0% about us.

    Gosh guys, it is so easy to constantly point the finger at those “other” Christians who are messing everything up. Much tougher to try a little introspection. For those who have arrived, maybe a pointed finger is enough.

  108. Randy Davis says:

    Duane I thought it was a very good article. Bad Christology will always lead believers astray. That’s all I will say because there’s a rowdy crowd here today. A simple, excellent observation, Then everyone was Kung fu fighting.

  109. Jean says:


    Paul makes a similar point here:

    “Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.”

    Call it an altar or a table, however, can a Christian church justify having neither?

  110. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – I guess I don’t understand your bellyaching. No one said we are right and you are wrong although you have made the claim about a half dozen times. Are you feeling guilty? Insecure – what is it.

    The title of the article is – “Church – It’s Not About Us…” I agreed from the get go — you seem to disagree. It is OK to disagree, just don’t make a day long stream of accusations along the way.

    You said you preached this weekend – did you make it only part half for God’s sake?

  111. Josh says:

    Uhhh, that’s not a similar point, at all.

  112. Josh says:

    You didn’t read the article, just the title. And used that as a jumping off point for self-righteousness.

    Again – who are the seats for? 100% for God? If you are here to brag, back it up!

  113. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I read the whole article early this morning and reread it later this afternoon to check you out when you started talking nonsense. – why would you call me a liar?

  114. Josh says:

    You lied about everything at your church being 100% for God. He doesn’t need chairs or AC.

  115. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    See, when people like Rick Warren, Steven Furtick and Joel Osteen go off on their fantasy sermons about you being the center of everything, they are doing exactly what Duane spoke of – making the message more appealing to the people by making them self important.
    Then the situation is more about us and less about God. I’m thinking they are over bearing on the application you love.

  116. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – the pews and the AC are gifts from God – that is what makes it all about him.

  117. Josh says:

    iN that case, the smoke machine is a gift from God.

  118. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    You missed a big point with your charge. I did not say 100% FOR God. I said 100% about God.
    “As another point, the divine worship service is all (that would be 100%) about God, and none (that would be 0%) about us. God’s mission is to deliver is good gifts of grace and forgiveness.”

    Words are important.

  119. Josh says:

    But by your accounting, ANYTHING can be 100% about God. Seats, AC< smoke machine, you name it .ALL ABOUT GOD (as long as MLD likes it.)

  120. Josh says:

    Look, I know this is obnoxious to everyone reading, so I will honestly bow out this time. The self-righteous, “Someone else is wrong”, thing that goes on here sometimes drives me crazy.

  121. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, you brought seats, AC and smoke machines into th conversation and the gave us the “whoa is me, they make it all about pews and AC.”
    Good night.

  122. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks… yes, there’s a rowdy crowd here tonight.

  123. Duane Arnold says:


    If it helps, I’m not sure that anyone gets it a 100% right. I think that in my tradition, as in all the others here, we need to back up a little bit and ask the simple question, “What is the theology behind what we are doing?” If we start from that question, rather than asserting that we’re right and everyone else is wrong, we might start living ourselves into some answers…

  124. Jim says:

    Me too, Josh.

  125. Xenia says:

    Josh, there is a difference between explaining what some of us do at our churches and declaring “someone else is wrong.”

  126. Not to invoke Law and Gospel, but quite a bit of the NT is about what we have to do, starting with the latter part of The Sermon On The Mount, later parables, The Council of Jerusalem, and The Letters, full of corrections of bad behaviors and poor theology, culminating with James. Actually, culminating with Jesus addressing The Seven Churches. Are not such issues worthy of discussion, or are they seen as more proper for Bible Study. Weren’t The Letters read in “service” to the early churches?

    All I know is that I’m close to being done with my CC. My son, who prefers to sit with my in service, told me that in Sunday school they told the kids that playing video games is a sin. What’s worse is that they told the kids that riding their bikes was a sin. He couldn’t explain the context. Even if I could guess a context (choosing self over serving the kingdom), it seems a bit much.

