Friday, May 30, 2008

What If Worship Was Like An NBA Game?

Sadly, I know too many people who would that think what goes on in the video would be a tremendous benefit to the church as an outreach tool. At a time when churches are ripping out the back row of pews to install latte bars, hiding any reference to all things churchly, and when what goes on up on stage more closely resembles the Dr. Phil show (I mean no disrespect to Dr. Phil of course), I know I shouldn’t even put up such a video for fear of giving these folks another goofy idea. I just thought the video was funny that’s all.

HT: Rev. Jack Bauer over at the Counter-Pietism Unit at AC24

Pirate Christian Radio

Gee, I go away for one day and look what I miss; Pastor Todd Wilken and and Jeff Schwarz of Issues, Etc. fame announcing their return to an all new and independent Christ centered, Gospel driven talk radio program.

"Jeff and I have been working hard on a new radio show. What will it be like? Well, we’re going to pick up right where Issues, Etc. left off. And at the same time, we’re going to be truly independent, free to speak, no holds barred. As always, Christ-centered, cross-focused. Everything you loved about Issues, Etc., and more." Folks, it’s coming back."

Oh yeah!

At the link above there is information provided to support the new program by making a secure online donation to Lutheran Public Radio. And unlike your grandfather’s synod, there is an additional link for the purpose of Full Financial Transparency. Just try and find out where your congregation's money goes after you send it off to the district or synod and you’ll see the importance of that previously mentioned transparency thingy.

Now is the time to see if people will support a radio program that isn’t sanctioned by our beloved synod. The first thing that comes to mind when I wonder that myself, is the amount of support that Higher Things gets. Clearly there is precedence for such support. I for one, want such a clear witness to the Gospel in a radio and podcast format and will put my money where my mouth is today. To do otherwise would be rather hypocritical of me as the whole reason I started this little blog was to poke fun at Ablaze! by pointing out the lack of the Gospel message and the promotion of Madison Avenue style marketing for growing the church.

My check gets written today and I hope yours does as well.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Irenic Missions Reductionism

In his May 2008 letter to pastors, President Kieschnick basically proposed that we adopt the Rodney King school of thought and just all try and get along in spite of the fact that we (now) have some serious differences confronting our synod. The more proper name for the this method of sweeping differences under the rug and pretending they don’t exist is called Irenics. Think I’m making up words again? Go here for a look at Irenics in action and practice.

One of the things that cause slack jawed yokels like me beat our heads against the wall is the fact that we don’t believe that theology and practice can be separated. If we need alter or hide the message to reach out to those we are targeting, what does that say about what we believe about the message ourselves? Still don’t know where I going with this? Allow me to show what happens in mission reductionism;

In his January 15, 2008 Letter to Pastors, President Jerry Kieschnick includes the following;

An example: planted to plant

LakePointe Lutheran Church in Hot Springs, Ark., is a one-year-old congregation that was planted with the very intention that it, in turn, would plant more churches. Pastor Greg Bearss, a former banker and a graduate of our Fort Wayne seminary, reports that the congregation is averaging 200 people in worship and that he baptized more than 20 last summer.

Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab, national director for new mission fields development with LCMS World Mission, says that LakePointe already has decided to launch its first "satellite," has begun the church-planting process, and has called a Mission-Formation Track student from the St. Louis seminary. "This is a perfect example of an Ablaze! Covenant Congregation that is engaged in a church-planting movement," he says.

Pastor Bearss writes, "We are 'test piloting' a video venue that will reach out to an untapped area of Arkadelphia, Ark. Our plan, Lord willing, is to start five more healthy satellites out of our church. We have tentative plans to start another satellite by fall of 2009."

If your congregation is newly planted, then bloom and grow as Christ provides so that Gospel seeds of witness may find root in another place. If such expansion has not yet occurred in your congregation, then pray the Lord of the harvest to provide the increase for local growth and to open doors for expansion opportunities

I, being the curious type and all, was more than intrigued as to how a mission that was only one year old was going to go about planting five new missions. So, I logged on to LakePoint’s website to take a gander.

At first I thought I might be at the wrong site. President Kieschnick had introduced LakePointe as LakePointe Lutheran Church but the name Lutheran was nowhere found. Ok, I thought, maybe I need to cut these guys a little slack as many believe the name Lutheran is an impediment to true outreach to those unchurched demographic we always seem to be concerned with. I don’t buy into that tripe but still there are those who disagree with me.

