The Center for U.S. Missions: Incarnational and Sacramental?

July 26th, 2013 Post by

Lutherans are incarnational. We believe that God is not somewhere up there, where we climb a ladder to reach Him with our good works or with our emotional experience or with our intellectual knowledge. God is down here, with us, for us, in us. His plan to redeem His fallen creatures is so absurd that it comes down to this: He became one of us. God hungers, He thirsts, He dies. He justifies. Only a man could pay for the sin of Adam. Of course, Jesus paid for the sin of all people for all time, because He is also God, incarnate, in the flesh. Only God could pay an infinite debt.

Lutherans are sacramental. We believe, because Scripture teaches, that God works through means. In Baptism, simple water combined with the Word forgives our sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe. Likewise, in the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s Word along with His very body and blood, under the earthy elements of bread and wine, work forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The sermonic words pouring from the lips of your pastor, sometimes wondrous, sometimes seemingly humdrum, deluging you with water and blood, work and sustain faith. Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.

The Word, always the Word, creates the things of which it speaks. This should come as no surprise to us. Baptismal and Eucharistic imagery fill the verses of the Old Testament. The ark of the Church is buoyed up by water. The Passover lamb becomes the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Equally preposterous, the finite now contains the infinite. And so we circle right back from the sacramental, to the incarnational. These wondrous mysteries that we Lutherans embrace surround us and make us who we are, Baptized children of God. To lack these things would mean the death of who we are, and ultimately the death of Christianity. The Word rightly preached. The Sacraments rightly delivered. These are the marks of Christ’s Church. These are the things that should permeate everything we do. These are the things we look for to verify that what is being taught and practiced is truly Scriptural, truly Lutheran. Which brings us to the temporal part of this post, a brief review of the Center for United States Missions (hereafter called Center). According to the Center home page:

The Center for U.S. Missions trains and equips mission leaders to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to unreached groups in the United States by:

  • Offering training that is biblical, practical and focused on the New Testament model of church planting missions.
  • Performing research to provide better information and tools for planting missions.
  • Forwarding the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the ethnic, cultural and generational diverse communities of the United States.

“Major supporters” of the Center are Concordia University Irvine, “Concordia Theological [sic] Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri,” and North America Mission Executives of the LCMS. There are also 15 district partners (reference here).

Their introductory video, would like you to know that the Center is “a catalyst in the LCMS for continuing the mission fervor of our missional theology, a catalyst for investing in the front line of reaching lost people, people who normally wouldn’t go to church….” Their goal: “As committed Christ-followers led by the Holy Spirit we wish to accelerate our effort so we are effectively serving 300 or more new mission outposts across the United States each and every year until our Lord’s return.”

So what is the missional theology of the Center? Let’s answer that question by examining three areas, their stated theological basis, a survey related to “effective missionary leadership,” and a highlighted Mission Plan from a church plant.

The “Theological Basis for the Center for U.S. Missions” page starts out on a high note, mentioning Christ’s atoning work on the cross. From there they develop a series of proof texts to support their church planting goals. Here, because of their missional presuppositions (really their theology), our Lutheran sacramental distinctives become misshapen. Consider their statements on the Sacraments:

Here the Holy Spirit, through the Word and Sacraments, empowers them with gifts for service (Rm. 12:68).

We affirm the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9) bestowed upon believers at their baptism, and the need to involve God’s people in the ministry of the church according to their gifts (Ephesians 4:11).

These new churches train and instruct their people in the Word of God (Rm. 15:4) and together celebrate the sacraments (I Cor. 11:23, Acts 2:42). This enables and empowers them to serve as the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:9) in that place.

Did you notice what happened? The Sacraments are no longer particularly salvific, offering forgiveness, life, and salvation; they have now become missional tools, used to “enable” and “empower” the priesthood of all believers in their ministry goals. Justification by grace through faith has been hopscotched to get to the sanctified missional life. What was given at the beginning of the page, Christ’s incarnation and His atoning death on the cross, has in a sense been taken away, by co-opting the Sacraments into a missional tool. The sacramental has been deformed.

