Tuesday, July 10, 2012

But is is true?

It has become fashionable to say that the "traditional" church (liturgical, confessional, etc.) cannot reach people at risk in our world today, would not welcome the kind of people Jesus came for, and is not able to lead the Church in this "post-Christian" age.  I have heard this repeatedly from a whole variety of sources, in District and Synod, in print and person, in public and private.  To be honest, I am getting a little sick of the whole darn thing.  It is not true.  I am not saying that the "traditional" (hate that word) church or mission starts WILL reach the marginalized but I am saying it is a falsehood, indeed, a lie, to say they CANNOT.

My congregation is hopelessly traditional with nary a drum set or praise band around.  We have a weekly sung Eucharist with smells and bells and all the trappings.  We also have men with pony tails, men and women with tattoos, and people with checkered pasts who have said and done enough to curl your nose hairs.  But the come.  They come with the folks in suits and dresses, with squeaky clean (at least on the outside) and ordinary lives.  They into this liturgical and confessional congregation and to many, many others like mine.  The marginalized are not only served by the "non-traditional" churches touted for their creative, effective, and successful face of the future (vs the face of the past in those "traditional" churches).

The issue is not "trad vs non-trad" but our confidence in the Word of God.  Will God do what He has promised through the means He has ordained?  I know of congregations that are on the "traditional", liturgical, dare I say, high church, side of the divide and they regularly and effectively reach the disillusioned youth, the disaffected poor, the tattooed and pierced with their anti-establishment rebellion.  They key is not methodology but confidence in the Word and courage to speak boldly that Word of rescue and hope in Christ.

My fear is that we have talked ourselves into believing the lie that only those on the fringes of the Church can reach those on the fringes of society.  Baloney.  Praise bands and light beards and singing divas and screens and warehouse buildings are hardly radical anymore.  They are normal.  They have become the face (the most public face) of Christianity from mainline to non-denominational.  The rad Christian identity is more the face of liturgy, chanting, kneeling, incense, etc.    My fear is that we are so enamored with the methodology that we no longer even think in terms of the means of grace, so confident of what we can do that we no longer are dependent upon that which God has promised to do.

If there is any success in the work of the Kingdom, it is God's work in His Word.  If there is anything hindering us from that success, it is not our setting (churchly) nor our worship (liturgical) nor our confession (Lutheran) but our lack of confidence in the means of grace and our substitution of wisdom of men for the Wisdom of God.

Finally, another note...  I would remind us that not everyone who is unchurched is a rebel with tats and piercings and strange hair and anti-establishment.  Not everyone outside the Church is a former or current addict, prostitute, satan worshiper, or biker.  Many if not most of the folks not yet of the Kingdom of God (at least here in the USA) look a great deal like the folks already there in the pews -- thoroughly average and ordinary.  That does not mean we pick and choose whom we will seek and what folks are more attentive to our mission.  It means that we scatter the Word and sleep and rise and God does all the rest.  We receive those in whom He has planted faith and we nurture that faith with the only tools we have to grow faith -- the Word and the Sacraments.  And God makes it grow... brings forth its fruit... and raises up the harvest...  really, He does!!

The mission of the Church is not to create an "island of misfit toys" for those who do not fit in elsewhere.  The Church is by definition THE "island of misfit toys" wherein God's grace heals, restores, redeems, and directs to eternity those for whom Christ has died.


Anonymous said...

Let all God's people say, "AMEN!"

Anonymous said...

"The issue is not "trad vs non-trad" but our confidence in the Word of God. Will God do what He has promised through the means He has ordained?"

