Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Calling all Confessional Pastors

I believe that President Schroeder has laid down the gauntlet. Behind every confessional Church is a confessional pastor.

Here is a recent sermon by Rev. Webber denouncing the CG movement:

I wonder if other WELS or ELS pastors are following the lead of Pres. Schroeder and speaking out against Church Growth from the pulpit.

As we look to continue this grass roots movement I ask laymen (or pastors) to please post any sermons or articles speaking out against church growth (church and change).


Anonymous said...

Mild criticism is not enough. Rejection and repudiation are essential. WELS/ELS people have tossed popcorn at CG for 20 years. Somehow the CG Apostles have survived being stoned to death with popcorn.

Anonymous said...

But when all one has theologically is popcorn, what is one to do?

Tim Niedfeldt said...

I would be happy to post that sermon in our sermon library...well except for the problems with copying sermons you all have. Any pastor at a "C&C" church would agree and say "Amen" to that sermon. That's because any one of them would be happy to echo the warnings against church growth as it was described in that sermon. It echos all the problems with the evangelical's understanding of worship and seeker services and all that.

There is not a "C&C" church out there who believes their church is is operating in that manner though, for those reasons, using that theology. This section from the sermon describes what a "C&C" church is trying to do.

"Someone, somewhere, at sometime threw the net over you and pulled you into fellowship with God. Someone baptized you at the command of Christ. Someone preached the gospel to you and taught you the Word of God and declared the Lord's absolution to you."

"C&C" churches are creating churches where everyone becomes equipped to be those fishers of men. To be people who find you and preach the gospel, who get you into bible classes, who talkes to you about Jesus at the soccer camp or at the concert in the park. It is the combination of outreach and evangelism done well and in harmony with one another that gets the gospel to the ears of unbelievers.

The thing is...our services for members don't have to be contemporary to have this kind of thing going on. It should be going on at every church no matter how they worship. Every church needs to be throwing their net over people. So how is your church doing it? How does your church reach the unbelievers in your community? I have yet to hear of one evangelism/outreach combo ever offered up on this site that any church could use to reach the unchurched (well besides the obligatory "We preach the gospel in Word and Sacrament" which is another way of saying..."we do nothing but have church services and if a stray unbeliever walks in he has a chance of hearing the Gospel).

I think once you realize that "C&C" although endorsing creative worship styles (and all that contempo vs liturgical stuff) really is not all worship focused like you believe. You make a faulty assumption that Church Growth does these things for these reasons so therefore "C&C" does these things for the same reasons.

Because we believe in the power of God's Word our mission is to find ways to get it to people's ears. Our church has 5 baptisms coming up this month. Some older children and some adults and one baby. These are people who heard the gospel from members of the church while attending a soccer camp hosted by the church. 65 kids got bible lessons every day and 100 parents also got to hear some gospel and the Holy Spirit started his work.

Once you realize that a worship service is not for unbelievers, you will realize that personally spreading the gospel, getting the unchurched into Bible class and letting the Holy Spirit work faith in their hearts is the "C&C" approach.

Our church is in a rented hall with a full length bar along one wall. It can be a detriment to visitors to see a church with a full bar (Perhaps for some it is a plus). We are getting near to capacity now so if a visitor walks in they may find it uncomfortably full to find a seat to their liking. Honestly we'd rather see a visitor have spent a lot of time in the Word already and Bible class and such and understand the mission and style of our church before they come. Otherwise they may just walk away.

I think there is some irony in that in "C&C" they believe that evangelism/outreach/worship/fellowship/education are one package. It all has to be done well and it requires the member to be actively engaged with his church. That is how the Holy spirit will work faith in unbelievers hearts. Yet in non "C&C" church the only focus is on worship to bring people to faith. Where are our seeker services really then? Seems to me more in the church where preaching the gospel in Word and Sacrament only means on Sunday morning in church.

Popcorn is all you got to throw. I like popcorn.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how the anti-C&C folks view Paul's ministry because if they apply their rules to Paul, he would be considered outside of our fellowship. I think I remember reading somewhere that St. Paul's favorite munchie was popcorn...I couldn't resist. :)


Ben said...

"Go and make disciples of all nations..." Wouldn't that be considered Church growth?


Anonymous said...


You ask "'Go and make disciples of all nations...' Wouldn't that be considered Church growth?"

Sure, if that is what the text really said.


Anonymous said...

Matthew 28:18-20
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Manufacture disciples of Church Growth - that has certainly worked well. Nothing else has.


Ben said...

Matthew 28:19 (New International Version)

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Referenced from:


Anonymous said...

Yes, Ben, the Reformed manufacture disciples, so their Reformed Bible must also make disciples. The Reformed reject the Sacraments, so the Sacraments must disappear from the NIV and its clones. The Reformed want to be hip, so the NIV must be a feminist book.


California on my mind said...

Go and make disciples...Go ye therefore and teach...

The anti-Church Growth crowd likes to argue the Greek word means teach and not make disciples of, but make disciples is a translation even Kretzmann and Lenski used in their commentaries, long before there was a Church Growth Movement. There's nothing wrong with using the make disciples of translation, but a person dare not forget how that's done. Jesus says it's accomplished by baptizing and teaching. That is real church growth, the Bible way.

Freddy Finkelstein said...

Interestingly, over the past couple of days, Issues, Etc. has produced some programs that are directly relevant to John's post and to some of the responses that have resulted from it, above.

