I just sat through another meeting in which we Lutherans paid a non-Lutheran (Northern Baptist, in this case) to showcase what they are doing right and we are doing wrong. He was powerful and persuasive, witty and humorous, passionate and confident. All the things, apparently, we are not. So we paid him to address a plenary gathering and then we paid him even more to address a small group (the people most likely to purchase his books). It is not that his words were completely worthless or that we should not listen to those outside our tradition. It was that much of what he said is directly opposed to who we are and what we say.
The purpose of the Church... according to him, our Lord established the Church to make disciples to change the world... according to Lutherans, He established the Church to proclaim the Gospel so that the Holy Spirit might work faith in the hearts of the hearers and that they might be brought from death to life and in particularly to life eternal, through the suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ that has accomplished the forgiveness of sins and the redemption of our lost lives.
The purpose of worship... according to him, worship is not the end but merely the means to an end; that worship is nothing more or less than a program or tool in the overall quest of making disciples.... according to Lutherans, worship is the high and holy cause and purpose for which we are saved (see the Athanasian Creed)... whoever would be saved must confess the catholic faith and the catholic faith is that we worship the Trinity in unity. . . and so on. . .
The work of God in the sacraments... according to him, his church kills people by drowning them in immersion and we Lutherans send them through a car wash... according to Lutherans, our Lord does kill and make alive in baptism, imparts to us the Holy Spirit and all the gifts won for us by the life-giving death and life-bestowing resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, connecting us to Jesus Christ in a sacramental way so that we can say with Paul that we have died with Christ and rose with Him to new and newness of life...
These are just three things I recall from his plenary address and I took no notes.... I could probably come up with more...
My point is... yes Lutherans have congregations that need "revitalizing" but the how to on this will not do from the perspective of those who do not believe in Word and Sacrament and the efficacious Word of the Gospel. We do not need to be instructed by those whose methods are antithetical to our very Confession of Faith. We need to revitalize congregations who have lost their sense of purpose or become inwardly focused but surely we are not so lacking of people and programs that we cannot use Lutheran means to this end -- building upon the strengths in our Confessions and our identity to accomplish this salutary task.
Why are we as Lutherans so darn filled with self-doubt, with angst and guilt, that we would abandon who we are in order to adopt methods that will surely lead us away from our Confessions and our Confessional identity? Do we have no talents or sage individuals to help us meet the needs of our church body without selling our souls to others?
I listened to our Synodical President raise the challenge before us of stewardship to finance the mission, passion to accomplish the mission, and program resources to equip us to do the mission but instead of our Confessions or our Lutheran teachers of old (or of today) or even Scripture, we hear of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Borden (nothing to fear but fear itself, and no restrictions, no retreats, no regrets). When I asked him a question following his Q & A session (which had time for only four questions), I asked about the growing practice of starting missions in the LCMS which eschew the name Lutheran and do minimal teaching about their Lutheran identity (something established Lutheran congregations are even doing). He responded about how he was old fashioned and he thought it was not a bad things to emphasize Lutheran identity but he surely understood that they were making this "sacrifice" in order to accomplish a greater good (soul winning). So I guess this is neither an endorsement or a condemnation but an admission that this practice will continue.
I truly believe that the folks who spoke were well intentioned, that they have a heart for the Church and the work of God's kingdom -- just as nearly everyone who sat in the room listening to them. But I also believe that we are truly misguided in our search for success when we leave behind our Lutheran identity, when we do not turn to our Confessions for guides in this pursuit, and when we fail to capitalize (or even mention) the Lutheran strengths of Law and Gospel, Word and Sacrament, catholic and evangelical identity. I too want the Church to grow but I do not see how adopting the methods of or listening to people who do not understand or even ridicule our Confessional identity will help us do anything but become more and more like these people (also well intentioned and passionate) and less and less like the Lutherans we are -- unless, perhaps, that is what we want to do...
My point is... yes Lutherans have congregations that need "revitalizing" but the how to on this will not do from the perspective of those who do not believe in Word and Sacrament and the efficacious Word of the Gospel. We do not need to be instructed by those whose methods are antithetical to our very Confession of Faith.
Very well put! Actually, as confessing fellowships, such as the Lutherans, succumb to 'evangelical creep' in the attempt to 'grow', they in effect cripple themselves going forward.
What's not needed is more generic evangelicalism, what's needed is more bedrock theology taught and learned, especially in the catechesis of children. And especially, a renewed embrace of the confessions and worship tradition is needed!
I heard a broadcast this morning of Bach's Canata 60, and marveled at it. It was great art, but was composed as a piece of worship music. It instructed, inspired, and invited the congregation to join on the chorales. It was moving to consider this piece in its context, and how it could serve as a model today.
Great work, Pastor Peter! Keep on keeping on!
Why are we as Lutherans so darn filled with self-doubt, with angst and guilt, that we would abandon who we are in order to adopt methods that will surely lead us away from our Confessions and our Confessional identity?
We have this self-doubt, as you put it, because the Lutheran approach does not focus upon the self. Lutherans focus upon Christ, and then let the Holy Spirit roll from there. Our eyes are fixed upon Christ, and then the Holy Spirit works when and where He wills.
And what is left to us? What do we get to do to make the Church grow - are we doing enough? Lutheranism doesn't answer this question - it says that it is a foolish question (I'm on the 1 year series - I want to say it's a question only a foolish virgin who ignores her oil would ask) and points one back to Christ.
But if you desire to be in control, if you desire to be the hero of the story - the one who wins souls for Jesus or the one who grows the Church, Lutheranism is an utter disappointment - we end up not being the key variable. This self-doubt is in truth not a self-doubt (for those who teach it are sure that if WE just did X, Y, or Z, all our wildest dreams would come true) -- it is a doubt of placing our trust in God when surely there is something we can do.
America has taught us that the world is about us, that we can grow up to be anything that we want to be. Is it any wonder that the Lutheran Church in America struggles with the idea that all things are about Christ and He makes us to be whom He wants us to be?
Confessions or our Lutheran teachers of old (or of today) or even Scripture, we hear of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Borden...
Like the old jingle said, "If it's Borden's, it has to be good!"
Just ask Elsie the Cow.
Where were you for this session? Who were the speakers? I had an elder ask me "What is the purpose of our church? And, what are the tools in our toolbox?" When I said, the purpose is to preach the Gospel in its truth and purity and adminster the Sacraments rightly and to make sure that the pure Gospel is heard quite clearly in our service, he was disappointed. When I said that our tools were Word and Sacrament, he was not happy.
We all, Lutherans and nons, want our churches to grow, because that means we are reaching people with the Gospel and lives are being saved.
What we have a problem with is that sometimes, the Lord's timing is not our own. Then, in our impatience, we think the Word needs help, or some additions or modification or some "tweaking." That's where these other "speakers" are coming from, I beleive.
Lutherans rely on Word and Sacrament to change lives, not on programs and changing worship for "seekers" or using new music to "attract the unchurched." The Word does not need our help.
I resonate with your thoughts here.
Do you think the leaders in the LCMS so willing to take a Baptist's advice on how to revitalize the Church have even read Matt Harrison's "At Home in the House of My Fathers"?
It is the best advice for revitalizing the Church I have ever heard. Obviously, the leadership of the LCMS disagrees.
"I just sat through another meeting in which we Lutherans paid a non-Lutheran (Northern Baptist, in this case) to showcase what they are doing right and we are doing wrong."
While sitting through the meeting, did you notice whether any Lutherans walked out of the meeting until the non-Lutheran was through talking?
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