Thursday, February 28, 2013

Real? Relational?? Relevant??? O THE HORROR OF IT ALL!!!

This is when it all started to happen. Relevance... back in the 1970's... sure ain't what it used to be. My, how the flower it doth fade... The fact is, THIS is what swiftly happens to man's version of "relevance." Thirty years from now, today's "relevant" and "relational" worship leaders are going to look just as "groovy."

"Jesus is a friend of mine (Jesus is my friend);
"Jesus is a friend of mine (I have a friend in Jesus);
"Jesus is a friend of mine (Jesus is my friend);
"Jesus is a friend of mine;
"He taught me how to pray, and how to save my soul;
"He taught me how to praise my God, and still play Rock 'n Roll;
"The music may sound different, but the message is the same;
"It's just an instrument to praise His name!"

That was "groovy," wasn't it? ...ZAP!

The sad thing is, I'm old enough to remember that stuff. I remember being tortured with it as a kid. Here's another one. This puppet-character was so "relational," I think Hollywood later made a slasher movie out of it.

This is the way it looks when you try to be "real," "relational," and "relevant." It looks like you're trying, and bless the man's soul, he is trying. Pretty obvious, too. But instead of trying to be something we're not, can we please be what we are as Lutheran Christians and do what we've always excelled at? Can we please just work at equipping the Church with competent Christian poets, composers and musicians who are trained in the Fine Arts?

And this is what happens when you try to be "relevant," but almost totally miss the mark. Sure, rap is in. It even tries to get in my house from the street on occasion. But I don't think these folks are doing it right...
(NOTE: There is evidence that this video, recently uploaded to YouTube and recently gone viral, is NOT the genuine product of a church, but is a parody written and produced by an individual to make fun of "relevant" and "relational" Christianity. If that is the case, then I personally consider this video to be a stroke of satirical genius. Yes, it's offensive, but that's the point. It is a brutal, poignant and multi-faceted commentary against a movement in American Christianity that is making Christians look like fools, and is trivializing the message they're commissioned by God to represent. Like a nerd tries to be cool, the Church Growth Movement (CGM) wants the Church to try to look like and sound like the world. But the Church can't be what it isn't. It can't be the world as well as the world can be the world -- and the world sees it just as clearly and immediately as the cool kids recognize when a nerd tries to walk their walk and talk their talk. THEY DON'T DO IT RIGHT! Sometimes it's just goofy, other times it's downright offensive.)

Yes, this guy's a pastor. A famous one, too. He also figured out the "relevance" of rap. I don't think he's doing it right, either. He's just making a fool out of himself, and out of everyone who bears the name of Christ in public.
St. Paul advises Titus: "For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain... For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth. To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed. But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine... in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 1:10-2:8 NASB)

Yeah, I know. "God-talk" is such a bummer. Especially when God Himself is talking. Sorry, dudes.

Being truly "relevant" and "relational" means opening the doors of the church to let the world in. To look the way the world looks as you speak the words the world speaks. This is truly the image of Christians congregating about entertainers to witness entertainers engage in entertainment -- verbatim from the entertainers of the world.

Speaking of "letting the world in," do you need to have one of those "dirty sex-talk Sundays?" You know, Divine Service where children are denied entrance to the Nave and are sent to the Sunday School room to watch Veggie Tales for an hour instead? Easily offended adults are warned not to attend? Under 17 not permitted without a parent? It would be quite a spectacle to witness wholesome Christians making a public show of lascivious thoughts and behaviour. Yeah, that'd be pretty kinky, wouldn't it. You could sell tickets. All of the sinners in the community would flock to see that! Only, you're probably not doing it right. Among other factors, the bar of "smutty relational relevance" has been raised by other forward-thinking Christians who excel at pushing the envelope, who are consistently first-on-the-scene "to do what no one else is doing, to reach those no one else is reaching." To follow their lead, you'll need professional help. This is the "real", "relational" and "relevant" way to do it, now.

I'd written a couple posts on Sunday attire, but that is apparently an entirely irrelevant concern. Attire doesn't really matter. It's best not to concern oneself with it these days.

"Reaching people no one else is reaching..."
Video Series Proposal: Being really 'Real', and 'Relational' to the Core: An Epitome

Need to talk about Stewardship? You've probably been doing that wrong, too. THIS is the way to address difficult subjects in a "relational" way: turn it into comedy. Only entertainment is "relational" anymore, and everyone loves a comedian.

But if the comedy routine doesn't work, threaten to kill them. Then threaten them with Hell. Then promise them that tithing will keep them in Heaven. And then get caught spending the money on yourself. That's amusing, too.

Contemporary Worshipers, congregating before entertainers. This is the way it looks these days. Sort of. Actually, maybe ten years ago, as they were copying out-of-style music from the late 1980's. Wait... No... This is from a church service in 2010, not 2003, twenty-two years after that wretched song was recorded (I remember it. It was cool for a couple weeks, then we all got tired of it. The radio stations didn't get the message, unfortunately, and kept playing it over and over. I wonder why?). Notice: As in the Miley Cyrus song, above, there was no need to change the words of this song, either. It's not important anymore what the text of a song actually says, what's important is whether (a) the listener can "properly understand" what the entertainer means by performing it, and/or (b) the listener subjectively feels spiritually uplifted by it. If the listener either can't "properly understand" what he sees and hears, or doesn't "feel uplifted" by it, then he is the problem, not the music or the entertainer -- whose "entertainment art" is categorically above criticism.

Yes. Some poor wretch possibly went to church that morning expecting, oh, who knows -- Law & Gospel, maybe? -- but got a bearded lady instead. Possibly... though nearly everyone in the audience surely knew that they got up that morning to congregate before entertainers...

More Circus Church. For real. This is a Church service. This is Supreme Anthropocentrism. I, I, I, me, me, me, you, you, you, blah, blah, blah. And this is, literally, how far seeker-sensitive Evangelicalism has allowed itself to sink. Why do we Lutherans insist on drinking from the same poisoned well?

Where have we seen this before? Hmmm?

Has liturgical dance EVER been "relevant" or "relational?" Other than that one time King David did it and embarrassed his wife?

Confirmed. Liturgical dance has NEVER been "relevant" or "relational." And that's NOT a good reason to do it anyway!

Yup! Me too! I think I'm gonna...

And this surely must be the Captain Underpants of contemporary praise and worship.

This isn't to say that ALL Evangelicals have sunk this low, or even want to. But in the past twenty years, I don't think I've heard of a single Evangelical congregation that doesn't "congregate before entertainers" on Sunday morning, that doesn't want to congregate before them, and that doesn't adamantly refuse to give up this model for fear that people will stop coming to church, for fear that they will be unable to attract the unchurched if they can't entertain them on Sunday morning.

This isn't to say that NO Evangelicals have seen the problem with this. I've spoken with many Evangelicals, and read of even more, who've found both practical as well as doctrinal problems with these anthropocentric practices.

From a purely practical standpoint, unless the "Preaching Pastor" is also the "Minister of Worship," there are two divergent sources of significant influence in the congregation which appear before the congregation each week. Often, these two influences, perhaps initially competing together for the approval of the assembly, find themselves competing against each other to increase or maintain their influence. And this is especially the case if these two prominent influences find themselves in disagreement, or see that disagreement is on the horizon. This is a particular problem in mid-sized Evangelical congregations, as disagreements between the "Preaching Pastor" and the "Minister of Worship" often lead to strife among leadership, abrupt dismissals of personnel, and even congregational splits. I've heard the story a hundred times, and it is always the same. Either personality incompatibility, insecurity, jealousy, and even genuine policy or doctrinal disagreements between the "entertaining minister" and the "talking minister" are at the root (even if they start out as good friends), and more often than not, it's the "boring" and "untalented" "talking pastor" whose is seen as the bad guy, even though he usually wins.

More importantly, from a doctrinal standpoint, some Evangelicals actually do see that this entire model of Church practice distracts attention from the centrality of the Word. It makes people the object, as well as the catalyst, of Christian worship, rather than Christ and their relationship with Him. To the observer, the "entertaining minister" is the apparent object and catalyst; but in truth, he's only the secondary object. Hidden under the surface, the primary and real object of the contemporary worshiper's striving is himself, is in his self-centered pursuit of a particular emotional state that he cannot reach on his own: he needs the worship team to get him there. The "entertaining minister" is certainly the catalyst, and to the extent that he generally succeeds at delivering worshipers to their desired emotional/spiritual state, he becomes an object of their adoration, as well. To the extent that he can't, worshipers complain, "They're not doing it right!" I've personally spoken with such Evangelicals who see this most clearly, some are laymen, others are pastors. When they raise their concerns, they are always defeated by the chorus of voices who've been brainwashed by CGM seeker-sensitive principles, who are literally hooked on the entertainment, and like dependent junkies are frantic to retain the source of their weekly "spiritual fix." Some even see an element of manipulation in this model of Church practice, and this is especially the case among mega-churches, whose practices are models of aspiration for smaller, growth-at-all-costs-oriented congregations.

