Friday, August 31, 2007

A Response

Anonymous said...

I'm sure you're joking about closing LPS as something to stop church growth methods….

I did pull the poll from the blog as it was meant as being tongue in cheek, but I do realize how it could be offensive to those that attended LPS. I strongly support Lutheran education K-12 and into higher education. Our roots trace back to a strong support for Lutheran schools. For the last decade or so I have seen adult ministry pitted against Lutheran schools when it comes to a budget crunch. What I sense is that there are some clergy who feel the school is too much of a drain on a church budget. Again, this is from personal experience. A local WELS pastor chose not to send his children to the local WELS elementary school. When asked why the response was given that his children can provide an out-reach opportunity for him (I’m not sure where his Lutheran foundation was laid). I hate to see children used as evangelism pawns. I think there are opportunities for me to reach into the community. But, to me, this example helps me see why in crunch times the schools at all levels take a hit. If the local pastor doesn’t support the local Lutheran school or the whole education system who will?

Rob said... Selective communion is a controversial theological dogma related to the ELS split of last year. Our WELS COP stands firmly behind the ELS Praesidium which declared selective communion to be unScriptural.

Rob you will have to explain this a bit more for me to understand. Are you saying that this comment by a WELS theologian was unscriptural?

John, I see broad brush condemnation of all church growth ideas going on here… LM, we should study specific examples of alleged church growth and test their doctrinal purity.

You state that I am painting broad generalizations and later say we need to study specific examples. I was asked to give specific WELS practices (methods) that I thought are unscriptural. I gave specific examples of situations, in which I did address on a personal level and believe need to be dealt with on a synodical level. I then asked my commenter if he could defend these or not. No one has chosen to speak for or against these practices. So I ask you then to speak to these specific examples (listed in the post below).

I will take the time this weekend to read Prof. Brenner’s essay. Thank you for the link. I don’t claim to have the answers just a perspective from the pew.

Since no one has spoken about the teenage girl preaching the children’s sermon, I looked on the Q&A section at Here is what I found.

Q:I am wondering how the WELS can allow a woman to deliver the children's sermon at the front of the church, and in front of the whole congegration? As a life- long WELS member this seem contradictory to everything I have learned on gender roles in the church. I am confused.

A:It cannot be said that WELS allows this, because before getting your e-mail I had never seen or even heard of such a thing being done. It is apparently the act of an individual pastor or congregation, about which we have no information.

There is, of course, no reason that a woman cannot teach children or that adults cannot witness a woman teaching children, but a sermon is not the place to do it. If there is going to be a children's sermon in the service, its purpose is to be a part of the service conducted by the pastor. We do not have other people besides the pastor preach sermons in the service under normal circumstances.

The purpose of a children's sermon, if there is one, is to connect the children more directly and more pointedly to the preaching of the pastor. It is not wise for a pastor to transfer this opportunity for him to connect his preaching to the children to someone else. (We do not necessarily recommend a separate children's sermon within the regular service as the best way for the pastor to build such rapport with the children).

The synodical administration evidently had no information that this is happening. From my understanding of the answer guy’s thoughts, he seems to skirt the issue. He does say it should be the place of the pastor to do this not a girl. Any thoughts?

A comment was made about my aversion to the electric guitar in the divine service. I also found some interesting comments by Craig Parton on

Coming Home: An Interview with Craig Parton

by John A. Braun – Lutheran Leader (1999)

LL: What did you notice in the Lutheran church?

Craig: I'll tell you what struck us initially. What hit us very powerfully was that the first thing you did was confess your sins. That was just an utterly riveting thing. To hear the spoken absolution just undid us! Completely undid us! We thought, "This church has got the center of the faith down correctly." Before we get going along our way in the service, we're going to talk about who we are as miserable sinners and our separation from God and we're going to talk about what Christ has done for us. It was -- and still is -- exceedingly powerful to us to see this in Lutheran worship. We saw the cross and the clear doctrine of justification as the center of what Lutheranism is about. It was just like we had come to Christianity for the first time. Please understand it's not as if we had never worshiped before and had been only in idol worship for the last 15 to 20 years, but I have to say we came to Lutheranism, it was coming home. It was truly coming home to the gospel.

We found a church where the gospel really worked itself out in the service. The Lutheran church is rock solid in the pulpit too. We were like a desert where you pour water on us. We were like parched people who just drank up everything we could find on Lutheran liturgy, Lutheran theology, and the confessions. It was as if we just found this enormous gold mine. The deeper you dig, the more you find.

LL: What else did you find?

Craig: The Lutheran church is built on three important books: The Scriptures, the hymnal, and the catechism. They are simply remarkable. The Lutheran Confessions are so important too. So often I give away copies of the Augsburg Confession to Evangelicals. That short statement of faith absolutely blows away many Evangelicals. I think the future of the WELS is with the American Evangelicals. I say to WELS: let the Evangelicals know that you're present; that you're not liberals; that you're not Catholics -- but you have got something substantial to offer. You have the theology, let them know that you exist.

