Saturday, June 25, 2011

Circuit Pastor Visitation

Dear Readers,

Once again, thank you for all the comments thus far in answer to my request.

It has now been suggested that I guide the comments a bit more, and seek to focus them on the main area in which I’m looking for ideas and suggestions – namely, doctrine and practice.

To do so, I believe you need to see and read through the questions in the first interviews I have put together. These have been “field-tested” here among the Pastors in my Circuit for the past seven years. They have been unanimously well-received thus far.

A couple of notes:

- First, you will notice that these interviews are labeled “#1” and “#3.” That is because I intend the interview regarding doctrine and practice to be the second interview in the future.
- #1 is very basic and emphasizes the Pastor’s relationship with his congregation, Circuit, District, and Synod.
- #3 is quite a bit more “personal,” and delves into areas like continuing education, parish work habits, and the Pastor’s marriage and family life. I have moved it to the third interview because I realize that if these are going to used by other Circuit Pastors, it may take a few years to build up an adequate personal relationship with his fellow Pastors and their wives to be able to speak openly and frankly about some of these matters.
- I have shared some of this already-used material with some fellow Circuit Pastors and with various District and Synod leaders over the years. Most have encouraged me to continue working on this project, which might then be of some benefit to church leaders in the future.
- Now, regarding #2, you will notice that I have broken down the categories into six areas. This should give you a good idea of the kinds of questions I’m looking for. However, please feel free to suggest questions in other areas of doctrine and practice.

Also, if you are curious as to the reasoning behind the line of questioning in these interviews, or a certain question in particular, please feel free to ask and I will try to explain my thinking.

Again, thank you for your participation. I look forward to hearing more suggestions from both Pastors and laypeople.

Pastor Spencer

CP Visitation Interview #1

A. Personal Ministry

1. How long have you been at this parish?
2. When, and to where, was your last Call?
3. How would you feel about being placed on a Call List at this time?
4. What do you enjoy most about your ministry?
5. What do you feel is the most difficult part(s) of your ministry?
6. What would be the single biggest help to you in your ministry?
7. What are your long-range plans for your personal ministry?

B. Parish Ministry

1. Should the LORD call you to heaven tonight, would a new Pastor find everything here “in order,” so he could carry on this ministry without interruption or major difficulty?
For example:
- Do you make monthly reports to your congregation; Council, Elders, etc.?
- If so, is a file maintained with copies of all previous reports?
- Do you keep a list of all calls you make on members and prospects?
- Is the membership list current?
- Are the “Vital Statistics” of all members up-to-date?
- Are the records of “Parish Acts,” i.e. Baptisms, Confirmations, Weddings, etc., accurate and up-to-date?
- Is there a list of current Inactive members?
- Is a list of members living out of the area being maintained?
- Are there adequate notes on current difficult member situations?
- Is there is a list of current Prospects?

2. How far ahead do you plan out your worship – monthly; quarterly; semi-annually; annually; other?
3. Does this planning include:
- The Church Year
- Liturgy
- Theme for the day
- Sermon Text & Theme
- Scripture Readings
- Prayers
- Hymns
4. What format do you use for this process?
5. What are some of the positive attributes of the congregation(s) you now serve?
6. What are your major concerns about the congregation(s) you now serve?
7. What are the general long-range plans for this(these) congregation(s)?
8. Any additional comments you would like to make regarding your personal or parish ministry?

C. The Circuit, District, & Synod

1. What do you believe is the single most important duty of your Circuit Pastor and why?
2. What do you believe is the single most important function of the Circuit?
3. What do you like best about our Circuit meetings?
4. What do you like least about our Circuit meetings?
5. In what ways do you think our Circuit meetings could be improved?

The District

6. What, if any, District office(s) do you hold?
7. What do you like most about serving in the District?
8. What do you like least about serving in this District?
9. What, if anything, would you like to see done differently in our District?

The Synod

10. What, if any, Synod office(s) do you hold?
11. What do you believe are the strengths of the Wisconsin Synod?
12. What are her weaknesses as you see it?
13. What would you like to see done differently in the Synod?
14. What are your major expectations or concerns regarding the future of the WELS?
15. Any further questions, comments, concerns, complaints, or suggestions regarding the Circuit, District, or Synod?