In one of the Center’sMission Moments,” a survey called The Leadership Stool is highly recommended, designed to help understand and augment your “missional intelligence.” They state:

It is no great secret or mystery that God Himself initiates, plants and grows the church through His appointed “means of grace” (the Word, the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit). And yet missionary leaders and congregations can limit, block or slow the God-intended growth (Kingdom Impact) of the local church through failure to apply appropriate emotional intelligence. [emphasis in original]

The survey presents a series of statements, asking you to rate yourself on a scale from “Not Really” to “Almost Always.” Here are a few representative statements (this from the “Senior Pastor” survey; there’s also a “Christian Leader” survey):

  • I rely on the Holy Spirit to know how to lead.
  • I am good at reading the energy level of a crowd.
  • I often adjust my sermon because of the response of the audience.
  • My job is to get people organized and moving forward in the same direction.
  • I look for new ways to increase the group spirit of our church.
  • I articulate a clear vision for the future of our church.
  • My devotional life is rich and fulfilling.
  • I love attending a good party.
  • I consciously follow Jesus’ example in my daily life.
  • On Sundays, lay people cast vision by publically sharing their ministry experiences.
  • My primary goal in life is to advance the Kingdom of God.
  • I practice many of the spiritual disciplines.
  • I have strong spiritual instincts.

Again, this survey is referred to as a “very fine tool.” Obviously, it’s not a generic business survey, used to pick team leaders at Walmart. It was written by a Christian. Equally obvious, it isn’t incarnational or sacramental. It’s written by an enthusiast, not someone who understands that all mission flows from cross, font, and altar. Once again, what was a given in the Center’s initial discussion, Word and Sacrament, is taken away by the survey. There is very little sense that the survey itself considers it important that a potential church planter’s theological belief includes an incarnational and sacramental basis. One wonders if this tool is used by the Center’s LCMS Church Planters Assessment Center (CPAC) as it

helps a potential church planter clarify — and church planting sponsors verify — whether or not he or she has the specific calling, necessary gifts, skills and character to be a lead church planter. Relying on research-based church planter qualifications and multiple perspectives, a group of trained assessors use behavioral interviews, proven self-awareness inventories, self-discovery experiences, group projects, carefully gathered references, testing and interviews by a licensed Christian psychologist, all under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to prayerfully evaluate candidates.

As one of the Center’s resources, they have posted two sample Mission Plans from existing church plants “as an encouragement to other churches interested in preparing a plan of their own.” The mission statement of one of these Mission Plans reads: “X X Ministry ignites, empowers, and energizes people for a vibrant life in Jesus Christ.” How do they do this? By understanding the surrounding community and drawing them into a “faith experience.” They say:

X X is a people that offers a safe haven to those who may feel threatened and insecure. We will offer comfort, support, encouragement, and hope to people who live in fear and apprehension. Our world is filled with stress and anxiety and worry. These things rip at our soul and distract us from the comfort and encouragement that Jesus offers us so we can feel rested and supported. Living Water is a people that will offer the world a sense of purpose and direction. We will be “purpose driven” to the mission of Jesus to save the lost and grow in our own faith relationship. To this end, we will offer experiences that will allow people to explore where they are going in their own lives and how Jesus directed his own followers to see a greater purpose.

Circles of CommittmentWhat type of purpose are they talking about? “The philosophical base of our congregation is a purpose driven congregation based on Rick Warren’s model at Saddleback Church in California.” They are ordering their congregation based on Warren’s “Circles of Commitment” found in The Purpose-Driven Church, and catechizing their members with the “40 Days of Purpose” campaign associated with The Purpose-Driven Life. The purpose-driven life is a Law-driven life. By default, Pastor Warren rejects our incarnational and sacramental theology. A Christ who cannot be present in Communion, whom you must reach by climbing a ladder to the right hand of God, is not the Christ of Scripture and rejects the incarnation. A Baptism that does not save, and that is a work performed by you rather than Christ, is a rejection of the Sacraments.

The purpose-driven template eliminates the Baptismal life. There is no rhythm of daily repentance and absolution. It’s all about purpose, vital community, empowering worship, experiences, and visionary and accountable leadership. This type of theology turns us in on ourselves and what we are doing, rather than outwards to Christ and what He does. This is why they talk about commitment and purpose – they’re preaching the Christian, not the Christ. Bishop Bo Giertz adds to the conversation:

The miracle that took place in the incarnation when the Word became flesh continues in the church and the sacraments. He who does not understand the sacraments will not understand the depth of what Christ has done for us. Faith becomes a philosophy. Jesus becomes a moral role model. The Spirit is replaced with the idealism of good intentions. But faith in God’s world-embracing liberation deed in the incarnation, the jubilation in God’s having come to us in His Son and freed us from sin and death, everything that is part of the great drama of our salvation, it all is obliterated, forgotten or reinterpreted. Thereby Christianity itself is dissolved. Living and genuine Christianity is in its innermost essence faith in the incarnation and the atonement. It is in its innermost essence sacramental, it is the message of God’s real and wondrous presence in the midst of the fallen creation, in the Lord Christ and His Church. (Christ’s Church: Her Biblical Roots, Her Dramatic History, Her Saving Presence, Her Glorious Future, (Eugene: Resource Publications, 2010) Kindle edition, location 2548-50)

We can praise the Center for wanting to plant churches. Who could argue? Yet looking at these three examples, they seem to be building without a proper foundation and operating with a lack of doctrinal care. Without an all encompassing incarnational and sacramental emphasis, forming Christians who first view their entire life as one of repentance and then engaging the world in their various vocations, we are building on sand. All of our church planting endeavors should be pervaded by the incarnational and the sacramental, so that the Body of Christ is properly built up rather than curved inward on ourselves. We encourage the Center to work towards a proper and thorough-going embrace of this Scriptural basis.


