Friday, October 30, 2009

Reformation Restoration

As we celebrate the Reformation, we take a moment to reflect on the power of the sacraments. The following article was published several years ago but has become even more relevant today.

Maybe we can post this on the church door.


The Art of Confessing the Sacrament

a look at Lutheran liturgical practice by James A. Frey

(This article was originally published in March of 2005 of the Motley Magpie)

It’s another one of those chicken and egg questions: What came first, bad doctrine or sloppy talk? And as with most chicken and egg questions the answer is, it doesn’t matter. Bad doctrine inevitably leads to sloppy talk, and sloppy talk inevitably leads to bad doctrine.

Because this is so, the art of confessing what one believes is an extremely difficult one. For not only must one say what is true, but he must say it in such a way that it cannot be misinterpreted. And that is no easy task. Indeed, it is one of the hardest aspects of the Holy Ministry in that it requires the minister not only to know the doctrine well but also to have a good command of the language. Yet even then many will attempt to twist and turn his words around so that they say and assert what they want to hear and not what he intended to say. We know how hard Jesus’ enemies tried to do this, and no servant is greater than his master. If they misused and abused his words, then surely the enemies of Christ will attempt the same with the words of his ministers.

Thus it is as I said, the art of confession is an extremely difficult one, and yet one that the minister of Christ must learn to do to the best of his ability, since sloppy talk leads to bad doctrine.1 Nowhere has this proven to be more true than when it comes to the Holy Sacrament, which in a protestant country like America is constantly under attack. How we speak about it is a clear indication of what we believe about it, and what we believe about it is going to show itself clearly in how we speak about it. The purpose of this article is to compare certain ways people today are speaking about the Sacrament to the way Luther and our Lutheran Confessions spoke.

“The consecrated elements are bread and wine.”

To speak like this is perhaps more a matter of carelessness than anything else. For our Lord’s words as to what is distributed and received in the Holy Sacrament are simple and clear, “Take; eat; this is my body which is given for you…Take, drink of it, all of you; this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” (SC). Thus in answer to the question: “What is the Sacrament of the Altar?” Dr. Luther rightly answers: “It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under bread and wine, instituted by Christ himself, for us Christians to eat and to drink” (SC).

The Lutherans did not have a problem with the Romanists on this,2 but with the Sacramentarians: with Zwingli, who saw the bread only as a picture of Christ’s body, and with Calvin, who spoke of Jesus’ spiritual presence at the Sacrament and not in such a way that we actually eat his true body and drink his true blood. And not surprising, it is their spiritual descendants today who consistently speak of the consecrated elements as “bread” and “wine.”

Now this writer does not wish to be accused of denying the presence of bread and wine in the Sacrament. And he readily admits that Blessed St. Paul at times spoke of the bread and the cup (1 Cor. 11:28), though he was careful to point out that they were in communion (koinonia) with Christ’s body and blood (1 Cor. 10:16). So to flush out the crypto-Calvinists who had infiltrated the Church in Luther’s day one simple question was asked: “What is the minister holding in his hand?” And if the person answered, “Bread,” then he was identified as a Calvinist and was promptly removed. 3

There’s the art of confessing in practice. It wasn’t enough just to say what is true, but it was to be said in such a way that it could not be misunderstood. No Lutheran denies the presence of bread and wine in the Sacrament. But confessional Lutherans realize that it is not the bread and wine that make this a Sacrament. It is Christ’s true Body and true Blood distributed to us by the hand of his minister, for us Christians to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life. Therefore, when speaking of what has been consecrated, we say it best when we stick to the simple words of our Lord, “This is my body… This cup is the New Testament in my blood.” 4

Moments

A favorite tactic today is to throw the invective “you’re setting a moment of presence.” Indeed, the Church of Rome, has gone so far as to fix the precise moment of this change, claiming that it happens after the “cor” in “Hoc est corpus meum.” Before that moment if the priest should not be able to complete the statement, it remains only bread and wine. But after he speaks that syllable, then the transubstantiation has taken place and what is on the Altar is now Christ’s body and blood.

Though some of them may deny this, receptionists also tend to fix a moment for the Sacramental Union. Together with their father Melanchthon, they narrow down the presence to the communicant’s reception of the elements, and eliminate the consecration as the means through which Christ effects the Real Presence, reasoning that there is no sacrament outside of its use. 5

Historically Lutherans have not concerned themselves with fixing a moment, for to do so is to fall into the trap of trying to logically explain the inexplicable. Instead, listen to what our confessions have to say on this matter:

For the true and almighty words of Jesus Christ, which he spoke in the first institution of the Supper, were not only effective in the first Supper; they remain so. They retain their validity and power and are still effective, so that in all places in which the Supper is observed according to Christ’s institution and his words are used, the body and blood of Christ are truly present, distributed and received on the basis of the power and might of the very same words that Christ spoke in the first Supper. (Emphasis added) 6

And quoting Luther they say,

This command and institution of his has the power to accomplish this, that we do not distribute and receive simple bread and wine but his body and blood, as his words indicate: ‘This is my body, this is my blood.’” (Emphasis added) 7

Once more,

In the administration of the Holy Supper, the Words of Institution are to be clearly and plainly spoken or sung in the congregation, and in no case are to be omitted… so that the elements of bread and wine are sanctified and consecrated in this holy practice whereby Christ’s body and blood are offered to us to eat and to drink, as Paul says (1 Cor. 10:16): ‘The cup of blessing that we bless…’ This of course takes place in no other way than through the repetition and recitation of the Words of Institution. (Emphasis added) 8

To sum this up, while Lutherans refuse to fix a moment as to when the Union takes place - and even believe it foolish to do so - nevertheless, we believe, teach and confess that because Christ does not and cannot lie, when he through the voice of his minister says, “This is my body,” then it is his body. We don’t know how; we don’t know when. We just know and believe that it is.

Perhaps this would be a good time also to discuss the question of the reliquiae, what to do with the body and blood that are left over. Are we to just throw them back in with the unconsecrated, as if they are no longer Christ’s body and blood?

Why the obsession with fixing moments? Just as our Lord was silent as to when the Sacramental Union takes place, so he is silent as to when, or even if, it ever ends. Those who deny this statement I challenge to show me where he does.

What I can relate to you is how Dr. Luther dealt with one Simon Wolferinus, who, being a disciple of Melanchthon, was found mixing the consecrated with the unconsecrated. It is reported that such a practice caused Luther “great grief” and that he labeled it “a scandal.” Finally, he felt compelled to ask this man if he wanted to be considered a Zwinglian and even suggested that he was perhaps afflicted with the insanity of Zwingli. And what did the great Reformer instruct in regard to the reliquiae? “Therefore see to it that if anything is left over of the sacrament, either some communicants or the priest himself and his assistants receive it, so that it is not only a curate or someone else who drinks what is left over in the chalice, but he gives it to the others who were also participants in the body of Christ.” 9

What of shut-ins? Can they be regarded as part of these “others” who are to consume the reliquiae? I see no reason why not. Indeed, this would include them in the Service that they are not physically able to attend and quite frankly is to me much more in accord with what Luther proclaimed as an appropriate practice than simply putting them back in with the unconsecrated, which Luther clearly saw as encroaching Zwinglianism.

