Statement of Belief at The Alley Church has Some Substance but does not Mention the Sacraments, by Pr. Rossow

The Biblical Convictions statement from The Alley (see below) has some meat to it but does not mention Baptism or the the Lord’s Supper. It has some good solid stuff on the depravity of man and the existence of the devil. However, they say nothing of baptism or the Lord’s Supper. This helps us to understand the landscape of the church these days. On the one hand you have liberal churches like most of the congregations of the ELCA that have embraced the relativism of modern culture  but on the other hand you have emergent churches like The Alley. They  are not what we would call “liberal” but have embraced the “pop” elements of culture and seek to reach people with the psychology of sensitivity and the informality of current culture by promoting such things as small groups and the cultural critique of the traditional church. For more on the ELCA’s liberalism see our post on the fact that one no longer has to believe in the devil anymore in the ELCA and for more on the pop culture church see Scott Diekman’s series on the emergent church, also from this website.

Here is the text of The Alley’s Biblical convictions page.

  1. The only hope for man’s eternal salvation is Jesus the Messiah (Luke 1:35; Romans 3:24; 1 Peter 2:24; Ephesians 1:7; John 14:5-7) Jesus is the Son of God promised through Old Testament prophets and as recorded in the New Testament of the Bible. He is both perfect man and God and his atoning sacrifice for man’s sin is the only means by which mankind receives forgiveness and reconciliation with God. Therefore death is no longer something to be feared.
  2. There is one true God revealed to us in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Matthew 11:26-28) There is one God: infinite, eternal, almighty and perfect in holiness, truth and love. In the unity of the godhead there are three Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, co-existent, co-equal and co-eternal. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit, yet each is truly Deity. They are one God, in three persons.
  3. The Bible in its’ entirety is the true and inspired word of God (Isaiah 55:9-11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Matthew 5:18; John 16:12-13) The 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 New Testament books are the inspired Word of God though which He continues to speak to humankind. His word is the foundation of our teaching, the direction for our lives and lays out the hope of salvation for of all humankind through Jesus’ Life, death and resurrection.
  4. We believe in the total depravity of humankind (Genesis 1:26-27; Romans 3:22-23, 5:12; Ephesians 3:1-3, 12) God made man – male and female – in His own image, that man might have fellow ship with Him. Tempted by Satan, mankind fell into a broken relationship with God. Being estranged from his Maker, yet responsible to Him, he became subject to divine wrath, inwardly depraved and apart from a special work of grace, utterly incapable of returning to God. Because of this mankind is at enmity with God, hostile toward God, and hateful of God.Fallen, sinful people, whatever their character or attainments, are lost and without hope apart from salvation in Christ.
  5. The role of the church is to equip people to know, follow and share who Jesus is and what He has done (Ephesians 4:7-13; Colossians 1:18) The church at it’s most basic definition is the people of God and not the building, worship or organization. The role of the church is to equip, mentor and hold each other accountable to following Jesus. It is also meant to be a community of people who do life together and hold each other accountable. The church is a body, made up of many diverse parts. Everyone has a gift and everyone has a calling, as God sees fit.
  6. The devil is the adversary of God and His church (Genesis 3; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Mark 4:15; Luke 22:3; Acts 5:4-6; 2 Cor. 11:14; 2 Thess. 2:9) The devil is the real and active adversary of God. He tempted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, he prowls the earth like a lion, looking for whom he can devour. Satan is not the ruler of Hell but will bear the brunt of its worst punishment. He was defeated along with death and sin when Jesus rose victorious from the dead.
  7. God has created every person with unique gifts and abilities intended to bring Him glory (1 Corinthians 12:1ff; Ephesians 4:7-8) God has created every person with unique gifts and abilities and they are only used to their fullness when they are used to glorify God. Through the Holy Spirit, God gives gifts of His spirit, according to His desire, to be used to His purpose.

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.


Statement of Belief at The Alley Church has Some Substance but does not Mention the Sacraments, by Pr. Rossow — 23 Comments

  1. #5 is most problematic. Quite a skewed definition of what the church is to do & of what the church consists. Lots of Law there but very little Gospel.

    “The church at it’s most basic definition is the people of God and not the building, worship or organization.”