The second thing that really struck me was the complete lack of any mention of Ablaze!. One would think that a congregation that signed on to be a Covenant Congregation would at least have the Ablaze! logo front and center. But that trademarked symbol of our beloved synod’s evangelism movement is absent as is any mention of Ablaze!. Curious as one would think that an Ablaze! Covenant Congregation would be, well, Ablaze!.

So then I read on…

Look at what I found on the very first page;

Imagine a place where you can....

· Talk openly about relationships
· Use technology to assist you in your spiritual journey
· Have fun together by going to the movies, the lake, or sporting events
· Use the arts to worship and celebrate God
· Talk authentically about work, life and the next steps in our relationship with God

...You have just imagined LakePointe, what we see as reality.

Because LakePointe is a place....

· To be yourself
· To ask tough questions and get honest answers
· To meet new friends and build authentic relationships
· To grow spiritually and relationally
· To make a difference in your community and world by serving others

Now let us look at what LakePointe promotes;

· Talk openly about relationships

I looked everywhere and I can’t seem to find a verse in Scripture that says the mission of the church is to talk about relationships. It was my understanding that the mission was to proclaim that because we are all poor miserable sinners, Jesus was nailed to the cursed tree to atone for our wretched state. But I’m just a slacked jawed yokel and not a trained banker or a dynamic lay minister much less an ordained one, so maybe I’m just confused. I know we are supposed to meet the unchurched where they are at, but shouldn’t we be up front about what we at least should be telling them?

· Use technology to assist you in your spiritual journey

I checked out the Bible again, I don’t know why but I keep going back to that book for some reason, and I keep reading about sacraments and preaching as a means to assist us on our spiritual journey. I even looked at the Apocrypha and couldn’t find any technological references. Weird isn’t it. Even the twenty-ninth chapter of Matthew doesn’t cover PowerPoint or laser shows. Again, weird isn’t it?

· Have fun together by going to the movies, the lake, or sporting events

See commentary for the first point. In addition, there is nothing wrong with enjoying fellowship with your community. But if your community exists for the sake of itself, doesn’t that make anything church related secondary?

· Use the arts to worship and celebrate God

See commentary for the first point. Also, I am overjoyed LakePointe included something mentioning God in the top four things to imagine. But I do have to wonder, where does Jesus fit in? Because in the “Because LakePointe is a place....” section neither Jesus or God get a shout out…

· Talk authentically about work, life and the next steps in our relationship with God

See commentary for the first point, again.

Under the Because LakePointe is a place.... section, is this mission about God or a field trip to the Dr. Phil show? Shouldn’t a church be at least a little bit about God, just a little bit?

So there’s the new template for a mission starting missions. It weird, but for some reason, I feel like I’ve read this script before although admittedly I can’t remember where. So until I figure it out I’ll just go walk the labyrinth and meditate on an icon while listening to those great new hymn writers U2 until I figure it out. I’m sure that’ll help…

And that dear reader is what happens when we all try and get along and perform outreach with theology taking the back seat to seeker sensitive methodology. It is this irenic methodology that we are supposed to embrace as the way to move our beloved synod forward past the days of your grandfather’s synod who grew the church by baptizing babies, preaching the Word purely, and administering the Sacraments rightly and into modern mission templates using the tried and true practices tested by the Fortune 500 companies that keep your 401K funds afloat.

Just so you know...

A Must Read Post Over At Stand Firm

Scott Diekmann over at Stand Firm has an in depth look at the Pastoral Leadership Institute in a post titled "A Third Seminary in the LCMS?" In the post he makes the connection between the Pastoral Leadership Institute and the Church Growth Movement and what that means for us in the LCMS. He also gives a short history lesson on the group that has called itself a "...a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod ministry." and it’s mission of training pastors and laity to grow the church through Madison Avenue style techniques that rely on markers other than the Means of Grace that Scripture promises and our confessions point to.

Great job Scott on well written and researched post!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Seminary Prof. Berger on Ablaze!

A big tip of the hat to Pastor Chryst over at Preachrblog for pointing out that Seminary Professor (and Board for Communications Services member) David Berger has just written a scathing commentary on the LCMS evangelism program Ablaze! and actually posted it on Concordia Seminary’s website “Concordia Theology”.

