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 60532You 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.