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  1. Abby
    July 26th, 2013 at 12:56 | #1

    Where is this Center? Who is running it?

  2. July 26th, 2013 at 13:01 | #2

    It’s in Irvine, California. The Executive Director is LCMS pastor Rev. Dr. Peter Meier.

  3. Martin R. Noland
    July 26th, 2013 at 13:12 | #3

    Dear Scott,

    Excellent research and analysis! I am printing this one out for my files. I think you also offer critique that is well-balanced and fair. It is interesting to see which districts are involved with this. I wonder if that came through approval of the district president, district board of directors, or district mission executive–or all of the above.

    I am pleased to see these folks working on church-planting and enthused about evangelism, but it is a mystery to me why improper theology keeps cropping up. It is like the pastors who wrote this didn’t learn any theology at the seminary; or it got “overlaid” by pop-evangelical theology sometime thereafter.

    It does show the need for doctrinal review; although since they are not a synodical agency, they would not be subject to that process.

    Another concern is where they are going to get all that money for 300 church plants a year. President Dale Meyer has some excellent comments in the latest Concordia Journal about pastors who are in “a position to bully on finances” and “people who know business and are in positions of leadership in a congregation will say ‘Whoa! This is not good business!’ (see CJ 39 #3 [Summer 2013]: 192). I agree with Dr. Meyer.

    Thanks again for excellent work!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  4. LaMarr Blecker
    July 26th, 2013 at 13:13 | #4

    Church Growth blather.

  5. July 26th, 2013 at 13:21 | #5

    Thanks Dr. Noland.

  6. helen
    July 26th, 2013 at 15:14 | #6

    @LaMarr Blecker #4

    TRUE! But that “Church Growth blather is undermining our churches!

  7. Abby
    July 26th, 2013 at 15:52 | #7

    I was told by a church representative recently that “we are autonomous.” So, either each church can do whatever they want or they are misunderstanding what our autonomy is. I really never knew this before about our churches. When a church claimed to be LCMS, I thought that is what they were. When I walk into an “LCMS” church I really expect it to be so. Instead I find great disrespect for the institution. (And we certainly do have flaws.)

    So many people now are making things up according to personal preferences. Well, ok, if that’s what they want to do. But then don’t claim to be something that they are not anymore and in fact, don’t want to be. This goes to our American individualism. At least I can recognize the language now. And do accordingly.

    The very sad thing here is a “mixing” of theologies. This confusion really can rob people of assurance of their standing before God. It took me a long time to become “unmixed” and to recognize where the truth lies. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for mission and evangelism. But it is the “how” and “what words” that is the problem. It took Luther, and others, a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to unravel this problem. I just really have a problem with the use of “tactics.” And I’m really tired of hearing about them. But, I could be all wrong too.

  8. LaMarr Blecker
    July 26th, 2013 at 16:40 | #8

    Helen,

    The article mentioned that only one of the seminaries supports this Church Growth blather. The other one, apparently does not.

  9. July 26th, 2013 at 19:44 | #9

    Curious question: has anybody directly addressed them concerning this? And if so, what was their response?

    I’m always wondering how these things are justified by those undertaking them.

  10. Glen Piper
    July 26th, 2013 at 19:56 | #10

    A few things to note (IMO)…

    1) The PSW district offices are on the campus of CUI
    2) This Center has more to do w/PSW than w/the CUI Theology Dept
    3) CUI should not be blithely written off; rather, it should just be approached from the correct direction/people if you want to know what’s going on
    4) CUI is a damn fine university, academically, with a strong Lutheran Theology Dept & faculty
    5) CUI is very Orange County
    6) Many on the West Coast have always wanted their own Seminary…

  11. “LC-MS Quotes”
    July 26th, 2013 at 20:52 | #11

    @ #10 “4) CUI is a damn fine university…”

    Watch your words.

    Matthew C. Harrison
    President Harrison on the Newtown, Conn., Statement of Unity and Pastoral Letters
    February 10, 2013

  12. July 26th, 2013 at 21:21 | #12

    @J. Dean #9
    I emailed Rev. Dr. Meier, their Executive Director, and let him know about this post and invited him to comment. It may be that he hasn’t seen the email yet, since I just emailed him this morning.