The Distribution Formula

For all my life the churches of which I have been a member, have used for their distribution formula the Words of Institution, and yet a study of this practice reveals that it is of relatively recent origin, and that it originated in the Union Churches of Germany! Indeed, it became a compromise to the members of these churches, as the Reformed could take these words in light of their false interpretation of them - that Jesus is spiritually present, and the Lutherans in light of their literal meaning: “This is Christ’s body and blood.”

But once again, I direct you to the art of confessing: that one must not only say what is right but say it in such a way that it cannot be misinterpreted. For that very reason we at St. Paul’s Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Belleville observe, and most appropriately so I believe, the old formula of distribution that was in use in Luther’s day and is still in use throughout most of Christendom today. It is as follows:

The Pastor holds the consecrated Host before the communicant’s eyes and says: “The Body of Christ.”

The communicant may respond as a confession of faith: “Amen.”

The pastor then puts it into his mouth, saying: “Given for you.”

After which he holds the consecrated Cup before his eyes and says: “The Blood of Christ.”

Again, the communicant may respond in agreement: “Amen.”

The pastor puts it to his mouth, saying: “Shed for you.”

Let’s face it. No Zwinglian or Calvinist can accept such a formula, for it states in such a way that cannot be misinterpreted what is distributed in this Sacrament, the body and blood of Christ given and shed for you.

Women Communing Women???

It’s a question that is being asked by some within the WELS, and how it is being answered makes me wonder if we are not leaving the door open for women pastors in the future. Here’s what Blessed Dr. Luther had to say about this and about passages like 1 Cor 14 and 1 Tim 2,

For to the pastor is committed the pulpit, baptism, the sacrament (of the Altar), and he is charged with the care of souls… A parish pastor can claim that he possesses the office of the ministry, baptism, the sacrament, the care of souls, and is commissioned, publicly and legally. Therefore the people should go to him for these things. (Emphasis added) 10

Also,

The church is recognized externally by the fact that it consecrates or calls ministers, or has offices that it is to administer. There must be bishops, pastors, or preachers, who publicly and privately give, administer, and use the aforementioned four things (preaching, baptism, communion, the keys) or holy possessions in behalf of and in the name of the church, or rather by reason of their institution by Christ, as St. Paul states in Ephesians 4(:8), “He received gifts among men…” – his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some teachers and governors, etc. The people as a whole cannot do these things, but must entrust or have them entrusted to one person. Otherwise, what would happen if everyone wanted to speak or administer, and no one wanted to give way to the other? It must be entrusted to one person, and he alone should be allowed to preach, to baptize, to absolve, and to administer the sacraments… 11

And what of women? The blessed Reformer continues:

But in the congregations or churches where there is a ministry women are to be silent and not preach (1 Tim. 2:12). Otherwise they may pray, sing, praise and say “Amen,” and read at home, teach each other, exhort, comfort and interpret the Scriptures as best they can. 12

And even more succinctly:

It is, however, true that the Holy Spirit has excepted women, children, and incompetent people from this function, but chooses (except in emergencies) only competent males to fill this office, as one reads here and there in the epistles of St. Paul that a bishop must be pious, able to teach, and the husband of one wife - and in 1 Corinthians 14:34 he says, ‘The women should keep silence in the churches.” In summary, it must be a competent and chosen man. Children, women, and other persons are not qualified for this office, even though they are able to hear God’s word, to receive baptism, the sacrament, absolution, and are also true, holy Christians, as St. Peter says (1 Peter 3:7). Even nature and God’s creation makes this distinction, implying that women (much less children or fools) cannot and shall not occupy positions of sovereignty, as experience also suggests and as Moses says in Genesis 3 (:16), “You shall be subject to man.” The gospel, however, does not abrogate this natural law, but confirms it as the ordinance and creation of God.13

And lest you write all this off as a man who couldn’t fully rid himself of his papistic past or whose writings are not confessional, I conclude with this simple statement from our confessions:

Because Dr. Luther must deservedly be regarded as the foremost teacher of the churches that subscribe to the Augsburg Confession, since his entire teaching in sum and content was set down in the articles of the Augsburg Confession and presented to Emperor Charles V, the actual intention and meaning of the Augsburg Confession should not and cannot be derived more properly and better from any other place than from Dr. Luther’s doctrinal and polemical writings. (Once more, emphasis mine) 14

Something to think about, seriously. §

The Reverend James A. Frey is pastor of St. Paul Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Belleville, Michigan.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kind opts out

http://www.jsonline.com/news/



U.S. Rep. Ron Kind's decision to stay out of the 2010 governor's race came after a poll showed that few Wisconsinites knew him, Democrats said Thursday.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WELS members could face-off in battle for WI govenor

Two WELS members with differing worldviews could could square off against each other for the office of Wisconsin governor.

Mark Neuman -
http://markforgov.com/
www.issues2000.org

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Ron Kind

http://www.wsaw.com/politics/headlines/53430922.html
http://www.ontheissues.Ron_Kind.htm

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. Will a WELS pastor lead the state legislature in prayer?

If my wife doesn't follow my lead and vote for my WELS candidate of choice is she sinning?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Homerun

I finally had time to listen to President Schroeder's address. I believe he hit a homerun tie tge score. He made continual reference to being a confessional Lutheran church body. It made me wonder if he is a Confessional crusader. You could tell his staunch position against the Church and Change crowd. Practice does influence doctrine.

It is unfortunate that the elected VP is a supporter of Church and Change.

Pres. Schroeder also laid out the financial disaster that faces the WELS. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the convention goes. Right now it looks like the score is tied.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oktoberfest papers

Dear Mr. Administrator,

Sorry to interrupt this thread but it seems that it has come to its usual end. I was alerted a while back to a thread on the Oktoberfest conference held in Kewaunee, IL last October at which four former, now LCMS, members spoke. They were asked to give presentations on four topics which usually enter into the "differences between the WELS and LCMS" discussion.

The Bailing Water thread was quite entertaining! You might want to reread it. Anyway, two of the papers were just posted on the Motley Magpie web site. www.motleymagpie.org

Only those presentations which were given by Motley Magpie editors are posted there as they are the only ones to which we have rights.I thought, since you were looking to post them, that you would give us this plug on your site, especially in light of the calumny which we suffered on this site (which we quite enjoyed, miscreants that we are!)

Of all the comments posted on that thread discussing our motives etc. there were several that actually spoke the truth, the following:"They [the Motley Magpie types] call themselves catholics!""Ditto.