    We attended their cousin’s baptismo on Saturday. S9 was listening intently as I was describing various things in the RCC cathedral, like the candle with the Alpha and Omega, the eternal candle lamp (maybe there’s a real term for it? My mom loved antiques and used to have one), and the images I the stained glass. He was open to trying a liturgical church. D7 might resist, she’s stubborn.

    There’s a tiny EO parish two blocks from us. I’m kind of scared to try it out, being such a tiny parish where everyone likely knows everyone.

  127. Jean says:


    FWIW, “What is the theology behind what we are doing?” is the correct question. And it recognizes that, yes, there is a theology behind what we do or have in church, even when it is unstated and even where someone may not be conscious of it.

  128. Steve says:

    I like to differentiate a philosophy of ministry ( why we do the things we do) from theology proper (the study of God and his attributes). I understand in the Anglican tradition this doesn’t work so well but many other traditions making this dinstinction can be very useful.

  129. Xenia says:

    that in Sunday school they told the kids that playing video games is a sin. What’s worse is that they told the kids that riding their bikes was a sin.<<<

    This is what comes of giving untrained people the task of teaching Children about the faith. These are probably not the official teachings of the church you attend, just personal opinions of the Children's Ministry teacher who should probably stick to flannel graph stories about Noah's Ark.

    At my old CC, a boy asked if there would be video games in heaven; if not, he wasn't sure he wanted to go. The teacher assured him that there would be video games in heaven plus all the other things he liked on earth. Well, that was certainly a poor understanding of heaven, but it's the opposite of what your boy was told which just goes to show there is no standard teaching about this stuff; just the untrained teacher's pet ideas.

    As to bike riding, at a CC-like church (not CC) my son was a junior staff member. He wrenched his foot skateboarding and hobbled on crutches for a few weeks. He was chastised for skateboarding because such dangerous activities limit you ability to do God's work. (In other words, he became less useful for the pastor.) I told him to keep skateboarding because dangerous sports produce physical courage. He was being made to feel skateboarding was sinful and selfish. I though working for this pastor for peanuts was pretty unselfish.

    So to sum up: People just make stuff up but it can have a significant negative effect on young impressionable kids.

    If you go to the pastor and complain in the nicest possible way about whackadoodle teachings (don't get me started on the crazy things pastors' wives try to teach at the yearly women's retreats) you will be accused of undermining the church so "just pray about it." (I *did* pray about it and that's why I am talking to you, Mr. Pastor..)

  130. Duane Arnold says:


    Divorcing theology from practice is the root of the problem, not the solution…

  131. Jean says:


    Not to argue, but I wonder how one would distinguish between a “philosophy of ministry” and “theology proper”? Let’s take four common examples:

    (1) The church has/has not a cross prominently displayed in the front of the sanctuary. Is that a theology or a philosophy of ministry?

    (2) The church has musicians and singers in the front of the church facing the parishioners, who in tern face them, or the musicians and singers are in the rear of the church or off to the side. Theology or philosophy of ministry?

    (3) The church celebrates the Lord’s Supper once a quarter or weekly. Theology or philosophy of ministry?

    (4) The church prays the Lord’s Prayer together as part of the weekly service or the church does not use the Lord’s Prayer regularly. Theology or philosophy of ministry?

    I wonder if we will obtain a consensus here as to what is theology proper and what is philosophy of ministry (or both or neither)?

  132. Duane Arnold says:


    Philosophy of ministry (or practice) from what point of view – pastoral, lay, denominational, historical?

  133. Jean says:


    Those are interesting questions. You would have to ask Steve what he had in mind, since this is his proposal.

