Posted by: Johnold J. Strey | October 11, 2008

Published Essay: Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship

An essay I wrote for a pastors’ conference in January 2006, and expanded for another presentation in October 2007, has just been published in the Fall 2008 edition of Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly (105:4, pages 248-284).  The essay is titled “Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship” and deals with the gospel content and message of worship in [1] the structure of worship, [2] the symbolism used in worship, and [3] the songs or music incorporated into worship.  The subscriber base of the Quarterly is made up of WELS pastors along with other interested Lutherans, WELS and others.  Copies of Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly can be purchased through Northwestern Publishing HouseA link to the essay is at the bottom of this post.

This week I received two email comments about the essay from other pastors, but I didn’t actually get my copy in the mail until today.  As I read through the published essay tonight, I found paragraphs that weren’t supposed to be in the essay.  After checking the printed version with the final version I submitted, there were also other paragraphs missing from the final version I submitted.

In spring, the editorial committee responded to the original version I submitted, and I replied with a message that explained some of my statements.  The editorial staff reworked my responses and inserted them as additional paragraphs in the essay, then sent the revisions to me for my thoughts.  I indicated that I’d like to rework those sections myself, and I submitted the actual “final” version with additional paragraphs to address the editorial committee’s suggestions.  However, it was the second-to-last version with editorial revisions that was published, not the version I intended to be the final draft.  I think that either the final version was lost in transmission (which would have been my fault for not following up more carefully), or the editorial staff inadvertently mixed up the two versions and the actual final version was not used (which could have happened quite easily because multiple versions of the essay were in their files).

There’s nothing that needs to be retracted as far as content or meaning is concerned.  But there are casual-sounding paragraphs of email communication (with a couple of grammar mistakes) included in the printed version of the essay, and the cleaned-up paragraphs didn’t make it in.  I have no doubt that it was an honest error.  Being the perfectionist I tend to be, I would have preferred that informal responses to the editorial committee would not have become part of the main body of the essay–especially since this is the first time I have had something published in a venue such as this.  (Additional comment added 10/24/2008: Since the essay’s publication, I’ve had a number of pastors tell me that they didn’t notice any odd stylistic issues with the paper, so perhaps my worries are much ado about nothing).

What I can do is offer the “correct, final” version here on-line. Strike-out text was meant to be deleted. Underlined text was meant to be added. With a couple of minor exceptions, the corrections are primarily in part two of the essay.  The bracketed and yellow highlighted numbers indicate the page numbers for the version published in the Quarterly.

“Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship” by Johnold J. Strey, corrected version

Additional comment added after the original post: The following posts elsewhere on this blog are either directly or indirectly connected to the essay’s subject matters, and might be worth reading as supplements to the essay:



  1. Hi Strey,

    Thanks for the emended version. I didn’t look too much at the final .pdf copy. But did you include a textual variant key so that we could find out which version is most ancient and widespread? (hehe)

    Lord’s blessings to you in your ministry,


  2. Very good article on proclaiming the Gospel in song and evaluating Contemporary Christian Music. It would be good to have this article on the WELS Comission on Worship website under “Blended Worship.”

    I play guitar for a WELS Blended worship band. I appreciate your comments on and evaluation of some popular CCM songs that I have seen used over the years (Shout to the Lord, Open the Eyes of My Heart, The Heart of Worship, Breathe).

    Could you give your evaluation of another CCM song that has come up. Are there WELS musician/pastors that give their evaluations/comments on different CCM songs? After reading your article “Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship” I have come to respect your opinion and your knowledge on the subject CCM songs in the worship service.

    I was wondering the appropriateness of the following song in a WELS worship service: “Lord, Reign in Me” by Brenton Brown

    “Over all the earth, You reign on high, every mountain stream, every sunset sky. But my one request, Lord, my only aim, is that You reign in me again. Lord, reign in me, reign in Your power. Over all my dreams in my darkest hour. You are the Lord of all I am, so won’t You reign in me again.”

    “Over every thought, over every word, may my life reflect the beauty of the Lord. ‘Cause You mean more to me than any earthly thing, so won’t You reign in me again. Lord, reign in me, reign in Your power. Over all my dreams in my darkest hour. You are the Lord of all I am, so won’t You reign in me again.”

    Thank you.

  3. Dear “MartinGuitar,”

    Thanks for your comments. I’m glad that the paper was helpful.

    A good resource for evaluating music lyrics is “Text, Music, Context,” published in 2004 by the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. There is an accompanying study guide on-line at

    Here’s my quick, gut-reaction to the song you cited in your comment:

    1. I’m extremely uncomfortable with the language inviting the Lord to “reign in me.” I’m being very sincere when I say that I can’t think of a proper theological way to understand those phrases. This is classic decision theology (a.k.a. “Arminianism”). Credit for our converstion is entirely taken away from the Holy Spirit and assumes that we can invite Christ into our hearts — something that sinners who are “dead in transgressions and sins” (Eph. 2) have no ability to do.

    2. The second stanza sings about how I feel about God and want to live for him while continuing the false doctrine of decision theology. Quite subjective.

    3. There’s nothing in the text that proclaims the faith-strengthening gospel. There’s nothing that suggests the church is larger than the singer and Jesus.

    4. A Baptist pastor sent me an email a few weeks ago expressing agreement with a point I made in a recent sermon. One thing he noted is that in many Protestant circles, “lordship salvation” is far more commonly taught than salvation from sin. Jesus as my Soverign Lord and Master seems to trump Jesus as my Redeemer from death, hell, and Satan. I get the very same vibe from this text, especially at the end of both stanzas.

    I’m sure that more could be said, but that’s my gut reaction. I wouldn’t use it.

    If you haven’t purchased it already, I’d recommend getting a copy of the guitar edition of “Christian Worship: Supplement.” About 75% of the supplement hymns are set for guitar chords. You can rest assured that the supplement’s texts will be far more faithful to the Scriptures! Perhaps you have that resource already, but I thought it would be worth mentioning in case you (and other blog readers) weren’t aware of it. Here’s a direct link:

    Thanks for the chance to evaluate the text. I hope it was helpful.


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