They talk about the Mass and private confession and call themselves 'father.'"

And I might add, so do the Confessors!Pax vobiscum,

Rev. Father John W. Berg

Monday, July 13, 2009

Civil War in the WELS ?

Greetings!

I've been following this blog since its inception, most of the time in general amusement, and often in perplexity. However, I have decided to weigh in on a comment I read recently - actually, a couple. The individual surmised that perhaps the WELS is heading toward a "civil war." Others then made reference to the incorrectly-named conflict among the states of the United States. As the Confederacy was in no way interested in taking over the U.S. Federal government - that conflagration was not a "civil war" per se, i.e. Wars of the Roses. However, what we're looking at in the WELS is a "real" civil war, or more correctly - we have already been at war for at least the last 20 years, with a good many small battles before that. The WELS is hopelessly (and I say that admitting that God can do anything) divided into 3 camps. One camp consists of the C&C folks and their hangers-on. Then there's another camp made up of the "Issues in WELS" men and various allies. But by far the largest camp is right in the middle, most of whom want little or nothing to do with the war at all. The battle is for the hearts and minds of this third group. The camp that convinces them that their way is best will win - pure and simple. I should add that there is a very small group who basically feel - "a pox on all your houses!" This then leads to my last observation concerning the comment about whether or not doctrinal issues will be dealt with at the convention. Most WELS Pastors, and a lot of laymen, know that the "real" actual work of the convention is done in the floor committees. In turn, the Presidium has pretty much carte blanche in deciding who chairs these groups and also their make-up. Thus, if the SP has done his work well - and I believe he has - the issues will be dealt with in those meetings, and the memorials which come out of those committees will tell the tale. Also, the recent Ad Hoc Committee obviously dealt with doctrine and practice and called it like it is. I believe the same will be true in the floor committees. Regarding elections: The C&Cers are on the run and hoping to get a man they can depend on into the 1st VP slot. As to finances, it really won't matter too much what is decided since our nation's leaders will continue horrible policies and the economy will not recover any time soon - with the result that more cuts will be needed anyway, regardless of how the convention goes.So, in short, a nasty little quiet war has been raging in WELS behind the scenes for decades. While LCMS and ELCA often do their fighting out in the open, that is seldom, if ever, the case in WELS. I don't see any reason for this pattern to change. I seriously doubt any group will arise at Saginaw and "walk out" of the synod, and I don't think any group will be "thrown out" either. Thus, it may look to many as though very little was done. But I believe our SP will most likely get 75 to 80% of what he needs done, and we will be on our way to fixing many problems that have accumulated over the past 20 years. From my keyboard to God's ear!

Deo Vindice!

Fr. Spence

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Blog

I would like to share with you a new blog that has entered the arena.

http://freddyfinkelstein.blogspot.com/


I think that it is important to invite more voices into the discussion. This summer could be a pivotal point in Lutheranism as a new direction maybe chosen.

Monday, June 22, 2009

An open letter to WELS laymen in advance of the synod convention

The letter below was sent to me for discussion...

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[Dear Friend in Christ],

[A number of folks] and I have been corresponding for some time regarding pressing issues of Church Practice in the WELS, issues which are potentially revealing doctrinal disunity, and which with all certainty, are going to surface during the 2009 WELS Synod Convention. Although I doubt these issues will be agenda items, they will undoubtedly surface in conversation among laymen, in committee discussion, and possibly in floor discussion resulting from committee reports, motions or even Memorials. I have been in contact with many individuals across Synod. I know that these topics will be raised, whether on the agenda proper, or not. Indeed, one internet source has proclaimed, "This 2009 convention will be the great divide. The laity will have to do their share -- and more than their share -- to move toward sound doctrine."

[Someone] informed me that he had briefly spoken to you regarding these issues, and he has asked me to share these issues with you by having me to forward to you pertinent information. There is a lot of it. I hope you don't mind reading. I will list the internet and attached document sources below, in order, providing a developing picture of the issues. My intent is to provide you with a reading of source material so that you can come to your own understanding of the gravity of these issues, can develop your own opinions, and be prepared for what may well be one of the most important Conventions since the amalgamation debate. I will provide an overview, and then only brief summaries for each source I link to.


Summary

Briefly stated, there seems to be a growing rift in our Synod's unity resulting from decades of tolerating the aberrations of the "Church Growth Movement" (CGM). While those who have imported these teachings from sources in greater American evangelicalism, and have promoted them among us, claim to have "cleaned them up" and "made them Lutheran," the damage created by these teachings is now surfacing in the form of divergent and sectarian practices within our congregations, especially worship practices, which are in turn not only exposing possibly divergent theological convictions of those in WELS who engage in these practices, but are most certainly exposing our people to heterodox perspectives as the practices themselves teach them, are watering down our public confession as our distinctiveness from the sectarians becomes less acute, and are eroding the consistency of our Fellowship standards, and thus also the firm testimony against doctrinal error that Fellowship is intended to communicate. This trend has not gone unnoticed by Synod. As a result of growing, and vocal concern, the WELS Council of Presidents (CoP) has recognized such influences among us, declaring under the "Doctrine" heading of its January meeting minutes:

5.D.03 Establishment of "non-traditional" ("new style") congregations We feel that the underpinnings of this "non-traditional" type of worship cannot be ignored. We also feel that the issue is extremely complex and will take great care to be careful to walk the "narrow Lutheran road" between legalism and ignoring and failing to admonish where practices are contrary to or a danger to the principles of gospel proclamation and the efficacy of the means of grace. We move that an ad hoc committee be convened that can study and address this issue and produce a study document that can be shared with circuits and also congregations for study and careful evaluation of practices in worship, sacraments, outreach, organization, music selection, etc. Motion carried.

5.D.05 C & C and outside speakers
We recommend that our Synod President and District President(s) continue to work with the representatives of Church and Change to come to an understanding of our desire for them to withdraw their invitation to the speaker proposed for their next conference.

