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.


Joel Lillo said...

...And nothing even remotely like this is being done ANYWHERE in the WELS, not even in the churches that sites like this lambaste all the time. This is an attempt at guilt by association. You are saying, "This is what contemporary worship is like; isn't it ridiculous? It's too bad that some people are practicing contemporary worship LIKE THIS in our circles."

Yes, you can find ridiculous and embarrassing examples of contemporary worship. You could also find ridiculous and embarrassing examples of liturgical worship. Gentlemen, I give you:

--Joel Lillo

Anonymous said...

"even remotely?" "ANYWHERE?"

Christ the Rock, WELS, Round Rock, TX. "Worship Gatherings":

Example, Easter 2011:

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Joel Lillo said...

Nope, not even remotely.

AP said...

Pastor Lillo,

Does not the Core in Appleton base its philosophy on the statement "to reach people no one else is reaching, we have to do things no one else is doing." If memory serves, some version of this quote could be seen in the lobby of the old theater, though I don't think it was attributed.

Well, if "nothing even remotely" like these things are happening in the WELS, how do you explain the fact that the Core has borrowed this phrase, philosophy, and approach from the ministry of enthusiast Craig Groeschel:

Enthusiasm underlies all of these Evangelical ministries and has since the first Great Awakening. This philosophy of Groeschel's is nothing more than the ends justify the means. I'm sorry, but the only means are the Means of Grace. God has given these to us. I continue to be amazed that human beings seem to think they can somehow improve upon them.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Anonymous said...

Pastor Lillo,

After viewing the link you provided, I would respectfully suggest that you provided more evidence in support of Mr. Lindee's post than against it.

And no, I don't think most of us are searching for ridiculous and embarassing examples of what is going on in contemporary services in the WELS or anywhere else. I think those examples are being deposited at the front door steps and even in the sanctuaries of our churches, uninvited. And sadly, they are being put there as examples we should embrace rather than shun.

Consider this. When a pastor is asked why he doesn't wear a gown during the worship service, his response is one that brags about the fact that he doesn't own a gown and never will. Whose will is being honored in such a statement, his or God's? What consideration is being given to the practice of wearing a gown that has been carried out by many faithful pastors in reverance and respect to God? When I see and hear a pastor boast about his innovations in the worship service, I see man's arrogance rather than humble service to God.


Nicholas Leone said...

The problem with the churches chronicled at Bad Vestments is that they are liberal mainliners, and they are trying to be "contemporary" and "relevant." The liturgical dance video above is from Bad Vestments. Liberals have no respect for the liturgy.

Nicholas Leone said...

Things like the above will start happening in LCMS and WELS if the synods don't start excommunicating the church-growthers and seeker-drivenists. The synods need to require all churches to follow the liturgy and lectionary only, on pain of disfellowship.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"even remotely?" "ANYWHERE?"

Christ the Rock, WELS, Round Rock, TX. "Worship Gatherings":

Example, Easter 2011:

+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Are you sure their WELS or even Lutheran?

I didn't spend all day looking but nothing jumped out at me to suggest either one of those connections.

Lee Liermann

Anonymous said...

Lee, yes, Christ the Rock is WELS.

....and this is WELS:

...and this is WELS:

...and this is WELS:

...and this is WELS:


+ Pr. Jim Schulz

Anonymous said...

Funny though when you look up Christ the Rock using the Locate a Congregation function on the WELS website, there it shows up as Christ the Rock Lutheran Church. Must have the message finely tuned for the audience you wish to reach.

St Marks on your list is in Green Bay? I looked at their website recently. It was interesting though not necessarily in a good way.

Lee Liermann

Joe Krohn said...

Christ the Rock is still a tender spot for me, like a bruise. It was an epiphany to me and our family as well as the rest of the band that CTR was not a faithful church; that this emergent church stuff was evil. We all ended up leaving. It later came out that Pr. Doebler was trying to break up the band and impose what he thought would promote the ministry. I was told on more than one occasion that we weren't connecting with the congregation during the weekly 'gathering' with the music. And when we were losing our last guitar player, Doebler emphatically told me he needed guitar players in order to make the ministry work. Never mind about the Holy Spirit. What was so disheartening, was when we ended up at Holy Word; after going to the circuit pastor and 1st VP, nothing was ever done. Well, now that VP is DP and CTR is allowed to continue. This is no surprise now as Holy Word has dropped "Lutheran" from their school name. Seems it was perceived that the name was a hindrance. So when pastors come along like Pr. Lillo and say nothing of the sort is going on, I have to say please get informed before make such a claim.

Anonymous said...

I hate to pile on Pastor Lillo, but I must tell a story that illustrates what so many others have been saying.

Just two weeks ago I had a conversation with a WELS acquaintance from the Fond du lac area. His life story is an interesting one. Born and raised WELS, he left the Lutheran church after high school. Eventually he reemerged in a small group Bible study led by an Evangelical college group. He described how he felt (operative word) that for the first time he really did have faith.

