Thursday, April 11, 2013

Do any Lutherans want to be Dresden Lutherans? Meanwhile, the Groeschelites continue their agenda...

Those of you who have been following us on Facebook and Twitter probably could have seen this coming, as you've recently been fed a steady diet of links to some of our older posts reprising topics like Pietism, Sectarian Worship, Lay Ministry, along with a few links featuring the advice of orthodox Lutherans from previous eras regarding genuine Lutheran practice that also does the job of confessing our separation from sectarians.

But they are just a bunch of old dead dudes, and who really cares about ancient history anyway. Yeah, they said stuff. So what. We say stuff, too, and what we say is what matters today.

Meanwhile, an email rather circuitously made its way to our inbox yesterday. It was initially sent to the pastors of an entire circuit in the WELS SEW District, and included a passel of attachments for their review ahead of their meeting of this Friday. They will be discussing the opening of an INTERDISTRICT MULTI-SITE CONGREGATION. The congregation, Hope Lutheran in Oconomowoc, WI (Western Wisconsin District), had been planning a multi-site effort since 2010, and, with the encouragement of their District President, had been communicating their plans with WW DMB throughout this time. In July of 2012, a conversation with Wisconsin Lutheran College (WLC) President Dan Johnson resulted in his offer to use the facilities of WLC as a "cradle to launch the second location of Hope" – in the Southeastern Wisconsin District (SEW).

Click here for the documentation.

Multi-site Congregations? Whence comest thou?
Craig GroeschelIn a previous exposé on the teaching of Craig Groeschel, entitled Pietism and Ministry in the WELS: A brief review of Craig Groeschel, we critiqued the thirteen points of his Vision and Values document. Point one, along with our response to it, reads
    "1. Since Christ is for us and with us, we are a fearless, risk taking, exponential thinking church. We refuse to insult God with timid thinking or selfish living.

    "Interpretation: We like to tempt God.

    "There is nothing laudable in casting Christian Stewardship aside, to openly take 'bet-the-farm' risks with resources God has given to us, which he expects us to wisely invest. 'Betting the Farm' is not wisdom, but foolishness."
Compare this, the FIRST POINT of Groeschel's Vision and Values statement, with THE FIRST POINT listed in the Mission Vision Values statement of Hope Lutheran, from the documentation packet linked above:
    "Since Christ is for us and with us, we are a fearless, risk taking, exponential thinking church. We refuse to insult God with timid thinking or selfish living."
Already we see, Craig Groeschel is their guide – they have adopted his Vision for Ministry and made it their own, quoting from it verbatim. But it doesn't end there. Here are points four and seven from Craig Groeschel's Vision and Values document:
    "4. We give up things we love for things we love even more. It's an honor to sacrifice for Christ and His church.

    "7. We will lead the way with irrational generosity. We truly believe it is more blessed to give than to receive."
You can read our 2010 exposé on Craig Groeschel to see our responses to these points. But compare these points to POINT SIX listed in Hope Lutheran's Mission Vision Values statement, again from the packet linked above:
    "We love to give up things we love for the things that God loves."
We did a post or two on plagiarism, did we not? Yes, I think we did. Here is the series we posted in 2010 on the sin of plagiarism. Craig Groeschel makes an appearance in this series, as well – commenting on those who do not give credit to their sources:Re-read these old posts, and read the rest of our 2010 exposé on Craig Groeschel and his connection to the WELS. What we said then still applies today, and that application is most assuredly expanding.