CP Visitation Interview #2

Doctrine & Practice

I. Public Ministry, Divine Call

II. Scripture, God, Law, & Sin

III. Repentance, Conversion, Justification, Gospel, Faith & Good Works

IV. Baptism, Lord’s Supper, & Absolution

V. Prayer, Pastoral Acts, & Worship

VI. Last Things

CP Visitation Interview #3

I. Continuing Education (with the Pastor only)

A. Current Events & Information

1. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to keep himself informed about current events, religious and otherwise, both locally and world-wide? If not, why not?
2. Do you receive and read a daily local newspaper? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
3. Do you receive and read a daily national newspaper? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
4. Do you receive and read regularly a regional or national news magazine? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
5. Do you receive and read regularly a theological magazine? Print or online? If so, which one(s)? If not, why not?
6. Which radio and/or television new & information sources do you make use of, if any? Online?

B. Theological growth and education

1. Do you do your own independent exegesis on your sermon text each week? If not, why not?
2. What are you doing to maintain and improve your proficiency in Hebrew and Greek? Learn and/or improve on Latin & German?
3. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to read and study the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions, including Luther himself, on a daily basis, independent of and addition to his sermon and Bible class preparation? If not, why not?
4. What part(s) of the Bible are you currently reading for private devotion and meditation?
5. What portion(s) of Scripture are you currently studying, aside from Sermon and Bible study work?
6. What part(s) of the Confessions and/or Luther are you currently reading?
7. What theological books are you currently reading?
8. Do you believe it is important for a Pastor to read deeply in other subjects, such as history, science, philosophy, and the social sciences? If not, why not?
9. What book(s) in these areas are you currently reading?
10. What other programs of continuing education are you currently involved in?

II. The Pastor and His Family (with the Pastor & his Wife)

A. Pastor's work habits (to the Pastor; wife may respond also)

1. Do you try to maintain a regular, organized weekly work schedule? If not, why not?
2. If so, does it include adequate time each week for each of the following?
- Sermon Preparation
- Worship Preparation
- Bible Class Preparation
- Sick & Shut-In Calls
- Private devotion
- Personal Study
- Member Visits
- Outreach Contacts
- Correspondence & Reports
- Church & Pastoral Meetings
- R & R with Family
- Personal R & R
- Exercise

3. Are any of these missing consistently from your work-week, and if so, why, and what might be done about this?
4. How many total hours, on average, do you work each week on ALL areas of ministry; personal, local, district, and synod?
5. Do you get enough rest?
6. Do you feel you have time for recreation, hobbies, etc.?
7. Do you feel you spend enough quality time just with your wife each week?
8. Do you feel you spend enough quality time with your children each week?
9. Do you have any health issues related to your work?
10. What would you like to change about your work routine?

B. Wife's work (to wife; husband may respond also)

1. Do you believe being a Pastor's wife is a calling from God? Why or why not?
2. Do you believe you have a role in your husband's Call, and if so, how?
[Please note: It is assumed that all the wives of our Pastors work very hard to maintain a Christian home. Many of the following questions, therefore, are about "other work" they may do in addition to that of a wife and mother.]
3. Are you employed?
[If no, skip to the Section C]
4. Is your employment due to financial necessity?
5. If not financial, what is the reason for your employment?
6. Do you work from home or outside the home?
7. How many hours do you work at your employment?
8. Do you ever feel that your employment lessens your ability to function well as a wife and mother? If so, how do you deal with these feelings?
9. Do you ever feel that your employment lessens your ability to function well as a Pastor's wife? If so, how do you handle this?
10. If feasible, would you prefer not to be employed? Why or why not?

