Friday, July 31, 2009

What Kind Of Culture Are You Trying To Build?

I’m a little cranky after reading the latest article from the Reporter, official newspaper of the LC-MS, concerning young adult ministry. Hate to be a negative Nancy but ya’ll know how so persnickety I can get. Here’s the article:

Web site features Synod young adult ministry
A new Web site for young adult ministry in the Synod is up and running at

Sponsored by the Synod's seven-member Young Adult Ministry Advisory Committee, the site offers:
• monthly blog articles by young adults about their ministry, culture, and faith.
• information about servant opportunities, including the committee's first "LEAD" servant event, held May 31-June 5 in New Orleans.
• book reviews about young adult ministry and culture.
• twitter feeds on the activities of the advisory committee.
Jessica Bordeleau, a member of the committee, told Reporter that the group's two-pronged goal is "to enable congregations to build a culture where young adults are able to fully participate in the life of the church, and to enable young adults to become an integral part of the church community, living out their faith in a global context."
Bordeleau is coordinator for Lutheran Youth Fellowship and Young Adult Ministry with LCMS District and Congregational Services -- Youth Ministry.

A virtual note paper-clipped to the site's home page describes the advisory committee and its work, as follows:

"We are a movement of LCMS young adults reaching out to our peers with the love and light of Christ. We know that no top-down institutional program is going to impact the heart of a young adult like a community of believers living out the love of Christ in their daily interactions, ... ready, willing, and able to be servant leaders who point our friends, communities, and world to the love of Christ in relatable, relevant, real ways."

Posted July 29, 2009

First things first… reread Ms.Bordeleau’s comments; “to enable congregations to build a culture where young adults are able to fully participate in the life of the church, and to enable young adults to become an integral part of the church community, living out their faith in a global context."

How the heck do these folks suppose that young people are to become active participants in the life are the church? Is this something that even requires “building cultures” within congregations? How do any of us become active participants in a congregation whether young or aged? The Means of Grace!

Through the Means of Grace, through God’s properly preached Word and through His rightly administered Sacraments we become part of the community of believers past, present, and future. It is the community that always gathers around the voice of her Shepherd, Jesus Christ that should be held up as something to be imitated. Sadly as of late people that gather for Word and Sacrament are mocked as museum keepers only performing a maintenance ministry!

Think I’m just an angry blogger who just doesn't like change? Then read the book of Acts and see how the first Christians grew the Christ’s Church. Read how Peter and Paul created a culture of community by preaching the Gospel and the repentance of sins as commanded by Jesus himself. Read how Stephan did the same and was martyred for living out his faith, albeit deadly, context! Can anybody point me to a single passage of Scripture that states we need to build cultures so that youngsters (or oldsters for that matter!) can feel like they are a part of a community apart from the Means of Grace? Is the phrase “build cultures” even in the Bible? I know my knowledge of Greek is extremely limited and my knowledge of Hebrew is nonexistent so maybe I’m just missing some hidden meaning lost on slack jawed yoke like myself but I can’t find a single English translation that speaks of “building cultures” either! Apart from the Voice, an emergent translation that makes the NIV look like a modern day pedagogic masterpiece, there isn’t a single translation I can find that points to works outside the church; i.e. “faith in a global context."” as something to measured from inside the Church. Yes, the outside world will know Christians by their works but the faithful don’t count these works as their own but rather as fruits of faith. Big difference between the two views!

Which brings me to the second point; this has the emergent church’s theological fingerprints all over it. The emergents nearly always focus on acting within a global community to help the world become the paradise our Lord intended it to be. Of course this misses the problem of the fall into sin entirely as the root cause of the real problem plaguing humanity and if you fail to understand the problem, how the heck can anyone understand Christ’s gifts won at the cross. This is why emergents always point to works and community outside the church catholic!