I, personally, haven't witnessed the inner workings of mega-church practices. But over the years I've heard from a handful musicians who have. The leadership structure in these organizations is very similar to what one would find among C-level executives in any corporation. They all have contracts under which they have negotiated compensation packages and associated leadership responsibilities, performance expectations, etc., and frequently, the "Worship CEO" functions as a manager as much as anything else, managing several teams related to the execution of the entertainment each week. I've yet to hear of a situation where there is only one team of musicians. Generally, there are multiple bands. Each band is comprised of professional, or at least highly accomplished musicians, each of whom are almost always Christians. Each band doesn't play every Sunday, it seems, but instead, only every other Sunday or even just once a month. They rehearse between gigs. And this is where it gets interesting. Sometimes, it seems, the set they rehearse for a given Sunday has been planned out for them, other times, band members contribute in some way to the selections; however, it is almost always the case that they are working from either a sermon outline or an entire sermon text that has been provided for them ahead of time by the office of the "Preaching CEO." The "talking minister" appointed for the service they are rehearsing for already knows what he is going to say, or at least what he is going to talk about, and the point of the band's rehearsal is to select and practice a sequence of pieces which will adequately prepare the audience for the message he will deliver.

And here I digress for a moment to share from my own experience as a worship team musician, in much smaller venues. It is amazing to me how Christian religious people, addicted to weekly "spiritual/emotional highs," are so eager to completely give themselves over to the music. Like racehorses leaning on the gate, they chomp at the bit in eagerness for the signal to start, for the piano or the guitar to strike the first chord. It's almost like a gun going off. Even positively mediocre musicians like myself -- people who could never even succeed entertaining drunks at the local bars -- are swiftly given almost complete control of the emotional/spiritual state of worshipers before them. As the music grows louder and tempo quicker, the people jump, gyrate and stomp their feet right along with it, while smiles cover their faces and their singing turns to laughing and shouting. As the tempo and volume subside, the people follow right along -- their eyes close as they sway and swoon with their arms in the air. For cerebrally oriented folks such as myself, it is positively frightening. For reflective Christian musicians with a conscience, it is bothersome. Most musicians, it seems, simply get off on it. They have the power of music, and they like to use it.

To "adequately prepare the audience for the message of the 'talking minister'," the audience must be brought to a fitting emotional state through the preceding entertainment. That is what the band rehearses for, and the "sequence" of music they practice generally leads their religious audience -- people who are eager to give themselves over to the music -- through a cycle of ups and downs: up, up , up to euphoric highs, and down, down, down to melancholy lows; uuuuup and doooowwwn, uuuuuup and dooooowwwn, uuuuuuup and dooooowwwn it cycles until the audience has been "sufficiently prepared." And somewhere between the high and the low, either on the upswing or the downswing, is the preferred emotional state for the audience to receive the message of the "talking minister."

The musicians who have spoken to me about this over the past twenty years, all either professional musicians or very accomplished non-professionals, had, by the time they started talking about it with others, already grown bothered by this practice. It felt to them like they were taking advantage of the emotional vulnerability of their audience. It felt like mass manipulation. In nearly every case, these musicians had shared with me their concerns, in a personal way, because they'd already shared their concerns with their church leadership, and those concerns had been ignored. Rejected, in fact: "You have a negative spirit, God is not able to work through you until you repent;" or "We have no impact on the audience, we are merely instruments through which the Holy Spirit works, and what we see happening before us on Sunday morning is purely His work, not ours;" or "You're fired." In a few cases, I know that these conscience-stricken musicians eventually quit the mega-church scene (if only temporarily in at least one case). In another case, I recall hearing later that the musician even quit being a Christian over it. I no longer move in these circles, and have long lost contact with these guys. I can remember some of their faces, but don't even remember most of their names. I have no idea what they might say today. Granted, these accounts are anecdotal and, as far as the specific circumstances involved (which are irrelevant), amount only to hearsay. But I know what these musicians were concerned about back in the 1990's and early last decade, concerns which resonated with my own, and we can plainly see from the above that the worst in Evangelical practice continues to defy what even our worst imagination of poor Christian judgment can conceive, as "entertainment ministers" continue to "push the envelope". It continues to get worse.

What do you suppose might be around the corner?

And now for the heavy stuff...

"Relevance" among Emergents: Transcending our primal narrative, to live harmoniously with man in the present -- the only true reality there is -- that we may collaborate in the essential human task of creating the New Earth. Ah, Rationalism in the post-Modern age, a.k.a. "making it up as you go along." And the Bible says any of this... where? It doesn't really matter anymore. Emergents, who are largely former Evangelicals, are open about rejecting what the Scriptures plainly say in their most fundamental teachings. And they're pretty safe in doing so. Enough of Evangelical Christianity has been conditioned by nearly a generation of false practice to accept whatever the "talking minister" says -- as long as they find themselves to be sufficiently entertained by the process.

More of the same sort of "relevance" from the same kind of sources: Me... Today... and the pursuit of Ionian/Pythagorean Harmony and Wholeness. Know any Lutherans dabbling with Emergent Church theology? This is what they are being exposed to, and this is what you will be exposed to through them.

All of these videos, and MANY more, have been compiled by Chris Rosebrough in a collection he calls, The Museum of Idolatry -- "the world's largest collection of artifacts of apostasy." 1500 exhibits, and growing. They're all of the sort shown above. Whenever I need a reminder of what I left behind, and why I left it behind, I go to the Museum. I saw this coming, I knew that this is what Evangelicalism would turn into. Very little of this represents genuine Christianity. This is the direction CGM leads.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Sermon for Reminiscere: “The Willingness of Jesus in His Passion” — Dr. Adolph Hoenecke

Christ on the Cross, by Elizabeth LindeeOn Wednesdays through the Lenten Season this year (2013), we will be publishing sermons from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (1835-1908), who is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and from Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann (1883-1965), a prolific author, educator, historian and theologian of the Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod (LCMS) and among the more significant figures of 20th Century American Lutheranism.

Last Sunday marked the beginning of the Second Week in Lent, also known as Reminiscere, and today, as we have the last two Wednesdays, we will again be hearing from Dr. Adolph Hoenecke (WELS). His topic this week is The Willingness of Jesus in His Passion.

Most men would need to be compelled, even physically forced, to endure the torments of false accusations, illegal trials, unjust verdicts, verbal abuse, physical torture, and a slow physical death by agonizing execution. This Jesus endured, and more. On behalf of mankind, He also suffered spiritual death, which is defined as separation from God, a separation from all Love and all Goodness. Such suffering is the suffering of Hell, for where there is no Love and no Goodness, there is only Hate and Evil. This is a fate which no man can be compelled to endure, but one which many will nevertheless suffer for eternity, a fate to which they will ultimately be dragged despite their objections, amidst their screams of terror, against their desperate clawing for escape. Such are the wages of sin. Such is what sinful men deserve. Of all men He alone being sinless before God, Jesus was the only man to have never deserved such wages. Yet He suffered them. Because He didn't deserve them, He, rather, suffered them willingly. He suffered them willingly out of a boundless love for mankind, in order that no one need suffer the wages of sin. Because Jesus Christ was our willing Substitute, we can be certain that He desires to deliver us from all such suffering. In the following sermon, Dr. Hoenecke explains.

A Sermon for Reminiscere

The Willingness of Jesus in His Passion

by Dr. Adolf Hoenecke1
    Text: Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him, And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:3-14)

As the Lord, our Saviour, was being led out to be crucified, an incident occurred which in itself does not seem very significant, but which Matthew as well as Luke and Mark considered important enough to record in their story of the Passion. Matthew does it in these words: “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross” (Matt. 27:32). Him they compelled. Voluntarily, Simon would not have consented to bear the cross after Jesus. With force they had to persuade him to do it. Him they compelled. Surely, you can feel what this tells us about Christ, our Lord, though it is not expressed in words, namely: Till then He had borne the tree of the cross, which condemned men had to bear to the place of execution, and He had done so without being compelled by any man. Without complaint, without resistance, like the Lamb that openeth not its mouth and is dumb before its shearers (Is. 53:7), He had let them lay it on Him, and He had borne it willingly.

But simply bearing the wood of the cross was not bearing the cross in its fullest and deepest significance. This He did when He bore the torments on the cross, of which the Scriptures say: “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on ca tree” (Gal. 3:13). In this sense too, as we well know, Jesus bore the cross. And, praise be to God, we know this: That cross He also bore willingly. O friends in Christ, on the fact that Jesus suffered willingly truly depends all comfort for us sinners. Now, our Passion text shows us this willingness in the clearest light. On the basis of this text let us take as the subject of our Passion devotion:

  1. If we realize what made Jesus utterly willing to suffer as our Substitute,
  2. Then all our doubts will be removed regarding His will to help us out of all our sufferings.


Let us, then, first of all, realize what made Jesus utterly willing to suffer as our Substitute. It is expressed very clearly and plainly. Our text states in a way that everyone can understand that Jesus was entirely willing and ready with all His heart to bear all His sufferings, and that as our Substitute.

At the close of our text we read: “And bound him.” How, we ask, did this come about? Did they really have such power over Jesus? Could they do this to Jesus simply because they so willed? By no means. Our dear Saviour Himself had said on one occasion: “No man taketh it (my life) from me, but I lay it clown of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18).