The speaker referred to by the CoP, in 5.D.05 above, is Baptist "Church Growth" expert, Ed Stetzer -- and this specific issue has been a lightning-rod of controversy in the WELS for almost a year. But this is nothing new for the group Church and Change (C&C) -- an external group of WELS laymen, pastors, and theologians who seem to thrive on such controversy. In 2005, they invited the Methodist "Emergent Church" expert, Dr. Leonard Sweet, to instruct them, in order to disseminate his advice directly to WELS congregations through their organization. C&C was asked at that time by Synod to cancel their Conference because of their invitation, but C&C ignored this request. Because of the political positions in Synod occupied by those associated with this organization, C&C seems to have had free reign to "largely ignore them" (a quote from one of the papers I source, below). This year, it seems, they have finally been effectively pressured to "uninvite" the heterodox teacher, Ed Stetzer, but it remains to be seen whether the inclination to invite similar experts has also been reversed. In addition, many of our wealthy members seem to have gravitated to C&C leaders, perhaps because of their celebrity status, perhaps because of the “success” that their meticulously researched marketing plans seem to guarantee. As a result, several individuals have set up large endowment funds to finance the efforts of C&C -- perhaps without realizing the theological compromises and dangers of the Church Growth Movement that they are supporting. The fact is, C&C and its constituency have been active doing this sort of thing for decades, exposing laymen to "Church Growth" theology/methodology by sponsoring trips to evangelical Mission events, like the Exponential Conference and the Drive Conference, by holding their own Conferences celebrating heterodox keynote speakers, by encouraging our pastors and professors to attend grossly heterodox institutions (like Fuller in Pasadena, CA) to learn and import these practices into our Synod, by erecting supporting power structures within Synod (the Board for Parish Services, for instance), and by ultimately implementing these -- often very expensive -- CGM practices in their own congregations and by encouraging others to do the same. The sad fact is, even the statistical measures by which CGM promises “numeric growth,” CGM has instead proven to be an utter failure in those church bodies that have believed in its statistical promises and practiced its methods over the past generation. No evidence of growth in the Church can be found as a result of the methods promoted by CGM. Even Barna Research -- a Christian research firm founded many years ago with the purpose of providing congregations with marketing data and various other forms of research as they seek to implement the methods of CGM -- has declared CGM a statistical failure, showing that over the past generation of its use in greater American Christianity, despite over $500 billion invested in CGM methods over the past 30 years, no evidence of growth is discernible. At most, all that can be seen is denominational shift. Barna, almost five years ago, publicly has given up on CGM. If you think that the decline in numbers we face in WELS today is bad, the fact is, American Evangelicalism is in precipitous decline, the youth are leaving in droves for either liturgical churches, for the open apostasy of the Emergent Church (which seems to be overtaking Evangelicalism), or for nothing at all, and the ineffective Church Growth missions and mega-churches are closing down. CGM, far from helping, has ruined Evangelicalism in America. It has ruined most of Lutheranism in America, and threatens us, now.

Many are tempted to say, "Since false teaching is not tolerated among us, the 'Church Growth Movement' must be orthodox." The first problem is that CGM falsehoods are subtle yet insidious, and when cloaked in otherwise wholesome evangelical zeal, these subtleties (which expose horribly false foundations when they are closely examined, such as the decentralization of the Marks of the Church and the replacement of the Means of Grace with the means of man) are easily overlooked. The second problem is that CGM, in order to bring about the results it promises, requires an organizational power structure, and creates this power structure for itself as its "programs" are carried out. Thus the vaunted role of Parish Services. The Church Growth Movement has transformed WELS into a political institution (this is shown in one of the papers sourced, below). The fact is, several of our pastors and theologians have reportedly come out
against the errors of CGM, and as a result have been forced out of their positions and parishes through political pressure. Others have left for reasons of conscience. Reportedly, many pastors are reluctant to say anything as a result. But the struggle continues. One of the papers sourced, below, is a paper received by the 2008 Michigan District Convention -- a sweeping condemnation of CGM, and a call to repentance issued to those who have been deceived by it.

What follows is a listing of the sources I have found compelling, and which I invite you to read in order to be up to date on the issues as they are being considered today, and in order to understand how the "Church Growth Movement" has negatively impacted not only doctrine and practice and created division in our Synod, but is in large part responsible for our current financial situation (outside of ambient economic conditions that effect everyone equally, that is).


The Details

What is the "Church Growth Movement?"

Read the attached paper, Tendrils of the Church Growth Movement. (also reproduced online, here)
This is the paper that was delivered to the 2008 Michigan District Convention. It was commissioned by the MI District Convention in 2003, and represents five years of research by a team of WELS pastors and laymen. Presented in 2008, it is a comprehensive analysis, and sweeping condemnation, of the "Church Growth Movement." As I understand it, Rev. Aaron Frey (who was principal author of this paper), is active on C&C lists calling "Church Growth" adherents to repentance. He has been doing this for a number of years now, but it is unclear if there has been any change of heart among them.

The Plague of "Contemporary Worship" and the Role of the Lutheran Confessions

So-called "Contemporary Worship" is one of the hallmarks of CGM theology/methodology. In order for man to "grow the church," he must make it inviting for the unregenerate, by presenting worship in a way that is entertaining. It is easy to promote among us, since the prevailing thought is that "worship practice is adiaphora without qualification." The fact is, there are bounds to worship practice -- Scriptural bounds which are elucidated in our Confessions. The Lutheran church, as our Confessions inform us, is not only evangelical, it is also catholic, apostolic, and orthodox, and these facts underly the use of traditional hymnody and liturgical forms. Worship practice is not merely and entirely a matter of personal choice. Among the leading voices against the "Church Growth Movement" in WELS is a layman who writes under the name of "Freddy Finkelstein." He has contributed mainly to the blog, Bailing Water, a blog created and maintained by another WELS layman that is dedicated to discussing issues in Confessional Lutheranism, particularly in the WELS.

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/11/traditonal-service-contempo-service-rob.html
Read Freddy Finkelstein's post in response to "Ben." The links he provides to other blog entries and articles on Bailing Water are quite important, so follow those links and read their content. Some of the blog entries he links to are quite extended with commentary, so search these pages for "Freddy," and specifically read his contributions. Read the surrounding material too, if you've got the time.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/10/reformation-and-restoration.html
Read Freddy's light commentary regarding Confessionalism, and his response to those supposed Lutherans who find the Lutheran Confessions irrelevant -- especially since they restrict supposed adiaphora in practice. Read also a full and authoritative Confessional assessment (by Rev. David Jay Webber, ELS) regarding Communion frequency, here.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/10/crusaders-unite.html
Read Freddy's quote from C.P. Krauth's Conservative Reformation. It was reposted on Bailing Water (here) and elsewhere on the internet. Also in this blog entry, read Freddy's response to "Mr. Seeking Truth, not Hysteria."
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2008/12/christmas-miracle.html
Read the "extended reparté" between Freddy Finkelstein and Rev. Tomczak (WELS). Read the articles referenced by Freddy, as well -- especially the list of articles in his final comment.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/anything-that-isnt-unbiblical-is-fair.html
This is an excellent commentary, as Freddy sounds off on an "alternative WELS church" that is running a coffee shop and calling it Divine Worship (now known on the internet as "Latte Lutheran"), and is then grilled by C&C Church Growth advocates. Worship is not a Means of Grace. Worship is not evangelism. Sectarian worship is not catholic worship. Profane amusements have no place in an Ecclesiastical worship setting. Etcetera. Of great benefit, is the old worship resource he points to: Dr. P.E. Kretzmann's 1921 book, Christian Art, in the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship (this is a full length book, worth perusing if you have the interest -- it is not necessary reading to get a grasp of the issues at hand).