The "Pastor's Roundtable" segment, yesterday (1/29), was the conclusion of a discussion series on the Lord's Prayer. They spent a great deal of time discussing and defining the “The Kingdom,” “The Power,” and “The Glory,” focusing on Who establishes this Kingdom, Who nurtures it and makes it grow, via what Means He works, and for what purpose. They specifically address Church Growth theology and methodologies, particularly the idea that such methods may serve to “augment” the Holy Spirit's work, and they reject that notion.

When we speak of the “Great Commission” in Matt. 28, we speak of Christ's exhortation to the Church that it use the Means of Grace, specifically the Sacrament of Baptism and the public proclamation of God's Word. That's it. Not programs, not music, not worldly methods and measures by any stretch of the imagination. We have nothing to add to the Holy Spirit's work. He makes the Church grow, when and where He wills it to grow, and He works through the Means of Grace to make this happen. Period.

Here is the link:

Additionally, in yesterday's “Biblical Examples of Preaching” (1/29), the focus of attention during the second half of this segment was that of addressing false doctrine in the course of public preaching, even the role of fierce polemic against the errors which plague the Church, and which threaten the spiritual well being of Christians who fall under error's influence. Using the example of Jesus in Matt. 23 (the “seven woes”), Who in this account publicly exposes the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees, and excoriates them, yesterday's discussion addressed the need to preach Law directly and firmly, especially when it is specifically needed – that is, when bald and specific errors attack the Church and God's people and threatens to overshadow the Gospel, specific and public application of Law is in order. “Winsome” preaching is the same in this case as in all others, it is issued from Love – love for God, love for God's Word, and love for God's people.

One aspect of Rev. Webber's sermon (at the head of John's blog entry, above) that I especially appreciated, was his willingness to call out the error of Church Growth by name, to define it and differentiate from true Scriptural teaching. While not at all what I would call polemic, it was still quite effective. Part of the challenge for laymen is in knowing what errors they are to avoid -- some errors are obvious, others are rather subtle. Church Growth theology is both subtle and insidious to those who don't know what to look for. Rev. Webber helps by identifying the error and explaining why it is false. I think more pastors should follow his lead.

Here is the link:

In today's follow-on segment of “Biblical Examples of Preaching” (1/30), most of the focus was on Peter's sermon in Acts 4, which has direct application to the question, “Are our pastors afraid to address error in public? What do they have to fear?” When Peter accused the Jews in Acts 3, saying, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses,” he was standing in the Temple courts! He placed himself, and those with him, in mortal danger – and he knew this full well. In fact, they were arrested shortly thereafter. Yet despite this, they continued to stand against the influence of error and refused to be silenced. My understanding is that there are political machinations at work in WELS that would serve to attenuate the witness of our pastors regarding the errors of Church Growth. We very much need them to stand with the boldness of St. Peter.

Here is the link:

I recognize that such is happening in various quarters of the WELS, even within the ranks of Church and Change. We are told that C&C rejects Church Growth, but discussions within their private forums, which are now being made public, make it clear that their leadership has long been enamoured with false teachers and the teachings of Church Growth -- and that they have insisted on the basis of principle that actively receiving false teachers, and publicly promoting their teachings, is not a Fellowship issue, but is adiaphora. Just today, a poster over on Ichabod copied statements from Rev. Aaron Frey (WELS), issued to the leadership of C&C (and others, it seems), that constitute a clear call to repentance and the rejection of Church Growth theology and the false teachers who promote it. We need more of this from our pastors. The laity is waking up, the issues are public now -- we might as well have it out in the open.

(Of course, it should be noted that the comments were posted to Ichabod anonymously and attributed to Rev. Frey, so maybe those who are on the C&C list can confirm the authenticity and authorship of these comments.)

Here is the link: Comments to Ichabod blog post Will the Words Be Spoken?

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...


The NIV translation is wrong. The object of the verb is not "disciples" but "all nations". The apostles were commissioned to "disciple" (i.e. "authoritatively teach") the nations, not to make disciples of all nations. Big difference.


Freddy Finkelstein said...

Matt 28:18-20, reads, {18} And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All Power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go, ye, therefore, and teach [or, 'make disciples of'] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

The thrust of “teach” or “make disciples of” isn't that we are responsible for a specific result, it's that disciples are made when we carry out what we are commanded by Jesus to do. Whether we use the word “teach” or use the phrase “make disciples,” the words that follow qualify these terms, and define for us precisely how we are expected to carry out this task: Baptize and Teach – the public use of the Means of Grace.

If this sounds simplistic, or even fantastical, I'll submit that Jesus knew full well that His disciples would think the same, and so offers his assurances in the preamble to the Great Commission in v18, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The authority of Christ stands behind His command to use the Means of Grace, and the power of God attends our use of them. This could not be more clear from this reference.

But this is not the only place in Scripture which points directly to the power and authority of Christ with reference to the use of the Means of Grace. Interestingly, the assurance of God's authority and power in the use of the Means is repeated by St. Peter, who heard the Great Commission firsthand, and who later states, “ the resurrection of Jesus Christ; Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Pet. 3:21-22). And to what is Peter attaching the power and authority of the resurrected Christ? Read from the beginning of v21, “Baptism does now also save us... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, etc...” St. Peter, in this reference, applies the power and authority of Christ to the efficacy of the Means of Grace – specifically, to Baptism. Baptism does save, and St. Peter assures us of this by pointing to the authority of the One who instituted it, Who also pointed to His own authority and power when He commissioned the Church with its use. If the words of Jesus and of St. Peter sound fantastical (and to our human reason, they certainly do), we have the clear promise of Jesus Christ regarding the efficacy of Baptism as a Means of Grace, and by His resurrection, we can have full assurance that He has both the authority to make such promises and the power to keep them.

