You Are a Light Unto the World, the Five14 Way?
Associated with the Lutheran Hour Ministries is a self-described “totally unique” youth community “…where teens (and recent survivors of teenhood) get together online and in person to make a life-changing impact on their generation with the love of Jesus Christ” (on-line source). This community is called Five14.
Five14 was brought to my attention by a pastor who received the Lutheran Hour Ministries newspaper, “The Lutheran Layman.” What caught this pastor’s eye was Five14’s advertisement for an August 11th “Christian concert” to be held in Chesterfield, Missouri. This same event is also being advertised at the Five14 website found at http://www.lhm.org/ located under the “Our Ministries” pull down menu at the top of the page. The advertisement reads in part, “Make sure to save Saturday, August 11 so you can be in St. Louis for the first-ever five14 Revolution a huge back-to-school Christian concert sponsored by Lutheran Hour Ministries’ five14 witnessing training program for teens! Featuring the music and message of Mynista, this show will bring the truth home that lives can be changed when people meet the Savior who lived and died and rose again to make all lives new.” Five14 advertises itself as a “witnessing training program for teens” sponsored by Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM). Five14 is listed at the LHM website under “Outreach Training programs and you can visit Five14’s “About Us” page linked here .
Before I get any further along I want to comment that the web site for Five14 is well done and clearly presents what this “community” is about. I also like that Five14 wants to motivate and teach Lutheran youth how to confess their faith to their friends and loved ones who are unbelievers. We certainly need more training in this area for our youth. Indeed, our youth are barraged by many false messages in this world and they need good, solidly Lutheran, tools to use in responding to those messages.
However, after browsing Five14’s webpages many red flags went up. In particular, I have to question if Five14 is the model of “outreach training” that Confessional Lutherans want to use? What do some of you think? My answer is “no!” and I would like to touch upon why that is the case.
Digging into this a little deeper I see in the above quotation from the Five14 advertisement that this “witness training program” is featuring both “the music and the message” of a music group called Mynista. You can visit Mynista’s website linked here to catch a glimpse of the leader of this group and the rapper who goes by the pseudonym “Docta Wuzdead.” Please keep in mind that the website is most certainly not meant to be an exhaustive description of Mr. Wuzdead or of what he believes, teaches, and confesses; but I think there is enough information at his website for us to sound the alarm, so-to-speak.
In reading Docta Wuzdead’s “witness” it becomes clear that this rapper certainly has much for which to be thankful. He is no longer “gang banging” and he now confesses his love for Jesus Christ. I think it is awesome that this young man is not hooked on drugs and alcohol anymore, and he is not in a deadly gang harming others around him. I don’t doubt that he likely has a powerful story to tell that may be helpful to some of the gang bangers he left behind. But is there anything he is saying that we should be leery of as Lutheran Christians?
Part of Docta Wuzhead’s conversion story (On-line source) resembles some of the stories of early blues guitarists who claimed to have sold their souls to the devil in exchange for musical talent. Apparently, Mr. Wuzhead didn’t complete the dastardly exchange of soul for fame. According to his story even though he was “approached by demonic spirits asking him to sell his soul in exchange for fortune and fame” (ibid.), the impact of these demons speaking to him drove him into despair and he sought to remedy this new problem by taking his own life. As these fiendish events unravel he winds up at his mother’s house and instead of shooting himself in the head with his own sawed-off shotgun, he “got on his knees and asked Jesus to become his Lord and Savior” (ibid.). According to Docta Wuzhead’s short biography, “Within seven days, he was baptized in the Holy Spirit and completely free! The demonic voices that were tormenting him left, he flushed all of his weed down the toilet, threw away his gun, and was completely delivered from alcoholism” (ibid.) His is certainly an interesting story to say the least, but I think it abundantly clear that Docta Wuzhead is a Pentecostal or Charismatic and his beliefs come through clear not only at his website, but more importantly through his music and story.
In listening to Docta Wuzhead’s rap music I found it filled with some of the usual messages that comes out of the Pentecostal movement, such as the “prosperity gospel.” For example in his song “Pow” the rapper sings of “abundant life in spirit, abundant life in soul, abundant life in body, Jesus Christ He makes you whole.” What the lyrics contain are the “buzz words” typically used amongst the Pentecostals and Charismatics expressing the “prosperity gospel.” For those who might not be familiar with the “prosperity gospel,” it is a false doctrine claiming that the Holy Scriptures teaches that financial and material blessing is the will of God for all Christians. Indeed, Christians are entitled to material blessings from God, so it is erroneously taught. Such teachings ignore Scriptures such as John 16:33 where Jesus plainly tells His disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” Christ doesn’t promise us an “abundant life” in this world, as the priests of prosperity teach in their false gospel.
[Side note: In visiting the photos section of Mynista’s website there are numerous pictures such as this one showing Docta Wuzdead laying his hands on another in Pentecostal style worship. Is this the sort of Contemporary Worship craved by some Lutherans?]
Bringing the above together I have to wonder just how Mynista can be effective in Lutheran outreach, or more importantly in “outreach training?” In fact, what is being taught to Lutheran youth if we team up with Pentecostals/Charismatics such as Mynista when doing mission?
As Lutherans we have a rich heritage and a strong identity. We confess the Scriptural truth that God deals with us through His Word and Sacraments (SA III, VIII). We have a comforting message that the Pentecostals, Charismatics, and Mynista do not have and that is the promise of the Gospel, knowing that Jesus Christ connects us to the forgiveness of sins won at the cross for the world through His means of grace. Our experiences are not with some sort of fleeting, rapturous, emotion driven event. Indeed, what is important is not the experience but the action of God upon us through His Word, Baptism, and the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins. The experiences of demonic spirits demanding our souls, and of a so-called “baptism of the Holy Spirit” can’t hold up against the truth of the Word of God and the Sacraments. We have assurance through the promises of God and they aren’t contingent upon what we do or feel. As Lutherans we need not step onto the roller coaster ride of enthusiasm, seeking greater spiritual “highs” outside the objective means of grace. Yes, we don’t need to climb a ladder to the heavens to find God, since He descends to us through His Son and feeds us through His means of grace. So why should a Lutheran “outreach training” “community” put forward to the public a Pentecostal/Charismatic singing his message of enthusiasm and a false “prosperity” gospel?
I can’t say that I am surprised by Five14’s teaming up with a Pentecostal/Charismatic rapper in their quest to look cutting edge and out on the fringe. We have seen this same sort of nonsense at past LC-MS youth gatherings. LHM as an auxiliary of the LC-MS seems to be following in the footsteps of the leadership over the National Youth Gatherings of the past who have brought to our youth Methabapticostal type programming for their edification. Five14 is just following the leaders.
What I do find perplexing, though, is that Five14 is being propped up as a model for youth ministry by LHM. I don’t find anything wrong with well-done websites or with using today’s media types in communicating the Gospel. I think there is room for using today’s technology in faithful communication of what we as Lutherans believe, teach, and confess. And, there in is the problem. As Lutherans we do not believe, teach, and confess the enthusiasm of Mynista and therefore LHM and Five14 should not be promoting the “ministry” of Docta Wuzdead and propping it up as an example of “cutting edge” Lutheran missions work when that is really the furthest from the truth. What our youth need is more solid Lutheran theological training and fellowship with those who dare to be Lutheran (As Higher Things rightly puts it in their motto). What we don’t need is more Methabapticostal worship and outreach methods promoted in the name of “doing mission.” In fact, we don’t need any of that at all.