Some highlights;

Most troubling, however, is the lack of primary – front and center – emphasis on the Sacraments, especially infant Baptism, and on substantive preaching and teaching of the Word (the "business as usual" referred to below?) as the God-given means of creating faith and spreading the Gospel. Surely the Baptism of a child is a “critical event.” A lack of emphasis on God’s gifts can easily be understood as de-valuing the God-given means of grace and, by extension, the means He has provided for bringing the gifts to a world in need.

To provide resources and ideas for personal and group witnessing is an admirable goal, but when a program relies so heavily on a host of techniques, gimmicks, explanations, definitions, rationales, action plans, discussing the seven mission responses, etc., (not to mention funding and consultants), the methodology threatens to overwhelm the mission.

Having seen only reports of participants makes it difficult to evaluate the “re-vitalizing” process in detail; however, bright red flags have already appeared on the horizon, e.g., asking a pastor to commit to putting his name on a call list if his congregation does not achieve 5% growth within two years.

When missionaries must be recalled from the field for lack of support, we need to ask what we need to change to make it possible for them to continue their work. Those who are called to be evangelists need to be supported, not tasked with raising funds for the work that should consume all their energies.

Those are just the highlights. Again, read the whole paper here.

I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t going to be some changes to the staff at Concordia Seminary for programmatic and business/stewardship reasons…

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We Have Disagreements Now?

In his May 2008 letter to pastors President Kieschnick writes:

Finally, there also have been disagreements related to administrative decisions, official opinions, and adjudicatory judgments of panels, boards, committees, commissions, employees, and officers of the Synod.

About such disagreements, I ask: Do they deal with doctrinal matters, or with matters of implementation of doctrinal principles? Are the divisions or disagreements among us primarily matters of faith and practice, or are they for the most part differences of opinion in matters of adiaphora? Is the LCMS deeply divided, or are our disagreements primarily related to the fact that for a variety of reasons, some members of the Synod have grown to dislike or to distrust one another?

Two thoughts here. First, in his letter to the Wall Street Journal concerning the cancellation of Issues, Etc President Kieschnick stated:

In truth, last summer the LCMS had its most positive and unified convention in years. Our church remains faithful to the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions, an integral part of our identity as a church body. As stated in a resolution adopted last summer by the national Synod convention: “From the founding of our Synod 160 years ago, we have been blessed by unity in our common confession and the articles of our shared faith, such as the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, original sin, baptismal regeneration, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Sacrament, the inerrancy of Scripture and many others.”

He then went on to talk about the evidence of being unified measured by the passing of the synod’s marketing campaign in convention. He put forward to the outside world the notion that we are all one big happy family within the LCMS.

I think President Kieschnick needs to send another letter to the WSJ and say not only do we disagree about policies of admission to Holy Communion; the respective roles, responsibility, authority, and accountability of pastors and lay people; the service of women in the church; and various expressions of worship, inter-Christian relationships; what constitutes unionism and syncretism; and issues related to participation in civic events as he stated in his report during last summer's convention but also that we now agree on the fact that there are disagreements on administrative decisions, official opinions, and adjudicatory judgments of panels, boards, committees, commissions, employees, and officers of the Synod.

Yep, there are definitely a lot of “disagreements” in the LCMS.

My second thought concerns the last paragraph of the email posted here. If the synodical leadership was as transparent as it should be and acting like a church instead of a corporation, we all would know if disagreements among us primarily matters of faith and practice, or are they for the most part differences of opinion in matters of adiaphora. We are uncertain whether this is adiaphora or not because we are told that all matters on how the synod conducts it’s business is a matter for closed door meetings and human resource managers conducted in accord with bylaws and resolutions. When decisions are made not by boards tasked with the required oversight, but by individuals who consistently change their reasoning and stories and are seemingly accountable to no one , how are any of us to know if what we disagree upon is adiaphora or not?

That’s the whole problem with the Issues, Etc. debacle, nobody knows what really happened and nobody in the synodical leadership is willing to give answers. All the leaders of synod seem to be doing is saying that we need to put the best construction on the matter and that we need to trust what was done was done for the best reasons.

Yeah, right.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Quote Of The Day

First there was laughter, and then;

"Frank, please don’t tell my children all your stories."

This quote was brought about after I regaled a fine parent with tales of old fishing techniques, in the before times, in the long, long ago.

