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Posts Tagged ‘church Growth Methods’

WELS logoRecently, a WELS pastor used an assault rifle as a sermon prop, specifically an AK-47.

The original Kalashnikov AK-47 was developed by the Russians during the Cold War, and came to be associated with the enemies of America and the West.  During the Vietnam War, it was the primary infantry weapon used by the North Vietnamese Army and The Vietcong.  (Vietnam War.net).  Although often associated with the Cold War, the AK-47 is still in widespread use today.  (GunClassics.com).  Because it is easy to produce and operate it is a favored weapon of many guerrilla and resistance groups, and is currently in use by the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Recently, the U.S. Army fought against an insurgency in Iraq.  When a soldier serves in an area of insurgency, he must be on constant guard because he could be shot at anytime, anywhere, by anyone, even people dressed as civilians.  Over prolonged periods of time this can be very stressful, and often has a profound negative psychological effect.  Even after returning home, when in public, many combat veterans still prefer to keep their backs to a wall as protection.

Therefore, under such circumstances, one can imagine how veterans of a recent insurgency war like Afghanistan or Iraq might feel when they see the preferred weapon of their enemy.  I can imagine that they would be made to feel at a minimum profoundly uncomfortable.  In fact, a veteran of the Iraq War complained about the sermon prop, and said the AK-47 made him uncomfortable and that it was an improper prop to use in a sermon.

The sermon took place at a WELS congregation that calls itself (among other things) “922 Church.”   922 refers to 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”  According to their website

being “all things to all people” means the following:

•  offering a variety of worship opportunities each week all grounded on the truth of God’s Word but different in style—some using the traditional Lutheran Liturgy, others being modern traditional, and still others that are non-traditional.  We believe this variety is essential so that we can reach more people.  Different worship styles “speak” to people differently, so our members and guests are able to pick the form of worship that is most meaningful to them so that they’re motivated to live their lives for the Lord.

•  using technology and the visual arts in worship and beyond

What purpose does an AK-47 have in a sermon?  An assault rifle does not deliver the forgiveness of sins, nor does it render unto God a sacrifice of praise.  After the service, what were people talking about?  Jesus?  Sin?  Forgiveness?  Or the fact that the pastor had a gun in church?  And not just a gun, but a big gun?  And a notorious gun?  But that is just the point.  From the perspective of the church Growth Movement, getting people excited about “church” is what is important.  “Becoming all things to all people” is about giving the customers what they want, and bringing them back for more.  And if a big notorious gun will serve to get people excited and talking and coming, then it served its purpose.

However, a gun is not God’s word.  God has promised to come to us in word and sacrament.  Do we trust God’s promises and means?  Or do we trust in the “wisdom” of men?

It is not wrong to use a prop in a sermon.  But what is the wisdom supporting the prop?  Is it the hidden wisdom of God hidden in word and sacrament?  (1 Corinthians 2:7).  Or is it the wisdom of men that seeks attention and earthly glory?

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In the video above, Chris Rosebrough interviewed Janet Mefferd about the scandals surrounding Mark Driscoll.  Mark Driscoll is a leader in the church growth movement, and a self styled pastor of other pastors.

The problems discussed in this interview exist not only in many nondenominational churches, but also in the Lutheran churches who have copied their methods and practices.  Unfortunately, this also includes WELS Lutheran churches.  (DP Engelbrecht on Plagiarism).

At twenty-five minutes, fifty seconds in, Rosebrough said:

I’m worried for the church because [on issues of honesty, such as plagiarism] the world has more ethics and better values than Christians in the church, and this cannot end well.  Things do not go well for a society when the world, people who are dead in trespasses and sins, have more morals, more scruples ethically than the people in the church.  I don’t know what this is.  Historically, I can’t find a parallel in the two-thousand year history of the church…  People keep talking about how they’re hoping for revival, that there is going to be this great outpouring of the Spirit.  That’s a bunch of nonsense.  You want to see revival?  It begins in the church with people saying we have sinned against God by tolerating evil men who are publicly sinning, who are not qualified to be pastors, we have not only tolerated them, we have defended them, and we have attacked those who have raised the Biblical issue regarding these men, and we repent.  Until that happens, there’s not going to be revival.  It’s only going to get worse, and Christianity is going to continue becoming more of a moral joke as it slips into a complete laughing-stock [and] morass based upon celebrity cults.

The entire interview is worth a good listen.

Kyrie eleison.

