Thursday, July 17, 2008

Alternative Missions - guest comment-

-------------another view---------------------------------------------
I have done a lot of reading the last few weeks as I stumbled across this site and then branched out to read the many others with related themes. I've read most all of Wacky Jackson and his tripe. I've read the issuesinwels folks site, the motley magpie, combed through all the comments on these blogs. I've had many things cross my mind that I'd love to say about various issues and even started some comments of my own ...only to stop and decide there would be no point arguing here...much like the protester in Tienamen Square.

Ultimately though I think if those who sit around here postulating would actually go out and knock on people's doors and witness Christ to their neighbors and actually go out into the world and find unbelievers they can share the Gospel with that most of this discussion would disappear. I would like to see some of the people here reaching out to my non-temple going jewish lesbian neighbors with the Augsburg confession or maybe the book of Concord. Perhaps a thorough discourse of the history of the synodical conference and the changes to synods and worship practices in a post-modern age would get them to consider coming to a bible study group at our house?


The point being in almost all of the discussion I have seen at all these sites they only address keeping Lutheran churches Lutheran as if that was our only goal. They criticize churches and/or individuals that actually get out and try to reach the unbelievers. I mean alleluia, praise the Lord you have a church with pure doctrine in Word and Sacrament and fine traditional methods of pointing churchgoers to Christ. But hardly even once in any site has anyone addressed personal evangelism. I also believe that the Holy spirit does all the work on an unbelieving heart when the Word is presented but it seems that in this venue that is often used as an excuse to not be personally responsible for getting out there and presenting the Word on a personal level. Perhaps the great commission does not apply to some. Perhaps some think that since the Holy Spirit does it all that the Holy Spirit will knock on the doors and present the Word himself. Imagine a church that had a "program" that taught people how to be better evangelists. Clearly since it is a program it is "church growth" and learning to evangelize with those around you should be avoided.

I guess I belong to a new mission "Church Growth" church. We have blended services with A/V and a band. Half of our budget is spent on evangelism. We have events nearly every month that get our members into the community or invites the community in so that we can build personal relationships and share the Gospel.

I think it is ironic that in these blogs and such it would appear that the WELS is just repleat with all this liberalism in CG and all you need to do is talk to someone who is involved in it whole heartedly and I can tell you. The WELS is 99% full of nothing but crusty old traditionalist boogers who sit on their hands, can't handle change, and won't evangelize...like the many here who only believe in the Holy Confessions that were verbally inspired by Martin Luther...the true Lutheran god. We are criticized by most of the traditional WELS congregations all around us (except our mother congregation of course) and seldom find anyone in the synod who is like the people you describe. We look for guidance and assistance and all we can look to is Crossroads, Crosswalk, St.Marcus, Christ the Rock, etc..and try to form a home grown network of support in true personal ministry. Personally I would love to find all this WELS support for "CG" practices because we ain't feelin' it. I would venture to say that WELS leadership has very little experience and will to try and support alternative missions such as ours. Thats why our core WELS group is still relatively small and the growth we have is 60% new believers and unchurched. Most WELS folks stay away as they don't have the guts to reach out and evangelize and try new things to build those relationships with the unbelievers in our community.

I thank you all though for the opportunity to get a glimpse inside an interesting "theological" perspective.

Tim Niedfeldt

Victory of the Lamb Lutheran Church
Web/AV ministry

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Tim,

You write

"like the many here who only believe in the Holy Confessions that were verbally inspired by Martin Luther...the true Lutheran god."

Could you please give me an example of this?

