Good Stuff Found by Norm: Wild Boar on “Flame Alone”

Another posting from Wild Boar that makes a lot of sense .. He’s put up an article called Flame Alone and I wanted to post it here for your review.

I just received the latest missive from the Home Office. For those who pay attention, you may remember that the last convention of our synod approved a recommendation to re-instate the “stewardship executive” and the “evangelism executive”. (Funny, I thought the executive in charge of the Gospel was the pastor, but that’s for a different post.)

Lest anyone think that the resolution was an empty one, be ye rebuked! From hence has come thither a letter from the stewardship executive!

When I first saw it, I thought the motto they had chosen was “faith alone”. I thought, “That’s a strange motto for someone who is trying to convince people that the International Center needs money.” After all, looking at it, people might think, “Right, faith alone. So we just need to sit around believing the money will come in. No need to ‘get out my checkbook’, I’ll just think faith-ey thoughts.”

Of course, I was wrong. There is no way the stewardship department is foolish enough to pick a motto like “faith alone” (or for that matter, “scripture alone”, “grace alone”, or the latest fad – the fourth of the three solas, “Christ alone”.) The motto was :

“Faith Aflame”.

The logo is awesome. Some graphic design firm really earned their fee for that one. And the motto itself is sublime. It not only ties into the “Ablaze” program, but the words “faith aflame” are the greatest euphemism for money in the history of the church. Seriously. After reading it, even I thought, “I should send money.” After all, no one wants to be accused of their flame going out. And what better way to show our faith than sending money to headquarters, to support the really important work of the church. Oh sure, the congregations are important. But we all know that the real work of the church is done in boardrooms and conference halls.

Which brings me to a strange deception that is played out in our church. Pastors are told to “get out there” and see the people. Which is kind of strange, since in most cases the people aren’t all that thrilled to see us. But when a man is elevated to the episcopacy (or should I call it “the ecclesiastical supervision-acy”?) he is taken out of the congregation, and put in an office building, far from the influence of a congregation. For you see, he is far too busy to attend to things like preaching the Gospel, or administering the Sacraments.

I have an idea for “restructuring” that is far more radical than anything so far suggested by our administration : All district and synod officials are immediately part time, with their primary duties being in a congregation. (College and Seminary Profs, and Missionaries in the field excepted.) Leave everything else as it is for now. But they must serve a congregation at least 51% of the time. (And therefore receive at least 51% of their money from the congregation as well.) I guarantee that nothing so far suggested by either side of this debate would do more to emphasize the congregational nature of synod, and to place the Gospel in the front and center of all our endeavors.

I also guarantee that three years from now, the district and synod officials would be screaming for a real reduction in bureaucracy. They would no longer have the time to do all the “important things” that aren’t preaching the Gospel. A real plan – a dare I say it – a plan that works, would be presented to the synod.

*** Before you get all high-horseish about the seminary profs, remember that our seminaries need to stay accredited. They need time to stay current in theology, and studying is the best way. “But they don’t know what is going on out there”. Believe me, they do : Sem 1 students come in with the most bizarre ideas about the church and religion. Sem 4 students come back with horror tales of vicarage. They know what is out there. That’s why they need the time to ponder, study and react to it intelligently.

Anyway, all of this is simply my way of saying : Well done stewardship department. A logo and motto to be proud of.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Good Stuff Found by Norm: Wild Boar on “Flame Alone” — 24 Comments

  1. Maybe it is just me, but when I hear of “things ablaze” I see it as a bad thing.

    ie, “Oh no, my house is ablaze!”


    “Shoot! I accidentally set the barn ablaze!”


    “For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the LORD of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.”

    But maybe it is just me..

    Kiley Campbell

  2. Read this over at the Boar. Stellar choice posting this here!!!!
    Kiley, no…it’s not you. Ironic isn’t it, the choice of verbage out of St Louis…

  3. I always was disappointed that we didn’t choose the runner up idea for a campaign, “Ablase’!” With all the excitement and tumult in the world today, people are looking for something tired, limp and boring. Just imagine, we could have gotten Ben Stein to do all the videos, and the logo could be a pot of lukewarm water. Very, very catchy.