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/04/they-sold-their-soul-for-rock-and-roll.html

This blog entry started off with a commenter warning of the inherently pagan nature of modern entertainments, and on this basis, questioning their use in the Divine Service. Freddy chimes in somewhere in the middle with two back-to-back posts, one addressing "Cultural Discernment" in our selection of forms, and the second, a lengthy quotation from C.P. Krauth defining the Confessional Principle, particularly "the independently normative nature of the Lutheran Confessions."

The Lutheran Church is a Liturgical Church, according to the Lutheran Confessions...

http://www.blc.edu/comm/gargy/gargy1/liturgical_church.html
This article is linked to at least twice in Freddy's commentary, above, but I link to it directly for the sake of this email, because I agree with Freddy regarding its importance and helpfulness. An anthology of statements from the Book of Concord, this article was compiled and edited by Rev. David Jay Webber of the ELS, and was published originally in 1992, in their theological journal, Lutheran Synod Quarterly. This online version includes an addendum that has since been included, indicating the suitability of certain Byzantine Rite liturgies in addition to the Western Rite, based on the recent experience of the Ukrainian Lutheran Church. Liturgical worship forms and traditional hymnody are antithetical to the objectives of the "Church Growth Movement," hence its insistence on so-called "Contemporary Worship". The Confessions very clearly indicate, however, that rites are necessary, that the liturgy belongs to the Church, not to individuals or to single congregations, and that catholic practice by definition is to embrace the expression of the Church, not that of the sectarians.

What is "catholicity"?

http://four-and-twenty-something.blogspot.com/2008/12/congregational-catholicity-pastoral.html
This is a good blog entry on Lutheran catholicity from a conservative LCMS pastor (Gene Veith pointed this one out on his blog). He starts out defining and describing catholicity, and indicates how it is manifest in both doctrine and practice (first several paragraphs). He then goes on to apply it to the specific political problems in LCMS -- which may or may not be interesting. This, in combination with the previous link and with Freddy's numerous quotes from C.P. Krauth, should provide clarity on this term regarding how it is used in reference to Worship practice.

What is "lex orandi, lex credendi"?

http://pastorstrey.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/lex-orandi-lex-credendi/
This is a blog entry from Rev. Johnold Strey (WELS), defining and defending the latin liturgical term lex orandi, lex credendi, which seems to pop up frequently in these discussions. He recently wrote an article that appeared in WELS' theological journal, Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly(WLQ), to which I link, immediately below. Another excellent resource discussing this phrase, and sound Confessional Lutheran practice in general, is a recent book by Rev. Klemet Preus (LCMS) entitled, The Fire and the Staff: Lutheran Theology in Practice. It is a very accessibly written book, suitable for consumption by laymen and clergy.

"Contemporary Worship" teaches that Worship is a Means of Grace

Read the attached paper, Proclaiming the Gospel in Worship. (accessible online, here)
This is the paper that Rev. Johnold Strey (WELS) wrote and which was published in the Fall 2008 issue of WLQ. It can also be accessed online via his blog, here. In it, he examines the worship practices of the sectarians, especially the phenomenon of so-called "Contemporary Worship" and insists that the false teaching of "Worship as a Means of Grace" is at the root of it. Freddy Finkelstein, in many of the links, above, observes this same fact. Not only is "Contemporary Worship" rooted in false doctrine, it teaches these same false doctrines through its use (lex orandi, lex credendi).

"Church Growth" is not Lutheran evangelism

http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/calling-all-confessional-pastors.html
This is another Bailing Water blog entry, highlighting the recent sermon by Rev. Webber (ELS) in which he calls out and condemns "Church Growth" by name. More of our pastors need to do this. In the course of discussion, it became clear that there was confusion regarding how to interpret Christ's statements in the Great Commission. Freddy Finkelstein offered two posts, one of exceptional importance which explained the Great Commission, and further demonstrated how Church Growthers, for all of their evangelical zeal and despite the fact that they use the Great Commission as their clarion call, are in reality teaching and acting contrary to Christ's Commission.
http://web.me.com/trinityh/Site/LCMS_Convention_Blog/Entries/2007/7/15_Pastor_Henson_Blog.html
The issue of Evangelism is central to "Church Growth" theology/methodology, but it is a wrong approach to evangelism. One of the hallmarks of CGM practices is to turn the Divine Service into an Outreach Event -- to turn Worship into Evangelism. Freddy sounds off on this at length, multiple times, in the links, above (especially, here). But this is not unique to Freddy. It is a legitimate concern in greater Confessional Lutheranism. The link at the head of this sub-section is to "Day One" of Rev. Henson's (LCMS) 2007 LCMS Convention blog. His congregation memorialized the Convention, calling the LCMS to repentance for many of the issues also outlined by Freddy. One of these issues is the nonsense that "Worship is Evangelism." Read through "Day One" -- it is relatively benign -- and at the bottom, click "Next." It will take you to "Day Two." Read through "Day Two", etc., through "Day Five." Pay attention to "Day Three", however, where Rev. Henson points out that "[t]here are some in the LCMS who maintain that by 'natural knowledge' non-Christians can worship the true God, though they are not saved." This is the rationale used by Church Growthers to justify the ordering of worship around the preferences of the unregenerate. Needless to say, Rev. Henson's congregation left the LCMS. Many others have followed him, most recently, and notably, Rev. Heimbigner's Texas congregation (his bio is here). Most LCMS congregations who leave under these circumstances continue as independent Lutheran congregations.