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The Intrepid Lutherans have publicly rebuked WELS Pastors Skorzewski and Jeske in a post entitled: “Dear Pastors Jeske and Ski: You are clearly in the wrong.”  This rebuke is based on Skorzewski’s and Jeske’s planned participation in an upcoming seminar entitled “Change or die.”  The Intrepid Lutherans publicly declared Pastors Skorzewski and Jeske to be wrong for two reasons.

First, the “change or die” theology is false:

The stated premise of the “Change or Die” conference is that, if a congregation properly “changes” its methodologies and image, then it will “live” in the sense of having enough members and financial resources to continue to function and grow.  If a congregation fails to “change” its methodologies and image, then it will “die” in the sense of the congregation being forced to close its doors for lack of members and money.

This teaching does not come from the Lord Jesus…  It is Christ alone who builds His Church, not by man’s changes, but through the power of his Gospel alone, by means of the Keys given to His Church…

“Change or die” stems from what Luther calls a “theology of glory.”  The concept comes, not from the Scriptures, but from deceivers – false teachers and Church Growth promoters like Baptist minister Rick Warren …

Since the premise of the “Change or Die” conference is false and promotes a false theology, [Pastors Jeske and Skorzewski] you are wrong to be participating in it.  By doing so, you are leading the Church astray into a theology of glory, and we fear that many souls will be misled.

Second, it is wrong for Pastors “Ski” and Jeske to join together with two ELCA pastors to teach “‘Lutheran’ ministry methods.”  Both of the ELCA presenters, including the Rev. Wheeler and his congregation, openly support homosexuality.

What exactly shall we learn from Rev. Wheeler?  How should we in the WELS “change” to be more like this apostate ELCA congregation?  What trendy Lutheran ministry techniques or theology shall we glean from these apostates?  How do you dare participate in a conference on Lutheran ministry side by side with those who hate Jesus?  God has only one message for these men: … “Repent or perish eternally in your sins!”  …

But instead of this clear witness to God’s Law, you are selling yourselves as fellow “change agents” together with them.  You have gone too far…  You are pursuing methods to keep the Church alive together with those who have forsaken Him who is the Life.  You are wrong to be doing this.  And you are leading souls astray …

You, Pastors Jeske and Ski, are clearly in the wrong.  Your involvement in promoting “Lutheran” ministry with apostates who hate Jesus is wrong.  And your involvement in promoting the “change or die” deception in the Church is wrong.

Pastor Skorzewski is one of the pastors with my congregation, but I still express thanks to the Intrepid Lutherans.  I agree with them.  Their entire letter is worth reading.  They are following the instructions Paul gave to Timothy:

Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.  For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine.  Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.  [2 Timothy 4:2-3].

Kyrie eleison!

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The January 2011 edition of Christianity Today had an interesting editorial about the financial and theological bankruptcy of the Crystal Cathedral “megachurch.”  The article was entitled: “Cracks in the Crystal Cathedral: Why we are better off letting God make the gospel relevant.”

Here are some excerpts:

This past October, the megachurch prototype of the late 20th century filed for bankruptcy.  A 24 percent drop in donations and a $50-$100 million debt owed to more than 550 creditors forced the Crystal Cathedral to file.  It was a poignant moment in the history of modern evangelicalism.

Robert H. Schuller’s famous Crystal Cathedral was built on a foundation of self-esteem.  In a 1984 interview with Christianity Today, Schuller said that when he came to Garden Grove, California, in 1955, he asked himself, “What human condition exists here that I can have a mission to?”  His answer was “emotional hunger.”  “Because of that,” he said, “we have developed our present ministry.”…

Schuller was tapping into themes of the human potential movement, the rage in the 1960s and ’70s, when Abraham Maslow’s theories deemed self-actualization the highest expression of human life…

Today both the Crystal Cathedral and the theology that undergird it seem woefully inadequate buildings in which to house the gospel.  In an age deeply sensitive to energy conservation, a glass house of worship is a sinful extravagance.  In a culture increasingly addicted to the self, the gospel of self-esteem is clearly part of the problem.  In short, the Schuller enterprise is filing for bankruptcy on more than one front.

Some are tempted to hit the man while he is down, but this is unwise.  Robert Schuller is not the problem—contemporary evangelicalism is.  Schuller was only leading the parade of those who believe they are responsible for making the gospel relevant.  The lesson is not that Schuller got it wrong or that his theology is out-of-date; it is not that we just need to find a better, more current point of cultural contact.  The lesson is that our attempts to find and exploit a point of cultural contact inevitably end in bankruptcy.