Eventually he attended a Bible College and became a pastor in the Evangelical church. After nearly twenty years in the Evangelical ministry, though, he began to realize how shallow his faith was. The most important part of preparing for worship was how he might use music and his message to move the listeners emotionally.

It was at that point that he began to reinvestigate his childhood faith. He started to read from the Lutheran Confessions and Luther's Catechisms. Eventually he made his way back to the Lutheran Church and the WELS.

So, I asked him point blank, "Is there Church Growth methods used in the WELS?" With a grin on his face, he said, "I hate to admit it, but yes, I'm amazed at how much Church Growth is used and encouraged." He even pointed to a story from his last year in the Evangelical ministry at a church in what is our Northern Wisconsin District. He had a conversation with a WELS pastor who was one of the earliest to espouse church growth methods. In that conversation he told the WELS pastor, "Well, it looks like I'm crossing paths with you just as you're headed one way and I'm headed the other."

Now this very faithful layperson assists his pastor in discouraging fellow members when they say things such as "we need to have a contemporary service like so and so." He says to them, "No we don't. I've been down that road before, and I don't plan on heading down it again."

Yes, Pastor Lillo, Church Growth is alive and well in the WELS. If only you would allow yourself to see it.

Pastor Paul Lidtke

Joel Lillo said...

I did not say that there was no contemporary worship in the WELS. What I said was that there was nothing in the WELS that was as silly, clueless and offensive as the examples of ridiculous contemporary worship given above. I stand by my statement.

--Joel Lillo

Chris T. Amiss said...

To Lillo -

None "as" silly; "as" clueless; "as" offensive; ok, I'll agree.

Just plain silly, clueless, and offensive -


Nicholas Leone said...

Here some equally offensive examples of church-growth seeker-driven insanity from WELS churches and ministers:

And lets not forget about Mark Jeske's "Change or Die" Conference that was attended by gay-affirming ELCA ministers:

WELS church lady said...

Christ The Rock IS WELS and in MY district! Yes, I have conversed with Brother Matt Doebler in person, yet it was a controlled environment. Brother Matt was copying sermons....Joe krohn went public with that info. Pastor Doebler continued, but instead of copying "per say" he sort of reworked the sermon series which WERE not what one would call Lutheran.

In Christ,

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Having come full circle in the realm of worship I too will attest that every WELS church who thinks they can make contemporary worship work and not succumb to the dangers of CG are totally naive at best and just plain stupid at worst.

I was one of the founding group of 12 people that started Victory of the Lamb as linked above by Pr. Schultz as one of the Big 5 of WELs contemporary only mission starts. As we began there was lots of looking to St. Marcus and Crosswalk and St. Paul's Muskego for help and ideas in innovation.

I myself was all over the blogs spewing the most foolish of statements that I now see other people spew. I maintained at the time that CG was not inherent in contemporary worship unless a church was inclined to error in the first place. I believed that a WELS church could resist the beginnings, monitor themselves, employ self-discipline. Alas I think it is impossible. Doug L.was so right in so many ways. Everyone here should give him the credit he deserves for being the scholar that we could only wish the WELS was full of.

What's worse is how the initial success of these churches is then passed around as the new thing to grow the church. No matter the fact that although Victory has grown from 12 to 200 in 6 years..that it already has decent backdoor losses.

Add on that the Worship director at Christ the Rock started at Victory and then got a call to CTR. (his bilge of music was even too much for Victory.) Here is a nice Christmas tune for you. At least the WELS doesn't have any rediculous CG stuff.

It doesn't work folks. It's a road to the shallow end of the theological pool. I wouldn't be one like the fellow above that said "The synods need to require all churches to follow the liturgy and lectionary only, on pain of disfellowship." however I know I can say that those in the WELS who want to follow the CG path are plain fools.

Tim Niedfeldt

PS: Vernon...I must say that in most cases I swear we are the same person when you comment. Thanks. It saves me a lot of typing

AP said...

We are not just talking about adopting some of the practices and formats from emergent churches. As I pointed out earlier, some have adopted the words of Craig Groeschel as their stated philosophy and model for preaching. If you watch Groeschel and watch what happens at the core, the similarity is striking. Can anyone seriously argue that adopting that line of thinking will have no impact on doctrine? If so, I would say such a person is completely delusional and might want to consider this old saying:

Watch your thoughts, for they become words;
Watch your words; for they become actions;
Watch your actions, for they become habits;
Watch your habits, for they become your character;
And watch your character; for it becomes your destiny.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Christian Schulz said...


I wonder how many of those 200 came off the street as opposed to coming from other WELS churches. Studies have shown that CG type churches only really sheep steal, if you will, rather than actually reaching the lost.

AP said...