C. Marriage and Family (to both, and both are asked to respond)

1. Has your marriage relationship suffered due to the work of the ministry?
2. If so, in what ways?
3. How would you describe the spiritual state of your marriage?
4. How would you describe the emotional & physical state of your marriage?
5. What would you like to be better about your marriage?
6. What is your plan to bring about these improvements?
7. How is the Christian faith emphasized, inculcated, and practiced in your family?
8. Are there any health-related issues with you or your family members that might be important relative to future Calls, and if so what are they?
9. Do you believe that you and your family receive the proper and necessary care and support from the congregation?
10. If not, what would you like to see done differently in this regard?

Other comments, questions, or matters for discussion:

Friday, June 24, 2011

Five Minutes Daily with Luther - June 24

(Reprinted with permission from Five Minutes Daily with Luther: Daily Lessons from the Writings of Martin Luther, by John Theodore Mueller.)

And coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 2:4.

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And coming to Him as to a living stone. Here he falls back again upon the Scripture, and quotes the prophet Isaiah, where he also says, chapter 28: “Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,’” etc. This passage Paul has also quoted, and it is an important passage of Scripture, for Christ is the precious Cornerstone which God has laid, on which we must be built. Christ, the living stone, bears up the whole building; and it is called the building, in order that we, bound one to another, may set our confidence and security on Him. Rejected by men, but choice and precious in the sight of God. Here he brings forward a passage of the prophet David, in (Ps 118:22-23):“The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes.” So also Peter, in (Acts 4), where he says: “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone.” You are builders, he says: for they taught the people, went about with great speeches, laid down many laws, but made mere work-saints and hypocrites. Therefore Peter says, This is the corner stone which indeed was rejected of men, upon which you must be built by faith. This is now wonderful in our eyes, as the prophet says; it seems strange to us, and where the Spirit does not teach it, it is utterly incomprehensible. Therefore he says, in God’s eyes the stone is chosen, and an extremely precious stone; it is also of great importance that it takes away death, satisfies for sin, and rescues from hell, and besides all of that, it freely bestows heaven.
Let every kindred, every tribe,
On this terrestrial ball
To Him all majesty ascribe
And crown Him Lord of all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pastors are Watchmen and thus Need also to be Examined

Laypeople – How would like to be able to “quiz” your Pastors?
Pastors – How would you like to be able to “quiz” your brother Pastors?

Well, here’s your chance.

Allow me to explain.

In his Enchiridion, Martin Chemnitz writes,

“A minister of the Word ought not only teach things true and in harmony with the divine Word. But he ought also render his faithfulness to God and the church entrusted to him in this, that he at the same time rightly feed the sheep and hold off the wolf from the sheepfolds, or as Luther says, he should do both, nourish and defend. He ought therefore neither defend nor cover up or paper over false doctrine, but oppose it openly and plainly and warn his flock to beware of it (Ezekiel 13:10; John 10:5; Matthew 7:15; Titus 1:9-11, 13; Acts 20:29, 31). But he is not to stir up all kinds of unnecessary disputes and strifes about words instead of a discourse, and arouse his hearers with untimely clamoring, but only fight against
adversaries in necessary conflicts, without which purity of doctrine cannot be retained. And in these very things let him always have regard to his hearers, as to what is useful and necessary for their edification, so that they might continue in sound doctrine and be able to protect themselves against the ferment of false doctrine.

Let a faithful minister of the Word consider that he has been set by God as a watchman and lookout of the church, so that, when he notices that some of his sheep have gone aside from the way of the righteous and have turned aside into the way of sinners, he be neither a sleeping and blind watchman nor a dumb dog (Isaiah 56:10). Nor ought he provide soft pillows for the impious (Ezekiel 13:18). But let him cry out against sins with a loud voice (Isaiah 58:1). And let him be instant in prayer and exhortations, threats and rebukes in all patience and teaching, both in season and in a spirit of gentleness and also out of season with severe rebukes (Ezekiel 3:17; 33:7; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21). For through these means God recalls the erring and raises the fallen. Otherwise, if a pastor neglect this, God will require the blood of lost sheep at his hand (Ezekiel 3:18).”
(Ministry, Word, and Sacraments – An Enchiridion; Martin Chemnitz, 1593, translated by Luther Poellot, Concordia, 1981)

This being the case, it is imperative that Pastors understand and observe both correct doctrine and practice and also be able to recognize and refute false doctrine and dangerous practice, in their own parish, and that of their neighbors, and of the church body to which they belong.