This does not deny the need to talk about the gospel in language and thought forms that a culture understands.  In fact, we cannot avoid doing this—we are culturally and linguistically bound …  But we must repress every fearful thought that suggests that making the gospel relevant and meaningful rests on our shoulders.  The mystery of why and how people come to faith is just that—ultimately a mystery…  Or, as Peter put it, in describing the conversion of the Gentiles:  “God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit …”  (Acts 15:8, ESV).

In fact, it is not only the listener who is deaf and blind to the gospel.  The church is equally handicapped, especially regarding what will “work” to achieve genuine conversion.  But—God be praised—we have a God who makes the deaf to hear and the blind to see!  In every age and every culture, we are wise to trust the God who is rich in mercy and is able to accomplish through his Word that which he intends.

(Emphasis added).

We trust God by receiving his word and sacraments in faith.  We do not trust God when we rely on entertainments and other methods built on human wisdom.  We do not trust God when we pollute his word and sacraments with human wisdom.  Methods and practices built on human wisdom reflect false doctrine and are false doctrine.

Contrary to the teachings of today’s “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:4-6), the genuine Apostle Paul said:

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.  For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.  I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling.  My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

— 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, NIV1984.

Those who do not trust God’s word alone, trust in men’s wisdom.  And the wisdom of a present age always eventually files for bankruptcy.  God’s word alone is eternally relevant.  God’s word alone is eternal wisdom.

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Recently, the Intrepid Lutherans republished an excellent article by Attorney Craig Parton entitled “The New White-Wine Pietists.”  Craig Parton is a celebrated attorney, and the author of The Defense Never Rests: A Lawyer’s Quest for the Gospel.  According to Mr. Parton, the nine spiritual laws of White-Wine Pietism are:

  1. Doctrine divides.
  2. Subjectivity is spiritual.
  3. Liturgy dulls.
  4. The Sacraments are scary.
  5. Catechesis is for teenagers or intellectuals.
  6. Small groups promote “real” growth and “accountability.”
  7. Doctrinal hymns are elitist, but praise choruses edify.
  8. The Holy Spirit hates apologetics.
  9. Growth in faith comes through obedience to the law.

According to Mr. Parton, these laws are being “increasingly espoused by the ignorant and arrogant within even confessional churches.  Thus these laws are no longer being championed by fringe members of confessional churches; they are being brought in like the Trojan horse at the highest levels of influence.”

When I read those nine laws, I was shocked at how clearly I recognized that Trojan horse.  That Trojan horse is not only within the gates of the city called “Lutheranism,” the invaders have already exited the horse, opened the gates, and are sacking the city.  Where are the shepherds to defend the truth?

The full article, where Mr. Parton expounds upon each law, can be read on the Intrepid Lutherans blog.

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On June 28, 2010, the voters of St. Peter met to consider proposed changes to our congregation’s constitution and bylaws.  A number of changes were approved, and these proposed changes will be voted on at the Autumn voters’ meeting sometime in November 2010.

Article VI, Powers and Rights of the Congregation, Section 4, of our current (unchanged) constitution reads as follows:

No group or society may be organized within the congregation without the approval of the congregation.  The congregation shall be assured that the aims of such a group are in complete harmony with the congregation’s aims before it grants its approval (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).

This is the proposal that was presented to the voters on June 28:

No group or society may be organized within the congregation without first speaking with the pastor(s) who will discuss it with the church council (the approval of the congregation).  The congregation shall be assured that the aims of such a group are in complete harmony with the congregation’s aims (before it grants its approval) (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).

I moved to delete the parenthesis, and add a comma & the word “and” after “council,” so that the first sentence would read:

No group or society may be organized within the congregation without first speaking with the pastor(s) who will discuss it with the church council, and the approval of the congregation.

I believed that “the approval of the congregation” was the most important phrase, and was too important to be relegated between parenthesis.  As part of the discussion, Pastor Glende revealed that the parenthesis were supposed to mean that what was between the parenthesis would be deleted, and that the words in parenthesis were intended to show what the original language was.  (16:30).  (My impression was that most people did not catch that the parentheticals were proposed deletions).

So to clarify for the reader, here is what was actually being proposed (with the proposed additions underlined, and the proposed deletions crossed out):

No group or society may be organized within the congregation without first speaking with the pastor(s) who will discuss it with the church council the approval of the congregation.  The congregation shall be assured that the aims of such a group are in complete harmony with the congregation’s aims before it grants its approval (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).

