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Thursday, July 12, 2007 

Ablaze! Creates Conflict

One of the things I’ve never covered in any of my criticisms of the Ablaze! program is the actual effect it may or may not have on the members themselves. Most of what I’ve written here, when I wasn’t being sarcastic and snarky, has been what I believe a series of discussions only viewed from a Scriptural or Confessional perspective. It is those two views that really make me what I am, because at the end of the day, I don’t believe anything else matters.

I’ve been fortunate that I have a Pastor and a parish that looks at things, most of the time but not always, very much the way I do. It is for this reason that I’ve been insulated from the circuit, district, and synodical ventures into the reformed waters of an American Arminian style of evangelism where people make desisions that count as critical events and folks are told that to reach the unchurched we must stop acting so much like a church. But with district officials visiting and members of my own congregation thinking it might be a good thing to abandon that with which we have confessed to be a Scriptural view of evangelism, I been forced to look at things with new eyes.

What I’ve noticed more and more is that Ablaze!, whether by design or by accident although leaning more and more toward design, seems to force people to compete with each other for that “pat on the back” that tells them they are living up to God’s law that we just do our part. I’m not going to rehash that subject again. If you want to know what I’ve written, click on the Ablaze! tags and have at it.

So what do I mean that Ablaze! pits people against one another? Lets look at an excerpt from an email from an a member of my circuit:

As you know, several congregations in circuit 123 have already made decisions to participate financially, such as church A with a $48,000 minimum and church B with a $19,000 plus commitment; church C will be doing 50 Days Ablaze! in the fall. In addition… there are a number of publications , as you know from synod and the district that can be ordered and distributed to members of the congregation to help individuals make an informed decision of whether to participate and how.

The person that sent me this was and is very upset that we don’t seem to be measuring up to the other congregations. Never mind that we give more money to every pet charity that everybody and their cousin wants to support every time a budget meeting is called. We give plenty! But we don’t allocate 40% of our budget to send to a district that cant and wont seem to tell us how the spend our money. We decided some time ago that we wouldn’t drive ourselves into bankruptcy just so we can say we gave more that you did. That is poor stewardship and that is no different than giving to a bunch of rich Pharisees strutting around the marketplace in flowing robes devouring all the people gave.

And is that the only example? Heck no! look at this recent communication from the Southeastern district highlighting a convocation that promotes starting new congregations:

From Rev. Lloyd Gaines
I'm excited to announce the first SED Regional Church Planting Conference. It will take place at St. John's Lutheran Church, Franconia, Virginia September 5-7, 2007. This conference is not for everyone. It's for those with a deep passion and strong desire to learn the latest principles and techniques of church planting.

Ok, it’s not for everybody? Really? So how do I know if it’s for me? If I think that the focus of any congregation should be Word and Sacrament, will I be asked to leave? If I say such, will I be called a worthless wordsmith as I have in my own circuit? Again, how do I know if I’m welcome?
This you can’t be for evangelism if your focus is on Word and Sacrament pits those who should be for the same goal against one another for no good reason. Word and Sacrament are evangelism. Good doctrine and good theology can’t be separated from missions! And my new understanding frustrates me even more that we proceed day after day with a program that doesn’t measure up and pits brother against brother.

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That's "Arminian," after Jakob Arminius. An "Armenian" is a person from Armenia! ;)

Bob, thanks for the correction. My typing ain't not so gooD. My spelling am worse;)

I appreciate what you are saying here. I have been to a Mission Planter's conference similar to the one described here. I will say that the fact (which was made very evident through the week) that I was a confessional Lutheran who believed that Word and Sacrament must be central to all things of the Church didn't get me kicked out of the conference. I will also note that there were some good practical things to learn there despite the very disconcerting fact that Word and Sacrament centrality seemed to be promoted as optional at best.

One statement early in your post I'd like to urge you to reconsider is, "I've been fortunate that I have a Pastor and a parish that looks at things . . . very much the way I do."

Would it not be more appropriate to say that you are fortunate that your parish and pastor have a high view of Word and Sacrament, or are in line with the Confessions or something like that? Saying that they agree with YOU rather than saying they agree with the WORD OF GOD and THE CONFESSIONS sort of makes you the important thing.

Not a major thing as I am sure people got the jist of what you were saying there. And I beg your pardon if I am appearing overly critical here, especially since I've never read or posted on your blog before.

Pastor Ries,
You are 100% right! It is for the very fact that both my pastor and I hold such a high view of Word and Sacrament and we are in line in our understanding of the Confessions that we agree. Your point was dead on and no I do not think your critique was too harsh at all. My statement could just as easily been misinterpreted as read like I meant it. The way it was written, as Norman Nagle likes to say, had me “running the verbs.” I’m just a slack jawed layman and certainly no wordsmith. My bad.

I sorry to hear about your conference. What do you think were “some good practical things”? Most of the stuff I’ve ever heard was negative and I think that’s just natural human nature to focus on the bad.

Welcome Herr Pastor and please feel free to critique me any anytime.

The good practical things at the conference mostly involved issues surrounding administration, logistics, community relations, etc . . . when planting a new church.
Though I really did learn a lot from it I can't really defend the conference as a whole as a positive given that their wasn't really anything Lutheran about it. I could have probably learned much the same things from an Assemblies of God or Baptist (just to name a couple denominations) conference on the same subject.

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