I have the privilege of serving as a Circuit Pastor in the Wisconsin Synod. As part of my duties I visit the other Pastors of my Circuit on a regular basis. During these visits we talk about the joys, problems, and needs of their ministries and families. We also talk about the successes and struggles of the church at large.

After reading through Chemnitz’ Enchiridion a number of times now over the past thirty years, I have come to the realization that these visits by the Circuit Pastor should also include some kind of “examination.” So, I am working to put together such.

Here’s where I would like the assistance of my fellow Intrepid Lutherans, both those who have signed on with us and those who are simply regular readers. Put yourself in my Circuit Pastor shoes for a few minutes and think about what questions you would like to ask your Pastor or your brother Pastors. The questions should, of course, focus on the basics of confessional Lutheran doctrine, but also – and perhaps especially – concentrate on current false doctrines and practices afflicting Christianity in American, and specific heresies attacking the WELS today. I'm looking for around thirty to forty questions or so; not more than fifty. (Chemnitz has 333 questions!)

Please send in your suggestions by simply commenting on this post. I will be working on this project throughout the summer, so there is no deadline as of yet. My hope is to have this ready for my next round of Circuit Pastor Visitations this fall. I also plan to share this with my District leaders in the hopes that it can become a template for use by other Circuit Pastors in our District and perhaps throughout the synod. Thus, through your suggestions, you will be providing a service to the whole church body.

Thank you in advance for your participation and assistance!

Pastor Spencer

Five Minutes Daily with Luther - June 22

(Reprinted with permission from Five Minutes Daily with Luther: Daily Lessons from the Writings of Martin Luther, by John Theodore Mueller.)

Like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. 1 Peter 2:2.

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Here he institutes a comparison, and would say: You are to be like those newborn babies who seek nothing but the milk; like them, striving for the breasts and milk, so you too, be eager for the Word; endeavor for it, have an appetite for it, that you may receive the intelligible, sincere milk. These words are, indeed, figurative; for he did not mean literal milk, or literal drinking, as he does not speak of a literal birth. But he speaks of another milk which belongs to the mind, which is spiritual, which is procured by the soul, which the heart must draw in. It must be, moreover, sincere (or unfalsified) , not as the custom is, to sell false wares; since there is truly strong obligation, and great necessity, that to the newborn and young Christian, the milk should be given pure and not corrupted. But this milk is nothing but the Gospel, which is also the same with seed, whereby we are conceived and born, as we have heard above. Yet it is also the food which nourishes us when we arrive at maturity; it is also the harness wherewith we equip and clothe ourselves — yes, it is all these at the same time. But whatever is appended to it is human doctrine, whereby the Word of God is falsified; therefore the Holy Spirit would have it so that every Christian shall see to it, what he drinks, and shall himself learn to decide in regard to all doctrines.
Lord, open Thou my heart to hear,
And through Thy Word to me draw near,
Let me Thy Word e’er pure retain,
Let me Thy child and heir remain.

Thy Word doth deeply move the heart,
Thy Word doth perfect health impart,
Thy Word my soul with joy doth bless,
Thy Word brings peace and blessedness.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Five Minutes Daily with Luther - June 20

(Reprinted with permission from Five Minutes Daily with Luther: Daily Lessons from the Writings of Martin Luther, by John Theodore Mueller.)