The first problem with this language is that in order for someone to form a small group, all they have to do is first speak with the pastor.  Nothing is said about the pastor’s approval.  That is not what was intended, but that is what the language says.  I believe the intent was to take away group and society approval from the congregation, and give it to the pastor(s) and council.  Pastor Glende said this would make small group approval more efficient.

I believe that it is important for the congregation to have the only say with regard to any group or society formed within the congregation.  The ratification of any small group or society within a congregation is too vital a power to take away from the full congregation.

Because my motion was seconded, there was a vote.  However, the person who seconded my motion apologized for doing so, and explained that his second was only so that we could have some discussion, not because he actually supported my motion.  Thus, lacking any additional support, my motion was defeated.

A church council member stated that our “church council has been elected to make decisions for the congregation,” and we need to trust them.  If “there is anything major, then it will be brought to the congregation for a vote.  But if it’s a minor group that wants to start up, the pastors and church council should have the right to allow them to do that.”  (35:15).  He then proposed language which the congregation adopted:

No group or society may be organized within the congregation without first speaking with the pastor(s) who will discuss it with the church council the approval of the congregation.  The congregation shall be assured that the aims of such a group are in complete harmony with the congregation’s aims before it grants its approval (1 Corinthians 1:10; 12:25).

The “approval of the congregation” was struck from the first sentence.  Receiving only one “no” vote, this proposed language passed.  The end result is unclear.  (However, when a written constitution is unclear, it allows the interpreters to forbid and permit what the interpreters wish).

Overall, because the proposed constitutional changes were presented to the voters in bold and (parenthesis) instead of being underlined and crossed out, it is difficult to determine what was supposed to be in parenthesis (such as Bible citations) and what was actually supposed to be deleted.  (When I read through the proposed changes before the meeting, I did not fully realize that some of what was in parenthesis were proposed deletions).

Moreover, some language in the proposal just disappeared without any parenthesis.  (Article VIII of the Constitution “Officers of the Congregation,” Section 3 would be an example of quietly disappeared/changed language).

Below are some additional changes to our constitution and bylaws that passed this first meeting with little discussion.  For purposes of clarity, disappeared language from our present bylaws is included here (and crossed out), and the proposed new language is underlined, so that the reader can see more clearly the proposed changes:

  • Committee members shall be elected approved at the October June voters’ meeting.  (Bylaws, Article IV, Section 7. Terms of Office, A – Committees of the Church Council).
  • Vacancies occurring on any of these committees shall be filled through appointment approved by the church council.  (Bylaws, Article IV, Section 8. Vacancies – Committees of the Church Council).
  • Language in the constitution was made gender-neutral.
  • Also, numerous bylaws were made to be non-binding by changing words like “shall” to “should.”  For example, in Article IV, Section 4 the Committee of Elders no longer “shall consist of at least three members,” but instead “should consist of at least three members…”

One of the reasons given for these proposed changes is that we need to bring our constitution and bylaws in line with “reality,” i.e. what works and what we are actually doing.  (34:20).  If the congregation approves the proposals a second time, they will then be sent to the Synod for final approval.

Recently, all of St. Peter’s members were encouraged to fill out a congregational survey that was supposed to identify our membership’s strengths and weaknesses.  This was to assist the “Vision Team” as they work to modify the congregation’s “Vision.”  One of the purposes of this effort is to help establish more small groups.

According to a sermon preached by Pastor Sievert on September 16, 2010, St. Peter will be aggressively targeting and training lay-leaders and facilitators to conduct small group programs outside of the church building.  The lay-leaders and facilitators will be chosen and trained beginning in October 2010, and the entire membership will be encouraged to join a small group starting in January 2011.  (Sermon entitled “Be the Church: Devoted to God’s People,” 38:30).

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Here is an excerpt “From the office of WELS President Mark Schroeder” regarding the new COP resolution on doctrine and practice:
January 19, 2009 A.D.

The Conference of Presidents (COP) held its quarterly face-to-face meeting last week.  Here’s a recap of the most important matters discussed.

  • Doctrine and Practice

One of the most important roles of the COP is to oversee doctrine (what we believe and teach) and practice (what we do in applying our beliefs).  When it met, the COP had a lengthy discussion about the importance of retaining our unity in both areas.

Some congregations, in a desire to reach as many people as possible with the gospel, have been considering some new and different approaches and methods, especially in the areas of worship and outreach.  Cautions and concerns have been voiced about some of these trends.  Expressing the commitment to maintain our synod’s faithfulness to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, the COP concluded that “the underpinnings of ‘non-traditional’ type of worship cannot be ignored” and that we need to be careful to “walk the ‘narrow Lutheran road’ between legalism—and ignoring and failing to admonish where practices are contrary to or dangerous to the principles of gospel proclamation and the efficacy of the means of grace.”

