Saturday, June 19, 2010

How We Plant Mission Congregations Represents a Glimpse of Our Future

I live in the South and I suppose that might have something to do with it but what I hear from other corners of our Synod tells me this is not so much a factor as one might think.  More and more mission congregations are being planted that are less and less Lutheran in form and practice.  What I mean is this, there are more and more mission congregations which eschew the name Lutheran on their signboards, do not use the hymnal or any liturgical form on Sunday morning, and borrow their methods and practices from whatever works in the idea marketplace dominated by evangelicals, fundamentalists, and non-denominationals.

Mission planters are continually held up as the cutting edge of our church and mission congregations are held up as the shape of all congregations to come.  While you may debate this conclusion, I believe it is safe to say that if these congregations grow as they have been planted they   become strong influences over District and Synod and over the other Lutheran congregations around them.  Over time they will have great impact in changing the shape of the Lutheran landscape without any resolution being passed, any convention focus being reviewed, or any referendum being held.  What happens in the mission congregations is changing the Church in a way that people have not and often cannot stop -- it is change through a side door without the full implications of this change being debated and resolved.

I believe it is probably fairly universal among mission execs in our Synod that in order for the Lutheran Church to grow we need to plant congregations that look and act like the mega or nondenominational congregations around them.  Methods are borrowed from these churches without the Church considering how their use will eventually change us as a Church.  These generic missions with their cutesy names (The Alley, LakePointe, etc.) are current in all the technology and we can tune in to YouTube to see what they look like and what is going on there.  But... what we see looks nothing like the majority of Lutheran congregations on Sunday morning.  You do not see a hymnal, liturgy, church year, creed, etc. You do not see the symbols of the Church (but you do see large video screens).  You do not see vestments but you do see Pastors in polos and tees whose personality and personal identity is often the driving force in these missions.

What bothers me most about this is not that this is happening but there has been no debate in the Districts or Synod about this.  The changes our mission styles are bringing are entering the Church unchallenged and unevaluated except by those who are convinced of their value and effectiveness.  Not in the least of this is the way we judge everything by what works -- and what works is what fills the seats (cannot say pews because they do not have them).  I would like a public debate about this and if the Church votes to embrace this, then I will know where I stand with my Church.  But at least I will have had an opportunity to speak to this issue.  Change which comes in the back door nearly always comes back to bite you in the behind and this is largely because it has not benefited from a full and honest debate.

If you want to see what Missouri will be in the future, you do not need to look at either Kieschnick or Harrison.  Just take a gander at the kind of mission congregations being planted by our church body with your mission dollars.  That is what the future will look like -- for good or for ill. 


Pr. D. Bestul said...

Well said, brother! It represents what's happening on the West Coast as well as on the East...and, unfotunately, in-between.

Chris said...

The continued planting of these mission churches will ensure Kieschnik and his clones to retain the presidency and to foster innovations that will make Lutheranism more and more Baptist all the time. Ablaze! is all about planting churches but not planting Lutheran churches. The people who run Ablaze! in the Mo Synod hierarchy are enemies to the confessionals and confessions of the church thinking that such old and archaic practices need to be excised for entertainment. Before Lutherans can sack Kieschnik, they need to sack Ablaze!.

Rev. Kevin Jennings said...

I attended a church planters conference a few years ago with a young man in our congregation who had come to us from Baptist and non-denom backgrounds. He was furious as the conference went on (I was bored). "This is what I left," was his reaction.

In our area we have a large "fellowship" church associated with "The Ultimate Giveaway" at Easter time (you may have seen it on TV). I'm wondering if I'll see a Lutheran church try to copy this.

Both of these are related, and both, tragically, have their roots not in Holy Scripture, but in the modern marketing techniques which drive revivalism.

I wonder, Pastor Peters, if the reasoning behind this push in our church body is really fear.

Ramona said...

This is not only problematic for our Synod, but it has become a stumbling block for those who attend these kinds of churches - and these 'pastors' are leading souls astray. What's next? Altar call? Free-for-all Communion that is passed around as if it were an offering plate? Indeed, this kind of worship quickly becomes something WE do for God because we owe it to him.

I am an LCMS pastor's wife. While on vacation in other cities and/or states, we've visited other LCMS churches and I have to say, that there has been no consistency whatsoever among them.

When mission churches conduct themselves as if they were a mega-church-wanna-be, the 'seekers' they are reaching for have no idea what the true Church believes, teaches, and confesses because worship has been grossly distorted - indeed, this form of 'worship' is no worship at all.

My husband and I were HORRIFIED when we visited an LCMS church in Green Valley, AZ a few years ago. It's bad enough when our churches embrace women lectors, but this church had women in white accolyte robes assisting with Communion (may God have mercy on us all)!

I was raised Baptist and have, in my lifetime visited and even been members of other protestant evangelical types of churches.

I am going to be bold and say that Kieschnik is directly involved in how mission churches are constructed and conducted. Not only has our Synod has put itself in danger of straying by hiring protestant evangelical missions consultants, the LCMS has a hand in leading believers astray. And I do believe that God has some serious consequences for those leading the lambs into dried up weedy pastures with firmented waters.

Our Synod, mission planters, and life-long members need to wake up and realize what a Treasure we have in the Confessional LCMS.