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That which is flesh and blood is corruptible, like the grass which is yet green, so that it blooms; so whatever is rich, strong, wise, and fair, and thus is flourishing (which all belongs to the bloom), yet you observe its bloom wither; what was young and vigorous will become old and ugly; what is rich will become poor, and the like. And all must fall by the Word of God. But this seed cannot perish. Peter concludes: And this is the word which was preached to you. As though he would say, you are not to look far in order to reach the Word of God; you have it before your eyes; the Word is that which we preach, with this you may subdue all evil lusts. You are not to seek it from afar; you have nothing more to do than fully to take hold of it when it is preached. As when I hear that Jesus Christ died to take away my sins, and has purchased heaven for me, and bestows upon me all that He has, then I hear the Gospel. This truth no creature can overthrow, the clearest reasoning avails nothing against it; and if I, too, would strike the devil while I am in his jaws, I must abide completely by the Word. Therefore he well says, you must look for no other Gospel than that which we have preached to you.
To us the sacred Word apply
With sovereign power and energy;
And may we, in Thy faith and fear,
Reduce to practice what we hear.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Public Admonition is Good & Necessary

Allow me to add my reflections to our first year of work. It seems to me that the biggest question about Intrepid Lutherans, indeed about any public forum on which is discussed the deeds and misdeeds of people, pastors, and church bodies, is whether such public discussion including public questioning and even admonition and rebuke, are appropriate and within proper bounds among us. Here are my thoughts on the matter. As is my wont, I will try to be short and succinct.

It can be said without fear of contradiction that we all have a sinful human nature and that this nature of ours is inclined to go astray. This is true of laypeople, pastors, seminary professors, District Presidents, et al.

Those who become the object of admonition very often lose clarity of conscienceless about their errors, and their view of themselves become blurred. This leads to a defensive attitude and the desire to ignore or cover up error. This is also true of their friends, family, and supporters, who can then often turn against the rebukers . Thus, those who attempt the admonition, become targets of attack themselves.

The church's job is not to protect and defend its members or leaders in every situation, but to represent Christ to the world, and this includes demonstrating truth and righteousness. The integrity of Christ's church needs to be preserved, even if direct and painful admonition is required. Let it also be understood from the outset that such admonition must show from Scripture and the Confessions where someone has erred. Such rebuke cannot be based only on some vague complaint that a Pastor or group is "unloving," or "not putting the best construction on things."

One of the most important purposes of admonition and rebuke is to preserve the unity of confession within a church body. This is especially true of a confessional Lutheran church body. It is the Holy Spirit Who by the Means of Grace, regeneration, faith, and the new life in Christ joins us together. Once established, this unity is to display itself in the oneness of confession, and yes, of practice! Please note, the confessional and Scriptural unity is just that – based on the correct teaching of the Bible as delineated and explained in the Book of Concord, not simply what one may THINK is correct doctrine and practice, or even that contained in pamphlets like "This We Believe." Such things are not "normative" for us, but only the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions (in that order, of course).

As Pastor Rydecki has made clear, a Pastor's membership in the WELS - and by extension, a layperson's membership in their congregation - is an expression of oneness, a confessional act of agreement, based on the Holy Scriptures and a "quia" subscription to the Book of Concord.

To preserve this unity, Pastors and church leaders owe each other brotherly admonition and rebuke. In this, Jesus Christ Himself is working to keep Pastors true to their ordination vows. Consequently, when Jesus leads a fellow Pastor to bring the corrective admonition of His Word to an erring brother, He is doing it for the good of the errorist and that of the whole body, of which He is the Head. Jesus is the "friend of sinners," and desires to salvage every sinner, even misguided or misbehaving Pastors!

We ARE our brother's keeper, and we will want to prevent sin and false teaching or practice from infecting or even overthrowing our faith, or that of our brother. That is Satan's goal, against which we must constantly struggle and fight!

Many times in the history of the church the work of Christ has been hindered or damaged precisely because those in the church have failed to exercise doctrinal discipline. Why? Because of the fear of the reaction to admonition and rebuke. Most church problems begin as a small cancer, and unless detected and treated immediately, they grow to corrupt, mutate, and eventually destroy much of that church's ability to do Christ's work.

God has already given us the means for brotherly admonition. It is the Law - to expose sin; and the Gospel - to heal the wound. The application of the Law is absolutely necessary to make our brother Pastor or denomination leader conscious of his sin. Reluctance to do so - which is natural - will arise, and Satan will remind us to "mind our own business," or "not be so judgmental." It is exactly at such times that God's Word must move us to act, swiftly and surely, to carry out the needed correction of our brother or our church body, and thus preserve even our own faith and that of our flocks and families.

