Monday, August 18, 2014

Dr. Martin Luther: Christian Unity needs Harmony among Individuals; however, Ecclesial Unity requires that False Teachers be publicly Admonished and Rebuked by Fellow Pastors

Dr. Martin LutherIn commentary following a recent post by anonymous blogger "Matthias Flach" entitled, A Travesty Examined, Part Nine , it was suggested that "Matthias" contact the President of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and complain to him about all the problems he sees – the idea being that the Synod President, having enough complainers behind him, would be emboldened to, say, acknowledge these problems publicly, maybe even repudiate them... possibly, like Synod President Matt Harrison of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), even use the publishing power of his office (the only power the WELS SP really has) to consistently expose the errors of false teachers in the WELS Ministerium who are apparently prized, protected and promoted by the entirety of the WELS Praesidium, warn against them, and rebuke those fellow pastors who embrace these teachings and practices.

Maybe such would happen... Assuming the best of the WELS SP, perhaps it can also be asserted that he needs numbers behind him, not for courage, but for factual corroboration. Quite honestly, however, even having the corroboration, I don’t think that any sort of public acknowledgement or admonishment would be forthcoming. At least nothing with any sort of impact that wouldn’t be immediately overcome by a swift, unanimous and well-coordinated action of the Twelve District Presidents who evidently oppose him. One primary reason, in my opinion, is how very close-knit WELS has become. It has grown unhealthy. For instance, when a person names a given WELS pastor, the instinct (in my personal experience) seems to be toward immediately calculating ones degree of familial relation to the man, and then recalling his direct and indirect experience with him. While this is perfectly natural in small old organizations, there now seems to be an inability to distinguish between individual and Office among them. Any just criticism of a pastor’s doctrine or practice seems to be interpreted as an attack against him personally or against his extended family and classmates, an arrogant elevation of the person issuing the criticism, and a disruption of the harmony necessary for unity to persist among them. The example currently found in the LCMS, of pastors exhibiting the courage to name false doctrines and practices among them, and, increasingly, the pastors who embrace and promote those teachings and practices, seems to be a cultural impossibility in WELS, unless it is already a family squabble of some sort, a matter of personal history or conflict between individual pastors going back, say, to high-school, college or seminary, or an internal political issue within the ministerium where lines have already been drawn.

Martin Luther preached, however, that recognizing a distinction between individual and Office is necessary, that Christian duty to cherish and preserve harmony – to be “compassionate and loving as ‘brethren, tenderhearted, and "friendly" or "humble-minded"’” – extends to the manner in which individuals carry on with one another. It is not, however, necessarily characteristic of the Office, the function of which includes the preachment of the Law in a way that cuts to the bone and exposes sin – which, to the person offended by the Law, does not seem like a very friendly thing to do – and as God’s representative, even extends to the withholding of forgiveness from the unrepentant (Matt. 16:19; John 20:23) – which does not seem to the unforgiven to be a very friendly thing to do, either. He preached further that it is a function of the Office, and thus of the pastor who is responsible to “represent not [his] own but God’s dignity,” to admonish and rebuke false teachers – i.e., fellow Office holders, saying:
    But if one dishonors the Baptism, Sacrament, or Ministry committed to me by God, and so opposes not me but God Himself, then it is my duty not to be silent nor merciful and friendly, but to use my God-ordained Office to admonish, threaten and rebuke, with all earnestness, both in season and out of season – as Paul admonishes Timothy – those who err in doctrine or faith or who do not amend their lives; and this regardless of who they are or how it pleases them.
All of this – the duty to cherish harmony among Christians, the duty to rebuke false teachers in the Church (which appears disharmonious but preserves pure doctrine, which is necessary for true harmony), and drawing the distinction between these duties – is found in his Sermon on the Epistle Lesson for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity (1 Pet. 3:8-15), pertinent excerpts from which follow:

From Dr. Martin Luther’s Sermon on 1 Peter 3:8-15
The Epistle Lesson for the Fifth Sunday after Trinity

On the Duty to Cherish Christian Harmony
No one has a different baptism or sacrament, a different Christ, from mine, or grace and salvation other than I have. And no individual can have another faith than have Christians in general, nor does he hear any other Gospel or receive a different absolution, be he lord or servant, noble or ignoble, poor or rich, young or old, Italian or German. When one imagines himself different from or better than his fellows, desiring to exalt and glorify himself above others, he is truly no longer a Christian; because he is no longer in that unity of mind and faith essential to Christians. Christ with His grace is always the same, and cannot be divided or apportioned within Himself.

Not without reason did the beloved apostles urge this point. They clearly saw how much depends upon it, and what evil and harm result from disregard of the commandment. Where this commandment is dishonored, schisms and factions will necessarily arise to corrupt pure doctrine and faith, and the devil will sow his seed, which afterwards can be eradicated only with difficulty. When once self-conceit rules, and one, pretending more learning, wisdom, goodness and holiness than his fellows, begins to despise others and to draw men to himself, away from the unity of mind which makes us one in Christ, and when he desires the first praise and commendation for his own doctrine and works, his own preaching, then the harm is already done; faith is overthrown and the Church is rent. When unity becomes division, certainly two sects cannot both be the true Church. If one is godly, the other must be the devil’s own. On the other hand, so long as unity of faith and oneness of mind survives, the true Church of God abides, notwithstanding there may be some weakness in other points. Of this fact the devil is well aware; hence his hostility to Christian unity. His chief effort is to destroy harmony. “Having that to contend with,” he tells himself, “my task will be a hard and wearisome one.”

Therefore, Christians should be all the more careful to cherish the virtue of harmony, both in the Church and in secular government. In each instance there is of necessity much inequality. God would have such dissimilarity balanced by love and unity of mind. Let everyone be content, then, with what God has given or ordained for him, and let him take pleasure in another’s gifts, knowing that in eternal blessings he is equally rich, having the same God and Christ, the same grace and salvation; and that although his standing before God may differ from that of his fellows, he is nevertheless in no way inferior to them, nor is anyone for the same reason at all better than or superior to himself.


The other virtues enjoined by Peter are easily recognized – compassionate, loving as “brethren, tenderhearted, and ‘friendly’ or ‘humble-minded’.” These particularly teach how Christians should esteem one another. God has subjected them all to love and has united them, with the design that they shall be of one heart and soul, and each care for the other as for himself. Peter’s exhortation was especially called for at that time, when Christians were terribly persecuted. Here a pastor, there a citizen, was thrown into prison, driven from wife, child, house and home, and finally executed. Such things happen even now, and may become yet more frequent considering that unfortunate people are harassed by tyrants, or led away by the Turks [Muhammadans], and Christians are thus dispersed in exile here and there. Wherever by His Word and faith God has gathered a church, and that spiritual unity, the bond of Christianity, exists in any measure, there the devil has no peace. If he cannot effect the destruction of that church by factiousness, he furiously persecutes it. Then it is that body, life and everything we have must be jeopardized – put to the stake – for the sake of the Church.