Besides, how could the creature possibly exercise its power at will over its Creator (Rom. 9:20-21)? In many glorious miracles we have proof that all creation is subject to our Saviour Jesus as its Lord. It was He, the Son, who before the foundation of the world spoke together with the Father: “Let there be. And it was so” (Gen. 1). Afterwards, when he walked on earth in our human nature, He often spoke the same words: Let there be. And it was so. The water became wine (John 2:7-9); the raging sea became completely calm (Mark 4:37-39); the blind became seeing (Matt. 9:27-30; Mark 8:22-26); the deaf, hearing (Mark 7:31-35); the lepers, clean (Luke 17:14; Matt. 8:1-4); the dead, alive (Mark 5:41-42; Luke 7:14-15; John 11:43-44).

We also have the proof before our very eyes in our Passion text. The Lord went to meet the mob that wanted to take Him captive and said: “Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground” (vv. 4-6). Friends, there you behold the sinful creature, man, in his impotence before Him who is able to say of Himself: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18-20). How had these impotent men been able to bind Him, the omnipotent Lord? How was this whole impotent mob of enemies able to take Him captive, nail Him to the cross, and deliver Him into sufferings?

Now, fellow redeemed, without a doubt we believe in the majestic power of Jesus. But often enough, when we are called upon to give evidence of this faith, we fail. That was true of the beloved disciple in our story. Instead of believing, he drew the sword. However much his loyal love for Jesus may have been responsible for this, still the Peter with the sword in his hand cuts just as sorry a figure as does the Peter of the denying lips, later on (Matt. 26:69-75).

But we Christians often present just as sorry a sight. The sword of Christ, which Christ has enjoined us to take, the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God – this sword we are not very ready to draw against Christ's enemies and ours. But we are more eager to take the sword of Peter which, we know, the Lord plainly forbids His followers. For the Lord says: “Put up thy sword into the sheath.”

But just now we are concerned, not so much about the rule for conduct that Jesus gives Peter and us in these words, but about the statement that He wanted to make concerning Himself. He means: I want no help against bonds and sufferings. I could – thus the Saviour adds in the other Gospels – avail myself of an entirely different kind of help: upon My plea the Father would send Me legions of angels (Matt. 26:51-53), if I desired to be rescued, if I desired to remain untouched by bonds, torments, and death. But shall I not drink the cup which My Father hath given me? I will not be hindered from doing that.

After this declaration by Jesus, our text records, “The band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him” (v. 12). That sounds very much like an everyday happening, like a very ordinary earthly event. But we must look beyond the words, and then we see, to a certain extent, the miracle of the Saviour’s glory as revealed in His Passion. Behold! The same Jesus who shortly before had revealed His majesty by casting His enemies to the ground with His: “I am he,” and had said: “No man taketh my life from me” (John 10:15-18) – the same Jesus surrendered Himself to His enemies, and with the words: “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” He deliberately refrained from exercising the might of His divine majesty upon His enemies. He did so with the explanation: “I refuse to be hindered from hearing and enduring My sufferings.” He made Himself the weak, impotent One whom weak, impotent sinners could bind and lead away in fetters.

Mark it, fellow redeemed, not because He was weak, but because it was His will to be weak, because He was willing to suffer, therefore He arrived at the condition described at the end of our text: “And bound him.”

Precisely as our Substitute He wanted to suffer willingly. As our Substitute – the Lord confirms this very emphatically in our text. “Whom seek ye?” the Lord asked the mob which wanted to take Him captive. They answered: “Jesus of Nazareth.” And the Lord said: “I am he,” the One who was to bear that name, the Nazarene, and who was to be what the name implies, the lowly, the humbled one. “I am he.” The Lord had a right to speak thus. He was even now the Humbled One. Though He was in the form of God, He had already emptied Himself and had taken upon Himself the form of a servant (Phil. 2:7). For this was a deep humiliation for Him that these godless men came to lay hands on Him, the Holy One, and came out against Him with staves and swords, as though He were a murderer, a robber, or some other kind of criminal! But He was to humble Himself to much greater depths; and it was His will to do so. As we heard, He was ready to drink the cup, and that means: the death of hell.

But not for His own sake was He determined to do this. Why then? Here it is in our text: So that He might drink the cup, He was captured and taken to Caiaphas. This was the man who had said: “It is expedient that one man should die for the people” (v. 14). His thought was this: It is better that one man die than that all should die. “And,” says God’s Word, “this he spake not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation” (John 11:51). When he spoke, therefore, he had to prophesy as one commissioned by God; he had to proclaim God’s counsel of grace.

This counsel was that Jesus should die for the people. He, the One, was to die that all might not die. According to God’s will, He, the only innocent One, was to take the place of all guilty men and to suffer their death. In other words: as their Substitute. And that is what Jesus is determined to be. “I am he,” He said. “Lead me away; I am the One who is to be humbled, even unto a criminal death. That is the cup which My Father giveth Me; I will take that cup.” Truly, in this way He plainly declares His willingness to suffer, to suffer as our Substitute.

But, we ask, what made Him willing to take such a heavy burden upon Himself? Friends, we are sinners; and the wages of sin is death. This is the judgment which God’s righteousness had to pass on all sinners. Now, if we were dealt with according to that judgment, what a terrible thing it would be for us! Suppose we are entering our last hour. Fear grips our hearts. In our dying anguish God is holding to our lips the cup of His wrath. The curse of the Law comes ringing into our ears; a voice of thunder proclaims to our terrified hearts: “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Ah, that would be a bitter end!

And now we enter the judgment. Then God stands before you and says: Open the book, that we may see what manner of man he was, and whether he continued in all those things which I commanded him to do. Thereupon the record is read aloud: You have not kept a single commandment. The verdict follows: “Cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deut. 27:26). And: “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire” (Matt. 25:41). This is the terror of all terrors! And then you must go down, down into eternal fire, into eternal, indescribable misery, into never-ending torments, into wailing and lamenting without end. O horror of horrors! What an evil fate!
The Last Judgment, by Raphael Coxie (1540-1616)
But suppose that in our last brief hour these words came to our poor, quaking souls: “Be of good cheer! Now My angels shall bear you away into Abraham’s bosom; you are not going to be summoned to the judgment.” Yes, suppose that in the moment at which you indeed are brought before the judgment throne, the verdict is speedily brought in: “This poor sinner may depart a free man. Not damnation, but life shall be his lot.” Suppose, finally, that we are ushered into life itself, into the great, infinite bliss of heaven, into the glorious, eternal rest. Tell me, would not all this be good, incomparably good? Beyond all doubt, that would be a precious, a pleasant, a good portion for the soul. If all that is made ours, what can we say but: “Our lot is fallen in pleasant places”?

Well now, our compassionate Father had exactly the same idea of a good lot for us. He wanted this for us with all His heart. Therefore He said to the Son: You can procure this for them. But then you must step into their place. And behold! Such was the mind of Jesus in the matter that He did not consider His own advantage, but that of others. He did not consider how He might “have it good,” but thought only of us, how we might “have it good”; have a blessed death; stand in the judgment; enter into eternal life. He wanted to make this good fortune our own; He wanted to bring it about that we might enjoy such a pleasant lot and might not have to drink the cup of wrath, but be spared.

Therefore He drank the cup. So that we might not remain fettered prisoners consigned to hell, but might depart as free men, He let Himself be bound for judgment and condemnation. So that we might not die, but have life, He gave Himself into death. For us, then, He was seeking something glorious, something inexpressibly good. And what was He seeking for Himself? Nothing but the joy of knowing that through Him we would be made happy.

And this was His aim, though we in our sinfulness surely are not worthy of any favor from Him. He sought nothing but the honor of delivering us, and yet we in our sins are the vilest of creatures. There is only one thing which explains the willingness of Jesus to suffer for us. It is His love, a love that is unmerited, based on nothing in us; it is love that is unconditional, burning with a warmth and fervor unknown to man. Oh, how great His love must be, since even in prophecy He says: “I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do Thy will, O my God” (Ps. 40:7-8). How Jesus must love sinners, with a love that passes understanding, since He was ready to take the cup of the Father and was ready to suffer for us, when we in our love of sin and our attachment to sin are the most repulsive creatures! And He exulted in doing it! How could such love fill the heart of Jesus? That we shall never be able to fathom. But it is enough for us to know that His love made Him willing to suffer for us as our Substitute.


With that knowledge all our doubts are removed as to Jesus’ will to deliver us out of all our sufferings. There is salvation in none other but Jesus. There is only one Helper against the woes of sin: Jesus.

Varied, indeed, are the woes which sin sends pouring over us, like a stream out of an inexhaustible fountain. The worst of all these is a bad conscience. We know ourselves as damned before God. With all the wealth we may have, we cannot find any joy; in all our troubles we can find no comfort. We must be afraid in life and in death. We are alarmed that we must bear life and its burdens so long, and yet we feel a still greater alarm at the prospect of its ending. Great is the woe of a bad conscience.

