The LCMS in Her Own Words: Another Guru for Us to Follow, by Pastor Rossow

(This post is part of the regular series “The LCMS in Her Own Words” and is archived on our Regular Columns page.)

 

In this column we look at material that comes right out of LCMS sources and then critique it. Yesterday I received an e-mail from one of the district staffers of the Northern Illinois District of the LCMS. It is the district blog on small groups by DCE Jack Giles. Jack is a very nice guy. I like Jack but I do not like Jack’s theology and practice. Here is one of the entries on his blog.

 

The Small Group Point Leaders met earlier this week at Immanuel, Downers Grove.   We not only enjoyed great conversation, but great food as well.   We had a lively discussion on Miles McPherson’s talk at the recent Group Life Conference titled … “How Community Transforms.”  

 

Who is Miles McPherson and why is the Northern Illinois District encouraging people to listen to him? He is some new fangled pastor whose church focuses on experiential worship that moves people to evangelize others and influence and transform our culture. He is not a Lutheran and posts very little by way of doctrinal subscription on the church’s website. His church’s website also talks about altar calls and dedication of babies (in place of baptism) as the parents’ commitment to raise their child in a godly way.

 

Would it kill our leaders in the LCMS to get together and read the Lutheran Confessions or a Lutheran writer instead of chasing after the latest church growth guru? Yes it would kill them, or at least their efforts to organize the church around small group because if they read someone like C. F. W. Walther, the founder of the LCMS they would eventually run across his denouncement of small groups  (see paragraph 25).

 

On the internet I found someone who posted notes from the transforming culture lecture that DCE Giles had the small group point leaders study at their latest meeting. Here are some of the notes.

 

Redefine your evangelism starting point as God’s response to a broken world. We define evangelism as going and telling someone what they should believe so they can be like us. Let’s squash that.   Let’s turn it around.   Let’s say that the Gospel is not propositional truth.   Romans 3:23 is true.   Jesus did rise from the dead.   That is true, but the Gospel is an experience with Jesus, an experience with a person.   So evangelism is sharing your relationship with Jesus with another person.

 

Notice how the propositional nature of the Gospel is denied. Instead, the Gospel is recast as an impact and an experiential power. The Gospel is certainly that but it is also propositional, i.e. is expressed in true assertions. If it is not propositionally true, then you and I have not been saved. This is what Scott Diekmann is helping us understand in his series on the emergent church. In the 1970’s we battled for the truth of the Bible in the LCMS and now we are battling for it again as the LCMS Inc. leadership promotes the likes of Miles McPherson.

 

Here is another quote from the notes on the presentation.

 

Your community, your people are crying, and God has sent us to respond to the cries, not to huddle together.   We huddle together to get our marching orders.   If we fail to respond to the cries, we fail to serve our purpose.

 

Notice the church is redefined as a place to get marching orders for evangelism. The purpose of the church is wrongly identified as a place to get sent out. This turns things upside down. It makes the real deal the battlefield where Christians are evangelizing others rather than being the place where God makes himself know in word and sacrament. As the Lutheran Manifesto  (see thesis six)  explains, the preaching of the Gospel at church is evangelism. In the funky new church, pastors are no longer stewards of the mysteries of God. The pastor is not the purveyor of God’s means of grace but a player coach calling the play that is going to transform society. Can anyone quote me a Bible verse that says that the church is to transform the world? Is Jesus just dead wrong when he says that we are in the world but not of it?

 

I had just finished writing a definition of “existentialism” and “church growth” for BJS’s upcoming “Lutheran Wikidictionary” (more to come on that) when I received the e-mail from DCE Giles. After doing a  little research on Miles McPherson I realized he was a perfect example of what I had just defined. The church growth movement turns to sociology and psychology to grow the church and it’s underlying philosophy is the existentialism which teaches that emotion and will trump thought and intellect. Church for them has become a psychological high that moves the will by experiential tactics rather than it being the place where God meets man in the forgiveness of sins, through propositional preaching.  Experience and social transformation  is the siren call of most of the “gurus” out there today and sadly the LCMS Inc. and most of its synodical and district staffers are promoting this flimsy stuff.

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.

Comments

The LCMS in Her Own Words: Another Guru for Us to Follow, by Pastor Rossow — 24 Comments

  1. This is very interesting.

    Evangelism is not sharing my experience with Christ. That is simply false. Preaching the law (which kills the sinner) and the gospel (which raises the sinner from the dead) is evangelism.