On the Duty to Admonish and Rebuke False Teachers
The lesson teaches the duty of each individual toward all other individuals, not toward the God-ordained Office. Office and person must be clearly distinguished. The officer or ruler in his official capacity is a different man from what he is as John or Frederick. The apostle or preacher differs from the individual Peter or Paul. The preacher has not his Office by virtue of his own personality; he represents it in God’s stead. Now, if any person be unjustly persecuted, slandered and cursed, I ought to and will say: “Deo gratias;” for in God I am richly rewarded for it. But if one dishonors the Baptism, Sacrament, or Ministry committed to me by God, and so opposes not me but God Himself, then it is my duty not to be silent nor merciful and friendly, but to use my God-ordained Office to admonish, threaten and rebuke, with all earnestness, both in season and out of season – as Paul admonishes Timothy (2 Tim. 4:2) – those who err in doctrine or faith or who do not amend their lives; and this regardless of who they are or how it pleases them.

But the censured may say: “Nevertheless you publicly impugn my honor; you give me a bad reputation.” I answer: Why do you not complain to Him who committed the Office to me? My honor is likewise dear to me, but the honor of my Office must be more sacred still. If I am silent where I ought to rebuke, I sully my own honor, which I should maintain before God in the proper execution of my Office; hence I with you deserve to be hanged in mid-day, to the utter extinguishment of my honor and yours. No, the Gospel does not give you authority to say the preacher shall not, by the Word of God, tell you of your sin and shame. What does God care for the honor you seek from the world when you defy His Word with it? To the world you may seem to defend your honor with God and a good conscience, but in reality you have nothing to boast of before God but your shame. This very fact you must confess if you would retain your honor before Him; you must place His honor above that of all creatures. The highest distinction you can achieve for yourself is that of honoring God’s Word and suffering rebuke.

Yes, but still you attack the Office to which I am appointed.” No, dear brother, our Office is not assailed when I and you are reminded of our failure to do right, to conduct the Office as we should. But the Word of God rebukes us for dishonoring that divinely ordained appointment and abusing it in violation of His commandment. Therefore you cannot call me to account for reproving you. However, were I not a pastor or preacher, and had I no authority to rebuke you, then it would be my duty and my pleasure to leave your honor and that of every other man unscathed. But if I am to fill a divine Office and to represent not my own but God’s dignity, then for your own sake I must not and will not be silent. If you do wrong, and disgrace and dishonor come upon you, blame yourself: “Thy blood shall be upon thine own head,” says Scripture (1 Kings. 2:37). Certainly when a judge sentences a thief to the gallows, that man’s honor is impugned. Who robs you of your honor but yourself, by your own theft, your contempt of God, disobedience, murder, and so on? God must give you what you deserve. If you consider it a disgrace to be punished, then consider it also no honor to rob, steal, practice usury and do public wrong; you disgrace yourself by dishonoring God’s commandment.

Notice that Luther preaches the following:
    However, were I not a pastor or preacher, and had I no authority to rebuke you, then it would be my duty and my pleasure to leave your honor and that of every other man unscathed.
This is a note to us laymen. We don’t have the Office of rebuking and correcting. It’s not our job. It is for this reason that I, for one (and I think, perhaps, many laymen along with me), have been very reluctant to name specific situations or pastors, and have preferred to speak in general. IT’S NOT MY JOB! This makes the silence of pastors who see the error and yet remain silent all the more distressing, as it drives the laity, of necessity, to enter in where they would otherwise have no place. And to their shame, they seem content to allow the laity to do it, unaided. IT IS THEIR JOB! But they seem to either be derelict or cowards.

And to those WELS pastors who boldly speak behind the cloak of anonymity – you help no one other than rumour mongers and gossipers. You complain, “What of my family? What of my livelihood! I can’t let anyone know who I am, my adversaries might find out and cause me grief and woe!” But you are more than willing to name them publicly, to cause them grief and woe. Luther preaches above,
    It is my duty NOT to be silent nor merciful and friendly, but to use my God-ordained Office to admonish, threaten and rebuke, with all earnestness, both in season and out of season,”
and in times of persecution,
    body, life and everything we have must be jeopardized – put to the stake – for the sake of the Church.”
Your adversaries have the courage to openly preach and promote falsehood, but you do not have the courage to correct them with the Truth, to act in the interest of preserving their disciples and the Church from the impact of their false doctrine and practice? How strong, then, is your doctrine? Indeed, how eminently valuable is it if you are not willing to sign your name to it? Is it truly Christian Conscience and Confessional Integrity that drives you to “anonymously voice your deep concerns,” or is it sport? Tinged with a touch of schadenfreude?

You saw the hurricane approaching far in the distance, and you’ve waited only till landfall to begin preparing yourselves, your families, and your congregations for the inevitable? You have only yourselves to blame for the disaster you have brought upon them: “Thy blood shall be upon thine own head.” The time to act was in May of 2010, if not before. Where were you? Still deciding to prepare? Where are you now? Just beginning to prepare? Must you “first go bury your father” (Matt. 8:21-22)? I’ve got news for you – it’s way too late now to weather the storm intact. Your Leaders are unanimous: they are busy excommunicating the likes of Rev. Rydecki, while coddling the likes of Rev. Skorzewski and publicly endorsing events like the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience. In my opinion, the only way to survive now with pure teaching and faith intact is to evacuate, to leave everything behind and start anew on higher ground.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Spewing the Doctrines of “Christian Hedonism

Earlier today, “Matthias Flach” of the blog, Polluted WELS posted an article critical of a Contemporary Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN – Pilgrim Lutheran – its praise band, SON Band, and of lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock (WELS), who preaches during the band's worship performances. Says “Matthias”:
    Most concerning is a "SON Message" in which Dr. Scott Gostchock (who is not a pastor) preaches a "sermon" in which he states the following:

    • It isn't good enough to preach God's Word from the Bible because that's just “words on a page”.
    • We must somehow “experience” God's presence apart from those words on a page.
    • It's not the job of the church to condemn sin.

