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Wednesday, June 03, 2009 

Evangelism As An Idol

I had a “conversation” recently with someone who believes that our beloved synod’s favorite evangelism program, eh, movement; Ablaze! is the best thing since sliced bread. I, as is no big secret ‘round here, completely disagree.

I put conversations in quotes above because there is rarely anything remotely resembling a conversation when debating Ablaze! from either a Scriptural or a confessional standpoint with those whose views differ from mine . I’m always up for a good debate and really do enjoy a dialogue with people that disagree with me. That being said, I just can’t accept a synod website, when that website conflicts with Scripture or takes Scripture completely out of context, as a legitimate debating point. Madison Avenue marketing campaigns will always be trumped by Scripture. If even that simple point can not be agreed upon, let’s just be honest and just call it a day because the discussion is going to go nowhere pleasant for either of us.

What I’ve seen by the precious few who will debate a slack jawed yokel like myself (and for reasons I can’t explain, there really too few who are debate anything at all concerning true evangelism) is almost a willingness to make an evangelism program the equivalent of a golden calf that is to bowed down to. Allow me to elaborate;

The Ablaze! program did not hide Easter eggs for the kids in the neighborhood.

The Ablaze! program did not invite people to your Easter breakfast.

The Ablaze! program did not shake your visitors hands in your church lobby.

The Ablaze! program did not work in the local food pantry.

The Ablaze! program did not talk to people at the bus stop or in the airport about Jesus.

The Ablaze! program did not, I repeat, did not bring anyone to faith.

I see very little difference between ascribing the receiving of faith by the Holy Spirit to a program developed by consultants and the bowing down to a golden calf by the people of Israel when Moses was still on Sinai in Exodus 32. Likewise, it is an error of similar magnitude to dance around that same golden calf to the drum beat of our own good works. Extol Ablaze! all you like but the focus is almost never on the faith in Christ which is the only thing that makes a good work good.

To take credit for your own works as being good or attributing the bringing of those who would hear their Shepherds voice to faith is nothing more than the fashioning of an idol from the gold colored metal of an evangelism program.

The old confessors understood this when they defended the historic catholic faith against the papacy and the Roman system of works righteousness that had developed through the middle ages before the Emperor Charles V at Augsburg when they confessed in AC V how faith is received and how and where we find Jesus;

That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake.

They condemn the Anabaptists and others who think that the Holy Ghost comes to men without the external Word, through their own preparations and works.


Golden calves take many forms but the one thing that every idol has in common is taking credit from the work of our Lord and making it our own. When Ablaze! is always running (the subject of) the verbs, no matter how well intentioned it may be, our beloved synod’s shiny evangelism program is nothing more than an idol to be condemned.

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  • I'm Frank Gillespie
  • From The Haut South
  • Confessional Lutheran
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