Monday, October 25, 2010

And That's The Way We See It

An Unspoken Truth – or – Half Praise Is No Praise At All

Jesus once asked the Pharisees, "What do you think of Christ? Whose Son is He?" By this point in His ministry, they had had plenty of time to do a thorough inquiry into this question. They had certainly heard of Him often enough. They knew Who He claimed to be. Often, He had spoken to them directly. He had warned them about the folly and dangers and errors of their teachings and had urged them with great passion to turn from these errors.

So, now the Pharisees were quick to respond to Christ's inquiry. They answered, "The son of David." Now, that answer was absolutely correct – as far as it went. They had spoken the truth. But there remained yet an even more important unspoken truth! The fact was that Jesus was - and is - the actual Son of God, the Messiah; both David's Son, and David's Lord! Thus, it is not enough to proclaim a truth, if it is not the whole truth. Calling Jesus the "son of David," while true enough, leaves a great deal unsaid.

So it is with saying, "We accept the Bible as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God," or "We believe that God works only through the Means of Grace, the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, to create and sustain faith." Such proclamations are good and fine and necessary in truly historic, orthodox, confessional Lutheran churches, and you can find such statements and many more like them at just about every church in the Wisconsin Synod.

Still, perhaps there are things left unsaid in some of our churches. For all the proclamations that only God's Word and the Sacraments bring people into the kingdom, perhaps – just perhaps – there is a tendency to think that our churches must also be "real, relevant, and relational," in order to survive and thrive. Perhaps many have concluded that a "relaxed, come-as-you-are" atmosphere is essential to the continuation of a particular congregation. Perhaps some have come to believe – even though they may not say it – that a "liturgy" is a "barrier" to the Gospel, or that a Pastor in a suit and tie or especially in a gown or alb or whatever is a "turn off" to unbelievers, and therefore must be shelved in order for their Gospel message "to work."

To praise the Means of Grace as the only way to reach the lost, but then to speak and act in an opposite manner condemns those same Means of Grace with only half praise! And half praise, as the Pharisees knew well, is no praise at all!

And that's the way we see it!

Pastor Spencer

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

I always appreciate your commentary, Pastor Spencer.

I've noticed the very same phenomenon. I call it the "Yes, but..." syndrome. On numerous occasions, I have heard or read pastors and leaders within the WELS say something to the effect of: "Yes, we know that the Holy Spirit works through the Means of Grace, but...

...how can we make them more effective?"

...our statistics say we're doing something wrong."

...things are different now than they used to be."

...et cetera"

Invariably, whatever comes after the "but" weakens or denies what came before it.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of wisdom in this commentary. The issue I would have with it is one I've raised before. As a guy who travels a lot and probably has visited more WELS churches than most, I don't see this problem. I have never heart a pastor say a robe or the liturgy is a barrier to the Gospel, nor have I heard fellow lay people say such things. IL has cited some examples in Appleton. But beyond that...?

Also, Adam raises something that I wrestle with. "Our statistics say we're doing something wrong." On the one hand, a preoccupation with statistics is unhealthy. But is there no room for using them? If a church consistently has zero adult confirmands, I find that to be a disturbing statistic. I find it hard to believe that even in the End Times if a church (both pastor and members) was active in doing outreach, they would have zero adult confirmands... year after year after year. Yet that is the case for... what?... about half of the WELS congregations, according to the statistical report.

So, I think there needs to be balance. Yes, we should be concerned if WELS churches become preoccupied with becoming "real, relevant and relational" in the sense that they lose trust in the Gospel's efficacy. However, I personally don't see that as a widespread issue. Apathy towards outreach, however, might appear to be an issue. But... that's based on statistics.

Oh, for the wisdom of Solomon. ;)

God bless!

Daniel Kastens

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Daniel,

Thank you for your comments.

You miss part of the point I was trying to make. Although in the past 30 years I myself have heard many superficial things described as "barriers to the Gospel," some as trite as the color of paint used on the church or the length of the grass in the playground (or the fact that there wasn't a playground!), it is not what is said, but as I'd tried to point out, what is not said. Here are some examples from web sites of 4 different churches I am familiar with around the WELS:

"cozy and intimate worship experience . . . comfortable and relaxed . . "

" . . . worship to be meaningful and visitor-friendly . . . just come as you are . . ."

"Casual worship . . . upbeat style . . . "

" . . . relevant sermons with real-life applications . . . "


Now, in all but the first example the Pastors wear gowns, and three out of the four use some liturgy. But what goes unspoken seems to be that all worship should be as described here - warm, relaxed, comfortable, upbeat, and so forth. In addition, I get the distinct feeling reading through these sites that these churches are desperate to be liked and accepted in and by their surrounding communities. Yet, we used to say that the job of the church was the "comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable." What has changed? Has mankind or the world changed? Or are our churches attempting to change – to win the world by being more like the world? That, I believe, is the unspoken message given off by quite a few of our Pastors and churches.

I'm not saying such churches and Pastors are setting out to be worldly, or are purposely meaning to cater to sinful attitudes. Neither am I saying or even implying that these congregations don't care about Biblical truth or Lutheran confessionalism as much as they do about souls. I myself have no "unspoken truth" I am hiding.

What I am saying, very clearly, I hope, is that an attitude has arisen among some of our ministers and members that we need to change – change our style, change the liturgy, change our methods, change – in some cases – our message, or at least the main focus of our message, if we are to survive and thrive as a church body or as individual congregations. I see examples of this new attitude all around the WELS. And no, I don't see it in words such as, "Preaching gowns block the message of the Gospel," or "the traditional liturgy hinders our Gospel outreach;" at least not very often. But I do see and hear it in words like those above, and also in various actions and inactions. More about that next time.