The Political Nature of "Church Growth" in WELS

Read the attached paper, Fifteen Years Under the MOV. (also reproduced online, here)
This is a paper that was (presumably) written by Rev. Marcus Manthey (WELS) and delivered to an "Issues in WELS" conference in 2005, prior to that year's Synod Convention. He traces the development of Synod reorganization with respect to Strategic Planning efforts that are necessary for the "success" of CGM, and centered on the creation of the Board for Parish Services. This Board subsequently declared for itself in 1992 that "Parish Services has primary responsibility for carrying out the goals of the synod's Mission-Objectives-Vision Statement". Naming many of the names associated with the Church Growth Movement in our Synod, he examines their statements in light of the Scriptures, in light of the WELS Constitution, and in light of the scripture doctrines of Church and Ministry, and very politely deprives CGM advocates of sound foundation. He expresses grave concern over the unbiblical and unbrotherly centralization of power (which is called for by "Church Growth" programs), noting that it bypasses the local congregation and deprives the Pastor of his Divine Call. Further, he emphasizes, the creation and centralization of distinct power structures has transformed WELS into a political animal, into something that, twenty-five years ago, it was not.
Read the attached paper, Reflections, Concerns, and Questions about our Beloved WELS. (also reproduced online, here)
This is a letter written by Rev. Kurt Koelpin (WELS) in 1992. Originally meant for internal consumption among the clergy only, this letter has since seen fairly wide public dispersal. In it, Rev. Koelpin clearly recognizes aberrations caused by the Church Growth Movement in WELS, even at that time, and warns against them. Shortly after writing this letter, Rev. Koeplin suffered a stroke. In an apparent effort to protect the designs of CGM, its proponents in WELS allegedly responded by referred to Rev. Koelpin as having been “brain damaged” when he wrote the letter, and thus successfully kept his concerns from being regarded seriously enough to prevent CGM from advancing among us.
http://randomintolerance.blogspot.com/2009/01/promised-rant.html
In this blog entry "Random Dan" (a WELS layman of some connection, it seems), complains, first, about the C&C Ed Stetzer invitation, mentioned above. Then, he goes on to detail some of the internal politics involved in the recent call of Rev. Paul Kelm (WELS) back to the Board for Parish Services, to serve (again) as a BPS consultant. He was called from St. Mark in DePere, WI, where he was serving with Rev. John Parlow. For your information, St. Mark seems to be “the seat of Church Growth" in our Synod - "contemporary" or "new style" congregations in our synod almost universally look to St. Mark as their model. Other hotspots that I am aware of include southern Ohio, Texas, Arizona, and the West Coast -- with the leaven of "Church Growth" teachings working just about everywhere nowadays. In this blog post, Random Dan makes plain some additional issues. One of them is the infamous practice among "Church Growth" congregations of "borrowing" from heterodox sources, verbatim. Often, entire sermons are regurgitated nearly word-for-word, and heterodox "outreach resources" are used verbatim and without qualification. This has happened at St. Mark more than once, and even though these issues have been brought before their DP several times, nothing has been done. More importantly, in one of the final paragraphs of Random Dan's blog post, he points out that St. Mark DePere is a member of the Willow Creek Association (WCA). Read WCA's "About Us" section, and you'll see that WCA is an ecumenical ministry, and that its members are collaborators and beneficiaries of this ministry. Further, members are required to subscribe to WCA's Statement of Faith. WCA, in describing membership, states:

"While we do not oversee the ministry expressions of individual churches, WCA Membership is intended solely for churches that hold an orthodox understanding of biblical Christianity. All WCA Member Churches have affirmed the central doctrines of the Bible reflected in the WCA Statement of Faith and also presented in the historic creeds of the Christian faith. WCA Membership is open to churches of any size or denomination that are marked by a deep commitment to furthering the cause of Christ."

St. Mark stands in "ministerial association" with WCA, and is in clear violation of the Bible's teaching on Church Fellowship (and, yes, their membership in WCA has been widely reported and is well-known in WELS). Their union with WCA unites the congregations of WELS with all "Christian groups" in WCA (this is called pan-unionism), including the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago, the ELCA, LCMS, various Reformed and pop-church Evangelical groups, and Pentecostals. In addition, there are Unitarian congregations (congregations that reject the teaching of the Trinity) which are also members of this Association -- if you recall from the Athanasian Creed (which we confess without reservation) such congregations cannot be regarded as Christian. St. Mark unites us in fellowship with them. Click here to view all of the churches on the WCA roster. The commentary accompanying Random Dan's blog entry illustrates the purely political nature of continued tolerance toward St. Mark, and other WELS congregations who follow them.
http://together.wels.net/2009/1/19
This is President Schroeder's 1/19/2009 entry on the WELS Insight blog, a WELS news service, in which he addresses the resolutions of the CoP, mentioned above. President Schroeder is a strong, confessional leader, and is, by all reports, working against the inroads of the "Church Growth Movement." Because of the institutional power structures erected by "Church Growth" advocates over the past two decades, this is by definition as much a political task as it is a Confessional and doctrinal one. He needs the help of the laity -- the WELS ministerium, while not powerless, seems to have been rendered impotent with reluctance or fear (apart from a few who are outspoken and bold). Here is an example of his attempt to communicate with the laity and build support.
http://bailingwater.blogspot.com/2009/01/what-kind-of-pastors-do-we-need.html
In case you hadn't received your February issue of Forward in Christ (and oddly, at mid-February, many people still had not received it...), you can read President Schroeder's article at the head of this blog article. Apparently, Bailing Water received an advanced copy of Schroeder's article, and published it online. It is tremendous, and represents a frontal assault against the "Church Growth Movement." Several C&C Church Growthers responded on Bailing Water by jeering at Schroeder, and at those who support him and sound Confessional Lutheranism in WELS. Several "Confessional Crusaders" responded by expressing relief, as if their job is finished. Freddy Finkelstein wrote two responses illustrating the doctrinal complexities involved, and indicating that the real work has only begun.

The Great Financial Cost of "Church Growth" Spending

Read the attached paper, The Kuske Report. (also reproduced online, here)
This paper is a research paper that Rev. Paul Kuske (WELS) wrote and posted on the "Issues in WELS" website in February of 2007. This site has been taken down (since the "Issues" were seemingly resolved with the change in Synod leadership), but the document is available from various individuals in WELS. This is the paper which exposed the extent of mind-boggling and irrational "Church Growth" spending and financial mismanagement that WELS has suffered over the past 20 years, and which is in many ways responsible for our Synod's current financial condition. It covers the same period of history as Manthey's Fifteen Years Under the MOV, above, and together they paint an interesting picture of how "Church Growth" power structures and financial control seem to go together.
http://together.wels.net/2009/2/16
This is President Schroeder's 2/16/2009 entry on the WELS Insight blog. While his article paints a bleak financial picture, he echoes key points made by Rev. Manthey and Rev. Kuske in the papers referenced above. Here are some excerpts (emphasis mine):

We are faced with the simple and painful fact that the level of funding available to support our synod's mission and ministry will be significantly less in the next two years than it is today. While support from congregations has been commendable and steady in these difficult times, expected support from other sources has dropped significantly. The blunt reality is that we will need to reduce our synod's budget by approximately $8 million, from about $38 million today to approximately $30 million in the next fiscal year. When the Synodical Council presents a balanced budget to the convention in July, which it is required by the constitution to do, significant reductions will need to be made in all areas of our synod's work.

...Our desire to proclaim the gospel to more and more people has led us to adopt ambitious plans across the synod. That is a noble goal, but we have often looked to support those plans on anticipated gifts from foundations, individuals, and other sources. We are now in a situation where some of those large gifts have been suddenly reduced. As commendable as our plans may have been, we simply do not have the financial means to continue at the same level as before.

...the Synodical Council will not simply be wrestling with the short-term reduction in the budget. It will also be looking to the need for providing long-term stability to our finances. The Synodical Council will be considering at least one proposal to achieve this goal. This proposal for long-term stability will not enable us to avoid difficult cuts now, but it will seek to provide a new approach to budgeting and planning that will greatly reduce the likelihood of a similar situation occurring in the future. One main element of the proposal is a commitment to planning our ongoing ministry based primarily on our most stable source of funding (Congregation Mission Offerings) and using large donations from other sources for one-time or limited-time programs.