Sorry to Anonymous, but this gets THREE Amens! We are called by the Word out of the darkness of our pitiful existence, into this marvelous light that is His Kingdom, a Kingdom that does not resemble the world in which we live in any way that we can truly fathom. What He gives us to do, then, as citizens of this Kingdom, is to make disciples from among the nations, in this world in which we live, and will die. Jesus even tells us the HOW -- baptizing and teaching -- through Word and Sacrament -- and promises to be and remain with us in these things. If only we could listen to these Words, trust in them and faithfully cling to them, the doing and done by Christ and in Christ. Unfortunately, we all too often lose our minds between the "you go" and "you make" and the "teaching" and "baptizing," and make it all about me converting that super lost sinner, rather than the Christ who saves working through ordinary people, and ordinary means.

You know, come to think of it, there is only one person who is/was the right man at the right place at the right time with the right vision for the church in this world -- Jesus.

Patrick Morgan said...

Pastor Peters, I am relatively new to the Lutheran Church and I say a hearty "Amen" to this post. I was once on the fringes of society and Christ saved me. I then spent many years in a variety of churches with a variety of methodologies and theologies. It wasn't until I read the Book of Concord that I knew I found a home. That is, until I realized that my new Lutheran Church was and is wistfully looking at contemporary methodologies (which are NOT based on Lutheran (biblical)theology)in order to "grow" and "reach out" to the community. As a relative newcomer I thought my outside perspective might persuade my brothers and sisters to not go down the path they so desire to go. We have a feast before us and we want to sell it all for a "mess of pottage". I can truthfully say to all long-time Lutherans that you are being very foolish if you continue to go down this road. The so-called "contemporary" methodology in our church is hopelessly behind the current trends. It is poorly done and would not (pragmatically speaking)attract anyone on the fringe - unless they somehow have nostalgia for the 1970's. I am not being flippant. In addition, today's 'contemporary' is tomorrow's 'old hat'. Woe to our pastors who are asleep on their watch.

Janis Williams said...


AMEN. Been there, done that, burned the Tee shirts.

Anonymous said...

Janis and Patrick,

According to Bill Hybels, TCN, and Rick Warren, you are not supposed to exist! LCMS district presidents were promised by these groups that Evangelicals would find the Church Growth Movement within LCMS congregations irresistible. And here you are providing support for Grandpa's Church!

I hope that other LCMS districts are not as blind as the MNS district.

Anonymous said...

Or Mid-South...

Pat Morgan said...

I can't help but respond again. LCMS ministers and other officials who are trying (and, unfortunately, succeeding) to force Church Growth ideas down the throats of unsuspecting congregants are arrogant and hypocritical. I know that's strong but consider this. Many of us from the fringe have steep hills to climb due to our sinful pasts, which we clearly admit. Sometimes we fail miserably in the Christian life yet we know how desperately we are in daily need of Christ and His mercy and forgiveness. When I fail it's because I'm a sinner and I take my eyes of faith off of Christ. When our "Church Growth" 'leaders' lead their flocks down the "happy clappy" path they, too, have taken their eyes of faith off of Christ and put it on to man-made methodologies that are supposed to make Christ 'irresistible'. How can it not be anything but arrogant and hypocritical? And downright stobborn in their insistence on serving up lukewarm 'cream of wheat' Sunday after Sunday. If these men were medical doctors (they ARE supposed to be spiritual doctors, too, aren't they?)they could be sued for malpractice. Many sheep suffer because they are led by groggy, confused and ill-trained shepherds.

Just as many are asking where the Woodwards and Bernteins are in the face of our current corrupt president and his administration I am wondering where is the Luther who will thunder God's Word on these arrogant, hypocritical, and hapless men who pretend to speak for our Most Holy God?

Anonymous said...

Pat Morgan wrote:

"Just as many are asking where the Woodwards and Bernteins are in the face of our current corrupt president and his administration I am wondering where is the Luther who will thunder God's Word on these arrogant, hypocritical, and hapless men who pretend to speak for our Most Holy God?"

We DO have a few people sounding the alarm:


The churches routinely critiqued by LCMS layman Chris Rosborough are the same ones that are lauded by Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and TCN as role models for the LCMS.

Sadly, LCMS pastors have not yet "connected all of the dots."


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