BALANCING FORM AND FREEDOM

When bringing people into the presence of God, most leaders recognize a certain degree of necessary protocol.

A woman who was visiting a liturgical service kept punctuating the pastor's sermon with "Praise the Lord!" Another woman finally turned around and said, "Excuse me, but we don't praise the Lord in the Lutheran church."

A man down the pew corrected her. "Yes we do; it's on page 19."

The conflict between form and freedom is not new, and we have both sides in our congregation. Some wish we would throw out the liturgy so we could be free to "move with the Spirit." Others are tired of innovations and want to return to the good ol' days when they knew what was happening and could follow the bulletin play by play.

Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? Yes! Order and ardor can be happily wed. Truth is canonized but not style. The issue is not structure or freedom, but Spirit. God has no preference for formless spiritualism or Spiritless formalism—he rejects both. Spontaneity offers no innate advantage over liturgy. Liberty is where the Spirit is, not where the preacher has thrown ...

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