Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Confessional Lutheran Church body .?

A confessional church body retains the Gospel of Christ as the central and most important doctrine of the Bible. This is the doctrine we live and practice and study (not the doctrine and methods of Rick Warren).

Our Christ-centered doctrine is built on the articles of faith (baptism, the Lord’s supper, and justification). This is what makes a Confessional synod. Luther compares this "confessional" doctrine to a golden ring that must never be broken. We are Confessional than when we are faithful to the Gospel and sacraments not to a workshop titled "10 steps to an effective and growing church." It is the old adage that I tell my kids if your friends are smoking cigarettes you are just as guilty even if you’re just sniffing around (guilt by association). Confessional pastors don't hangout out at the latest church growth seminar soaking in the newest fads.

The Augsburg Confession explains doctrine this way, “through the word and the sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, who effects faith where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel."

So than our confessionalism is measured as a church body that purely teaches the word and rightly administers the sacraments. The practices a church body has in her worship life show a clear link and trust in the doctrine of Christ-crucified. Do we hold to the practices of the Lutheran church or do we act, talk, and worship like Methodists?

A confessional synod encourages uniformity in worship. Luther said,” As far as possible we should observe the same rites and ceremonies, ..” Drop in on the latest contemporary service and you'll need a scorecard to keep track of what is going on.

The liturgy reflects our unity. Worship is our doctrine. When we discard Christ-centered worship practices we toss aside our Lutheran doctrine. So when we toss aside the creeds and the liturgy for a seemingly more user friendly service we throw out our Confessional Lutheran doctrine.

Perhaps President Schroeder’s article is a way to begin to address the problems that have arisen in the WELS. A Confessional synod understands there is a clear link to uniform Christ-centered worship that teaches the word and rightly administers the sacraments. So let's pray that the ad-hoc's recommendations for a Confessional "education" of pastors and the laity is the start of a new reformation.

36 comments:

Anonymous said...

An oft quoted and important part of Article VII of the Augsburg Confession states, “It is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian church that ceremonies, instituted by men, should be observed uniformly in all places.” This quote from the Confessions reminds us that the form of Lutheran worship is an adiaphoron. Nowhere do the Scriptures dictate to New Testament Christians how they must worship. New Testament Christians are not given the same kind of detailed instructions for worship that governed God’s people under the Old Covenant. August Pieper once said, “There are no ceremonial laws for New Testament Christians.”

Yet that statement in Article VII of the Augsburg Confession is not to be used as a "confessional" or "biblical" pass to do anything you want in worship. (I sometimes fear that is how some might want to use the quote as they offer a contemporary service; which I personally enjoy). The sentence immediately preceding the quote above is key: “It is sufficient for the true unity of the Christian church that the Gospel be preached in conformity with a pure understanding of it and that the sacraments be administered in accordance with the divine Word.”

In other words, there is a limit, a biblical and confessional limit, to our freedom: how we worship needs to reflect a Lutherans central focus on the gospel in Word and Sacrament. As one Lutheran writer stated: Our freedom is no wider than the gospel is wide; but it is as wide as the gospel. Within these proper parameters we dare make no rules.

Whether you prefer a more "high church", "low church", "blended", or "contemporary" format in worship it seems to me we need to keep the aforementioned parameters in mind and not give the impression that there is only one right way to worship God. That’s legalism. It robs us of our
freedom in the gospel.

Times and places and circumstances may well dictate the need for, or at least the value of, variety in our worship forms. The critical thing, of course, is that God’s actions in Christ, communicated through the powerful Word and Sacrament, remain central to whatever we do.

Of course, "central" is subjective.

Just shout'in

John said...

Just Shoutin,

What is the direction of communication during worship? It should be from God to us as God serves us. We do return our thanks and praise. Yet if you examine the praise band music of the contemporary service you will easily see the shift from the means of Grace. The focus becomes yourself, your experience, your decision or actions. It is the hope that emotion from the rock songs will lead to faith. Scripture teaches faith leads to emotion. Doctrine and practice are clearly linked especially as evidenced in the Divine service.

Anonymous said...

