The Minnesota South District of the LCMS has an interesting situation that characterizes the conflict that has been brought about in our church through the laissez faire supervision of President Kieschnick. In the name of innovation and the pursuit of copying Bill Hybels’ popularized Christianity, the LCMS is allowing all sorts of funky churches to pop up that really do not look anything like church at all. In the Minnesota South District this trend has reached an interesting new low.
The Alley is a “church” sponsored by Pastor Dean Nadasdy and Woodbury Lutheran Church in the Twin Cities. Conspicuous by their absence are the words “Church” and “Lutheran” in the name of the “church.” This reflects the intentional mindset of establishing a “no-church church.” This is such a silly notion that it hardly needs critique. It is oxymoronic in the way of “lay minister.” (By definition you are either a laymen or a minister.) What we wish to point out here is something else that is missing from this “no-church church,” the new LCMS hymnal. Those of us who have been watching this silly nose dive away from the traditional liturgical church are not surprised by this. What is surprising is that according to the policy of the Minnesota South District, The Alley must use the LSB if it wants to receive mission funding from the District and be welcomed into the synod by the District. Before we get to that here is a little more on the naming of this “church.”
They chose their name based on Jesus parable in Luke 14:21 that the disciples were to go out into the streets and alleys and bring the poor and crippled into the banquet. The choice of this name based on this Bible passage provides a clear and simple basis for critique of this silly move away from the traditional form of church. Notice that Jesus does not do church in the alley. He says go and bring them in from the alley into the banquet and in another parable, those who are not properly clothed are thrown out of the banquet. The point of these parables is not that we need to redo church. Church is a great banquet feast and ought to be accompanied by all the festive trimmings of such. I would suggest that one look to the book of Revelation and see the rich liturgical style (white robes, golden sashes, bowing, kneeling, etc.) that is in use in the banquet in heaven for clues as to how we ought to do church this side of paradise. We could also look to Jesus himself who when he “does” church, does so in the synagogue according to its forms. From there we find that within a generation after His ascension the New Testament church is administering His word and sacraments in a liturgical manner that grows out of that synagogue worship and the sacrificial system of the temple. Jesus never worships in an alley but this has now become the new trend in the LCMS. So the very name and nature of this “church” is built on confusion over a simple Biblical point.
Another interesting Biblical contradiction comes with a new communion practice at the Alley. They are now doing “communion meals.” A communion meal sets the Lord’s Supper in the context of a potluck meal. Once again there is simple, straight-forward contradiction of Scripture. In I Corinthians 11:22 Paul chides the Corinthians with this rhetorical question: “Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” Having communion meals is a sophomoric experiment that grows out of an anti-authoritarian mindset and seeks to bring relevance and meaning to the Supper based on style and form rather than allowing the Supper to speak and do for itself in the traditional liturgy. I remember when I first got out out of seminary and thought those kinds of ideas were “really cool.” I grew out of it. Now such silliness is becoming institutionalized under the not so watchful eye of President Kieschnick. I will say this much for the Alley’s communion meals, at least they are not being done in homes with the Supper being administered by laymen as is the case at the Alley’s stylistically related cousin church at Jefferson Hills, Missouri. (For the Alley’s description of their communion nights click here. For Jefferson Hills description of their version click here.)
I have rambled on so much about the name and the curious communion practice at the Alley that I am out of time to describe the policies of the Minnesota South District on the use of the LSB in all mission starts. That will have to wait until later this week. In the meantime, if you have the time, do a little exploring on the website of the Alley and Jefferson Hills Church and see what you think.