More Potty-Talk from the Northern Illinois District and a Description of an LCMS Congregation You Won’t Believe; Further Proof of a Downward Slide Toward the Culture, by Pr. Rossow

Every week one of the full time staff members of the  Northern Illinois District (NID) of the LCMS sends out an e-mail with news about the small groups program in the district. The most recent email included the following:

“Small group point leaders are those people who coordinate (paid or volunteer) your church’s small group effort.   The next meeting of the NID Small Group Point Leaders is scheduled for …

Thu, Sep 24, 2009
10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Trinity Lutheran Church
1101 Kimberly Way
Lisle, IL   60532

 You won’t want to miss this first meeting of the fall!!  

Topic:   “What is Centripetal Assimilation?” or “Why Your Groups Should Suck””

Apparently “centripetal assimilation” means attracting members into your group. It is unfortunate that he used the crude sexual reference of “sucking” to describe it.

The good news is that as soon as I and another pastor from the district e-mailed the staff member who sent this out he changed the language on the website. We are grateful for his change of mind. None the less, this still stands as another small reminder that the LCMS is on the same general track that took the ELCA to its latest rejection of God’s truth in favor of the morality of the culture.

This is not the first time this has happened in the NID. We reported the problem with the  infamous “shift happens” and “size matters” opening devotion at the district convention in June.

Of course the greater slip into the mindset of the culture is the fact that the NID would promote small groups at all, even without potty-talk. The small group approach to church organization is built on the false premises that church is about relationships and not holy absolution, that connections are formed around warm and fuzzy discussions and not through Holy Communion and that the word is taught by layman to layman and not through the preaching and teaching of the ordained ones.

The LCMS is definitely sliding toward the culture. Consider the fact that even though we have been in contact with his office for months about this, President Kieschnick has still not resolved the problem of the gay activist who is the music director for a church in the Pacific Northwest.

Also consider this comment that we received yesterday on the website  (see comment 12):

Thank you Pr. Wollenburg for this treatment of article XIV. I think I need to try a similar approach in my congregation, where anything resembling conformity to the Confessions is sorely absent.

What do you think we are to make of situations where the “elders” believe their vocation is one of governance over the called pastor, and feel entirely free to preach in his absence, without his input or oversight?

This is what happened to me this summer when I was going to be gone for a Sunday on vacation. After much discussion, the board of elders concluded that one of them would lead the service and offer “the message,” though they were not sure who would take on the task at that time. Complicating matters, over half of our elders are women. On a separate occasion, one of these female elders was surprised and noticeably put off when I informed her that it would not be appropriate for her to take the pulpit. She said she knew of no justification for my argument.

You rightly point out that the pastor, rigorously prepared and rightly called, is the right individual to oversee all preaching and teaching in a congregation. He has been trained in the Scriptures and the Confessions. It’s his life and character that has been tested and found as meeting the standards for the office. He is the one who has been called to shepherd, to lead.

What is then to be made of Sunday school teachers who do not know the Confessions or regard them highly? What of teachers who openly admit to never having studied the Small or Large Catechisms? How about when such teachers are regarded as qualified by the education committee, which alone determines the qualifications for teachers and approves curriculum?

Is the pastor still the pastor when his leadership is reduced to the non-voting seat of the council and elders, populated by whomever is willing to be elected, with no regard to qualifications? Previous council and elders at my congregation have included (most prior to my tenure, but some continuing now): member who maintained concurrent membership at a UCC church, member who openly expresses disagreement with Christ’s true presence in the Lord’s Supper, member who is now joining an ELCA church since that body is affirming her long-held belief that homosexuals should be welcomed into the church and into the ministry, and the LCMS is not.

This is what I have to contend with when I say that our communion practice is too open, or that a contemporary song conveys heretical undertones and its regular use should cease, or that a certain person discovered in a public sin should abstain from communion until after consulting with me privately. Matters including the standards for teachers, qualifications and proper role for lay elders, contents of worship services and the use of the Divine Service vs. contemporary forms are all tied up in this as well. I don’t actually have a say – I get to make my case, and the committee votes. I believe it’s apostate, but it doesn’t really seem to matter what the pastor thinks.

The LCMS now approves of women elders, why would we not approve of women preaching? This is the same trajectory the ELCA took to the apostate state in which they  now find themselves. The basic logic of the church growth movement, of which small group “ministry” is a component, is based on making the church relevant by growing similar to the culture.