  13. A Layman
    July 26th, 2013 at 21:54 | #13

    Glen Piper :
    A few things to note (IMO)…
    6) Many on the West Coast have always wanted their own Seminary…

    After spending this past week as a delegate to the LCMS convention, I would add that some of them should have their own Synod as well(or go find a different one).

  14. JT
    July 26th, 2013 at 23:18 | #14

    @A Layman #13 They sound more non-denominational than anything else…

  15. Wyldeirishman
    July 26th, 2013 at 23:53 | #15

    Without putting too fine a scatological point on it (but with a simultaneous nod to Dr. Luther nevertheless), I think that anything entitled “The Leadership Stool” is painfully oblivious to the irony of such a label…

  16. Jason
    July 27th, 2013 at 05:31 | #16

    @Martin R. Noland #3

    The NJ DP was the Mission Exec before getting elected. The previous DP was something similar. (before my time)

  17. helen
    July 27th, 2013 at 05:48 | #17

    @LaMarr Blecker #8
    The article mentioned that only one of the seminaries supports this Church Growth blather. The other one, apparently does not.

    For that we can be thankful! (“Is it something in the water” in St Louis?) But how many attend St Louis each year? And Ft Wayne?

    Then there are the “National Mission Board executives”…. “Missions” is where the housecleaning should have started, but it seems to be “same old, same old” from that direction!

    (Texas “always wanted its own seminary”, too.) :(

    [You wouldn’t fault anyone for accuracy, would you, Wyldeirishman?]

  18. helen
    July 27th, 2013 at 05:59 | #18

    @Martin R. Noland #3
    It is interesting to see which districts are involved with this.

    It’s interesting to see which districts aren’t (officially) listed.
    (If it’s PSW more than CUI, why not say so?)

  19. “LC-MS Quotes”
    July 27th, 2013 at 07:56 | #19

    @ #17 “(“Is it something in the water” in St Louis?) ”

    Concordia Journal
    Valparaiso University
    a partnership issue
    Spring 2013
    Volume 39 Number 2

    “Issued by the faculty of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri…”

  20. Carl Vehse
    July 27th, 2013 at 08:10 | #20

    @Glen Piper #10 : “2) This Center has more to do w/PSW than w/the CUI Theology Dept”

    That’s an ominous sign, given that the Pacific Southwest District (with you-know-who as DP), has promoted a former-XXXA serial adulterer for colloquy but in the meantime allowed a district church to have him as a pastor preaching at services for over a year.

  21. Carl Vehse
    July 27th, 2013 at 08:26 | #21

    @19, the Concordia Journal, Spring 2013, issue can be read, or downloaded in pdf format, here.

  22. Abby
    July 27th, 2013 at 09:21 | #22

    I was going to add to my comment that Dr Rod Rosenbladt says that the “LCMS is a mess” — because he can’t tell someone to go to the yellow pages of a phone book and pick a church under the heading of LCMS anymore. And here the Center is in his own backyard!

    300 plants per year: you can do this pretty cheaply depending on what you can find to operate out of. A hundred people can pay for about a $1000 a month rent plus salary and benefits. They may need District subsidy in addition for awhile to get up an running. (If they can.) I would probably bet they won’t be looking at any pastoral candidates from Fort Wayne.

    If we here of the number of plants, will we here of the number of failures/closures? Will these plants actually draw in the unchurched? Or those Lutherans from other churches just looking for an alternative.

  23. Abby
    July 27th, 2013 at 09:55 | #23

    (According to Mark Driscoll, who began a strong church-planting endeavor called Acts 29: “The body count is high.” He admitted that 60% of the plants failed. And speaking to a bunch of men wanting to start a church he said, “I would tell most of you not to do this. You are not right for the job.”)

    Speaking from my own persepective, I have no family member that will go to ANY church for any length of time because they don’t understand “church” language. And even though an alternative church sets itself up to be “seeker friendly” — they still develop their own language which is completely foreign to outsiders. These people don’t even know who God is in the first place. They generally know absolutely nothing. So inviting them to come in to “praise and worship” still ultimately fails. I know this from personal conversation with a nephew of mine, who I thought I could get to attend with me. His goals had nothing to do with God at all. And guess what? I actually took him to a church of that sort to see if that would be able to “draw him in.” He didn’t like the venue (place) — it wasn’t like a church; he didn’t like the contemporary music (which surprised me); and he could understand nothing from the message (but he was intently trying). So guess what again? He quit going with me.

    Even if these entities have a power surge at the beginning. They will level out and fade eventually. Even Rick Warren is experiencing this at Saddleback. And this is the lament of the LCMS — that we are “dying.” I don’t think so. If we hold fast, we will be there when the time comes that the Holy Spirit will send people our way.

