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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...

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Pr. Bearss gave a big presentation at our district convention. It's pretty worrisome that this is the type of congregation is what is held up as a example for others to follow.

The website really doesn't do justice; frankly it seemed a bit worse nhearing it come from the pastor's own mouth -- with pride at that! It combines all the worst of modernism (seeker-sensitive pragmatism) with the worst of post-modernism (it's all about relationships, faith is a journey, generous orthodoxy).

Its not your grandfather's (or your father's) church anymore.

it isn't church at all, it's manure

This is what is being held up as church?

Yeah, your grandfather's church slashed missions in the name of doctrinal conformity. Now we slash missions in the name of pragmatism and relevance.

New lingo, same old...

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  • From The Haut South
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