(Editor’s Note: We thank Brian Thomas for submitting this comment today and thought it deserved a broader audience than our comments page.)
We on the left coast have just experienced (unfortunately) what these men from Water’s Edge have to offer by way of preaching as their “Missions Pastor” (Travis Hartjen) led the Pacific Southwest Distric Youth Gathering this past weekend in San Diego. I can say that it doesn’t seem much different than what our friends in Texas are dealing with. Here are a few of my take-aways:
1. There was a clear and unecessary wedge driven between head knowlege and heart knowlege emphasized in all four sessions with our speaker. Pietism of old is alive and well. I quote, “What the world needs is not more knowledge about God, but to experience God through your deeds.” In other words, forget the creeds kids, worry about feeding the homeless. Should we feed the homeless? Of course. At the expense of preaching the clear message of the gospel? Nope. Why not do both? [This was not said]
2. The “worship band” hailed from one of our not-so-confessional SoCal churches and played the top 20 CCM Dove award winning hits almost exclusively. Most of these songs emphasized, yep you guessed it: I, you, me, and we giving some lip service to God or Jesus. I have no problem with rock music as I am a musician that plays in a rock band here in San Diego. But I DO NOT play it on Sunday in my church. Everything has its proper place. Looking at the authors of the songs offered at our DYG I found them to be: Anabaptist, Pentecostal, and always Arminian. Thankfully, they did play one hymn, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” and I sung it with gusto!
3. The Sacrament of the Altar given on the last evening was very upsetting. The presiding pastor did his least in jeans high-fiving the speaker and band to at least go through the motions of his office by reciting the words of institution, but the blood (in this case grape juice in little cups) were set on cafeteria trays with the juice spilled everywhere! The elements were handled disrespectfully, in my opinion. Was the table closed? Well…you be the judge. On a projector screen was the following disclaimer, “If you believe in the saving power of Jesus, then you are invited to partake.” This is a youth gathering of over 400 kids. I am an elder at my church. I know all of my kids have been baptized, catechized and confirmed and are regular communicants at my church. But I’ve got to think that many larger youth groups rightfully invited friends from school and elsewhere that have not been baptized and do not rightfully “discern” the body and blood of the sacrament. More could /should have been done to ensure that God was worshipped with reverance and good order.
Lastly, I will say that I am an adult convert to Lutheranism. I was formerly in pastoral leadership at a church that went the way Emergent. I left that church for the LCMS at great cost to my family’s friendships, finances (I was on staff) and reputation. Why would we hide our Lutheran distinctives from our youth (or anyone else, for that matter)? It is Higher Things for our church youth from now on.
I know there are a lot of strong churches in Texas, but the kind that produces this sort of event should not be allowed to call itself Lutheran. Oh wait! They don’t. They leave that out of their name altogether as market demographics show that 25-40 year olds prefer the name “Community” or “Edge” or “Epic” or some kind of “wood” in their name.
Sorry for the long rant, but I can’t expect our district office to listen since they were the one’s to put this thing on.
“In peace let us pray to the Lord…Lord have mercy.”
Elder, Grace Lutheran, San Diego, CA