A Church Divided

The parishioners of St. John Lutheran Church in Kendallville, Indiana are blessed as they sing hymns during the Divine Service in their beautiful and ornate sanctuary – at the north end of the building. Concurrently, at the south end of the building, a different group of parishioners are singing praise songs in the “worship center.” They are a church divided.

St. John’s sounds a lot like a generic evangelical church-growth type church, similar to many other churches in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that have compromised their Lutheran identity in order to “church the unchurched.” According to their website, St. John’s is “here to give glory to God by using as many ways as possible to bring as many people as possible into:

  • a life-long personal relationship with Christ;
  • a life-long, growing commitment to Christ;
  • and a lifetime of joyfully serving Christ.”

These goals mimic the evangelical church theology that has been imported along with the praise bands and Hawaiian shirts – they emphasize the Christian, not the Christ. By now you’re probably yawning – you’ve heard it all before. But wait! Now you can have the video to go along with the text, courtesy of YouTube. The following video’s music and lyrics were created by the Principal of the school at St. John’s. He’s an integral part of the congregation, having preached there (though he’s not a pastor), and is a member of their “worship team.” He takes “using as many ways as possible to bring as many people as possible” to a whole new level:

Woe is me. Our theology has become so poor and shallow that in a synod whose liturgical services begin in the name of the Triune God, we can now tuck a football under Jesus’ arm and contrast Him with sweaty smack-talking football players. While I assume the intent of the artist is to present a God-pleasing Gospel message, doesn’t this video rob Jesus of His honor, reducing Him to a cheesy quarterback? God incarnate, who created the universe, and the radiance of the glory of God, is assigned a place of honor a little higher than Peyton Manning, the MVP quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts. In keeping with evangelicalism’s frequent theme, Jesus has become our spiritual cheerleader. Instead of singing “the Savior arose, and death, hell, and Satan He vanquished, His foes,” and “hail Him as thy matchless king through all eternity,” we’re singing “third and long he rose again” and “touchdowns all around got nothing on what God can do!” It’s a little like contrasting Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel to the fine art on the front of that Wheaties box that’s sitting in your pantry. The difference ought to be alarmingly obvious.

On a larger stage, isn’t this church emblematic of the LCMS as a whole? A sanctuary at one end, and a worship center at the other. At one end, the people humbly bow as the crucifix passes by. The chasuble-clothed pastor, gathered in the midst of the parishioners, speaks Christ’s salvific Word of the Gospel. At the other end, the people gaze at the screen as the polo-shirted pastor (or not), stands on stage and delivers today’s key Bible passage. Was there ever a more stark contrast in theology than this? Luther and Zwingli “got nothing” on this contrast.

A long dark metaphorical corridor separates the sanctuary and the worship center. On the floor of the corridor is a string with a Dixie cup affixed to each end in case either side wants to speak to the other. Those Dixie cups have been laying there gathering dust for a long, long time. While the dust gathers, the lifeblood of the LCMS, the doctrine of Christ, slips between our fingers. We must close our hand to grasp the didache of Christ, before it entirely slips away. This isn’t a time for either “side” to sit smugly and point fingers at the other. It’s a time for repentance. Like Hilkiah’s rediscovery of the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22), we must, like King Josiah upon hearing its words, tear our clothes and repent of our own disobedience to the Word of the Lord. We must reaffirm that which we have sworn to confess, so that we may come before the Lord’s throne with boldness, receiving His good gifts and rightly proclaiming to the world what He has done.


Comments

A Church Divided — 246 Comments

  1. To be fair, the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” are marginally better. Jesus is nowhere to be found, and “Lord” occurs once in six verses. “Grace” is capitalized, but that’s about as far as it goes. As with the songs above, this song needs a Christian context.

    That being said, with due respect to all the bloggers of whatever persuasion, I rest my case.

    Johannes, the CW-challenged

  2. Neil,

    Perhaps you could submit your cd to the songwriter’s seminar being held at St John’s Ellisville this spring. You can get info at the LCMS website. LCMS.org/songwriter. The seminar is beint put on by the CoW.

  3. Grepke ET AL: 25 years ago when the CW was gearing up to full steam I belonged to an LCMS congregation that was incorporating CW into the congregation. All 3 of my sons were involved and I lead the youth group in theater and singing with the Gaithers as the focal/vocal point (among other CM artists). We had the praise bands and the seminars, the prayer and praise services, mixed liturgy with contemporary music. etc.etc.

    My kids were invited to attend Charismatic, non-denom and AoG functions with kids from other families. That included not only services but Christian recording artists of CM. My kids getting the idea that since I let them go to these “functions” that I was condoning them. They saw that since our church format was alot like the other denoms that we all believed the same thing and that they could justify believing whatever came out of these churches. In other words they didn’t see any different between our church and the other denoms. In my naivity I didn’t see the problem. Since then my kids have left the LCMS. One goes to a non-denom and the others don’t go anywhere.