LL: An article in Christianity Today suggested that the organ is being overtaken by the guitar or the drums in contemporary worship. Maybe you have a comment.

Craig: Yes, I think that this is true. The organ has been lost in Evangelicalism because it's a hindrance to the idea that God is your buddy. Evangelical worship is all about familiarity; it's all about God being the best friend you've ever had. And the organ brings separation. There's no question. The organ brings a theology of strength; there's transcendence. The organ fits a strong theology that has both law and Gospel there. This is Isaiah's vision of God. The organ fits Lutheran theology and Lutheran hymnody like hand and glove. It doesn't fit the Evangelical service. I don't think we should be embarrassed by that; I think we should actually accent that. A church with an organ is intriguing to these people because of the limitations of the guitar.

I think that Mr. Parton states it best that we as Lutherans should stand apart because we have something substantial to offer. We preach Christ crucified. If we practice the methods of Methodists, I believe it will erode away the doctrine. Now I was asked to give examples and I did. What does one do with examples. I believe conclusions can be drawn.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Scriptural vs. Unscriptural

A comment ~I will caution you again agaist confusing worship styles with doctrine. I still fail to see how our practice and methods are becoming unscriptural.

You have pointed to some sermons which may have been out of focus, but that is individual preachers who need to be refocussed (sic) and does not represent unscriptural practice nor methods in synod as a whole. Please give examples of what methods are unscriptural.

Ok…here is where you confuse me. You start out with saying that our practice and methods aren’t becoming unscriptural. Next you say, oh sure, some individual preachers need to be refocused in their preaching.

Here is my take. If the preaching is focused on Christ crucified the practice won’t be unscriptural. The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy “to devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching…Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching.” Later he tells Timothy to preach according to sound doctrine. So I believe that the individual preacher losing focus is the BIG unscriptural problem. I have traveled a bit and visited WELS churches across the country (MN, WI, TX, CA). The problem is that it is not just a stray pastor here or there.

I was at one “contemporary” service sitting near a WELS theologian/professor. After the service? he leaned over and said “if they would have served communion I wouldn’t have taken it. This was not a Lutheran service.” If you need to know the name and location of the place, just let me know. I will say the preacher is an oft contributor to FIC. I would say that smells of unscriptural.

So then you keep coming back and saying you want examples of methods that are unscriptural. I will first start with a Bible study practice. A WELS pastor was holding a Bible study out reach at an independent, senior living apartment complex which is good and noble. As time went on the pastor became too busy to teach the class so he sent his “staff” minister. The staff minister became too busy so the pastor sent a lay woman to teach the Bible study. Now please note that this Bible study was attended by both men and women, and both members and non-members. I did approach the pastor and he stated that she is doing it under his authority. So here is an example…Now you tell me if this is unscriptural or not??? If you follow this line of thinking where does it take us???

No one has yet told me if a young teenage girl giving a children’s message during the divine service is unscriptural

Now concerning “style.”. Paul said to preach and teach. Solid Lutheran Hymns and the “historical” liturgy do teach sound doctrine. Sugar coated lite pop songs in the sanctuary don’t. Yes, WELS churches are using these “pop” songs. Now maybe I don’t attend the churches where “Salvation Unto us Has come” is set to the electric guitar. If the pastor is to preach Christ crucified shouldn’t our music also teach sound doctrine? So putting the Lutheran hymns up against the “pop” songs, I would say the Lutheran hymns are Scriptural. I think that our pastors are trained to put together the divine service. But now we have “worship” lay teams that are making the decisions. Most often the pastor is not involved.

Some have asked about the “goofy” poll I put up. I am no techie and I found the button to set-up a poll and I thought I’d put it up for fun. It was suggested that I should include the issues in the WELS group instead of LPS. But in honor of the original poster of this blog I put up LPS why not. Or should I change it to MLS? :)

Again this is just my view from the pew. So help me out.

Church Growth theology - help me

I was asked by a comment to explain how I view Church Growth taking a hold in the WELS. I had already mentioned the Church and Change conference in which the workshops are built upon the Church Growth model and theology. I will leave it to others to defend how these silly gimmicks that are being presented are not of the Church Growth theology.

Please tell me.

When all else fails the usual defense is the out of context statement from Paul of becoming all things to all men. What I see Paul talking about is preaching of Law and Gospel not changing our practice and methods.

What is church growth? Is it about sharing the salvation found in Jesus “Go ye therefore and teach all nations” "Repent and be baptized" and their numbers grew. This is the theology of the cross.

We preach Christ crucified. (but what is being preached to be happy) Stay at some WELS churches long enough and you’ll find out more about the pastor’s life than the life of Jesus. But boy those stories about t-ball and soccer are so funny.