Thanks,
Bob

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments Tim. Thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Before I offer criticism of your statements, I'll offer an observation that I share with you: motivation among the laity to engage in personal evangelism seems to be relatively subdued, if not non-existent, in our Synod. I am relatively new to John's Bailing Water blog and Discussion Forum, but in the few responses I have submitted, I have made it relatively clear that I am not congenital WELS, but rather am an "adult convert," not only to WELS, but to bona fide Lutheranism. I was raised a Charismatic during the 70's and lived as a "free-wheeling Evangelical" through the 80's and most of the 90's -- I have a veritable lifetime of experience on the CG road you and your congregation are taking. From the time my wife and I first visited, and shortly thereafter joined, the WELS many years ago, I have been, and I remain, literally astounded at the quality of preaching and teaching that WELS laymen enjoy. WELS laymen have, without a doubt, the best preparation as Christian evangelists I have ever encountered -- they consistently sit under the best doctrinal training, the best teaching, the best preaching, anywhere, in my experience. What continues to leave me speechless and confused is the fact that so many of our laymen lack the ability to express in words what they have been clearly taught, and it seems, don't really have the desire to share the Gospel themselves. This isn't to say they don't enthusiastically support evangelism. In my experience in congregational leadership, most are glad to supply as much money as they can, and even to play supporting roles, in the congregation's evangelistic efforts. In my business travels and discussions with pastors and laymen of various congregations across the country, my impression is the same. As long as somebody else is on the front lines of evangelism, most laymen in our Synod will be happy to throw their support behind them. But ask them to personally speak with someone, they run the other direction. I just don't understand it. But I don't let it get to me. In my experience, there is always someone eager to share the Gospel in any congregation. Even if there is only one person, once identified, I don't know of any congregation that isn't willing to throw their support behind him (or even her).

Now for criticism. I'll ignore your pejoratives, like "crusty old traditionalist boogers," "verbally inspired Confessions," or "Martin Luther as the true Lutheran God," etc. You're obviously frustrated -- so I'll leave it at that. However, to embrace Church Growth is sheer foolishness. First, Church Growth has been shown to be completely without merit in every practical sense -- it has even been declared by Barna Research to be a complete failure, statistically speaking. This is significant, given that Barna developed his research firm to support CG with "marketing research" designed to meet the needs of Church Growth methodologies. In fact, according to his recently published research, Church Growth hasn't helped one iota in terms of numeric growth in the Visible Church at all. In the past two decades, Barna himself reports, nearly $500 billion has been spent by churches on Church Growth programs, with no measurable result. Engaging in these practices is no longer a gamble. It was a gamble 20 years ago. To embrace such methods today is nothing but a display of ignorance. Today, if one bothers to examine the research, CG is a proven loser, and to embrace these methods is to show that you haven't done your homework. The fact is, CG based Evangelicalism is imploding. The combination of weak theology with their bloated emphasis on experiential worship and other CG evangelistic practices has produced a measurable exodus from Evangelical churches. This fact has been recently reported not only by Barna, but by other pop-church news outlets like Christianity Today and The Christian Post. And former Evangelicals, in search of doctrinal substance, are heading in two directions: Home Churches and Traditional Liturgical Churches. For us, "the new CG" is what we have been doing all along -- Liturgical Worship. So, if you insist on asserting "adiaphora" by celebrating CG, my response is "Get with the program" -- every measure of sound reason, which good stewards of God's resources will apply in their freedom, points to the fact that contemporary/charismatic worship and other CG practices are a waste of resources.

Second, and more importantly, CG practices are theologically faulty. Others who frequent John's blog can go into more detail on these points, I'm sure, but I will briefly point out three facts related specifically to the "anointed CG practice" of Contemporary/Charismatic Worship:

(1) Any practice which elevates Worship, or some other practice, as that around which the congregation gathers above the Marks of the Church, treads heavily on established Lutheran theology concerning Church and Ministry. Church Fellowship requires agreement in Doctrine and Practice -- we confess the same doctrine and engage in practice that reflects this shared confession. Congregations have freedom in practice, but not such freedom which causes confusion and offense among those in the greater Fellowship of their Synod. CG congregations in the WELS may well confess the same doctrine, but their worship practices, which sideline the Sacraments and which assert their equivalence with the preaching of the Word, do not reflect it. This results in confusion and offense among their brothers in the greater Fellowship of our Synod, which explains why you can't seem to get support from "traditional" congregations in your area -- they are confused and offended by your practice. This, rightfully, has Fellowship implications.