    The entire “sermon” is pure enthusiasm -- the teaching that one must experience God's presence apart from Word and Sacrament.
Keep in mind that the good Doctor is from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, home of Dr. John Piper (of the former “Baptist General Conference,” which has adopted a “new missional name, Converge Worldwide”) and his theology of Christian Hedonism. We briefly reviewed the theology of Dr. Piper, and its connection to the requirements of Christian worship and Christian experience, in our post, Post-Modernism, Pop-culture, Transcendence, and the Church Militant :
    In some circles, however, the pursuit and experience of “pleasure” is a measure of whether a person is saved or not. In Dr. John Piper’s Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, he makes precisely this connection, first noting from philosophy that happiness is not only the deepest longing of human nature,1 it is also a command from God that we are required to obey,2 then suggesting that Scripture could have more poignantly read, “‘Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the kingdom of God’”3 and eventually stating most directly that “The pursuit of joy in God is not optional …Until your heart has hit upon this pursuit, your ‘faith’ cannot please God. It is not saving faith.”4 Of course, this non-optional pursuit of ‘the joy that is to be had in God’ is tied to worship experience as well. After first denigrating liturgical worship as “empty formalism and traditionalism... [which] produces dead orthodoxy and a church full (or half-full) of artificial admirers,”5 and later reiterating his disdain for traditional worship as “the empty performance of ritual,”6 “the grinding out of doctrinal laws from collections of biblical facts,”7 and “misguided virtue, smother[ing] the spirit of worship,”8 we are informed by Dr. Piper that, in fact, human emotion is the ends for which a worshiper strives; that is, that the worshiper ought to achieve affective experience through his acts of worship: “Happiness in God is the end of all our seeking”9; “All genuine emotion is an end in itself”10; “God is more glorified when we delight in His magnificence.”11 According to Dr. Piper, the worship that true Christians are commanded to engage can be described as follows:

      Now we can complete our picture. The fuel of worship is a true vision of the greatness of God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is powerful worship, pushing its way out in confessions, longings, acclamations, tears, songs, shouts, bowed heads, lifted hands, and obedient lives.12

    Although I am quite certain that Dr. Piper himself is no card-carrying post-Modernist, the highly charged experiential language used by him, and his use of that experience as a soteriological and axiological point of reference, drives his readers to their own experience as a source of confirmation regarding their own salvation and certainty in living out their faith, and into a post-Modern worldview.
It is not surprising that Dr. Gostchock and “SON Band”13 would be echoing Dr. Piper's theology, even if only in some muted and truncated fashion -- I live in the same area, and having friends and relatives deeply involved in the Contemporary Worship scene in the Twin Cities, I know for a fact that (a) the Christian entertainment racket is a fairly close knit group of people14, and (b) if they have one at all, Piper's Christian Hedonism is their Confessional document. Piper is very influential around here -- indeed, I've long considered the late Rev. Klemet Preus' book, The Fire and the Staff, (whose church was actually fairly near to Piper's), as a highly needed Lutheran rebuttal to Piper's Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist. More rebuttal is necessary, in my opinion.

Dr. Piper's experientialist doctrine of “Christian Hedonism”, like the doctrine preached by the lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock (WELS), is not only enthusiasm, as Rev. “Matthias Flach” points out, it is also rank synergism. It is also a fundamental aspect of what seems to be the greatest and most insidious worldly threat to invade the Church in our day, one that attacks objectivity in all forms, and empties language of all definite meaning: Post-Modernism. We've blogged about this in the past, as well:

Experientialism: The post-Modern Church's way of “Becoming the Culture
(from The Health of the Church has more than just religious significance)
The philosophy of Materialistic Rationalism, with which Western man was equipped as he entered the 20th Century, was a very optimistic philosophy – the pinnacle of Modernistic thought. Declaring the future equivalent to progress, and limiting reality to the scientifically observable, it confidently identified man's capacity for scientific achievement as the source of that progress, and with this as foundation for the ordering of society, held high-expectations for cultural advancement. Yet, the 20th Century is on record as the bloodiest in history. Indeed, it took less than two decades for serious doubt to develop, as the destruction and human suffering of World War I simply galvanized the sensibilities of modern Westerners. Man was indeed powerful, yet demonstrated that he was not powerful enough to restrain his own inbred evil. The horrors of World War II sealed the fate of Modernism, and the West has increasingly advanced beyond it, into post-Modernism – an essentially experiential philosophy questioning the adequacy of formal language as a vessel sufficient to carry the message of Truth, which is thus utterly dismissive of objective truth-claims and ambivalent toward the future...

It was stated above, that the Church “has struggled mightily and in various ways against the withering onslaught of man's great enemy – the World – yet has been forced into retreat.” Following this, a litany of false teaching, in which some truth and great struggle is evident, was produced to show how the Church has conducted its struggle: from within the context of having “become the culture.” In point of fact, the recent history of the Christian Church is littered with the theological ruins of Christian movements which have, in a flailing desperation for the “survival of the church,” become the culture, either not realizing, forgetting or rejecting the fact that the World is one of the Christian's Great Enemies. In the modern West, doing so has meant adopting one of two perspectives: that of rationalistic Empiricism or of mystical Existentialism. In reality, neither perspective is acceptable; both place mankind at the center of truth, and argue their way to God and for man's relationship with Him from (a) the intellectual (objective), or (b) experiential (subjective) attributes of man's existence – the historical record of God's Special Revelation of Himself to mankind no longer being relevant for this purpose, by the World's standards...

That the Church must “become the culture” is a lie. That it has increasingly “become the culture” is the manifest reason Western Christianity has slowly disintegrated over the past three centuries. Taking on the culture of the World has produced a vacillating imbalance between emphasis on intellect and emotion in the Church, between reason and experience, objectivity and subjectivity – and not just an imbalance, but a thrashing between these emphases that has drawn the attention of the Church away from the saving events and message of the Gospel, away from the centrality of Christ, and instead upon man and the dual fundamental characteristics of his existence. No, Christianity must not “become the culture” any more than it should it cut itself off from society. No, the Church must not abdicate in the face of its great enemy, the World, either by joining it or by running from it. Rather, as an historical institution, with an historical and saving message, it must stand and face the World on the basis of its confession, it must earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 3), by (a) holding on to the specific and historic truths of Scripture in its doctrine, and (b) defending and proclaiming this truth in its practice...

post-Modern Experientialism and Doctrinal Ambiguity
(from Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny – Part One)
Man naturally pursues a “Theology of Glory.” The consequences of this with respect to God’s many gifts to mankind are clearly stated by Dr. Martin Luther, who stated in his 24th Thesis at the Heidelberg Disputation, without the 'Theology of the Cross' man misuses the best in the worst manner. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that where man permits himself the freedom and authority to arbitrate God’s Revelation, he does so with the force and finality of God Himself. It should also come as no surprise that man, according to his nature, does work toward this very end – whether deliberately or quite unconsciously – and that he revels in the glory assigned to him for his efforts.