Hmm, I don’t understand this because children are usually very entertained with the Chronicles of Frank. Hmm…

Monday, May 19, 2008

Valerie Update

Well, this about two weeks overdue…

My favorite niece, Valerie, has completed all the full length courses necessary for her to be placed in a parish as a deaconess intern. She’s been placed in a wonderful congregation just outside Chicago and is really looking forward to all the new challenges of the upcoming year.

But before she moves into her new digs, she’s home with her family for a quick break. Her and her uncle have been getting yelled at during the Friday night for disrupting the Bible study with snide comments and tomfoolery when they should have been quite and listening. Oh well, but I really have to wonder where she picked that kind of obnoxious behavior, hmm, who knows...

Anyhoo, next weekend she’ll be out of town going attending a wedding, but the weekend after her aunt and I have Valerie for an unsupervised Saturday extravaganza!

Depending on how the day goes we, her aunt and I, may just seek full custody of Valerie for the remainder of her time here. It’s our opinion that the family shouldn’t be bogarting Valerie, that’s just wrong, it’s wrong! I’ll keep ya’ll updated.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Chronic(what?)cles Of Narnia!

Well, Prince Caspian, the latest installment of the Chronicles of Narnia opens today. Yeah, yeah whatever. I know the hate mail is sure to start piling up in the ole inbox now.

I’m sorry but I just didn’t think The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was as good everybody else around me thought it was. I remember taking the youth group to see it and wishing I could see what was running during the previews as opposed to what was playing in my little corner of the multiplex. I recall thinking the upside was that the other youth group, a few rows in front of us, were getting more Jesus in CGI than they probably were getting at their church given the state of Americanized Christianity these days.

I know some of my more reformed minded friends loved the fact that Hollywood was making a “religious” movie. And therein lies my problem with the first installment of the series. If I want to hear or watch something about God I’m very fortunate in that I’m able to attend a church where the Word is preached purely and the Sacraments are administered rightly. I don’t need to see Jesus dressed like a computer generated lion when I can see him every Sunday in the place He has promised to be, His Church.

The more I study and teach Scripture, the less I want to play around with fables and metaphors. The more I learn through the eyes of faith about very real incarnate Lord the less I am mesmerized with a lion made up of pixels and polygons. At the end of the day, I’d much rather go to the local art museum and stare for hours on end at renaissance era paintings depicting scenes from Scripture than watch anything out of Hollywood. Those paintings certainly ain’t perfect, but there is almost a purity in them to be sure.

Now this is not to say that the new movie’s release hasn’t gone unnoticed in my house. Already the missus is rolling her eyes with my constant recitation of Saturday Night Live’s “Lazy Sunday” digital short. She might have thought it was funny the first ten or twenty times I did it but now I fear she is only getting annoyed with me.

“Lazy Sunday” is easily in my top five skits list of the last twenty years. The fact it aired during Tina Fey’s watch, and that it’s still funny, makes it that much better. Watch it for yourself and you’ll understand why.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Vatican: It's Ok To Believe In Aliens

I know this is two days old but...

Vocational Compliment Of The Day

Today’s vocational compliment of the day is:

“When you’re here, it’s like going to the dentist.”

Yep, that was a compliment, and a very good one at that.

Friday, May 09, 2008

The Wonder Twins And The Routine

Sometimes I don’t know why I even bother…

I got my chops busted yesterday for owning and wearing an Ablaze! bracelet in what was called A Shocking, Frank, Unrepentant Admission by somebody who’s never seen the Wonder Twins from the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon from back in the day (and by back in the day I mean back in the seventies when Saturday morning cartoons were cool).

The Wonder Twins, Zan and Jayna, were something like superheroes in training under the Justice League of America. Their powers were activated when they touched each other and said "Wonder Twin powers, activate." Zan always turned into some form of water; like a mist, steam, or some kind of ice cage to trap the villain. Jayna would always transform into some kind of animal whether it be a bird, snake, dinosaur, or some weird alien creature nobody had ever seen before. Ah yes, the Wonder Twins, good times, good times.

So what does Zan and Jayna have to do with the accusatory post by Herr Diekmann? Stick with me here…

Let me address the issue (accusation) head on; yes I do own an Ablaze! bracelet, two in fact, and yes, I really do wear the thing. I wear it to every mission board meeting that I attend. Why do I do this? Because I have found that if I wear the bracelet I’m treated differently that if I don’t. If I wear it I’m treated as if I’m among friends. It’s sorta like Marlin Perkins dressing up as a lion to watch a pride devour a wildebeest on the television program Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. As long as he remained dressed as a lion or stayed behind the blind, he was safe and the lions didn’t eat him. You do remember the show dontcha?