(2) Any Lutheran practice which elevates worship experience is unwittingly engaged in a full frontal assault on the Means of Grace. Too many well-meaning Lutherans don't realize what they are doing when they adopt the worship formats of contemporary/charismatic Evangelicals. They don't realize what they are communicating to those outside of our Confession, who have deep experience in contemporary/charismatic worship that we don't have. The fact is, contemporary/charismatic worship formats were invented long ago by Pentecostals, and adopted by those fooled into the Charismatic Renewal in the 1970's, to prop up the following false teachings: (a) that the acts of worship and prayer are Means of Grace, or means through which the Holy Spirit comes to, and works in, the worshiper; (b) that the purpose of these acts is human centered, "to draw near to God in the act of worship," that He would reciprocate by drawing near to the worshiper and experientially confirm for the worshiper that the Holy Spirit is with him, and that he is therefore loved by God; (c) that these acts of "drawing near to God" are really acts of yearning, tarrying, and striving, of wrestling with God through worship and prayer with the demanding expectation that He give blessing in return; (d) that assurance of one's salvation is not found in the objective promises of God's Word, but is bound up in the blessing which proceeds from successfully wrestling with God, that is, in the experience of God Himself through worship; (e) that manifest experience of the Holy Spirit's presence in worship or prayer, or "the Baptism of the Holy Spirit," is public confirmation of an individual's "spiritual anointing" and serves as divine qualification and appointment for ministerial authority in the congregation (creating levels of Christians in the congregation based on relative "spirituality"). When Lutheran CG congregations engage in contemporary/charismatic worship, they are trumpeting their agreement with such false teachings. Don't believe me? Ask any one of your Evangelical visitors/converts whether he/she experienced a "movement of the Holy Spirit" during worship. I assure you, you will be surprised at the responses. Indeed, such practice has Fellowship implications on this basis, as well.

(3) Any practice which elevates worship experience as an Evangelical tool, to a status anywhere near equal to the proclamation of Law and Gospel, is abusing both Worship and the preaching of Law and Gospel. Worship is a forum in which those with faith in the objective promises of God's Word offer their sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him on the basis of His completed work on their behalf. Those without faith have nothing to offer in such a forum. In fact, their offerings are offensive to God -- the Bible states directly that He turns Himself from such offerings, and rejects them. To draw unbelievers into the church on the pretense of worship experience is to sinfully draw them in on the false pretense of the efficacy of their worship sacrifice. The fact is, God hates the worship offerings of the unregenerate, and any experience they experience as a result of their false worship has nothing whatsoever to do with the Holy Spirit's work in them as a result of their worship -- it is merely a contrivance manufactured by worship performers.

I'll close with the following comment. The fact is (and I know from experience as a WELS Lutheran, not just from "theological theories"), you don't need CG to be effective evangelists. You don't need it. And in the end, CG will prove to be just an encumbrance that you will find difficult, if not impossible, to shake off. In order to be effective evangelists, however, you do need the fortitude to herald Law and Gospel, to place it on your Masthead, rather than Worship experience. If you think that it would be useful, I am more than willing to engage in further, personal, discussion with you on this matter.

Freddy Finkelstein

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Hello all,

well I'll expand a little bit. I was being very facetious when I referred to our church as CG. And I'm not too frustrated...I'm just a sarcastic individual. Just ask my kids as to how serious of a person I am. I apologize to the various people out there that I may have over generalized as being part of a group they are not. I did see some really well balanced comments out there. I've been reading through all these comments so much I feel like I know so many people here. However I know sarcasm doesn't come through in the written form so well but trust me I never take anything personally. I have 3 teenagers :-D.


See I know from the personal experience that our church follows the liturgy. We have nearly every component yet a guest whose never been to church wouldn't know it was something called a "liturgy" its just an order of service in the bulletin and on the screen. We have blended music usually 2-3 hymns played in a contemporary style and 2-3 more modern songs. However we do our best to pick out music that has gospel messages and avoid the CCM type music.


We know there are edgier services out there and basically I believe that's what you are warning against. We strive for a pretty moderate middle ground. a blended service that follows the liturgy with a little flexibility (perhaps a video clip in the sermon if it makes a point, etc) However everything we do is planned and with a purpose. We are not looking for an edge, a niche, or any kind of charismatic/experiential emotional high. Its just a little bit more than a typical traditional service but moderate enough that we get people from 0 - 90 coming to our church. Interestingly enough I find my group of people 35-50 strangely in the minority.


more important than the particulars of the service is that our service is not what we try to attract people too. We don't hype up our services as the reason people should come to church. We want people to come to our Bible 101/201/301 classes. We want then to come to small group bible study we want them to come to our social events. We want them to develop ties and personal relationships with members so they can learn more and start walking on their own two spiritual feet.