  4. To finish my thought…I don’t want my faith ablaze; its not mine to begin with, it is a gift from God, and how dare I set it on fire!! 🙂

    Being that I am in Mormon country in Wyoming, I liken LCMS-Ablaze with the burning in the bosom, which for me is just last nights pizza and beer raging its war on my gut: its annoying and stinketh much.

    Kiley Campbell

  5. Re: Seminary profs and College Religion Profs…

    Umm… they aren’t very good Seminary/Religion profs if they aren’t already preaching the Gospel DAILY in their classes. That is, after all, what we pay them to do — to preach and teach and catechize EVERY DAY! Through the current synodical structure, their work is tied to EVERY altar and pulpit of our Synod as they carry out the “auxiliary office” of Seminary Professor/College Professor of Religion for which we (rightly) have the qualification that they be ordained into the ministerium since they are teachers of The Church.


    Umm… EXCEPT for the need to maintain the ability to participate in GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS to SUBSIDIZE seminary education by subsidizing student loans because we, The Church, won’t pony up to train those whom we intend to call to labor among us as pastors — instead we make them pay their OWN way… why — EXACTLY — do we need to suck up the time of our seminary faculties, taking them more and more away from their study and teaching of God’s Word, so our seminaries can be accredited?!?!?!

  6. Thanks for the post, that was a touchdown! The Master of Divinity does need to be accredited so to make advanced degrees a possible avenue, but it would be nice if the Synod actually supported the Seminaries instead of simply making unfunded mandates.

  7. You have to love our synod and its stewardship slogans and catch phrases not to mention other strange language usage. When I read articles like the Reporter article, “Districts report positive results with revitalization, ‘Stewards'”, I sometimes wonder if our leaders are from another planet like the postal workers in the movie “Men in Black.” Here are some of the phrases that caught my eye and made me wonder what planet’s language they are speaking:

    At the Nov. 17-19 meeting of the LCMS Council of Presidents here, four district presidents told of such realities, efforts, and outcomes in a presentation dubbed “the economy of ministry.”

    But Consecrated Stewards, congregation-revitalization efforts, and a “Connecting the Congregations” PowerPoint presentation the district’s Board of Directors uses to communicate with circuit leaders and laity have “picked up the slack” for many congregations, he said.

    ‘igniting Christ’s church in mission’

    connecting with the unchurched and dechurched

    whole-life stewardship

    After discussion when other presidents shared how their districts and congregations are dealing with the economy, Synod President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick thanked the COP program committee for proposing the “economy of ministry” topic and those who addressed it.

    “I think this is one of the most helpful discussions we’ve had,” Kieschnick said, as he emphasized the importance of district presidents “sharing about what works.”

    Another Synod process aimed at changing the culture of stewardship is “Faith Aflame: 360 Degrees,” which Rev. Wayne Knolhoff, director of Stewardship Ministry with LCMS District and Congregational Services, addressed with the COP at its November meeting.

    Faith Aflame is “about our relationship in Jesus Christ and how He can effect change,” he told the COP.

    Congregations involved in Faith Aflame go through a three-hour introductory workshop for each of three modules that address six aspects of “whole-life intentional stewardship” — with God’s Word, as God’s child, as God’s family, as God’s leader, as God’s servant, and in God’s world. Congregations in the program commit to a yearlong learning process.

    Continuing its in-depth program emphasis of “ecclesiastical leadership in a post-church culture,” the COP in November participated in a Bible study focusing on doctrine and mission. Leading that study were California-Nevada-Hawaii District President Dr. Robert Newton and Rocky Mountain District President Rev. Randall Golter.

    Newton pointed out that although solid doctrine is indispensible for both the church and its Gospel outreach, doctrine can become an “idolatrous stumbling block” when Christians use it to “intentionally set boundaries and erect walls” that hinder outreach.

    “In the post-church era when the unchurched culture often seems to be culturally in charge, the church has remarkable potential,” he said. “Are we going to protect our man-made walls or tear them down, as our Lord instructed, in order to reach out in mission with the Gospel?”

    Dr. Glen Thomas, who spoke of work on a “Perceptions of Ministry Inventory.” He explained that the project will assist the COP, the Synod seminaries, and the LCMS Board for Pastoral Education (for which Thomas is executive director) in gathering data on perceptions from congregational leaders of ministry activities of their pastors who graduated from one of the LCMS seminaries two years and five years previously.