John,

God comes to us in Word and Sacrament and we respond with prayer and praise. That, too, can be done in a Christ-centered "contemporary" service. Carefully chosen songs & response songs, confession & absolution, readings, creed, textual sermon, and the Supper can all be part of a "contemporary" service that honors and focuses on Christ.

I would caution all of us about broad statements such as: Yet if you examine the praise band music of the contemporary service you will easily see the shift from the means of Grace. The focus becomes yourself, your experience, your decision or actions. It is the hope that emotion from the rock songs will lead to faith." This certainly can be true but not always just as the Divine service can be thoughtless rote for some but obviously not all. Sweeping statements will not further good discussion.

Just shout'in

Anonymous said...

John,

God comes to us in Word and Sacrament and we respond with prayer and praise. That, too, can be done in a Christ-centered "contemporary" service. Carefully chosen songs & response songs, confession & absolution, readings, creed, textual sermon, and the Supper can all be part of a "contemporary" service that honors and focuses on Christ.

I would caution all of us about broad statements such as: Yet if you examine the praise band music of the contemporary service you will easily see the shift from the means of Grace. The focus becomes yourself, your experience, your decision or actions. It is the hope that emotion from the rock songs will lead to faith." This certainly can be true but not always just as the Divine service can be thoughtless rote for some but obviously not all. Sweeping statements will not further good discussion.

Just shout'in

John said...

Just shout'in,

"Sweeping statements will not further discussion." Ok so how about some specific examples which I also gave.

Is it a good idea for confessional WELS pastors to attend a Rick Warren church planting conference?

miket said...

John,

I'm trying to get a handle on your views so that I can respond. Do you believe that Lutheran churches should not have contemporary worship services because all contemporary worship services contain elements that are inconsistent with Lutheran doctrine?

Also, you seem to equate confessionalism with uniformity in worship forms. Are you saying that a synod cannot be confessional unless its congregations all use the same forms of worship?

John said...

miket,

The contemporary WELS worship that I have witnessed contain elements that are inconsistent with Lutheran doctrine.

I am saying that a confessional Lutheran church will follow the historic liturgy.

I am also saying that I have been in a WELS church(?) that didn't follow a liturgical format and didn't confess the creeds. Mike is that church a confessional Lutheran church?

Also, note that a recent COP recommendation states that any new mission starts will contain Evangelical Lutheran in its name. Why is the COP recommending this?

miket said...

John,

The historic liturgy was not inspired by God. True confessionalism concerns itself more with the doctrinal content of worship thatn with the form of worship.

As confessional Lutherans we want to be very sure that the doctrinal content of our worship is faithful to Scripture. God does not give us freedom as to the doctrine that we proclaim and celebrate in our worship.

However, when it comes to the forms of worship, God has given us freedom. As one of the previous commenters wrote, God has not dictated worship forms to His New Testament people as He did to Old Testament Israel.

The idea that there is only one form of worship that is acceptable to God, namely, the historic liturgy, is more akin to Roman Catholicism than it is to confessional Lutheranism.

miket said...

John,

One more note -- I have not personally witnessed a contemporary service in a WELS church, so I am not defending what you saw. If what you saw was not in agreement with the doctrine of Scripture, then it was not consistent with confessional Lutheranism. Perhaps it would help me understand if you would describe some of the unscriptural elements.

John said...

Mike,

I will happily answer your questions. However, could you answer mine?

... A recent COP recommendation states that any new mission starts will contain Evangelical Lutheran in its name. Why is the COP recommending this?"

miket said...

John,

I have not heard of that COP recommendation, which is not surprising, because I have not been monitoring the COP's actions. I would be interested to know when it was made and to whom.

In any event, assuming that what you say is accurate, I would not be surprised if the COP is concerned about some of the same things you are. The COP is aware of a variety of problems within the synod and is always seeking ways to address them.

I think the best way to determine why the COP made this recommendation would be to contact one of them and ask him. I have communicated with COP members about other subjects and have received satisfactory responses.

miket said...

John,

Elsewhere on your blog you have made reference to the need for WELS laymen to become more active in holding WELS pastors and other leaders accountable for their teachings and practice. I came to your web site because I agree. I think that the first step in organizing WELS laymen is for those of us who have concerns about the synod's current direction to identify one another. I started another blog in the hopes of developing that kind of network, but was unsuccessful. I am hoping that this site may be able to accomplish what I couldn't.