The first paragraph I cite, above, is a straightforward high-level explanation of the reality. However, the second paragraph I cite admits that the funding priorities and methods of Church Growth have gotten us to our current situation (as the The Kuske Report obviates), and the final paragraph I cite indicates the currently favored solution as one which restructures budgeting and planning -- from one dictated by centralized Church Growth priorities to one reflecting our congregational polity. Elsewhere in Schroeder's article, he admits that sweeping Administration cuts and changes will need to be made, reminiscent of the concerns expressed in Manthey's Fifteen Years Under the MOV.
There are other, more salacious, internet sources detailing the massive costs of CGM methods, the extent to which many congregations in WELS have given themselves over to such ideas, and the willingness of our Synod's wealthy to underwrite these efforts through the establishment of external Trusts and Foundations devoted to the issuing grants for these purposes. It is too bad that this money, given in good faith, is used to support efforts founded on such ill-conceived financial notions as those expressed in The Kuske Report. Just because you build it, doesn't at all mean that they will come...

Conclusion

It is amazing that, in a church body such as WELS, which upholds purity in doctrine and true confessional unity, CGM has gained such a foothold among us, and now poses such a threat. After years of failed action in some cases, and of inaction in most other cases, Confessional Lutherans in the WELS stand exposed, organizationally, financially, ecumenically, and doctrinally. Today, there is a suggestive lack of unity in Practice among us as a result of "Church Growth" teachings/methodologies, a lack of unity that is, more-and-more, exposing a growing divergence of opinion among us regarding Scripture teaching. Left unaddressed and uncorrected, the result can only be a rank disunity of the sort tolerated in LCMS -- even celebrated among them in some quarters. Yet, it is tempting for our pastors, in an effort to emphasize our unity, to downplay the reality of these threats. After all, to admit the reality would only prove disturbing for lay members who may not have the capacity to fully understand or appreciate the issues, and would only erode confidence in their leadership and in the Synod's guidance. Regardless, these issues are real, they are serious, and they are going to surface one way or the other. I would encourage you to read the documentation above. Do so without interference from others, and draw your own independent conclusions. I would also encourage you to send this information, along with the attachments, to your fellow laymen, whether delegates to the 2009 Convention or not, that they, too, may be prepared for the 2009 WELS Synod Convention and will be prepared to respond to these issues as they may arise in their own congregations.

In Christ,

[Your Friend]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Open Thread

I am happy use this post to expand our discussions. In this thread you may open discussion on synod cuts, convention proposals, the Anti-Christ, NWO, contempo worship, or any faith-based issue or concern.

I would ask that the discussion on UOJ remain in the thread below. I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the semantics involved in that discussion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Synod Convention

I would like to point you to the official convention website for information regarding the upcoming Synod convention.

Convention-2009

Because of pressing duties, BW will be on a hiatus for awhile. You may post comments or provide unfiltered information as you desire.

May we remain ever-vigilant and soldiers of the cross.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Think You Don’t Like Ceremony? Think Again!

Johnold Strey | May 20, 2009

think-you-dont-like-ceremony

Please, let us change the topic.

------------------------------------------
Please, let us change the topic.

A relative was getting his vicar assignment from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. I watched the service on the web. The preacher, whom the bulletin said was a Prof. Hartwig did not preach the Gospel other than a passing reference or two to the word. He obviously then did not preach Christ crucified, in fact he went on at great length about the training of young ants by older ants, yes, ants. I learned more about ants than I did about Christ.

Is this typical of seminary prof's preaching (since this was a grand affair, I assume so.) If you don't believe me, check it out.

Oh, and as I heard from my relative, 11 seniors will not get calls.

Fabio

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Called Worker reductions

Massive budget slashing occurred last weekend. One has to wonder if all the grants to the Rock and Roll missions will be cut.

http://together.wels.net/2009/4/28

The Synodical Council (SC) met last Friday and Saturday to adopt a proposed budget that will be recommended to the synod convention in July.

President Schroeder

The WELS constitution requires the SC to submit a budget proposal that is balanced and in line with the anticipated financial support from all sources. A budget that would call for spending greater than anticipated support is not an option. The projected support for the next two years made it necessary for the SC to reduce the synod's ministry program by more than $8 million (from $38.4 million to just under $30 million). As it considered this situation, the SC was very much aware of the painful and difficult choices confronting us. It was clear that significant budgetary reductions in all areas of ministry will be necessary. Recognizing that, the SC made every effort to find ways to limit the size and scope of the reductions that will need to be made.

Some of these reductions will involve the loss of called and hired positions in our mission fields, at our schools, and at the Synod Administration Building. Since the boards and groups that oversee these ministries will be responsible for communicating with the called workers, congregations, and mission fields that will potentially be affected, the budget information in this communication is in summary form only; details will be released in the coming weeks. This will give those responsible the time to speak personally to those that will be affected. Complete financial information will be included in the Book of Reports and Memorials and will also be posted online.

Friday, April 17, 2009

They sold their soul for rock and roll

TIMiAM said...

"This is why we can't use contemporary worship, it was designed by Enthusiasts to carry out the goal of Enthusiasm."

Agreed; yet I'll see your Enthusiasm and raise you Satanism. Anyone who is not capable of identifying the SATANIC roots present in contemporary musical forms is either too engrossed in the culture to notice or is willingly turning a deaf ear.

The former was the case in my personal experience. I always despised my parents for taking away my tapes/CDs for what they saw as inappropriate lyrics and for what I saw as their lameness. I always assured myself (and my parents)that I was capable of listening with a critical ear.

The documentary "They Sold Their Souls for Rock and Roll" changed my perspective entirely. Please search for this "Rockumentary" on Youtube. The full version is 10 HOURS long, which is a testament to the extent that pop/rock has been infected by satan.

I implore anyone with children, anyone who listens to and enjoys pop/rock music, and particularly those individuals who want to see more "contemporary" music in worship to watch this documentary.

If this doesn't challenge the way you think about what forms of music are appropriate for worship, then it will at least (hopefully) challenge what you download onto your ipod and what you are programming into your brain.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Ad Hoc Commission Report

I would be interested in opinions on the recent WELS Ad Hoc Commission study (available from this page:
http://www.wels.net/cgi-bin/site.pl?2601&collectionID=1743)

http://together.wels.net/2009/4/6

I would hope that commenters would read and consider its recommendations before commenting.

Thank you very much!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Rule Breakers

In a blog post below I mention how Rev. Jeske is promoting a Lutheranism that is encouraging leaders to be "Rule Breakers." A recent Jeske presentation was posted on Ichabod. In this presentation Jeske quotes the idea of breaking rules from a reformed author. Listen carefully to all of Jeske's words about Germanizing and Lutheranizing. The premise being promoted is that anything goes in worship.