    On Nov. 19, the Council of Presidents met with the Synod Board of Directors to address “macro-funding” in the LCMS

  8. By all means, let’s take advice from Dr. (real or “tin star”?) “Sue old ladies” Newton on how to run the church!

  9. Please, someone, educate us all on how Synod officials and District Presidents are able to really stay in touch with what is going on in all of the congregations under their “supervision”. The only part-time DP that I am aware of is David Benke of the Atlantic District, who also serves a call to a congregation.

    I believe pastors serving in Synod, District, special agency and professorial positions need to be “freed” to have continuing education in their “field” – congregations, mission, etc., on a regular/periodic basis.

    Let’s have a new program modeled after the old University concept of “publish or perish”, and call it…..”Parish or Perish”!

  10. Randy,

    Good point. I do not know much about Benke other than theology but what little I have read from him on another blog site demonstrates that he knows his pastors well and spends a lot of time with them.


  11. C.S. #8. It’s time we ask the COP where “Missio Dei” comes into the picture. If I understand it, God decided enlist our help in His work of salvation, starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden. Let’s see, what to call THAT? How about “anthroposotierology?” Maybe the brothers and sisters on this site can help me out. Sounds kind of scary to me. If you read the new structure stuff, it’s all over the place. Talk about idolatry! The Gospel continues to be under attack!


  12. Rev. Wilken–“Missio Dei” would be a great topic for IssuesEtc. It will take a theologian of the first rank to unpack, unwind, and un-snarl that one!

    And may the Schwarz be with you!! (“T” or no “T”?)

  13. Johannes,

    Here is the short catechism on “Missio Dei.”

    1. “Mission” is not a Biblical term. It is used four times in the ESV and none have anything remotely to do with “Missio Dei.”

    2. “Missio Dei” or “mission of God” is a term invented by liberal theologians in the last half of the twentieth century who delight in taking the extremely concrete truth of our salvation (And in Jesus Christ his son, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, etc.) and making it vague through abstractions and conceptualization.

    3. The primary abstraction is that God’s very being is to reach out beyond himself. (There is most likely some Hegelian metaphysics behind this, i.e. that God – the thesis – divorces himself from himself by reaching out in mission – the antithesis – and now we the church, refelcting his being of reaching out are now on our way back to completion with him in paradise – synthesis.)

    4. Because of their love for abstraction Missio Dei theologians look down on attempts to express the truth of the Bible in simple, objective statements of fact such as are found in the Book of Concord.

    5. Read anything written by California-Nevada-Hawaii district president Robert Newton and you will have a perfect example of the convoluted way these folks think (or I should say how they don’t think). They use abstraction to hide their basic liberal orientation to life and theology.

    6. It is used by Newton and others as an excuse for doing new, funky things in the church that seem odd to us who are convinced that the job of the church is to simply proclaim the objective word of God. They believe that since the very nature of God is to reach out from himself to others that the church should be one large “reaching out” in mission. And that is what leaves common-sensical folks like you and me scratching our heads and asking “What?”


  14. @Pastor Tim Rossow #14
    Is mind-reading among your talents? I have just done #5 above, and was absolutely astounded that a DP would write such stuff. As I said, if you read the new structure material closely, it’s all over the place there. Newton’s paper, defending “accountability” (guess where that comes from), left me saying “What?” just as you described above. I said a few other things, as well.

    If C.F.W. Walther, that LCMS giant, were to awaken (you know, a “Sleeping Giant”) and return–kind of a Lutheran Rip Van Winkel–and see what has happened in the LCMS, he’d not only exclaim, “WHAT?”, he’d get a club and swing it in St. Louis, and elsewhere, with somewhat reckless abandon. He might use a seven-iron (biblical number) and commit mayhem. The purple palace would look a lot worse than that golfer in the news lately.

    That kind of stuff is so patently dangerous to the weaker brothers and sisters. How can his ecclesiastical supervisor let him publish that stuff?

    Thanks for the insights–you can get back to reading over tomorrow’s sermon.


  15. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    1. “Mission” is not a Biblical term.

    Sure it is. See St. John 20:21-23, to wit:

    21) dixit ergo eis iterum pax vobis sicut misit me Pater et ego mitto vos

    21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

    Christ sends for the forgiveness of sins. Cf. Romans 10. “Mission” is about the Office of the Ministry/the forgiveness of sins.