It seems most charitable to assume that no confessing Christian would deliberately seek a place of judgment over God’s Word, and to leave it at that – remaining oblivious to its likelihood and limiting ourselves to the messy job of first recognizing when it happens and then reacting to it long after the fact. This is, however, a dangerously pollyanna attitude, since the tactic of arguing for the abstruseness of Scripture, in order to deliberately accumulate authority and glory to man, is not unknown in the history of the Church. In fact, this is exactly how, and why, Erasmus, in his Freedom of the Will (a.k.a. De libero arbitrio diatribe sive collatio, or Diatribe), and later supporting works, argued for the ambiguity of the Scriptures – to maintain the freedom and authority of man over against Scripture. And Erasmus’ arguments have remained active as a dominant force in Western Society and, through it, the Christian Church – more so today, perhaps, than ever before.

(from Pursuing freedom from Scripture's clear teachings, by arguing for their ambiguity, results only in tyranny – Part Two)
Dear reader, we ought to thank Dr. Nestingen for alerting us to the tactic of asserting Scripture’s ambiguity as opportunity for supposed liberty, and for locating the modern source of this tactic in Erasmus – who opposed Luther in this regard. It seems, in our post-Modern age, when ALL truth and meaning are self-referentially experiential, that the “discovery” of ambiguity in the Scriptures, having become great sport, has accelerated to an alarming rate!

post-Modern Experientialism governs Ideology of Language... and Bible Translation
(from The NIV 2011 and the Importance of Translation Ideology)
As Mr. Peeler pointed out, Dynamic Equivalency (the translation ideology of the CBT) is related to post-Modernism in its understanding of meaning in language as a social construction (“grammar follows usage”) – an understanding which is a very recent innovation. According to it, social experience is the vehicle for, and social context the arbiter of, meaning. Language is merely a social experience by which meaning is conveyed, and it is the immediate social context which dictates both usage and meaning, not the structure of the language itself. As a result, post-Modernism teaches that meaning is always subjective and relative (resulting in a lack of clarity... terms and phrases of otherwise objective meaning become “slippery”). This is why post-Modernists will insist that there is no truth – not because there actually is or is not Truth, but because even if Truth does exist, it cannot be expressed since language is insufficient to convey it.

But what is “Dynamic Equivalency?”

To use a very widely used (and seriously discussed) example, the post-Modern adherent of Dynamic Equivalency will complain that the passage in Isaiah which reads “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,” cannot be understood by a person who has never seen snow. It has no meaning because it is not part of his experience. As a result, instead of actually using the word “snow” to communicate “white-ness,” a more effective translation for, say, a resident of the Caribbean may be “the sands of St. Thomas Beach.” But that wouldn’t communicate to someone outside the Caribbean, so another translation would be needed for those groups of people who have seen neither white snow nor white sand, but which is common to their unique experience – fields of cotton, for instance, or even milk. These are all naturally occurring examples of the color white, and communicate the idea of “white-ness” just as effectively. It doesn’t matter that the word in the original is “snow.” This is Dynamic Equivalency, and the job of the translator under this ideology is to (a) interpret the meaning of the source language, and (b) choose his own words in the target language that communicate this same idea.

Only, notice in the case of “snow” used above, that the translator, while communicating “white-ness” through the use of alternative words, fails to communicate the idea of a “covering” which descends from above, and also fails to communicate the idea of “cleansing,” which is precisely what snow does for the landscape as it melts (and is also part of the meaning directly intended by Isaiah). Thus, under the ideology of Dynamic Equivalency, the translator, in choosing his “alternative phraseology,” is said to “pick and choose” from the source language what meaning he will include in his translation – not because he is forced by inadequacies in either source or target languages, but because he is ideologically (a) given license to do so in order that he may engage in the task of interpretation, and (b) constrained by his own ideas of what constitutes “meaning” within a given social or cultural construct and of what patterns of words can be legitimately used in association with that meaning...

Experientialism always a Bridge to Open Ecumenism, accelerates in the post-Modern Era under Church Growth Movement
(from The Church Growth Movement: A brief synopsis of its history and influences in American Christianity)
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 Europe15 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 dead16) 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 souls17. 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... 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..

post-Modern Experientialism, and its experiential language forms, thriving in WELS
(from A Sermon for Sunday of Holy Week, or 'Palm Sunday': “Stand Ye in the Ways, and Find Rest for Your Souls” — Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann)
There is much value in the words of those Christians who've preceded us, particularly these days, as those words come down to us from a time when post-Modernism was unknown, from a time when language still carried objective meaning. In such words, we find the full force of objective conviction and confident passion, words that are chosen for their direct and unequivocal clarity – as well they ought to be, given that the receptor of language is the human mind. This is in contrast to words chosen by contemporary Christian writers and speakers, who are apparently under the illusion that words are not received principally by the mind, but by the entire human body. Words, even the words of Scripture, result not principally in thought from which meaning is derived, but primarily in a human experience from which meaning is derived. One prominent contemporary Lutheran has even stated as much, in writing, regarding the public reading of Scripture:
    We expect that the primary way in which most WELS people experience most of the Bible, most of the time, is by hearing it read in the context of the public worship service.”18
The speech patterns of post-Modernism are unmistakable in references such as this. The message of the Bible is to be primarily experienced not contemplated; it is more important that the masses have a feeling for what the Bible says, and have a positive experience in relation to that feeling, rather than understand the Scriptures as precisely as possible, especially if the process of understanding is a negative experience of mental struggle.

In the words of Christians who've preceded us, we also find the comfort of discovering that they faced the same issues we face today. Christians have always been concerned about the health of the Church, and, certainly, this is not necessarily a bad thing; but in connection with this concern, they have also been known to take great pride in counting their numbers as a show of growth, as a show of power and influence over others, and as a show of what they've accomplished for Christ...
    18: Wendland, P. (2011, December). Evaluating Translations. Forward in Christ 98(12). pg. 29

    NOTE: President Wendland is here naming and defending criteria for the choice of a new translation for Synod. This particular criterion plainly trumps the claim that Synod's choice of standard translation is only meant to be the translation used by NPH in its publications, that it does not represent the Synod's recommendation or requirement for use in the local congregation. On the contrary, by establishing this as a relevant and primary criterion, President Wendland directly states “it is expected” that Synod's choice of standard translation will also be the standard translation used in every congregation, will be the translation generally read in public during the Divine Service. It is “expected,” and is therefore a primary criterion in the selection of a standard translation.