Although my prior comments may not sound like it, I do agree with much of what you are saying here. I'm hoping that you and your other readers would like to do more than just complain about the way things are. Perhaps we can share ideas for solving these problems and supporting one another in our efforts.

John said...

Here is a link to a report about the COP resolution. Click on reports and then open up the April, 2008 report.



(open the link in a new window)

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't the COP go a step further and recommend that ALL the WELS churches (including those that currently don't) display Evangelical Lutheran in their names?

miket said...

John,

Thank you for the link to the COP resolution. It shows that the COP values the confessional significance of the term "evangelical Lutheran." It also is a tacit acknowledgment that not everyone in WELS feels that way. I find it encouraging that the COP feels the way it does on this issue.

Ultimately, however, a congregation's choice of names is up to the congregation itself. The COP can encourage, but will not legalistically dictate, the use of certain terms.

Anonymous said...

John,


Thanks for the blog and the updates. It does seem like the time of the judges when every man is doing as he sees fit.

X

Anonymous said...

X,

The biblical reference in your statement (May 18, 2008 4:34 PM) is an inditement on a nation that turned its back on God's Word. Am I to understand that you are equating the concerns you have with WELS with this condition in OT Israel? I hope not. I think it is not only unbiblical but spiritually dangerous to suggest that not following the historic liturgy or using evangelical Lutheran in a church's sign makes one apostate.

Just shout'in

Anonymous said...

John,

You asked in a previous comment in this thread: "Is it a good idea for confessional WELS pastors to attend a Rick Warren church planting conference?"

It depends on why he attends. If he attends hoping to "learn some techniques on how to grow a church" I would say he is playing with fire. No gimmick grows the Church; only His Means.

If he is looking for insights that may help him reach more people with the means of grace or helps him hone his teaching, leadership or preaching skills, it could be beneficial, could be. I understand the same has been done at our Seminary with guest speakers (about languages?) over the years and currently by professors earning advanced degrees in areas like preaching. If one thinks that to be a violation of a "confessional" church, then it follows that you would need to call the Synod, beginning with its President, COP and Seminary professors, to repentance.

I certainly understand and share your concern about Church Growth methodology, but let's not be so arrogant (not saying you are) that we believe we cannot learn from other Christians. I believe our pastors and professors are well-trained and discerning.

Just shout'in

John said...

Just shout'in,

I think there is much we can learn from other Confessional Lutherans. I just don't think it is the best us of a pastor's time and church's money to spend 4 days at a nationwide reformed Church growth seminar.

I have communicated this offense to the synod. All the way up to the top.

The officials didn't have any idea that these fellas were there.... So what do "we" do next?

Anonymous said...

I,too,have voiced my objections to the top of the synod. I've been awaiting a response for days now. With all the training our pastors receive, surely they have been taught leadership, teaching and preaching skills, and insights to reach more people via the means of grace, among many other things. I would like the pastors who attended this conference to report back to Synod and Mequon what additional skills they've learned from false teachers (Rick Warren and his ilk) in that one conference that they didn't get from all the many years of synodical, biblical training.

RM
UNION, OH

John said...

There may have been a recent comment submitted that was mistakenly deleted. Please resubmit your post.(sorry about the technology glitch)

Just Thinkin' said...

Dear Just Shoutin' -

Tell us how a WELS pastor can learn from Rick Warren how to reach more people with the means grace when Warren himself does not do this? By observing Warren's public speaking skills? Are no WELS pastors doing a good job or reaching people with the means of grace? Is there not one faithful, confessional WELS pastor others can emulate? What about LCMS pastors? There are some (regrettably, too few) LCMS pastors who faithfully reach people with the means of grace. Why not learn from them?

For WELS pastors to follow after Warren now, just as the community church crowd is losing interest in him and clamoring for the next new fad, is just too rich. And so sad.

Anonymous said...

A small clip from a WELS church bulletin in an area about 20 miles from St Mark Depere..... Is this the direction WELS wants to go???

