On the State of the Missouri Synod and the Problem of Christian Education in Our Congregations

September 14th, 2012 Post by

When I learned that the September 2012 edition of the Lutheran Witness was going to address the current state of the Missouri Synod, I waited with eagerness to read its analysis. The magazine is chock full of statistics that all Lutherans need to know, and, as you might imagine, the statistics do not paint a very pretty picture. Within its pages is the outline for a restructuring and regrouping in our Synod organized around six “Mission Priorities”. Here are the announced priorities:

Mission Priority 1: Revitalizing Churches
Mission Priority 2: Expanding Theological Education
Mission Priority 3: Human Care Ministry
Mission Priority 4: Mission Effectiveness
Mission Priority 5: Nurturing Church Workers
Mission Priority 6: Enhancing Education

Each of these priorities is intended to address a glaring problem: our numbers are down. As a Synod, our financial numbers are down, our membership and baptism numbers are down, our school student numbers are down, our missions numbers are down. This is no secret. It’s something that’s been happening for a while, and most of us know it. Even without a single statistic, we can feel it. Now, the wise among us will be quick to point out that numbers aren’t everything, that statistics can be misleading and even downright contrary to fact, that faithfulness is the primary goal, and that some numbers can go down for reasons unrelated to our efforts. And at various points, the latest Lutheran Witness acknowledges most of these things. Yet, even after we take into account all of these points, it doesn’t eliminate the problem, and denying the problem is just an exercise in whistling past the graveyard.

I was pleased to see some of the efforts that the Synod intends to make going forward, and I hope that they will be implemented effectively. I don’t want to be one those negative nancies who sits on the sidelines and naysays the efforts of those who are at work to address the problems. Frankly, we have far too many of those people already. The truth is, it’s far easier to find fault with another’s efforts than to actually make an effort yourself.

Addressing a Greater Need: Christian Education in the Local Parish
While I think that some of these priorities will help to improve our Synod, I’m convinced that they have ignored one of the biggest problems facing our Synod, and thus with it, the biggest solution. I read in hope that the various authors would mention the solution that I believe will really address the core of the problems facing our Synod, but sadly, they didn’t mention it.

The fact is, we could improve in all of the “mission priorities” of the Synod, but unless we correct the deep lack of Christian education in our parishes and our homes, we’re going to continue to bleed. I have spoken to enough of children and youth in our churches to get a sense of how little biblical literacy and theological understanding there is among our children Synod-wide. In what follows, I’ve chosen to use the words “education” and “instruction” instead of “catechesis” since, unfortunately, in the minds of many “catechesis” strictly refers to a two/three-year period of instruction in the Small Catechism.

By way of example of the problem, I recently taught a group of confirmation students at another parish in their first confirmation class. In order to establish a baseline of their understanding, I asked a couple of general questions. When I asked them if we are saved by our works or by God’s works. I received three different answers spread quite evenly across the group. Some said we are saved by our works. Some said we are saved by God’s works, and some said we are saved by both our work and God’s work.

Now here is one of the most basic truths that our kids need to know. It’s perhaps the most defining doctrine of the Reformation. It’s a doctrine to which our ancestors dedicated their very lives so that we could be here to still confess it, and these kids are collectively ignorant of it.

Now I know that one of the purposes of confirmation is to cover doctrines like this, but honestly, if they don’t know the answer to so basic a question as this by 7th and 8th grade, we’ve got a big problem.

These are kids who have been in a Lutheran church for years — many of them for all 12 and 13 years of their lives — and they know next to nothing about the faith they claim to believe. This is far from being merely anecdotal. The lack of knowledge of the basic content of our faith is multiplied throughout our congregations. The kids I taught are by no means the exception to the rule.