Recently, Craig Groeschel wrote an editorial for, which was titled, Christians, here's why we're losing our religion. Aptly titled, his objective is, in fact, to lose religion. He writes:
    "You see, religion alone can only take a person so far. Religion can make us nice, but only Christ can make us new. Religion focuses on outward behavior. Relationship is an inward transformation. Religion focuses on what I do, while relationship centers on what Jesus did. Religion is about me. Relationship is about Jesus... religion is about rules, but being a Christian is about relationship."
Compare Groeschel's statement, above, to POINT SEVEN in the document Mission Vision Values, again, in the packet linked above. It reads:
    "We will not let our behavior or church culture create a barrier between Jesus and a person he died for."
The relationship between statements like this and Evangelical leadership emanating from the likes of Craig Groeshel is obvious. Yet, such leadership is Scripturally incompetent – a clear example of allowing an enemy of the Christian AND the Church (i.e., the World) to dictate our terms. In reality, those who separate religion from Christianity, as Groeschel suggests, have no idea what either religion or Christianity is. Sure, Christianity is a relationship between the individual and Jesus, but Scripture's testimony on the matter is clear and abundant: for as much as it is a relationship between the individual and Jesus, it is also a relationship of confessional unity between fellow Christians AND a relationship between the congregation and Christ. Christianity is NOT strictly a matter between the individual and God, in its visible manifestation, it is principally corporate in nature! One cannot separate the idea of "religion" from Christianity! To even suggest it is nonsense.

Craig Groeschel continues in his editorial:
    "But in order to reach the current generation and generations to come, we must change the way we do things. That's why we like to say, 'To reach people no one is reaching, we have to do things no one is doing.'"
He is repeating, here, the sixth point of his Vision and Values statement – which we commented on in our previous exposé. Hope Lutheran echoes this thought in POINT FIVE of their Mission Vision Values statement, contained in the documentation packet linked above:
    "We are committed to reaching people that churches are not reaching."
But is Hope Lutheran, or anyone else who copies Craig Groeschel, really living out this vision statement? Hardly. Following the model of those 'who are doing what no one else is doing', those so doing such only succeed in doing what everyone else is doing. It's called a bandwagon. The fact is, it is on the basis of his multi-site church model that Craig Groeschel's was recently named the most innovative church. Those who copy him aren't at all "doing what no one else is doing to reach those no one else is reaching," but are simply doing what everyone else is doing, as they climb on board the bandwagon to do what has apparently been "successful" for Craig Groeschel. Everyone without a shred of creativity of their own, that is. Professor John Schaller has better advice for Lutherans. Read what Schaller writes, to see what he says about doing what everyone else is doing, instead of what Lutherans, alone, can uniquely do.

Craig Groeschel continues further:
    "[A]s churches, we don't have the liberty to change the message, but we must change the way the message is presented. We have to discover our 'altar ego' — and become who God says we are instead of who others say we are."
Note that by "we", Groeschel is not referring to the Church anymore. By this point in his editorial, he has already separated corporate religion from the individual. The "we" he is referring to is individual Christians, and nothing more. Thus, the change he is calling for is not change in the Church, but change in the individual Christian, beginning with the separation of the individual Christian from the Church, and continuing with a change in his focus, calling the Christian to dwell on his own behaviour. Not only is this rank Sanctification oriented Pietism (which we detailed in our post, Lay Ministry: A Continuing Legacy of Pietism, and highlighted as a problem with Craig Groeschel in our 2010 exposé), it is a "change in the message." It is a manifestly duplicitous perspective on Christianity. All he is saying here is, "We must change the message to eliminate "religion" from Christianity (yes, change), we must change the message to eliminate "labels" from our identity (i.e., to eliminate a Christian's public confession from his Christianity), we must change the message to focus on what Christians do for God or what Christians do for man in the name of God instead of what the Holy Spirit does for man through His appointed Means, and we must change the message in these ways to accommodate the demands of the unregenerate who won't listen to us otherwise (who, the Scriptures tell us, are at war against God and don't want to listen to Him anyway). Moreover, we must change the message the way others say we must change the message, we must change the way they say we must change, and become who they say we must be." Who are these "others" but Craig Groeschel and similar Evangelical leaders! Separating the Christian from his religion and from his confession, they insert themselves to take over for the visible Church.