We can alleviate many another evil by our own efforts, but not this one. Try as you will, you will only make things worse. You can never satisfy a greedy heart, no matter how much you give it; it always wants more. So, too, you will never quiet an aroused, bad conscience, do what you will. Always a voice tells us: It is not enough; the guilt still remains. Here no confessing that you have done wrong will help. No giving and sacrificing will help. Judas did all those things, but his heart did not find peace; his conscience fairly screamed his guilt.

Only one thing will help. That is Jesus. What we need is that He come to our aid; that He bestow His help on us. But is it His will to do so? May we confidently hope for that?

This very confidence that Jesus will really take his part – this the poor sinner lacks at first, that is, if he has really become a poor sinner. If he is really plunged into deep remorse over his sin; if he truly realizes what a shameful and disgraceful sight he presents because of his sin; if he is alarmed over the filth in his own heart; if he stands aghast at his uncleanness, reproaches himself for his unworthiness, abhors himself for his damnableness – then, Christian friends, Jesus’ Person tends to appear to him as the One who is holy, One to whom sin and the sinners’ uncleanness must be an abomination. If Jesus in true, heartfelt love would only have pity on him in his great distress – oh, how he wishes for that! Even the thought of such a possibility is enough to give him a measure of comfort. But then the doubt always recurs: How can that possibly be? You hate and loathe yourself because of your sins. How could Jesus help feeling the same way?

And yet, fellow sinners, there is no doubt that Jesus, impelled by the most fervent love, actually wants to take our part and wants to deliver us from all of sin’s woes, here and hereafter.

Friends in Christ, let us imagine this case: A man has become heavily indebted, and that through his own fault. He knows a rich man who could help him, but he cannot summon the courage to appeal to the man of wealth. But then he hears that the rich man, strange to say, has already expressed his great sympathy over the self-incurred misery of this man and has already deposited money with a number of his creditors. He had done so with the remark that he was happy to be able to furnish the money. This amount would go to discharge the debt the moment that the financially distressed man applied for his aid, as the man of wealth fondly hoped he would. Now don’t you think that such knowledge would give the debt-ridden man courage to appeal to the rich man for aid?

Now then, you, the poor sinner, are the man in debt, but Jesus is the rich man of the kind heart. How can you still doubt whether Jesus really loves you enough to give you the hope: ‘In heartfelt love He has accepted me in such a way that I will confidently run into His arms, although I must despise and reject myself.’ Jesus says: Why do you, poor sinner, still torment yourself with doubts? I have loved you, yes, you, in all your repulsiveness, the extent of which even you have not grasped – I have loved you long ago, so much that I bled for you on the cross. It was for you, who are utterly unworthy and damnable, for you that My heart glowed with such a fervent love that I gladly – Oh, mark it! – most gladly, with all My heart, offered up My blood for your good. In such love I purchased you; in love I won you; in love I redeemed you. And now you ask whether I will accept you, My treasure won at such great price? It was for this very purpose that I suffered; for this purpose I, purely out of love, took death upon Myself for you: that I might give you life.

Surely, in the face of this all doubts must vanish. Can there still be room for doubt now? Even though we have sinned most grievously against His love, after He had once accepted us; even though we have denied like Peter, still doubt must vanish. Even in the hours of bitterest remorse and the most severe self-accusations, yes, in the last hour, when the unfaithfulness of an entire lifetime rests upon us with the weight of mountains – still doubt must vanish. Jesus will accept us, will make His salvation and His help avail for us, will help us out of sin, death, and wrath, and will lead us to life and peace. Before the certainty that Jesus in heartfelt, burning love offered His life for you who deserved the curse – before that all doubt must give way. All doubt melts away before the truth: As damnable as we acknowledge ourselves to be, He in heartfelt love still acknowledges us as those whom He wants to help, and He receives us for salvation and our life.

Oh, if only we would really seek Him! Do you all do it, fellow Christians? Suppose that Jesus Himself should ask: Whom seek ye? Can you answer: Thee, dear Lord, Thee who hast humbled Thyself for us that Thou mightest exalt us? Try to imagine this question as one that actually comes to you from Jesus’ lips. You realize that He knows your thoughts; He knows the real condition of your heart. You can conceal nothing from Him. If you are seeking something besides Him, He knows it. What will your answer be when He asks: Whom seekest thou? Sadly I wonder whether many do not have to answer: “To be truthful and sincere, I must admit that I seek everything, only not Thee.”

It is most important to achieve certainty on the question: Whom seek ye? Now is still the time of grace, but that time is running out. Now Jesus is still beckoning us: I am He, the Saviour; come unto me, thou sinner, I will give thee rest. He that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out. Seek Me while I may be found.

But he who would seek Him after the time of grace has run out will not find Him. When this life is gone with all those things with which thousands defraud themselves, when they have gone their way in wretched poverty, finally crying under the pressure of their sin, crying: Woe is me! – then it is too late.

Jesus is compelled to say of such men: Oh, I was seeking your highest good when I died on the cross. How I loved you throughout your lives and wanted to see your lot fall in pleasant places, but you would not let Me lead you out of your ill-fated delusions. Following the lusts of your foolish hearts, you kept Me from providing a happier fate for you. Now you have prepared eternal woes for yourselves.

Therefore seek Jesus while He may be found. And thanks to His love, He may always be found here on earth, as long as we seek Him with hearts hungering for salvation. God grant that we continue thus to our end.


Endnotes:Glorified in His Passion, by Dr. Adolf Hoenecke
  1. Hoenecke, A. (1957). Glorified in His Passion (W. Franzmann, Trans.) Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House. (Original work published in German, 1910.). pp. 30-43.

    Note: Dr. Adolf Hoenecke (1835-1908) is among the most important theologians of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS). He, along with Johannes Bading (d. 1913), led the WELS out of pietistic indifferentism and unionism into strong confessional Lutheranism, was one of the founders of the the old Synodical Conference, and is credited with being the first German Lutheran to author a complete Lutheran Dogmatics in America – Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics – recently translated into English and available from Northwestern Publishing House. For more information about Dr. Hoenecke, a fairly detailed biography written by Professor August Pieper in 1935, can be found at the following link: The Significance of Dr. Adolf Hoenecke for the Wisconsin Synod and American Lutheranism


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

WARNING! NIV1984 being Sunsetted from internet resources, users to be redirected to NIV2011

NIV 2011 and filthy lucreMany Christian internet users visit online Bible study resources, like, as handy reference tools. For those who use, be aware: they are phasing out the NIV1984 completely. Follow this link for's explanation (this page no longer exists). If you have links to the NIV or the NIV1984 on your blogs or web pages, they will soon be redirected by to the NIV2011, without notice. Other online Bible study resources, while not yet having completed their changeover, will be doing so very shortly. If you like having access to your NIV1984, the only place you will have complete access to it, henceforth, is in the actual physical book on your shelf.

To the NIV user who has not yet made a decision on which translation to begin using: if you plan on using online resources, YOU ARE OUT OF TIME. Now is the time for you to make a decision, as the NIV1984 will no longer be available online, anywhere. If you, while being reluctant to use it, nevertheless simply allow these sites to forward you to the NIV2011, then understand, you are allowing the publisher, Zondervan, to make your decision for you. Don't be such a weakling. Make a positive decision instead of accepting the default.

As for Intrepid Lutherans, we use two resources. One is, which we use in combination with a tool called RefTagger. This tool is inserted into our blog template, where it automatically recognizes unlinked Biblical references in the text of each page, and creates a link to the reference. Hovering over the link, a user is supplied a pop-up style-sheet that displays the reference (up to maximum character count), while clicking the link brings one to that reference on the website. There are many Bible translations to choose from. Currently, we have selected the New King James Version (NKJV) as the translation referenced using this tool, but could also use the English Standard Version (ESV), the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), and others. It is a handy tool for blogging. It assists blog authors who don't want to go to the trouble to add the reference markup themselves (RefTagger does it automatically), and for commenters who want to make Biblical references, but don't want use up their character count with hypertext markup. Here are some examples of its use. Hover over the references to see the beginning of the verses in a pop-up window, and you can click on the verse to see the whole reference, work with it in context, or explore other related verses:
    John 1:1-5
    John 1:1-5 NKJV
    John 1:1-5 ESV
    John 1:1-5 NASB
    John 1:1-5 HCSB
    John 1:1-5 NIV
The second resource we use is (although we could just as easily use for everything). We use most frequently when we want to direct a person to Scripture references in a specific translation, like the NASB or the KJV. Not only is the latter the personal preference for more than one of us, it is important to reference it when quoting historical sources, like Hoenecke, Krauth, Kretzmann, etc., who worked from it, or whose translators worked from it. In addition, we have found that the presentation of Biblical references on is simply more pleasant to the eye, and that the website is more intuitive to navigate for the average reader. is more of a research tool.

So, dear reader, if you are an internet user and an NIV user, and haven't yet made your decision on whether to go with the wretched NIV2011 or not, NOW is the time to make that decision. On your own. Personally. If you need assistance, we at Intrepid Lutherans have written a number of posts on the subject and collected them in a list at right, under the heading "ISSUES WITH THE NIV 2011".

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Catechesis of the Lutheran Worshiper: An antidote to the “itching ears” and “happy feat” of CGM enthusiasts?