    “Go into all the world TEACHING and BAPTIZING in my name” paraphrase of Mt 28. Jesus did not say go share your experience with me in all the world. Experience changes hourly based on the music I hear, the coffee or beer I’m drinking, how mean or nice my wife is to me.” God’s Word and Sacraments (propositional truth) do not change.

  2. Saying that knowing Jesus isn’t an emotional experience is like saying “I do” on your wedding day isn’t an emotional experience.

    I honestly fear for your salvation. You follow a letter of the law, but do you truly know and appreciate the saving action of Jesus?!

    “You honor me with your lips, but your hearts are far from me” Isaiah 29:13

  3. JD, honestly, I fear for your salvation if you’re going to base it on the flimsy & ephemeral whims of experience & emotion.

    Certainly there’s emotion involved but it’s subsidiary to the primary objective actions that’s going on in our salvation by God. Same with a wedding. There’s something objective & outside of ourselves going on there.

    What happens when the emotional high of saying “I do” fades as wedded life goes on. Emotions will change, ebbing & flowing. If I base my marriage on how I felt at my wedding & how I may feel twenty years into the marriage, well, pretty shaky, uncertain stuff. I don’t feel the same, so this marriage must not be real or valid.

    But if we hold to the objective nature of marriage, the declaration outside of us by the state & by God himself that a couple is married, no matter how their feelings wax & wane, then one has certainty about one’s marriage & the grounds for remaining in that marriage.

    But hey, that’s just being rigid & holding to the dead letter of God’s promises. Best chuck everything away & go with how I feel at the time.

  4. JD:

    Come on, really?! Where in Pr. Rossow’s posting does he say that knowing Jesus can’t and isn’t an “emotional experience”? And where do you get off questioning whether he (or any of us for that matter) truly knows and appreciates the saving action of Jesus, or the depth of emotion with which he may experience it?! As I read his post, he’s saying that sharing the emotional experience is not to be placed above or even on equal footing with sharing and teaching the gospel, not that emotions have no place in our relationship with Jesus.

    To use your analogy, saying “I do” on my wedding day, some 23 years ago, was not without certain emotions, but it wasn’t what I would call an “emotional experience”. I had to undergo a considerable amount of pre-marital counseling (as did my spouse to be) and a lot of soul searching to ensure that it was a well considered decision, much more that an “emotional experience”. Now when I watch the old wedding video, I can get choked up, but in that moment, I wasn’t thinking about the emotional experience.

    I can get pretty emotional when I consider all that christ has done for me, a poor miserable sinner, particularly at times during the worship service, or during certain hymns, and at times of prayer, but when I share my faith with someone, I try to share what Christ has done for me (and them), not how that makes me feel. Not because those emotions aren’t powerful or meaningful (to me), but because they’re not the point of the matter, and shouldn’t be.

    I would suggest that if you re-read and re-consider your remarks, maybe you’ll see why they shouldn’t be. Just my humble opinion.

    Eric Ramer

  5. I’m not remotely implying that salvation is based on a feeling. Be careful, because in your over reaction you swing the pendulum to the opposite extreme.

    Salvation is not based on a feeling, but it is not a sin to have feelings about it or dare I say to experience it. It is not a drug or a high, it IS a relationship. A reconciliation between God and man. A relationship which led David to sing and dance, moved Mary to sing a very emotional song, inspired Martha to wipe Jesus feet with her tears and we should not be afraid of feelings in regards to our own salvation.

    What I worry about is those who have no feelings about their salvation. How can you reflect on the debt paid in your stead and not have any emotional reaction?

  6. To Eric… my words were more in response to comment #1 than to the article. Though there is much there that saddens me as well.

  7. So, didn’t you, JD, just do the thing you accuse us of doing when you first questioned Pastor Rossow’s salvation? Did you contact him first to see if he had any feelings about his salvation? Can you see into his heart & tell what his feelings are about Jesus & His salvation? Is there a certain level of emotional response that proves your experience? Is there a certain way of looking & acting that clinches the matter?

    See where feelings are uncertain? Nobody’s denying we have feelings but there’s a difference between having feelings & trying to make your feelings & experiences the ground & certainty of your relationship with God.

    Or for that matter, the basis of your witness to others. Why the heck should I care how you feel about Jesus? Or how many great experiences you’ve had with Jesus?

  8. JD said: “What I worry about is those who have no feelings about their salvation.”

    JD, how could you remotely surmise that Pastor Rossow has no feelings about the atonement? If fact, he says just the opposite: “The Gospel is certainly that (experiential/feelings) but it is also propositional, i.e. is expressed in true assertions.”

