The Sleeping Giant, A Cartoon and Comment by Pr. Scott Blazek Introducing a Special Issue of the Steadfast Quarterly

June 25th, 2009 Post by

(Editor’s Note: We know Pastor Blazek for his cartoons but he is also a fine theologian. He wrote the following article to go along with this quarter’s cartoon. The next issue of the Steadfast Quarterly is being printed and prepared for delivery to our members. It is a special double issue about confessional Lutherans doing evangelism. Once it is mailed to our members we will make the pdf available here on the website.)

A Confessional Lutheran Looks at Evangelism—by Rev. Scott Blazek

“Hundreds of other church bodies claim to believe in the Bible (to one degree or another).  What makes your church stand out from the rest?”   or words to that effect were posed by a married couple coming from a non-liturgical church background, but were looking for a “Bible-believing fellowship.”  This family was military, and had been going to a local Baptist church.  While they were getting comfortable in that church (liking the people and the pastor, singing in the choir) they had two basic questions: “Does this [Baptist] church have a statement that would help us know just what it believes?” and   “How do we join?”  To the first question the Baptist pastor responded that his church believed in the Bible, offering no other explanation beyond that, leaving the couple a bit frustrated. To the second question, the pastor told them that they had to be baptized in his congregation. To this the couple responded, “Oh, but we are already baptized!”  But the Baptist pastor insisted that in order to join his church, they had to be baptized in his church.  
 
This sent the couple on the search for another church.  The husband asked his father, who was a “leader” in the Plymouth Brethren Church, for advice as to what they might do and where they should go.  The father’s answer went something like this: “I have a recommendation, but you’re probably not going to like it.” This only intrigued his son the more. The father continued, “I recommend the Lutheran Church, but it has to be Missouri Synod.”  The young husband asked his father, “Why Lutheran-Missouri Synod, and why won’t we like it?”  The father said, “It has to be Lutheran-Missouri Synod because it is solid in  Biblical teaching, but you won’t like it, because it is liturgical.”
 
The next Sunday, this family looked up and tried our church.  Halfway through the Divine Service, the husband said to the wife that he was really uncomfortable with the formal liturgy and wanted to leave then and there.  His wife quietly responded, “Come on, patience! We certainly can be polite and make it through the whole service.” After the service and having greeted the pastor, the young man wandered into the church library.  Somehow he managed to find and pull the Book of Concord off the shelf.  He opened to the Augsburg Confession and began reading its articles, thinking to himself, “These people know what they believe!”  He then began to reflect on the liturgical service that he and his wife had just attended, realizing just how much of the liturgical components was solidly rooted in Holy Scripture.  Fast forward a bit: the young man was deployed overseas, but took a Book of Concord with him. He and his wife were later confirmed in the LCMS and have been just as active as they can be in the Lutheran Church ever since.   Oh, and the both of them seemed to have grown into an appreciation for the liturgical Divine Service.
 
Some of us talk about and claim to be confessional Lutherans, but do we stop to realize what leverage in sharing the faith we may be neglecting by just leaving our confessions on the shelf?  Is it our outstanding covered-dish dinners, or perhaps our overt friendliness, maybe our great choirs and outstanding youth programs that win people to our church? Sorry to say if this sort of thing happens to draw them and keep them, most of us are out-gunned by other denominational churches in our community. So what is it that we have to offer, about which the other guys on the block have no clue (including apparently the Church Growthers)?  Being solid in the Holy Scripture and holding steadfastly to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, from the correct balance of Law/Gospel to Sola Scriptura/Sola Gratia/Sola Fide to the sensitivity of adiaphora v. the integrity of the means of grace and especially the sacraments, we have a clear proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. There are those out there who are looking for something solid.  They are tired of the cotton candy and sugar filled icing or  Law-oriented, legalistic churches, yet are not quite sure they know for what they are looking.  Perhaps the way to best examine effective outreach of the Gospel (evangelism) is to have those who joined the Lutheran Church as adults to tell us how and why?
 
Perhaps  the likes of Gene Veith (Spirituality of the Cross), Craig Parton (The Defense Never Rests), and others who were attracted to Confessional Lutheranism as adults ought to enlighten and instruct those of the home-grown variety as to just what value and appeal we really have to offer the world and our neighbor.  Perhaps these folks ought to serve on a national Evangelism Board of Confessional Lutherans (the EBCL) to help us open our eyes to “the one thing needful” and help us all look afresh at the Lord Jesus Christ’s “Great Commission.”  As if that would happen in the present LCMS!
 