  134. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    May I suggest a book that speaks to this very point. Written by a Lutheran for the Lutheran churches – especially those Lutheran churches who are impacted “by the American Evangelical and Church Growth Movements”. He reminds readers that practice and doctrine are inextricably linked for those who are the body of Christ.
    The Fire and the Staff by Klemet Preus

    Even if you are not Lutheran, the point is your practice must match your doctrine. If you have strayed from good practice it is because, and perhaps you are not aware, but you theology has wandered.

    When they took down all 27 crosses at my final evangelical church, that was not a design and decoration decision – it was an absolute change in theology. (as a note I have said many times, a church does not need to have a cross – but when you do and then remove it, you are making a statement.)

  135. Duane Arnold says:


    The point is, when you divorce practice from theology you end up in a no-man’s-land where practice becomes the realm of a 51% decision, or a marketing strategy, or the whim of the pastor/priest, or the whim of a leading lay member, etc. The statements are prefaced with phrases such as, “I like…”, “I visited this church and they did…”, “I prefer…”, “I want…” etc.

    As the article title said… “It’s not about us”. When, however, we divorce theology from practice it becomes ALL about us…

  136. Jean says:


    I completely agree, as you know. And when “it becomes ALL about us,” two things happen:

    1) Community becomes a human creation (rather than God’s creation in Christ) knit together by the power, persuasion and/or charisma of a leader, which lasts only until one of two things occurs: (a) a more powerful, persuasive or charismatic leader comes along and overthrows the community, or (b) the leader dies, falls or leaves.

    2) When fallen human beings take the freedom to make it all about them, the gospel which comes as an offense to sinners is inevitably becomes the greatest victim.

  137. Duane Arnold says:


    … or sometimes, they become wildly successful… check out the local mega-church down the road…

  138. Jean says:


    When I left Methodism several years ago, our local mega-church pastor asked me to join his church (evangelical, non-denominational, Baptist in theology). He said: “Look at the movement of the Holy Spirit at my church, the sign of which is our great number of members.

    This coincidentally was one of Erasmus’ arguments against Luther addressed in Bondage of the Will. Erasmus argued that the Holy Spirit reveals God’s truth through signs He places in the church. If one looks back through time, one can decipher God’s truth through deciphering it in history. On the other hand, God would not allow manifest error to continue for hundreds of years in His own church. In this way Erasmus argued for the truthfulness of the doctrines taught by the Roman church.

    I suppose the same thing takes place today when the celebrity pastor points to a sign (e.g., our great membership) to validate his doctrine and practice.

  139. Josh says:

    “If you have strayed from good practice it is because, and perhaps you are not aware, but you theology has wandered.”

    Just taking MLD’s quote, but the question is for all…who then decides what is Good practice? (obviously the answer is God, but none of us strictly practice the regulative principle, so we’ll have to go a step down for the answer.)

  140. Steve says:

    I think using a philosophy of ministry instead of theology can help with contextualization in particular when it comes to cross cultural and multicultural missions and ministry. The theology can be consistent but the philosophy tailored to the culture. The philosophy of ministry from my perspective isn’t a pastor/layman point of view but rather the points of view of those doing the ministering and those being ministered to.

  141. Duane Arnold says:


    At 9:06 I posted this question: “Philosophy of ministry (or practice) from what point of view – pastoral, lay, denominational, historical?” Same question applies…

  142. Duane Arnold says:


    See my article in the archives: Context, Content and Identity

  143. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    This gets pretty dumb when we just throw up our hands and say no one can determine what is good practice, and by extension proper theology as we argue here, therefore any and all practices are acceptable.

  144. Josh says:

    Or, you could just answer my question.

  145. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, my point has been that practice comes out of theology and should be consistent, and it usually is – good or bad.

    I think infant baptism says much about a church’s belief or unbelief in original sin.

  146. Duane Arnold says:


    “…therefore any and all practices are acceptable.”

    Looking through the thread and cannot seem to find anyone saying this…

  147. Josh says:

    Must not be able to answer.

  148. Josh says:

    Simple question, no answer.
    Make up stuff and insult.