There was a time a number of decades ago when we could get by without teaching our children much, and they would nevertheless remain in the church. The cultural pressure to be Christian was so great enough to keep people in the church. But those days are very much over. The glow of an age in which it was considered a kind of cultural requirement to go to church has faded, and going forward, those who remain in the church will more and more be those who know what they believe and know why they’re here. They will be those who understand what the Scriptures teach and have thought through the Catechism and the doctrine of the church. But if we aren’t actively, purposefully, aggressively teaching them from the earliest age on we’re going to have very few of those kinds of parishoners.

Proverbs 22:6 tells us that if we train a child in the way he should go, when he is old he will not depart from it. So, by inference, when we see thousands upon thousands of our children abandoning the church this tells us something about our training. It tells us that we haven’t been training up our children in the way that they should go because if we did, they wouldn’t be departing like this. Now, I recognize that there will always be some that will not remain in the church no matter how well they have been taught by their parents and their churches, but they won’t constitute an epidemic. They’re going to be the exception.

How We’ve Been Teaching Our Children
For a long time now and to an increasing degree, I’ve watched as we’ve communicated to our children that learning the Word of God is a real headache — a real misery. We’ve done this by shrouding our attempts at Bible teaching in a thick layer of entertainment in order to maintain their interest. Through these methods we created an expectation that the Bible has to be a into a kind of fun if they are have anything to do with it. What was once an expectation has now become a demand. Simply teaching the Bible to a group of children raised on a steady diet of entertainment in the church simply doesn’t move the needle. They are bored to tears by it. If you doubt what I’m saying, just look at much of our Sunday School and VBS curricula. They are full of gimmicks, games, and crafts. They are sadly short on sustained Bible teaching, Scripture memory, and catechesis. At some point, the medium becomes the message. How we package our teaching can actually speak louder than what we’re trying to teach. For many children, learning the Bible just becomes the means to an end of getting the piece of candy, or being entertained. Sooner or later, every activity becomes cashed out in terms of its amount of pleasure.

What to Do Going Forward
The only solution to the demand to be entertained is to back up and scrap the whole approach of packaging all of our Bible instruction with a craft, a puppet, a cartoon, or a game. The more that we introduce entertainment into the equation, the more that we reinforce in children’s minds that the Bible and Christian doctrine is a bitter pill that can only go down with a heavy spoonful of sugar. We’ve got to get away from shallow, pleasure-based Bible teaching and start teaching our children that hearing from their creator and redeemer in his Holy Word is its own reward. We have to teach them that something greater than candy and entertainment is here. And if we are afraid to unleash the Word and let the Spirit pique the interest of our children, then we might need to reevaluate what it is that we honestly believe about the Bible and our Lord.

The best of Bible teachers know that you can take a group of regenerate kids and teach the Scriptures with a passion and love for God and His Word in an informed and knowledgeable way and actually hold their interest. This is what our church at its best has done throughout the centuries. The Bible doesn’t need gimmicks to sell it. It is our job to teach it well, and the Spirit will sell it to the hearts of Christ’s people.

In this post, I’m only addressing the problem of our shortcomings in instructing our children in the church. There’s an equal if not greater problem with the lack of instruction in the Christian home. The Small Catechism which was originally designed for home instruction has been entirely relegated as the duty of the church to teach. This has not happened without consequences for our Synod as a whole. I will address this in a subsequent post.

The most fitting place in LW to address our lack of Christian education in the church would have been Bart Day’s article on “Enhancing Education” (p. 16). However, all of the focus was on education in our schools. Day presents a five prong approach to improving education in our schools:

1. Be schools of academic excellence
2. Be distinctly and unapologetically Lutheran
3. Embrace the rich ethnic diversity
4. Use technology as a means of collaborative learning
5. Explore new funding models

Certainly our schools are deserving of increased focus, but to whatever extent we improve the education in our schools, it will have little impact on the biblical literacy problem we face in our churches. Furthermore, if Day is interested in improving schools, he has overlooked the fact that a significant step toward that goal is improving catechesis and biblical instruction in our churches.

In the entire LW issue, the closest we get to an acknowledgement of the need for better education in our churches is a single line from John Pless in his article “Revitalizing Churches”. He writes, “Revitalized congregations are catechetical congregations” (p. 11). He’s exactly right, but we need to hear much more.