Below is an editorial comment from Freddy Finkelstein about Jeske's friend Ski....

------------------------------------------------------------------------------

He's (Jeske) not the only one on record saying this, of course. I recently visited Ski's Drive '08 blog, and on his Day_5 entry, he has some very telling comments regarding "Rule Breakers," and the influence they ought to have in directing ministry.

Here's the link: http://web.me.com/pastorski/Site/Day_5.html


The final Main Session with Andy Stanley was just phenomenal. We began with awesome worship. Today though, they began with a Christian rapper, Toby Mac. Our school kids would have loved it. I’m not sure that they would have believed that it was church though.

When Andy began his session. He started by saying that he was not going to follow his notes in the Drive ’08 Journal Book. Instead he was going to do something that he called, “Recent Random Thoughts On Church Leadership.” He shared 5 points and 5 takeaways. I think that he was at his absolute best this afternoon. Here are the 5 point & takeaways:

  1. To reach people no one else is reaching we must do things no one else is doing. (Question: "What is the measure of 'reaching people not yet reached?'" Numeric Growth in the church? Numeric growth from among the unchurched? Who's to say that they haven't already been reached with the Gospel, and that the Holy Spirit hasn't been doing His work all along?" Stanley's first point, here, unquestionably arrogates credit for the Holy Spirit's work to Man and his efforts.)

Takeaway - Become preoccupied with those you haven’t reached as opposed to those you keep. This is easier said than done. (Church Growthers are not concerned with back-door losses -- just perpetual growth. It is part of the program. Those who stay for awhile and contribute, but later leave, are nothing but throw-away "scaffolding" anyway, according to Church Growth theories.)

Wow, it seems so simple. And yet so hard.

  1. The next generation product almost never comes from the previous generation. (In other words, every new generation re-invents itself, makes its own mistakes, learns from them etc. In response to this, the single word "catholicity" comes to mind -- a word which a Church Growth sectarian like Andy Stanley would never think to utter or contemplate. The New Testament Church has made mistakes and learned from them for 2000 years. What has been handed down to us in terms of public practice is the result of trial and error over this entire period. Human nature has not changed over this period, making such wisdom entirely "relevant," especially given that it is primarily the nature common to all men to which the Church must address itself -- not man's culture, whimsical and fleeting as it is.)

Takeaway - Be a student not a critic.

What more can be said? How do we approach things? When things are different & involve change are we scared? Do we criticize or do we look to learn and implement? (What? Critical reception of change is necessary, especially among those publicly confessing catholicity and orthodoxy -- doubly so among those who consider themselves to be Berean!)

  1. What do I believe is impossible to do in my field? But if it could be done it would fundamentally change my business. (Everything we are in Christ is impossible for man to accomplish -- this is the fundamental truth of our "business." Nothing we do can change this fact. The making of a Christian is a miracle from start to finish. It is the Holy Spirit's work, not ours. We employ His Means, according to the command of Christ, and the Holy Spirit does the rest.)

Takeaway - Pay attention to the people who are breaking the rules. (What rules? The "rules" of public practice handed to us in the Western Rite and embraced in the Confessions? The few strictures of public practice placed on us by the Scriptures? The voluntary and brotherly "setting aside of personal preferences" in favor of unity in practice? As if there isn't great enough freedom within these boundaries, now we are to regard them as "rules which need to be broken." The entire Church is called to a mind of adolescence by such statements, called to regard "The System" with disdainful suspicion, and to cast aside the sound wisdom of our fathers. Indeed, Church Growthers make a joke out if it -- "It's not your father's church, anymore!" But we are called upon in the Scriptures to exercise sound wisdom in our freedom. Catholicity offers such wisdom as it has been gathered over two millenia. Will the "unhistorical spirit of our times" cause us to disparage and forget such wisdom? Looks like it...)

Crazy sounding isn’t it? We can fight technology and change, but in the end it will pass us and we will become archaic and irrelevant. Not our Message, but the manner in which we present it. Who would have ever thought texting would be as big as it is? How about multi-site church? Video church? These are all things that have changed how we worship. (The use of "new technology" is not "breaking rules" of any sort. There is, however, great wisdom in exercising caution in our use of it, as certain usages may well carry us outside of acceptable practice. It is also unwise to invest in fads, but only in those aspects of "new technology" which are going to remain a fixture.)

  1. If we got kicked out & the board brought in a new CEO what would they do? Why shouldn’t we walk out the door & then come back in & do it ourselves?

Takeaway - Acknowledge what is NOT working & own up to why you are unwilling to change it. (Again, what is the "measure of what is working?" Numbers? If a given congregation doesn't have what "central command" defines as "positive stats," then the Holy Spirit is not working? Hogwash.)

Some thoughts on this - rarely does the church (in general) get concerned about change until they run out of money. What if we asked some questions before it was too late? (As in, "Why are we spending so much money on needless changes?")

  • What’s in decline? (According to whose standards of decline? Why is all decline considered to be evidence of something wrong? At one point, as a result of hard teaching no less, almost all the disciples abandoned Jesus until only the original 12 were left. What a failure He turned out to be...)

  • Where are we manufacturing energy? In other words pretending something is important. An example would be if I continued to say that Bible Study was important, but never attended. I’m blowing hot air, “manufacturing energy.” I don’t believe that anyone wants to stand behind that or get involved in something like that.

  • Finally, when are we going to unearth all underlying assumptions? Sometimes, what we assume, is not the reality. Are we willing to dig to find out the truth or are we happy with assuming. ("Underlying assumptions," as in, "If my stats aren't 'good' then the Holy Spirit isn't working, and it's all my fault?")

  1. When your memories exceed your dreams the end is near.

Takeaway - Don’t let success or momentum overshadow your vision. Keep the out front. (Again, what is success, and how does one know he has momentum? Given that it is "your vision" against which these are compared, I would assume measures of success and momentum are rooted in some aspect of man.)

How quickly can we be satisfied? How often do we look at things and say, “Well, it’s not great but it is better than such and such church.” Scary, but we sometimes fool ourselves into thinking like this. Some questions to ponder:

  • What the burden on your heart?

  • What breaks your heart?

(I stated above, "...rooted in some aspect of man." Yup. Look to yourself and into your own heart.)

That was it. After that Andy just ended and prayed for all the people there & for there ministries. As you can see from the pictures above, Buske & I got to get a picture with Andy, pretty cool. He is way down to earth. His wife Sandra was there also and she is just great. We actually got to talk to her a little more than Andy. You also notice John with the North Point member who played Bender in one of their sermon series called “Twisted”. The series was all about how Satan twists God’s Word. Finally, there is a photo of Buske & Todd Fields.