    You have, judged Pastor Rossow unfairly! An apology is certainly in order.

  9. I don’t understand Walther’s comments in paragraph 25, so I’m not sure if he is really against small groups.

    But I know that following the latest non-Lutheran trend is a bad idea.

    From the website of Miles McPherson’s church:

    Infant baptism:

    Many people from a Catholic or Orthodox background have been baptized as infants into the Church. Yet it is clear that the Word does not give this as an option to be pursued. If we look at all the commands to be Baptized in the Scriptures we can see as Pastor Leeder noted, “Baptism is always preceded by a declaration of faith (Mark 16:16), repentance, and a changed mind regarding sin and the Savior.” (Acts 2:38)

    Being that baptism is preceded by a declaration of faith, how then is an infant to be baptized according to the Scriptures? Pastor Leeder further shared, “A baby who has been baptized has no capacity to know what they are doing. We need to reach a certain capacity to recognize our sin or depravity, understanding of the Gospel, and our need of a Savior. The commitment that first of all Jesus makes to us, then we make to the Lord.”
    http://www.therocksandiego.org/stories/haveyoubeenbaptized/

    How long until bad theology creeps into the LCMS via the latest fad? And even if the pastors can distinguish good and bad theology, doesn’t our use of this material send the wrong message to the laity – that doctrine is not that important.

  10. I’m not that familiar with formatting on this site, so if there is a better way to format material copied from another site, please let me know.

  11. From post #5 by JD, I take issue with this statement: “A reconciliation between God and man” Is it really in between God and man? This implies a semi-pelagian belief that there is a little spark in us that allows us to meet God half way; or in between Him and us. Maybe this was not the intent of the author of #5, but I say a more clear understanding, is God reconciled us to Himself. (This is more doctrinally sound as well)

    I think there is much to be said about elevating emotional experiences in Worship and even in marriage, in which it was compared. Maybe this is the reason more than half of today’s marriages fail; people just don’t “feel” the same way about their spouse when they were married. So they put their emotions, or “feelings” in front of the marriage and divorce.

    Jeremiah 17:9 states the heart is deceitful above all things. This being true, why would we elevate the “feelings” or desires of our heart, which is sinful from our youth, over the Word and Sacraments of God?

    Just a thought.

    Kiley Campbell

  12. Pastor Rossow,

    Would you be able to put up a widget or counter on the site to track how you’re feeling about Jesus at any particular moment? Perhaps that would solve some of these questions. 🙂

  13. JD wrote: “What I worry about is those who have no feelings about their salvation. How can you reflect on the debt paid in your stead and not have any emotional reaction?”

    Short answer: I am a sinner. There are times where I am so embattled by my sins that the only “feeling” I have is horrendous shame.

    I really don’t know what your point is, though. Pr. Rossow didn’t claim anywhere that we shouldn’t have feelings about our salvation. Instead, we should walk by faith in God’s Word and not by our own sensory experiences. Our feelings are absolutely irrelevant to our relationship with God. He doesn’t ask us to “feel”, but to trust in Him.

  14. David Busby,

    Your comments on McPherson and the link demonstrate that he willingly and honestly puts forth his confession. His rejection of the gospel received in baptism is clear. I wonder what he believes about the Lord’s supper.

    Why do we want to listen to those who reject Christ in his gifts?

  15. Dear Pastor Rossow:

    I most appreciate your comment, “Would it kill our leaders in the LCMS to get together and read the Lutheran Confessions or a Lutheran writer instead of chasing after the latest church growth guru?” It is truly telling that many in leadership do not believe that the LCMS has anything to contribute to the life and growth of Christ’s church. If that is truly the case, why do they insist on remaining in the LCMS and why do they insist on dragging a bunch of false doctrine and false practice into the Lutheran Church?

    When I once objected to a discussion of “Hit the Bullseye: How Denominations Can Aim Congregations at the Mission Field” by the American Baptist Paul Borden, it was suggested to me that we Lutherans have not written anything new lately and, anyhow, why do we always want to read the same stuff over and over again. *sigh* My reply that I re-read Scripture, the Hymnal, the Small Catechism, and other tried and true writings over and over again because “they are good for me and they keep me centered” was simply dismissed. Borden, in his book, makes ridiculous statements and assumptions when he says stuff like “Jesus wants His Church to be successful.” That is just one example of the kinds of outrageous statements which need to be critically examined and evangelically answered so that our pastors and leaders are not led astray from the Word and the Confessions, and so that souls are not led into the empty desert of American evangelicalism.