"Some people from our church have approached our pastors about starting a daughter congregation in the Appleton area. These WELS people would fund the entire project for a certain number of years. It will not be financed by our congregation. This daughter congregation would have its own pastor and a part-time music director. The main feature of this church would be: 1) contemporary worship only; 2) small group ministry; 3) lay-driven; 4) Appleton area focused; 5) and will reach out to the unchurched. This congregation will be directed by a separate executive committee. It will have a different name than St. Peter and will worship in facilities outside our campus and not at FVL.
We will have two open hearings to discuss the concept of a
daughter congregation between the services on June 8 & 15, 2008, in church.
We will vote on this proposal at our June 23, 2008 voters’ meeting."

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the laugh!

The 40+ WELS congregations in the Appleton area really need help getting the word out????

miket said...

Anonymous (5/19 - 4:55 pm):

Your comment refers to a church growthy outreach proposal and asks whether this is the direction the WELS wants to go. Obviously, it is the direction that at least some in one congregation want to go. I trust that you are not ascribing the thinking of these few to the whole synod. I think most of the people in WELS would have concerns about starting the kind of mission described in that bulletin note.

The history of the WELS is full of cases of liberal pastors leading their congregations in directions not consistent with God's Word. Some of those pastors came to see the error of their ways; most are no longer WELS.

Seeing a bulletin note like this does not alarm me. What would alarm me is false doctrine that goes undisciplined. Do you know of anything along those lines that needs to be addressed?

Anonymous said...

"The main feature of this church would be: 1) contemporary worship only; 2) small group ministry; 3) lay-driven; 4) Appleton area focused; 5) and will reach out to the unchurched."

Am I missing something? What is not consistent with God's Word in those four? The only false doctrine that needs to be addressed in this vain is elevating personal preferences to the level of Scripture and addressing those who are not in agreement with your opinions "false teachers'. That's called legalism and that is a sin -- period. That is also an issue that also needs to be addressed in the WELS.

I live in the Fox Valley, the number of people we are reaching in our 40+ congregations, the number sitting in His house regularly, and the number of adult confirmations are in most cases, not rising. The synod stats, which I have a copy of, indicates a need to at least look at different ways to gain an audience so that God's means can be shared.

Just shout'in

Anonymous said...

Just shout'in,

Who promised that your congregations would grow?

Anonymous said...

Wow, even Wels is wandering to Rick Warren (and his ilk...ever notice, ilk is never a good thing)
So how does Wels measure success?
Nickels and Noses or faithful preaching of the Gospel and administering the Sacrements? Since numbers aren't going up, do you leave the Gospel for a marketing plan??
Just askin'

rlschultz said...

"Who promised that your congregations would grow?"

Very good question which needs to be asked in a situation like this or any other which relies upon "M&M's" - marketing and methods. Furthermore, where is numerical growth even made a requirement of the so-called Great Commission? So much of this type of approach demonstrates a lack of discernment.
The final, default argument for all of this nonsense is that they are just trying to save souls.

Anonymous said...

John,

Your blog has been quoted extensively over on Ichabod the past day or two. If you want people to take you even in the least bit seriously, you need to talk to Jackson and tell him to stop. The guy is a jerk of a pastor and a false prophet (denies objective justification). There's a reason why he's all by himself.

Anonymous said...

Rev. Jackson has many more supporters than this person knows. What makes him think he all alone?

Norman Teigen said...

Some of us in the ELS are concerned about the confessional integrity of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. I believe that this will be discussed in the upcoming ELS convention. At least, I hope that it is.

Norman Teigen
ELS layman

Anonymous said...

Norm, how is this going to be discussed? I can't see someone getting up on the floor and saying: "We better check out the WELS!" How will this happen?

Anonymous said...

Norm, how is this going to be discussed? I can't see someone getting up on the floor and saying: "We better check out the WELS!" How will this happen?

Norman Teigen said...

I accept the challenge. I will go to Mankato and ask for the floor and raise the question myself.

Norman Teigen
ELS layman

Anonymous said...

Norm, this wasn't a challenge. You yourself wrote on this blog: "I believe that this will be discussed in the upcoming ELS convention." My only question was, "How?" I wasn't challenging you in any way.