It is the theology of Church Growth that has taken hold in the WELS. I believe it is truly driven by numbers and money I suppose. With this focus the Word and sacraments are pushed aside along with ancient creeds and liturgies. It is said by the Changers we aren’t changing the message just the methods (ie see Methodist or the Changers conference). It is the methods at this conference that are the focus of discussion not the Word and sacraments. Doctrine and practice are closely aligned. The Church Growth theology is rooted in post-modernism. We need to change our style to meet the post-moderns. The post-mods believe there is a God but not necessarily found in Jesus, so check out some of the modern sermons which focus on God but not on Jesus. These WELS sermons are out there on the net. We need to make the believer feel comfortable and happy (note Change presentation “ A positive view of Believers is Realistic..and practical) . No, again, Robert Schuller is not presenting, yet. Wait it is bait and switch tell ‘em their so good and they can be so happy but oh yea we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

But the cry for several years has been it is all adiaphora. It is like the time of the Judges when everyone did what he saw fit. It used to be that at DMLC the young lads and lassies had to take piano for several years. Now I think they must pass electric guitar in front of a panel of professors.

The youth service has been all the rage for a time in the WELS. Let’s let the youth take over a Sunday and conduct the service. What a great way to get them involved. I’m sure we could all think of more long-term service opportunities, but this is what is being done.

A comment said to me that it would be fine for a young girl to give the children’s sermon during a divine service as long as only women were present. What I said earlier was young girls are allowed to give the children’s sermon during the divine Sunday service. I saw it happen. The men weren’t covering their ears. Everyone was laughing…maybe the young girl’s sermon was better than the reverend’s??

So has Church Growth methods taken root in the WELS??

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A few more thoughts

I have received several comments with some asking for some follow-up. Most comments are very positive. I will publish those that ask to be. A few comments wanting to speak to me offline about some of the issues I have brought up. I would simply ask you to drop a comment with your email so that I can contact you. I won’t publish the private comments. This is my first leap into the blogging environment so I’m doing my best to figure out this form of discussion.

I do appreciate your questions and will do my best to clarify when asked. I will let you know that most of what I have mentioned I do have first hand experience, and I understand that these situations are common knowledge amongst the clergy in the know.

I do want you to know that I am very sensitive to the commandments. Of course, I have been alerted to watch the 8th commandment. I will let you know I have communicated my concern with two district presidents involved in the situations I mention. One of the DPs asked me not to contact him again. From the other I didn’t receive a response. These were situations in which they involved me and were relevant to me. I am reminded of the Good Samaritan with the DP turning his head the other direction.

There are a few questions about Church growth in the WELS. I will try to give you my perspective. But I must take care of my day job first.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Theological issues that plague the WELS

In a comment ~ Jared asks what theological issues plague the WELS? Now I will preface this to say that I am not a theologian in the WELS but a simple layman offering this view from the pew. But I have heard and seen a few things.

There is a double standard among some synodical leaders. Prior to the convention, the (former) president and vice-president rejected a memorial from 86 pastors and 3 congregations. This memorial asked for a study on the synod's position on fellowship. Yet the WELS official website endorses the Church and Change group that is continually reaching over the fence. The WELS website has a registration link to this "extreme" makeover conference. Yet those high church folks in the WELS must be put out quickly or we might look back at our Confessions. This is a theological issue. The WELS now officially approves of using Church growth methods. The slope is slippery. A vicar recently told me that the WELS will probably have women ministers before Missouri. (just an opinion by a theological student in the mix). Yet check out the youth services that are all the rage and you'll see the young ladies giving the children sermons.

There is a double standard on called workers and cover ups. In the past few years unproven allegations have been made agains a few parish pastors concerning the 6th commandment. These small town pastors are quietly swept away. (note resign) Yet a big synodical boy from the desert is involved in similar allegations and the "officials" say to put the best construction on this and don't sin against the 8th commandment. A dp tries to oust a called teacher without even talking to the teacher before the dp calls the boys in Milwaukee. This is a theological issue.

So now the WELS is caught in a financial crunch. Is this not a theological issue?

Poll: God Vital to Young Americans

A comment talked about modernism or post-modernism and its influence on the church.

This article talks about how the youth view their beliefs and the beliefs of others. This perspective is the prevailing thought in our American educational system. Unfortunately, our churches are influenced by this shift. That is why if you listen closely to modern "Lutheran" sermons you will hear a lot of talk about God and how to be happy. What is often left out is the condemnation as a sinner and salvation found through Jesus found in word and sacraments.

The WELS leaders are reading articles like the above and trying to find ways to grow the numbers. I believe that the Church and Change group in the WELS has taken a jump into the post-modernism whole and has taken on the water of the world.

Look at the topics of the up and coming Change conference:

Break through thinking in WELS ministry
Extreme Church makeover
A Positive view of believers is realistic and practical (maybe this Robert Schuller)

I'm just wondering where is the study of the Lutheran Confessions and Scripture?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Still Bailing

I have decided to continue on with this site to see if we can continue the process of bailing water or maybe it is coming in too quickly.? I do believe that Aaron was providing an interesting blog in which to digest and discuss the issues happening in the WELS and possibly Lutheranism. I'm especially interested in how the shift away from a confessional stance can be stopped.

It is, of course, not a money issue that is haunting the WELS but a spiritual drift.

More thoughts to come...