Back in the mid eighties, I was being interviewed for a synodical position (on the LCMS Board of Youth Ministry).  Somewhere in the middle of the interview, which consisted of a large number of rapid fire questions on an array of topics, Will Barge (then LCMS Director of Personnel) commented that the LCMS has sometimes been referred to as the “sleeping giant” amongst Christian denominations.  He followed this comment by asking me what I believed was the LCMS’s greatest asset and what was its greatest weakness. I told him and all those gathered for this interview that its  greatest asset was its longstanding heritage on Scriptural solidity and Confessional integrity; its greatest weakness was in reality under the LCMS umbrella there  was not one synod but at least two, that we as a church body were not “walking together” in unity of doctrine and practice, and that this unfortunate scenario caused confusion at best and division at its worst, all of which hampered the effectiveness of  nurturing the faithful and giving a unified witness to the world.  Needless to say, after the interview, I was not offered the position.  Lest I only read between the lines with guess work, a member of the interview committee in confidence later confirmed that it was indeed my answer to this particular question that knocked me out of consideration for the position.  Let the reader be assured that if I had it all to do over again, I would answer in just the same manner. And if this interview were today (ha!), I know this type of response would even moreso torpedo any chance of my ever serving in the present LCMS hierarchy of Executive Boards.  Am I the only one who thinks this?
 

Click on the cartoon for a larger version

So, if there is any validity to my answer about the strength and weakness of the LCMS, is not our evangelism outreach as a church body hamstrung because our confessional integrity has been seriously compromised?   Wake-up O Sleeping Giant of Confessional Lutheranism, for the souls of men are aimlessly wandering and/or dying.  You’ve been drugged on the sentimentalism of staying yoked to a synod which is now two synods and therefore no longer your grandfather’s synod.  Not even a grand churchman, such as Dr. Al Barry, who had such a deep love for evangelism outreach, could unite this so-called synod.  What is more important? Sentimentalism or Confessionalism?  Do we find ourselves more tied to buildings and sentimental trappings to a Synod that has drastrically changed, or are we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to remain steadfast to Christ’s Word and truth and the integrity of the Confessions?  Is it not the time for our divided “Synod” to take to heart the last verses of Acts 15 (36 – 41); and like Barnabas and Paul (who no longer saw eye to eye) sail our separate ways for the sake of the Great Commission and the sharing of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with this lost world?
 
A few years ago, during a break between sessions at a District Pastoral Conference, one of the Presidents of a Concordia University told me that as we enter the 21st Century, denominationalism is over.  In other words, the new generation of people have lost what we used to take for granted–denominational loyalty.  Can you say “back door losses”?  Yet many in this new millennium hunger for that which is Scriptural, along with that which is solid, consistent, and displays genuine integrity.  They may not know it yet, but what they want and need is Confessional Lutheranism.  Ask the likes of Parton and Veith.


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  1. Heartbroken
    June 25th, 2009 at 15:31 | #1

    How sad! And depressingly accurate! Tell me, what caused the giant to fall asleep? Is it the $ sign in the corner?
    Distracting and subduing the giant into slumber?

    What can wake the giant up? I’ll say this: more of the laity need to know what is in the BoC, and actually speak it and confess it. Most people are not so fortunate to walk into a church Library and miraculously pull a Book of Concord off the shelf! And then to understand what it says, by having steadfast pastors and confessional reading groups seems so rare these days.

    Thanks be to God for BJS in promoting the Confessions and new Lutheran media!

  2. Matt
    June 25th, 2009 at 15:52 | #2

    This analysis is spot on.

    Every Christian believes that evangelism is a core activity of the church. The sharp division in our synod is over what the basis for our evangelism should be. One side believes that the key to growth is to imitate the style, methods and theology of the largest churches.

    The other side knows that it is what differentiates us that we should put at the core of our message: confessions. Christ at the center of all scripture. Historic, reverent worship. Real, frequent, closed communion. This solid, mature, confident devotion to the Gospel is what so many people in our society are starving for.

    Are these things our greatest strengths for our evangelism, growth and survival or our greatest weaknesses? I think that is where the core of this dispute is.

  3. June 25th, 2009 at 20:15 | #3

    BUT . . . it takes time and harder work to share the Confessions with people. It takes time and harder work to speak about and defend Biblical doctrine. It takes time and harder work to help people see how true Biblical doctrine undergirds and lifts up the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen again for the forgiveness of sins. There are many who do NOT want to invest the time or effort or study in order to share with folks that which makes us different.