    Some may be tempted to dismiss President Wendland's emphasis of the term “expectation” in connection with the translation used in WELS parishes, yet, even this month, this point was again emphasized Rev. John Braun, who writes:

      Which Bible should you choose? ...We may prefer to use the translation we have used most often, but which Bible will be the best choice for the next generation? ...My pastor had a good answer to that question. He suggested that we purchase the Bible our children have used in their instruction classes [presumably, he means 'catechism classes' here, but that is a big word that no one uses anymore -DL]. That makes good sense. Passages that were memorized came from that version. Most of today's confirmands have grown familiar with the NIV 1984 in the same way I became comfortable with the King James Version. God willing, they will continue to read their confirmation Bibles and treasure them for the truths of God's Word.

      Braun, J. (2013, March). Translation 103: Which Bible?. Forward in Christ 100(3). pg. 29.

    Hence, it is known, indeed, it is “expected,” that the version of the Bible used in catechism materials and other publications distributed by NPH will be the version from which WELS children, and members of all WELS congregations, will be indoctrinated; it will be the version they memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another for the rest of their lives. If Synod in Convention chooses the NIV 2011 this Summer as the “translation used in WELS publications,” then “IT WILL BE EXPECTED” that (a) an egalitarian version of the Bible, that is (b) rendered at the sixth-grade reading level, will be that which our children will (c) “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” for the rest of their lives. For the rest of their lives, they will be “memorizing, contemplating and repeating to one another” a translation of the Bible rendered in terms that are (a) twisted to comply with the cultural standards of militant feminism that has been in a state of open war against the Church and Christian teaching from the start, in (b) terms no more sophisticated than a sixth grader.

    This is the form of indoctrination that awaits our children, should the NIV 2011 be chosen this Summer by Synod in Convention, and it will impact them long into adulthood. Their thinking in matters of religion, as they will have been taught from childhood, will not equip them for their lives as adults, it will only equip them with the thinking capacity of twelve-year-old child. At the same time, they will receive instruction in the ideas of the world from their schools, colleges and workplaces, and from the acquaintances and friends they meet through their lives, in terms suitable for adults. Moreover, the word patterns they repeat to one another from childhood will prepare them to receive with gladness the false teaching of the feminists. The juvenile thinking patterns taught them by their NIV Bibles will render them impotent against not only worldliness, but from direct attacks of the World. We see it now, among those adults who've been taught to think about their faith in the simplistic terms of the NIV 1984. Indeed, I am convinced that blame for the appalling state of American Christianity today can be attributed, at least in part, to the popularity of the NIV 1984 over the past generation. It's users are notoriously unprepared for anything but an “experiential” religious life, and decry anything that is not a “positive experience” as false, or of the devil. They are helpless, and mostly worthless as defenders of the Truth. What else is to be expected? Clumsily wielding a dull Sword, they're not dependable partners in battle. I've witnessed the shamefulness of their easily-avoided defeat many times. They look like fools, and make all other Christians look like fools right along with them, for the sole reason that they transparently think and reason like fools, they articulate their thoughts with the shallow predictability of children. To prepare children for adulthood, they must be prepared with thoughts and words that will actually serve them in adulthood, as adults. They must be prepared for adulthood by equipping them with words and thought patterns with respect to their religion that are suitable for adults. This is accomplished by having them “memorize, contemplate and repeat to one another” the Scriptures according to the standards of adult literacy -- adult speech and thought patterns, not those of a sixth grader. The difference between childishness and adulthood that is suggested by St. Paul in this regard is stark:

      When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Cor. 13:11)

    Likewise, the Proverbs tell us:

      Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. (Pr. 22:15)

    The Bible says in these verses, and in others, that childish ways and thinking are habits and behaviours which the adult IS EXPECTED to put behind him, not retain throughout his life, and which he must be trained to put behind him from childhood. Training Christians to think and speak like twelve-year-olds for the rest of their lives is no way to prepare them for the rigours of Christian adulthood. The NIV, whether the 1984 or the 2011 edition, DOES NOT ADEQUATELY PREPARE CHILDREN FOR CHRISTIAN ADULTHOOD.

    So let's have no more talk of dismissing the importance of Synod's choice “translation used in WELS publications,” as if it weren't intended to have, indeed, if it weren't “THE EXPECTATION” that it have, wider and deeper impact than merely the “translation used in WELS publications.” It is clearly “expected” to be far more than just this. And it undoubtedly will be.

Surrender, Retreat or Die! The Prison of Pedologia that awaits post-Modern Experientialists
(from Impressions from My Visit with ELDoNA at their 2013 Colloquium and Synod – PART V.5 (FINAL))
There were two problems. FIRST, most young adults entering college were totally unequipped to think about their faith in complex or abstract terms – in the same types of terms in which they were absorbing ideas from their college professors, textbooks and other coursework. This was a language problem – and it included students who were raised in conservative Christian homes, who studied their Bibles on a regular basis. They certainly had the raw ability to think about their faith in such terms – they just had no training or practice. But not everyone was so ill-equipped. There was one major difference between those of us who were practiced at thinking about our faith in complex or abstract terms, and those who were not: for the most part, we had been reared on Bibles having a faithfully complex grammar and vocabulary.


I was a little boy when my father started teaching me how to shoot. He refused to put a “child's gun” in my hands: “A gun is a man's tool. It is not a cute child's toy, but a tool that requires the utmost responsibility, a man's responsibility, to use safely and effectively.” He put a man's shotgun in my hands, never allowing me to think of a gun as anything other than something for adults. It was heavy, at first. I could hardly hold it up, and when I fired it I entirely missed, and my shoulder hurt. But over time, with practice and maturity, I grew into it. By the time I had entered adulthood, I was proficient in its use, ready to independently take on the adult responsibilities that go along with the use of a tool meant for a grown man. It was never a toy in my mind, it was always very serious business.

The same was true of my Bible. When I became a proficient reader, I was given an adult's Bible – the NASB. It was too big for me. Too heavy. I didn't know how to use it right. But with practice and maturity, I grew into it, and by the time I had entered adulthood I was proficient in its use. I was able to reason alongside the author as he developed his point, and, understanding a given teaching from the standpoint of the various nuances that went into its development (many of which are grammatical), I was able to apply it, or aspects of it, to challenges that faced me, and to use the form of reasoning taught me by the inspired authors to engage in more complex patterns of thought on my own. My parents, in choosing to put an adult Bible in my hands, preserved me from a lifetime of Christian pedologia. The majority of Christians I met while at college (and since) have not been spared this fate.