Now, read the article again; what does the monthly blog feature; articles for young adults about their ministry, their culture, and their faith, information about servant opportunities that they can participate in, and book reviews about their ministry and their culture. Not a lot about Jesus in there is there? Sorta begs the question; exactly what kind culture do you suppose they are trying to build?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Will Museum Keepers Do The Keeping?

The awesome Mollie Ziegler Hemingway over at Steadfast Lutherans reports that the LCMS is opening a museum. From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article:

KIRKWOOD — The second-largest Lutheran denomination in North America opened a museum Sunday at its international headquarters on Kirkwood Road, telling the story of its growth since being founded in 1847 in the St. Louis area by Saxon and German immigrants seeking religious freedom.
One can see editions of some of Martin Luther’s books from the mid-1500s; a model of a ship that brought Lutherans to America in 1838; and the carriage that carried the synod’s first president. One can also hear radio broadcasts from the 1940s played on KFUO, the nation’s longest continually running Christian radio station.

Commenting on the article Charles Henrickson makes an important clarification and writes: "One small correction to the article: A visitor is quoted as saying, "It's the first time we've had a place to go and get one good overview of our church." That's not correct. For many years the museum was housed at the Concordia Historical Institute on the campus of Concordia Seminary in Clayton. Now the museum has been moved to the LCMS International Center in Kirkwood. So it's a relocation, not the "first time" we've had the museum."

Ok, all I want to know is will the LCMS staff the museum with, uh, I don’t know… museum keepers?

Monday, July 27, 2009

A Dance Inappropriate

While the rest of the planet gushes over the “Wedding Dancers” as I’ve heard them called, I can only muster absolute disgust. Hey, if you think you can dance, and truth be told most people can’t even if their inhabitations are loosed by a drink or eight, knock your happy self out at the reception. But the clowns dancing in the linked video, are dancing in a church and not in a “hey let’s interpret the Apostles Creed or the Lords prayer through mime while prancing around the sanctuary in leotards” kind of way. Does anyone in that church even know what church is for? Apparently they don’t have a clue.

Church is not where we go to be entertained by a bunch of narcissists. Church is where we go to receive God’s gifts through the preaching of the Word and the administration of the Sacraments; the Lords Supper and Baptism. Through these gifts we receive faith and have that faith renewed and fed. This is why the old Lutherans called their worship service the Divine Service. They didn’t believe that they were doing a divine work but rather they knew that it was our Lord’s work through means that gave and strengthened our faith.

The “wedding dancers” are only a symptom of a larger problem in Americanized Christianity. So many people are so used to going to churches where Sunday services look more like Oprah or Dr. Phil’ self help seminars that for many I would imagine actually walking into a church where Jesus is the center of both the liturgy of the service and the theological message would be a none too subtle culture shock.

As the media holds up this bunch, who couldn’t wait until a reception for even more attention on a day that was already all about they anyways, there can be no doubt that more of the same will pop up. And when we see more yahoos like this who think a ceremony in a church is all about them and not having the focus being on the crucified and risen Lord; we would do well to remind them why there is a church there to begin with. And, when bringing up Jesus as the focus for everything is brushed aside with contempt or scorn, we circle the wagons in a little closer and pray that our Lord not tarry too much longer.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Te Deum Sung In Grand Rapids Sola Conference

The embedded video is from the Higher Things' Sola conference up in Grand Rapids Michigan. I dare anyone to say that kids only like (or are capable for that matter) to sing along with praise bands that are indistinguisable from rock or pop groups that can be heard on top 40 radio stations while worship team leaders dance around a stage like the latest pop tart du jour after watchin' the video.

While what sacred music is and what it means to sing sacred music can certainly be debated (as I've done here on more than one occasion) there is no debating that these kids are singing hymns that reflect their theology in content as well as stylistically. This is what happens when we dare our youth to be Lutheran!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kelly Klages On Issues, Etc.

