Wednesday, April 23, 2014
What denomination do you think this congregation is?
By all accounts this congregation does what they do very well. It is the highest quality music and media. My question is what does the appearance of Sunday morning tell you about this congregation? Would you identify it as one of the larger and more influential congregations of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (in and around St. Louis)? This happens to be St. John's in Ellisville (I do not use the name Lutheran in their title because they have decided that the name Lutheran is either not essential to or beneficial for their work). My point in this post is not to denigrate the content but simply to ask the question: Would you have identified this as a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? If not, and I presume most all of us would not, then something is wrong. Sunday morning is the place where we show our colors to the world. Regardless of whether you like or dislike what you watched, are these the colors of a confessional Lutheran congregation?
This is not about music or architecture (though certainly they flow from the identity expressed) but about who we intend to be. We cannot have many faces before the world. Missouri has had a split personality (maybe multiple personality) disorder for some time. This cannot be sustained over time. The day is rapidly coming when we will have to choose who we intend to be before the world and on Sunday morning.
In our Confessions we expect that people, if they confuse us at all, would mistake us for Roman Catholic. There is no chance of that here. But it would not be a stretch to identity what you watched with Saddleback, Willow Creek or Lakewood or anyone of a thousand other evangelical (or evangelical style) congregations. The issue cannot simply be whether what they are doing is credible but whether or not what they are doing is authentic to Lutheran heritage and confessional identity. The disconnect between this parish and, say, mine, is too great to ignore. One or the other will have to give way over time and the face of Missouri will not be split any longer. We have one face to show to the world. The question for today is which one will it be?