On the other hand, Church Growth theology/methodology represents the replacement of the Means of Grace – i.e., the Means via which God works to build His Church, in His way and according to His timing – with the use of man's means – i.e., new buildings, contemporary music, the creation of programs of various forms, etc. – all of which stand behind strategies to market the congregation. The objective is an increase in number, in man's time, according to man's narrow concerns. In the most charitable construction, such methods, if they are not intended to replace the Means, are thought to augment the Means. Even so, such regard for the Means constitutes something far less than a faithful and simple trust in God's promises and in His Work through His Means. It represents an anxious apprehension regarding their efficacy.

But Church Growth is more than just a collection of methods. It is a way of thinking about man's effort that makes him a contributor to God's work rather than a Joyful participant in and beneficiary of it. It is a way of thinking about Christian Vocation, that removes it from the context of everyday tasks and virtually limits it to service within the congregation. It is a way of thinking about other Christians that identifies the “spiritually mature” with respect to weaker brothers, generally based on their works of contribution or other outward expression, creating levels of Christians in the congregation and creating a hierarchy of ministerial authority outside the context of the Divine Call. It is a way of thinking about the Means of Grace that leads one to accuse those who trust their efficacy of complacency, of regarding the Means (particularly the Sacraments) as mere opus operatum, and that consequently calls for effort from Christians which, by virtue of the effort, would bring about results Christians would naturally expect from the Holy Spirit by Means of Word and Sacrament – results which they, in fact, work to produce on their own, and which they later refer to as the Holy Spirit's work. Such working does not constitute evangelical zeal, but instead, presumptuous and impatient demands laid by man upon God the Holy Spirit. Church Growth is a theology of glory. It represents a gross overemphasis on Sanctification, and a twisting of it into a teaching of man's service for God. It is present day Pietism, pure and simple. It must be avoided.

True Christians have evangelical zeal. They don't need a command from Christ to know that the Gospel needs to be shared, rather, they are compelled to do so by virtue of the infinite gifts that are freely and assuredly theirs by faith. But thank God He did give us a command, a law that we may use as a guide as we carry out our tasks in this regard. Of all the means our minds may contrive of and work to justify, only His Means are efficacious.

Freddy Finkelstein

Anonymous said...

For those who might not have a good Internet connection, so that downloading the audio file might be difficult, the text of Rev. Webber's sermon (in HTML) is on this web page:

Anonymous said...

"There's nothing wrong with using the make disciples of translation."

Except for the fact that is not what the verb means. If you wish to translate the verb as "disciple" rather than the essence of what the verb is to English hearers, "to teach," fine, but then you must translate the words, "disciple all nations" which is a different thought than to "make disciples of all nations" which is not the sense of what the verb and its direct object convey. You ignore the fact that the direct object is "all nations" and not as the construction in the NIV would have you believe "disciples."

By the way, a disciple is a believer. Therefore you are saying our Lord told his apostles "to make believers of all nations." No. The corollary is Mark 16's "preach the Gospel." That is the commission to the apostles, to preach, or to disciple or to teach, and the Spirit converts where and when it pleases Him.

Anonymous said...

Help me understand this. Surely it ultimately comes down to "preach the Word." But I don't think we should simply preach the Word in Greek and Hebrew -- no one would hear the message. So language - that is one thing we are contemporary about. What else can we/should we be contemporary about and what guides that decision?

Rick said...

anonymous (January 31, 2009 5:12 PM),

Your premise that use of other languages is "contemporary" is false. The use of other languages dates back to Pentecost: "All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them." (Acts 2:4).

The faith God gave us "was once for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3). That faith is transmitted through the word of God alone. There is no other way. The faith does not change. The word does not change. The truth does not change. The true Church is not contemporary, she is eternal.

"To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others: 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance'" (Matthew 11:16-17).


Anonymous said...

The true Church is contemporary. The church is real and exists today.

You do not need to be afraid to be contemporary in every aspect. We certainly can be contemporary in our language. We do not need to use the archaic "thee"s and "thou"s but can use the more contemporary "you." Most churches are contemporary in their gathering. They come together in churches built in recent decades with modern facilities; heat, electricity, often audio amplification, etc. Unless you're Amish?

Anonymous said...

"The true Church is contemporary. The church is real and exists today."

In a sense this is true, but we must also remember that the true Church is ancient, rooted in history.

Just think of how many times in the New Testament we are encouraged to remember those who have gone before, imitate them, honor and respect and obey them, etc. Most of these encouragements come from St. Paul himself, whose writings have been manhandled to make Paul seem like a radical church growth supporter.

It's been said that our generation is the first in the history of the Church who have been selfish enough to put our own contemporary fads ahead of the tradition and wisdom of the previous generations. That's sad and scary.

The apostolic church went to great pains to emphasize the fact that it was not some new, contemporary thing, but rather that it was the true representation of the historic faith of Abraham. Read Stephen's speech for an example of this.

The Lutheran church also went to great pains to emphasize that it was not some new, radical group, but rather that it was the true descendant of the historic, apostolic, catholic church.

If those who went before us made a point of stressing the historical and traditional nature of the Church, then why do so many today claim that the Church must become radical and contemporary? Do we honestly believe that CG gurus are wiser than the apostles?