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

"On the one hand, a preoccupation with statistics is unhealthy. But is there no room for using them?"

I would say that there is almost no room for using statistics. God looks for faithfulness, not stats.

If a congregation is doing faithful outreach and has a dozen adult confirmands, praise God! If a congregation is doing faithful outreach and has zero adult confirmands, praise God! We can't use numbers to judge faithfulness, because we aren't in charge of the numbers, the Holy Spirit is.

If we were to use statistics to judge the faithfulness or the effectiveness or the success of a congregation or a pastor, we would have to conclude that Jesus Christ himself was a complete and utter failure. In the final year of his ministry, his "congregation" shrunk from thousands to zero, as even his twelve disciples abandoned him.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "Look how many congregations haven't had a single adult confirmation, they must be lazy! They must be unfaithful!" Such accusations are uncharitable and unscriptural. Unless we have specific knowledge of the congregation in question, and know that they are in fact being unfaithful, there is absolutely no place for silly and sinful accusations based on statistics.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kastens,
You said, "...cited some examples in Appleton. But beyond that....?". Isn't that enough? Remember, cancer doesn't start as a golf-ball sized lump. It begins very small and isolated as it grows and grows. It is the same way with the attitudes which Pastor Spencer describes. These attitudes start small and grow until you have some of the happenings in Appleton.
I had the exact same experience two weeks ago with my home congregations. Years ago: pastor, black gown, liturgy, sermons which "comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable". Scriptures readings given without introduction.
Now the atmosphere is completely different. The vicar begins the service by wandering down into the congregation and starts talking about my problems in life. The Scripture readings given after a long introduction. (I actually timed him, his introduction to the reading was longer than the reading itself!) Man's word or God's Word? I caught one bit of Reformed doctrine in the pastor's sermon, my wife says she caught more. I'll stop there.
Don't think I'm against change because I want things to stay the "comfortable" old ways for me. I'm not a "5 and 15 drone". But when I see WELS pastors drinking deeply of Reformed doctrine and practice, I believe alarms need to be sounded. This is why I'm an Intrepid Lutheran.

Scott E. Jungen

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

I think Adam makes a good point. I can't imagine a good reason for letting confirmation statistics either inform or drive our ministry.

The question is not: "Have we had enough (or not enough) confirmations?" The answer to that question will not provide any useful information whatsoever.

Perhaps there is no question to be asked at all. God doesn't direct us in Scripture to all this self-evaluation when it comes to ministry. He does direct us to much self-evaluation when it comes to our own sinfulness.

"Are you growing? Are you shrinking? What does this mean?" These questions arise out of a sort of narcissism. "Preach the Word!" That is God's will for us. "Be devoted to (love) the Lord!" "Be devoted to your neighbor!" These are the "rules" by which we live, or more accurately, the "rules" by which we judge ourselves and see how far short we fall of God's glory. Christ's sacrifice, Christ's righteousness, God's promise of forgiveness in him, forgiveness distributed through Means - these are God's answers.

If one sees no new faces in the pews, this means nothing. If one sees a lack of joy in the gospel in one's own heart, if one sees laziness dominating one's behavior, if one sees a lack of care or concern for one's neighbor - these are issues that need to be addressed through daily contrition and repentance.

If one sees many new faces in the pews, this does not guarantee faithfulness to the gospel. The gospel may harden. The gospel may convert. External growth may be the result of human methods rather than faithful gospel preaching. It may be the result of superficial needs being met rather than spirit-worked faith in the heart. To use external growth as a benchmark or an indicator of faithfulness is an exercise in futility.

God does not tell us to waste our time studying the numbers. He calls us to repent and believe the good news, to preach the good news and to trust in the good news to accomplish his purposes. It's enough to focus on these things rather than to set up arbitrary laws in order to judge our own faithfulness or faithlessness.

Anonymous said...

I agree, the Means of Grace are the only way that God works to create and sustain faith. This does not diminish our responsibility to love our neighbor. The Means of Grace gives us the strength and motivation to love our neighbor. At the same time, I can't say that loving my neighbor helps or even assists God in bringing people to a saving faith. Although this goes against my reason, I believe it must be. God's Word says:

Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent." --John 6:29 [NIV]

Knowing that we are God's workmanship and that we are saved by grace through faith, we can know that we do not contribute to the salvation of others. It is entirely the work of God. (Let me know if this shows a proper understanding of John 6:29

I remember three or four years ago when I just finished my freshman year of college. I did a mission trip within the states through a interdenominational campus ministry (this was before I was a confessional Lutheran Christian), I was appalled when they wanted us to tally how many "made a decision" for Christ. Due to the nature of the organization, I believe they used the numbers to determine how "successful" we were. Even then I felt that we can't measure God's ways. Doesn't God tell us himself that his ways are immeasurable and beyond finding out?
I am thankful God led me to His Means of Grace a couple of years ago. If it wasn't for God's love shown to me in the Gospel in Word and Sacrament I don't believe I would be a Christian anymore. Praise be to God for what he has done!


--Levi Powers

LutherRocks said...

God commands us to love the Lord your God above anything else. He also commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves. When we love God above all, we live by faith and the Spirit is in us. As we love our neighbor, they see the Spirit. When we share the Word, God takes it from there...

JK

Anonymous said...

"I would say that there is almost no room for using statistics. God looks for faithfulness, not stats.

If a congregation is doing faithful outreach and has a dozen adult confirmands, praise God! If a congregation is doing faithful outreach and has zero adult confirmands, praise God! We can't use numbers to judge faithfulness, because we aren't in charge of the numbers, the Holy Spirit is.

If we were to use statistics to judge the faithfulness or the effectiveness or the success of a congregation or a pastor, we would have to conclude that Jesus Christ himself was a complete and utter failure. In the final year of his ministry, his "congregation" shrunk from thousands to zero, as even his twelve disciples abandoned him.

