Words Don’t Mean what they Say: An Ablaze Dictionary, by Pr. Rossow

In this edition of “The LCMS in Her Own Words” (see the Regular Columns page for more posts to this column) we focus on how words are getting new meanings in the church these days. Like most movements Ablaze has its own dictionary. For this series reviewing the Ablaze grants of the Northern Illinois District I have read about 75 pages of Ablaze-speak. After a while a pattern of changing the traditional meaning of words appears. Here are a few that I have noticed.


“Leadership” – In Ablaze double speak this means someone who is bold enough to trash the 2,000 year old liturgy. I’ve got to hand it to them, that does takes some chutzpah. Although, in one sense it is not leadership or bold at all because it is usually done in ignorance without the recognition that the liturgy is a living, breathing, scriptural tool that has served the church well and caused it to grow and thrive around the globe for 2,000 years.


“Vicar” – “Vicar” formerly meant someone who is in need of a year of on the job training with close supervision from a pastor before he is certifiable for ordination. Ablaze programs are being built around vicars. In the Ablaze world a vicar is a cheap way for the synod to start a new, out of the box program with a young skull of mush who may not know any better. Rather than the vicarage being focused on training the vicar for preaching and administering the sacraments, in Ablaze-land vicars are thrown into a whole new situation that even the supervisor is not experienced in. That does not seem to matter. What matters is the urgency of saving the lost and it matters so much that we can even sacrifice the crucial year of vicarage for it. (We will give an example of this later in the series.) An additional benefit for the Ablaze team in all of this that they are able to create new recruits for the Ablaze way of doing church by convincing young, impressionable candidates for the ministry think that ministry means doing wild, out of the box sort of things.


New Venue” – In the world of common sense language this means a new place or different location. In the Ablaze world “new venue” is double-speak for a whole new way to do church. Be careful if your pastor, church council and the local TCN consultant suggests a new venue for your church.


“Satellite” – The new meaning of this term is similar to “new venue.” A satellite in Ablaze-speak means a place where the pastor gets to do stuff that the conservative members of his congregation would not let him do at the original site and in addition because it is off site they aren’t annoyed weekly by it and will tend to be quiet about it at voters’ assemblies. (“Voters assemblies” – what’s that? That term does not exist in Ablaze speak and so we cannot provide the double-speak definition for it.)


“Dog Ministry” – What can I say? This one needs a lot of “splaining” so we will wait until the end of this series and spend an entire post on understanding this perplexing phrase.


I am sure you have some even better examples of Ablaze double speak. You can add to our Ablaze dictionary by using the comment box below or you can just let us know what you think about all of this.

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.


Words Don’t Mean what they Say: An Ablaze Dictionary, by Pr. Rossow — 15 Comments

  1. How about the word “movement” itself. Ablaze touts itself as a movement. And indeed it is. But as the Merriam-Wesbter’s on line dictionary reminds us all movements have goals or objectives.

    “a : tendency, trend b : a series of organized activities working toward an objective; also : an organized effort to promote or attain an end ”

    Now, given all of the changed meaning of terms, the trampling of Lutheran theology, and distribution of money for decidedly non-Lutheran practices one is compelled to ask: What is the real, but unstated “end” to which Ablaze works?

  2. I think the whole idea of “”Satellite” kind of relates to something Terry Mattingly said on IssueEtc. recently. He referred to “franchising”, and that’s kind of what the satellite does. But you are correct–Satellitism encourages, yea, enhances an “anything goes, do-your-own-thing” mentality and practice. It also probably gets a lot of unqualified men (and women, perhaps) acting in roles that were heretofore reserved for ordained clergy. Let’s call it what it is: “Stealth Pseudo-Church.”

    While you’re on definitions, how about “confessional.” An Ablaze guru or CG guy means “I read two of the three creeds a few times.” It doesn’t mean a whole lot more.

  3. Kind of reminds me of the way we’re being sold Obamacare.

    There is nothing “unintended” about the deadly consequences.

  4. “Ablaze! (R)” – “Torch your grandfather’s church!” – also an initiative to count good works – also an umbrella organization used to funnel money by closing down old inner city churches, selling the property, and using the funds to open coffee houses

    The “lost” – Methodists, Baptists, and other nondenominational evangelicals who got lost on their way to church and end up in a Lutheran church which they now want to change to their liking

    “Seekers” – baby boomers who are looking for their grown children in church, but they can’t find them, so they want a more hip 70’s style worship service to make themselves feel better and make their kids want to come back to church

    “Executive” – well paid effective people who lead church leaders and who are willing to support any gimmick for the sake of attracting the lost and paying the bills.