    The same problems I had 25 years ago is what LCMS is experiencing full force now. What we teach the children is that if we go the CW route, like the other denoms that do it, then we are condoning the teachings also. CW is a huge phenominin and

  4. Oops — hit the “comment” button accidently. Anyway…………… CW is a huge phenomenon and is incorporated unilaterally into 100s of denoms. They all have there own theology and it is confusing to our children (and many adults) when the see CW in so many other churches. This gives the idea to them that just about anything goes thus watering down our Lutheran teachings as just another “opinion”.

  5. Alex wrote:

    Being brought up a Lutheran I can see how you might read in Lutheran theology, but for those who were not, such as those you try to reach out to with such music, I don’t see how they can come away from those songs “with something that is almost exclusively Christ-centered… and very instructive about his undeserved love and his sacrifice.”

    Exactly! This is something that those promoting CW fail to understand. Properly catechized Lutherans MIGHT be able to read their theology into the lyrics of many CCM songs, but those not properly catechized simply cannot do so. I’ll say it again: If those promoting CW really desired to proclaim the basic truths of the Gospel to people who don’t know them, they would NEVER use CCM songs, but would employ solid, doctrinally pure, Gospel-proclaiming hymns. It is obvious what their intent really is, namely to make people feel good, entertain them, and invoke an emotional response from them. The Gospel plays second fiddle to these true goals!

    I know . . . been there, done that, got the T-shirt (literally).

  6. @John E #203
    John,

    I feel your pain, brother. I have experienced the same thing, having had family members who belonged to an LCMS congregation doing CW for years jump ship to methobapticostal or non-denominational congregations. They simply don’t see the difference. Why? ‘Cause there really is no difference. Well, there is one difference: In the LCMS congregation, they used wine for Communion. But, that’s about it.

    One would think that this phenomenon would be enough to give Lutherans promoting CW pause. But, unfortunately, they march on. Their response to losing members who leave our congregations for non-Lutheran congregations because the “praise band” is better is to do their best to make their own “praise bands” better. It doesn’t occur to them that the real problem is that they are employing the same theology of worship as these other congregations. It would be comical if it wasn’t so sad.

  7. John E:

    Good points. Just a little background on myself: I came out of the LCMS four years ago. The LCMS started an “Ablaze” church three miles from my home. At that time, I didn’t know anything about the “Ablaze” movement. I had assumed the new LCMS church would be confessional, liturgical Luthernism.

    I was so dissapointed. Here I thought that I would have a Lutheran church, right in my own back yard. The pastor had a mindless praise band and he was like a cheerleader, trying to motivate the masses into emotionalism. Many of the folks left and went to different WELS churches in the area.

    Unfortunately, almost all of the LCMS churches in Arizona are like Calvary Chapels. Many of those in the LCMS churches, are leaving and joining WELS churches.

    I think that it is great, that the lines are being drawn, between confessional Lutherans of all synod’s, that are fed up with Methodist, pentacostal, Baptist stuff being forced down our throats.

    By the way, I have two 14 year old’s and an eight year old. They love the old Lutheran hymns, and think that contempory worship sounds wierd. Yes, the old hymns are for the young also. And, they are singing sound theology into their hearts!

  8. Thank you to Mary, Alex and John for encouraging posts… Mary for the invite and Alex and John for the insight. I think the idea that the common “link” of CCM between denominations DOES run the risk of suggesting that we have shared understanding of Scripture. This might be the most valuable comment made in this entire discussion.

    As you might guess, this does not motivate me (at this point) to reject CCM wholly. When I first had kids, I declared we would NOT have a TV. I didn’t want them exposed to the garbage and I didn’t want to have a family culture where the idiot box was on all the time. My mom said, “Why not just turn the TV off?” A few years later, I realized there was a way to use the television that is both instructive and beneficial to my kids. I feel the same way about CCM, but your comments are bolstering my desire to make sure we are doing it “right.”

    I’d like to submit one of the better songs from the new CD (called “Not a Thing I Can Do”) for your commentary and feedback. There is a version on YouTube from the day I wrote it. I later changed a lyric (send us IN truth instead of send us YOUR truth). You can hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZ3HDDKIpOU

    This is not a law-gospel message song, to be sure. It is based closely on the prayer Jesus prayed to the Father concerning the protection of the disciples in their current and future ministry. The sermon text the Sunday we introduced this was John 17:11b-19.

    The lyrics are:
    Holy Father, look down upon this world. We are here — called to do Your perfect will.
    And loving Father, guard us in that work, in the name — the name You gave Your Holy Son.

    CHORUS
    Sanctify; Glorify; Send us in truth.
    Magnify; Help us to find Your way in this world. Sanctify.

    Holy Jesus went home to reign on high. And He left us to tell the world what He has done.
    And He said, “Father, protect them by Your power, in the name — the name You gave Your Holy Son”

    CHORUS

    You know Jesus sent us into this world with His joy, His grace and His abundant love.
    We’re in the world, but not of this world. Shield us from the power of the evil one.

    CHORUS

    Again, this song does not specifically reference our status as poor miserable sinners or Christ’s bloody sacrifice as the only means through which God reconciles us to Him, but it is, I believe, a useful prayer modeled after Christ’s example.

