(The other posts in this series can be viewed by clicking the Editor’s Blog in the Brother’s Cafe.)
The opening devotion of the Northern Illinois District (NID) convention included a couple of off-color references. When he was called on it, the presenter confessed the error before the whole convention and was given forgiveness by the District President. The whole thing was really weird. In the end, I think it illustrates all too poignantly how the new way of doing church promoted by President Kieschnick and many other leaders of the synod, has brought the world into the church.
My introduction to the convention was rather unusual. I forgot to bring my badge so I had to stand in the line where they printed new ones. The guests were also in that line. It turns out that I was standing next to President Kieschnick who was getting his guest badge printed. We exchanged pleasantries and I reminded him that I was one of the four NICL pastors who spent time in his office last spring hearing his confession for calling us schismatic and disruptive. I did not need to remind him. He remembered who I was.
The unusual beginning to the convention continued as I heard praise songs emanating from the convention hall. I chose to wait outside until this silly portion of the “show” was over. I was not alone. There were a dozen or so of my confessional cohorts also out in the hall waiting out the silliness as if they were waiting out some sort of “latter day shower of acid rain” before entering the convention hall. The NID has had contemporary worship for the convention services in the past but this was a new low, contemporary music played in the background to warm us up for each session of the convention.
The unusual nature of my introduction to the convention reached a peak with the opening devotion. One of the leading pastors of the church growth movement in our district (his name is not important because my point here is not personal but paradigmatic) proceeded to open the convention with a devotion on the importance of change in the church. There was no scripture read or preached. There was no proper distinction of law and gospel and there was no reference of Christ in the devotion. There was however, a 10 minute secular video on the rapid nature of change in our culture today. When a confessional Lutheran views such a video about the rapid change in culture it just screams out the truth that we for the church to remain steadfast but of course the pastor’s point was the exact opposite – the church must change right along with culture or die.
As if that was not a bad enough representation on how far the church has sunk, there was a demonically ironic use of language in the video that furthered the thesis that the NID and the entire LCMS for that matter, is losing its nature as the church and caving in to the culture.
We have long lamented the loss of reverence in the church via the bringing of coffee cups into the sanctuary, for that matter even the turning of sanctuaries into coffee houses, the loss of churchly music as the new church embraces the commercial sound of praise ditties and so forth and so on. But this devotion brought us a new low in forsaking our grandfather’s church. One of the opening lines of the “devotional” video, written in large white letters on a dark background was taken right out of the Viagra generation – “sometimes, size does matter.” How disgusting. The opening devotion for the convention of the Northern Illinois District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the year of our Lord 2009 with President Kieschnick on the convention floor, encourages change in the church via a reference to the male sex organ. What is worse is that no one did anything about it. Four hundred of the finest leaders the LCMS can raise up in Northern Illinois along with their bishop and the president of the synod, said nothing about this. We have left our grandfather’s church and grown numb to the intrusion of the culture into the church.
But that was not the end of it. The last five minutes of the video featured repeatedly the phrase “shift happens.” (For those of you purer in mind than me, this is a reference to the culture’s popular phrase “shi_ happens”). Once the video was over the pastor leading the devotion repeated the phrase “shift happens” at least three more times.
I will be the first to admit that using these phrases in ordinary conversation is not the worst thing in the world. However, when these sorts of references are allowed into the church, in its public discourse, as the fundamental message of the opening devotion of one of the largest districts in our synod, then it has become sadly true that this is no longer our grandfather’s church. The new measures being undertaken in the LCMS by its leadership to change the way we do church (contemporary music, emphasis on practice over doctrine, leadership training, Blue Ribbon proposals, etc.) are resulting in a church that is indeed changing by losing its scriptural and moral moorings. It’s time for a change of a different sort. It’s time for a change back to the solid, confessional, and indeed creative, but not immoral and trendy church of our grandfather.
There is more to the story but that will have to wait until the next post. I did eventually confront Bishop Gilbert, President Kieschnick and the entire convention floor. There was confession, absolution and even President Kieschnick making a bee-line to my chair on the floor to have a little conversation with me. I’ll share that little episode with you next time.