    Okay, as far as it goes, but really the most basic definition of the Church is the one “in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.(AC VII 1b)”

    “The role of the church is to equip, mentor and hold each other accountable to following Jesus. It is also meant to be a community of people who do life together and hold each other accountable.”

    One, I’m not quite sure where they’re getting that from, some strange distortion of Ephesians 4: 12 no doubt. Plus, the fact that they’re trying to state it in some hip, cool fashion. “Do life together.” What are we a commune? And hold each other accountable? 12 step program language. Not saying that’s not useful at times but still it’s funny language to use in defining the church.

    Also, there’s a hint of what goes on in American Evangelicalism. The feeling that, yes, Jesus saves you solely by grace but now, in the church, it’s our turn to get busy & get things done. Jesus has saved us to be worker bees in His kingdom or something such.

    But I guess I shouldn’t be critical, because obviously they’re sincere & well intended & are making people feel really good about being in “church.” And it isn’t that what really matters? The answer to that is “No.”

  2. This thought still needs some development, but does anyone else out there suspect the belief that LC-MS inc. is “the only saving church” is an unstated foundation of our drift towards Evangelicalism? If a non-sacramental, non-liturgical, non-historical anthropocentric proclamation is required to get a certain segment of post-modern America through the doors of a “spirutual-needs emporium,” why can’t we leave that task to the non-sacramental, non-liturgical, non-historical anthropocentric denominations? (There is after all plenty of them out there.) Why does everyone need to be LC-MS? Why can’t we leave the non-sacramental, non-liturgical, non-historical anthropocentric portion of the spiritual needs market to the churches that have always been non-sacramental, non-liturgical, non-historical and anthropocentric? Why can’t the clergy in our midst that identifies w/ these denominations find one to join? These folks obviously don’t have a lot of loyalty to our theology and praxis, is it just the name? Is it the corporate logo? Do they perhaps (unlike CFW Walther) see LC-MS inc as “the only saving church?”
    -Matt Mills

  3. @Matt Mills: I doubt it. I hear a lot of talk from these folks about the LCMS being “one corner of the Body of Christ,” in such a way as to put them all on an equal footing. If anything, the LCMS is the backward stepchild of true Christianity, which is American Arminianism. I think they see their mission as to help the LCMS get up to speed with real Christianity.

  4. What can only be drawn from inference in this document is clarified in their philosophy statement. Essentially, this is a completely Law based approach to “salvation.” In this document, the Alley states, “Discipleship through Community” and “Love is the Means.” This stands in stark contrast to Christ’s imperative, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19-20). Does Christ tell us that disciples are made through love in a community? No, he says that disciples are made through baptizing and teaching. Love is not the means. Baptism is the means. Holy Communion is the means. Faith receives the grace which is offered through these Sacraments and in the other means of grace. We are justified freely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by love, community, etc. Ours is a Christocentric faith, the Alley’s is an anthropocentric faith. The Alley is attempting to insert love into the article of Justification, and is therefore rightly condemned as preaching a different gospel (Gal 1:9).

  5. Christopher Esget,
    I guess the question then is: if they are American Arminians, and LC-MS inc. is not “the only saving church” why don’t they move their membership to one of the many American Arminian denominations? Again, what’s so special about the LC-MS per se that they stay in it when they are openly antagonistic to our theology and praxis?
    -Matt Mills

  6. I have been reading through the various posts in the different blog trails concerning “The Alley” and wanted to, as best I could, “visit” them so I have. Via the web I have begun listening (and watching) their messages (sermons) under _resources – I’ve gotten through two of the “Why I Believe” series so far.

    My opinion so far is that Jami (#6) who says, “Ours is a Christocentric faith, the Alley’s is an anthropocentric faith.” is exactly right. Pastor Ben does a pretty fine job in my limited sample of defining God’s love for us in what He has done through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. He also hits very close to the mark in our (mankind’s) total depravity before a righteous God. However, He and the folks giving their “testimony” (the term makes me shiver) speaking of faith only speak in terms of their faith, what they do, changes they make, etc. They are at best not mentioning and at worst totally missing the fact that faith – even our faith that is so personal to us – is a gift from God delivered to us by the Holy Spirit. Hence their focus being anthropocentric.

