Friday, September 26, 2014
Haters Gonna Hate (from their moms' basements, in their beds, which are lined with Star Wars sheets)
Also, the bed I sleep on when I visit doesn't have Star Wars sheets, but that would be totally cool, and I would not at all be opposed to that. Star Wars rocks! I still have fond memories of the first time my parents ever took me to the drive-in (Fort George in Southgate, MI, may it rest in peace!), and the double feature that night was Grease and Star Wars. Great night! I love me some Star Wars.
Anyway, contrary to the assumptions of a couple speakers (and their tweeting supporters) at the FiveTwo Wiki14 Conference, I don't live in my mom's basement and I don't sleep on Star Wars sheets. But, I am a hater, at least according to their definition, which, as far as I can tell, is defined as "anyone who disagrees with, or criticizes, us." That's definitely me. I'm a hater and, well, haters gonna hate. And, that's okay, according to the FiveTwo WikiFolks, who "share their love for Jesus" by exhorting/coaching their followers to "ignore the haters," and encouraging their haters to "hate on," since "we're not listening to you" and "we'll just keep doing what we're doing." Can you feel the WikiLove?
Seriously, this is all just so ridiculous. The FiveTwo WikiFolk know full well what they're doing. They know that they're presenting "new stuff" (which isn't actually new, but they think it is) and that it will upset their brothers and sisters in Christ in their so-called "tribe," who still cling to an old, worn-out, 16th-century book, which is a correct exposition of an even older, more worn-out Book. But, they don't care. Really, they don't. Their "mission" is far too important to care about the "neoconservatives . . . who are extremely uncomfortable with anything that departs from their very narrow understanding of church and ministry," and who "can't stand to see anyone deviate from their ecclesio-cultural tradition," and who, "if allowed, would keep purifying the ranks until only a select few remain" (seriously, that there is some serious "sacramental entrepreneurship" happening, ain't it?). They lovingly shove their "new stuff" in their haters' faces, and then cry foul and play the martyr when their haters respond. It's all so predictable and sad, but when you don't have a theological leg to stand on, you pull out the "haters gonna hate" cliche and talk about moms and basements and Star Wars sheets.
But, as ridiculous as all of that is, what is even more ridiculous is that nearly a third of the LCMS' District Presidents attended the FiveTwo Wiki14 Conference, neither to correct the smorgasbord of false doctrine dished out, nor to rebuke the false teachers serving it up, but to support and cheer it on. I've heard from a few friends today, who have informed me of emails and messages their District Presidents sent out to them praising the Conference. My own District President, Rev. David Maier (Michigan District), retweeted fourteen #wiki14 tweets, showing his support. These are our Ecclesiastical Supervisors? Really?
You need not have an advanced theological degree to spot the plethora of non-Lutheran teachings on display at the Wiki14 Conference. Any mildly-catechized Lutheran (actually catechized from the Small Catechism/Book of Concord) can listen to, and watch, what transpired there and know that it wasn't Lutheran doctrine being taught and practiced, which, like, totally makes sense, since the majority of the keynote speakers weren't Lutherans. Duh!
I mean, when a Lutheran hears someone say that "Us mainline sacramental folk" includes "Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Anglicans, and Lutherans," the little false doctrine, heresy-hunting buzzer in their heads has to immediately start buzzing, no? And this was from the first keynote speaker, Rev. Bill Woolsey, who is an LCMS pastor and the Founder/President of FiveTwo. I watched his entire presentation and took me some notes. I was going to include a whole series of lengthy quotes, but this blog post (which, according to the WikiFolk, in another one of of their "sharing-the-love-of-Jesus, sacramental" outbursts, "will only be read by my mom and me") would get too long. So, I'll just summarize a few of the most troubling things about his very non-Lutheran presentation.
First, the fact that he refers to "mainline sacramental folk" as including those who aren't very "sacramental" at all is a tad bit troubling (and by "tad bit," I mean "extremely"). But, this does clue you in on what he's talking about with the whole "sacramental entrepreneur" thing, which may be one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard from anyone in any of the Church Growth Movement (CGM), Emergent, Missional, Seeker crowds, and that's saying something. As you listen to him talk, you very quickly come to learn that when he says "sacramental entrepreneurs," he's definitely not referring to being "stewards of the mysteries of God." Even if you're a little slow to discern what he means, it becomes vividly clear by the end of his presentation, which he concludes with the exhortation, "Be Jesus' sacraments to the world" (you know, "little 's' sacraments," as he says a few times throughout his presentation, whatever those are). That simply cannot mean the Holy Sacraments of our Lord, which you learned about when you went through the Small Catechism with your pastor (hopefully!). You can't BE the Holy Sacraments. How absurd! Scripture would become a little weird if that were true: "You now saves you" and "Take, eat, this is you" (or would it be "I take and eat my body"? - so confusing) and "I forgive me all my sins"? Um, no.