The Collective Descent of American Lutheranism
In our post, C.P. Krauth explains how orthodox Lutheran Synods descend into heterodoxy, we quoted Charles Porterfield Krauth as he identified the Course of Error in the Church, well-known since the time of St. Augustine and operating as well as it ever had in his own time:
    "When error is admitted into the Church, it will be found that the stages in its progress are always three. It begins by asking toleration. Its friends say to the majority: 'You need not be afraid of us; we are few and weak; let us alone, we shall not disturb the faith of others. The Church has her standards of doctrine; of course we shall never interfere with them; we only ask for ourselves to be spared interference with our private opinions.' Indulged in for this time, error goes on to assert equal rights. Truth and error are balancing forces. The Church shall do nothing which looks like deciding between them; that would be partiality. It is bigotry to assert any superior right for the truth. We are to agree to differ, and any favoring of the truth, because it is truth, is partisanship. What the friends of truth and error hold in common is fundamental. Anything on which they differ is ipso facto non-essential. Anybody who makes account of such a thing is a disturber of the peace of the Church. Truth and error are two coordinate powers, and the great secret of church-statesmanship is to preserve the balance between them. From this point error soon goes on to its natural end, which is to assert supremacy. Truth started with tolerating; it comes to be merely tolerated, and that only for a time. Error claims a preference for its judgments on all disputed points. It puts men into positions, not as at first in spite of their departure from the Church’s faith, but in consequence of it. Their repudiation is that they repudiate that faith, and position is given them to teach others to repudiate it, and to make them skillful in combating it."

    Krauth, C.P. (1871). The Conservative Reformation and its Theology. Philadelphia: Lippincott. (pp. 195-196).
For almost three years now Intrepid Lutherans have been warning of this danger, educating our readers on the differences between heterodox sectarianism and orthodox Lutheranism, and demonstrating those differences along with giving evidence of its incursion into our Synod. Some have joined us by lending us their names; though some have been threatened for this, many remain. But these few do not account for the nearly 1500 daily page reads we see on average. Many folks read our essays and informational posts, and are confronted with the stark reality: our Synod is deteriorating right along with the visible Church everywhere, which almost unanimously now invites the World and worldly influences to abide with her in determining doctrine and practice. If they would aspire to be Dresden Lutherans of any sort, it is high-time for our readers to do more than just read. It is time for them to assert their Confession, to begin acting on their convictions in a way that will bring an end to this sort of thing.


Joe Krohn said...

The conservative confessional remnant in WELS would be better served to A. Leave, and B. Reach out to folks like the Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Churches and/or ELDoNA. IMHO...

Daniel Baker said...

How refreshing, I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Krohn. :)

Me, Myself & I said...

I had thought that "multi-site" outreach was local or nearby. I would think that the local area churches would open any new ministry in Milwaukee (where we have many churches; some with "non-traditional worship services" already), not a church from Oconomowoc. If the area "non-traditional" offerings are not working, why then would one being run from Oconomowoc? Ken Engdahl

Anonymous said...

Do any Lutherans want to be Dresdan Lutherans? I answer the question with an adamant "YES". I don't want to be a Groeschelite, and I certainly don't want the decision to be a Groeschelite made for me without my consent.

Yet, this seems to be exactly what is happening; the decision is being made for us. In a "synod" where we are continually told that we are "walking together", we have a growing number of pastors who are walking apart, doing their own thing, and making their independent decisions for us, turning the synod into a bunch of zombie-like Groeschelites. And many WELS members in those congregations quietly tolerate it.

No, I don't want to be a Groeschelite. God gives me the gift of faith through the means of grace, and gives me the strength and will to continue to be Lutheran, in doctrine and in practice. So, by God's Grace alone, by Faith alone, through the power of Scripture alone, I would remain Lutheran, in doctrine and in practice.