Benjamin Tomczak said...

The last few comments here help us see why the term "contemporary" isn't very helpful in our discussions. Even the most liturgical among us won't object to the fact that that not everything stopped when Luther died.

Likewise, that means "traditional," in and of itself, isn't always the most satisfying term. Because for some traditional means "what's been done since I was born" and for others it refers to what's been done since there have been Lutherans, and for yet others, what the Popes and Councils tell me, and for others, what the Bible says and only what's explicitly described and allowed in the Bible.

The terms "liturgical" and "non-liturgical" aren't super helpful either, because even the so-called "contemporary" (and we'll use that term here since it's still commonly accepted) styles of worship have a liturgy, that is, an order, a rite, an organized ritual.

I don't know that at the moment I have an answer to what terms we should use in place of "traditional" and "contemporary" and "liturgical" and "non-liturgical."

It's unfortunate that in America the term "evangelical" has been hijacked so that we can't use that as a descriptor of our worship and focus on worship that is evangelical or non-evangelical (by Evangelical I would mean, gospel-oriented, Christ-centered, means of grace administering.)


On a separate note, the second lessons for the season of Epiphany are from 1 Corinthians 6-9 this year. That means talking about eating meat sacrificed to idols and being all things to all people.

Two points that struck me in my text study that apply to many of the discussions we have here in regards to worship styles, forms, liturgy, preaching, evangelism and outreach, etc.

1) In chapter 8, Paul indicates that eating idol meat is a totally free thing. It doesn't make you better if you eat it or don't eat it. The determining factor in whether or not you eat it is the effect your eating has on your brother. If you're doing a free thing causing a brother or sister with a weak conscience on an issue to stumble and fall, that is, to sin by doing something they wouldn't normally do, then stop doing it. Paul says he would never eat meat again if eating meat would cause his brother to sin.

(NB: This only applies to situations where actual freedom has been imparted by God, that is, where He has not commanded or forbidden a certain behavior, i.e., true adiaphora).

2) In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul says, famously, "I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some." A more wooden translation reflecting the Greek goes something like this: "To everyone I have become everything, so that certainly some I will save."

Usually, this text is used to support any and every use of freedom that is possible. And, in a sense, that's true. Paul says since I'm free, I enslave myself to everyone for the goal of winning them. To Jews, I'm like a Jew. To non-Jews I can be like a non-Jew. To the weak, I'm like the weak.

But notice the context. Paul speaks these words in the context of giving up one of his freedoms -- being paid to proclaim the Gospel. Among Jews, he gives up the right, to worship on the Lord's Day, and goes to Synagogue on Sunday, so as to win them. Among non-Jews, He gives up his right to eat kosher, so as to win them. Among the weak, he gives up the right to eat idol meat, so as to win them.

While these verses can be applied to our freedom to do things, they are also applied to our freedom to refrain from doing things. And as chapter 8 makes clear, that is a freedom often practiced among Christians. The strong (those who know they are free to do x, y, or z) will slow down for the sake of the less strong. Whether the "Strong" in this case are those pushing for more variety and different styles, more instruments, different instruments, the contemporary, less formal, or more casual, or whatever else you want to call it, in worship or those pushing for more of a return to liturgical, traditional, catholic, ceremonial, and ritual forms.

We look at our brothers and sisters around us and say, "How can I love them by what I do?" Luther did this in the 1520s, when instead of following Karlstadt and immediately forcing the Sacrament in both kinds upon people (even though Biblically correct), he advised patiently teaching and instructing so that they would not be sinning in their taking of the Sacrament.

(We note also that a time did come when Luther said, "Enough. We've taught enough. The Gospel has been made clear. It's not a matter of weak consciences anymore.")

I'm afraid that people on both sides have ignored the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 8-9, even under the mantle of saying, "I'm being all things to all people!"

Note the conservative nature of Paul's use of freedom in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-9, right alongside the radical nature of our freedom announced by the Lord to the apostles throughout the Gospels ("The Sabbath is made for man, not man for the Sabbath," "It's not what goes into a man that makes him unclean..."), to Peter on that rooftop (Acts 9-10), and by Paul to the Colossians ("Let no one judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival...").

Note also that this freedom was almost always in the context of freedom from self-righteous law-keeping. It was a sola gratia, sola fide freedom, not a "I'm doing it because I'm free and can do it" kind of freedom.

Note also that this same interesting relationship between radicalism and conservatism is embodied in the Confessions. The treatment of Confession is radically freed from the tyrannical abuses of the past, so to is the Sacrament, the use of vows, the Mass, prayer, and repentance.

And yet, as others have pointed out, the Reformers went to long lengths to show that they had not separated themselves in their freedom from the Holy Christian Church by their practice of the Mass, their use of the rites and rituals of the Church Universal, and then, most importantly, in their teachings and beliefs, as they stood next to Scripture and the ancient fathers. Article X of the Formula of Concord too lays out this both radical and conservative form as they agree that local churches are free in the rites, forms, and rituals they use, and may change things to suit their circumstances, and yet, they do this slowly, carefully, without offending those around them.

And the truth is that Luther too embodied both this radical and conservative formula. He saw the need and desired to keep so many of the "traditional" things. Yet he was also able to write to others about not getting hung up on rite and ritual. Rather than seeing this merely as "young Luther" or "old Luther," we can resolve this tension by acknowledging that it's not either/or but both/and. To be Scriptural and Confessional, that is, to be truly Lutheran, is to be both radical and conservative. The key is that Lutherans know when to be which.