Here's what he means: "Each one of you, Jesus has poured into a very unique expression of his sacramental presence, and he desires that that unique expression of Jesus that lives in you would live also in the people around you." I know, I know, if you're an actual Lutheran, this still doesn't clear things up, since Jesus hasn't poured into each one of us a very unique expression of His Sacramental Presence at all. Rather, we all receive the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, life, light, and peace via our Lord's Holy Sacraments. It's what makes us One, and all that. Lutheranism 101 stuff. Really, this stuff isn't hard at all. What he means is something that's impossible. We cannot pour the grace of Jesus into others "sacramentally"; those others need to be brought to where Jesus Is and where He washes them clean of all sin in Holy Baptism, absolves them in Holy Absolution, feeds them upon His Word in Holy Preaching, and His very Body and Blood in the Holy Supper.
Besides all the Buddhist-like "sacramental" stuff, which is nothing but an attempt to gussie up old CGM stuff in churchly guise, Rev. Woolsey is sure to get in a few shots about those stodgy, unbending liturgical folk, making fun of their "worship form" by describing it as "Germanic, emotionless ritual that communicates God at a distance, making you think maybe we're in the holies of holies [sic] with his high priest and I'm out schlepping in the Gentile court." In its place, he suggests we "change our strategy and allow our worship forms to embrace the language and the nuance of the culture." In fact, he thinks we should "take into account the people that God is literally parachuting into our communities" (literally?) and "let them drive" what we do (I've said it before and I'll say it again now: There is nothing more Satanic than to shape what you do in the church according to the wants and desires of the unbelieving world; I mean, that should go without saying, shouldn't it? #israelandjudahlearnedthehardway).
Anyone who has studied the Classic CGM can identify its principles coming through loudly and clearly here. It's a mult-level marketing plan dressed up in churchly language. Throw the words "sacramental" and "holy" and "mystical" around all you want (oh, and don't forget "missional" - we must never forget "missional"!), but what you are actually advocating is a business plan, based on secular business principles, not God's Word. What you've done is turned God's ways and thoughts into your ways and thoughts. In so doing, the unchurched (i.e., unbelievers) are the customers, the Gospel is the product, the church members are your downline, and the worship service is the weekly motivational meeting, where you encourage your downline (sacramental entrepreneurs) to get out there and "be the unique, sacramental presence of Jesus" to others, so that the downline may grow.
What must inevitably follow in this approach is to tear down any, and all, barriers that get in the way of the customers-turned-members (downline), so that they will keep coming back and keep recruiting. Emotional manipulation works well as a tool. Make the worship as emotionally-manipulative as you can. It helps if your "worship leader" can whisper sweet nothings ever so softly in between songs and your preacher (motivational speaker) can tell some touching stories, a few jokes, and sprinkle Jesus' name and some other churchly language in there for good measure; maybe have a few props for object lessons or touching segments of video to accompany the message. Have big screens on display, sell some coffee, have a book store on the premises, a big stage to house the "show," and comfortable seating (very important!). And then, when people have been sufficiently manipulated emotionally, remind them that what they are feeling is the "unique sacramental presence of Jesus" and how it's all so "holy and mystical," and how they should go share that with others, so that they can feel it, too.
And, perhaps most importantly - and, really, this was the main theme that ran throughout all the Wiki14 presentations I watched - erect a barrier between the clergy and the laity and then tear it down for all to see (it must be artificially erected, because it really doesn't exist). You're not like those other clergy, after all, with their "legalistic checklists for pure doctrine, pure worship, and pure pastors." Yes sir, you're nothing at all like those nasty pastors. You reject their "clergification" (not sure if that's how it's spelled, but does it really matter how you spell made-up-out-of-thin-air words?), where they go about doing all the doing and oppressing the lowly laity under their reign. They wear their "old uniforms," those silly vestments, which are a visible representation of the separation between them and the lowly, common folk, and they insist on leading the Service. Those "Doers and Oppressors" even think they should be the ones to preach and administer the Sacraments every week. We must do away with this madness!