We didn’t get here as a church by instructing our children at the low degree at which we’re instructing them now, and we won’t survive as a Synod unless we improve. There is simply no substitute for intensively educating our people in the Word of God.

Associate Editor’s Note:  With this post we introduce Pastor John Fraiser to the regular writers here at BJS.  Pastor Fraiser will be writing about Lutheran history and systematic theology among other things.  Here is a little more about Pr. Fraiser:

Pastor Fraiser grew up as a Baptist and received his M.Div. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Following his seminary studies, he began reading the writings of Martin Luther and became convinced that Lutheran doctrine was a faithful presentation of the doctrine of Scripture and addressed many of his perplexing Baptist questions. After joining the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, he went on for graduate philosophy studies, while also taking post-graduate courses at Concordia Seminary. Though he intended to teach philosophy in a university setting, he also applied as a candidate for ordination through the Synod’s colloquy program with the plans of bi-vocational parish ministry. Following colloquy, he assisted in a vacancy at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in LaGrange, Kentucky where he was eventually called as pastor. Pr. Fraiser was ordained on Luther’s ordination date – April 3rd – in 2011. Pr. Fraiser is married to Emily, and they have a four-year-old daughter named Jillian.


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  1. September 16th, 2012 at 18:33 | #1

    Rev. Paul T. McCain :
    I’d say you should find another “interim” pastor, if he has that kind of attitude.

    Indeed!

    You cannot have a solid foundation with your Lord if you do not know Scripture:

    But he answered, “It is written,
    “‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

    Jesus said to him, “Again it is written,
    ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

    Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,
    “‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

    You cannot be a Lutheran if you do not know the contents of Luther’s Small Catechism.

    You cannot be a judge of your Lutheran Church or your Synod if you do not at least have a passing knowledge of the Book of Concord.

    All this trash that passes for worship in some name only Lutheran Churches is only possible because of the gross ignorance of its members and the evil actions of the false Pastors and the empowering evil actions of some in its Synod of their choice ; pick one any will do.

    I knew a man who was a pantheist his biggest stumbling block was that Christianity was just a form of entertainment. To a very large degree I had to agree with him. Most contemporary worship is just that; entertainment.

    “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
    “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

    IXOYC ZWNTWN

  2. September 16th, 2012 at 19:21 | #2

    Wow, can-O-worms.

    I could not agree more that it’s all about education, education, education. It is the exact same problem in our nation at large.

    Speaking for my household I can tell you that about three years ago we stumbled across Todd Wilken and Issues, Etc. and it was like being re-baptized and startled into alertness. That in turn led to Chris Rosebrough’s FightingForTheFaith.com, Higher Things, God Whisperers, and more. As we devoured each day’s teachings and commentary, for months we felt like complete fools, assuming that every other Lutheran we knew was well aware of Issues and already partaking. But as time went by we discovered that almost no one we knew was aware. And sadly, almost no one seems even the least bit curious. Oh, except for one Baptist friend and one Catholic family member.

    I am sorry to say this and I don’t mean to be hateful, for hate is not what is in my heart. But my feeling at this time is that Lutherans are the biggest problem with Lutheranism. The LCMS has some of the finest, most learned and talented pastors and scholars on the planet, and there is literally unlimited free access to three lifetimes worth of education for anyone with an internet connection. (One great series that couldn’t be more topical at the moment is Uwe Siemon-Netto’s Two Kingdoms via i-Tunes.) Yet the Lutherans I know are uninterested. And worse, they are just plain dull, as in the opposite of sharp – on ANY subject. The average pulse is dangerously low I’m afraid. This malaise and/or postmodern timidity is not a problem unique to Lutherans, but in my view, we were far less susceptible to it until . . . some time in recent years.

  3. Mrs. Hume
    September 16th, 2012 at 22:41 | #3

    @Kathy L. M. #49

    I suggested to our interim that he teach from the Book of Concord and he said that it would be a class of one, meaning me.