Pr. Benjamin Tomczak

Anonymous said...

I'm still not convinced by any of the confessional crusaders that anything is being done wrong in 'comtemporary' settings. We are all free to worship as we wish as long as it is Biblical. So worship as you wish according to your own preferences. Make sure you are not taking offense when none was given. Contemporary is no more a mandate than what traditional is. It is different and not meant to take the place of. It is merely an addition to.


Anonymous said...

"We are all free to worship as we wish as long as it is Biblical."

No! This is what you don't understand. We are bound by the Confessions that we have sworn to uphold. Thus, if you use "contemporary" worship, you are going against the Confessions, and cannot, by definition, be Lutheran.

Besides, as another person said a few comments ago, the Bible makes it very clear that we are to respect and obey the generations of believers who have gone before us. "Contemporary" worship spits on the form of worship and form of belief that has been passed down to us by 2000+ years of faithful Christians. Thus, not only is "contemporary" worship not Confessional, it's not Biblical either.

Anonymous said...

My understanding has been that all WELS pastors and all WELS congregations are united in doctrine and practice. At least that is what was taught to me in adult instructions. This is all very confusing to me now. Can someone explain to me how this is still unity in doctrine and practice?

Anonymous said...

This statement is in the WELS "This We Believe" that my pastor gave me before I was confirmed as an adult:

"12. We reject as false ecumenicity any views that look for the true unity of the church in some form of external or organizational union, and we oppose all movements toward such union made at the expense of a clear confession of all the teachings of Scripture. We reject the contention that religious fellowship may be practiced without agreement in doctrine and practice. There must be agreement in the confession of scriptural doctrines, and also one’s actions or practice must show that error is not tolerated."

So I am very confused with what looks to me like disunity in practice.

Anonymous said...

"Thus, if you use "contemporary" worship, you are going against the Confessions, and cannot, by definition, be Lutheran."

How so?

Anonymous said...

"How so?"

The Confessions clearly state that the Lutheran church is catholic and liturgical. Contemporary worship, by its very nature, is both anti-catholic and anti-liturgical. Thus, Confessional Lutheranism and contemporary worship are opposed to each other. A congregation which practices contemporary worship cannot be considered a Confessional Lutheran congregation, since they have violated what the Confessions say.

It would make things so much easier if the contemporary congregations in the WELS, rather than pussy-footing around the Confessions and giving them lip service, would simply say, "No, we reject what the Confessions say about worship. We are not a Confessional Lutheran church." They already deny the Confessions in practice, why not be honest about it?

Anonymous said...

"The Confessions clearly state that the Lutheran church is catholic and liturgical. Contemporary worship, by its very nature, is both anti-catholic and anti-liturgical."

How so?

(You are reasoning in a circle, by the way.)

Anonymous said...

The Confessions don't reject it. Show me where you think it says that. You are making the Confessions above scripture when you say what you do about worship. You are causing division and making a judgement on the heart. This is a sin. Jesus also warns against taking oaths. We already have he Bible.

From Matthew 5:

33"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' 34But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.


Anonymous said...

"How so?"

I'm not sure I understand what information you are looking for. You want me to quote the parts of the Confessions that assert that the Lutheran church is catholic and liturgical? If so, I'd suggest that you read and study the Confessions on your own. Supporters of contemporary worship generally have a very weak grasp on the Confessions.

But let's start with this: "Wrongly are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass." This statement is made in the Confessions to silence those accusing the Lutheran church of being a bunch of radicals who were just making up their own worship forms. The Lutherans wanted to make clear that they still used the Mass--that they were still catholic and liturgical. Unfortunately, if we were writing the Confessions today, we would have to say, "Rightly are our churches accused of abolishing the Mass."

"(You are reasoning in a circle, by the way.)"

How so? Reasoning from Scripture and the Confessions is never circular, unless you don't see the Confessions as binding.

Anonymous said...

JK, I think you need to study the Scriptures a bit more. Scripture most certainly does NOT warn against taking oaths. It warns about taking frivolous oaths. Are you seriously suggesting that a pastor's ordination vow, in which he swears to uphold Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions, is a frivolous oath? Sadly, it seems that you do. (You had better go warn your pastor that he has been living a life of sin since the day of his ordination.)

Well, at least we now have solid proof that the contemporary crowd rejects the Lutheran Confessions. Not only does JK not have a quia subscription to the Confessions, he feels any subscription to the Confessions is sinful! Yikes.

Anonymous said...

WELS does not regard the Confessions (Book of Concord) above Scripture. The official Doctrinal Statement reads: "As a synod we do not formulate doctrinal declarations on a regular basis. We confess the full inspiration and inerrancy of the Scriptures and their binding authority in all matters of doctrine. The three ecumenical creeds, the primary creedal statements of historic Christianity, summarize well our faith. In addition, we wholeheartedly subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions (contained in the Book of Concord of 1580) because they are correct expositions of biblical truth. Since our Christian and Evangelical Lutheran forefathers have bequeathed us such accurate and comprehensive doctrinal affirmations, we seldom feel the need to draft additional ones."

The key sentence is:
"In addition, we wholeheartedly subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions (contained in the Book of Concord of 1580) BECAUSE THEY ARE CORRECT EXPOSITIONS OF BIBLICAL TRUTH."

According to WELS doctrine the Lutheran Confessions are neither above nor below Scripture...but correct expositions.