The WELS has machinery already set up for this process of the supervision of doctrine and practice. The office of the Circuit Pastor and that of the District President were created for this purpose. But it would be a great mistake for the church to leave all matters of such discipline only up to these Pastors! Only when ALL assume the duty to be responsible for the doctrine and practice of our church body will we have a healthy and vibrant ministry of the Word and Sacraments!

Simply put, no Pastor should be allowed to teach or act at variance to the doctrinal position of the church. If he is truly convinced he is right and the church of which he is presently a member is wrong; no one is forcing him to stay, and honesty and integrity should move him to resign his Call since he no longer believes in the confessional stance of the church.

Therefore, it should go without saying – but indeed needs to be said: Any Pastor - or Teacher, layperson, or synodical official, for that matter - who challenges and rejects the confessional position of the WELS in a public manner, has the right to expect to be publicly admonished by his audience, however large and widespread that audience might happen to be. In these days when sermons are "streamed" via the Internet, or can be downloaded as a podcast, a minister of the Gospel has both the privilege but also the responsibility of speaking to hundreds, thousands, and even potentially millions. Each and every one of those people has absolutely every right to take issue with anything he says. Period! (Perhaps this should give all us Pastors more than a bit of pause as we upload our wonderful words of wisdom to our church's web page!)

If the church sits in silence to the questioning, challenging, or rebuttal of its confessional position, it is inviting doctrinal deterioration to set in. Anyone who is bold enough to besiege the Confessions or the Bible itself, MUST, repeat MUST, be taken to task publicly by whoever hears him do so, regardless of the forum within which this attack was heard. How else can we possibly understand St. Paul's words in First Timothy 5:20 – "Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning."? I say this is irrefutable and unarguable. Period!

Finally, the term "brother" is not simply a polite or sentimental reference, but it is suppose to be an expression of an actual condition of unity in Christ and His Word. As brothers we should expect to serve one another as we carry out our ministry. This brotherhood gives us an incentive for mutual study, sharing of ideas, help in trying times, and yes, even correction through admonition and rebuke. We serve as a check and balance on each other, as well we should. Therefore, we should be willing to accept brotherly admonition and even sometimes harsh rebuke from one another, just as we are also obligated to give it. We should indeed, "take it," but also be prepared to "dish it out!"

Pastor Spencer

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Reflections on the confessional Lutheran "spirit"

Fact: In order to hold membership in the WELS, all pastors, teachers and congregations must subscribe to the Book of Concord of 1580, not insofar as (quatenus), but because (quia) they are a correct presentation and exposition of the pure doctrine of the Word of God.

From the WELS Constitution:

Article II

Section 1. The synod accepts the canonical books of the Old and New Testament as the divinely inspired and inerrant Word of God and submits to this Word of God as the only infallible authority in all matters of doctrine, faith, and life.

Section 2. The synod also accepts the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church embodied in the Book of Concord of 1580, not insofar as, but because they are a correct presentation and exposition of the pure doctrine of the Word of God.

Article III

Section 3. Membership in the synod shall be restricted to congregations, pastors, and male teachers who agree in doctrine and practice with the confession referenced in Article II.

Fact: Every WELS pastor’s ordination vows include a subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580.

From the Ordination Rite in Christian Worship: Occasional Services:

    M: Do you accept the three Ecumenical Creeds – the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian – as faithful testimonies to the truth of the Holy Scriptures, and do you reject all the errors which they condemn?

    R: I do.

    M: Do you believe that the Unaltered Augsburg Confession is a true exposition of the Word of God and a correct presentation of the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and that the other confessions in the Book of Concord are also in agreement with this one scriptural faith: the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, the Smalcald Articles, and the Formula of Concord?

    R: I do.

    M: Do you solemnly promise that all your teaching and your administration of the sacraments will conform to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions?

    R: I do.

So what do you do when you read through the Lutheran Confessions and wake up to the reality that your church body, while still a great blessing from God and filled with many, many faithful Christians, is looking less and less like the church described in the Book of Concord, in spite of our subscription to the same?
  • You rejoice, because you don’t think the Book of Concord is terribly relevant for the world of the 21st Century.