That was the case with most of us who were practiced at thinking about our faith in complex or abstract terms. Most used the NASB or the NKJV, some used the RSV, and only a couple still using the KJV. But many of us knew that when someone showed up to Bible study with an NIV or with a Living Bible, they were much more likely to struggle with Biblical concepts, and were going to have greater difficulty using their Bibles to respond to the complex challenges hurled at them by the secular World that surrounded us. This was because, reading the NIV or the Living Bible, they never had the opportunity to struggle through the text to understand the nuanced teachings of Scripture – they had no practice at it; they had never learned to follow the complex reasoning of the inspired authors, and to think alongside them. All that the text offered was simplistic prose, stripped of nuance, reduced for readers of the sixth grade level. Let me tell you, there isn't a single translation of Hegel, Marx, Darwin, Kant, Hume, Descartes or any of the other great thinkers of World history, that has been reduced for a sixth grade reader! And when a college student sets his NIV or Living Bible next to one of these authors, or even next to one of his recently published textbooks – which also aren't rendered for sixth graders! – he sees that his Bible is just what his classmates and professors tell him it is: a book of children's stories invented to scare people into submission. Bibles like the NIV or the Living Bible certainly aren't books for adults – not like the books they are reading in college, which, instead of the Bible (unfortunately), are the books that are teaching them to think and reason as adults for the first time.

And so this is the problem with equipping children with children's Bibles, instead of adult Bibles. I know. I witnessed it. I was there. For over ten years. When the enemy is swinging a Claymore over your head, you better have something more substantial than a butter knife to parry it with! If you don't, you are left with two alternatives: (a) surrender, or (b) turn tail and run. And the NIV, along with the Living Bible, has – in the heat of battle when it really counts – shown itself to be little more than a butter knife. I was never so thankful for having been trained in my faith, from childhood, using an adult Bible, than when I was in college and had to use it to combat complex false ideas and defend the simple truth. I even tried using the NIV for awhile in college, but threw it away fearing that my mind would get flabby from using it. Many fellow students switched to adult-grade Bibles, too – mostly on their own, after studying their Bibles, but we did have a couple of Bible study methods that I think provided some indirect encouragement toward that decision, as well.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther on the Meaning of Christian Experience
To be fair, Dr. Martin Luther DID preach about the impact of “Christian Experience”, but hardly devoid of the Word, at the expense of the Word, or as a necessary addition to it. In his Epistle sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity on Romans 8:12-17, he preaches of the experience of comfort from the objective message of the Gospel (the mere words on a page denigrated by the lay pastor Dr. Scott Gostchock [WELS], above), teaching that the experience of this comfort reinforces what the Word already teaches and the knowledge that we can rely on divine assistance when we call on Him in faith:
    The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God” (Rom. 8:16)

    That we are children of God and may confidently regard ourselves as such, we do not learn from ourselves nor from the Law. We learn it from the witness of the Spirit, who, in spite of the Law and of our unworthiness, testifies to it in our weakness and assures us of it. This witness is the experience within ourselves of the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word, and the knowledge that our experience accords with the Word and the preaching of the Gospel. For thou art surely aware whether or no, when thou art in fear and distress, thou dost obtain comfort from the Gospel, and art able to overcome thy doubts and terror; to so overcome that thy heart is assured of God’s graciousness, and thou no longer fleest from him, but canst cheerfully call upon him in faith, expecting help. Where such a faith exists, consciousness of help must follow. So Saint Paul says, Romans 5:4-5: “Steadfastness worketh approvedness [patience worketh experience]; and approvedness, hope [and experience, hope]: and hope putteth not to shame.”
WELS has quite evidently become a voice-box for full-throated post-Modernism. There is no discernible level of protest, much less concern, over the adoption of these ideologies and the governing authority they have attained. WELS schools seem to be fully vested in the philosophies of this world, and the leaders fully captive to them. Most of the parishes seem to uncritically accept whatever is handed down to them. True, one hears squeaks and gurgles of protest from time to time, but I've come to believe that these are just the noises made as the chest of a dying body heaves its final gasps of air. But I have a feeling this one isn't going to go peacefully, and anticipate violent spasms as the end draws even nearer.

  1. Piper, J. (2003). Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian hedonist (2003 ed.). Sisters, Or: Multnomah Publishers. pg. 19.
  2. Ibid. pp. 9, 24-25.
  3. Ibid. pg. 55. (emphasis mine)
  4. Ibid. pg. 73. (emphasis mine)
  5. Ibid. pg. 81.
  6. Ibid. pg. 94.
  7. Ibid. pg. 100.
  8. Ibid. pg. 98.
  9. Ibid. pg. 90.
  10. Ibid. pg. 92.
  11. Ibid. pg. 97. (emphasis mine)
  12. Ibid. pg. 82.
  13. Why does the name “SON Band” remind me of the band SONSEED (top video)... ?
  14. Many of the Sunday-morning entertainment groups, especially if they have been around for awhile, know, or know of, each other, jam/worship together, exchange bandmates and gigs, practice on each other justifying their own existence, etc... In fact, there was a minor flap a few years ago involving WELS contemporary worship entertainers practicing with/gigging with/standing in for musicians from non-WELS bands -- the issue with practicing together being that the Evangelicals usually combine practice with some sort of group prayer and study of the Scriptures...
  15. Gerstner, J. (2000). Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism, 2nd Edition. Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications. pp. 17-59.
  16. Please see following works:
  17. For more information on the errors of Charles Finney, see the following article written by Michael Horton almost two decades ago:

Monday, August 4, 2014

UPDATED! — Organizer of 2015 Christian Leadership Experience (allegedly): “The only thing wrong with Lutheran churches is pastors who want to be Lutheran.

On July 12, 2014, we featured content that was referred to in a post on the blog Polluted WELS. This blog was created in the middle of June 2014 by a WELS pastor writing under the pseudonym “Matthias Flach”, who was evidently frustrated with rapidly disappearing Confessionalism in WELS, with false unity among the clergy, threats from leadership, and overbearing laity in his congregation who boasted of “family connections.” The title of that June 12 post was Time to Spill the Beans, and we introduced his blog, as follows:
    I stumbled across the following, rather old, exposé this morning while visiting the blog Polluted WELS. The author of that blog, a current WELS pastor who, understandably, finds it necessary to remain anonymous, included a link to [what follows] in his post, 'Conformity over Confession'. While the details are dated, as a WELS pastor, he indicates that all of the basics are absolutely accurate, and that he can personally verify that it’s true...
Yesterday afternoon, after ~20 posts since mid-June, one of which received over 150 comments, and over 20,000 page reads, Polluted WELS turned up missing.

Or deleted, rather.

