Saturday, September 17, 2016

A new church called New Church. . .

I have mentioned the FiveTwo enterprise, with its roots in LCMS Texas congregations and official sanction by several LCMS districts, including and especially the Texas District.  It was the source of the sacramental entrepreneurs thrust for defining Lutherans and Lutheran mission endeavors.  It is certainly missional (according to those who use that term) and on the cutting edge of things (meaning skirting the fringes).

The claim is that the theology is the same but the practices borrow from the best (meaning effective) practices of other churches, business methodologies, and social constructs.  They are entrepreneurs -- they keep the faith and take what works to package up and deliver that faith.  At least that is their claim.

"In our culture today, very few un-churched people are looking for a church service. They are, however, longing for a place to feel cared for, and a place where they can care for others. When they meet Jesus there, it all makes sense."  So says one of the leaders of a FiveTwo mission planting efforts within the Michigan District.

Perhaps the best known and most clearly articulated vision of this strategy is New Church -- a mission in Katy, Texas, under the leadership of Frank Hart.  Watch the videos below.  According to those who go there, New Church is a big tent revival with an edge, has music that sings like a prayer, offers Jesus' words as He really would have said them, and does not feel like church.  (The last part is certainly true both in terms of the intent of New Church and the result).  It is pretty new (launched in March of 2016). 

According to Hart, they meet on a Saturday night for worship, food, drink, and fellowship, their sound track is rock music, and they emply a heavily sarcastic style of humor.  He believes that the music in worship should be indigenous to the culture and theirs is clearly classic rock.  The church is a placed where you can hear what you may not have heard before, say what you dared not say before, and where they really mean come as you are.  Their goal is for you to walk in and feel at home and to provide a place where you can become more and more what God wants you to be (the real path of freedom).

Their tag line is this: 
Your home is your first place,
your work is your second.
is where you meet your friends
and find your true identity.
NewChurch might be your THIRD PLACE.

Finally, he insists that they are not some mamby pamby churchy church like all the rest of the churches around and they are not for everyone (well, not for those who like mamby pamby churchy church).  

I would suspect he has a congregation like mine in mind with this and probably most of the congregations of the LCMS would come close to his definition of churchy church with which he wants nothing to do.   I would also suspect that he views this enterprise as real and authentic in a way that most LCMS congregations are not.  And I would suspect that most LCMS congregations would view his enterprise as not very Lutheran.  That said, it is clear that the division in Synod between so-called missionals and maintenance folks is not over which music is sung but what kind of church we intend to be.  Lutheran is but subset of beliefs for this new church and the culture is the driving force in what this church looks like and does.  This is the real tension in our church body -- can Lutheran be merely a subset of beliefs or is it the identity that Sunday morning expresses?


John Joseph Flanagan said...

The only accurate way to describe this new church concept is....."Going overboard." Who knows why some Christians need to feed into the idea that they must have instant gratification and an emotional purging in their worship experience? Instead of a devotional outlook, they take it to a different level. They are bringing the rock concert into church. I think it is wrong.

Carl Vehse said...

Rev. Kenneth Hennings, president of the LCMS Texas District, is also the chairman of the Synod’s Council of Presidents. The Purple Palace can't touch him. Project Koinonia is vaporlocked like Hillary waiting for a van. Nothing will be done about FiveTwo, especially in the next year. Everyone's got their quincentennial travel arrangements set.

Ted Badje said...

There was the presupposition that liturgical churches are not caring or genuine. I don't find that to be true. I looked at the congregation, and most of what I saw were working-class Americans. They are often classified as the 'forgotten Americans' in our society today. Is there a challenge in Lutheran preaching to bring up the issues in vocation, the work lives of everyday people? This has been a topic brought up before on this board. How do people live the Christian life in working in factories, working long hours away from home, or scraping by and building a small business? In another perspective, Americans today obsess about demographics. That has gotten in many denominations practices. We should treat people as people and share the love of Christ.

ginnie said...

"When they meet Jesus there, it all makes sense." and that is exactly what our historical liturgy does for us. Worship is all about God not about us.

Anonymous said...

I suppose the "Churchy Church" they refer to is the liturgical Divine Service which contains so much substance, it can take years to fully appreciate. It also elevates me from my contemporary existence instead of glorying in it. And for all the talk of how deep the bible studies are, there were no sound bits to back it up. I came away from both with Philippians 3:19 on my lips, "Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things."

Padre Dave Poedel said...

Based on most neighborhoods in America where a distinct minority of folks attend worship in a Christian Church of any kind, I look it as a starting place. The people I see in NewChurch look a lot like the folks I encounter in Cursillo, who are drawn to the Word proclaimed a certain way. It seems to work for these folks. OK, so it is a place to start.....

Our liturgical churches are the ones that serve those who are in our Tradition, our tribe if you will. I love the Mass in all of its dramatic glory. I love to preside and preach the Mass in our Lutheran Tradition. I will always love to preach and preside at the Mass. I pray that God continues to send us people who are looking for something deeper, with more history and tradition so that we can teach them the beauty of what we do! I will serve out my days as best I can by preaching with as much depth and passion as I can. I will be at utmost bliss when I can preside at the Holy Eucharist in the context of the Mass, and will do so with a smile but also with great reverence. That is my preference and my joy.

However, as God occasionally uses me to fill in at churches that don't share my love and passion for the Liturgy, I am learning how to preach without vestments, though I feel awkward and almost naked without them. When Holy Communion is offered (I am still mystified that there are churches that do not make the Eucharist available every time the community gathers, but it is out there) in those "informal" services, I strive to bring as much reverence to the service as I can muster in the circumstances. It is not my preference, and truth be told I prefer not to serve those services at all, but they are part of the congregations weekly offerings. It is what it is in our little Synod, dear brothers. It is what it is.....

ErnestO said...

Interesting to have a new name for the LCMS service I will be attending this Sunday - "Namby Pamby" I'm thinking that living six decades has taught me, the more names New Church call us, the more they know/feel they have to justify their informal services.

Namby Pamby is a term for affected, weak, and maudlin speech/verse. It originates from Namby Pamby (1725)a poem by Henry Carey.