    Now you need to suggest that he test his hypothesis. :D

  4. Tim Schenks
    September 17th, 2012 at 01:40 | #4

    I like to hand out those paperback tracts of Luther’s Small Catechism to our Sunday morning visitors (no synodical explanation so it’s very small). I think they are available in bundles of ten from CPH.

    Yeah, our last junior confirmation class was interesting. Pastor was using his old blue NIV Small Catechism (has all of his notes written in it so too much trouble to switch), the kids had the new burgundy ESV editions, and I was sitting in as a visitor with my burgundy NIV and Kindle ESV versions. I had no idea that we had two different burgundy editions until Pastor pointed it out. :)

  5. Rose
    September 17th, 2012 at 06:23 | #5

    No mention here that primary responsibility in training children has been given to fathers.
    “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Eph 6:4
    Pastors, expect your congregational fathers to take the leadership in the Christian education of their children and things may change.
    Luther followed this and expected the faith to be imparted “as the head of the household should teach it”.
    A good resource is Voddie Baucham’s audio “The Centrality of the Home in Evangelism and Discipleship.”
    http://www.christianbook.com/centrality-home-evangelism-and-discipleship-audio/voddie-baucham/9781933431338/pd/431338

  6. Joe
    September 17th, 2012 at 12:19 | #6

    @A. Nonymous #2

    Excellent, Excellent Post! I’m sad to say I couldn’t agree with you more. Excellent article too by Pastor Frasier. I’m also a Baptist convert to Lutheranism and followed a path similar to others here -active baptist started studying with more attention. Encountered modern reformed teachers – which was a breath of fresh air compared to what I put up with before. But further study revealed significant differences between many modern Calvinists and the original reformers. I started studying Calvin’s works and read several arguements against Martin Luther. Luther’s position perked my interest and ironically Calvin drove me to his opponent by argueing against him! I found Issues Etc. one day by scanning my car radio while looking for Christian teaching and fed up with “Bible Answer Man” and “Catholic Answers.” I’m Lutheran by conviction, and love it – yet agree that ” Lutherans are the biggest problem with Lutheranism.”

    I’ve repeatedly had people ask me why in the world I would want to stop attending a vibrant and growing Baptist church to join the Lutherans who have nothing going for them. The people in the Lutheran Bible classes are often less Lutheran than many of the Baptists I used to teach. My wife even asks me how I can believe that my kids are better off in a boring class repeating the small catachism 3 or 4 years in a row at the most basic level, never progressing into more advanced topics. At least the Baptist church we had the opportunity to teach Bible classes where kids would actually read the Bible.

    I fully acknowledge and admit that Fathers are called to teach the faith to their children and Mothers are called to help with this too. I’m just continually questioning if I would be better off abandoning any attempt to attend an organized class at a church and just teach my kids at home. They might actually learn something that way. I switched churches because I don’t want my kids to be in their 30’s before they hear actual Lutheran doctrine like I was -yet now I’m worried the last place they will hear Lutheran doctrine is in a Lutheran church!

    We lament Biblical illiteracy – yet when do kids (or adults for that matter) actually study the Bible in Lutheran churches? When was the last time Romans was read and discussed verse by verse from start to finish at your church? I have no idea how long it has been at mine – but wouldn’t be surprised if it has been multiple decades. We claim the Word of God is so important (which it is) yet we pay 10x more attention to denominational explanations of the Small Catechism than we do to the unadulterated Words of life. I’m not in favor of dumping the Small Catechism and abandoning all things Lutheran – but honestly why do Lutherans only study the Small Catechism?

    How do we fix Biblical illiteracy? Can we try reading the Bible? I’m not trying to be hateful or a jerk – I’m being honest.

    I also really worry that many of the most “Lutheran” Lutherans just want to do everything the way they used to “in the old days.” The only adult Bible class led by the pastor (with 50 to 75 people in it) is going to start the CPH series on “The Gospel in the 1950’s” or something rediculous like that. Why should I even go?