I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say, "Look how many congregations haven't had a single adult confirmation, they must be lazy! They must be unfaithful!" Such accusations are uncharitable and unscriptural. Unless we have specific knowledge of the congregation in question, and know that they are in fact being unfaithful, there is absolutely no place for silly and sinful accusations based on statistics."

--

Mr. Peeler,

You hit the nail on the head. Sadly, that's what I'm seeing happen all too much with some leadership in the WELS.

Christian Schulz

Timothy Buelow said...

I agree with the aforesaid 100%. There are extremely faithful congregations which, due to circumstances of location or other circumstances are not blessed with the opportunity to witness adult confirmations.
There are statistics however that say something, and should at least be taken note of. For example, when one district has an average Sunday attendance of 55% and another district has an average Sunday attendance of 42%, district number two's protestations of faithfulness ring a bit hollow.
We CAN become obstacles to the Gospel. The Gospel alone converts and strengthens in faith. But if we ourselves live against the gospel by not even attending church, then we have hindered the Gospel from working. It must be heard to work!
Furthermore, if I proclaim the Gospel poorly, that is, obscure it by lousy, lazy preparation, I have become a stumbling block and have hindered the Gospel from working.
I believe Luther said something like "Trust, as if all depended on God, and work, as if it all depended on you."
I'm not advocating ANYTHING weird or radical here. Quite the contrary. We need to be conscientious, conscious, confessional Lutherans. We simply owe it to our God to do it as well as we can! It is incumbent upon all orthodox, confessional Lutherans to proclaim the Gospel clearly and forcefully, that is, to be faithful to their calling.
We must not put artificial stumbling blocks in people's way. A German shouldn't be made to feel he has to become Norwegian to join a congregation. Christ's own cross is a high enough obstacle. A Tennessean doesn't need to become a Packer fan to become an orthodox Lutheran.
I'm not putting forth straw man arguments here. These thing do happen. People do regularly make themselves stumbling blocks that inhibit the Gospel.
Faithful, orthodox, confessional, liturgical...YES!
Dumb, fat and lazy hiding behind these titles...NEVER!

Lisette Anne Lopez said...

"I find it hard to believe that even in the End Times if a church (both pastor and members) was active in doing outreach, they would have zero adult confirmands... year after year after year. Yet that is the case for... what?... about half of the WELS congregations, according to the statistical report."

Perhaps one day we won't have a faithful church to attend. Perhaps "church" will be in someone's home.
And that might be the statistics too.

John the Baptist Prepares the Way
"...And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire..."
Matthew 3:9-10. NIV

The Narrow and Wide Gates
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."
Matthew 7: 13-14. NIV


Jesus Sends Out the Twelve
"...I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves..."
Matthew 10: 15-16. NIV

Anonymous said...

To the Administrators of this site:

Yes, you make a good point. But I don't understand why you do not point to specific examples. There are plenty of WELS churches who play mistress to the Church Growth Method. Why not expose them.

Public sins need public rebuke, don't they? Pastors have been Called by God to the public ministry and are held to higher standard than the average layman, according to the pastoral Epistles. Paul made short work of condemning false teachers and if we think false teaching is happening in the WELS then I think we need to follow Paul's example.

I don't want to see impeachments fly around for their own sake, but rather firstly for the laymen that are being led astray and secondly for those Called and Ordained men who are disowning the Efficacy of the Word.

I would like to see this blog act as a positive force for warning laymen about Specific Pastors who offer the hollow and deceptive philosophies of Church Growth. I encourage the blog administrators to deal in specifics. Issue warning to laymen who might not understand or see what form such hollow and deceptive philosophy takes.

I whole-heartedly believe that the folks running this blog have the Christian maturity to call the specific errant WELS Pastors to task. If there were no False Teachers in the WELS, why does this blog exist?

Andy Groenwald

Pastor Jeff Samelson said...

Pastor Spencer:

The fourth example from a church website that you quoted was:

" . . . relevant sermons with real-life applications . . . "

Shall I assume there was more on that site that caused you concern? Because what you quoted there sounds unobjectionable, on its face at least.

Don't you preach relevant sermons and don't you make real-life applications? Law and gospel are always relevant, and specific law and specific gospel always have real-life application. So wouldn't we consider any good law and gospel sermon to be "relevant" and have "real-life application"?

So I guess what I'm saying is that I don't get what you find objectionable or contrary to confessional Lutheranism in that website quote. What am I missing?

LutherRocks said...

I echo Andy's words. It all goes back to doctrine and if the doctrine is messed up it will affect how you approach ministry. There is a difference in approaching the sinful world from the perspective of the unbelievers are condemned and headed for hell, dead in their sin without hearing the Law and Gospel versus they are already forgiven, justified and righteous...they just don't know it yet.

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

I too echo Andy's words. It's time to gather the evidence and bring to light all those who mix the teaching of God's pure Word with the dreck of human ideas. (Church Growth comes to mind). It is time to call to repentance those teaching false doctrine, discipline and remove from the WELS those who do not repent. If this means the end of the WELS as we know it, so be it. The remaining confessional Lutherans will be much better off. It is time to take a stand. That's another reason why I became an Intrepid Lutheran.
Scott E. Jungen

Anonymous said...

If the WELS gets broken up and those Confessional Lutherans that are left there will be a church body of about 30 members.

Bill Barley

LutherRocks said...

You must be a prophet, Bill Barley. Would you care to impart your wisdom and elaborate?

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

Bill,
Better a church body of 30 members who are true Confessional Lutherans than pastors who can't seem to get their minds around the doctrine of fellowship, like Mark Jeske.

Scott E. Jungen

AP said...