  • You mock and ridicule those who have erred.

  • You do nothing, pretending that it doesn’t matter, since we’re still “united” on the Scriptures themselves.

  • You do nothing, not wanting to interfere in “other people’s business,” pretending you don’t actually belong to a synod.

  • You do nothing, because you believe our synod is already too far gone.

  • You do nothing, wringing your hands and bemoaning the situation in private conversation, but crippled by fear of the consequences – for yourself or for the synod – if you should take a public stand.

  • You do nothing, because while you value the Confessions, you’re afraid of being called (or of actually becoming!) a “Pharisee” or a “Legalist.”

  • You try to do something, because you recognize in the Lutheran Confessions the very faith of the apostles and martyrs, and the Church that has grown out of that faith. And you mourn, because you detect a different spirit, a spirit of the age, a secular spirit, a sectarian spirit creeping in and threatening the unity that once existed around the Lutheran Confessions. So, admittedly weak and frail, yet unable and unwilling to yield to this spirit, you try to do something, including much prayer and intense study of the Scriptures and the Confessions; including conversations in private, at pastors’ conferences and at district conventions; including writing letters to circuit pastors, congregations and district presidents; and yes, perhaps even starting up a little blog to highlight areas of concern and create a forum in which clergy and laity alike can openly discover and discuss if, how and where our practices have drifted away from the norm of the Confessions, in order that we might return to walk together under that light.

It’s this final path that many have chosen, including a few of us who, a year ago, started up this website of little consequence called Intrepid Lutherans, a name not intended to boast of what we are, but instead to remind us of what we wish to be.

We do not concede that our efforts have been inflammatory, loveless, unbrotherly, pharisaical or legalistic. We find it almost comical that some (not all!) of our leaders see Intrepid Lutherans as the gravest threat to our synod, and in some cases, the only evil which must be speedily and handily dealt with. And when we are labeled as “Pharisees,” it says much more about the person making the accusation than it does about us. We do admit that our blog is reactionary: it is reacting to this “other spirit” that is blowing in the wind. In any reaction there lies the inherent danger of overreaction, which we are sincerely trying to avoid. Kyrie, eleison!

Where does this “other spirit” manifest itself? It is most clearly evident in worship practice. Why? Because the whole of our theology is present in corporate worship. Every article of doctrine comes into play when the Church is assembled around Word and Sacrament. (The fact that the Church gathers so frequently without the Sacrament is itself evidence of this “other spirit” than the one described in the Confessions.)

It is a “different spirit” that rejects the liturgy of the Church – including the public, weekly celebration of the Sacrament in worship – for being “inhospitable” to unbelievers or “irrelevant” to believers. It is a different spirit that seeks to offer a man-centered, buffet-style worship in order to pander to human preference. “Casual or formal? Traditional or contemporary? Organ or electric guitar? What kind of music can you relate to? How would you like to worship the Lord today? What would be most meaningful (or comfortable or enjoyable) for you?”

The Lutheran Church actually does have a doctrine about worship, and it is not that “it’s all adiaphora.” Are there aspects of corporate worship that are truly matters of adiaphora? Of course. In those cases, Christian love, wisdom and sound judgment must guide our decisions. Are there aspects of corporate worship that are not matters of adiaphora? Of course. The Gospel must be rightly taught and the Sacraments rightly administered – and that includes maintaining the integrity of the sacramental confession in the Divine Service: that we come together, as the Church, for the purpose of being served by God through the public ministry ("leitourgia" - "liturgy”) of Word and Sacrament. It includes using ceremonies that foster unity, piety, Christian discipline, and reverence. It excludes all frivolity and offense. It excludes the introduction of a secular or sectarian spirit into the Church, no matter how pure one’s motives for introducing them.

Where else is this “other spirit” seen? It’s seen in all the talk about the “effectiveness” of the Means of Grace as if all depended on us presenting the Gospel in a certain way or with the right delivery mechanism. Some have called this a “functional Arminianism.” I think I agree.