  7. rich
    September 17th, 2012 at 13:15 | #7

    @Pastor John Fraiser #13
    Anyone who has more that one child knows that all children do not learn in exactly same way, unless the goal is simply mindless memorization. My son was a hands-on learner, my daughter visualizes concepts more easily. He learned math more easily through the use of objects. She could do arithmetic in her head. I do not need a million-dollar research project to confirm what is already obvious to any parent.

    Perhaps you were blessed with children who are exactly alike. Mine were not. Interestingly, it was the one for whom learning was most difficult that the words of the Gospel were most easily absorbed.

  8. Martin R. Noland
    September 18th, 2012 at 23:20 | #8

    Dear Pastor Fraiser and BJS Bloggers,

    First, thanks Pastor Fraiser for initiating a “mission critical” subject into discussion here at BJS. I agree a whole lot with what you say and how you say it.

    I also agree with the President and Chairman of the Board of Concordia Historical Institute, Dr. Scott Meyer, who has said that Christian education is what has preserved the LCMS as a Lutheran church body for 160+ years. As he has demonstrated in a number of articles in the CHIQ, much of that was through the weekday parochial school. The LCMS mission motto used to be “First the school; then the church.”

    In my own historical studies, I discovered that the East Coast Lutherans lost their parochial schools before the Civil War, and soon thereafter started to slip into generic pan-Protestantism. If we lose our schools, I wager we will suffer the same fate.

    I really agree with your advocacy for Biblical literacy – certainly Luther would agree with that! For me, one test of the spiritual health of a Lutheran congregation is the quality and number of its Bible classes for adults and youth; assuming also that they teach orthodox Lutheran doctrine. CPH offers numerous excellent Bible study materials for leaders who have difficulty creating their own lesson plans. Go to: http://www.cph.org

    I disagree with your post only on two points.

    First, you don’t seem to be aware of the findings of educational psychologists, who have demonstrated that children have different levels of “readiness” and development. The most famous of these researchers was Jean Piaget. You can argue with his particular theory, but if you have taught all age levels for any length of time, as I have, you will soon learn that the essence of his theory is right.

    The purpose of having objects in hand, flannelgraphs, coloring pages, etc., is that children at that level (PS-2nd grade) are visual-concrete learners. Words from the mouth without concrete objects or pictures “go right over their heads.” So generations of flannelgraph Sunday School teachers have done it right; as also has the CPH Sunday School curriculum which taught the lesson-for-the-day using colored prints depicting the main events in a story. Luther did the same thing, in the woodcut illustrations he approved for the Small Catechism in his lifetime.

    You are correct that by 7th and 8th grade, visual aids are not necessary, since almost everyone in your class will be at the “abstract level.” But that does not exclude their usefulness for younger grades. Also, if your 7th and 8th graders have had no Sunday School or parochial school (as is often the case), you really should use some graphics to visualize the Bible stories they need to know.

    Our LCMS M.Div. students used to have a required course in “Religious Education” that explained all of this. I don’t know if it is still taught or required. Religious pedagogy is a discipline unto itself. The only LCMS expert in the subject that I know is Dr. Richard Carter at CU-Saint Paul, who received his STM from Yale and his PhD from Luther Northwest Seminary, and who was one of the early graduates of the CU-River Forest DCE program under Walter Wangerin.

    Second, I disagree with your conclusion that we aren’t doing something right, since the kids in 7th and 8th grade don’t understand sola gratia. You are not the only person to come to this conclusion. Lutherans in the 20th century have done broad surveys on clergy and laymen understandings of the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Since they never result in 100% on this key doctrine, the reports have faulted 8th grade catechism, parochial schools, outmoded dogmatic language and categories, or in many cases, the whole class of pastors and teachers.

    My response to such reports are as follows:

    1) All religions have gradations of belief, understanding, and adherence. Just look at how the media has parsed the Roman Catholic church into four camps, thereby arguing that “no one really” supports birth control in that church. Lutherans are not immune from this sort of “levels of adherence” or “levels of understanding.”