Anthropocentric enthusiasm, the worship of CGMAs has been mentioned on Intrepid Lutherans many times, the problems of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) are not recently identified, nor has public discussion of them among WELS Lutherans begun only since the time Intrepid Lutherans first started publishing, in May 2010, when we “burst onto the scene” with the shocking declaration:
    Many of us see our common enemy, the devil, threatening our unity as a synod, mainly through the backdoor of our practice. We sing and preach about unity, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there lurks among us a spirit of disunity. It is certainly not everywhere; but it is there. Let us acknowledge where the devil is mounting his assault so that, by God’s power and might, we may defeat him: worship practices that are inconsistent with confessional Lutheran theology; Church Growth theology and methodology; paying lip service to the Means of Grace while mimicking the practices of the churches that deny the efficacy of the Means of Grace; forfeiting our confessional Lutheran identity, either by neglect or by choice.
And hasn’t this ubiquitous “spirit of disunity” been amply demonstrated over the past two-and-three-quarter-years? We continued in that first post:
    Many would like to simply agree to disagree on these matters rather than disturb the Church over them. That would be understandable if the issues revolved around personal preference. But the issues are theological, not personal. True spiritual unity is not preserved by ignoring theology. What we are advocating is an open theological discussion with solid theological conclusions. If we are misunderstanding one another, let us make things clear. If arguments have been built upon logical fallacies, let them be exposed. If any have strayed from confessional Lutheran doctrine or practice, let them take note and return. For our part, we have made a small beginning at such a discussion by creating this blog where we will be posting articles that promote and encourage confessional Lutheranism... Contribute what you can to the discussion... What we ask you not to do, dear brother, is absent yourself from the discussion as if there were nothing to discuss, as if it didn’t apply to you, as if you could close your eyes and shut your ears and pretend you have no responsibility to defend the synod you call your home from the devil’s divisive schemes. This is only a beginning, a first step (not to imply that we are the first or the best to speak about these issues). What we seek is unity – true confessional Lutheran unity within the WELS, a goal that only the Holy Spirit can bring about.

One of the predecessor forums to Intrepid Lutherans, run by WELS members, which treated of issues in WELS, was aptly named “Issues in WELS.” Now defunct, many laymen discovered through this organization that WELS wasn’t the paradise they were led to believe it was – not that they were especially successful at broadcasting their existence and distributing their materials; but a simple Google search with the words “issue” and “Lutheran” seemed to do the trick for many WELS Lutherans. For others, they either already knew, or figured out for themselves that something was amiss. Most, it would seem, are still oblivious – for better or worse. Another forum, run by WELS members, which also treated of issues in WELS, was the blog Bailing Water. Now relatively dormant, the blog owner continues to maintain it as a Confessional and historical resource. The reader, if he is unfamiliar with it, is encouraged to peruse that “resource,” to get an idea of the nature of discussion up to the time Bailing Water wound down its active life. In many ways, the nature of discussion on Intrepid Lutherans is made dramatically different by the requirement that commenters post under their real names. Thus, in commenting on Intrepid Lutherans, one puts his good name and reputation on the line, not only for his peers to evaluate, but their posterity. One result has been that commenters seem to more carefully measure their words when they post. Another has been that many simply will not allow their opinions, concerns or positions on certain matters to become publicly known.

“Contemporary” Worshipers
Congregate before Entertainers

or shall we more charitably say,
congregate before other worshipers.
CGM Enthusiasts, congregating about 'Entertainers of the Word' – Lakewood MegaChurch, Houston, TX
CGM Enthusiasts, congregating about 'Entertainers of the Word' – Hillsong MegaChurch, Sydney, AU
(top) Lakewood Megachuch, Houston, TX
(bottom) Hillsong Megachurch, Sydney, AU
Regardless, many good and interesting discussions were had on Bailing Water, especially with respect to CGM, one of which is the subject of our post. A commenter in the Bailing Water post, Anything that isn’t unbiblical is fair game, makes some interesting points, though arguing that only the text matters in identifying hymns and liturgy as Lutheran or not, and ultimately expecting the act of worship itself to merit blessings from God:
    Here’s another aspect of the discussion that I rarely see raised. When people talk about how contemporary services are more “engaging” than liturgical ones, I would argue that the problem is not the liturgy, but the liturgy done poorly. I have been in many WELS churches where the pastor mumbles through it as though what were going on were NOT special... was NOT opening the gates of heaven. I’ve been in churches where the Gloria, a joyful hymn given to us by the angels, was sung at the tempo of a funeral dirge.

    To say that because the Western Rite shares the Word of God, then whether or not it is done well makes no difference, is to overstate the Scripture. Yes, the Word is how the Spirit works. But if I am a pastor (or a congregation) and my efforts to use the Word are so half-hearted, then I’m not sure why I would expect the Spirit to bless my efforts. To state it more succinctly, if the Western Rite is done badly, when it could be done well, why WOULD God bless it? The pastor and congregation’s half-hearted worship means they are luke-warm towards the Gospel that worship proclaims. Therefore, while confessional, their worship is an affront to him, as Jesus’ words to to the church at Laodicea makes clear.

    Therefore, I’d like to see more WELS congregations doing what I know some are - looking at how they utilize the Western Rite. Where does the chant from TLH come from? It’s like 18th century Scotland? I honestly don’t know. But I can’t imagine that 18th century Scotland was a bastion of confessional Lutheranism. Therefore, let’s not be too emotionally attached to the chant. Perhaps there’s a better musical vehicle in which to couch the Gloria, Agnus Dei, Sanctus, etc. That’s VERY Lutheran - keeping the text, but updating the melody - as the vast number of hymns in the “Hymns of the Liturgy” section demonstrate.

    To sum up, what I’d like to see is the Gloria sung in all our churches, but a version which might be a better vehicle than page 15 of TLH or page 16 in CW. Same with all five canticles of the Western Rite. I’d like to see them done in a style that - yes - enthuses people. No, I am not an enthusiast. I’m a musician, who finds bad, tired singing a stumbling block when trying to worship.

    Maybe, if the Western Rite were done well, there wouldn’t be such a rush to contemporary services.
Another commenter responded, addressing the “way” worship is done, and whether it impacts anything. Not for a moment admitting that the “act of worship merits blessing from God” the way that the first commenter did, he did identify how careless, or even deliberate mediocrity distracts worshipers from the centrality of Christ in the congregation’s worship, just as much as “worship ministers” and other stage entertainers distract worshipers from the True Object of their worship, who serve to fixate the attention of worshipers first on themselves:
    You state on 1/16, “I would argue that the problem is not the liturgy, but the liturgy done poorly. ...Maybe, if the Western Rite were done well, there wouldn’t be such a rush to contemporary services.

    Speaking purely in human terms, I agree that there seems to be a superabundance of, well, mediocrity in our worship. I see it when I travel, and it distresses me, as well. However, having spent nearly thirty years as a pop-church Evangelical and about three years as a praise-band guitarist, I can tell you for a fact that Contemporary Worship is no panacea – they struggle with the same problem. And what is that problem? Our own sin and weakness of faith.

    Many Lutheran congregations in the 70's and 80's left behind their catholic and confessional heritage, thinking that the “more engaging” music and worship forms of the sectarians would better serve the interests of faith, by removing the “stumbling block” of forms that “fail to enthuse” (as you seem to put it). A disturbing percentage of these congregations (by my estimation) eventually left behind the Lutheran Confession entirely, failing to cure their sin and faith problems with the sectarian worship forms they imported from the heterodox, but having been taught by these forms, and the passions they engender, to trust their own acts of worship as Means through which with Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith. This is lex orandi, lex credendi in action. Under the guidance of then popular Lutheran leaders, like Rev. Larry Christiansen (a household name as I was growing up), the teaching of the Means of Grace was mutilated, most notably forcing a distinction between water Baptism and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, in order to justify Worship as a Means of Grace, or specifically, a Means through which the Holy Spirit works to strengthen faith. I know the process...

    Lutheran Worshipers
    Congregate before the Means of Grace
    Image of Lutheran Worship, congregating about the Means of Grace – St. Matthew’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Wauwatosa, WI
    Image of Lutheran Worship, congregating about the Means of Grace – Grace Ev. Lutheran Church, Oakville, ON
    (top) St. Matthew Ev. Lutheran Church (ELCA), Wauwatosa, WI
    (bottom) Grace Ev. Lutheran Church (ELCC), Oakville, ON
    So, what is the solution to sin? You know it – faith in Christ, and His completed work on behalf of all sinners. What is the solution to weakness of faith? You know that, too – the Holy Spirit, and his work through the true Means of Grace. Sectarian worship forms that take the focus off of Christ and shift it to the man in the pew, that exchange our catholic and christocentric forms for unavoidably anthropocentric forms, are nothing other than forms of robbery in which the Thief delights. Christ is diminished and one of man’s three great opponents rushes into the void – the lusts of his own flesh. Sectarian worship forms that themselves beguile the worshiper over time into a pursuit of pleasure, that by repeated experience displaces the true Means and supplants them with a counterfeit, are themselves forms of deceit spawned by the Father of Lies calculated to defraud us of our faith. Indeed, the Devil prowls about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. We must be vigilant. Contemporary Worship is no friend of the Church. Although it may seem to for a time (and this is the danger of applying visible measures, like statistical trends, as measures of faith), it does not strengthen faith. Instead, it excites human passions in ways that mimic the fruits of faith, while in fact starving faith until nothing is left but striving works.