He had been running a multi-part series critical of the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience -- which features Rev. Mark Jeske (WES) as the star of the conference, but who is also joined by many of his friends, followers, collaborators and other supporters in far less prominent speaking roles -- under the title “A Travesty Examined.” Many of these posts, now deleted from the blog Polluted WELS, have been preserved by Dr. Jackson on his blog, Ichabod, the Glory has Departed, at the following links:Yet another pock marring what was once a reasonably sound Lutheran church body, this Conference, which bears none of the standards or identity of Confessional Lutheranism, is not only decidedly favorable to the Church Growth Movement, but drives Lutheran and Confessional thresholds even further south by swinging doors wide open to the teaching authority of women over men, inviting open ecumenism with heterodox who entirely reject the Lutheran Confession, and even flirting with pagan religiosity. In our recent post, What is the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience?, we exposed and concluded many of these points.

The final post of “Mathias Flach,” the author of Polluted WELS, was a response to one of his critics. In it, we discover the attitude of a person connected with one of the Organizers of Experience; it is exactly the attitude that we at Intrepid Lutherans have been describing and warning of since 2010, exactly the attitude our critics have denied exists, exactly the attitude which is now, in fact, normative in the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod, that is, if “pastors who want to be Lutheran” are those pastors who desire to demonstrate their Confession through church practice which is, in fact, manifestly “Lutheran” and decidedly non-Sectarian -- i.e., historical, liturgical, catholic and evangelical. We include his final post below, Kelm'ed from Dr. Jackson's blog (Proof That I Am Not the Author of the Polluted WELS Blog), following which we include links to other articles related to the Church Growth Movement for the interested reader.

My Response
(the final post from the now deleted blog, Polluted WELS)

Here's a comment I received, with my responses interspersed.

First, I am not sure who Lillo is, but this comment did not come from him. I do not know if your post can be edited, but that false testimony should be removed.

Lillo is Joel Lillo, a pastor from the Appleton area who (like you) wanted me to shut-up but (like you) didn't want to discuss the actual issues. I never said that you were Lillo, I said that I was reproducing your comments in pink in honor of Lillo. It's a joke from about a month ago on this blog about how colors are adiaphora. Before you start accusing people of sinning against the Eighth Commandment, you should get your facts straight, lest you yourself break that very commandment.

Matthias, I am your brother in Christ. It is also true (regardless of whether or not you want to admit it) that the leaders and presenters of this conference are your brother and sisters in that same Lord. Yes, I know many of the leaders of this conference personally.

No, the organizers of this conference are not my brothers. See, I know them personally too. One of the speakers at this conference, when he still with Parish Assistance, sowed discord in my home congregation and almost caused it to split. Another of the speakers has made attempts to personally undermine my ministry. Another person associated with one of the sponsoring organizations once said, in my presence, "The only thing wrong with Lutheran churches is pastors who want to be Lutheran."

These men are not my brothers. They are enemies of the gospel. They actively work to thwart the preaching of the gospel. I don't care how personally you know them. Jesus said, "By their fruit you will know them." These are wolves in sheep's clothing.

It is easy to know who is organizing - the hosting organizations are listed in numerous places.

That's not the same thing. How can I personally contact an organization?

This blog has become a tabloid because you are more concerned with sensationalism than truth.

What have I said that's not true? All of my posts on this conference have included direct quotations from the conference's own website.

I do not know what the Matthew 18 maneuver is. I know the chapter well, but I did not quote it.

Oh, come on. You know exactly what it is -- trying to shut down public debate by claiming that one must speak privately to a person first. As I said, Matthew 18 is about private sin, not public sin.

You are a WELS pastor with legitimate concerns about this conference. You chose to blog rather than speak to anyone. 

Yeah, you better believe it. These sponsoring organizations own the DPs. Two of the DP who are supposed to be the most Confessional are preaching at this conference. If I dared to voice my concerns, I would [be] automatically labeled "divisive" and blackballed. Anonymous blogging is the only recourse Confessional Lutheran pastors have.

Fine. But why do you choose to be the Enquirer?

How am I being the Enquirer? I'm not exposing personal information. I'm not calling people aliens.

Why not open a conversation by sharing legitimate concerns and asking the blogging community if they have more information or if they share the same concerns?

That's exactly what I am doing.

You had an opportunity to establish the style and substance of this blog a couple weeks ago. You slid into sensationalism and snide judgment. Any opportunity for positive influence or change slips right down that same slope. Your posters from now on will be the few who already share your thoughts. The inflated view count will be those who enjoy the guilty pleasure of a Lutheran tabloid.

Here's another tactic of the "synod-minders" -- whine about the tone. Guess what? When you're exposing false doctrine, you can't do it gently. The Law cuts and destroys. These are all grown men that I'm talking about, and they most certainly know how to dish out the "snide judgment" against others. They should be able to take some too.

Mathias, the members of your church need the love, instruction, and shepherding that you are trained and called to provide. My hope is that you pour abundantly more energy into that call than you expend in this online endeavor.

Why would you assume anything else? Are you trying to undermine my ministry too?

Here are some additional posts related to the Church Growth Movement, the real meaning of Change in the Church, and the recourse of laity, from previous posts on Intrepid Lutherans:
Rev. Rydecki was once personally criticized by one of the Experience speakers for his post, A refreshing church growth strategy: Get smaller and die. In that post, he concludes:
    So, God save us from the successful church. Give us churches who shun sentimentality and pragmatism and aren't afraid to face the inevitable shrinkage which comes as a result of following Jesus. God save us from church leadership strategies. After all, it takes zero faith to follow a strategy, but incredible faith to pursue the kingdom of God and leave the rest in God's hands. If I've learned anything as a pastor, it is this: faithfulness flies in the face of sentimentality and pragmatism, and if you pursue it you have to expect small numbers.
And so do we.

UPDATE 8/4/2014, approx 2:21pm: The blog Polluted WELS is back online. The author's explanation follows:
    I'm Back

    After publishing my last post, I was contacted by one of the people I mentioned. He was able to figure out my identity based on the details of the conversation that I related. He indirectly yet clearly threatened me and my ministry. I panicked and deleted the blog.

    After taking a day to think about it, though, I've decided I can't compromise the truth for selfish reasons. Despite the threats, I will continue to publish here.

    The person who threatened me is very well-connected within the synod. He has the right last name and I have the wrong one. Be sure to watch the call reports in the coming weeks for my removal from the ministry.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What is the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience?

What is the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience?

by Mr. Vernon Kneprath

2015 Christian Leadership Experience has been a topic of posts and comments on at least two other blogs in recent days:The topic is no longer new, and some of the information and conclusions presented here may sound familiar. But the topic is significant enough to merit a post on Intrepid. I will strive in this post to make clear, conclusive statements about Experience, and provide supporting evidence, some of which may not have yet been touched on at other blog sites.

