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Thursday, July 03, 2008 

Where’s The Official Ablaze! Firefighter?

A bit ago, last month I think, a reader of POTF asked why I haven’t been posting as much on our beloved synod’s Ablaze! evangelism prog… eh, movement. “Have you relinquished your title of the official Ablaze! firefighter?”

Nah. The reason I haven't posted anything lately on the theological goofiness that is Ablaze! is that here in the Haut South Ablaze! has really taken a back seat to other programs and fundraising campaigns. Even paid staff from the district have had to “tone it down” a good bit to sell congregations like mine on giving the district even more money than we already do.

One of the ways this is done is by allowing us to target where our monies are going. By personalizing our mission funding the district has found a much more receptive audience. In the past, when the Ablaze! nonfundraising fundraising campaign was first rolled out, we were asked to give blank checks and told that we should simply trust that the money was being put to good use. Good stewardship took a back seat to trust in proper oversight of missions that were in favor with our ecclesiastical superiors. Now at least we can have a say in the district's missionial outreach by supporting a congregations vicarage program or the sending of pastors overseas to preach in places such a Siberia or some such endeavour. All this is positive even if a district skims a bit off the top for “administration fees.” Missions are funded by congregations and districts get to claim that that the “movement” moves forward.

Recently ,visits by district officials have shown huge cracks in our beloved synods favorite evangelism movement. When paid staff from the district start off a presentation to a congregation by saying “hey guys, even I have some problems with some of this stuff” one can’t but help but think that there are more people out there than just one or two lonely congregations. The very fact that the district feels that it is necessary to temper its message and deviate from the Ablaze! script so as to have a shot at getting folks to write a check is proof positive that all is not lost.

Are things peachy? No, they certainly are not. Synod continues to drift from dead orthodoxy to a slick market driven organization that strives to market itself to the “unchurched” in a manner that in no way resembles the historic Church catholic. “Meet people where they are at” and “this isn’t your grandfather’s church” are the mottos of the day that convey that at all cost we should in no way offend or scare off the unchurched by looking too much like a church.

While the Ablaze! prog…uh, movement may not be front and center as much as in the past, the theology behind Ablaze!’s church growth tactics remain both at the synodical and district level (and obviously at some congregations as well). There is plenty still to write about I can assure with a good deal of certainty.

And for what its worth I wouldn’t want to write serious stuff all the time anyways. I rarely take everything serious and why would POTF be any different. Sometimes it’s just plain fun to write about Ablaze! Death Rays and the like. Sometimes the jokes just seem to write themselves as with the Witness Duck (which my district did take seriously but was alone in that regard). Sometimes, ya just gotta laugh.

So, again, am I relinquishing my role as the Official Ablaze! Firefighter™? No, I’m not. Sometimes it’s just necessary to see the forest for the trees and that may mean that I write about teaching youth or hymns as catechetical tools. The reason that our beloved synod is in the state she is in is the lack of catechesis (or complete disregard thereof) and this won’t be overcome by me or any other individual overnight. This task is a serious effort that needs to done by a whole slew of people united by one common confession.

And for what is worth… with things in a bit of a slow down ‘round here, I’ve been working on something that will expand the role of the Official Ablaze! Firefighter™! Yep, as they say; the devils hands are idol playthings ;-)… more on that front soon.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
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