Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Who's Really Under Attack?

Over at the BJS site, there is a post asking people to complete the following sentence:  You may be practicing "Contemporary" Worship if . . .

As is always the case with posts like these, a few people have chimed in to express their opinion that such posts are less than constructive, mean, hateful, uncharitable, and hostile.  One commenter accused those who have posted responses as "destroying relationships for the sake of orthopraxy (orthopraxy means "right practice")," and asks, "Why don't you support your fellow brothers and sisters in the LCMS rather than attack?" 

My question to this commenter and to those who share his views is:  Who's really under attack?

The fact is that many pastors and congregations in the LCMS are employing worship practices that are inconsistent with Lutheran doctrine.  Not only that, but the current LCMS leadership continues to endorse and promote such congregations.  Have you taken a look at the official periodicals of our synod lately?  How about the "Igniting Congregations" link on the President's page of the LCMS website?  Congregations that are "boldly stepping outside of the box" and "doing whatever it takes to win the lost" are highlighted as "perfect examples" for the rest of the synod to follow.  What do these "perfect examples" look like?  NOT like Lutheran congregations at all.  In fact, a while back, I conducted a little experiment during a Bible Study.  I showed several short videos of congregations from the LCMS and other denominations at worship and asked those in attendance to pick out which ones they thought were Lutheran.  They couldn't do it.  They all looked the same.  They simply could not tell the difference between the LCMS congregations and the Pentecostal, "Evangelical," and Non-denominational congregations I showed. 

But, so what, right?  Obviously, I chose to show some rogue Lutheran congregations that do their own thing and fly under the radar, right?  Um, no.  These were congregations recently highlighted by President Kieschnick and company as "perfect examples."  These were congregations that were making synodical news.  They were being praised by the current LCMS leadership as "leading" and "spotlight" congregations.

Who's really under attack?  Those who simply desire to be Lutheran in our synod, that's who!  But, this is ignored by some.  When the Lutherans in our synod speak up and point out what is really going on, they are rebuked as mean-spirited, unloving, and uncharitable.  They have to bear the brunt of being accused of "destroying relationships for the sake of orthopraxy."  What an absolutely absurd comment!  Those interested in RIGHT PRACTICES (i.e. practices that jive with our Lutheran doctrine) are destroying relationships?  Can you say, oxymoronic?  What about those who ARE destroying relationships for the sake of FALSE PRACTICES?  That is what is truly ailing our synod.  What does it say about our synod when we have to do research when we have members move away to find a Lutheran LCMS congregation to attend and join?  No, it is NOT those who simply desire to be Lutheran, but those who want to merely bear the name Lutheran while practicing like methobapticostals who are destroying relationships and causing turmoil in our synod. 

And this all began many years ago.  Pastors and congregations enamored with the Church Growth Movement began doing their own thing already in the 80s (some before that), knowing full well that they were employing practices that conflicted with our Lutheran Confessions.  I personally know of four different LCMS pastors who went and got themselves degrees in "Church Growth" from Fuller Theological Seminary, and have heard of several more.  I sat in "Bible Studies" with one of these pastors and listened to him say things like, "We're doing things that the Missouri Synod doesn't currently approve, but hopefully they'll eventually remove their heads from the sand and get with the program.  Until then, mum's the word!"  That's just plain dishonest.  But, this pastor was not alone.  There were several who joined in his little rebellion against the synod with its head stuck in the sand.  They did whatever they wanted.  They learned from the "Church Growth Movement" gurus and followed them as if they were the wisest of wise sages.  They were not the least bit concerned with how their little rebellion would impact the synod.  They showed up every week, entertained the crowd, gave people what they wanted, and grew.  That was the proof for them that they were right and the synod with its head stuck in the sand was wrong.  So, they continued to do whatever was pleasing in their eyes, and no one stopped them.

And now their wish has come true.  They have taken over our synod.  No longer do they have to fly under the radar.  No longer do they have to say, "Mum's the word."  They are free to do whatever they please.  They are free to practice the principles of the Satanic "Church Growth Movement" no longer under the cover of darkness, but out in the open, in the light of day.  More than that, now that they have one of their own on the "throne," they're not just allowed to do as they please, but praised for doing so.  Their practices have been more than sanctioned; they have been put forth as beacons of light for the rest of us to follow.