If the information at the website for the 2015 Christian Leadership Experience ( is to be considered representative of the event, I would conclude that Experience:
  1. is ecumenical, interfaith, and interdenominational, even though it specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with WELS.
  2. is theology of glory; with its primary focus on man’s works, not the Gospel or the Means of Grace.
  3. is endorsed by some high-level WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, as evidenced by their participation and roles in the event.
  4. bears no standards of or identity to Confessional Lutheranism.
I will explain some of the reasons for my conclusions shortly. But before that, consider the information taken from the FAQ section of the website regarding the target audience and the claims of Experience.
    The 2015 Christian Leadership Experience and its organizing partners are specifically inviting the people who make up our constituency, which is primarily WELS/ELS or CELC. However, the event is open to whomever is interested in building their leadership skills.

    As the objectives of the Leadership Experience were identified, we committed to identifying and presenting the best possible speakers on each leadership topic. A few of the speakers who are well-regarded as experts in their field are from outside the CELC (WELS/ELS) fellowship. We pray these speakers will bring value to attendees which has not been previously available to leaders and aspiring leaders in our fellowship.

    Conference attendance is not an act of fellowship. The one "fellowship" activity is the worship at devotions and the closing service. Just as we welcome our friends and visitors to our congregations' worship services so also we welcome them to the conference's devotions and closing service.
As shown by these statements, Experience:
  1. specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with the WELS for the purpose of teaching skills pertaining to ministry.
  2. involves worship and prayer.
  3. involves speakers both inside and outside of WELS fellowship.
  4. includes the prayer that those outside WELS fellowship bring value to those to whom Experience is targeted.
Regarding the latter point, since this prayer is for secular and interdenominational participants to "bring value to", that is, have an influence on the attendees, this is arguably a violation of what Scripture teaches regarding fellowship, even though the claim is made to the contrary.

Returning to my conclusions regarding Experience, I will refer the reader to hyperlinks of various locations on the website, and to other websites. In some cases, I will provide some of the content found at the hyperlinks I provide, to save the reader the time and trouble of having to search those hyperlinked webpages. These hyperlinks will provide what I consider to be supporting evidence for my conclusions.
  1. Experience is ecumenical, interfaith, and interdenominational, even though it specifically targets WELS and those in fellowship with WELS.

    There is much evidence for this. I will provide two examples.

      Example 1 -
        Refer to and find “Speaker - Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran.”

        Now refer to for more information regarding Dr. Ravi. Here you will find the following:

          Dr. Ravi I. Jayakaran has more than 37 years of experience in poverty reduction and strategic development programs. Currently he is Vice President of Global Programs for MAP International (medical assistance programs), providing supervisory oversight and strategic support for all of MAP’s global programs. Dr. Jayakaran is also currently the Senior Associate for Integral (Holistic) Mission for the Lausanne Global Movement.

        The Lausanne Global Movement, as evidenced by the “Lausanne Covenant”, is an effort to “enter into a solemn covenant with God and with each other, to pray, to plan and to work together for the evangelization of the whole world”.

      Example 2 -
        The speaker web page,, has the following footer:

          ©2014 Global Leadership Summit: All Rights Reserved.

          The Global Leadership Summit is associated with the Willow Creek Association. Read about the Willow Creek Association at

          Founded in 1991, the Willow Creek Association (WCA) is a not-for-profit organization that exists to help local churches thrive. The WCA stirs up and calls out the core leadership of churches around the world, encouraging them to follow their "holy discontent" as they build life-changing communities of faith. The WCA serves pioneering pastors and leaders around the world by curating inspirational leadership, intentional skill development, and experiences. Each year, the WCA serves more than 18,000 churches in 90 countries with vision, training, and resources.

    Experience is laced with references and linkage to ecumenical evangelical organizations and people.

  2. Experience is theology of glory; with its primary focus on man’s works, not the Gospel or the Means of Grace.

    Again, there is much evidence. I will provide two examples. Both examples relate to designated speakers of Experience. Refer to

      Example 1 -
        Keynote Speaker - Ann Rhoades
        Ann is a Corporate Executive with over 25 years experience in a variety of service-based industries, is President of People Ink, her consulting company that helps organizations create unique workplace cultures based on values and performance and author of “Built on Values”.  She held the position of Vice President of the People Department for Southwest Airlines, and EVP for Promus Hotel Corporation and most recently, JetBlue Airways where she currently remains as a Board Member.

        Ann has a respected reputation in the industry for her creative approach to creating customer-centric cultures and is a popular speaker on the subject of customer service and how to build a strong high-performing culture.

      Example 2 -
        Speaker - Sharon Buck
        Sharon will discuss the perks and pitfalls of leading others when you have NO authority in their business/career. She will also discuss the importance of GODLY leadership and how it affects relationships for now... and in eternity. Truly, leading a volunteer army is challenging, sometimes frustrating but always rewarding. The lessons discussed will be helpful for ALL leaders!

    Notice the focus of these speakers:

    1. “customer centric” cultures, as if the Church can be treated as a business with the chief concern of satisfying customers.
    2. discussing “Godly” leadership, with no confession defining the basis of that Godly leadership.

    Experience is not about using God’s Word or the Means of Grace. This becomes very apparent when you view the event schedule. The presentation topics do not focus on what God has done for us, the true Gospel message, and the theology of the cross. “Experience” focuses on business techniques as if the Holy Spirit, through the Means of Grace, can no longer be effective in today’s culture.

  3. Experience is endorsed by some high-level WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, as evidenced by their participation and roles in the event.

    Again, there are many examples. I will provide three. Refer to (worship leaders)

      Example 1 -
        Rev. Jon Buchholz is District President of the CA-AZ district of the WELS.

      Example 2 -
        Rev. Charles Degner is District President of the MN district of the WELS.

      Example 3 -
        Pastor Don Moldstad is Chaplain, Director of Campus Spiritual Life at Bethany Lutheran College (ELS).

    As evidenced by representation from the high levels of leadership in WELS and ELS, this event implies the full backing of these synods’ leadership.

  4. Experience, based on the information provided on the website, bears no standards of or identity to Confessional Lutheranism.

    Why do these event organizers and participants, WELS and ELS leaders and pastors, choose to use things other than God’s Word to train leaders of the church? The evidence of the conclusion that this event is non-confessional is found in the absence of the Word and the Means of Grace. Evidence abounds of Church Growth and fund raising objectives, but there is no evidence of God’s Word.

    Perhaps this can be explained by the “bait and switch” technique commonly used by Church Growth advocates. That is, focus on what culture values, and sometime later, once the subject has been “hooked”, the Gospel will be revealed and the Holy Spirit can then be allowed to do His work.

According to the information at the website, Experience is a gold mine of man-made business techniques, but a barren landscape of Scriptural truths.

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