    Thanks for you post, brother.

  16. Thank you all for coming to my defense over the last few hours. I was away from the computer for a while, out getting all emotional with my wife as we did some Christmas shopping. I was so moved by the colors on one of the gift certificates that I bought that I wept uncontrollably.

    I composed myself but now once again, reading the passionate defense of my reputation by the brothers, I am driven to tears. “I love you guys.”

    Revgeorge – if there were an emotion-gauge widget it would be off the charts right now!

    I will try to get a hold of myself. Maybe I’ll go read some Kant or Aquinas and get back to my old, dead, intellectual self. 🙂

    Pastor Rossow

  17. Justification before God has absolutely nothing to do with human emotion. Human emotion is created by physical changes in the human body.

    Since the evangelicals obviously disagree, perhaps they need to work on an explanation as to which physical change in the human body and which emotional response is the one which is necessary for justification before God?

  18. Pastor Rossow:

    I fear that the BJS site is now the target of a regular set of “trolls”. You may want to consider changing your comment policy. You will get very tired responding to all these trolls – trust me.

    Some of these trolls look very familiar (language used and writing style). There are a handful of poor souls who lurk around the main Lutheran blogs and websites. They appear to enjoy making comments that they know will provoke a lot of responses and expend a lot of energy on the part of the blog owner or site host.

  19. Kyle:

    Do you define troll as anyone who posts an opposing viewpoint or anyone who challenges the paradigms posted on this blog?

    Tim (Color me a Troll Ablaze)

  20. Justification before God has absolutely nothing to do with human emotion. Human emotion is created by physical changes in the human body.

    Since the evangelicals obviously disagree, perhaps they need to work on an explanation as to which physical change in the human body and which emotional response is the one which is necessary for justification before God?

    I’m sensing a new business opportunity for Evangelicals – Christian MRI’s to determine or not you are truly saved.

    It would be funny if it were not so sad.

  21. Why in the world would anyone in the LCMS seek the pastoral advice of an Arminian Baptist is beyond me? I live in San Diego and know numerous people who have or currently attend The Rock Church. The church’s growth is largely due to the fact that Miles is an ex-NFL player and he attracts local San Diegan Christian celebrities to his services, which gets him on the local news quite often (Charger football star Ladanian Tomlinson, popular morning DJs, etc.).

    The Rock’s programs are a mile wide, but a 1/2 inch deep. I know because we receive into membership several of their former attendees each year, which we are very thankful for. They come to our church because in the words of a recent visitor, “We felt like we were starving for the truth of God’s word. We were amazed to hear not only someone read the Bible in your service, but the pastor actually preached a sermon on those Bible texts.” In other words, the teaching is so shallow, that adults who have not only attended the Rock for three years but also led one of their small groups knows less theology than one of our 1st year 8 year old catechumens.

    I say this not to our credit, because we’re just doing what Lutheran churches have done since the reformation, but to the discredit of those panting after the latest in popular evangelicalism. Again, why in the world would we want our church’s worship and theology to be in any way influenced by these guys is beyond me? The growth techniques and leadership principles they offer are rooted in an actual theology, which is called Arminianism (or synergism, or decisional bapticostal). Miles is just the latest unfortunate repackaging of Charles Finney. I wish LCMS pastors under their spell would recognized this.

    I have to sign off for now. I’m all worked up and emotional, but not in a good way 🙂
    Thanks for posting on this, Pr. Rossow.

  22. That the LCMS continues to flirt with those who don’t share our own beliefs may indicate that some of us actually share the beliefs of those we invite.

    I can’t help but be reminded of a couple of Bible verses:

    And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
    Matthew 13:57-58

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!
    Matthew 23:37

  23. Brian,

    From comment 22 above:

    The Rock’s programs are a mile wide, but a 1/2 inch deep. I know because we receive into membership several of their former attendees each year, which we are very thankful for. They come to our church because in the words of a recent visitor, “We felt like we were starving for the truth of God’s word. We were amazed to hear not only someone read the Bible in your service, but the pastor actually preached a sermon on those Bible texts.” In other words, the teaching is so shallow, that adults who have not only attended the Rock for three years but also led one of their small groups knows less theology than one of our 1st year 8 year old catechumens.

    Thank you for providing this. It’s tempting when we see the large crowds to think that the LCMS should follow. As you demonstrate, these churches are long on style and short on substance. And even a child will reject a diet solely of cotton candy eventually.

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