How Helpful is it to Criticize our Mission Heritage? by Pr. Klemet Preus

(Editor’s Note: This is part four in a five part series based on insider David Vaughn’s unique critique of the Ablaze program.)


In a recent article entitled, “A Policy analysis of the Ablaze! Movement,” written by David Vaughn, the author claims that “What has been done in the LC-MS toward the work of evangelizing the world pre-Ablaze has failed.” [1] Is such a statement helpful?


Imagine a veteran pastor. He is accepts a call to an established mid sized congregation of the church and discovers that the congregation’s worship is seriously lacking. The Liturgy is largely ignored. All sorts of songs are substituted for the Ordinaries. The hymnal is employed with no real consistency. Our Lutheran hymns are unknown in deference to praise ditties or revival songs. This pastor has his work in front of him. What should he do? He really has two options. Option A, he can love his people despite their poor habits and gradually teach them a love and respect for our Lutheran heritage. He can introduce them to our strong treasures while not showing disrespect for some of their weak treasures. Or, option B, he can say, “The way you have been conducting the services here has failed.” Which of these two approaches seems best to you?


I can assure you that if our hypothetical pastor chose option B, his people would be insulted. Most would bear the offense quietly. Some would complain to him that he is not being respectful or sensitive. Many would complain to others in the congregation. The word might possible reach the ears of the district president who would with great patience seek to help the pastor learn a bit of diplomacy. Or perhaps the district president would be less than patient.


Imagine a pastor who has just taken a call to a church. He notices that the Sunday school uses poor materials, not from CPH. He notices that the teachers are not expected to attend meetings. He notices that parents do not particularly feel confident of the program. He has two options. Option A, he can approach the staff and present them with a vision of a more vibrant program with more engaged parents and happier students based upon an enthusiastic staff. Option B, he can say, “The way you have been teaching has failed.”


I can assure you that if our hypothetical pastor chose option B, he would pretty much guarantee that he would find resistance and resentment.


Imagine a think tank on world missions. Imagine that this group believes that we have not done as well as we could in terms of confessing the faith to the communities around us and even throughout the world. Imagine that this group has ideas of greater involvement of the laity and enhanced training of pastors and evangelists. This group has two options. Option A, they can patiently attempt to teach the church some of their ideas with the hope of convincing the church that these ideas have merit. They can introduce a new paradigm without necessarily lambasting the old. They can show respect to their grandfathers and their grandfather’s church. They can listen with the intent of integrating some of the best ideas of the past with the some of the current theory. They can create a dialogical context in which all segments of the synod have a place at the table and in which no one feels disenfranchised or unheeded.


Or, option B, they can say, “What has been done in the LC-MS toward the work of evangelizing the world pre-Ablaze has failed.”


If pastors are justly chastised when they, correctly yet foolishly criticize the old ways, then how are we to evaluate Ablaze! which wrongly and foolishly criticizes the old ways?


Is it any wonder that Ablaze! has found resistance throughout the synod.




[1] David Vaughn, “A Policy analysis of the Ablaze! Movement,” Missio Apostlica, Vol. xvi, no. 2 (November 2008) 133-134.

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