Mr. Jungen says it very well. Better a small chuch than an errant one. ELCA is a very large church body. Why? Well, I'm sure it is in no small part due to the simple fact that they have allowed the false views of the world to shape doctrine. If you tell people what their "itching ears" want to hear, of course they will come and sit in the theater or the arena every week.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

My point is:

If not many follow you then it doesn't say much. If a lot follow you then there might be something. You are up against many people in WELS that don't agree with you. That is all. Keep calling them false teachers but it really looks like you guys have a false understanding.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Mr Bailey,
Since when is it false understanding to object to a WELS pastor using Reformed sermons taken from a Reformed website? Check out The Core in Appleton. Since when is it false understanding to wonder how a WELS pastor with a TV ministry can take money from the LCMS and have no concern about fellowship? Check out Time of Grace with Mark Jeske. You want more?
I am merely trying to "be a watchman standing high on Zion's wall". Be careful of large group followings, remember Jim Jones had a lot of followers too. See what happened to them. Be careful of your congregation. You may find a gay woman pastor leading your worship someday. It can happen faster than you think. Ask any ELCA member who's leaving ELCA about that.
I realize there are a lot of people in the WELS who don't agree with me. I'm not concerned at all. Remember, you have been warned!

Scott E. Jungen

Anonymous said...

"If not many follow you then it doesn't say much. If a lot follow you then there might be something."

This statement is a perfect example of what I was talking about before in regard to the use of statistics to judge success.

Here are the facts:

In the nation of Israel, far more people worshiped Baal than the Lord.

In the time of Jesus, far more people followed the Pharisees than the Christ.

In the time of Luther, far more people supported the Pope than some little German monk.

In fact, it's hard for me to think of even one example of a time when those who clung to the truth outnumbered those who were in error.

So, using Mr. Barley's argument, we should worship Baal, follow the Pharisees, and support the Pope, because, after all, they have very impressive statistics.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Barley,

You realize, of course, that agreement with others is not the measure of truth among true Lutherans. Scripture and the Confessions are. Period. We are of course concerned with unity, but entirely unconcerned with a mere political unity that seeks the approval of others as its measure. The unity we work for is assessed by the same measure that has used by all Confessional Lutherans: full agreement in all matters of doctrine and practice. Compromise in such agreement amounts to nothing more than political unity, and fails to pass Confessional and Scriptural muster as a result.

AP said...

Mr. Barley,

The argument that if a lot of people follow a thing there must be something to it is absurd. Lots of people followed the Nazi party in 1930s era Germany. Today, Islam is the world's fastest growing religion. Again, numbers mean nothing unless the confession is good, faithful, and true. I will say it again: I would rather be a member of a 10 member church that was faithful than a 1000 member church that had sould its soul for the sake of growth.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

Ok all so you make good points. A lot of followers doesn't mean what's being taught is correct. But Martin Luther wouldn't have gone anywhere without the backing of good theological scholars. Who among you are good theological scholars? Who among you are leaders in the church? A few lay people and a few pastors who are angry with the leaders of the Synod does not mean the leaders of the Synod are false teachers.

Bill Barley

Rev. Paul A. Rydecki said...

Mr. Barley,

First, to answer your questions, I am, by God's call through his Church, a pastor and (supposedly) a theologian. But whether I'm any good at either, by God's grace, is for God to determine.

I am surely not a leader in the church. I am a shepherd over a small portion of God's flock. That's all. Outside of my congregation, I am nothing more than a brother in the faith and a fellow WELS member by confession.

But I must ask, where did you get the idea that any of us is angry? There are surely blogs out there for people to vent their anger, but this is not one of them. "Concerned" would be a better word for the majority of the subscribers to Intrepid Lutherans, I believe. I suppose I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I'm not angry.

And I certainly have never said that "the leaders of the Synod are false teachers," nor do I recall reading anything that claimed such a thing on this site. What might you be referring to?

Anonymous said...

"Who among you are good theological scholars? Who among you are leaders in the church?"

You know, I'm reluctant to bring up Luther once again, but hey, we're approaching the festival of the Reformation, so I think it's allowed.

One of the biggest arguments at the time against Luther was this: "Who does this little German monk think he is? Does he really think he knows better than all of the popes and theologians and leaders within the Church?"

That seems to be the same argument that you, Mr. Barley, are making against the Intrepid Lutherans.

It turns out that Luther did know better than popes and theologians and leaders, not because of his own intellect (though he was legitimately a genius) but because he simply taught what God's Word itself taught. The same goes for the Intrepid Lutherans.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Pastor Rydecki:

Why do I think you and others on this blog are angry? A definition of angry is "having a strong feeling of or showing annoyance, displeasure, or hostility; full of anger." How does this blog not describe this very definition? Concerned seems to relay a much more relaxed approach to your views of the Synod. It is clear this blog is more the former than the latter.

Some subscribers to this blog have outright called WELS leaders false teachers, others have more subtly said so. I am not pointing out anything new to anyone who can read and comprehend. All of this talk about Church Growth versus Confessional Lutheranism had grown into one side calling themselves God-like (not Christ like, by the way), whereas the other side (Church and Changers) are sinners (false teachers) and need to repent should Judgment Day come tomorrow.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Mr. Peeler:

Dr. Martin Luther was hardly a little German monk. Let's remember that Dr. in this instance means Doctor of Philosophy, which doesn't come easy. It's not a Bachelor's degree from DMLC nor a M. Div. from WLS. He studied the scriptures so much that he received a Doctorate degree. Unless you know what entails from such a degree this point is moot. One of the biggest conclusions that Dr. Luther arrived at was something so simple and so true. That is a sign of true scholarship, to realize with a child-like attitude that the truth is plain and simple. Education cannot, particularly in this instance, be minimized.

Bill Barley

AP said...