    Growing up in my grandpa’s church, I was actually taught (by my pastor-dad) that it takes a long time to reach people. I was taught that the Gospel takes much longer than the Law but that the Gospel, when it is believed, brings lasting results (eternal even!).

    Fear of the future, fear of not leaving our “mark,” fear of not maintaining an expensive bureaucracy, and some other fears are, I fear (that was intentional), what are behind our attempts of church growth methobapticostal shortcuts. I recall from my history studies that the “new methods” of a bygone era were the result of the exact same fears. Watering down doctrine results in watering down the Gospel itself. Watering down doctrine will result, I firmly believe, in the loss of immortal souls. Lack of catechesis for children and adults will only leave us in the lurch.

    May the Lord make us faithful for the long run. May He lead us to repentance for our attempted shortcuts. May He raise up a faithful generation after us who will continue the long, difficult work of sharing the Gospel – and the doctrines which undergird it – with still other generations!

    Thanks, Blazek.

  4. Ross Wardenburg
    June 25th, 2009 at 22:55 | #4

    Heartbroken,

    I don’t think that is a $ sign in the corner, but Pastor Scott Blazek’s initials.

    Jesus woke up His disciples who couldn’t watch with Him one bitter hour and He still wakes us up today. Thanks be to God.

  5. June 26th, 2009 at 00:42 | #5

    The beginning of your story could have been me. I came from the same background and attached myself willingly to LCMS because it was the first church that wrote down what it believed, taught it and preached it. That was all it took.

    What happened to our fervor for evangelism? I would suggest, it was the miss-guided attempt to use decision theology on a grand scale in the early 70’s. It confused people and got them going in the wrong direction. As long as the LCMS officially pushes something that follows the sirens of the non-denominational and Reformed it will ever be so. The resulting disunity does effect the ability to proclaim a pure Gospel message.

    It was no accident that the first seminar CLCC put together was titled Evangelism, Outreach and Assimilation because we felt it vital to recapture what had been lost. That message has to reach the younger generations. The Theology of Vocation needs to be an active part of every churches studies and the harvest left to the Holy Spirit.

  6. Eric Ramer
    June 26th, 2009 at 08:01 | #6

    Pastor Wollenburg:

    What an interesting insight. As much as I like to complain about our fast food, instant total gratification society, the idea that the very substance of our confession makes it too meaty to be digested in small, quick, on the go tidbits and therefore difficult to market to our consumer society, hadn’t occurred to me. DUH!

    I, for one, do not want to give up the very meal served in my congregation every Sunday in order to make our church more marketable. No “welcome to McChurch, may I take your order please” for me, thank you. I’ll take a pass on the WannaService or Stop-N-Go (Remember them? Where are they now?) Church. There are plenty of those options available as it is, besides we’re a Church, not a business. The veritable banquet we receive at the Lords table is too good to give up. The door is open, we’ve got the welcome signs out, we’ve advertised the banquet and invited guests, but we can’t MAKE them come in. We have to trust the holy spirit to bring them to us.

    Are we failing to do enough? Maybe, I don’t know. What more can/should we do? Where is the line at which evangelism ceases to be the work product of faith and becomes our works?

    Enough rambling, I’ve lost my direction here. I hope you get the point.

    Eric

  7. HFB
    June 26th, 2009 at 10:56 | #7

    Well, up in Minnesota where the folks seem to resonate to the label, “Minnesota Nice” it seems to me that if the majority of the members of the Lutheran church agree with that dubious distinction, what need is there for evangelism, especially of the confessional stripe?! After all, if one hears enough from one’s family, friends and acquaintances that being a Christian is just about “being nice to people,” and add to that the belief in the ability to “make a decision for Christ” and add to that the pelagianism and semi-pelagianism that is preached and taught in the churches in one’s community, is it any wonder that we receive the label deservedly of “sleeping giant”?!! And could it be that cowardice and/or simply not believing what confessional Lutheranism teaches is really at the source of our snoring away?!

  8. Next Generation
    June 26th, 2009 at 12:08 | #8

    Patience will most certainly be the key. The Confessions are a month long cruise with daily 5 course meals compared to the faith that the average American can handle right now. We live in the text message/twitter generation where your answers have to be short & simple if they’re going to be read.
    Example: I had a (non-Lutheran) friend ask me (via email) what I thought Jesus meant by “give us this day our daily bread.” I gave her Luther’s explanation of the 4th petition, 2 paragraphs from the Small Catechism. Her response? (Teasing) “You expect me to read all that?”