As a result of this concern, the COP resolved that “an ad hoc committee be convened in consultation with the [COP] doctrine committee that can . . . address this issue and produce a study document that can be shared with circuits and also congregations for study and careful evaluation of practices in worship, sacraments, outreach, organization, music selection, etc.”

****

Please continue to remember the members of the Conference of Presidents in your prayers.  They are God-given leaders who have been entrusted with weighty responsibilities in helping our synod to carry out its mission and to remain faithful to God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions.

Serving in Christ,
Mark Schroeder

Any practice that runs contrary to the principles of gospel proclamation and the efficacy of the means of grace is a grave threat to our spiritual lives.  In these difficult times, please pray also for President Schroeder, the entire WELS, and the one holy Christian and apostolic Church.  We need God’s help.

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On Friday, November 14, 2008, the nationally renowned Lutheran talk radio program Issues, Etc.™ chose a quote on this blog for their segment Blog of the Week, specifically the November 10 post: “WELS President: Church Growth Q & A.”  The quoted response from President Mark Schroeder is excellent.  Here is the Issues, Etc. clip:


The other blog chosen is a fan made Issues, Etc. video posted on Watt’s What.  Please click here to see that post.

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This question and answer recently appeared on the WELS Q & A website.  Normally the questions are answered anonymously, but this question was answered and signed by WELS President Mark Schroeder:

Q:  I have one grandfather that was an LCMS minister and another was a WELS minister.  I understand the history of their division and I accept the need.  What I fear there is a trend in WELS to follow the same route as LCMS.  In the desire to increase church attendance many WELS congregations are not making a solid doctrinal stand.  Law and Gospel are still present but one must look for it.  Do these same concerns exist at our seminaries and synod offices?

A:  Thank you for your concern about the centrality of Law and Gospel in our preaching and teaching.  God has promised that his Church will endure until Jesus returns again, but he has made no promises that individual church bodies or synods will always be blessed with the pure doctrine.  That is why the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:2 are such an important reminder for our synod:  “Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel which I preached to you and on which you have taken your stand.  By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you.  Otherwise, you will have believed in vain.”  In other words, our synod and its congregations will need to be vigilant in holding on to the truth of Scripture and careful to preach solid Law and Gospel boldly and consistently.

I assure you that I share these concerns, and I know that our seminary faculty would say the same.  As we face declining numbers in worship and in church membership, we will want to avoid the temptation to resort to methods or “quick fixes” which rely on something other than the means of grace, which alone can bring people to know their Savior and through which the Holy Spirit will work.  All efforts to increase church attendance and membership need to be carefully evaluated in the light of God’s Word, not on the basis of “what works.”  If we water down the message of Law and Gospel, if we change the message to a generic message that simply tells people what they want to hear (instead of what they need to hear), we will eventually have no gospel message left.  We may fill churches, but the danger is that those churches will be filled with people whose true spiritual needs—the call to repentance and the assurance of full forgiveness in Christ—will not be met.

Please keep our synod, its congregations, and its pastors in your prayers as we address these important matters.  Thank you for your concern.

In Christ,
Mark Schroeder, WELS president
[e-mail:  mark.schroeder[at]sab.wels[dot]net]

The watering down of Law and Gospel in our preaching and teaching is an extremely serious matter.  In these difficult times, please pray also for President Schroeder, all laymen, and the one true Christian Church.  We need God’s help.

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On Reformation Sunday 2008 A.D., Pastor Glende preached a sermon about the future of our congregation.  We are 140 years old, and celebrated this milestone with a sermon series about our past, present, and future.  Reformation Sunday’s sermon was about our future.

During the sermon, Pastor asked us to write on two pieces of paper:

  • On the first piece of paper, we were supposed to write one thing we would change about our congregation.  So I wrote that our church needed “more Gospel/Jesus.”
  • On the second piece of paper we were supposed to write the name of a person we would like to come to our church and an idea for getting them to attend.  So I wrote the name of a friend & “tradition.”  (By “tradition” I meant to say respectful reverent worship of God).  Most of the people in this area and in my circle are Roman Catholic, and while they have expressed sympathy for the Gospel of Jesus Christ they have also expressed deep offense at the way we handle the Lord’s Supper.

Here is the sermon, it is 19 minutes long:

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