    Familiar turn of events.

  149. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Duane, if we question our ability to determine what is good and proper practice, how are you going to determine bad practice?

    Can you name a bad or improper practice we are seeing in a church today? If so, then you must have determined what is good and proper.
    This is listed under my category of “This is not rocket science.”

  150. Steve says:

    MLD,. Baptism is a great example. Do we dunk, sprinkle or pour? Does it matter? Can the mode be a reflection of the culture? Does there have to be a difference in the doctrine with how baptism is administered in the above example?

  151. Josh says:

    How do you know what is good practice MLD?

    LCMS does it… must be good?

  152. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, your question is not answerable as it is your position that there is no objective practice in the church.
    So in your case no one and everyone decides.

  153. Josh says:

    Why do you assume that is my position?

    Or just another insult with no backing?

  154. Duane Arnold says:

    OK, in terms of theology, what is the purpose of gathering on the first day of the week? This includes Biblical theology, Systematic Theology and Historical Theology…

  155. Josh says:

    Lord’s day worship goes back to at least the apostolic period. Referenced in Revelation for sure.
    Signifies a break with the Jews and their Sabbath worship. Hebrews tells us that Jesus is our Sabbath.
    Also, a weekly Resurrection celebration.

  156. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, there is no biblical mode. The concept is “get wet”
    Now where the difference come in is the use of water. The “practice” for most evangelicals is to get wet out of obedience, but the real baptism, the one that really counts is the “practice” of dry baptism – even though the bible says there is only one baptism, the one that brings you into the church is dry, followed by the 2nd baptism (wet) and in some cases a 3rd baptism, also dry (holy spirit baptism).

    I will admit that I would classify 3 baptisms as bad practice based on bad theology. Some would call me narrow minded. 🙂

  157. Josh says:

    Others would call you unable to state your position without invective.

  158. Duane Arnold says:


    Next, how did they express that theology of worship on the Lord’s Day in say… AD150, AD350, AD 1000, AD1600, AD 1900, AD 2000. Are there changes in the expression of that theology and, most importantly, why?

  159. Josh says:

    Duane – yes, obviously, but that is a REALLY big question you ask there. 🙂

  160. Steve says:

    Duane,. Could we also say that gathering on the first day of the week was also just a convention that was enacted by Constantine that we have all followed since then? I say this cause some Asian cultures never had the concept of a 7 day week. Instead they counted in units of 10. Is the 7 day week a structure we have to impose on all believers? Are we all sabatarians here?

  161. Josh says:

    Steve – Constantine was at least 200 years late to the party.

  162. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, the reason I think it is your position is for the past 2 days in particular and most days in general when some of us say this is good practice and / theology, you usually raise the objection of “nobody can know” or “how do you know you are right?”
    You leave bread crumbs behind that give away your thoughts.

  163. Josh says:

    When have I once said “nobody can know”? If you can’t quote me, that would be a lie.

    \I do ask how do you know you are right, because I would like to know that answer to that question. The fact that you can’t answer leads you to insult, which is childish, but expected.

  164. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, every time someone laid out what they believed or how their church did something, you whined that they were saying they were right and you were wrong. Never did you offer a positive defense – you just swallowed in your thought of no one knows.

    So how do you determine right and good practice?

  165. Josh says:

    So that quote was a lie? Gotcha.

  166. Josh says:

    “So how do you determine right and good practice?”


  167. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Besides, I have not argued for what is right practice, only what is consistent with my theology. I have used at least 3 examples
    1.) What it says about your theology when you remove the crosses.
    2.) What it means about the doctrine of original sin if you do not baptize your babies.
    3.) The consistent act of having the font at the entrance to the sanctuary – how it recreates your entrance into the church through you baptism.
    Consistent practice.

  168. Josh says:

    I quoted you:

    “If you have strayed from good practice it is because, and perhaps you are not aware, but you theology has wandered.”