    When written, the Small Catechism was viewed as the bare minimum. Even the illiterate could be taught it. The Large Catechism was available for pastors, teachers, and even those who made it through the SC. Now, we would be hard pressed to find congregations whose members use the SC let alone cracks open the LC.

    Things like Text messaging, Twitter, AIM, and other fast response mechanisms are destroying people’s lexicons and forcing my generation into an attention span that is only seconds long. We will have to be VERY patient with them, but it’s well worth it!

  9. June 26th, 2009 at 17:08 | #9

    Scott, Great article. How long will we wait? Until we see where the Lord might be leading us — post LCMS, that is. Something evangelical, catholic and confessional must be lurking out there just beyond the horizon…

    patiently enduring,

    Paul

  10. Carl Vehse
    June 26th, 2009 at 17:50 | #10

    As in the last cartoon by Rev. Blazek, there’s a lot to point out.

    1. In the background one sees several church-like structures on the left and one church building on the right. The ones on the left are typical of American Protestant and Unitarian church structures and, of course, there is the obvious Mormon temple topped with a statue of the Angel Moroni blowing a trumpet. Such buildings and those who worship in them match the adjacent caption. These churches on the left are distinguished from the one the right with its cross on a steeple.

    2. The caption itself is interesting in that it shows the man with a wedding ring (husband?) thinking it, while the woman (wife?) is saying it. Could this be a comment on the vocations within marriage as it exists today in America?

    3. The foreground shows a monkish character (Luther?) poking the proverbial “sleeping giant” (labelled “Confessional Lutheranism”) sleeping on a cloud. How does this fit into the scene? BTW, although there are numerous mentions particularly in Lutheran literature, that Billy Graham (or else Teddy Roosevelt) called the Lutheran Church (or else the Missouri Synod) a “sleeping giant,” I’ve never seen a reference to exactly where such an alleged statement was initially made. Perhaps the statement is like Martin Luther’s alleged preference for a “wise Turk” ruler over a “foolish Christian,” or his fabled ink-throwing episode.

    4. The man on the right side is holding two books labelled “Augsburg Confessions” and “Luther’s Small Catechism.” These are two of several Symbolical Books which the Missouri Synod holds to be “a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God.” But why not simply hold the Book of Concord, or just the SC? Where are the other Symbols? Could this be a subtle reference to the list in the Missouri Synod’s Article II, which is missing one of the Symbols contained in the Book of Concord?

    5. The man on the right appears to be wearing a liturgical robe, indicating he may be a pastor, while the man holding the Bible appears to be a layman in a suit and tie? As in earlier cartoons, are these caricatures of actual people?

    6. What’s with the child hiding behind his mother’s skirt? He appears smaller than the boy and girl in the front, but his face and hair style appear mature, though he is seemingly afraid, clutching his mother’s skirt.

  11. helen
    June 27th, 2009 at 11:57 | #11

    Is Missouri a “sleeping giant” or a flock of ostriches with their heads firmly in the sand and no consideration for what they are leaving exposed?

  12. lusade
    June 27th, 2009 at 18:24 | #12

    Some awesome responses here to a very provocative cartoon panel, thank you Ptr. Blazek! Not that this will apply to everyone but I think my 59 year journey to confessional Lutheranism is repeatable (we can help people shortcut 30 – 40 years off of that). It was “new media” that did it for me. Podcasts to be exact. I live in New England, not exactly a hot bed of orthodox, historic, confessional, Reformation Christianity. I finally hit my threshold for how-to, seeker-sensitive, evangelical Christianity. I turned, bear with me, to Christian radio. I rejected everything except R.C. Sproul, based on my reading of scripture. But, I couldn’t buy into it wholeheartedly. Can’t say exactly what it was, but there was something that kept cropping up in scripture that kept me from being a Calvinist. I then found the White Horse Inn. More Calvinism, but occasionally this avuncular voice, an outsider’s opinion, would make incredibly astute, counter-intuitive remarks, that would not necessarily contradict the Calvinist bent of the conversation but would pierce through it and completely baffle me. I’m referring to Rod Rosenbladt, of course. From there I found Issues, Etc. And Issues, Etc. let me to the Brothers of John The Steadfast. From there I took on all the “big words” of the Gospel: propitiation, substitution, atonement, and on and on. I read Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Bought and began reading and re-reading Luther’s Small Catechism. Joined BJS. Bought and began reading the Daily Treasury of Prayer, Concordia, subscribed to Logia, began donating to Issues, Etc. A request for a referral to a confessional Lutheran church in the Boston area got a response from Bethany Tanis to give First Lutheran of Boston a try. I’ve been attending for a couple of months, talked with Pastor Dutzman a couple of times, dragged my 25-year old son and my wife to Church on Father’s Day and had communion for the first time in a very long time with my son at my side to receive a blessing from Pastor Dutzman. Brothers, I tell you, this works! Keep getting the word out to the wider spectrum of Christians (who need catechesis) and non-believers who need the Law AND the Gospel. Be faithful, be steadfast, don’t waiver! Get the “big words” of the Gospel in front of people and don’t be ashamed!