perhaps part of my point is exactly as Freddie said...the service is not some marketing campaign for the unbelievers to come and feel like they are making things right with God. The work of spreading the word is the pastor's and the congregation getting out there and evangelizing. The service is for praising and glorifying Christ. Usually an unchurched person doesn't come to our services until after months of exposure and encouragement and bible study. Its not the other way around. No one just walks into our church from the road.


so I want to convey that I think it is harsh to judge "contemporary" as CG without examining the details. (every bulletin, every sermon video and pdf, and all the music is out on the website) There seems to be this assumption that Lutherans can't do contemporary in a lutheran way. That changing anything of yore will destroy that which we hold dear. I believe that a good solod consciencious group of lutherans can make a good contemporary service that retains the values of lutheranism.


Now I know our events are "marketed" We send out at least 12 mass mailings of 12000 pieces a year. We design our website our material and almost everything around a "target audience" of unbelievers and unchurched. We have done our research too. We know our website has 15-20 seconds to make an impression and that nearly 80% of anyone who visits our church goes to the website first to find out what to expect and who we are. We know that no handout, no brochure, no website is going to convert someone. We know that we need to get our name out there and let the community know we exist and we care about them. We call Sunday School "Bible Quest" Is that a program now because it has a name? We call our Womens bible study group "Bible Babes" instead of some "circle" or even worse the OWLS (Old Wornout Lutherans). Weekly bible study are called neighborhood groups. I guess those sound like programs...but they are names that make sense to those who don't know "church words". What really is in a name? Tomorrow(today) we are having our second annual Hallepalooza. Its a concert in the park with free food for the community, kids games, some contests and our band plays christian songs from our worship reporatoire (last year 150 people got some exposure to music and a devotion). We have our 2nd annual bible soccer camp coming up called Jesus Saves. We could call it VBS but we have 40 registered kids up from 28 last year and still two weeks to go to register.


so is it CG or the same thing we've been doing all along for ages? I may be one of only a handful of people who can recall the top 50 lutheran hymn numbers from TLH at my church or can recite what vicarious atonement is. However that does not change that people are being reached and WELS people and even better new christians are learning to go out and reach out to their friends, family and community.


oh and there was some mention of what I meant by the references to the "holy confessions" What I meant is this..often thats all I hear quoted on these sites...it seems as if the scriptures are secondary to the confessions.


as an FYI I am a WELS lifer and my family has been wels since 1870 I believe. My grandfather was the treasurer of the synod for 20 years until he died in the middle of the synod convention when they voted to split with LCMS. My father would probably be turning in his grave and be right there with my new traditionalist friends here :-) However I did send my kids to a non-denominational/charismatic/laying on of hands and all that crap school when we lived out east. Trust you me in that I know what CG things you are warning against. totally wacky stuff. yet I also belonged to a conservative traditional WELS church (only one in NH) where if we were to suggest that the church go out in the community and evangelize I think they all would have crawled in a hole and died. two huge extremes... now im in the middle.


Time for bed... I'm sure I'll check in soon.

Tim Niedfeldt

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I can be reached at

niedfeldt@gmail.com
;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tim, for taking the time to at least attempt to advance the proposition that a non-hymnal service (is that a neutral enough term for this blog?) is not necessarily a "full fontal assault on the Means of Grace." You wouldn't know it from some of the posts you'll find on this site, but the Means of Grace was around before the Western Rite.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

To quote the Confessions is to quote what the Scriptures mean. This is a given among Lutherans. Those who argue with the Lutheran Confessions are arguing with the Scriptures. I have found that Lutherans who complain when the Confessions are cited (in a Lutheran discussion) probably have an issue with Lutheranism faith, a.k.a. the Christian faith. I have also discovered that those who criticize a person's "too high" view of Luther, or Luther himself, are hard pressed to say with what they disagree in Luther. What do you disagree with in Luther?

I do not mean by this that the Lutheran Confessions or Luther are always honored in the Wisconsin Synod.

Bob

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I have no problem with what the confessions say or that they accurately portray scripture. On the other hand. Do we need them? Could we not just have the bible? You said a.k.a the Cristian faith. Exactly!!! Lutheran is just a name and in lots of first hand experience it is a name that doesn't mean much to an unchurched/unbeliever. When I canvass door to door we need to talk about who Jesus is and the Bible as his Word. Not that we are lutheran and we have these confessions and we are part of a synod. Those are for another day...many months down the road.