    Also – many are getting hung up with the lack of organized liturgy and vestments in use. I would ask, “Why is The Alley removing these things?” Historically they have been used for good and sanctified reasons. Vestments cover the “sinful” Pastor as Christ covers him with robes of righteousness and is a reminder to us that it is not the Pastor speaking from Scripture but Christ Himself. Liturgy, especially LSB and its (did I get it right Christopher?) resources, are wall-to-wall Scripture. Form and content in worship are connected. The unified (and historical) whole speaks volumes. It is WHERE Christ’s commission is carried out – baptizing and teaching all that I have commanded you. Go to the alleys and the malls, groceries, streets, post office, etc. and like Philip to Nathanael’s negative comment for what we have been shown, “Come and see.” (John 1:46) From there take them to where Christ has promised to be present – in His Word, in His Holy Communion, and in His Baptism.

    I will continue to “visit” The Alley…


  7. Paul,

    Thanks for the helpful review. Keep us posted on your future visits.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. Matthew,
    My guess is that it is because their pastor comes out of the LCMS and members of the LCMS have been willing to support them to get them up and going. Maybe it is also that some of them grew up in the LCMS and now can say, “look grandpa and grandma, I am still a member of your denomination even though I don’t exactly share all of your beliefs and practices. This is of course just speculation. I look forward to hearing from them why they want to be a part of a synod with a historic Lutheran confession and practice.

  9. Just finished listening to the “Why I Believe” series. Not a lot different than the first two however credit was briefly given to the Holy Spirit’s work in the fourth message.

    In listening to these I’m seeing a great similarity to the messages presented by Pastor Steve Benke and Pastor Ben Gonzales at the Jefferson Hills (Lutheran) Church (JHChurch) in Imperial, Missouri. I have reviewed all their messages since their “Satan Hates” series at Easter last year and have found their over-riding hermeneutic to be evangelism.

    JHChurch and The Alley appear to have such a zeal to reach people with Christ that they inadvertently (or willingly) fall into the what you can do, should do, must do law-based process because as Dr. Rod Rosenbladt has said on many occasions – it is natural for us as fallen people. In this they also eschew organized religion and its traditions, resources, and teachings. Funny that these LCMS, outreach congregations have disdain for the very organization that birthed them…

    As an aside – there is an “LCMS” organization in the Saint Louis area focused on starting 30 new “churches” called New Church Network – can be seen on-line at Headed by Steve Benke of JHChurch I already have feeling where they are going. Of interest to me was the resource that Pastor Yohannes Mengsteab (National Director for New Mission Fields Development, LCMS World Mission) and his team use to evaluate new “planter” candidates – “Charles Ridley’s 13 Characteristics of Effective Church Planters.” Of the 13 characteristics the only one that mentions God is “13. Believes in the power of God and lives and exercises his faith” which falls far behind “7. Is committed to consistent numerical growth” – telling. Pastor Mengsteab has only chastised me for asking the question about this resource and what actual “theological” criteria might be applied rather than provide some answer.

    The research continues.

    Paul in O’Fallon

  10. Matthew,

    I am making a rubbing together motion of my fingers. If you could see it in person it would indicate that it’s about money.

    If these groups or individuals would join a typical American Evangelical church or emergent church, they would be small fish in a big pond. They would also be shown up for the very behind the times message & practice they bring which is usually several years behind the cutting edge of the new way of doing church, whatever that new way may be at the time.

    But in the LCMS they appear to be avant-garde. Way ahead of everybody else & successful & oh so more concerned about the lost than anyone else. And this brings in the mission dollars. After all, who would a mission board rather give money to? A relevant, cutting edge, apparently successful mission that’s out there supposedly reaching all sorts of people in hip, new, exciting ways or a rural church that worships about twenty but who is faithfully teaching the Gospel, administering the Sacraments, & giving Christian burial to the saints, a church that to all human appearances seems to be dying?

    Plus, the LCMS has some pretty good benefits regarding health care & retirement.

    Of course, another reason I think these people stay is that somehow they truly think they are Lutheran & that nothing they are doing contradicts or changes Lutheran teaching. Plus, I think some of them see it as their job to save the rest of us from our benighted ways of doing things, like Word & Sacrament & Liturgical Worship. Oh yeah, & also our foolish belief that the Lord will build His church through the means He has chosen.