    2) Even the best systems of indoctrination will produce fence-sitters, half-believers, hypocrites, and people of low integrity. This is our official position as stated by Augsburg Confession VIII. We will never achieve 100% this side of the kingdom of glory.

    3) The Lutheran idea of sola gratia, sola fide is antithetical to just about every other Christian tradition around us, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelicals, Lilberal Protestants, Pentecostals, and Lutheran Pietism. The only ones who agree with us on this doctrine are the strict Calvinists, like Michael Horton and R.C. Sproul. Although the strict Calvinists publish alot, they are numerically insignificant in the US. Thus American Lutherans live and breathe in a “sea of synergism and semi-Pelagianism.”

    4) The doctrine of sola gratia isn’t just a doctrine, its a personal matter. There are really three categories of Christian doctrine: A) “theory” that explains God, the world, and the church; B) ethics; and C) MY salvation. A and B can be taught relatively easy as an objective matter, like other studies. C is too personal for MY conscience; it talks about MY weakness and shame and guilt. The conscience (or unconsious) doesn’t want to deal with this topic, so by instinct “tunes it out.” If the mind is “tuned out,” all the great pedagogy in the world won’t help instill the doctrine.

    5) Francis Pieper in his dogmatics talks about this problem, i.e., the instinctual “tuning out” of sola gratia as the opinio legis. Check out the fourth volume of the Pieper dogmatics, the index for the series, under the term opinio legis. In the passages listed, Pieper explains about the lack of ability of the unregenerate mind and soul to apprehend the doctrine of grace, with a term something like facultas gratia . . .. I have not found any other Lutheran dogmatician who explains these matters so clearly. Maybe when we see Gerhard in translation on this topic, we will find Pieper’s source; otherwise, that may be Pieper’s own unique contribution to Lutheran theology for the ages.

    6) My own thoughts related to the opinio legis are that if I accept the Lutheran idea of sola gratia, then it means I am not a god and will never be a “saint,” merely human. Adam’s temptation was “to be like God,” and that became a fixed part of human nature after the Fall, part of original sin. In other words, man has an instinctual religious desire to be a god and sola gratia is directly against that desire. This religious desire is perfectly expressed in Mormonism. Luther’s doctrine means I must give up my hope of being a god, and instead become a child, i.e., a being who looks up to everyone else and depends on those greater than him. This is Sunday’s Gospel, by the way.

    So don’t feel as if you or previous pastors have failed to teach sola gratia to Junior High students. I am sure they have–and you will. All you can do at that age level is introduce the subject; then you repeat the topic over and over again through the year in your sermons; and it will finally sink in, to some people, through their own personal tentatio, when and where the Spirit moves.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  9. September 19th, 2012 at 07:36 | #9

    This added some depth to my understanding, I hope you will find it helpful as well.”

    “Opinio Legis

    It is nothing short of amazing how the desire to fixate on “we did our part” – no matter how small – sticks glued to us. Only by the Holy Spirit are we given grace to cry out: “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 115:1) And with Daniel the prophet: “For we do not present our pleas before You because of our righteousness, but because of Your great mercy! O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive!”
    POSTED BY WILLIAM WEEDON”

    http://weedon.blogspot.com/2009/09/opinio-legis.html

    ” The sola gratia doctrine of Luther and of the confessional Lutheran Church

    Luther, in fact, calls the mingling of human works and merits into the process of opening heaven an “intolerable and dreadful blasphemy”; for we know from Holy Scripture that “God cannot be reconciled by anything else than by this immeasurable and infinite treasure, the suffering and death of His Son; for one single drop of His blood is more precious than all creation.” (Cf. sub Gal. 2, 20; St. L. Ed. IX, 237ff.) In keeping with this doctrine, Luther demands that every attempt to supplement Christ’s work of reconciliation with human efforts and works must be rooted out of the Church as a “scandal,” or offense. (St. L. Ed. IX, 236, and elsewhere.)”