The LCMS is on a slippery slope and we see no evidence that President Kieschnick has lifted a single finger to place in this dike of a pending flood that is carrying us to the same place at which the ELCA train-wreck has arrived. Our public statement is that we still believe in the inerrancy of scripture, and that has held the flood at bay but the countless examples of practice against this statement and the lack of synodical or district supervision belies the true course we are on and that really… (choose your words carefully here)  stinks.

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.

Comments

More Potty-Talk from the Northern Illinois District and a Description of an LCMS Congregation You Won’t Believe; Further Proof of a Downward Slide Toward the Culture, by Pr. Rossow — 23 Comments

  1. I was grieved, as always, to hear about the sad state of affairs among us. However, I couldn’t help but grin at your use of three metaphors in one sentence (the first sentence of the last paragraph). It really is a bad day when you go off the rails, slide down the slope, and end up beneath a leaky dike…

  2. The LCMS now approves of women elders, why would we not approve of women preaching? This is the same trajectory the ELCA took to the apostate state in which they now find themselves.

    Yes, but the real problem is that we, like the ELCA, officially allow for contradictory doctrinal positions to exist side by side. Congregations in the LCMS may approve of women elders, lectors, communion assistants, etc., or they may not. Just like congregations in the ELCA may choose to call gay pastors, while others may choose not to do so. It is this “agree to disagree” about what God’s Word says mentality that puts us on the same course with the ELCA. And I agree wholeheartedly that the course we are on really stinks!

    Don’t know if this is appropriate or not (the moderators can delete this if they wish), but I flesh this out a little more on my blog.

  3. It is very appropriate Tom. I have wanted to write a post introducing your blog and just have not gotten around to it.

    If you send me a few reminders at my personal e-mail address maybe I will remember.

    TR

  4. George,

    You would think so. They just keep coming up with newer and newer morphs of it – first it was for the church, then it was for the neighborhood, next it will be for who knows?

    TR

  5. Caution should always be exercised when choosing words for any church-related publication, email, etc. That word should not have been used because of what many people think it means.

    Having said that, the word actually means “sucks wind,” which is a reference to a person being so out of shape that he becomes excessively short of breath from just a little bit of exercise. So when someone performed very badly in athletic events, it would sometimes be said that he “sucks wind,” and “wind” was eventually dropped from that.

    Note that “sucks wind,” like the single word, connotes inferior performance. The other phrase thought to be associated with the single word, does not carry that meaning.

    Like I said, words should be chosen with caution, and I would never dream of using that word publicly in a church-related context. But I bring this up only because when possible, we should be charitable toward people and give them the benefit of the doubt.

  6. sorry, Kaleb, but that’s not what it meant when we used it in college.

    There was no doubt that it definitely had a derogatory sexual reference.

  7. Fellow Lutherans, what will be next for you, and your flock? Do you fix from within or do you reorganize? What does scripture say?

  8. I don’t deny that the word carries that meaning for many people, which is why, if it must be used at all, it should be used with great caution. My only point is that when it comes to the connotations that words may carry, the responsibility for understanding goes both ways.

    A staff member who sends out emails to a broad audience needs to exercise responsibility by being aware of the connotations of the words he uses, as much as possible. But if I encounter language that bothers me, it is also my responsibility to give the benefit of the doubt where such doubt exists.

    The purpose of my comment was to make you all aware that such doubt does exist in this case. That does not let the staff member off the hook, but it may cast his mistake in a different light.

  9. There have now been three phrases, which have sexual or scatological connotations, inappropriately used by the NID in their promotion of church-related activities.

    Have these three phrases originated in contributions from the same person at NID? Does NID have someone who checks NID documents for quality before they are publicly released?

    BTW, during the 70s and 80s Johnny Carson used to see how many double entendre phrases he could get past the NBC censors during his “Art Fern and the Tea Time Movie” skits. By the 1990s, the skits became passé because any risque meanings were, by then, being said explicitly on TV, in commercials, or in news articles talking about Monica’s ex-boyfriend.

  10. Using such expressions, a la Jefferson Hills’ infamous statement by Satan, is just another example of the church trying to be culturally relevant. In the ELCA, it’s descended to ordination of women and homosexuals. In the LCMS, it’s contemporary worship, open communion, and this kind of language. Who is this supposed to appeal to? What does this say about those in positions of authority, such as the person who wrote this garbage? The LCMS’ leadership has forgotten who they are, and many of us have, as well.
    Dr. Kuhn was right.

    “Lutheran Teacher”, you make a valid point.