    So, assuming that proper Gospel motivation is behind a desire to pursue excellence in worship, rather than remain content with mediocrity, are there practical things that a congregation can do to “do the liturgy and traditional hymnody richly” rather than “poorly?” I think that there are.

    Whenever instrumentation in the Divine Service draws attention to itself, it distracts the worshiper from his confession and from focus on Christ. Worship accompaniment is nothing other than a companion to the worship of Christians in the assembly. It melts in with the voices of the congregation, and serves only to assist in guiding the melody – much like the individual two pews over who sings a little louder than everyone else. Worship accompanists are nothing other than co-worshipers. That is what makes the organ so perfect as a worship instrument. Despite its kingly size and wide range, it is almost invisible to the worshiper – it fills the chamber so completely that it has no location, and coexists in unity with the single voice of the congregation. Rock 'n Roll “praise bands,” with their stage antics and entertainment presence, by their nature draw attention to themselves. Likewise do self-absorbed vocalists (men or women designated as so-called “Worship Ministers”), who launch into their own impromptu monologues and prayers in Representational capacity during the worship they are designated to “lead” (and, yes, I know for a fact that this happens in WELS congregations – I’ve seen it on St. Mark Depere’s website, and my own Pastor has indicated to me how upset he has been with a local WELS congregation which has embraced Contemporary Worship, where he has witnessed one of the female “worship ministers” preach her own exhortational mini-sermon, in front of the congregation, during the course of worship!). As distracting as this is, a poorly maintained organ, wheezing, anemic, and out of tune, is offensive to the ears. A poorly trained organist is worse. They draw attention to themselves and away from focus on Christ for negative reasons, and create aversion for the Divine Service itself. Organs, as a simple matter of stewardship, need to be maintained, and ought to be replaced when their service life is ended. Organists ought to be encouraged to continue their training, and I would think that continuing lessons ought to gladly be sponsored by the congregation.

    Pastor’s Role as Liturgist
    Pastors, one would think, would be so full of faith that, in their role as liturgists, they couldn’t fail to make obvious the significance of their Representation, and of the congregation’s corporate confession, through appropriate presence and tonal inflection. Sadly, I’ve heard far too many drones to make this assumption, [and worse, I’ve heard far to many clumsy lovers romance their congregations from the pulpit, “mouthing their verse and moaning their tragedy” – DL]. Pastors ought to make it a practice to examine how they express themselves in public, and make conscious effort to complement their words with congruent inflection, and to speak with the authority one would expect of a man who stands by the command and in the stead of Jesus Christ.

    Catechesis of the Worshiper
    Church Architecture
    Among the chiefest of Liturgical Devices
    City-scape of 19th Century Strasbourg, France
    Velēna Ev.Lutheran Church, Latvia, picture by Gatis Pāvils
    (top) A 19th Century color plate showing the “city scape” of Strasbourg, France. On the left is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg, on the right, is Église Saint-Thomas (at that time referred to as “the Lutheran Cathedral,” as by then the Cathédrale, which lies to the northeast of Église Saint-Thomas, had returned to the control of the Roman Catholics.) Prior to the 20th Century, Christian church buildings were the most prominent man-made feature of European and American city-scapes and country-sides. Much more than four walls and a roof, these liturgical devices are full of meaning in their appearance, preaching Law and Gospel by their mere presence just as much as the liturgy itself – and broadcasting that message to everyone within view of them.

    (bottom) Considered one the of the most beautiful churches in Latvia, Velēna Ev.Lutheran Church is, at 115 years of age, a very young neo-gothic structure. It is pictured above in a photo by Gatis Pāvils linked from his website,
    Again, assuming that worshipers are genuinely looking to their faith, and, motivated by the Gospel, genuinely aspire to excellence as they offer praise, thanks, and adoration before God, are there practical measures that a congregation can take to assist them to this end as they seek to do so within the context of the Western Rite and traditional hymnody and instrumentation? Yes, I think so. And I think the answer is catechesis.

    I mentioned in a previous entry, above, that worshipers ought to be taught to think the words they recite and sing, to take ownership of those words as their own thoughts, and give them their due expression. They need to come to understand the gravity of the words they use, and the reason they are recited together with others.

    Worshipers also need to be taught the meaning of what they are doing, and what the pastor is doing, as they are carried together by the liturgy through the Divine Service. Which parts of the service are Sacramental? Which parts are Sacrificial? When do the Sacramental and Sacrificial parts of the service take place, and where do they take place? When and how is the Pastor acting Representationally, and who is he representing at various points in the service? When is the Pastor to be absent from the Chancel and why?

    Worshipers need to be taught the meaning of what they see. The appointments in the Nave and Chancel are liturgical devices, which communicate in the symbolical language of ecclesiastical art. For those blessed with stained glass, these works of art often speak for themselves. But what of altars, triptychs, lecterns and pulpits, fonts, vestments in their variety, paraments, crosses and crucifixes, candelabras, and various vessels of the Eucharist? What do they mean and why are they placed where they are? Why is the pulpit and lectern positioned off to the side? Baptist and Evangelical churches have a single “lectern/pulpit” mounted in the center. Baptist churches generally don’t have an altar. Why the difference? The language of these symbols needs to be taught if they are to be used beneficially.

    Of course, the most prominent of liturgical devices is the architecture of the church building itself! The neo-gothic architecture is the product of centuries of experimentation, to perfect the functioning of the building with respect the Western Rite. Why is there a bell tower? Why is there a cross mounted on top? Baptist churches don’t have crosses, they have spires. Why the difference? Why is the Nave and the Chancel separated? Why are the Sacristies located where they are? Why is the organ and choir located in the rear? Baptist and Reformed churches have the organ and choir mounted in the front? Why the difference? (Related to these questions, unfortunately, is the painful topic of the utter tragedy of contemporary church architecture...).

    The answer to all of these questions is, doctrine – which emphasizes the importance of teaching pure doctrine through our practice (lex orandi, lex credendi). [Indeed, Professor John Schaller himself notoriously emphasized the need to emphasize doctrine in relation to what Lutherans uniquely DO, especially compared to what sectarians DO! – DL]. One of the best books I have ever read on these topics is an old book, by Dr. P.E. Kretzmann, Christian Art, In the Place and in the Form of Lutheran Worship. In addition to these questions, it also covers the history of the liturgy, hymnology, heartology, and the content of Lutheran liturgy. Published in 1921, it is also available used, and via "print on demand" from CPH...
The final point of the second commenter, above, the point titled Catechesis of the Worshiper is vitally important in my opinion, and probably one of the most conspicuously neglected aspects of Lutheran liturgical life. And it was this point which was very ably addressed by Rev. Michael Berg (WELS), at our 2012 Conference of Intrepid Lutherans, Church and Continuity. He not only lectured on the Western Rite itself, and the relevance of historical practice with respect to it, he also walked through the catechetical materials he wrote and uses in his congregation – some of the finest materials I think I’ve encountered. It is with his presentation that I leave the reader, and urge our pastors to consider. I’m sure that Rev. Berg could be contacted, and would be willing to share his materials.

Conference of Intrepid Lutherans: Church and Continuity ~ June 1-2, 2012
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ~ Oshkosh, WI
The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 1
The Beauty of the Western Rite, Part 2

by Rev. Michael Berg (WELS)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Church Growth Movement: A brief synopsis of its history and influences in American Christianity

This post was originally published on Intrepid Lutherans in May of 2012, under the title, Vatican II, the Church Growth Movement, contemporary “Sectarian Worship”, and Indiscriminate Ecumenism: A Brief History and Synopsis of their Relationship

Sectarian Worship (also known as “Contemporary” or “Charismatic” Worship) is not just a benign preference that some choose to engage in for strictly personal or otherwise irrelevant and inconsequential reasons, but is always adopted with a purpose in mind. Often, that purpose is to use man's choice of practice as a necessary means of drawing or keeping people within the family of Christ, apart from which, people will unnecessarily spend eternity in Hell and the Church on Earth will shrink and die. This necessity, whether confessed or not, is demonstrated in the rejection of other forms historically associated with confessional Lutheranism, forms which are viewed as old, irrelevant, and thus incapable of drawing a crowd (which is supposedly necessary for worship practice to accomplish, since true Christian worshipers won't come on their own), of keeping its interest for one hour a week (which is also supposedly necessary, since true Christians don't normally have an internal motivation to remain interested in Law & Gospel preaching and the Sacrament for one hour a week), according to the shifting fads and priorities of contemporary pop-culture (which is also supposedly necessary, since true Christians are unable to recognize and appreciate the uniquely cross-cultural and consistent historical practices of the Church Catholic). Thus, also involved in the purpose behind adopting Sectarian Worship, is, as the title of this worship practice implies, to volitionally express a separation and “apart-ness” from the catholicity of the Lutheran Confession, and consequently, whether confessed or not, a togetherness with all those who likewise reject the notion of catholicity, regardless of their confession.