    http://gnesiolutheran.com/pieper-on-good-behavior/

    IXOYC ZWNTWN

  10. Kathy L. M.
    September 19th, 2012 at 08:48 | #10

    Thank you, Pastor Noland. Every week, our worship is confessional and the gospel of grace is preached, to our well-established congregation, whose Lutheran school closed last year. Then, I attend our periodic women’s events to hear self-esteem, moralism, and the good life taught. I see that the women love Beth Moore’s teachings. I don’t mean to be judgmental; I would just love to hear others talk about grace and the gospel and not focus on self.

    You are correct: “…it will finally sink in, to some people,…when and where the Spirit moves,” and that is my prayer.

    Also thanks for confirming Michael Horton and RC Sproul as two authors/speakers who agree with the Lutheran teachings on grace and faith.

  11. Mrs. Hume
    September 19th, 2012 at 21:11 | #11

    The LCMS mission motto used to be “First the school; then the church.”

    Wow. It heartening to know that some people somewhere believed that. When we had to spend a lot to renovate the building, it kind of worried me that we would spend so much on the physical building while we have trouble making sure that we can afford to have all of our kids in our school. How can there be a future for the church if we aren’t even teaching our own kids? The schools are more hostile to God’s word than ever. This is the worst time to have children there especially k-8 kids.

  12. Martin R. Noland
    September 20th, 2012 at 11:33 | #12

    @Joe #6

    Dear Joe,

    You asked: “I’m not in favor of dumping the Small Catechism and abandoning all things Lutheran – but honestly why do Lutherans only study the Small Catechism?”

    I think you can see in my comment #8 above (page 2, #8) that I heartily agree with Pastor Fraiser’s plea for better Biblical literacy and more widespread use of Bible studies at all levels.

    The Small Catechism has a special place in the Lutheran church, not just because Luther wrote it, but because it contains what might be called the “toolbox” of the Christian life. I am rephrasing here some things Luther said about the Catechism in his prefaces to his Catechisms.

    When you teach the Catechism, you are teaching converts or young people how to maintain their Baptism. Here is an analogy: My oldest daughter is looking forward to getting her driver’s permit in December. Before we get behind the wheel, I want her to know how to do basic maintenance on cars. So I am going to pull out the auto toolbox, and show her how to use each chief tool: socket wrench set, removable tip screwdriver, spare tire and its tools, tire pressure gauge, crescent wrenches, etc. I’ll also teach her how to refill the fluids, which are vital for maintaining a functional car.

    The Catechism contains the tools to maintain your Baptism: 1) 10 Commandments, how to behave; 2) Creed, how to believe and think about God; 3) Lord’s Prayer, how to pray; 4) Sacraments and Absolution, how to receive God’s spiritual gifts. When you start getting off-track in your spiritual life, these are the tools that you bring out to fix the problems. There is nothing more practical for the Christian life than the Catechism.

    One of the problems that can affect Bible Studies is that the leader takes the group off into impractical areas that don’t affect the Christian life. Well, yes, it is good to know all the details of Jewish history in the Old Testament, but much of that doesn’t relate to my Christian life, except where it talks about the Messiah. Many folks like to study the Book of Revelation, because it is visually vivid and seems to predict the future, but it is probably the most difficult book to understand correctly, as Luther admitted in his Prefaces to it. I refused to teach the Book of Revelation until CPH published Louis Brighton’s commentary on it, and I could rely on his scholarship.

    Lutheran’s don’t see Bible Study as merely a way to increase head knowledge. They have a practical concern at all times: that such study increase faith in Christ and his merits, result in love for God and the neighbor, and the other things mentioned in Ephesians 6:11-18.

    I can’t speak to the situation in your congregation, but sometimes pastors know that their laypeople aren’t even understanding the basics. Sometimes the people need to restudy the Small Catechism, because they are just too dense to study anything else at the time. Determining “readiness” for more advanced study is the pastor’s call and his job.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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