    But those are just my guesses as to why they do what they do. And in the end, it really doesn’t matter what their motivations are. It matters what they are doing. And it can clearly be seen that this isn’t just about changing some practices like liturgy or vestments or ways of doing outreach. It’s about a change in doctrine, from Lutheran doctrine, which is solidly Biblical, to the doctrine of American Evangelicalism & the Emergents et al.

  11. I believe that their motivation is important Pastor. If we are back to “business models” and “market share” (not unlikely imho) then as much as they dislike “museum keepers” like yourself (and “museum visitors” like me) they need to keep us in the fold. If this is about power and money, the mass defection of 33-45% of their congregations couldn’t help but reduce their bottom line. What’s the fun of being the president of a 1.3 million member LC-MS after all? (We’d be tied w/ the Mennonites for Pete’s sake!)
    If this is about theology, the Schwarmer can run roughshod over the Confessionals w/ 51%, but if this is about numbers and power, a strong minority like us, could be in a pretty solid position were we a touch better organized. Perhaps that makes Pr Henrickson’s piece worth a second read.
    Pax Christi,
    -Matt Mills

  12. Matthew,

    You’re certainly right, if all we’re trying to do is keep the institution together. I don’t think that’s a worthwhile goal, since it’s obvious we are so divided on theology that just keeping the structure going isn’t a help to anyone really. But I’ll take a look at Pr. Hendrickson’s article.

    I also think these people may be laboring under a belief, though, that if only they could get rid of the deadwood it would only be clear sailing from there. That is, once you cut off the dead weight, re: confessionals, then there’s nowhere to go but up & numbers & money would soon be recouped and we’d be bigger & better than ever.

    So, yes, it is about numbers & power & money, but for some it might mean the right sort of numbers, i.e. numbers who are only in agreement with us rather than numbers but numbers which are constantly holding us back from being all we can be.

    Of course, I think you’re right in that they want to keep the congregations for the most part & get rid of the confessional pastors & then they can gradually bring about the congregations to their message. Losing 33%-45% of the congregations would be devastating but losing some confessional pastors wouldn’t be a loss to them at all.

  13. Perhaps I’ve overstated my case Pastor.
    I’m not a big proponent of endless scism, but because of their numerical bent, I suspect that the Neo-Evangelicals care more about keeping the LC-MS institution together than the Confessionals do. If that is the case, it might give a better organized Confessional movement a good lever with which to effectively address issues of theology and practice w/in Synod.
    In Christ,
    -Matt Mills

  14. Matt,

    Yes, that I can agree with. The Neo-Evangelicals do need the structure of the LCMS more than the confessionals. They need the money to keep running their programs & being relevant. Oh, and to get consultants. 🙂

  15. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world,that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His son to be the propititaion for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

  16. Matthew & RevGeorge,
    I think you’ve got it. Now if we DO want to hold it together, we only need take off the head. With a new head (and the appointments it makes) we can bring things back to where they should be or we could strike out on our own and start over with true “synod”. I think it would be interesting to force the civil courts to rule on who can control the Universities and CPH etc. if it comes to a matter of faithfulness to the Confessions and especially the Constitution and By-Laws and Handbook.

  17. I John,

    What is love from Holy Scripture but Christ Himself as your passage points out, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.” Love is not ignoring or abiding with the straying and error of brothers and sisters in the faith but correction with the Word, that very Love, Christ, given us in Holy Scripture. As Paul writes to Pastor Timothy in 2 Tim 3 (ESV), “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” These verses especially apply to Pastors who each are the “man of God” according to their calling to present God’s Word to His flock but also to all of us Christians as well.

    I commend my brothers and sisters in Christ here at Steadfast Lutherans (not because they are Lutheran although they truly are) but because at least according to the saint placed in them through the faith given by the Holy Spirit they love those in our Synod (and the world for that matter) who are straying from or do not know at all the Truth of God in Jesus Christ and apply God’s Word, His Truth (John 17:17), to do as Saint Paul encourages Timothy.

    The Lord’s blessings be on us all in these discussions that we may not fall into Peter’s error but set our minds on the things of God rather than on the things of man. (ref: Matt 16:23 and Mark 8:33)

    Paul in O’Fallon

  18. Jesus said “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.” John 15:12

    “Love suffers long and is kind, love does not envy, love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil, does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, edures all things.”

    “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
    I Corinthians 13: 4-7, 13.

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