Mr. Barley,

Would you be so kind as to define "some" and "others"? Who are these people?

Who on this blog has ever dared to call themselves God-like?

Who on this blog has claimed to be anything but a sinner in desperate need of God's saving grace?

Vague statements and poor agruments are not going to get you very far here I'm afraid.

Lastly, I hold a call teach in this church. I have no position of authority of any kind in the synod nor do I seek one. I have no degrees in theology, though I have four university degrees and know a bad argument when I see one. I also know enough about theology to know bad theology and church practice when I see it.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

"Some subscribers to this blog have outright called WELS leaders false teachers, others have more subtly said so."

Mr. Barley, that's an extremely serious charge. Surely you have evidence to back this up, correct? If so, please provide it immediately. If not, please repent immediately.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barley,
First of all, please accept my humble apology for using your last name incorrectly. There was no disrespect meant.
I have had my feet in both worlds. I have 24 years in the Lutheran teaching ministry, and now a total of 6 as a layman. I in no way consider myself a theologian. However, I am decerning enough to know when there is a problem.
For the last 30 years I have seen some of my WELS brothers stray from a total dependence on God's Word. For example, there is Lift High the Cross offering from the early 1980s. I believe the WELS used an outside consulting firm for the fundraising. What happened to "Pray the Lord of the Harvest and get your baskets ready for His shower of blessings?" No, we chose to use the ideas of men.
In the 1990s, the WELS leadership felt we weren't growing enough. So our leaders looked to the ideas of the mega churches and said, "Let's 'Lutheranize' their Reformed methods and grow our churches." Since when does the Lord grow His church though man's ideas? As Dr. Phil might ask, "How's that workin' for ya?" The WELS has closed school after school and the Crystal Cathedral is broke.
Am I angry? To some extent, yes. Mostly I am sad. This was a church body where once you could go to any WELS congregation around the country and know exactly what the service would be like. It is not that way now. You might find a pastor using the sermons of a Reformed evangalist. You might find comfy chairs, coffee and sonebody telling you about your "felt-needs".
Please, listen to but don't kill the messinger.

Scott E. Jungen

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barley,

By no means am I attempting to minimize Dr. Luther's education or the importance of study. If you reread my comments, you'll see that that wasn't my point at all. My point was that, in those days, compared to the power and authority of the pope, even a doctorate was relatively worthless. When the pope said "recant", you said "recant", no matter what kind of education you had. And yet, because he relied on Scripture alone, Luther was confident to challenge even the pope. He refused to back down, even though he didn't have the authority (or the numbers) that the pope had.

You're the one who is, in effect, taking the pope's side, when you imply that only the leaders of the synod have the wisdom and authority to decide what is and isn't false doctrine.

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for you to provide proof that people on this blog have accused the leaders of the synod of false doctrine and have claimed to be God-like.

After making such serious charges, you owe everyone here either the evidence or an apology.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

Anonymous said...
I too echo Andy's words. It's time to gather the evidence and bring to light all those who mix the teaching of God's pure Word with the dreck of human ideas. (Church Growth comes to mind). It is time to call to repentance those teaching false doctrine, discipline and remove from the WELS those who do not repent. If this means the end of the WELS as we know it, so be it. The remaining confessional Lutherans will be much better off. It is time to take a stand. That's another reason why I became an Intrepid Lutheran.
Scott E. Jungen

OCTOBER 27, 2010 8:21 AM

I believe this is when I entered the conversation. There you have it will you stop asking me to repent now? Since you're all about public sins and making others repent I would bet you have a slew of private sins that you work extra hard to hide so you won't be found out. Just a guess.

This breakdown of Confessional Lutheranism vs. Church Growth complaining is really about old style vs. new style. For some reason, proponents of Confessional Lutheranism insist on worshipping the same way Luther and his followers did, whereas the Church Growth side is trying to incorporate new methods into their worship style. How can this whole debate be anything other than people comfortable with change versus people not comfortable with change?

Bill Barley

LutherRocks said...

Bill Barley,

It all comes down to whether you believe the efficacy of the word or not. It's not about contempo or traditional.

I belonged to a WELS church that was using the Deformed model. Our band was told that we were affecting growth in a negative way. I contacted my pastor about liberties he was taking with scripture for the sake of a dramatic presentation. We were guilted into reading books with bad theology while our objections were ignored. Do you think this is scripturally OK?

Joe Krohn

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barley,

First of all, I'm truly struggling to see how Mr. Jungen's call to expose false teaching and call errorists to repentance (which is something that Scripture repeatedly commands us to do) is akin to accusing the leaders of our synod of false doctrine and claiming to be God-like. It's quite an uncharitable stretch to equate those two things.

Secondly, this debate is most certainly not simply about style. It's about theology. Besides, style is not spiritually neutral. It conveys theology. This is something the Church has believed for centuries and centuries. I urge you to go back and read some of the very first posts on this blog. Hopefully they will clear things up for you.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Luther Rocks:

So if the Word is efficacious as it's believed to be, what difference does it make if worship is new age or traditional? Some people are more comfortable worshipping one way while others are more comfortable worshipping another. The important thing then is that the methods used in a worship service are not stumbling blocks to the worshipper.

It sounds like the pastor who told you that your band was negatively impacting growth probably could have been more careful with his phrasing. Maybe he felt that your band was a stumbling block to the members of the congregation and he didn't know how to appropriately handle the situation. I don't know the full details of the situation and as such this is mere speculation.

I don't know why you jump to the pastor's response to your band being scripturally okay. His reactions and actions are his responsibility and he is the one that should be held accountable.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

Theology :: the study of the nature of God and religious belief; religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed.

So if I'm getting what you're saying, the traditional worshipping style found in most WELS churches is what God is like and how he wants his people to worship?