I don't think that leaves room for debating. Please correct me if I am wrong. I was confirmed into WELS as an adult and what was once clear for me is now confusing me.

Anonymous said...

Please do not regard JK as representative of the "contemporary crowd" or of WELS belief in general. It is clear from his posts that he does not have a strong theological grasp of WELS doctrine.

Anonymous said...

But what exactly is "the Mass"? Our concept of a church service already varies in many aspects from "the Mass" of 1580. Reading Scripture and the Sacraments (the means of Grace)? That many contemporary services have (as many as traditional services do). Or must "the Mass" have the songs of the Church - the Agnus Dei, Gloria, Sanctus, etc... What parts of the liturgy are required to make "the Mass" confessional??? I don't think the confessions answer this.

Rick said...

First, we start with "contemporary" praise songs that do not proclaim the gospel. Then, we begin preaching sermons about time management, relationship counseling, and psychological well-being. Finally, we drop our plea for mercy (Kyrie) from the liturgy, and water down our confession of sins into vague statements about how we aren't trying hard enough. And we do it all to attract the unchurched, but at what cost?

Paul declares his freedom, but then proclaims himself a slave. (1Co 9:19). A slave to what? The Jewish law? The consciences of the weak? No. He is a slave to the gospel. Paul sought to "become all things to all men" for "the sake of the gospel." (1Co 9:23). Paul also writes in verse 16, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!"

Lutherans are supposed to proclaim the gospel in a way that is true, clear, loud, and pure. Our Confessions declare this in word and deed from beginning to end: The Word of God alone saves. If we intentionally obscure that fact in any way to attract the unchurched, then we cannot claim to be Christian much less "Confessional."

Anonymous said...

"According to WELS doctrine the Lutheran Confessions are neither above nor below Scripture...but correct expositions."

Exactly. That's why rejecting what the Confessions say about worship is tantamount to rejecting God's Word. In other words, you can't claim to be worshiping according to the Bible if you don't worship according to the Confessions.

Anonymous said...

"It is clear from his posts that he does not have a strong theological grasp of WELS doctrine."

Perhaps that's because he worships in a rock and roll, church growth church which has no need for doctrine.

Anonymous said...

I'm not questioning WELS doctrine or the validity of the Lutheran Confessions. I am questioning certain attitudes and motives regarding them.

Unfortunately I can't copy and paste from a .pdf but if you go to article 7 of the Augsburg Confession, you will see you are in error. The Confessions do not say we have to have uniform worship.

I am not questioning the oaths of our called workers or regard the oaths as frivilous. But the attitudes of some folks on here as they interpret the confessions and the oath are just wrong and taken out of context.


Anonymous said...

What exactly is meant in the WELS Doctrinal Statement which claims WELS congregations and pastors are united in doctrine and practice?

Not too many years ago we knew exactly what to expect when we walked into any WELS congregation and we were comfortable worshiping in any WELS congregation. It is no longer that way because the practices are no longer in unity. There is a very large gap in the practices among WELS congregations now.

My question remains then - why does WELS Doctrinal Statement say the congregations are united in doctrine and practice? What am I missing here?

Is it possible that it will be voted at the next convention that WELS will now just be united in doctrine but not in practice? Is that okay? I'm just trying to get a grasp on this because I thought I knew what I was joining when I became WELS but now it seems like a different church.

Anonymous said...

"Unfortunately I can't copy and paste from a .pdf but if you go to article 7 of the Augsburg Confession, you will see you are in error. The Confessions do not say we have to have uniform worship."

Ugh. I knew JK was going to go there. What's being discussed in this article are minor variations in the way that the Mass (the Western Rite) was conducted from place to place. The same thing happens today with liturgical churches: for example, you go to one church and the choir sings the Verse of the Day, you go to another and the pastor speaks the Verse of the Day, etc. Those are the kind of variations that the Confessions speak about.

You have to remember that when the Confessions were written, the Roman Church insisted on absolute uniformity in the way that the Mass was celebrated. This article simply says that there may be small variations.

What this article does NOT say is that congregations are free to stop using the liturgy and invent an entirely new form of worship. That would have been scandalous in those days (and still should be today)! The Anabaptists did just that, rejecting the Western Rite, in order to show that they were not connected to the 1500+ history of the Church. Both the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans roundly denounced what the Anabaptists were doing.

"I am not questioning the oaths of our called workers or regard the oaths as frivilous."

Really? Then why did you quote Scripture and claim that taking oaths is sinful? Sorry, you can't just ignore what you said so easily. Perhaps you ought to apologize to every pastor reading this blog for the false accusations of sin you made against them.

"But the attitudes of some folks on here as they interpret the confessions and the oath are just wrong and taken out of context."

Well, as I pointed out above, you are the one guilty of interpreting the Confessions wrongly and taking them out of context.

Anonymous said...

"My question remains then - why does WELS Doctrinal Statement say the congregations are united in doctrine and practice? What am I missing here?"

You're not missing anything here. You have a very valid concern. You're absolutely right when you observe that the WELS is not united in practice. I'm also becoming more and more convinced that we aren't united in doctrine either.

The only comfort that I can give you is that President Schroeder seems committed to addressing this problem. Only time will tell if he is successful in doing this.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Regarding AC VII, it does not say that uniformity in worship is not necessary for the true unity of the Church. It says that uniformity in the ceremonies instituted by men are not necessary.

This is a very different thing. In agreement with the Scriptures AC VII says that uniformity of worship MUST be maintained, defined as the pure preaching of the Gospel and the pure administration of the Sacraments.