In the embedded Issues, Etc. segment above, Kelly Klages talks about her book “Water with the Word: A Baptism Q&A Explaining the efficacy of Baptism to Christian friends”.

Have I mentioned that I love Kelly’s book?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Great New Book On The Efficacy of Baptism By Kelly Klages

One of my absolute favorite Lutherans out on the interweb is Kelly Klages. Kelly is (among other things, but we’ll get to that in a bit) an exceptionally talented artist whose award winning paintings can be seen at Kelly’s paintings are beautiful and I strongly encourage all my readers to pay her art site a visit to see Christian art done in such a way that the faith we hold to is rightly conveyed through the visual means. With so much out there that claims to Christian art dumbing things down to the lowest common theological denominator, it refreshing to see the enormous amount of symbolism in Kelly’s paintings.

She’s married to Pastor Alex Klages and they are proud parents to two lovely children up in Manitoba Canada. Where she finds the time to fulfill her vocation of wife and mom while exercising her talents through her painting or scrapbooking is beyond me but she does it in spades.

But wait there’s more…

Kelly’s also an insightful writer and has written articles for Lutheran Forum and Higher Things Magazine. She’s also, you guessed it a blogger. I became aware of Kelly when I first started participating in the Lutheran Carnival some years back. She’s been a favorite blogger of mine for a while and if you take the opportunity to visit her, she’ll be a favorite of yours as well.

But wait there’s more…

Kelly Klages can now add author to her resume. In her first book “Water with the Word:A Baptism Q&A Explaining the efficacy of Baptism to Christian friends” Kelly on her blog introduced the book this way:

The book is in Q&A format and deals with why Lutherans believe in the efficacy of Baptism and infant Baptism. The questions are frequently-heard ones from those Christians who reject the efficacy of Baptism, mainly stemming from my own initial objections to the concept. Many objections I respond to are straw-men or based on misunderstandings that can be simple to clear up. If disagreement remains with the Lutheran view of Scripture on this matter, that’s fine– my primary aim was for readers to at least dispense with stereotypes or misinformation when considering what we believe about it.

It’s not a scholastic work. I’m a layperson and it’s very much on a lay level, more conversational and extremely simplified.

Having now read “Water with the Word” I can assure you this is a great book! What makes book such a joy to read is that Kelly brings to the table her personal experience of growing up in the conservative Baptist tradition and lays out the case for why “the majority of Christians today and throughout history, accept the efficacy of Baptism (the belief that Baptism itself actually accomplishes something) and recognize the legitimacy of baptizing infants” not based on human reason or our own imaginations but rather from the Scriptures; the very Word of God.

While laid out in a conversational and easy to understand manner I would argue that the only reason Kelly can make the argument that the book is “extremely simplified” is that she handles the material so well it just looks simplified. Yes, the book is that good.

Now, how much would you pay for such a great little book to help you and your neighbors or coworkers work through some complicated doctrinal questions with ease? Well, Kelly is making the PDF version of the book absolutely free. If you want a hard copy you’ll need to pay for that but she isn’t making a single red cent for the effort. To quote Kelly again; “It was a “for fun” project (because some of us have a bizarre idea of “fun”

Myself, I’ll be ordering a hard copy of the book for my library from Lulu, the publisher, through a link set up on her husband’s, Pastor Klages, By the Font website. Kelly’s book would be a great addition to any church library and as soon as I run it by appropriate committee “Water with the Word” will be on my congregation’s library shelves.

Thank you Kelly for all your hard work in putting together and making available this invaluable resource!

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Dr. Seuss Bible: Funny Then, Now, Not So Much

It’s just not as funny now as it was back when the Kids in the Hall first performed the skit embedded below. When congregations are basing their sermon series on Dr. Seuss books instead of the Bible as the Church is called to do; it’s just a little harder to see the humor is such things.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Not Gone, Gone, Gone…

I’m back on the interweb again after a short vacation from blogging because the increase of workload due to my vocation and general distractions out in meatspace.