The way one worships, is that what you mean by spiritual style? Spiritual style has to be a certain way because that's what God wants?

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Mr. Barley, let me respond briefly to a few of your statements.

"So if the Word is efficacious as it's believed to be, what difference does it make if worship is new age or traditional?"

What you call "new age" worship was designed by people who don't believe that the Word is efficacious. Thus, it downplays the proclamation of the Word in favor of things that stir emotions. That's why I said before that style is not neutral. Specific styles are used to convey specific doctrines. Liturgical worship is designed specifically to reinforce the idea that the Word is efficacious. "New age" worship is designed specifically to deny that the Word is efficacious.

"Some people are more comfortable worshipping one way while others are more comfortable worshipping another."

Why do you assume that worship is supposed to be comfortable? I can't find anything in Scripture that indicates that Christian worship is to be judged by how comfortable it is. Think of the kind of worship that God himself designed in the Old Testament. How comfortable were the people when they witnessed countless animals being slaughtered? How comfortable were the priests when they entered into the Most Holy Place? Not very. Obviously, we aren't bound by Old Testament practices, but we can learn things from them. Christian worship is to be compelling, yes, but not comfortable.

"So if I'm getting what you're saying, the traditional worshipping style found in most WELS churches is what God is like and how he wants his people to worship?"

That's a pretty good way of putting it. What is God like? We find the answer to that question in the Word and in the Sacraments. Thus, when worship is designed to focus on Word and Sacrament we truly see what God is like. When worship is designed to downplay Word and Sacrament and focuses instead on human emotion or opinion or comfort, what God is like inevitably becomes obscured and distorted.

Mr. Adam Peeler

LutherRocks said...

Bill Barley,

Did you really mean new age? If you did, wow.

Contempo/New Age is man centered worship. You were sold that it is Christ centered and it isn't when you take a closer look. It is all about being comfortable in worship and what I am doing in the experience. Church isn't about being comfortable the way you speak of comfort.

The afflicted should find comfort and the comfortable should be afflicted. Either way drives you to the cross. And for those folks who remove communion because it may be a stumbling block, think about it. How does the forgiveness of sins become a stumbling block?

Joe

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

How do you know that New Age or Non-Traditional worship was created by people who don't believe that the Word of God is efficacious? Where's your proof? Have you ever done your own fact-finding or talked with people who regularly worship in a non-traditional style? I have a hard time believing that styles of worship convey specific doctrines. The Lutheran (WELS) traditional style of worship is very similar to the Catholic style of worship, yet these two churches have fundamental doctrinal differences.

My use of the word comfortable is not to describe being shaken up about our sins and the need for forgiveness. Rather, it is to describe the need to be conscientious to not cause offense to others. I'm referring to actions that can be stumbling blocks to the worshipper.

I would be interested to know how you would feel about worship in the WELS churches if most of them had a non-traditional or New Age style of worship. What if you grew up in that style of worship and then the WELS churches decided to make a fundamental shift to traditional styles of worship. How would you feel then? Would you be mad and maybe stop going to WELS churches?

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Joe AKA Luther Rocks:

Depends on how you define comfortable. Causing offense and being a stumbling block is a problem that needs to be addressed. Worship is the worshipper praising, thanking, and addressing needs to God and being reminded of God's grace and forgiveness. For the most part those are all things the worshipper does. If the worshipper is not active in worship, what's the point? Besides, are you comfortable worshipping in traditional WELS churches? Why or why not?

I'm not addressing those who remove communion because it may be a stumbling block. I am however addressing the need for the leader(s) of the congregation to be mindful of not using methods that are stumbling blocks to the worshipper. Personally, I don't like or prefer new age or non-traditional styles of worship. I am not used to them, and it doesn't seem like church to me. According to your thinking, I should try to force myself to like non-traditional worship style and get used to it because worship is supposed to afflict me. Right?

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

"How do you know that New Age or Non-Traditional worship was created by people who don't believe that the Word of God is efficacious? Where's your proof?"

Mr. Barley, it's simple historical fact. Today's so-called "contemporary" worship is the direct historical and theological descendant of revivalism. Revivalism, of course, taught that the proclamation of Scriptural truth was unimportant. What was important, according to revivalism, was that people be manipulated into the "correct" emotional state in order to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Thus, revivalists relied on emotional music and the anxious bench, rather than the gospel message.

Why is that "contemporary" worship, to this day, invariably begins with two praise songs? Because that's what it takes to get people into the right emotional mindset to make their decision for Jesus. This is something that the promoters of contemporary worship will readily admit.

The structure of contemporary worship itself promotes false teaching. (Just as the structure of the liturgy itself promotes orthodoxy.) Thus, it's foolish and dangerous for WELS congregations to think that they can simply adopt the structure of "contemporary" worship without adopting the false doctrine.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Bill,

If you are looking for a little history lesson, I would encourage you to read the symposium essays. There was a great summary starting on page 20 of the following essay- http://wlsce.net/sites/default/files/symposium/MuellerWorshipOutreach.pdf

Worship is also is about hearing the law so that we are reminded why the Gospel message is so precious. Lutherans need to be careful that we aren't mimicking a feel-good service without the law also included not just mentioned.

Just my thoughts,

Tammy Jochman

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

I think it's a stretch to say that churches in the WELS that practice non-traditional worship services are basing their practices on Revivalism. I would guess that in most churches in the WELS that do practice non-traditional services from time to time are still talking about law and gospel.

