Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Just A Layman? Yep.

In his monthly column in the Lutheran Witness this month President Jerry Kieschnick writes;

“When I am “out and about” and meet someone new, it is not unusual for that person to tell me his or her name and then say, “I’m just a layman (or laywomen).” When I hear those words, I reply with an affirmation of that person as a redeemed child of God, a faithful member of a congregation, and a man or women called by God to a life of service in his or her chosen vocation”

I applaud President Kieschnick in this proper response of holding up vocation as how we serve one another through the gifts and talents given by God. He goes on to talk about people who use these gifts and talents to continue to help those who have suffered because of recent tsunamis, hurricanes, and floods. It’s all good so far, right? Yep.

Now, if President Kieschnick asked me to tell him a little about myself, I would tell him my name, I explain to him that I’m a metrologist and what that is and is not (no, I’m not a TV weather guy; that’s a meteorologist), and then I would say that I’m a simple layman, a plain and simple layman.

There’s no doubt that President Kieschnick would give me a similar talk as the one he laid out in this month’s column. I would however restate that I really feel that I’m just a simple layman and that’s it. Now, if my history with giving this answer would hold true, President Kieschnick would start to get a bit of a puzzled look.

I would have to explain that because I hold such a high view of the Office of the Holy Ministry, I can say nothing else but “I’m only a layman”. Allow me to elaborate;

In a time when a deaconess who feels that her confession of what the Office of Holy Ministry means differs so much that she must resign her position to go an ELCA seminary and then be told by her district president that if she changes her mind she can come back to her old position no questions asked…

In a time when congregations can tell their pastor that he needs to take the first call that he receives or his employment will be terminated and upon bringing this to his district president he’s told that’s just the way things work…

In a time when congregations promoted as what the future church should look like state publicly that there is no difference between the pastor and the lay elders…

In a time when a pastor at his district convocation can publicly state that he has his elders read his sermons because that’s just not something he’s good at without anyone batting an eye…

In a time when laypersons have such a low view of the Office of Holy Ministry that they can call their pastor by his last name only without being corrected by anyone around them…

In a time when laypersons who chair mission boards talk of “hiring a pastor for six months or so” as if they were hiring someone to clean up the yard or sweep the floors with not a word of admonition from the ten ordained clergy sitting around the table…

In a time when so many laymen and laywomen express such a low view of the Office of Holy Ministry, I go out of my way to make sure to say that “I’m only a layman.” What I see in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is an unwillingness to defend what the Office is. What should be done is a proper catechesis, that is teaching, of the fact that the Office of Holy Ministry was instituted by Christ himself for the preaching of His Gospel and the administering of His Sacraments. Don’t believe me? Read about the Office of Holy Ministry here in John 20:22-23, Matt 16:19, Matt 28:18-20 or here in the Small Catechism.

In addition, there is an unwillingness to properly instruct laymen and laywomen on the doctrine of vocation. Instead, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod has fallen headfirst into the Americanized Christianity’s trap that everyone’s a minister.

The end result of this mistake is not the elevation of a laypersons God given gifts used to take care his brothers and sisters in his or her vocation but rather a tearing down of the Office of the Holy Ministry. None of the examples I listed occurred in a vacuum but did and do occur precisely because of a lack of a willingness to properly teach what the Office and vocation are and what that means for both pastors and laypersons.

In the middle ages there were parents who would promise their children to monastic orders to insure that they would earn their place in heaven. That’s not really all that surprising when you consider the low view of the common layperson that was held back then by church officials.

Today we have something of an opposite situation where folks are held up for praise not based on purity of doctrine that they are willing to give a defense for; but rather how many people they talked to about Jesus, how many website hits they recorded and publicly logged, and how much money they raised which is outside the arena of duties covered by the Office of the Holy Ministry. The pendulum has now swung back and hit us all squarely on the head. If you feel that you have Jesus in your heart and are willing to do something worthy enough for a mention in a circuit, district, or synodical newsletter, to be sure you’ll be awarded the title of ministry of something or other; guaranteed.