I know this really is two different worlds. There is a community of lutherans who can get all hardcore Lutheran and understand what a confession is and know the difference between page 5 and page 15 and appreciate the "Which hymn is Hymn 200" debacle as well as properly flip pages for the te deum. We could argue that the WELS clearly uses the wrong tune to Almighty Fortress ;-) And what was up with that Hymnary my wife used growing up ELS..did they even know what a half note was?

However in our ministry to the unchurched..I'm going to stick with the Bible. I mean honestly my nextdoor jewish lesbian neighbors could care less about what martin luther had to say not to mention very much of the new testament. We start with Isaiah 53 but even that is hard because they don't really even know the old testament either. But maybe over time the Holy Spirit will work faith and they will be inspired to learn more about our faith and heritage and they can study Luther. That's just a long ways away.

My personal feelings are that the confessions are great but they are not the Bible. I can honestly say I believe they are an accurate exposition of the Bible however that does not compel me to quote them. They are a handy reference i suppose but I'd rather have the bible passages in front of me.

You'd think living in the WELS promised land of Milwaukee that when there is a lutheran church every 3 blocks that it would be easier to promote "Lutheranism" but I find that is not true. I bet you $1 that Luther himself would have preferred we went with Christian Church than Lutheran. I also bet he'd be a little peaved if after all that work translating the bible that people didn't bother with the bible as a source and instead just used his confessions. Just speculation...I'll put it on my list of things to ask people in heaven...I am never going to remember everything on that list. You should be able to mail the list to heaven so it was waiting when you got there :-D

Tim Niedfeldt

Anonymous said...

Tim,

You are confusing oranges and orange juice here (if I can coin aphorism). As I noted in a discussion among Lutherans the Confessions play a decisive role in determing what is the Christian faith. You criticized the use of the confessions on this blog (and did not give me an example of such). This blog concerns itself with Lutheran matters and thus they are quoted. No one has EVER advocated using the Lutheran Confessions as the primary text in doing mission work. Please.

Again, when a Lutheran poo-poohs the Confessions it tells me he does not know them, for if he did he would gladly quote them, even in a discussion with a non Lutheran for they accurately portray the Scriptures in the face of false doctrine. You ask "do we need them?" Here you show your naivete. Absolutely! For as - dare I quote him - Luther says, every herectic commandeers the Scriptures for their purposes. Example. You say that black people cannot be saved and "prove" from the Ham account they cannot. I say they can and confess "Black people can be saved." That confession is the true Word of God. Yes, in the face of heresy confession is called for. Test. Would you accept as your pastor one who promised to teach according to the Bible? Great, now you have a Baptist, Roman Catholic, Methodist, Branch Dividian or Jehovah's Witness as your pastor.

You set up a straw man (a familiar tactic on this blog) of opining that Luther wouldn't be happy that "people didn't bother with the bible as a source and instead just used his confessions." Please. Again, that comment evinces an improper view of the Confessions and their proper role. No one quotes the Confessions in a debate with a non Lutheran, however, with a Lutheran it is decisive.

You also exhibit a great amount of naivete with your "Lutheran" name diatribe. Indeed Luther did not wish his name to be attached to the evangelical movement. However, Papists used it as an insult. Heresy was always given the name of its originator, thus Lutheranism. Lutherans thus happily accepted the insult as their confession of the evangelical truths championed by Luther. To your naivete... What name would you have a Lutheran church used, that is, that has not ALREADY been used or should I say, misued? Christian? Used. Disciples of Christ? Used. Community Church? Used. Heaven's Gate? Used... to death (I actually heard that name suggested for a new WELS mission to be started by Apostles Lutheran in San Jose). You name it, it has been used. Though "Lutheran" may not mean something to the unchurched and may have for them some bad connotations so does every other name including and especially Christian.

Bob

California on my mind said...

Freddy:

Wow! Thanks for those comments. I've considered this blog mostly a waste of time because there has been relatively little substantive discussion here. But your comments as well as Tim's are making me change my mind on that. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

I think we are being studied:

http://ventosusveritas.blogspot.com/2008/08/confessional-crusaders.html

Anonymous said...

i'm gonna make my own post about it