It’s seen in those who imagine that the “real” growth of Christians takes place, not in the Divine Service, but in “small group” gatherings during the week.

It’s seen in the fascination with the means, methods and ideas of heterodox churches and teachers, especially those that ascribe free will to man and that deny the necessary and always-effective role of the Means of Grace in conversion, justification and sanctification.

It’s seen in a change in preaching emphasis, away from the sacramental, Gospel-oriented focus that preaches Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins as the goal of the sermon, toward a law-oriented, how-to focus that presents our works (or our good feelings) as the goal of the sermon.

It’s seen in the paradigm shift away from pastor as shepherd of souls and toward pastor as CEO, as well as the shift away from pastor as minister of the Word toward every member as a minister of the Word.

It’s seen in the postmodern redefinition of “Lutheran” to mean “anything that I, as a Lutheran, or that we, as a Lutheran synod, happen to believe or do.”

It’s seen in those who view our Lutheran Fathers as antiquated, irrelevant, tactless and just plain “stuffy,” while others of us have no greater aspiration for our ministry and life than to emulate the likes of Luther and Chemnitz.

It’s seen in the philosophy, “I’m a Christian first, Lutheran second,” while others of us see the relationship as it really is, “I’m a Lutheran because I’m a Christian.”

It’s seen in a misuse of Christian freedom that leads us to change things simply because we can, “and you can’t tell us we can’t.”

It is seen in the bare Biblicism that disregards the history of the Church, that elevates synodical statements above the Confessions, and that effectively relegates the Church Fathers and our Lutheran Confessions to irrelevancy. “You keep your fallible, human-authored Confessions. I have my Bible, and that’s all I need.” This amounts to a functional quatenus (“insofar as it applies to us”) subscription, and is not what the Lutheran Church means by Sola Scriptura. But this “other spirit” plays off the arrogance and the ignorance that dwell in us all, and would happily lead us to introduce novel changes in doctrine and practice, in areas like worship, church and ministry, the roles of men and women, and fellowship, and even in the area of justification.

It is seen in the fact that many no longer subscribe to the Confessions as a description of who we are as Lutherans and Christians: what we believe, what we do and what we reject. To some, it is merely a rule book: what you can and can’t get away with and still call yourself Lutheran. The evangelical spirit of the Confessors is thus lost and replaced by a legalistic spirit, and that which is supposed to serve as our commonly agreed-upon starting point as Lutherans becomes instead a burden that must either be carried, discarded or ignored.


None of this should be construed as a blanket condemnation of our entire synod, nor are we accusing anyone of being an unbeliever or being “possessed” when we speak of this “other spirit,” nor do we suppose than anyone has intentionally embraced it, or that we ourselves are immune to it. On the contrary, all who would be Christians must constantly be on guard against the spirits that do not come from God (cf. 1 John 4).

What solution do we propose? 1) That we all repent of everything, looking in faith to Christ alone for forgiveness for everything, 2) That we all recommit ourselves to study the Scriptures and the Confessions, 3) That we privately, but also openly, publicly and lovingly seek to identify where, individually or collectively, we have imbibed this “other spirit,” and 4) That any pastor, teacher or congregation that still cannot honestly look at every article in the Book of Concord and say, “Yes, that describes me (us). That is exactly what I (we) believe, teach and confess,” do the honest thing and, rather than try to redefine, reshape or change the WELS, simply join or form a church body that does not bind itself so comprehensively to the Book of Concord.

We don’t want to turn back the clock 30 or 100 or 500 years. We want instead to embrace in our time the Lutheranism that is described in the Book of Concord, when the Lutheran Church was not afraid of her own shadow or ashamed of her battered appearance, when Lutherans were comfortable in their own skin (though persecuted, mocked and condemned for it) and content to be both united to the historic, catholic Church and separate from the world, from the papists and from the sects. We want to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who willingly and gladly hold this common confession and would sooner die than relinquish or redefine the name “Lutheran.” Our goal remains the same as it was a year ago: “For true confessional Lutheran unity in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.” Kyrie, eleison!

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