    I guess you just misspoke. Why not just say “I can’t define good practice” instead of having to insult me?

  169. Duane Arnold says:


    One could say that… and one would be wrong. Read some Church History…

  170. Steve says:

    Does scripture tell you how long a worship service should be? Is 30 minutes too short? Is 6 hours too long? Is this even a theological question? How many songs do we sing? Should announcements be part of a worship service? What is theological difference between an electric guitar and a pipe organ?

  171. Steve says:

    Duane, church history is a wonderful thing but certainly not perfect. It doesn’t have all the answers.

  172. Duane Arnold says:


    I know it’s a REALLY big question, but you get my point. Then we need to look at how worship changed on the Lord’s Day and, most importantly, why? What was the theology, if any, that stood behind the change? We may have to deal with historical or cultural issues as well… but we start with theology. It does not start with “from the hip pronouncements”. It certainly does not lend itself to bumper sticker slogans for our particular group. Moreover, these are serious questions, as the answers affect peoples lives and their faith… We are, in my opinion, much too cavalier in how we treat such issues.

  173. Duane Arnold says:


    And how much Church History have you studied to arrive at that sweeping statement?

  174. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, I spoke of both – good, which is subjective but consistent with your theology and right practice which is objective .

    But you know what? Many of us have offered up what we think is right and what we do and why.
    Although you have said your church needs to hear the message of Duane’s article, you have not shared or offered up anything as the rest of us have.
    Since this is going nowhere, I am going to read Linkathon.

  175. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Wow Josh, I just noticed you called me a liar for the 3rd time on this thread alone.
    This does not say much for you communication skills.

  176. Steve says:

    Duane, I give you the creds in church history that’s why I ask the tough questions and you can answer them if you can. Do you view the entire church calendar as inspired? Why did the church choose 25 December for Christmas?

  177. Duane Arnold says:


    Read a Church History text… (Justo Gonzalez is a good place to start). Your questions are not tough. I could say more…

  178. Steve says:

    Duane, the only church history book I read which has been awhile is titled “Two kingdoms the church and culture through the ages”. Robert G Clouds. Do you approve?

  179. Duane Arnold says:


    Although I personally like Ed Yamauchi (used to be in Ohio, I think), this very much has an evangelical Protestant bias (published by Moody). It is, however, a good start. Gonzalez is good, or you can start off with ‘The Early Church’ by Henry Chadwick. There is no “slant” or “special pleading” in either…

  180. Josh says:

    Mld, i’ll await the apology for lying against me.

  181. Josh says:

    I do think Gonzalez is the best read, but it is big. May be an overwhelming place to start. Kenneth Scott Latourette is alittle more…basic.

  182. Josh says:

    So this question is now to evrryone except mld. He can’t handle it. How do you decide right practice?
    I start with scripture. In fact, that would be the only binding standard.
    Next would probably be filtered through the baptist lens. What do we do/ what have we done in the past.
    After that is early church history, as much as we can discern it.
    Then i would consider reformation til now.
    Lastly i would look at 400-1500 ad.

    That would be mycurrent filter for determining right practice. It is not 100% correct, but i have reasons for each layer.

  183. Duane Arnold says:


    Well, I’d like to say the Vincentian Canon… but I’m not sure that helps ?. For me it is still the three legged stool of Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I include “Reason” because we often have to intelligently adapt our practice and therefore “reasonably” look at both Scripture and Tradition. For instance, should we require women in church to cover their heads with a scarf? There is both Scripture and Tradition that would say, “Yes”, but was this cultural or is it of the essence? Reason comes to bear here…

  184. Josh says:

    Ah, good point Duane. I would add reason second on my list to scripture.

  185. Jean says:


    What is the order of service at your church? What I mean specifically is what do you practice at your church and in what order?