    “Mission” – a coffee house in your church

    “Mission Trip” – layman’s vacation to a third world country

    “Mission vision” – church executives envisioning a movement of more power, money and authority away from local congregations toward them

    “Prayer” – requests for our will to be done in the most glorious way possible

  5. Such ‘leadership’ isn’t bold at all, and it isn’t leadership at all. It’s just following something else and getting others to go along, with all the courage of no convictions.

  6. Moderates: those that are in the middle, meaning they go along to get along and want all their sheep kept in the dark of everything happening in the synod. They think strictly liturgical pastors are “rigid”, but they themselves are extremely rigid at remaining moderate, which means don’t stand for anything. Only troublemakers take stands.Boy, what would we do without those moderates? I’m sure glad Martin Luther wasn’t one of those!

  7. Trouble is, the so-called Moderates are not moderate at all. They have snookered everyone by claiming that name. The record speaks for itself.

  8. My little act of defiance (which I would suggest for all Confessionals) is to use the word “program” rather than “movement” whenever talking about “Ablaze ™.” It’s not the only (or probably the best) example, but when we use their terminology “the man wins.”
    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  9. Adiaphora: The parts of acting Lutheran that I don’t like.

    Choir: Singers in matching t-shirts who back up the praise band.

    Ministry: Me being an EFFECTIVE witness thru all I do and say outside of church, as well as thru the VERY IMPORTANT TASKS I’m assigned (and assign myself) within the church. For example: ushering ministry, puppet ministry, music ministry, teaching ministry, etc. Formerly: ‘vocation’; altered to reflect a new results-orientation.

  10. Wow!!!! Some outstanding observations here. Kari is spot on re the rigidity and vapidity of moderates.

    And as far as Matt’s gem, “when we use their terminology ‘the man wins,’ I would like to emphasize that the assumptions, presumptions, and premises that make up our set of Lutheran “givens” is where the synodical battle needs to be fought. It’s part of that old wisdom, “He who defines the terms wins the battle.”

    Up to now that has been left to the errorists. But isn’t that always the case? It’s how they get their foothold.

    The Church Growth/Contemporary or Creative Worship/Willow Creek/Purpose Driven/ABLAZE! Folk invariably preface their apologetics something like, “Oh, we all believe the same thing. We just think there are better ways to get our message across and execute our mission.”

    Being the good 8th Commandment followers that we are, we don’t challenge their assertion lest we be accused of breaking the “Best Construction Clause’ and forever branded as mean-spirited and uncaring. We live in fear of being pigeonholed with dead orthodoxy or being seen s the purveyors of cold doctrine.

    The very fact that we don’t challenge their assertions is born of the reality that we already have been so branded—and what’s more, that we validate them.

    But none of these condescending condemnations, or the premise from which it is conceived holds water. Why?
    1. Tolerating or ignoring the false assumptions and assertions of those we live with and care about is no virtue. In fact if anything is mean-spirited and uncaring, it would be to allow our dear brothers and sisters to remain in their errors. For to remain in error means to remain in the teaching of the evil one.
    2. Orthodoxy, by definition the right practice of the faith, is never dead. If it is orthodox, it breathes the very breath of God, and thus the breath of life.
    3. Lutheran doctrine is Christian doctrine. It is the doctrine of the one true faith handed down to us through the holy Christian Church by the Apostles, who received it from the Lord Himself. And that doctrine far from being cold, is the very stuff of salvation. [1 Timothy 4:16]

    Isn’t it time, out of love for our brothers and sisters in Christ and in the spirit of truth, that we challenge their premises and examine our common assumption of holding to the same confession of the faith? Rather than merely saying we believe the same thing, maybe it’s time to actually sit down together, study our Lutheran Confessions, see if our presumptions are valid, and actually confess together the details of what we believe, teach, and confess in word and deed.

    The devil lies in the details. Given our sinful and contemporary proclivity to use the same term in different and often contradictory ways, I would submit that we are likely to find that we do not, in fact hold and subscribe to the same confession of the faith.

    If I am wrong, such an exercise will prove that we are indeed still walking down the same road and it’s past time we put an end to the infighting. But if I am correct, it’s past time we admit it and go our separate ways.

    And, perhaps, therein lies the rub. Neither one of those is a particularly pleasing resolution.

  11. Pastor Hering,
    your suggestions sound a lot like those proposed by Pastor Matt Harrison in his paper “It’s Time” (see elsewhere on this site)

  12. Ablaze and the direction the LCMS seems to be going is really concerning me. Is there any hope?

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