So wearing the bracelet allows me to move freely among those mission minded individuals who are so concerned about the “unchurched” that they would fight any attempt to say that the purpose of the Church is to preach the Word and administer the Sacrament in a mission statement for fear that the “unchurched” might frightened away.

But why do I own two Ablaze! bracelets? For the routine and this brings us back to Zan and Jayna.

When I go into these mission meetings I wear my Ablaze! bracelet on my right wrist. The other one I keep for my pastor which he wears on his left wrist. As soon as we sit down, always next to each other, we do our Wonder Twins routine: we touch the Ablaze! bracelets together and say in unison “Wonder Twin powers activate!” then I’ll say something to the effect of “form of a TV evangelist!” and my pastor will respond with “shape of a Calvinist!”

The funny thing is the blank stares that we get when we do this. So that, my faithful reader, is why the official Ablaze! firefighter owns and wears his Ablaze! bracelet.

Note: the cartoon embedded is not from the Super Friends cartoon, but it’s just as funny, in my ever so humble opinion.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What Are The Numbers?

Last weekend Mollie Ziegler Hemingway blogging over at Augsburg 1530 sadly reported that World Mission has decided to cease employing Reverend James May as a missionary in West Africa. Rev. May writes;

World Mission has been pressuring me to move on and inform you as soon as possible. One reason is that I would be without a paycheck and insurance soon after we have a baby due in July. We hope that by the grace of God we could have another call in place when my salary and benefits terminate at the end of August 2008.

The decision leaves three newly planted churches in Burkina Faso without a theologically trained leader and also the Lutheran Church of Togo without a missionary which they had been awaiting for six years. Please keep all these people involved in your prayers.

Now I first heard about a large number of missionaries being recalled back in 2002 or 2003 while visiting Concordia Theological Seminary up in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A member of the staff that I was having dinner with made a comment that the way synodical bureaucrats had decided to pay for all the brochures, pamphlets and marketing consultants associated with the Ablaze! program was to cut back in world missions. That’s right; to reach those lost sheep that we say we are so worried about we had stop doing so much work in the field to reach more people though Madison Avenue style marketing.

The one thing I’ve never seen is the raw data on how many pastors and church workers are in the field now (as in actually in the field, not behind a desk at a district or synodical office. The debate on the increase of synod and district staff is another post) versus the number in the field in 2000. I’ve looked for this data and come up short.

Has anybody seen or have access to those numbers? If so please comment or send me an email.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

News To Me..

Hey, am I the only one who didn’t know that during the primaries, a name can't just be penciled in on the ballot? I went to vote yesterday and my candidate, Laura Roslin, wasn’t on the ballot. If I didn’t like the choices given my only option was to fill in the no preference spot. Uh, I have a preference and it wasn’t any of the hacks listed. For crying out loud I went in with a camera to take a picture of my completed ballot… and to prove it was my ballot, I even wore the Ablaze! bracelet that I got at one of my little mission meetings for the picture!

I left yelling something to the effect that I had been disenfranchised and that my vote didn’t count! Of course all this accomplished was the raising of eyebrows and ire of the geriatric crowd looking to vote their happy selves a new retirement center. Oh well, I’ll have another chance to add her name in November, I think.

More Loving Than God

“and a pastor who, while I was in the inquirer's class, actually told me that he did not believe that a loving God would ever condemn anyone to hell”
I just love it when folks, whether they are laity or of the priestly caste, set themselves up as more loving than God himself. So I guess that Jesus getting nailed to a tree was some kind of divine joke? It’s truly a shame that those who call themselves Christian can’t seem to grasp by faith the amount of love that is necessary for the Christ to lay down his life for those who, by their own merit, only deserve God’s wrath.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

He’s Already A Commander

Ok, my state’s primaries are here… One of the good things I think that is happening in the Haut South is that third party folks are getting a closer look as well as a lot more support from those who would normally support the republican party. I myself am going to vote for Laura Roslin. But it’s good to know that if I really want to think outside the box; there’s always the Destro candidacy. Yep, it’s good to know that there are options besides Clinton, McCain, and Obama.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled program…