What have I been up to? Well, I did get caught up on most of my reading while out of town on business. I put a serious dent in the stack of books on my library table even if there still are twenty (or some such number which may actually be higher) books still waiting to be read. I really don’t have enough time read everything I’d like to.

I got into a most delightful faux argument with friends on twitter concerning Canadian super-bands from eras long gone, gone, gone, been gone so long that just brightened up my entire week.

I celebrated another anniversary of sorts.

I’ve got a bunch of posts I’m working on such as highlighting a cool new book on the efficacy of the Sacrament of Baptism as well as looking at the coolest news story most people haven’t heard anything about.

Lot’s of stuff coming up so stayed tuned.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Quoting Cwirla Quoting Internet Monk On Youth

Pastor William Cwirla has a short post over at his blog entitled Youth where he points to Michael Spenser:

Michael "internet Monk" Spencer is always a provocative read. As an Evangelical pilgrim in a "post-Evangelical wilderness," Spencer provides a unique perspective on the state of Christianity from the Protestant side of things.

In a recent post, Spencer does some critical reflection on his 35 years in youth ministry. His thoughts are worth pondering, especially considering Spencer's street cred and the fact that so much of what is called "youth ministry" is influenced by Baptist-Evangelicalism. Spencer's antidote to the maladies of youth ministry: Build meaningful and maturing relationships to Jesus Christ and to the Church. Here are some vintage IM quotes:

"We’ve been told that we can use any tool to make church interesting, so youth workers like myself were allowed to run a program of fun, trips, food, sports, recreation, etc. in order to keep young people hanging around for whatever the church was doing. We now know that those young people simply insisted that the church become like their youth group and, ta da- there is today’s evangelicalism. Oh…and there’s a bunch of our kids, never coming back to church again because they eqaute it with juvenile, shallow entertainment."

"The shift from getting 120 kids to a concert to getting 12 kids to pray every morning is huge, and most churches won’t put up with it."

"Let me be clear that families- where there are Christian families- are obviously crucial. But Jesus isn’t creating a community of families. He’s recreating the family around him."

You can read the rest here.

The last two years of involvement in my congregation’s youth program sometimes had me wanting to beat my head against a brick wall. There was more than one meeting where I, as well as the person was working most closely with, would have to actually defend our congregation's youth program being built around Bible studies and the fellowship that followed and not playing basketball all night or paintball after emoting for thirty minutes about how we “feel” about guns in schools and the like. Yes, someone really suggested we do a talk about guns in schools and then go play with guns, no joke!

Pastor Cwirla’s second Spenser quote “The shift from getting 120 kids to a concert to getting 12 kids to pray every morning is huge, and most churches won’t put up with it.” is the one I most identify with. In the two years I served on the Board of Youth I personally had to deal the erroneous idea that successful youth work is measured in how many recess events can be counted with almost every meeting I attended. From our monthly council meetings to special voter meetings called to figure out how we can best staff our parish it sometimes seemed an uphill battle defending a youth program that had at its core a gathering around God’s Holy Word. There was even one meeting where we were asked why we don’t do things with the kids during the summer months when in actuality we were meeting more often than any other group in the congregation. Heck, I had to defend the kids actually liking to play Apples to Apples: Bible Edition to someone who insisted that kids couldn’t possible enjoy a board game much less one with the word Bible in it. Uphill battles all.

This is a long term battle that will need to be fought for sometime to come. I see this fight as a mostly generational one with those who grew up in the 60’s and 70’s and learned, wrongly, that successful youth work can be measured by how many activities we can schedule to keep kids occupied and busy apart from any in depth study of Scripture. This is nothing more than pietistic church growth principles applied to youth groups. Should we really expect that the same church growth methods that haven’t grown the Church one iota to help our youth programs?

Internet Monk hits a bull’s-eye on this one and it is certainly worth the read.