Friday, July 16, 2010


One of the intriguing things about watching LCMS Conventions in action is that, just when you think you have the pulse of the delegates, they surprise you.  Such was the case this morning when the delegates adopted Resolution 1-10.  I am not so much surprised that they adopted this resolution as I am that they did so by such a wide margin (779-286 - 73%).  Here is the resolution:
To Make a Concerted Effort to Reach Generation X (born in the late 60s through the late 70s) and the Millennials in the US (those born after 1980 who are coming of age around 2000ff) with the Gospel of Jesus
Resolution 1-10
WHEREAS, The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reports that "fully one in four Millennials are unaffiliated with any faith and describe their religion as "atheist," "agnostic" or "nothing in particular"; and

WHEREAS, The percentage of young adults who regard themselves as unaffiliated to any religion has grown from 12% in the 1980s to 23% in the 2000s; and 

WHEREAS, We know from the example of Jesus Himself that He was concerned about people of every age, preaching to all the Good News of the Kingdom and calling them into the Kingdom of God and that it is the will of God that all be saved; and

WHEREAS, This vast mission field exists in the communities where our congregations are carrying out their ministries; therefore be it

Resolved, That congregations strive to better understand these generations and the effective means to reach them; and be it further

Resolved, That congregations be encouraged to actively communicate the Gospel message in a manner that connects with these generations; and be it finally 

Resolved, That LCMS World Missions spearhead the effort to assist congregations in reaching these generations with the Gospel. 
Now, this is one of those non-resolute, "encouragement" resolutions, which may be why the delegates quickly dispatched with it and let it fly.  But, it is also one of those resolutions which sends a message the delegates may not have thought through deeply enough.  

The main problem, at least for me, is the second resolved.  What does "actively communicate the Gospel message in a manner that connects with these generations" mean?  This is language which is consistent with one of the principles of the Church Growth Movement, which is to "repackage the Gospel in a way that will appeal to a certain targeted audience" - in this case, the specific generations mentioned.  This resolved suggests that the manner of communicating the Gospel revealed in the Word of God and confirmed in Article IV of our Augsburg Confession, namely to preach the Gospel in its purity and to administer the Sacraments according to Christ's institution, is not sufficient in reaching these specific generations.  Something different is needed.  Something extra or innovative needs to be done to reach these generations with the Gospel.  We have no idea what that something is, since the resolution is vague, as is usually the case in these types of non-resolute, "encouragement" resolutions, but there is a definite message being sent that the normal and God-given way of communicating the Gospel must be supplemented or repackaged in some way.  I suppose LCMS World Missions, whom the last resolved calls upon to spearhead this effort and assist congregations in this endeavor, will let us know how the communication of the Gospel should be supplemented or repackaged.  

I am betting that many delegates didn't think this through as much as they should have.  They simply heard the stats given in the Whereases from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which probably reminded them of many young people they know who have absented themselves from the Church, and thought this sounded like a good idea.  Who doesn't want to reach more of our youth with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, after all?  The problem is that this resolution is not just about having that God-pleasing desire to reach more of our youth with the Gospel, but rather that it suggests that WE must find a way to better communicate the Gospel, and whenever WE are involved in coming up with something better than what our Lord Himself has ordained for us, there is great danger involved.  

Criticizing this resolution will probably sound to some like something akin to getting enjoyment out of kicking puppy dogs, but I do believe that this resolution opens the door to all sorts of tomfoolery being done in the name of reaching these generations.  I say preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments and let the Holy Spirit do what He does.

Now, to be fair, it could very well be that many delegates were thinking solely in terms of what happens outside of the Divine Service.  They may have had the employment of new media in mind (youtube, social networking, podcasts, etc.) in order to reach out to those raised on this sort of communication and invite them to come and hear the pure Gospel preached and receive the Holy Sacraments.  After all, there is nothing wrong with employing these means to reach out to these generations (consider Pr. Fisk's most excellent videos, or the many connections being made via social networking, or "Issues, Etc." podcasts), and, indeed, we should be using any and all means available to us to do just that, so long as the Gospel is still purely proclaimed in those new media outlets.  The problem, though, is that the resolution itself doesn't make this clear.  It is far too vague and leaves the door open for interpreting it to mean that we need to "shake things up" in the church, so to speak.

And so, I was surprised that this went through with such a majority.  But, maybe it's just me.  Well, no, it's not just me, since Larry, our circuit's lay delegate, called me at lunch today to express his displeasure that this resolution was passed, and his surprise that it was passed with such a majority.  So, maybe it's just Larry and me.  Or, maybe great minds think alike! :)  I'd love to hear from those who supported this resolution.  It very well could be that I'm protesting where there is no need.  I've been known to do that a time or two before (but, just a time or two! :).     


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I support this resolution because it means I can now justify ignoring Baby Boomers. Those wanna-be hippies are a pain in the ying-yang.

Or is that not the point?

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

Actually, Pr. Brown, I think the point of this resolution is that the Gospel needs to be communicated one way to Boomers and another way to Millennials, etc.

Nevertheless, your point is well taken. :)

IggyAntiochus said...

It is interesting that the Pew Forum whereas comes first, followed by a statistic (not necessarily from the Pew Forum) and finally we get Scripture. Not a scripture quote, but references to scripture without so much as chapter and verse.

Note to committees who write these things: GIVE ME A SOLID FOUNDATION IN SCRIPTURE instead of Pew or Barna or Zogby or any other statistical propaganda.

Brian Yamabe said...

I kicked this puppy at the FC1 open hearing (where I first met Pr. Harrison as an aside) where it was first presented. I'm not much of a public speaker, but since I was the only GenXer, and no Millenials, I figured I should say something. I told them that we don't fall for programs and if you want to keep us around you have to stand for something. We need to get back to fundamentals with a clear proclamation of the Gospel without all this extra stuff around it. I don't think they actually heard what I was saying. I think it's a generational thing ;-)

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


Glad you spoke up and "kicked this puppy," my friend. :) I wonder if the Boomers will ever realize how insulting it is to make presumptions about the wants and desires of the generations which followed theirs (and before any of you Boomers chastise me for that comment, let me state most emphatically that I do realize that not all Boomers are guilty of this). Interestingly, our lay delegate, Larry, who is also a GenXer, hated this resolution and called me during a break to express his frustration about it being adopted. I really am shocked that it passed with 73%. Weird, that!

jim claybourn said...

I was sitting with Brian Y at the FC1 hearing and tried to make my point that I felt that this and several other resolutions might lead to a "Balkanization" or "separate tribes" mentality in our church.

As a baby boomer, I expressed similar sentiments, but may not have had the impact that Brian did.

FC1 implied that they were indeed talking about "old message - new media", but as you said, it is so vague that it could mean several things.