    That is one thing I do admire from the EO churches. They are unwavering like a rock. No matter how small their attendance is. A priest told me recently, “You will never see a praise band in an Orthodox church.” I believe he is right. And they are all about the Sacraments. The center of their service every Sunday is Holy Communion. Unfortunately though, no teaching of justification. This is the crown jewel that we have to give people from Christ.

  24. Abby
    July 27th, 2013 at 11:04 | #24

    This from Russell Moore:

    Many Americans are turning away from institutional religion. Why?

    When it comes to [people who say they have “no religion”], in some ways that is the collapse of Bible Belt America, of this sense of Christianity as being something that is part of a normal American life. [In some areas of the country], it meant someone was a good citizen by being part of a church. That is collapsing, and as an evangelical Christian, I say good riddance to that.

    I don’t think that sort of American dream plus Jesus represented biblical Christianity at all and in many ways hindered it and the advance of the Gospel, which is dependent upon . . . the freakishness of Christianity. We’re saying some things that are extraordinary — that a dead man has come back to life! That reconciliation with God is possible through forgiveness of sins. Those things aren’t just the application of moral American life. The “Veggie Tales” phenomenon in evangelicalism, the taking Bible characters and making cartoons out of them and teaching moral lessons from those things really represented a lot of what was happening in Bible Belt Christianity that I think was bloodless and Gospel-free in many ways. That’s changing, so you don’t have nominal young Christian church members who are going to church because they think this is what’s good for their families or their businesses or to find a spouse or to make partner at the law firm. Those days are over.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/geneveith/2013/07/recovering-the-freakishness-of-christianity/

    Eric Metaxas has repented of being a writer for Veggie Tales. He discovered Dietrich Boenhoeffer.

  25. Abby
  26. Martin R. Noland
    July 27th, 2013 at 12:33 | #26

    @Abby #7

    Dear Abby,

    You comment about LCMS congregational autonomy, or at least wonder about it. A lot of people, including some synodical/district officials, don’t understand this issue.

    Congregations in the LCMS do not have autonomy when it comes to matters spelled out in the constitution, particularly Articles II, VI, and VII which apply directly to congregations. The most important part of this rule is Article II, which makes the entire canonical Scriptures and the entire Book of Concord binding on all members of synod. If a congregation, or a rostered church-worker disagrees with the Constitution of synod, they should either use the provided-process-of-dissent or leave. That is the only Christian and reasonable thing to do.

    In matters not spelled out in the Constitution, particularly with respect to all resolutions of the synod or district, congregations do have freedom (but not “autonomy,” which is a different concept) to consider whether such resolutions are in accord with the Word of God or are applicable to their situation. That is what Article VII says.

    Also with respect to the property and assets of congregations, synod has no legal right to control or disburse those assets (also Article VII).

    I hope this clarifies this issue a bit.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  27. Glen Piper
    July 27th, 2013 at 12:56 | #27

    @helen #18

    Helen:
    At times it can be difficult to tease apart PSW & CUI on certain things, and it’s not always immediately/intuitively obvious to the outside observer. Neither is the Theology Dept (y’know, the one with Rod Rosenbladt, he of a recent student-voted award, among other strong/solid Lutheran theologians (and historians like Bob Newton’s(!) son-in-law Adam Francisco…)), how shall I best put this, the driving force — I think the PSW has more “juice” — in matters like this.

    Also, in a SoCal marketplace that is saturated w/American Evangelical thought & practice (Fuller, Cal Baptist, etc…), for good and/or bad the temptation will be to pursue that type of business plan for growth & success.

    CUI is a very good school, academically. They are very well managed & are on very solid financial ground. They are Lutheran and do have an understanding of what that means, as a heritage and a market distinctive. Where it gets a little sketchy, though, is in the theology/practice of worship & how that then flows into “mission” (in quotes, b/c that’s a bit of a wax nose of a word/concept…). The SoCal/Saddleback/AmerEvangel ethos that surrounds CUI is a tough row to hoe, particularly when “worship” is looked at as a way to evangelize/convert (as it so often is, when worshipdivine service). A stronger emphasis on the Lutheran doctrine of Vocation would go a long way towards clarifying things, as well…

    I am a CUI booster, make no mistake about it.

    The PSW? Not so much…

    -ghp

  28. Abby
    July 27th, 2013 at 15:39 | #28

    Pastor Noland, Even though I don’t understand what the articles you list say, thank you for clarifying. It is why one hopes that, because of their training, the Pastor and all our Synodical leaders understands them for the leading of our congregations. Most laypeople know nothing of these things.