These supposedly evangelical motivations view the Divine Service, not exclusively as the privilege of the passive Believer to be served by His Lord and Saviour in Word and Sacrament, but, eschewing this notion, views the worship assembly as primarily an assembly of unBelievers; they do not view the function of the “Worship Service” solely as a process for focusing the Believer on the centrality of Christ and the Means through which He serves His own (as does the Divine Service), but primarily as a stage upon which is mounted the active foci of the worshiper – musicians and orators – as those foci engage in the age-old task of mass-manipulation and crass salesmanship. And because of the inherent ecumenical nature of these “evangelical motivations,” there is, among those Lutherans who adopt Sectarian Worship forms, a palpable fear of distinguishing Believer from unBeliever in the worship assembly, and worse, of distinguishing orthodox Believers from heterodox – a fear which results in two equally egregious abuses: an invitation to everyone to partake of Christ's Body and Blood (upon the functionally meaningless condition of “private self-examination,” of course), or the elimination of the embarrassing Sacrament from the Service altogether.

Modern Sectarian Worship is a contemporary peculiarity of the Church Growth Movement (CGM), which sprung mostly from Arminian and Baptistic influences in mid-20th Century America oblivious to the the Lutheran and Scriptural teachings of the Church, of Predestination, and of the Means of Grace, and is today being referred to by confessional Lutherans as Functional Arminianism. In fact, the topic of Functional Arminianism (in the context of Predestination, no less) came up relatively recently on Intrepid Lutherans, in a comment to the post Circuit Pastor Visitation. In that comment, I directed readers to a recent and important paper on the topic of Functional Arminianism, statingAs a choice, the Sectarian Worship of the Church Growth Movement, in distinctly Arminian evangelical fervor,
  • vaunts man and his efforts with respect to the Church;
  • augments by man's efforts, or entirely eliminates, the Holy Spirit from His own work, and
  • thus inherently and unavoidably discards the Means of Grace as insufficient and ultimately superfluous;
  • removes Christ and His service to man from the center of the Divine Service, and instead places man, his interests and his entertainment needs at the center, calling it "his service to God" in the Worship Service;
  • and blasphemes God by crediting the results of man’s work, outside of and apart from the direct use of the Means of Grace (i.e., bald numeric growth in the visible church), to the Holy Spirit, with statements like, “Such an increase in numbers! Surely, this is the work of the Holy Spirit, alone! Praise God, that He equipped us with the right organizational tools to save all these people!”
It is no accident that the Charismatic Renewal in greater American Protestantism coincided with the rise of Church Growth theories emanating from Fuller Seminary, and it is no accident that the introduction of Church Growth theories emerged from Fuller at the same time this institution was the center of doctrinal controversy – indeed, the epicenter of a veritable crisis in American Christianity.

Fuller Seminary and the Church Growth Movement
Established in 1947 as the flagship theological institution of the burgeoning Evangelical Movement – an ecumenical movement begun in reaction against the separatism of Fundamentalists (viewed as a barrier to spreading the Gospel and to engaging in constructive dialog with errorists) – Fuller Theological Seminary initially stood as a theologically conservative Evangelical bulwark, and progenitor of “the new paradigm” of evangelical methodology. Among pop-church Evangelicals, it is still a widely respected institution. Within a decade of its founding, however, cracks in the foundation of this bulwark began to reveal themselves, and by 1972 they had become chasms, as Fuller went on record officially questioning the veracity of the Scriptures by striking the phrase “ from all error in the whole and in the part...” from their statement concerning the inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures. The environment created at Fuller by raging internal struggles over the inerrancy of the Scriptures, coupled with ecumenical predilections under the waving banner of the “new evangelicalism,” provided both the soil and the atmosphere in which the ideas of the Church Growth Movement (CGM) could germinate and flourish.

In 1965, “the father of the church growth movement,” Donald McGavran, became Dean of the Fuller School of World Mission (now the School of Intercultural Studies), moving that department to Fuller from the school at which he had founded it in 1961. Thirty-four years' experience as a missionary in India led him in 1954 to begin developing his own entirely pragmatic notions of “cultural contextualization” for the purpose of “Christianizing whole peoples,” etc. One can immediately see the preoccupation with mass appeal and the inordinate fixation on popular culture that these notions engender, and the displacement of concern over individual souls, along with any sense of catholicity, that result from them – indeed, McGavran, in his Bridges of God repudiated the notion of carrying the Gospel to individuals as counterproductive to true evangelical “Church Growth,” inevitably leading to the acceptance of particularly revolting and unscriptural Church Growth principles, such as “scaffolding”1. C. Peter Wagner was a disciple of McGavran’s at Fuller, and was later passed the mantle of CGM prophet.

But these were not the only influences at work at Fuller.

Ecumenism and the “Pentecostal Experience”
A primary purpose of the Evangelical Movement, as a reaction against Fundamentalism, was ecumenism, and this Evangelical purpose was seriously supported and engaged at Fuller. Enter “Mr. Pentecost,” David J. du Plessis, who had been active through the 1950’s as an ardent proponent of ecumenism on behalf of the Pentecostals, convinced that the Pentecostal “experience” could serve as an effective ecumenical bridge to non-Pentecostals (namely, the historic mainline denominations) and help bring unity to Christianity worldwide.

That “experience” had its modern genesis partly in the Brethren movements of Europe2 in the early/mid-1800's (the left-overs of Scandinavian and German Pietism), but especially in the practices of the Scottish Irvingites with whom John Nelson Darby (Plymouth Brethren) spent much time during their outbreaks of agalliasis (“manifestations of the Holy Spirit,” which, among the Irvingites at that time and place, included practices such as automatic writing, levitation, and communication with the dead3) and whose practice and theology (including the foundations of Dispensationalism) influenced him greatly. Passing from Darby to James H. Brooks and Cyrus I. Scofield in America, his teaching has continued to see development over the years and is still disseminated by Dallas Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute, Bob Jones University and others.

These experiential practices began finding their way to America at about the same time that a charlatan known as Charles Finney exploited the use of these “New Methods,” as they were called, during America's “Second Great Awakening,” fueling the fever of “revivalism” and captivating Christians with the allure of the “Anxious Bench” as a means of saving souls4. Widespread use of such practices strengthened the Brethren movements and touched off the Holiness Movements within Methodism (which later developed into [and at Azusa Street, Los Angeles in 1906, was confirmed as] full-blown Pentecostalism). By the mid- to late-1800's, such radical practices defined “American Worship” – and it was precisely these forms that Walther notoriously condemned. Even the Old Norwegian Synod, in the 1916 edition of its Lutheran Hymnary, Junior stated its warning against Sectarian “American Worship” forms:
    The songs of childhood should be essentially of the same character as the songs of maturity. The child should therefore learn the easiest and best of the songs he is to sing as a communicant member of the Christian Congregation. Old age delights in the songs learned in childhood. The religious songs learned in children should therefore be worth while. We want childlike songs, but not childish songs. The early songs should be the choicest congregation songs adaptable to his age and capacities. In the same manner as he is taught the rudiments of Christian theology through Luther's “Smaller Catechism” and the chief Bible stories through the “Bible History,” he should also be taught the words and tunes of our most priceless church songs and chorals. It can be done just as easily as teaching him a number of equally difficult and perhaps new songs and tunes which will never be sung in his congregation. It should be done, for a child should be trained up the way he should go (Pr. 22:6)

    ...The songs of Lutheran children and youth should be essentially from Lutheran sources. The Lutheran Church is especially rich in songs and hymns of sound doctrine, high poetical value and fitting musical setting. They express the teachings and spirit of the Lutheran Church and help one to feel at home in this Church. Of course, there are songs of high merit and sound Biblical doctrine written by Christians in other denominations also, and some of these could and should find a place in a Lutheran song treasury. But the bulk of the songs in a Lutheran song book should be drawn from Lutheran sources. We should teach our children to remain in the Lutheran Church instead of to sing themselves into some Reformed sect.
By engaging in such forms, the Old Norwegian Synod insisted, Lutherans will wind up singing their way out of their own Confession. A sound application of lex orandi, lex credendi.

