With Laymen Like This Lutheranism Will Thrive: A Letter to Epic Church, by Elaine Gavin

(The following letter was sent to the “church” that Mollie pointed us to in her blog yesterday. Elaine Gavin is a member of Bethany Lutheran Church, Naperville, Illinois and one of the editors of the Steadfast Quarterly. She is one more example of the growth of Confessional Lutheranism amongst the laity.)

Dear Epic Church,

I happened across your church’s website. Some of the many questions that came to mind after looking around it are: When do you serve the members some meat after the marshmallow fluff and candy corn that appears to be the steady diet at your “church”? When do the congregants learn that we are dead in our sins and condemned to eternal desolation if not for the love of God in His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to earth as a tiny baby, true God and true man, to take the sins of the world to the cross and die there? When are the worshipers assured that because Christ died, we died to sin? That because Christ rose, we will live with him in Paradise? That He comes to us in His Word, in His very Body and Blood in the Holy Supper, and in the words of the called and ordained servant of the Word in the absolution, offering forgiveness of sins, life and salvation?I am frankly appalled that you call yourself a Lutheran church (albeit reluctantly buried in your website). Nearly everything “you will find at Epic” is trivial (“Life is too short to be bored; ” “Why bother making breakfast?”), irreverent (“Don’t dress up, we don’t;” “You can take (gourmet coffee) with you into the service”), stupid and/or insulting (“The music rocks and sounds like what you listen to on the radio”) and, worst of all, doctrinally unsound (“You’ll find a place where you can discover God”; “The Biblical message will apply to your everyday life”).

I believe people crave a time and place set apart, holy and reverent, to be in church to hear God’s Word of forgiveness from the lips of the called and ordained pastor (whom they can recognize as such, because he is NOT dressed like the rest of us), to hear Law and Gospel properly divided–and when is God’s Word NOT relevant to one’s everyday life? After all, we daily sin and need forgiveness. People crave God’s Word, praying and singing it in the hymns and liturgy–not what they can hear on the radio!–and to be fed and nourished by the Body and Blood of their Lord, not gourmet coffee and donuts. Finally, church is the place where God comes down to us (or “discovers” us, if you insist) in the Divine Service.

Please love the unchurched–and your members–enough to teach them the TRUTH of God’s Word.

In His Holy name,
Elaine Gavin



(Editor’s Note: I suggest you click this link just so that you can have the shock of seeing that this church is indeed an LCMS church. This is the page on the LCMS congregation directory where you find information about Epic Church. Notice, their website is not listed there. For that click here.)

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


With Laymen Like This Lutheranism Will Thrive: A Letter to Epic Church, by Elaine Gavin — 14 Comments

  1. It’s a great letter but I’m afraid it will be like water off a duck’s back. They probably don’t take such letters or comments seriously or give them any credence. 🙁

  2. WOW!
    If this isn’t the perfect example of “ablaze” at work, I don’t know what is. How can LCMS, Inc. allow a church like this to even be on the roster? (I guess a question like that may answer itself). A “marketing director” at church? As a marketing major in college, I find the premise of “marketing” the word of God revolting. Isn’t that the role of the Holy Spirit? I’m just floored that this entity can even be associated with my LCMS. The scary thing is that there are probably more out there like this!

  3. “Epic Church” has the niche marketing down. I wonder how long it takes before they go the way of some of the other “hip” churches and progress from their therapeutic messages to the outright “shock messages” like “Seven Days of Sex” as “pastor” Ed Young has promoted at “Fellowship Church” in Dallas?

    These sort of marketing programs under the guise of Church are truly saddening. I pray the Lord will help those in that congregation find a congregation and pastor where the pure Gospel is being taught.

  4. Steve asked “How can LCMS, Inc. allow a church like this to even be on the roster?” The answer is simple, they probably have a DP who laps this sort of bilge up. I’ve posted extended parts of President, Northwest District – LCMS, Dr Schumacher’s most recent district newsletter in the past, but here’s his whole letter. As bad as the Epic travesty is, this quote isn’t from some loose cannon pastor doing his own thing, but from an LC-MS DP. I’d generally try to add something pithy at this point, but this evil speaks for itself.
    Kyrie Eleison,
    -Matt Mills

    The Spirit Gives Life

    I will be blessed, God willing, to complete 15 years of serving you as your 12th District President. As I retire and turn the gavel, car keys, LCMS Handbook, and cell phone over to the new President-Elect, I breathe a prayer of thanks for God‘s gracious care and guidance for the nearly
    270 congregations, 100 Early Childhood Centers, 32 elementary schools and 4 high schools in our vast geographical district. I believe that we will eagerly move forward into this 21st Century fully aware that we have closely followed the Tracks of the Holy Spirit. We have implemented the goal of making every congregation a mission outpost, built an outreach and sustaining relationship with every family touched by our schools and social ministries, and identified a growing number of evangelical lay leaders who sincerely desire and require their Professional Church Workers to be as equally future oriented and evangelical in their style and substance. There have been some jarring exceptions to that sort of “fit.” Fitness for LCMS ministry demands that trained pastors and commissioned ministers are servants who know the Holy Spirit and are able to share Him with others with positive, humble, approachable, and flexible ministry styles. It is becoming increasingly more common that rigid and aloof professionals do not last long in pulpit or classroom. Those who network with equally past-oriented museum-keeper colleagues usually end up being asked to resign or move on to a better “fit.” Increasingly, graduate placement has become a Synod-wide endeavor that has the highest priority and attention of the Council of Presidents of the LCMS. The Northwest District is blessed to have a growing number of the “best of the best” being produced from our 10 Synod Universities and our 2 Seminaries. We pray that this trend continues.