And so you have. You've shifted from being a "Doer and Oppressor" to being an "Equipper and Overseer." Your job is not to preach the Gospel, administer the Sacraments, catechize the young and old, pray for the flock you serve, and visit the sick and shut-in, but to equip the laity to do all those things, while you oversee them. They are co-laborers with you. Everyone is a minister. Everyone does the ministry. Everyone is a missionary. Everyone does the mission. And, really, let's just go ahead and take it a step further: Everyone is Jesus; everyone is the Gospel; everyone is the Sacraments. Totally rad, bro!
All of this, too, is straight out of the Classic CGM playbook. It's just warmed-over, repackaged stuff Lutherans started borrowing and trying to use back in the 1970s, which lead to bringing contemporary worship and Americanized Evangelical "evangelism" programs into the congregations of our synod, catching on in the 1980s. It's based on a decidedly non-Lutheran hermeneutical approach to Scripture, where many popular passages that are directed toward the men called and ordained to serve Christ's Church in His stead and by His command are redirected toward all Christians. It's embarrassing to see those who have supposedly been trained to be Lutheran pastors pedaling this stuff, but then I'm one of those "Doers and Oppressors" (you know, one of those "customer service-type pastors," as another Wiki14 presenter put it), so consider the source, I guess. Remember, haters gonna hate.
And all of this is approved by many of our Ecclesiastical Supervisors, who were "so blessed to attend the Wiki14 Conference." Rev. Woolsey just came right out and said that he allows several laymen in his congregation to preach, and encouraged the pastors and "leaders" there to go back home and do this, too, because that's how you "start new to reach new," by giving "permission and protection" to laypeople to do what they have not been called to do. Out loud, he said this. In front of nine or ten LCMS District Presidents, according to #wiki14 tweets. Publicly. Online. And not a single public rebuke from a District President is heard.
That's disconcerting, even as it's not all that shocking. It just shows that the LCMS hasn't changed much, even with actual Lutherans at the helm. You can just publicly thumb your nose at AC V and XIV right in front of several Ecclesiastical Supervisors, and they go home and tell everyone how blessed they were.
But, as disconcerting as all of the above is, what is especially troubling (this is where many of my pals abandon ship) is that the response from our Synod leaders is for us to shut up about it. The WikiFolk put on a three-day display of non-Lutheran doctrine and practice (I've only scratched the surface here), which causes many actual Lutherans to respond, and we have the 8th Commandment thrown at us as a hammer, just as was done under the previous synod administration. On one hand, the WikiFolk call us haters and tell us to "hate on"; on the other hand, our synod leaders treat us as though we are the haters we're accused of being. Some things never change, I guess.
Here's an idea: How about our synod leaders put half as much effort into addressing the issues we have inside of the church as they do addressing issues outside of the church. As a dear brother pastor put it recently, "The prophetic voice veritably thunders on Capitol Hill where it costs nothing. It has gone silent on Mount Zion where it costs souls." If the WikiFolk were promoting abortion or gay marriage, or infringing upon our freedom of religion as Americans, would it merit a response? What if they said they were taking a special offering to support the campaign of a Democratic politician? Did we elect theologians and churchmen or political activists to lead our synod? (And, no, I'm not saying that addressing some of our social ills is unimportant, just that maybe we ought to be paying some attention to our synod ills, too - here's where I'm reminded of the Koinonia Project and how things take time, etc.).
In the last few days, I've heard from several laypeople in our synod, many of whom came out of Protestant and Reformed traditions, leaving behind all the nonsense promoted by the WikiFolk and approved by several of our District Presidents, because they fell in love with our Lutheran confession of the faith. Contrary to District Presidents and Synod blogs, what upsets them is not the "bickering" over this they see in social media and around the blogosphere, but the fact that this kind of thing goes on in our synod with the approval and endorsement of our Ecclesiastical Supervisors, who should know better. I know how they feel.
But, what does a hater like me know? I'm no entrepreneur, who is interested in "doing new - new thinking, new acting." I'm no "risk-taker, who's not afraid to push the edges and get outside the old confines of my ecclesiastical tribe." I'm no "vision-caster, who can figure out new places where the Spirit is moving and jump on for the ride." I'm just a Lutheran, who actually thinks that the "high walls and deep moats" of our Lutheran Confessions ought to guide everything I do as Lutheran pastor, per the ordination vows I took. You know, a hater.
(Hope you made it all the way to the end, mom. Please have my Star Wars sheets washed when I come down to visit Sunday. Love ya!)