  186. Duane Arnold says:


    Gonzalez is a piece of cake! The two volume edition is best…

  187. Josh says:

    Jean, I am assuming you mean like, on Sunday morning. It certainly varies more than a liturgical church, but the church I am in now has a pretty strong tradition.

    I don’t mind laying it out, but if this isn’t what you were asking, sorry. Rephrase it and I’ll try again.

    All of these elements are generally there, though we may move them around as needed. I’ve only been here 3 weeks, and not much has changed.

    Prelude on piano or organ
    A section called “Worship through Praise”cinsists of:
    opening prayer
    congregational hymn
    Next segment is “Worship through Response”
    A congregational song, may be a modern song, but could be a hymn.
    Offertory prayer, by me.
    Take the offering – music on piano or organ.
    Finally we have “Worship Through Proclamation and Commitment”
    Starts with a choir song
    Then a biblical message
    Invitational hymn
    Closing prayer.

  188. Jean says:

    Thanks Josh. You interpreted my question accurately.

    I was curious about what you practice, because at 2:26 pm, you wrote regarding your practice: “I start with scripture. In fact, that would be the only binding standard.”

  189. Josh says:

    Duane, I have the two volume set. I agree that Gonzalez is more engaging, but it is a pretty big work. I just noticed that my Latourrette is only volume 1, up to 1500, so that may be a little more daunting than I first imagined, too. I know you weren’t big on Williston Walker, but it is a pretty easy read.

  190. Josh says:

    Jean – yes, that’s true. We try to make sure that all of our worship is scriptural. We do not follow the regulative principle. We use electric lighting, AC, and those kinds of things. But, yes, if we find scripture to be in conflict with our practice, we toss it out. And any new practice will be weighed against Scripture before it is implemented.

  191. Duane Arnold says:


    I do like Latourette on missions…

  192. Jean says:

    I imagine, Josh, that when a pastor comes into a new congregation he inherits the practices then in effect, as well as elders and senior members who are likely firmly settled in their practices and expectations. I respect any pastor who can navigate those waters in an up building manner. I wish you the best of luck and am confident of your best intentions for the saints there.

  193. Josh says:

    Duane, I have a Missiology textbook that has some great history on missions. It is a compilation of many different authors edited by Terry. There is a great section about Missions to Asia pre-500ad. Fascinating stuff.

  194. Josh says:

    Jean, that is the challenge for sure. Thanks for your kind words.

  195. Duane Arnold says:

    OK guys… now off to a higher calling… Ken Burns, County Music… check in later.

  196. Jean says:


    I watched the opening of a sermon you recently gave, and you came across as a very approachable, down to earth, young man. I suspect you will do well at your new church.

    It would be a long comment that I will spare everyone, but I personally had to come to grips with the fact that there is far more to being a good pastor than orthodox theology (although that is indispensable) and/or public speaking skills. And that I wasn’t gifted with some of those other qualities that a pastor needs. However, fortunately for us all, the body of Christ has many members, and all indispensable, the comely as well as the uncomely. Therefore, I can rejoice even in the gifts given to my good friend MLD. 🙂

  197. Josh says:

    Gosh, thanks Jean. I noticed that my Southern accent has become almost indecipherable. I don’t know what happened. I worked on it in Seminary, and had it pretty manageable. But man, my voice sounds like a banjo 🙂

    And you are absolutely correct. Every member of the body is indispensable.

  198. <>

    Xenia, this is my impression of the likely context given the overall teachings and that sending young people to PFM and celebrating that publicly was the norm. Each grade has a different leader. D7 didn’t hear that and she goes far more. With guilt like that, we might as well return to the RCC. Maybe we’ll look for a local Baptist church, perhaps a local LCMS…

    Interesting discussion overall and good recommendations on early church history.

  199. filbertz says:

    I crawled out from under my Junior High School teaching rock long enough to dish on Duane and diss on Laurie. Well-written & worthy Dr. A.

  200. Duane Arnold says:


    Many thanks, appreciate it…

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