In my experiences in WELS churches, some of those hymns, even the beginning ones, draw members in and get them into that emotional state that you speak of. In fact, a close relative of mine has been known from time to time to show her emotions through welling up, not just from the words in the hymn but also the melody of the hymn. What exactly in this instance is the difference? I grew up in a WELS church that was fundamentally confessional by nature. The pastor chose excellent hymns to go along with the message he preached that day, and many of the hymns had beautiful melodies that to this day bring back memories, mainly due to the melody. Yet, despite all these emotions, the law and gospel message was still there, and moreover, the liturgy was the same old liturgy.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Tammy:

Thank you for sharing. I gathered from this essay that there are dangers of contemporary worship and church growth methodology. It seems the author was suggesting finding a balance between conservative traditional Lutheran Confessional worship and incorporating Church Growth techniques. He failed to outline any ideas though. In the end the reader is still left in the dark.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

"I think it's a stretch to say that churches in the WELS that practice non-traditional worship services are basing their practices on Revivalism."

I'm not saying that WELS leaders are deliberately basing their services directly on Revivalism. What I'm saying is that WELS leaders, by adopting "contemporary" worship forms, are inadvertently introducing the theology of Revivalism, because they are unaware of the theological underpinnings of that worship form. They fail to grasp that worship forms are not neutral, and that you can't "Lutheranize" Revivalism.

"I would guess that in most churches in the WELS that do practice non-traditional services from time to time are still talking about law and gospel."

I can't tell whether you meant this comment seriously or sarcastically. I would certainly hope that every single church in the synod is proclaiming law and gospel far more often than "from time to time".

"In my experiences in WELS churches, some of those hymns, even the beginning ones, draw members in and get them into that emotional state that you speak of."

I'm not saying that the music we use in worship should be entirely devoid of emotion. That emotion, though, should be a natural reaction to the theology conveyed by the song, not an artificial manipulation which takes the place of theological substance. That's a huge difference.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

So there's no possibility then, based on your view of contemporary worship forms, that it's Biblically okay to ever use contemporary worship? You're saying here that the only way to worship is how WELS Lutherans traditionally worships? How can this be? You're basically saying here that only Lutherans (WELS) know the Biblically correct way to worship.

I meant that those WELS churches that practice contemporary worship from time to time also preach law and gospel. I was indicating a non-regular practice of contemporary worship, not a non-regular practice of preaching law and gospel.

Honestly, music touches everyone's emotions, otherwise we wouldn't like it, listen to it, sing it, etc. Emotions are strongly tied to memories among other things, it's simply the way God made us. From what I gather, you seem to think that we humans have control over how we're going to react emotionally to a song in a worship service. That is impossible unless of course you have supernatural powers like God. You are trying to say that humans have control over what they're going to be emotional over. Yes, over time and with behavioral management and cognitive training, you can learn to control your emotions. Of course this doesn't mean you still don't have those emotions, they're just under control.

Bill Barley

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Pastor Spencer here - if I may interject for just a moment, please. Thanks!

Bill, perhaps you missed the whole string we did quite a while back on the idea that, in reality, there isn't any such thing as "contemporary" worship. We made it clear then, I believe, that what is referred to as such today is, in most cases, really "sectarian" worship, i.e. non-Lutheran. The point - to me at least - is that people do indeed worship God in many ways, some proper, some not so proper, but that if one wants to call himself "Lutheran," especially confessionally Lutheran, such as members of the WELS claim to be, then their way of worship should be a honest reflection of that theology. A "Lutheran" church with "sectarian" worship is dishonest. If people want sectarian worship then they should be sectarian Christians, and leave the WELS. As for emotion, we're not against it. We just don't rely upon it to fill the pews, or trust it as a sure sign of faith, or use it as banner of our sincerity. I was born and raised into a "revival" style of religion, and I can tell you it is very hard to maintain the right level and type of emotion all the time. Now that's REAL work-righteousness! You don't want any part of that!

Pastor Spencer

Anonymous said...

"So there's no possibility then, based on your view of contemporary worship forms, that it's Biblically okay to ever use contemporary worship?"

If by "contemporary worship" you mean worship which has its origins in Revivalism and is specifically designed to promote false teaching, then no, it most certainly is not "okay" to use. Do you disagree?

"You're basically saying here that only Lutherans (WELS) know the Biblically correct way to worship."

No, Mr. Barley, I'm not saying that at all. I'm saying that Christians for the past two millennia have found a thoroughly Biblical way to worship. Compared to two-thousand years of collective wisdom and experience, we in the WELS know relatively nothing. That's why we worship the way that Christians always have. It's not wise or beneficial to depart from such an immense treasure to do our own thing--which is exactly what those who promote "contemporary" worship claim we ought to do. Thus, it's not those who favor liturgical worship who are drawing a tight little circle around "WELS-dom"; it's those who favor sectarian worship who wish to disconnect us from the larger Christian world. That's by definition what sectarianism is.

"From what I gather, you seem to think that we humans have control over how we're going to react emotionally to a song in a worship service."

Again, that's not at all what I said. Certainly music does stir the emotions. Certainly these emotions are sometimes beyond our control. And certainly "contemporary" worship understands this too, and abuses it. Essentially, "contemporary" worship says, "Hey, music is really emotional and powerful. Let's use that to manipulate people into the Church rather than trusting the power of the gospel." Like I said before, emotion is good in worship when it's a natural result of the gospel, but not when it's the central focus and takes the place of the gospel.

Mr. Adam Peeler

Anonymous said...

Pastor Spencer:

If I may ask, what are the roots of Lutheran worship? Where did the Lutheran liturgy that is used today originate from? From what I'm hearing, you seem to think that true Lutherans will worship like wherever Lutheran worship originated from long ago, and any diversion from that is what you call Sectarian worship and Sectarian worship does not belong in Confessional Lutheran WELS churches. You're taking the homogeneous approach of anything more or less is not Lutheran-like. Additionally, not only is anything more or less not Lutheran-like, it's also not the way God wants.