I reject the growing movement of Groeschelites that are invading every corner of the synod. The list grows ever longer. Faithful WELS members are being told "If you don't like it here, there are other WELS churches you can go to." By so doing, these pastors have already acknowledged that there is a real division within the WELS. For why would a WELS member have to be told by a WELS pastor to go to another WELS congregation if all in the WELS were happily walking together? These pastors feed this division by casting off what they consider to be malcontents, the very souls they were supposedly entrusted with.

Time is coming, and it is coming quickly, where there will be no non-Groeschelite churches left in the WELS to go to.


Tim Niedfeldt said...

Yes I agree fully Joe, and its nice to see Daniel and Joe playing nice. ;) As always Vernon, Well said.

And again Vernon you have hit it on the head. I have been running with a theory that the WELS would in a rapid manner catch up to the LCMS and be just like them in no time. I am starting to think that it actually won't. It will become a different entity entirely. The LCMS may have its high church and low church crowds, it may have conservatives, liberals and confessionals. It even has the English district. But honestly, I don't see it changing. I don't see it getting more conservative or more liberal it just "is what it is" You can pretty much hang out there and find the church that suits your Lutheran flavor and pastors have little to no fear in the discipline realm.

What I see from WELS is two-fold. It is in high gear catch up mode as if they are fast forwarding through the Church Growth fads and such to catch up to mainstream evangelicalism. (And in the rush they do a crappy job at it). This is being pushed out from a high level now. Pressure is on.

A significant difference though is that depending who is in the discipline role will determine what wins. I am guessing it will be tough to stay under the radar. That discipline that WELS prides itself on to retain doctrinal purity and such is a double-edged sword. Because if those in charge aren't doctrinally pure...then those who disagree will be run out. I bet everyone of us here knows our local WELS safe-havens. Those pastors who tend their flock and make no fuss and keep their local affairs on the DL. How long until pastors are removed for not growing their church or participating in synod endorsed growth activities etc..and we definitely knows what happens when a WELS JBFA'r is caught. Now the goon squad even finds you in retirement and slaps you upside the head.

I need to start my idea for a WELS game like pokemon. Each pastor will have a card and list their weapons, stregths and weaknesses. Here is Pastor Bucholz and he pulled his DP power against Rydecki's JBFA and injured him but Rydecki pulls out a Hunnius and AC out of his tools to fight back. Spencer comes in with some high church to combat some CW evil and Lindee is the trainer with the powers of persuasion and classical critical thinking. The list goes on...

Yes I can be that geeky.

Tim Niedfeldt

Anonymous said...

Interesting site. Will probably link to it. I think many of us see an end of the road for WELS. I, personally, believe that the 501-c status was the beginning of the end. If there is to be true separation of church and state, then why did the government make all churches into commerce?

Anonymous said...


And you have quite an interesting blog. I particularly liked your post in November 2012 regarding "The rise and fall of church musicians". Welcome to IL. I think you'll find some posts here that sound familiar.


Anonymous said...

The new product/market oriented WELS would do well to review the history of the Coca Cola company's introduction of "New Coke" in the 1980's. Coke essentially introduced a reformulated product that tasted like its competitor Pepsi. Of course, Pepsi drinkers stayed with Pepsi. Coke drinkers wanted nothing to do with a Pepsi tasting product. They demanded a return to the original formula. In the case of WELS, their "New Lutheran" formulation is Modern Evangelicalism. Somewhat related to the New Measures of Charles G. Finney. There are LCMS congregations out there with rebranded formulations also. Beware!
Alan Lubeck

Joel A. Dusek said...

Leaving is not as diffucult as one may think. I left two institutions last year: the political party I was a member of since turning voting age, and the WELS. (Oddly enough, for similar reasons.) I was counseled by a friend that we cannot depend on what synod a church belongs to, but to base our affiliation on the doctrine and practice of the local Pastor and congregation. I am thankful that my family lives in a metro area that has many Lutheran churches, and we were able to find one that is confessional and liturgical. It is quite liberating, and makes it easier to be a slave to the Gospel instead of a slave to the Cult of WELS.

Grace and Peace to all who struggle.
Joel A. Dusek

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