  16. I guess in a limited sense you could call “mission” a Biblical word but not too the extent or in the manner the “Missio Dei” gang uses it.

    I do not see evidence for the theology of “Missio Dei” in the use of the “pempo” word group in the New Testament. The John 20 use is certainly significant but most uses are rather pedestrian (pun intended), referring to sending for someone or something.

    The “Missio Dei” theologians are not thinking in terms of the concrete incarnation of Christ for the blood atonement and the succesive sending of stewards to pronounce that forgiveness.


  17. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    The “Missio Dei” theologians are not thinking in terms of the concrete incarnation of Christ for the blood atonement and the succesive sending of stewards to pronounce that forgiveness.

    That’s the point, really: it’s not that the word doesn’t occur within the framework of the work of the Church, but that the only time it significantly does, they don’t take it up, but try to establish everything except what the text indicates.


  18. Pastors Rossow and Stefanski, thank you for your insights into Missio Dei. They are very helpful. Without skipping over the layman’s “duty” to “always be ready…”, etc., it’s the office of the Ministry that is at the center of all this. And it’s my opinion that preaching needs a lot of work in our synod. My DP, a very wise man, has said as much, and is doing something about it. Interesting, too, that in his recent interview with Pr. Cwirla, Matthew Harrison said exactly the same thing. This is no “rabbit trail”–it is relevant to the original post. See A.C. V.

  19. I too wonder how our Synod and District officials stay in touch with congregations. The BRTFSSG proposals this summer talked about taking all term limits off Synodical and District positions. (I’m glad to see that is not in the current proposals.) I thought (and sent the suggestion to the committee) that rather than doing that, there should be term limits of no more than two terms; six years or so on EVERY Synodical and District position.

    This would hopefully encourage our leaders to return to congregational service. Were they to do that, I’m sure they would bring a different, more global perspective to the field. And new leaders would bring fresh ideas as well as maintaining that congregational perspective.

    District or Synodical leadership should not be an end unto itself. Unfotunately all too often that seems to be the case.

    Our leaders our human too and given the salaries that are paid in St. Louis, I’m sure it is difficult to return to congregtaional ministry. I found this on the LCMS website. It is from 2006, but I would assume it is still fairly accurate.

    “The maximum of the salary range for the four elected officers of the Synod and other executives in administration, higher education, and mission, plus chief executives at Lutheran Church Extension Fund, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Foundation, Concordia Historical Institute, and Concordia Publishing House equals 152 percent of the average salaries of the 150 highest-paid parish pastors and 150 highest-paid executives of agencies and institutions of the Synod participating in the Concordia Retirement Plan.”

    I am sure that those in leadership are good, hard-working men, but 152% of the “highest-paid parish pastors” seems excessive. It would make it financially difficult for anyone to return to the field and isn’t that where ministry and sharing the Gospel is taking place?

  20. The concept of “missio dei” is alive and well, and worshiped, in the Emerging Church. They’re all about God’s mission, and they’re co-creators, busy bringing God’s future into the present. They serve “the least of these,” but only in a physical sense, not so much in a spiritual sense. Social gospel only.

  21. @Scott Diekmann #21
    From what I’ve seen “missio Dei” is alive and well in the LCMS, emergent or no. It’s all over the Task Force recommendations. And, when you think about it, the “missio Dei” end justifies the Task Force’s means.

    I’ll be in Dearborn–I’ll look y’all up.


  22. Scott,
    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for using that term…Emerging Church. That is what this is, in all but correct verbage. Emergents are proud to use the term, why can’t we call it by it’s chosen name?

  23. One of the interesting terms quoted above was “whole life stewardship.” Based on my experience at a presentation given at district convention within the past year, this term may refer to getting pastors to make relationships with the elderly so that in their death they bequeath assets to the congregation and also the LCMS at large and in charge. Evidently alot of people with alot of assets will be dying soon. They called this the pig in a python phenomenon and showed a graph of the amount of people expected to pass away within the next decade and how many assets they own. It was so crass. Nobody said a word. At least Tetzel was publically humiliated. These guys should have been laughed down. People should have thrown food at them.

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