  29. Abby
    July 27th, 2013 at 17:03 | #29

    A lot of things are listed in “What We Believe” sections (http://www.centerforusmissions.com/AboutUs/TheologicalBasis/tabid/122/Default.aspx), (click on Large Catechism and the Apology),
    and in church constitutions which are never heard from again at church. Instead we hear “The purpose of one’s life is to discover your purpose.”

  30. Robert
    July 27th, 2013 at 21:03 | #30

    Mr. Diekmann,

    Do those at or supportive of the Center believe or teach that the means of grace are “no longer particularly salvific, offering forgiveness, life, and salvation”?

    Do those at or supportive of the Center deny the biblical, confessional, Lutheran doctrine of “justification by grace through faith” without the works of the law?

    Do those at or supportive of the Center deny “Christ’s incarnation and His atoning death on the cross”?

    Do those at or supportive of the Center deny the “rhythm of daily repentance and absolution”?

    Do those at or supportive of the Center affirm that what you seek occurs in/through not the Center but the local congregation, the former of which has been established to provide support/training to plant the latter?

    And, finally, what are your views on the following mission statements/affirmations by other Lutheran organizations?

    1) We exist for the sole purpose of empowering ministries in Kingdom work. Our goal each day is to identify opportunities to share our resources in order to expand God’s kingdom as Christ commanded in the Great Commission. We want more people to hear and believe, be baptized and grow in the Word, and join together in God’s saving grace and the gift of eternal life.

    2) God wants you to be yourself when sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. He has chosen you, and given you the privilege of sharing that joy and excitement of your faith with others. Being a Christian is a blessing, and the joy of Jesus in our lives should be evident to everyone.

    3) We’re here to help you be wise with money. We offer a full complement of products, services and professional advice to help you meet your goals – wherever you are in life. Every step of the way, you’ll partner with a caring, knowledgeable financial representative, who will offer guidance and advice to help you make informed financial decisions.

    4) ABC develops culturally relevant programs and projects that proclaim the Gospel to the unchurched, encouraging those people who are reached through these ministry efforts to respond by contacting staff or volunteers. ABC then cultivates relationships with those who respond to ultimately facilitate a relationship between them and a congregation, thus helping grow the kingdom of God.

  31. July 27th, 2013 at 23:56 | #31

    Dear Robert,

    In answer to all of your questions, I don’t know what those supportive of the center think in relation to your specific questions, and the post isn’t directed towards them. I can only address the Center itself, based on what they’ve written. So I’m answering your questions based only on the Center.

    You asked, “Do those at or supportive of the Center believe or teach that the means of grace are “no longer particularly salvific, offering forgiveness, life, and salvation”?

    I don’t know what they believe, but what they teach in the context of the quotes from their theological basis don’t line up with what Luther says in the Small Catechism. Their emphasis is not on forgiveness, life, and salvation.

    You asked, “Do those at or supportive of the Center deny the biblical, confessional, Lutheran doctrine of ‘justification by grace through faith’ without the works of the law?”

    No, not that I know of. “Justification by grace through faith has been hopscotched to get to the sanctified missional life.”

    Do those at or supportive of the Center deny “Christ’s incarnation and His atoning death on the cross”? No, “What was given at the beginning of the page, Christ’s incarnation and His atoning death on the cross, has in a sense been taken away, by co-opting the Sacraments into a missional tool.”

    You asked, “Do those at or supportive of the Center deny the ‘rhythm of daily repentance and absolution’?” It is the church plant who does this by catechizing those in attendance with false theology. As I said, the Center, when they hold this up as a model are “operating with a lack of doctrinal care.”

    You asked, “Do those at or supportive of the Center affirm that what you seek occurs in/through not the Center but the local congregation, the former of which has been established to provide support/training to plant the latter?”

    I’m not totally sure what you’re asking here. I think you’re making the point that the Center is there as a support mechanism, and is not responsible for the doctrine/practice that occurs at the church plants. If that’s what you mean, I’d say to a certain extent that is true, but the overall context that I see in the information they provide on their website supports the conclusion I reach in the last paragraph of the post.

    You said, “And, finally, what are your views on the following mission statements/affirmations by other Lutheran organizations?”

    “1) We exist for the sole purpose of empowering ministries in Kingdom work. Our goal each day is to identify opportunities to share our resources in order to expand God’s kingdom as Christ commanded in the Great Commission. We want more people to hear and believe, be baptized and grow in the Word, and join together in God’s saving grace and the gift of eternal life.”

    This quote comes from the LCEF. It’s a bit generic. You could find that quote on a different denomination website and fit in with their theology as well, although the reference to Baptism makes it somewhat more likely that it’s Lutheran.