My point on emotion is that they're going to be in a worship service and different things will elicit different emotions throughout a worship service. They're even in traditional WELS Confessional worship services, even in yours, they're everywhere a human being is.

Bill Barley

Anonymous said...

Mr. Adam Peeler:

If forms of contemporary worship do promote false teaching, then it would be wrong to use them. Remember that worship forms existed long before Lutheranism. Christians have worshipped a particular way for a long time as you stated. At the same time, there has got to be room for change. Christians, though good-spirited people, are not perfect.

The same thing you state about contemporary worship and emotions can be said about Lutheran hymns and other sacred music. The most pointed difference I observe in contemporary music is the tune and melody, not so much the wording.

Bill Barley

Daniel Baker said...

Bill,

I recently wrote an article for my congregation's newsletter relating to this subject. If you look at the oldest (known) recorded liturgy from the 4th Century A.D. and compare it with the "Common Service" found in WELS hymnals, you will undoubtedly note the striking similarities in terminology, order, and the varying parts of worship. The ancient songs (which are all based in Scripture), including the Kyrie, the Gloria, and the Sanctus, are all there. The Agnus Dei and the Nicene Creed, which we also use in our services, also date from these ancient times.

So the answer to the question of where our worship comes from is quite clear. But what's more important is what our Services emphasize: The *Divine* Service. What God can do - and has done - for us. The liturgies emphasize the Word and Sacraments as the all-important Means of Grace that they are. They keep order and connection with the universal Church in place.

However, I should make the following clear: I do not think that the problem is power point screens, guitars, or relaxed clothing. Faulty theology is the problem. And time and time again, it has become clear that abandoning the ancient, historic, and bible-based liturgies is just one toppled domino in the line towards false theology.

In my own church, the introduction of "alternative worship" coincided with "small group" emphasis, which in turn has promoted Reformed theology - to the extent that, in the church budget now, "small group training" is allotted for sending "Small Group Leaders" to a Reformed seminar at Wheaton College in Illinois. Rather than promoting the Book of Concord or Lutheran theology in these small groups, we listen to lectures by Reformed theologians. In the "alternative worship" services, quotation of sectarian scholars is utilized - but not a line of Luther could be found in the 'service' this past Reformation Sunday! You can't make this stuff up!

When you mimic what someone is doing, it is usually because you respect what they stand for. When it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, why would it be a rooster? It's simple logic.

Intrepid Lutherans said...

Thank you, Daniel, for answering Bill for me. I couldn't have said it better!

Re: emotions & small groups - Due to a time change in my second congregation, I cannot conduct Sunday Bible class at my primary church. Instead, the class is doing a kind of Confessional Lutheran Book Club and will simply read through a theological book together. One of the elders will moderate the discussion. I ask the group of around 25 folks what they wanted to read through, and the vast majority said they would like to read the Lutheran Confessions. Needless to say, Bill, I was almost moved to tears! By no means do I take "credit" for this - to God alone the glory! But it does my heart good to see the pure Gospel do such wonderful work. They're starting with the Large Catechsim this Sunday. They are "passionate" for orthodox, historic, evangelical, and confessional Bible teaching.

Pastor Spencer

WELS church lady said...

Good morning Pastor Spencer. I would like to add that orthodox, historic, evangelical, and confessional Bible teaching are not "relevant" to modern sectarian preaching. I know a pastor that is teaching anything but Confessional Luthernism.(Mr. Joe Krohn's former pastor) the pastor teaches a Bible Information Class titled "Life In God's Family." Woodrow Knoll, who served as President of Practical Bible College in Binghampton, NY, wrote the fourteen-lesson series of Life In God's Family. The series teaches practical ways to live Biblically with one another. Needless to say, this guy promotes decision theology. I may need to enlist the help of the gifted Intrepid pastors on this next part, but it borders on synergism.(please correct me if I am wrong)"At what point did faith meet grace in your life?" I could type more "FINE" examples from the series. I think you Intrepids get the picture. I am sure you folks are familiar with Mark Driscoll. He is partners with Craig Groechel of Mars Hill.(Acts 29, Resurgence, and other packages) Driscoll has a sermon series called "Rebel Joy." Sadly the afore mentioned WELS pastor preached several sermons from the Rebel Joy Series. Driscoll is also known for his "Unlimited-Limited Atonement Doctrine." Again, I am just a simple-minded laywoman, but if I ever heard my pastor teach such a doctrine, then it would be time to hit the door!

Mr. Barley, this is exactly what is wrong with contemporary worship. This "sort-of" WELS pastor does not have "Lutheran" in the church title. The communion is hidden in something called communion devotion.(not part of the Divine Service) The pastor chooses jeans as his attire and was a speaker at a WELS Church and Change Conference. No I am not talking about "Ski" from the Core. This is in the SCD.

Pastor Spencer, if your not too busy, how about staying in touch with an old friend? We can all appreciate how most of the Confessional Lutheran blogs link the Intepids.(Let's keep it that way.)

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

WELS church lady said...

Sorry for the poor typing. I left out the "r" in Intrepid.

In Christ,
Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Does our Book of Concord inform us to maintain the traditions we have? Isn't there a part of the BoC that says not to look down on those churches which have more traditions as well as those that have less (I think the section may be entitled 'adiaphoron')? How do we reconcile these two principles?

Like the Worship Symposium essay, I would suggest a Lutheran paradigm in our worship styles.

Levi Powers

David Jay Webber said...

Isn't there a part of the BoC that says not to look down on those churches which have more traditions as well as those that have less...? How do we reconcile these two principles?

I take a stab at answering that question, and a couple similar questions, in this essay.

Post a Comment

Comments will be accepted or rejected based on the sound Christian judgment of the moderators.

Since anonymous comments are not allowed on this blog, please sign your full name at the bottom of every comment, unless it already appears in your identity profile.


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License