Monday, July 5, 2010

On Saving Our Synod

The lighthearted and absolutely hilarious "This or THAT" video created by Brian Yamabe (see my last post) has created quite the buzz around the blogosphere.  Some are crying out for Mr. Yamabe to yank the video from Youtube and apologize for making it, because they claim it is offensive.  Hogwash!  The video was made in response to the Jesus First video, "THAT Church" (see a few posts down).  It was meant to be funny, while, at the same time, sending a serious message, and it accomplishes its goal in spades.  The difference between the videos produced by Jesus First and Mr. Yamabe boils down to one very important word - honesty!

The Jesus First video presents a dishonest message, implying that our synod (THAT Church) has been, and will remain, blissfully united under the leadership of synodical president Rev. Gerald Kieschnick.  Notice that there is no mention of the division which exists in our synod.  That division is glossed over with an attempt to pull at the heartstrings of the viewer.  Pr. Chuck Mueller, Jr. shares a touching story about baptism, says a few positive things about Pres. Kieschnick and our synod, and a chorus of happy people cheer:  "I want to belong to THAT Church!"  The Jesus Firsters applaud this sort of approach, because they see this as a positive approach.  But, it's not positive.  It's dishonest.  And dishonesty is never a positive thing.   

In comparison, Mr. Yamabe's video is refreshingly honest.  The division which exists in our synod is highlighted.  Is that division as cut and dried as the video makes it appear.  Well, no.  It is surely more nuanced than that, but that's not really the point.  The point is that we do have "this" and "that" in our synod.  The point is that we're not as blissfully united as Pres. Kieschnick has so often portrayed, and as his biggest supporters, the Jesus Firsters, claim.  We have very real and very serious divisions among us, and "It's Time" that we were honest about that.

Anyway, this leads me to the point of this post:  How can our synod be saved?

In the course of catching up with all the hoopla surrounding Mr. Yamabe's video, I followed a link to the following video, which is posted over at The Wittenberg Trail:

Find more videos like this on The Wittenberg Trail

I understand the thought process in the video and agree that a big part of the problem which exists in our synod has developed from many who have forsaken our Confessions in order to follow after the pop-theology of false teachers like Rick Warren.  Actually, though, the problem runs much deeper than that.  The real root of the problem started many years ago when Lutherans became increasingly unsatisfied with Lutheranism and began looking elsewhere in the attempt to satisfy themselves.  So, we had a bunch who were enamored by what they saw as a far more intellectual way to approach Holy Scripture, and they embraced the Higher Critical Method of Biblical Interpretation, which led to seminex.  But, we also have had, and still have, many among us who have been, and are, unsatisfied with our Lutheran theology of worship.  These Lutherans began flirting with the Church Growth Movement (CGM) which posits as one of its central principles the idea that we need to make worship more appealing to the "unchurched' if we are to grow and thrive.  This is what has led to the replacement of the Divine Service with rock concerts.  According to the CGM, the Gospel needs to be repackaged in a way that the consumer (the "unchurched") will desire to purchase it.  This means that any and all "barriers" need to be removed in order to make the "unchurched" feel right at home during worship.  And, certainly, Pres. Kieschnick is part of the group within our synod which has bought into many of the principles of the CGM.  He has publicly endorsed books written by those who are enamored with these principles, and has continually endorsed and promoted pastors and congregations in our synod who have put these principles into practice.  And, his own book, released earlier this year, is dripping with CGM principles.  

But - but! - we need to make sure we are clear about two things:  1) Pres. Kieschnick is not THE problem and 2) Presidential Nominee Rev. Matt Harrison is not THE solution.

Whether intended or not, this video gives the impression that we can save our synod by electing Rev. Harrison as our synodical president.  That is not true.  We cannot save our synod and neither can Rev. Harrison, as he would most readily confess.  What we can do is elect the best candidate our Lord has made available to us; the candidate who knows and understands that God alone has the ability to save our synod; the candidate who has laid out a plan which involves us returning in faithfulness to the Word of God and our Lutheran Confessions in order to address and, hopefully, solve the very real and very serious divisions which exist among us; the candidate who is at home in the house of our fathers and is completely satisfied with being, and remaining, Lutheran in doctrine and practice, and who actually believes that being, and remaining, Lutheran in doctrine and practice is not only a good option, but, like our fathers, necessary and vital - and that candidate is Rev. Harrison.

Rev. Harrison will not be our savior, but I believe, if given the opportunity, he will faithfully serve us by always pointing us to our true Savior, Jesus Christ.  I believe that he understands that the Word of God is living and active, mighty and powerful, and does have the ability to save our synod, as that Word leads us to repentance and faith.

And so, I wouldn't say that we can save our synod or that Rev. Harrison can do so.  But, I will say that God can save our synod and that Rev. Harrison is the candidate who not only understands that, but desires to implement a plan which would allow God to do so through His Word.  That is why I, and many others, support Rev. Harrison.  We don't see him as a savior, but as a penitent sinner who is dependent upon the salvific work of Jesus Christ, and we believe that his desire is to lead our synod toward a greater and broader dependence upon Jesus as well.   

1 comment:

Brian Yamabe said...

Pastor Messer,
Thank you for your kind words and support. I'm glad that a large majority understood the point of the video and enjoyed it as a humorous counter to "THAT Church."

I was starting to feel a little beat up over the whole thing, but found I just needed a good nights sleep. I'm ready for the convention!

If you noticed, Pr. Mueller seemed to imply that others would be doing similar videos. I almost hope others do because I or someone else would surely find an entertaining way to respond.