(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.