One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong

SesameStreet-OneThingDoesntBelongOkay, who remembers that Sesame Street song—“One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong”? That’s what comes to mind when I read the purpose statement of “FiveTwo.”

According to their website, “FiveTwo,” yet another faddish movement in Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod circles, explains why they exist: “FiveTwo exists to fuel a movement of sacramental entrepreneurs who start a variety of spiritual communities that create baptized followers of Jesus from lost people” (emphasis added). I am not at all certain that our Lord Jesus, or the Scriptural witness that He has given, calls us to “fuel” movements or start a “variety of spiritual communities.” After all, there is only “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” and the Holy Spirit already creates her and makes “baptized followers of Jesus from lost people” by means of the Gospel and the Sacraments (cf. AC V and SC, Third Article of the Creed). He always has, and He always will, regardless of new “movements.”

The two things that truly do not belong together are “sacramental” and “entrepreneurs.”

First, let’s consider “FiveTwo’s” definition of “sacramental.” The term “sacramental” would seem to imply that we are discussing the sacraments that Jesus Himself has given—Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and Holy Supper—along with what they are, what they deliver, and who rightly receives them. But not for “FiveTwo.”

“FiveTwo” uses some curious pairs of terms evidently intended to elucidate their understanding of “sacramental”: “historical and contemporary”; “mystical and material”; “deepening and extending.” But what do these terms even mean, individually or in their pairings?

Confusion-ChimpThen “FiveTwo” says, “A great love for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.” We must—absolutely must—ask: What is necessarily “sacramental” about such an anthropocentric approach to the sacraments? It is not our love for those gifts from our Lord that makes them sacraments or makes our use of them “sacramental.”

“FiveTwo” further defines their “sacramental” as: “Men and women with a deep love for the mysterious presence of Jesus in the sacraments AND who believe His presence in them makes them the presence of Jesus — His sacraments — in their communities.” In addition to defining “sacramental” in terms of our love for the sacraments, “FiveTwo” apparently seeks to make new sacraments out of sinful men and women. Where in the Scriptures does God make His people “the presence of Jesus — His sacraments — in their communities”?

Such language certainly cheapens the true sacraments—Baptism, Absolution, and Lord’s Supper—that Jesus has given to His Church. It confuses the divinely given gifts of Jesus with the people of the Church. It also speaks volumes by omitting any reference to the forgiveness of sins, the life, and the salvation that Jesus delivers by means of His “means of grace.”

Next, let’s look at “FiveTwo’s” use of the term “entrepreneurs.” The term “entrepreneur” generally refers to one who begins and manages a business, seeking to make and sell a product and thus make a profit. Does this apply to “FiveTwo”?

Their website refers to “Men and women who enjoy doing and starting new.” Then, oddly enough, it refers to something quite old: “the generative offices of Ephesians 4: Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists.” (One wonders why they leave out “pastors and teachers” from the list!) And these “entrepreneurs” then “must partner with the shepherding and teaching offices once up and running.”

Just a few questions should point out the utter gibberish of these statements. What does “FiveTwo’s” “doing and starting new” necessarily mean? Doing and starting new what? We Lutherans, by contrast, boldly and proudly confess the ancient faith handed down to us, and we gladly keep the traditions of the church where they clearly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the things that truly make us new, that is, forgiven and holy before God.

Confusion1What is a “generative office,” and what does it have to do with “doing and starting new”? How many “shepherding and teaching offices” are there in the church? According to Scripture, Jesus only gives us one office of the holy ministry. Does that office really need “entrepreneurs” to “partner” with it? Is this a subtle way of insinuating that Jesus’ gift of “pastors and teachers” to His church (Eph. 4:12-13) is somehow insufficient for tending and feeding the flock? Is this some sort of mission creep for pastors to leave their true calling (i.e. shepherding the flock of God with the Word of God) and take up entrepreneurial ventures (i.e. acting more like corporate CEOs and motivational speakers)? Have we 21st century Christians become so enlightened by modern business strategies and “high-powered vision” gurus that we presume to give the church something that Jesus somehow failed to give?

“Sacramental” and “entrepreneurs.” One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn’t belong.

When we speak of things “sacramental,” we refer to things that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to His church purely and solely out of His goodness and mercy. The Third Article gifts of His Sacraments are “rites that have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added” (Apology XIII:3). They are “not only marks of profession among men, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us” (AC XIII:1).

When we speak of things entrepreneurial, we do well to keep such First Article matters clearly distinct, and perhaps separate, from the Third Article matters of the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit’s work of creating and sustaining followers of Jesus. The church (both at-large and, especially, in local congregations) must and will continue to practice things entrepreneurial as she carries out her mission of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, showing mercy to those in need, and fostering her life together. Certain entrepreneurial tasks, such as raising money and balancing budgets, are simply good stewardship and will necessarily take place. However, we cannot and must not confuse such First Article endeavors with the Third Article—truly “sacramental”—matters of the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing us to faith in Christ and keeping us in that faith.

One final note on things not belonging together. Based on their self-stated reason for existence, the “movement” known as “FiveTwo” certainly does not belong in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Their confusion of “sacramental” with “entrepreneurs” only gives a confusing confession and does not mesh with the doctrine and practice so clearly given in the Scriptures and the Confessions.

According the the LCMS constitution, the first and chief objective of the Synod “under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions” is: “Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy” (Art. III.1).

ItsTimeWe appeal to the leadership of the LCMS to address these two things that are not alike, these two things that do not belong together: the “FiveTwo” confession of faith vs. the Lutheran confession of faith. The sooner that LCMS leadership can address this obvious variance in teaching things “sacramental,” the sooner we can honestly claim to “conserve and promote the unity of the true faith.”

For the good of God’s people and in order to “conserve and promote the unity of the true faith,” IT’S TIME for our LCMS leadership to step up and do the serious work of defending us against schism and sectarianism, because, after all, one of these things just doesn’t belong in our midst.

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