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Thursday, February 09, 2006 

A Great Post Over At What You Do, Do Quickly

What You Do, Do Quickly has a great post here on how Lutheran congregations become Lutheran in name only, just like how you get to Carnegie Hall: Practice! Practice! Practice! He writes by adopting non denominational styles and practices the doctrine will soon follow.

A few years back I was attending the yearly Symposia at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana. During the event I had the pleasure of dining with a semi retired pastor that hailed from the southwest. He told a friend and I of what should be a cautionary tale in his home district.

A parish tried to do whatever it took to be ecumenical, it tried to reach out and gain new members. And the first thing they attacked was worship. They started reaching out to the “unchurched” by removing the lectern. Next came the altar; it just got in the way of what was to become the equivalent of a stage. Next to go was the pulpit. After all, pulpits are just adiaphra, that is to say, things not specifically commanded by Scripture. The last thing to go was the Cross. In the beginning membership went up but after a relatively short amount of time, the congregation died. They were so worried about not being Lutheran that they forgot to preach the Word purely and administer the Sacraments rightly. By practicing to be something they should not be, they became just another listing in the phone book.

How often are we told that we need to change the way we worship. How many congregations are told, like mine was, to be less “church” minded and more “mission” minded? We were told this by our district president! I’m sorry, but Word and Sacrament is the only mission of the Church. Everything else that is done, good works and all that come with it, is the fruit of faith.

Two years ago I had the chance to visit my parents up north for the weekend. I attended the city’s mother church as I had many times in the past. But this time I found that they too were trying to “reach out to the community to increase membership. They were in the beginning stages of altering the liturgy. It had been worked and reworked by the pastor until, by the time I got there, it was unrecognizable. Everything was changed from the order of confession and absolution to the “new Lord’s Prayer”. The biggest red flag was, once again, the “new” version of the Nicene Creed. Apparently the Ecumenical Creeds are not ecumenical enough.
Please allow me to get a little sidetracked here. I once attended a class by the Rev. Dr. Arthur A. Just Jr. in which he said we should always come away feeling refreshed by the hearing of the Word. He said we should feel fed by our Lord’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist. He said we should feel the very peace that is proclaimed in the benediction at the end of our service.

All I felt when I visited the congregation up north was anger. I was not fed that day because the practice of style, that this congregation felt it must change, was accented by an empty doctrine. I would not even commune that day because I was no longer sure we shared the same confession of faith. This congregation’s practice was no longer recognizable as Lutheran. And there is no way to convince me this happened overnight. I didn’t need to talk to a not so happy elder to figure out that this practice was practiced.

So, back to my original point, What You Do, Do Quickly is right on the money, the only way to get to Carnegie Hall is Practice! Practice! Practice! Ah, the road to perdition…

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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