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Praise the LORD.

Praise God in his sanctuary; 
         praise him in his mighty heavens. 
Praise him for his acts of power; 
         praise him for his surpassing greatness. 
Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, 
         praise him with the harp and lyre, 
praise him with tambourine and dancing, 
         praise him with the strings and flute, 
praise him with the clash of cymbals, 
         praise him with resounding cymbals. 

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. 

Psalm 150

Praise the LORD. 

Principles, Not Programs
Why do congregations do things the way they do? Why did I grow up in a congregation where programs like multiple weekly worship opportunities, Sunday School, Catechism and choir were the norm? Why have so many churches in our fellowship offered nearly identical programs to serve generation after generation? Well, that answer is quite simple. These programs that have been so common in our church body for quite some time now, all apply important Biblical principles quite well.

Multiple weekly worship opportunities strive to provide God’s people with as many opportunities as possible to gather together to be fed by God’s Word and Sacraments. The organized worship schedule, along with the style of worship, is the program. God’s people gathering around the Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament) is the principle.

Traditional Sunday School and Catechism programs strive to provide Christian parents with resources that assist them in their God-given role. It is the parents who are given the role of raising their children to know Christ crucified and risen from the dead for sinners. Christian congregations rally together to assist parents in this role. While our children learn God’s Word in Sunday School and Catechism, they build relationships with other youth in the congregation and with the adults serving them as teachers. The Sunday School itself is a program. Catechism is a program. Assisting parents in their role and teaching children God’s Word in an environment where they build relationships with other Christians are the principles.

Church choirs strive to provide an opportunity for vocalists and instrumentalists to serve in the church. As we join together to hear God’s Word in public worship, it is natural and God pleasing to respond to the Lord with praise! We praise God when we proclaim who he is and what he’s done. We can do that with words. We can do that with song. We can even use all sorts of instruments to praise him! What a great way to say, “Thank you!” to our God for all that he’s done for us. The choir is the program. The desire found in all God’s people to respond to the Gospel with praise is the principle.

Why has this basic model for congregational ministry been such a blessing to our congregations for so many years? Those blessings have everything to do with the principles that we’ve been applying in our congregations. Yes, programs like multiple weekly worship events, Sunday School, Confirmation and choirs have given us opportunities to apply Biblical principles, but it’s the principles that are behind the blessings, not the programs.

So, what do we do if, or when, involvement in long standing church programs begins to dwindle? Brothers and sisters, the answer cannot be, “Fix the program!” The program was never the source of blessing for God’s people. It was the Biblical principles applied in the program.

At Mt. Olive, we’ll continue to apply Biblical principles, like the ones mentioned above, as has been done here for nearly 50 years. We’ll be cognizant of and respectful toward the programs that have been used to apply Biblical principles for many years. But we’ll also frequently review why those programs have been blessed. It’s the principles! Not the programs. If we need to adjust programs to better apply the principles, we’ll do that. If we need to come up with entirely new programs to better apply the principles, we’ll do that too.

One thing will never change—the principles. God’s people at Mt. Olive will always have multiple weekly opportunities to gather around the Means of Grace (the Gospel in Word and Sacrament) to be reminded of our sin and pointed to our Savior Jesus. God’s people at Mt. Olive will always strive to assist parents in their role as we provide opportunities for Mt. Olive children to grow in their understanding of sin and grace. God’s people at Mt. Olive will respond to the Gospel with praise and thanksgiving. We’ll praise our God through opportunities to proclaim who God is and what he has done—yes even with instruments and song.

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. 

Praise the LORD!