This is my question with the Core in Appleton. In a city with so many Christian churches, who are these lost souls that the Core is trying to save? There are a handful of huge, enthusiast mega-churches already in Appleton. As we've seen here on IL, there is a very large WELS congregation and school just blocks from the Core's new bar-church and more within just a couple of miles (Riverview, St. Matthew, Mt. Olive). I know for a fact that St. Matthew has lost a number of members (and a few very long-time members) to the Core, and that congregation can ill afford to lose anyone right now. I think, given that the synod (i.e. we WELS members) has helped to fund the Core, we need to demand to know the results. These Church Growth types are obsessed with numbers anyway, so there should be no problem here, right? So, how many non-Christians has the Core baptized or confirmed? How many transfers have they received from other WELS congregations? How many non-Lutheran Christians have come in from other area churches? If the Church Growth proponents really believe in numbers-based results, then they need to make their results public. If not, members of WELS need to demand accountability. Make them play by the rules of their own game.

Dr. Aaron Palmer

Tim Niedfeldt said...

Christian, the numbers are currently about 60/40 WELS to new Christians. As with everything those numbers are changing. We we started out it was maybe 35/65. There is a unique membership covenant that is gone through with each new prospective transfer or BIC confirmand that specifically lays out how the church is about reaching the lost in the community and submitting to the mission of the church over one's personal view of the church. Essentially it is meant to weed out WELS members so they don't think that this is a church for them. Yet the WELS members are coming. Granted a chunk seem to be non-churchgoing WELS who now see a church that is interesting to them.

The point remains is the noticeable increase in focus on programs, "getting people connected", volunteerism, small groups, etc. The slide is occurring slowly. More sermon series with an increasing sanctified message. A nice set of sanctified songs to go with it. The focus on vision such as "500 in 5 years" What will the church grow into. Will it build? Will it go multi-campus? (interesting timing that this vision corresponds to the renewed vigor in creating programs to keep and get new members)

I watched this church go from a small group of people who brought people to church and Bible study and actually reached out through personal evangelism in vocation to slowly getting sucked into the direction of CG and now needing to meet the numbers through methods. They did pick up one seminary professor and two former WELS pastors though. Not a lot of 200 member congregations have 4 pastors around. So we know CG attracts pastors at least.

I guess for me it doesn't matter anymore. I've moved on and returned to a confessional and traditional congregation. On top of it, the independent nature of this congregation allows me to just focus on the local congregational issues like "Who is playing organ this week?" etc..


Anonymous said...


If it is as you say (and yes, I too have noticed that we have weighed in on the same side of issues in recent months) than I hope our unity is based on a oneness of the teachings of Scripture. Only then is there true unity, as if one person.

Pastor Lillo, I hope you continue to post on these websites. I've learned much from the ensuing discussion as a result of your first post. And being informed is always better than being uninformed. And no, one need not trust the words of any single person. Check the information. Then weigh what you learn against the teachings of Scripture. Only then can one make sound decisions, rather than blindly following what we are told by a few individuals.

A few years ago, a WELS friend told me the WELS was heading down the path of ordaining women. And my response to him was similar to yours, "not even remotely" "anywhere". But I started paying attention. And I started to notice WELS church websites with female staff members with titles of "Minister". Yes, all kinds of excuses can be made, but what is the message being made to the world with a WELS church website with a female staff member with the title "Minister"?

And I noticed ecumenical conferences where WELS pastors were standing up along side female ECLCA pastors. And when I spoke to WELS pastors and synod leaders and even WELS participants in these conferences, I was told all kinds of things; "As long as we don't pray together, it's OK", or "You mustn't judge these men because you don't know what is in their hearts". And yet, I thought to myself, what is the message to the world when WELS pastors stand up along side female pastors of the ELCA?

And now I see an advocacy of a gender neutral Bible in the WELS, something I wouldn't have dreamed would have been even remotely considered in the WELS only two decades ago. Look at how the 2011 NIV has changed the verses relating to the roles of men and women. It is only common sense that a gender neutral Bible would have a significant effect on Scriptural teachings such as these. And again, I think to myself, what is the message to the world, as the WELS publicly promotes the 2011 NIV? In this case, I have a partial answer. Liberal church bodies are thrilled that the WELS has taken the public position they have on the 2011 NIV. But don't trust me. Google it and see for yourself.

Keep challenging, Pastor Lillo. But watch and see if the practices in many places in synod don't change your mind, just as they did mine. History in general and the Bible in particular, show us that sometimes the strongest advocate of a position previously held a position completely the opposite. Which position is right? Go to the Bible to find out. But hopefully, it is a translation that is faithful to the original texts!


Anonymous said...

Despite the “arguments of men,” only God opens eyes and hearts to believe His Word. Immersing ourselves in His teachings and truths is all that will keep us in the true faith. God has graciously invited us to pray for each other, our pastors, and worship leaders. “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” James 5:16

Jami Thomas

Post a Comment

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

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

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