  11. ==Of course the greater slip into the mindset of the culture is the fact that the NID would promote small groups at all, even without potty-talk. The small group approach to church organization is built on the false premises that church is about relationships and not holy absolution, that connections are formed around warm and fuzzy discussions and not through Holy Communion and that the word is taught by layman to layman and not through the preaching and teaching of the ordained ones. ==

    So then using this same logic, we shouldn’t have Sunday School, bible study or any sort of devotion where laymen lead since that would be laymen teaching laymen…

    Is the exact methodology of teaching used by our fathers in the church the only methodology that is allowed period.

    If a small group lesson is confessional it is still bad?

    I agree with most of what you folks say here, but does staying confessional require the rejection of every new idea or approach? Is that at end of the day what the confessional faith is?

    I guess I am looking for some help understanding why small groups are bad. As I understand your argument any gathering that is not a worship service is bad.

  12. Henry,

    You raise some good questions. I have written a paper on this and also did a show on Issues, Etc. on this. I will try to get the paper uploaded as a pdf and then will send you the link.

    TR

  13. George and elephantchild,

    Could of fooled me about the passe-ness of small groups. I graduated from college in 2005 and the majority of “christian” groups on campus utilized small groups in some form or another. I hate to say it, but even the fraternity I joined had their own. And as I understand it, places like Saddleback still do. I agree with Pr. Rossow – I think the aim/purpose of the “small group” may have changed, but they’re definitely still here.

    Henry,

    Following up the point I just made and to reiterate, it may be what the “small group” aims to accomplish or how it does it that is the problem. There would be a big difference between a laymen who has been faithfully taught true Biblical doctrine and who, perhaps, has even studied further individually teaching straight from the Book of Concord, versus someone “leading” everyone in expressing what they think a passage of the bible means or how it makes them feel or how it’s relevant to their lives.

    Ray

  14. One of the dangers of small groups was vividly brought home to me recently when a friend from my former congregation told me, “I really like our clique….I mean, you know, our small group Bible study.” I said, “Did you really mean clique?” She laughingly replied, “Well, I guess it is accurate. We don’t do that much Bible study, anyway.” Well-intentioned, but not fulfilling the intended purpose. There is also a tendency toward exclusiveness in small groups–it’s very hard for a new person to feel welcome–in fact, the closeness of the group causes the new person to feel very much an outsider.
    The dangers should be obvious–the “closeness” and “community” atmosphere in a small group tends to distance the members from the larger body of Christ in that congregation. That is to say nothing about the spiritual dangers of studying the Bible, as Transforming Churches, LCMS version teaches, “What does this passage mean to me?” And so the sheep are shepherdless, and prone to wander off into dangerous territory.

  15. And another thing! There is a world of difference between a small group meeting in a home with a casual atmosphere, refreshments, and socializing, then going on to some kind of “what does this say to me Bible study,” and a Sunday School or Adult Bible class. The SS class is structured, the teachers have, we hope, been well instructed and trained by the pastor (!!), there is a lesson plan, and the time is limited.

  16. “What do you think we are to make of situations where the “elders” believe their vocation is one of governance over the called pastor, and feel entirely free to preach in his absence, without his input or oversight?”

    Where on earth did this doctrine come from, where was it started, who promoted it? Who decided that the term “elder” (presbyter) which is used exclusively for ordained clergy in the New Testament should in any way apply to a layman? In a former parish, I had some “elders” who acted like this until I read them their duties on the constitution of the congregation, each statement which began, “to assist the pastor.” And to think that in the Augustana, the office of the ministry article is entitled “order in the church.”

  17. Karl,

    In partial answer to your question, I believe it is in his Pastoral Theology that Walther uses the text from Timothy that speaks of elders that labor in the word and those who do not as support for lay elders. That is the only Biblical attempt tat I have ever seen for support of this notion.

    I agree with you that the notion of a board of overseers for the overseer is silly. In our parish constitution we too have the notion of assist. However, in order to keep the pastors from lording it over the congregation we state clearly (got this from Luther) that the parishioners are to listen for the voice of Christ from the pastor and if they do not hear it they are to rebuke him in love with Christ’s true word. We identify the lay elders as the front line of this protection of God’s word in the parish.

    TR

  18. Said very well. We are already seeing the affects of underlying gospel reductionism and gnosticism among in the LCMS. Female lectors prevail in many places along with female “elders” and congregational presidents. These things should not be if we are following Scripture.
    Kyrie eleison.

  19. It is too bad that through poor catechesis, lack of discipline, latent pietism, and good ol’ American pragmatism we have slid into a way of being church and doing theology that suggests we care little about doctrine and that our will to power commands too much respect among us.

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