    You said, “2) God wants you to be yourself when sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. He has chosen you, and given you the privilege of sharing that joy and excitement of your faith with others. Being a Christian is a blessing, and the joy of Jesus in our lives should be evident to everyone.”

    This quote comes from the LWML. Again, it’s somewhat generic, but it does have a vocational sense to it.

    You said: “3) We’re here to help you be wise with money. We offer a full complement of products, services and professional advice to help you meet your goals – wherever you are in life. Every step of the way, you’ll partner with a caring, knowledgeable financial representative, who will offer guidance and advice to help you make informed financial decisions.”

    This quote comes from Thrivent. It’s fine.

    You said, “4) ABC develops culturally relevant programs and projects that proclaim the Gospel to the unchurched, encouraging those people who are reached through these ministry efforts to respond by contacting staff or volunteers. ABC then cultivates relationships with those who respond to ultimately facilitate a relationship between them and a congregation, thus helping grow the kingdom of God.”

    This quote comes from Lutheran Hour Ministries. It’s fine as far as it goes. In all of these cases, you have to take the quote within the overall framework of other things that the organization says. I’ve noted that where you work, you take care to make sure that what is preached is always doctrinally sound. I do the same. I would never, ever, even if I wasn’t directly responsible for it, give a thumbs up to somebody who was teaching a purpose-driven life. I think the Center should do the same. Thanks for your questions. I hope I did an adequate job of answering them.

    Yours in Christ,

    Scott Diekmann

  32. Carl Vehse
    July 28th, 2013 at 09:38 | #32

    The Executive Director for the Center for U.S. Missions (C4USM) is Peter Maier, who is also Assistant to the President for Missions in the Minnesota South District.

    C4USM Executive Director Michael Ruhl is also C4USM Director of Training but is currently listed on the LCMS roster as being in the Michigan District and living in Pinckney, MI, while being assigned to Concordia University, Irvine.

    The C4USM “Certified Coaches” also include Rev. Dr. Victor J. Belton, Rev. Cliff Bira, Rev. David J. Born, Rev. Greg Fairow, Rev. Travis Guse, Rev. Geoffrey L. Robinson, Rev. Ramdat Saran, Rev. Dr. William D. Seaman, Rev. Eric R. Wenger (look them up on the LCMS roster).

    The questions asked in previous posts need to be answerd. One also may wonder whether the C4USM activities of these LCMS rostered members are of any concern to their respective ecclesiastical supervisors.

  33. Martin R. Noland
    July 29th, 2013 at 11:38 | #33

    @Scott Diekmann #31

    Dear Scott,

    Wow! You did a great job of answering Robert in comment #31. You stuck to the evidence and did not speculate about motives, or anything else. And you were civil in reply. All BJS authors, commenters, and readers could learn from your excellent example how to respond in a gracious and reasoned way. Of course, the first step is having your facts right, which you did!

    Keep up the good work, Scott–I’ll be watching for your profile picture (Facebook lingo) and byline (editor’s lingo).

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  34. helen
    July 29th, 2013 at 11:56 | #34

    @Glen Piper #27
    Where it gets a little sketchy, though, is in the theology/practice of worship & how that then flows into “mission” (in quotes, b/c that’s a bit of a wax nose of a word/concept…).

    That’s about what I hear from a current student, who goes off campus to one of the contributors here for worship, and takes any other student who is willing along. :) [That’s “mission” in practice!]

  35. helen
    July 29th, 2013 at 12:07 | #35

    @Robert #30
    We exist for the sole purpose of empowering ministries in Kingdom work.

    If I never again heard the concept of “empowering” [people] again, it would not be too soon.
    It’s usually utilized by men who think it sounds impressive; those same men would be scared to death (and out of office, as one has found out) if the laity [primarily] actually used the power they already have! (It has to be the laity, there are too many ways to punish a Pastor who protests injustice from the bureaucracy!)

  36. Glen Piper
    July 29th, 2013 at 12:30 | #36

    helen :
    @Glen Piper #27
    Where it gets a little sketchy, though, is in the theology/practice of worship & how that then flows into “mission” (in quotes, b/c that’s a bit of a wax nose of a word/concept…).
    That’s about what I hear from a current student, who goes off campus to one of the contributors here for worship, and takes any other student who is willing along. [That’s “mission” in practice!]

    Helen:
    I don’t know if it’s the case at the other Concordias, but at CUI there is a bit of confusion at times in the role of the official campus “ministry”, not only between worship/DS & “mission”, but also between “ministering” to all students – i.e., CoWo *and* liturgically-inclined. The on-campus ministry (overseen by the campus pastor) is geared mainly towards the CoWo crowd, leaving the liturgically-inclined crowd with little/few options other than to go to local congregations. Fortunately, in the past few years, engaging with local congregations for Sunday morning worship/divine service has been encouraged by the administration, if for no other reason than in recognition that CUI is not, and does not have a campus, Church.