This uniformity cannot be maintained while discarding the elements of the leiturgia. For these elements of the service are necessary for the pure administration of the Gospel and Sacraments.

Certain things cannot be changed without changing the very nature of the divine service.

What is often labeled as the "style" of worship is not innate. Style impacts what is conveyed.

Moreover, changes in style change what is actually preached and confessed. By changing the style without consideration of the rest of the Church, one declares that the impact upon others does not matter and that what one wants for self is more important than what is good for all.

Thus, even in the same stupid congregation there may be three or even four styles of worship, thereby guaranteeing choices to be made and divisions formed within the congregation. People say, "This is my service" and "That is their service" and "I won't ever have anything to do with their service" and "This is what is best for . . . ME."

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Regarding Dr. Webber's sermon, I am very happy to have heard and read it. However, there is a serious error in the sermon, which I have addressed on my blog separately for anyone who cares to consider it.

Nevertheless, thanks for drawing attention to his sermon. He says many wonderful things well worthy of notice.

Anonymous said...

Being united in practice doesn't mean that we do things in the same way but that we put doctrine into action.

Let's use the Lord's Supper as a case in point. WELS Churches believe from the Bible that in the Sacrament of Holy Communion Jesus gives us his very body and blood for forgiveness and that those who don't believe or don't understand or who believe something other than we believe will not be communed at our altars out of love for the truth of God's Word and love for their souls.

Unity in practice means that WELS churches will celebrate Holy Communion and that they will do so in a way that guards the truth of God's Word and the souls of people.

Unity in practice doesn't meant that every WELS church offers Communion on the first and third Sundays of the month using only the Chalice on the first Sunday and individual cups on the third Sunday, using King Solomon concord grape wine and whole wheat wafers, not gluten free wafers because that's how my church does it or because there is a Synod rule. Making rules where God does not is putting words into God's mouth and binding consciences where God's Word does not bind them.

To fail to offer Holy Communion or not observe Close Communion would be not acting in unity of practice. How an individual congregation decides to offer Communion, in what manner of distribution, the frequency of distribution and other matters pertaining to Communion is left in Christian freedom to the discretion of the congregation.

Interestingly, to insist on one way of doing Communion, on the same Sunday of the month, utilizing the same manner of distribution just because that's how your church does it is also a break in the unity of practice.

Now draw that out to other issues. Practice doesn't mean that we necessarily do things in the same way but how doctrines are put into action. Unity of practice is being faithful to God's Word. Unity of practice is not WELS people who are traveling being sure that they will be comfortable when they attend a sister church with "comfortable" meaning that the church somewhere else will be just like the church back home.

Anonymous said...

In the interest of full disclosure, I am Missouri Synod and new to Lutheranism.

Are there really WELS congregations that only have the Supper twice a month? Why is that? (Our church has the Supper in every service.)


Anonymous said...

Poster #44, thank you.

At CTR we are not doing anything that goes against the Confessions and more importantly the Scriptures. Obviously there is nothing I'm going to say to convince you otherwise. Shame on you for passing judgement when you haven't been to my church. You make the narrow road to Heaven a tightrope walk. See you down the road...


Anonymous said...

"At CTR we are not doing anything that goes against the Confessions and more importantly the Scriptures. Obviously there is nothing I'm going to say to convince you otherwise."

Well, JK, since you claim that all swearing is sinful, it's clear that CTR is not teaching the full counsel of God. Not teaching people God's Word is most definitely against Scripture and the Confessions. Perhaps if your church stopped worrying about "felt needs" and started teaching God's Word, you might have an understanding of something as basic as the Second Commandment.

Anonymous said...

Dominic, I have a sneaking suspicion that you are feigning ignorance for the purpose of stirring up trouble, but I'll but the best construction on things and answer your question.

Yes, there are many WELS congregations that do not celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday, but there is a growing movement to change that. In the interest of fairness, though, I need to point out that there are even more congregations in the Missouri Synod that don't celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday.

Anonymous said...

I am a WELS member and a convert into Lutheranism like Dominic. I am also baffled that the Sacrament of Lord's Supper is offered only twice a month. No one has ever offered an answer that does not leave me even more baffled.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous, you wrote,

"there are even more congregations in the Missouri Synod that don't celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday."

I did a little research and interestly both the LCMS and WELS did a survery in 1995 on the issue. The WELS information below came from a paper delivered to the WELS Worship conference,

"In 1995, Rev. Kenneth Wieting conducted a survey of all pastors in the LCMS. The survey was designed to learn about the current practices, trends, and attitudes within Synod concerning the frequency of celebration of the Lord's Supper... Almost 20 percent indicated that the Lord's Supper was made available in each weekly Divine Service. Many of these pastors said that this practice had taken place in the previous five years. Another 16 percent indicated that the Lord's Supper was available each week in the parish they serve but at alternating services."

"The 1995 Wisconsin Synod Survey reports that only 5% of our churches celebrate the Sacrament weekly with a large percentage of those in only one of several weekend services. Some 27% offer the Sacrament but once a month."

So, LCMS 36%, WELS 5%. Let's hope both synods have increased that. Also former President Barry had a synod wide paper encouraging the practice. Has any WELS president done so? - it would be interesting reading.

Is there anyone out there who can tell me why?


Anonymous said...

I know of several WELS congregations that voted against have every Sunday communion! Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Well yeah, you can make statistics say whatever you want.