    Paul said it clearly in 2 Corinthians 3:6 NIV when he said “He (God) has made us competent as ministers of a NEW (emphasis added) covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Examples of the disasters of the letter that kills are taken to the cross of Jesus Christ who forgives those who have mishandled the precious Word and used it as an instrument of destruction instead of the Spirit-filled gift of life! Pray to the Lord of the Church that He continues to raise up the people-oriented servants of Jesus!
    Together in Christ,
    Rev. Dr. Warren Schumacher
    President, Northwest District – LCMS
    1700 NE Knott St.
    Portland, OR 97212

  5. I regret to inform my fellow brothers (particulary Jim – post #3) that Epic church is well ahead of the “Ablaze!” curve. For their Lenten series this past year, this church purchased the six week series titled “Pure Sex” from Granger Community Church (listed as a package deal for $99). This is what they heard during Lenten preparation – I’m confident they were ready for Holy Week to arrive. Kyrie Eleison.
    (P.S. – fortunately, they lacked the funding to post the billboards on Pure Sex along I-75 or I-94; Praise the Lord!)

  6. This was one of the 20 comments accidently deleted

    Berthold Von Schenk condemned confessional Lutheranism as museum theology too. But his comments were defended by confessional Lutheran pastors, explaining that the man was suffering from dementia when he wrote that. So, now … what is Schumacher’s (Schleiermacher’s ?) excuse?

  7. This was one of the 20 comments accidently deleted

    Personally, I think that it nearly always comes down to Art IV. What is the Gospel, how are sinful men to be justified?

    The most telling (if not the most humanly painful) part of Dr. Schumacher’s piece is that the Neo-Phillipist mantra of “Lutheran Substance-Evangelical Style” has undergone the full Orwellian shift to “evangelical in their style AND SUBSTANCE.” (Four legs good, two legs better!) What this means from a practical standpoint is, for this segment of our Synod, the Gospel is now seen as “an offer of salvation to be accepted” rather than “the proclamation of salvation to be believed.” From this synergistic vantage point, everything the Schwärmer are doing makes perfect sense. If God damns those to whom we do not effectively sell Jesus Christ, then by all means pull out the stops. Bring in the marketing consultants, rock bands and what have you. The problem however is that we have never believed, taught or confessed that God damns those to whom we do not effectively sell Jesus Christ. Our Lord does not call us to be “effective,” but “faithful,” and as unlikely as it sounds His promise is that He will use the foolishness of the cross which He calls us to preach to save all those whom the Father draws to our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I truly feel sorry for the devoted men that Dr. Schumacher et al. have driven from our Synod, as well as for the wives and kids that have lost their living, insurance, retirement etc., but I feel more sorry for those who (like Dr. Schumacher) seem to glory in their persecution of our Lord, and His Gospel. I keep thinking, how do they sleep, or eat, or enjoy their families, believing that they (rather than God the Holy Spirit) are responsible for the conversion of the lost, and that those whom they have not reached will be damned as a result.

    God grant me gratitude for the “past-oriented museum-keeper” he has sent my family and me in the Pergamum of the NoW District of the LC-MS, and the treasures of Word and Sacrament by which He daily and richly forgives all my sins.

    Pax Christi +,
    -Matt Mills

  8. This was one of the 20 comments accidently deleted

    I’m dying to hear the response. I’m pretty sure that the “meat” is only obtainable at a “small group” meeting – if you’re in the right group.

  9. Martin Luther,

    I watched the “sex sermon.”

    34 minutes, no Jesus, no Cross. All Law.

    This is what passes for preaching the Gospel?

    Young’s wife did make a reference to the Gospel when she preached her little sermon after his. She also extolled her husband for guiding and leading their family at home. It’s a shame she has to do his job for him at church.


  10. TW…it would be interesting to see/hear how a lutheran would deal with the subject…but most would not touch the subject. I still say, “thanks Ed….for dealing candidly with the subject…” It was “chains off.”

  11. Martin Luther,

    The subject Ed Young won’t touch is Christ Crucified.

    He can talk about sex. So what? Everyone does that.

    Where’s Jesus? Where’s the Cross?

    Aren’t you interested to see/hear that?


  12. “Martin Luther”,

    Your namesake discussed this subject quite well in the sixteenth century. If you are interested check out The Large Catechism, Part I. [200] on the sixth commandment (Triglotta, p.637).

    I would also recommend Luther, The Estate of Marriage in Luther’s Works 45:11-49.

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