Yes, we need to minister to our brothers and sisters, our neighbors, everyone including our enemies, but we are not all ministers. Without a proper call from a congregation, you know what I am? I’m a metrologist and a darned good one at that, but I’m only a layman. And at the end of the day, being just a layman, well, that’s good enough for me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Have All The Fires Been Put Out?

If you’re a new visitor here at Putting Out The Fire, welcome! I’ve noticed a number of hits over the last month or so due to folks looking for posts on everybody’s favorite evangelism progr…uh, movement; Ablaze!.

I haven’t had a whole lot to say about Ablaze! in a while because the focus of your beloved synod has shifted, as expected, to one of raising funds through programs like Fanning the Flames and others. To be honest, the slick Madison Avenue style marketing campaign which finds that every verse of the Bible speaks of raising monies simply doesn’t interest me all that much.

So does this mean that all the fires have been put out and the official Ablaze! Firefighter™© is without a job? Absolutely not. The theology that led us to count “critical events” instead of baptisms for church growth is alive and well. The theology that says the church needs to change how she delivers her message to ensure her relevancy shows no sign of going away anytime soon. As long as your beloved church body continues to act like a corporation and chases after fads deemed important by the longevity of books on the New York Times best sellers list, I’m gonna have plenty to write about.

If you are new here and wish to understand why I have problems with Ablaze! I wrote a seven part series entitled What’s Wrong With Ablaze! where I answered an email that challenged me to defend my position from a Confessional and Scriptural perspective. I would hope that you give the series a glance and hold it up against not only what is said publicly by elected and appointed officials but also what is practiced in the LCMS today.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Thank You, Again!

A big thank you to the good folks over at Issues, Etc. for that second high honor. Yes, Pastor Wilken, that was a real video and not some folks just trying to be funny.

Also, thank you Steadfast Lutherans for the link this morning.

Steadfast Lutherans has quickly become one of my favorite daily reads with great columns by Pastors Rossow, Preus, Wilken (also of Issues, Etc. fame) and the awesome Mollie Z. Hemingway.

For what it’s worth, Issues, Etc. and the Brothers of John the Steadfast are two great organizations that I hope all the readers of Putting Out The Fire would support. I don’t say this because of any accolades that I may have received but rather it is because of their mission to defend and promote the orthodox and historic Christian faith. There’s no quid pro quo here Clarice, none at all.

Remember, every time we snap our fingers, another bureaucrat goes to hell because he’s been listening to a Madison Avenue style marketing campaign and hasn’t heard the Gospel.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Didn’t Stumble, I Fell

Here’s how the conversation went down:

No, no you didn’t fall, you only stumbled!

Uh no, you’re wrong, I was an atheist and that means I was without faith, and without faith that’s no stumble that’s a fall and a fatal one at that.

A fall means you couldn’t get up, you did get up and that means you only stumbled.

But I was an atheist. I was without faith. Without faith there’s only hell and death.

You didn’t fall though, you got back up.

Atheists don’t have faith and without faith they are condemned to Hell, that’s a fall!

You didn’t fall, you only stumbled.

No I didn’t, I committed the one unforgivable sin and that is unbelief. Unbelief in Christ condemned me to Hell. I rejected Christ and for that I was fallen. For crying out loud, Satan had more faith than I did but like Satan I rejected God’s Word and he fell, like me.

But you didn’t fall.

Yes I did! I was an atheist, that’s fallen, plain and simple. Hey look…if I’m not declared righteous by faith in Christ, which is only a gift by grace by the Holy Spirit, God’s Law declares me fallen that is to say dead. Failing to live up to God’s good and righteous Law, which I couldn’t do only condemns me. And since we can’t live up what God expects we need Christ to fulfill God’s law in our stead. And without faith in Christ we fall short of keeping God’s Law, we fall, and when we fall; it’s deadly, it’s fatal.

You didn’t fall.

I don’t care what the theological tradition is, whether it be Calvinist, reformed or Lutheran, it just bewildering that some folks will not call the decision to declare oneself an atheist a fall but rather a stumble. And to make the matter even more perplexing is the fact that the former atheist now Lutheran has to defend that he was fallen and without faith to his Christian friend who says otherwise.