With widespread criticism against these experiential “American Worship” forms, and, let’s face it, their rather shallow substance, infantile antics, and transparently manipulative purposes, such practices fell out of fashion by the early 1900's (as “contemporary” forms have a habit of doing anyway). Nevertheless, Pentecostals continued to cling to them, and continued to develop them alongside their theology. Accordingly, such worship forms have come to mean much of the following:
  • the actions of the worshiper are themselves Means of Grace, or means through which the Holy Spirit supposedly comes to, and works in, the worshiper;
  • the Holy Spirit's work in and through the worshiper’s actions is generally regarded as a function of the zeal with which the worshiper engages in them;
  • the purpose of these acts is human centered, “to draw near to God in the act of worship,” that He would reciprocate by drawing near to the worshiper and experientially confirm for the worshiper that the Holy Spirit is with him, and that he is therefore accepted and loved by God;
  • these acts of “drawing near to God” are really acts of man's yearning, tarrying, and striving, of wrestling with God through worship and prayer with the expectation that He give the blessing of spiritual experience in return;
  • the assurance of one's salvation is measured by the magnitude of the blessing which proceeds from successfully wrestling with God – in the experience of God Himself through worship;
  • such experience of the Holy Spirit's presence in worship or prayer, or “the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,” is public confirmation of an individual's “spiritual anointing,” of his salvation and approval before God, and serves as divine qualification and appointment for ministerial authority in the congregation (creating levels of Christians in the congregation based on relative “spirituality”);
  • apart from such visible experiences, the individual is naturally prompted to introspection regarding why God does not bless him with His presence (with the usual explanations being sin or doubt, or not really being saved, or even demonic possession), and is looked upon with suspicion by fellow worshipers as one who is not visibly accepted and blessed by God – both factors leading individual worshipers who lack spiritual experiences to guilt and dismay;
  • as a result, many of those who have habituated themselves to the “Pentecostal Experience,” also have a keenly developed ability to whip themselves into a frothy lather (to avoid introspection and the suspicion of others, and to vaunt their spirituality in the eyes of others); if they cannot, or do not, or are unable to reach a pinnacle of spiritual euphoria according to their own expectations, or those of their peers, they just blame it on the band for “not doing it right;”
  • worship accompaniment must therefore serve the need of the worshipers to have particular spiritual experiences, by manufacturing those experiences for them;
  • and these experiences are referred to as “the working of the Holy Spirit,” even though they are little more than the cooperative effort of human worshipers seeking hard after emotional/psychological “spiritual experiences,” and of human entertainers, mounted on stages in classic entertainment-oriented venues, who are skilled at providing those experiences for their audiences;
  • thus, the “Pentecostal Experience,” and all of its derivatives (including contemporary “Sectarian Worship”), are the epitome of anthropocentric worship practice, which, as stated above, remove Christ and His service to man from the center of the Divine Service, and instead place man, his interests and his entertainment needs at the center... and blaspheme God by crediting the results of man’s work, outside of and apart from the direct use of the Means of Grace, to the Holy Spirit..
The “Pentecostal Experience,” Vatican II and the Charismatic Renewal
Pentecostalism dwindled over the early decades of the 20th Century to near insignificance. It was in the throes of this insignificance that David J. du Plessis, the ardently ecumenical Pentecostal, secured a position as Pentecostal Representative to the Second Vatican Council. Following Vatican II came implicit encouragement to Roman Catholics to reach out to Protestants through investigation and even experimentation with worship forms that appeal to them, which eventually led in the 1960’s to the opening of the “Catholic Charismatic Renewal.” The Charismatic Renewal had already begun in some quarters of liberal protestantism, but following the start of the “Catholic Charismatic Renewal” it began to rapidly spread among Episcopalians and liberal Lutherans, until finally, beginning in the late 1970’s it spread to Reformed Evangelicalism where it was swiftly incorporated by the Church Growth Movement as a necessary component of the congregation’s corporate experience – specifically, necessary to the salvation of souls, since appealing to unregenerate culture on its own terms, and to individuals directly through means of physical and emotional manipulation (rather than the public use of the Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament), was considered necessary to attract the un-churched from pop-culture, secure their conversion, and increase the membership of the congregation. Hence the connection of “worship style” to so-called “evangelism” – similar to Papistic ritualism which was also considered necessary for salvation, and was the cause of its repudiation by the Reformers.

Fuller Seminary, the Charismatic Renewal and the Church Growth Movement
The incorporation of “Charismatic Worship” as a necessary component of the Church’s practice was immeasurably influenced by the ecumenical and evangelical work of Fuller Seminary. By the mid-1970's du Plessis had an ongoing partnership with Fuller Seminary, as a consultant on ecumenical issues, and by the mid-1980’s, Fuller Seminary had erected the multi-million dollar David J. du Plessis Center for the Study of Christian Spirituality in his honor. It was also about this time, in 1974, that the Quaker, John Wimber, was hired as the founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. Wimber left that position in 1978, starting what would become the very influential Vinyard Movement. By the mid-1980's C. Peter Wagner was not only the chief exponent of CGM, he was, along with John Wimber, also one of the chief prophets of the Signs and Wonders Movement, inextricably linking CGM with Pentecostalism and Charismaticism.

The notions under which “Sectarian” or “Charismatic Worship” was introduced to the Lutheran Church in the era of the Charismatic Renewal were entirely foreign to her practice. Striving to achieve ecumenical unity through shared experience across denominations, it was also foreign to her Confessions. Clawing for approval by Arminian standards of evangelical necessity, it betrayed her entire body of doctrine. The fact is, the Church Growth Movement and Sectarian/Charismatic Worship, insomuch as they evangelically strive to achieve by man’s own alternative means what the Scriptures say is exclusively the Holy Spirit's work through the Means of Grace, by definition begin with a low view of the Scriptures and the Sacraments, and with a dismissive attitude toward the Holy Spirit’s work through those Means. Insofar as CGM “evangelically” regards such manufactured worship experiences as necessary for the salvation of souls, CGM practices directly serve the synergistic doctrines of Arminianism. The ancient liturgical principle of lex orandi, lex credendi must be respected with regard to these points. Moreover, Church Growth methods along with Sectarian/Charismatic Worship were designed to function cross-denominationally as ecumenical bridges, and whether engaged in with these purposes in mind or not, they are nevertheless understood among those who regularly practice them as ecumenical expressions, and thus, when engaged in by confessional Lutherans, make a mockery of our Confessional unity and voluntary separation from the heterodox.

False practice leads to false thinking, and eventually false belief
It has been said that there are no non-smokers like former smokers. The same can be said of former Evangelicals, particularly those of us who lived through the height of the Charismatic Renewal and nevertheless emerged with an intelligible, articulable Confession – in other words, who miraculously emerged rejecting vapid Evangelicalism, mindless Charismaticism and the Arminian Church Growth theories that have facilitated their proliferation, who have emerged with a clear view wrought from long experience with how false practice induces false thinking and eventually false believing, having watched friends and family lose their faith as a result, and having only been saved ourselves “as though escaping through flames.” Experience. Decades of first-hand experience with false practice and the false belief that follows from it. I’m not about to live through it again, nor am I going to subject my children to it.


  1. According to the purely utilitarian CGM theory of “scaffolding,” the backs and money of established and active members of a congregation exist solely for the use of that organization's “leadership,” on which they are not only free, but ordained by God, to build something new and foreign according to the “vision” God directly reveals to them, regardless of anyone's objections. When those who object, or realize they've simply been used, leave the congregation as a result, their departure is happily accepted by “leadership,” who appeal to a twisted version of God's sovereignty to excuse their gross actions against those entrusted to their spiritual care, by concluding that God, having led such departing members away from the congregation, has merely indicated to them that their work on the “scaffold” of such former members has been exhausted, and that thus the old scaffolding ought to be dismantled, while the focus of their leadership ought to be more fully directed on the new scaffolding that had been erected as work was being accomplished on the old. Hence, the need for interminably new “fads” in the pop-church – these are nothing other than new “scaffolding” to erect on the backs of new or continuingly gullible members, as the usefulness of the old “scaffolding” wanes along with the enthusiasm of increasingly disenfranchised members who realize they've just been used.

    In this CGM theory we see prima facia evidence that at its foundation, CGM does not consider that the visible Church exists to minister to Believers, but solely to use Believers in its task to convert entire people-groups. It is myopically fixated on incessant change because people and pop-culture incessantly change, which is also why “congregational leadership” is continuously exhorted to create and re-evaluate “Mission” and “Vision” statements, to frequently engage in “Strategic Planning” to verify the relevance of these statements to continuously shifting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats with respect to a single, narrow and immediate objective: bald numeric increase in the organization. Thus, the Church Growth Movement calls upon the congregation to continuously re-invent itself and to this end leverages contemporary leadership theories which exult and glorify the role of a congregation's “leadership class.”

    Because the Believer is not the purpose of the congregation's existence and the focus of its ministry, continuous back door losses are an inevitable reality in CGM congregations. The repulsive CGM theory of “scaffolding” was invented to explain and justify it. Because continuous back door losses are an inevitable reality in CGM congregations, continuous numeric growth, or at least continuously driving new people through the church doors, is vital to the existence of the congregation as an organization. Because evangelism is the Biblical process of achieving numeric growth in the congregation, the “Mission” and “Vision” of the congregation must fixate on evangelism as a process of achieving numeric growth. Rather than the Means of Grace, a congregation's “leadership class” is central to the practice of a CGM congregation, and because leaders must have something to lead, the health of the congregation as a visible organization is the focus of the leaders’ vision and of the organization’s effort. In CGM congregations, the congregation as an organization, and the people in that organization, serve the organization’s leadership, rather than the leadership serving the souls entrusted by God to their care.

  2. Gerstner, J. (2000). Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, 2nd Edition. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications. pp. 17-59.

  3. Please see following works:
  4. For more information on the errors of Charles Finney, see the following article written by Michael Horton almost two decaes ago:

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