  37. Abby
    July 29th, 2013 at 19:38 | #37

    I need to apologize for some of my comments. I was not clear in many ways.

    The red flag that goes up before me (only my opinion and a source of irritation) are some of these newly created “buzzwords.” They strike me as trivializing words in order to (please forgive me) “market” Jesus. “Purpose driven;” “Seeker Friendly;” “Missional;” and this new one “Apostolic Entrepreneur,” etc. What do these mean?

    Here are some examples from an article from the Center site:

    “And the reality is that this entrepreneurial dimension of the church planting leader is best informed by issues of leadership style.” [best informed by leadership style!?]

    “Do I have the right people on the bus and are those people in the right seats?” [right people – right seats!?]

    “What is the specific mission performance goal (Collins calls this a “20 Mile March”) to which you have made a commitment to meet year in and year out, in good times and in bad … and how am I doing with it? “ [mission performance goal?]

    “Where should we place our primary outsurge efforts, based on empirical validation? Am I devoting major resources in the new initiative (Collins calls this “firing a cannonball”) if you already know it will be effective in making new and stronger disciples. That means first conducting low-cost, low risk tests on a range of possibilities (Collins calls this “shooting bullets”).” [primary outsurge efforts, based on empirical validation!?]

    “What are the core values and core purpose on which we are praying to be used by the Holy Spirit to effectively lead and launch this missionary enterprise? The challenge is not simply to lead and launch a church that can endure, but to lead and launch a new church that is worthy of enduring.” [??? Worthy of enduring — Who would know this?]

    I understand about contextualization. I understand the Holy Spirit works how and when He wants to.

    Rest of article here:

    http://www.centerforusmissions.com/Blog/tabid/240/EntryId/18/CHURCH-PLANTER-AS-APOSTOLIC-ENTREPRENEUR-by-Michael-R-Ruhl.aspx

    “Apostolic Entrepreneur”: what does that mean!?

    I wonder what the Apostle Paul would say if this article could have been run by him?

    Acts 16:18-24
    Acts 20:17-38
    Acts 21:27-31
    Acts 23:12-15
    2 Corinthians 11:16-23
    2 Corinthians 12:5-10
    Philippians 3:7-11
    2 Timothy 2:8-10

    I know we are in a different time and place. So far, we aren’t under this kind of persecution. But Jesus did say that the world hated Him and they will hate us too.

    I am guilty of picking on Pastor Ruhl here. That is why some of these terms and words offend me as trivializing the Gospel/missions/evangelism – which I am all for. Maybe it is just me with the problem. Again I apologize if I am way off base.

  38. John Rixe
    July 29th, 2013 at 20:28 | #38

    [primary outsurge efforts, based on empirical validation!?]

    I think he’s talking about Thrivent teddy bears who have been to communion and soaked in God’s love. :)

  39. Abby
    July 29th, 2013 at 20:38 | #39

    @John Rixe #38

    That is funny. I saw that too. :)

  40. Abby
    July 29th, 2013 at 20:41 | #40

    While I don’t agree with all that she “wants” from the church, this is what I mean:

    Why Millennials are Leaving the Church

    “Time and again, the assumption among Christian leaders, and evangelical leaders in particular, is that the key to drawing twenty-somethings back to church is simply to make a few style updates – edgier music, more casual services, a coffee shop in the fellowship hall, a pastor who wears skinny jeans, an updated Web site that includes online giving.

    But here’s the thing: Having been advertised to our whole lives, we millennials have highly sensitive BS meters, and we’re not easily impressed with consumerism or performances.

    In fact, I would argue that church-as-performance is just one more thing driving us away from the church, and evangelicalism in particular.

    Many of us, myself included, are finding ourselves increasingly drawn to high church traditions – Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, the Episcopal Church, etc. – precisely because the ancient forms of liturgy seem so unpretentious, so unconcerned with being “cool,” and we find that refreshingly authentic.”

    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/07/27/why-millennials-are-leaving-the-church/

  41. July 29th, 2013 at 22:49 | #41

    @Martin R. Noland #33
    Thank you Dr. Noland.

  42. Abby
    August 3rd, 2013 at 19:52 | #42

    @Martin R. Noland #26

    Pastor Noland, you reference Article VII, yet I hear this quoted as a Reason for autonomy and freedom of a congregation to do as they wish in regards to worship style. I’m wondering if I heard the quote taken out of context. (I don’t have the LCMS Constitution)

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