Just because I have faith now doesn’t mean that I’ve always had faith that somehow or maybe wasn’t properly kindled. I was an atheist for over fifteen years and for that time I was as fallen as I could possibly be. Without faith in Christ I could not stand before God. Without being able to stand before God as righteous on my own merits the only place left for me was the grave as I was dead to sin. And believe you me, the dead don’t gently lie down in the grave; they fall and they fall hard. I didn’t just stumble into that grave, I fell.

Too often we wind up looking at the terminal cancer as if it were the flu. When we do this, a fatal fall appears to be a mere stumble which of course it is not. Unbelief is a fatal sin and terminal fall I could not recover from through any works of my own.

I thank God daily for sending the Holy Spirit to give me the faith to confess Christ as Lord. I just wish He would give me the words to explain to those around me the difference between the stumbling that I do daily and the fall that Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross erased.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Renewed Mind Is Not The Key, Nor Is The Dancing

Just in case you missed this over at Esgetology

The problem with watching such videos is that once you watch them you can never unwatch them. Oh, even the finest single malt scotch (or Absinthe for the glowing worms out on the west coast) can’t make the choreographed praise song just go away once viewed. It…just…won’t…go…away…

Friday, September 12, 2008

HTTP Status Code 400

This is appropriate… did anyone out there know that the HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) status code 400 means “The request contains bad syntax or cannot be fulfilled.”

Appropriate considering the slack jawed yokel who writes this stuff can’t type.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Off The Grid...

I’ve been off the grid the last few days due to work and I’m finally back on line. A few things…

If you live in Camarillo California and visited Putting Out The Fire around 7:30ish pm, send me an email as I think you won an unannounced prize!

Speaking of being off the grid; football season has started and to be honest I could care less. That doesn’t mean that football won’t be played for eight hours straight in my house on Sunday afternoons because it certainly will. My missus is a football fanatic and she who must be obeyed has declared that there will be as much football on the TV as is allowed by the FCC. When my missus watches sports she, (uh, how do put the best possible construction on this?)... gets very animated and very, very loud. There have even been nasty phone calls during Packers games with people complaining who were attending home games that they didn’t care to hear how Jake Delhomme was doing in Charlotte as she was yelling loud enough to be heard five states away. I’ve tried to break out an atlas and point out the distances between the various stadiums as well as explain the physics of why sound can’t travel five or six hundred miles to my missus but she just smiles and tells me that I haven’t a clue. When you hear what sounds like a Texan yelling “get ‘em, get ‘em” and it’s not matching up with your locally broadcast games and it’s not your next door neighbor; that’s probably my missus cheering on her teams.

FYI, she cheers for both the St. Louis Rams and the Carolina Panthers. Personally, I cheer for no team whatsoever. If I did cheer for any team I’d have to root for, what else, the Raiders for obvious reasons if you’re a regular reader of this blog. In addition, when I need a football fix, I go to the football themed blog Necessary Roughness, Dan’s game is a little more my style.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Jesus Is A Friend Of Mine…Too

The embedded video is a song called Jesus is a friend of mine by “Sonseed” I thought I would post it just for that special person that was chatting with me last night about contemporary music issues.

Once I tried to run
I tried to run and hide
But Jesus came and found me
And He touched me down inside

He is like a Mounty
He always gets His man
And He’ll zap you any way he can.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

The LCMS Mauve El Camino

It took me a while to find; but I did it! The successor to the LCMS Studebaker was the LCMS El Camino. Already by 1979 you see the road that LCMS, Inc. is headed down; a mauve gimmick to reach the unchurched.

Originally, I wasn’t going to put this embarrassing outreach tool up. However, with both Preacherboy and The Rebellious Pastor’s Wife complaining that the LCMS Studebaker looked a little too much like their grandfathers outreach car and with Elephant’s Child yelling that there must be more mauve; I felt I had no choice but to put this not so proud moment in Madison Avenue marketing picture in a post.

What’s oddly missing is the LCMS cross that does not. I couldn’t find any evangelism tools with a cross of any sort out there at all. Isn’t that weird? Does anybody know when the current design was approved by a synodical convocation or convention?