Is it mean-spirited, hateful, unloving, and uncharitable to point these things out?  Not at all.  These are just the facts.  President Kieschnick is a self-proclaimed "church growth enthusiast."  It should not surprise anyone who is paying attention to see the enormous influx of Church Growth Movement principles introduced into our synod under his leadership.  He believes in those principles.  He's just being who he is.  He belongs to the group who did whatever they wanted while the synod had its head stuck in the sand and legitimately believes that his calling from God is to un-stick our synod's head from the sand and move us forward in the direction he whole-heartedly believes is the right direction to go. 

And please note that my criticism of President Kieschnick and those like him is NOT a personal attack.  I have no doubt that they have a tremendous love for the lost and sincerely desire to share the Gospel of our Lord with as many as possible.  They just seek to do so in a decidedly un-Lutheran manner.  That's why our current leadership hires un-Lutheran "church consultants" to show them the way.  The Lutheran way simply doesn't appeal to them.  They don't think it works.  They're looking for success.  They want to see positive results. 

And, make no mistake, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, they are the ones attacking those of us who simply desire to be Lutheran.  And, their attack is no longer subtle, as it once was.  No, it is smack dab in our faces these days.  We Lutherans who continue to to employ the historic liturgy and hymnody handed down to us, and who continue to trust in the Holy Word and Sacraments as the means of grace by which our Lord creates and sustains faith are called "maintenance congregations," accused of not having a heart for the lost, of being anti-missional.  We are dead (or, dying) and need to be revived (transformed).  And how shall we be revived?  By adopting the practices of the Revivalists, which are put before us by our leaders.  We must change or die, we're told.  And the changing we're told we must do is not merely about trying this or that new thing.  No, it's about changing who we are as Lutherans.  It's about changing our identity.  It's about transforming into non-Lutherans.

But those in the Purple Palace will respond:  You're overstating the case, Pr. Messer.  The unity we have in our synod is the envy of many other denominations.  The great divide you claim that exists is untrue.  Why, 80% of our congregations are currently using the Lutheran Service Book (hymnal), for Pete's sake!

Hogwash!  There is a HUGE chasm which exists in our synod right now, and it has only grown wider and wider these past 8+ years under the current administration.  And, as for 80% of our congregations being united around the same hymnal, get real!  How many within that fictitious 80% simply purchased the Builder (electronic hymnal) and pluck things from here and there to insert into their self-devised "contemporary" formats?  How many use the hymnal at one Service, but use nothing but "praise songs" and the pastor's (or worship leader's) own "liturgy" at another each week?  80% of our congregations are NOT united around the same hymnal - not even close!  But, that's okay in today's "not-your-grandfather's" LCMS, because President Kieschnick's hand-picked "Commission on Worship" has decided that it's okay for Lutheran congregations to use and sing "contemporary praise songs" that, at best, offer praise to some generic god and, at worst, contain false doctrine. 

Who's really under attack in today's LCMS?  It ain't those who worship like methobapticostals.  It is, rather, those who simply want to be Lutheran.  Those who worship like methobapticostals are praised; those who worship like Lutherans are looked upon with pity as some dying breed on the verge of extinction.  But, we're not extinct quite yet.  We still have a voice, and even if it continues to fall on deaf ears, we'll use that voice to speak up about what's really going on among us, and I suppose we'll just have to put up with being called mean-spirited and hateful along the way.  That's okay; I think we'll manage.   


William Weedon said...

The Liturgy will prevail in the end. It has truth and integrity behind it. It matches what we confess and in fact is a prayed confession. Meanwhile, O Lord, how long?

Paul Thompson said...

Great post. And yes, the Liturgy will prevail in the end. "Evangelicals" are getting sick of trendy worship and leaving their stupid man centered churches. I'm one of those who left.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Pr. Weedon and Paul,

Thanks for the comments. I agree that the Liturgy will prevail; I'm just not all that confident that it will prevail in the LCMS. But, I pray it will!