  13. Luther Gulseth
    June 29th, 2009 at 03:10 | #13

    Pr. Wollenberg said:
    BUT . . . it takes time and harder work to share the Confessions with people. It takes time and harder work to speak about and defend Biblical doctrine. It takes time and harder work to help people see how true Biblical doctrine undergirds and lifts up the Gospel of Christ crucified and risen again for the forgiveness of sins. There are many who do NOT want to invest the time or effort or study in order to share with folks that which makes us different.

    lusade said:
    Brothers, I tell you, this works! Keep getting the word out to the wider spectrum of Christians (who need catechesis) and non-believers who need the Law AND the Gospel. Be faithful, be steadfast, don’t waiver! Get the “big words” of the Gospel in front of people and don’t be ashamed!

    There is a generation of young men, a crop waiting to be cultivated, ready to be excellent Lutheran pastors. Higher Things has only been around since 2001 (2000 if you want), and a high school senior would just now be graduating from the seminary. 1200-1300 youth at 3 national conferences each summer is enough to give me great hope that young minds crave and desire what is right and pure, Christ crucified for us, and his blood and water freely flowing from his pierced side for the forgiveness of our sins. Pastors, I pray that you have the strength to continue to teach and preach Christ crucified, which alone through the Holy Spirit, is power enough to create the desire to learn more in the Word of God and through our confessions as found in the Book of Concord.

    I have witnessed this in my own congregation. Our congregation mirrors synod with the combination of Reformed ideology and true Lutheran Confession causing strife in our church. Our new pastor, called November 2008, has preached Christ crucified in EVERY sermon, teaches the Small Catechism in sermon and Bible study, and is bringing the pure Gospel to our church that has not heard it during my six years as a member. The strife is still here and stronger than ever. Why? Satan knows he has an impossible battle with the Gospel being so boldly proclaimed, and he has doubled, tripled, even inside-the-park-homered his efforts to keep sin rooted in our congregation. Satan be damned if that happen when a faithful shepherd is preaching the pure Gospel and administering the Sacraments with the help of the Holy Spirit.

    How does this apply to our synods future? Pastors, continue to preach the Gospel of Christ crucified in it’s purest form. Coach and encourage these young men to consider becoming a pastor. When they understand what doctrinal issues we have in our synod, and why they are wrong, they will be ready to shepherd a flock, in the same manner as you have, just as Christ has done for us on the cross. It will take time and love to reteach the basics of being Lutheran, as many as 2-5 years in each parish, but as Pr. Wollenberg said, the Gospel takes time and hard work.

    This is the exact change that the Holy Spirit as caused in my life through the influence of our vacancy pastor of 13 months and our current called pastor. Growing each Sunday within me is the desire to be one of these faithful shepherds, leading a flock to the Divine Service, where they receive God’s gifts in Word and Sacrament, thus giving them the cornerstone of their public lives as Lutheran Christians.

    In Christ crucified,
    Luther

  14. Pastor Tim Rossow
    June 29th, 2009 at 07:18 | #14

    Luther,

    What you describe is wonderful. In a similar fashion it happened in the congregation I serve. I survived a vicious attack to remove me from the congregation I serve.

    The $50 question is “How much ground is being made up, if any?” For every situtation like yours and mine there may be one or two congregations where the confessional pastor was driven out and a couple more where they are doing the Transforming Congregations program which is institionalizing a non-confessional approach to church.

    For the last nine years we have been saying wait till the next synod convention and then we will make a difference and yet it hasn’t happened.

    We may be losing this war. I hope not. It will be interesting to see what happens next summer at the synodical convention.

    TR

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