"there are even more congregations in the Missouri Synod that don't celebrate the Lord's Supper every Sunday."

Taken at face value: True.

From statistics gathered on the web:
# of WELS congregations 2007: 1276
# of LCMS congregations 2003: 6160

64% of LCMS churches that do not have every sunday communion: 3942 churches

95% of WELS churches that do not have every sunday communion: 1212

3942 > 1212

I do think attitudes have changed somewhat since 1995 though. But I could be wrong about that.

Anonymous said...

Ugh. How does every single thread here somehow turn into a discussion of weekly communion? I'm not saying that it's not a valid thing to talk about, but I'm sick of talking about it here. Bailing Water has been there and done that.

(By the way, Dominic, your latest post confirms my suspicion that you aren't a humble layman with an innocent question. It's looks like you posted with an agenda, looking to stir things up.)

Anonymous said...

Webber's sermon has no true law in the sense of it convicting the hearers. He's railing against CG and not against sin, sin in the lives of his people. We don't need sermons like this to fight CG. We need basic law and gospel.

Anonymous said...

"Well yeah, you can make statistics say whatever you want."

My goodness, it is like junior high on this blog. Good-bye.


Anonymous said...

"My goodness, it is like junior high on this blog. Good-bye."

Aww, Dom, are you leaving because we saw through your thinly-veiled attempt to stir up trouble and proselytize members?

Just a tip for next time: don't act like an ignorant and confused layman in your first comment and then immediately whip out all of your figures and statistics in the very next comment. It's a tad phony.

Anonymous said...

Your arguements concerning style causing division in the church are assinine. Then WELS better make the rule of only one service time per week synod wide because having and 8 am and 10:30 is division. You guys are idiots.

Anonymous said...

"Your arguements concerning style causing division in the church are assinine. Then WELS better make the rule of only one service time per week synod wide because having and 8 am and 10:30 is division. You guys are idiots."

1. If you're going to be calling other people idiots, you had better be sure you know how to spell "arguements" and "assinine".

2. Style does not exist in a vacuum. Worship style flows from theology and affects theology. If you weren't so asinine you would understand this.

Anonymous said...

To the one who wrote,

"immediately whip out all of your figures and statistics in the very next comment."

It really isn't that hard to find these stats. I just did, it is called "Google", dummy. Google "every Sunday sacrament" and WELS or LC MS. It is not rocket science.

Anonymous said...

"It's a tad phony."

It was you, not Dom, who is the phony. It was you who made the fatuous claim about numbers. Sheesh, grow up.

Anonymous said...

"It was you, not Dom, who is the phony. It was you who made the fatuous claim about numbers. Sheesh, grow up."

No, what I said was completely accurate. There are more congregations in the LCMS than in the WELS that do not have weekly communion. That's a fact.

Anonymous said...

"No, what I said was completely accurate."

Nice example of Pharisaical legalism.

Anonymous said...

Moderator... can you stop the thread when it degenerates to this point? Discussion is worthless now.

John said...

Point taken..

Please all focus on Confessional Lutheranism..

Anonymous said...

Here is a fairly concise explanation of the biblical understanding of objective vs subjective justification:

Anonymous said...

The problem is that "contemporary" by definition is a word open for interpretation. If I don't enjoy a particular tune, I can rewrite the melody to something not in modal tones.

That, in a sense, is "contemporary"

Most churches in the WELS, who are "going contemporary" are simply updating music they didn't enjoy singing. The words are still the inspired Word (Magnificat, Sanctus, etc) the music has simply been updated, as it has been many times (Lutheran Chorale was not ordained)

There are churches who have decided to be fundamentally anti-liturgical, that is a problem. But not all "contemporary" worship services can be lumped together

Anonymous said...

Just a couple thoughts from a WELS pastor. One is that we can cover a lot of territory, without looking to the Church Crowth Movement, by simply "doing out best with the resources we have" in every area --preaching, worship, evangelism, maintaining our property, responding to our visitors and contacts, assimilation, etc. The other is that, instead of distinguishing between traditional and contemporary worship on this level, we might talk about distinguishing between Lutheran and Reformed worship (with Reformed worship styles and substance possibly coming into the WELS). I think that is the crux of the matter.

Anonymous said...

The real issue which is the basis of all the confusion in the C&C matter and the implications that it is leaving, is that we have WELS pastors who are "sitting at the feet of mockers" who do not have the interests of the proper administration of Word and Sacrament in mind. We have lay people who are being trained by heterodox teachers who claim that their brand is generic and it can be applied to any stripe of theology. We have churches that are using video clips and church "helps"? being offered and produced by Willow Creek. We are having women write "liturgies" (read "teaching") for contempory services that are being used and C&C Enthusiast churches.

It goes on and on. We have been duped, just like Eve was, into believing that God has not given us all we need. We doubt that our Lutheran fathers actually had it right. We doubt, yes ignore, Christ's words below that tell of the trials, the distain and lack of glory that will be encountered.

The thing is that instead of doing what Christ commanded in:

Luke 9:5 (King James Version)

5 And whosoever will not receive you, when ye go out of that city, shake off the very dust from your feet for a testimony against them.

or for those who need,
Luke 9 (Contemporary English Version)

5 If people won't welcome you, leave the town and shake the dust from your feet [a] as a warning to them." 6The apostles left and went from village to village, telling the good news and healing people everywhere.

...we are being told,let's figure out a way to make people like us and want us and thereby ignore the instructions given. Yes, let us bait them. So in the end we can do it our way.................but at what cost?