    I welcome your feedback, as scathing as it may be.

    🙂

  9. By the way, if I have overlooked any direct questions that I have been called to account on, please repost them. I do not want to appear as if I have sidestepped anything, which I would never do, despite the frequent accusations of doing so by a friend of mine at the Fort Wayne Sem. 🙂

  10. Neil,

    Thanks for being such a good sport. This is the sort of mature dialogue that we need in the LCMS on these crucial issues that divide us.

    I will save my “scathe” for later. 🙂

    Like others on this string, I used to be where you are. I learned some really hard lessons by practicing certain church growth methods and have come to realize over the years that traditional, historic and liturgical Lutheranism is the surest way to pass on the Gospel.

    TR

  11. @Neil Grepke #211

    At first look, I’ll give it an “8”. I’m heading out the door, but I’ll be back and elucidate. Altho I’m a bit uncomfortable with a couple of phrases, it’s not as “I” centered as so many praise songs,” it’s pretty specific, it’s focused toward Christ, and it is sans theology of glory, as I see it.

    More later

    j, the unscathing, I hope

  12. Okay, I was not going to scathe so soon but Johannes comment sparked a thought.

    Our Cantor (Bethany Lutheran, Naperville, Illinois) I am guessiing, is a more accomplished musician than Principal Grepke. Our Cantor has a masters degree in Jazz piano and other music credentials. He is accomplished in piano, organ, accordian, directing and also teaching music.

    He writes very little in terms of anthems. Instead, he spends most of his creative time composing psalm antiphons to enhance the congregational singing and arranging music for the various talent levels of our other traditional musicians, e.g. flute, oboe, French horn, trombone, strings, etc.

    He also knows Lutheran theology as well as most commissioned ministers and better than many ordained ministers even though he is not even rostered.

    He lives to support congregational singing and to help the congregation sing God’s word in the more than thousand year old tradition of antiphonla psalm singing. He has directed some wonderful cantatas but is actually mroe devoted to enhancing congregational singing of the Gospel.

    A can tell from his posts that Mr. Grepke is a nice guy and his intentions are to serve the Gospel. However, the praise music that he sings and writes lacks the depth and the effective use of time that I have tried to illustrate in the work of our cantor.

    Mr. Grepke’s songs may make nice personal devotion for him but they do not even begin to compare in weight with what our cantor does and are not going to help us pass on the Gospel from one generation to another as musicians like J. S. Bach and our cantor do, but instead, actaully threaten the persistence of the pure Gospel among us.

    Our music efforts in the LCMS ought to move toward the work of folks like our cantor and not slip down to the standards of American pop culture as Mr. Grepke’s work does.

    Pastor Rossow (aka “Mr. Scathalicious”)

  13. @Neil Grepke #211
    I suggest making the song longer Neil. Make it teach Lutheran theology. Break the “praise song” mold. I notice in the lyrics of your songs, in what you’ve said here, and in what you’ve said on YouTube, that your goal is to magnify and praise God – certainly a praiseworthy goal. At the same time, God is immanent. He took on human flesh. He was made of dust just as we are. He confronted the same tempations, the same day to day misery that we experience. He overcame all these things on the cross. He is still here with us. He is with us, and forgives us even though we continue to sin. We are poor miserable sinners, that need daily forgiveness. That forgiveness was paid for with Christ’s own blood. Give that to the people. Life as people redeemed with Christ’s blood need to be brought to that blood. Give it to them. He is there in the Word faithfully spoken by the pastor. He is there in the waters of Baptism. He is there in bread and wine. These are very earthy things. They are not grand and glorious things. They are immanent. These are the things the people need – give these things to them in your songs. Study the theology of the cross. It is the crown of Lutheranism. Lead them to this truth Neil. Preach Law and Gospel. If you teach these things in your music you’ll never again have to be worried about being too anthropocentric, and you won’t have to worry about adjuring them to evangelize. As Luther said, they’ll leave with a bag full of mercy, grace, and love.

  14. @mames #46

    Even we in the WELS must be vigilant in keep our eyes on the lookout for false doctrine and church growth or church and change. There may be some advantages in being small in synodical size, but Satan knocks at all our doors whether LCMS, WELS or ELS. I for one, whom was an LCMS member and am now WELS, continue to pray for us all.

  15. Lloyd,

    Good to see you online here and talking about the pastoral training in ELS and WELS. I know MLC (Martin Luther College) in New Ulm has summer language renewal skills in Hebrew for pastors who like to brush up on their language skills.

    @Lloyd I. Cadle #176

  16. Perry LUnd:

    It is great to be a part of this great, confessional, Lutheran website!

    St. Paul in Ephesians, calls the false teachers “dogs”. And yes, we have to pray and be on our guard in all synods, and be ready to fight the “dogs”.

  17. Correction:

    Not Ephesians, but in Philippians 3:2, St. Paul says, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh.”

  18. In my sarcastic sense of humor; Christians sure treat these “dogs” with more compassion than did Michael Vick!

  19. @Neil Grepke #211
    If I may inquire-How frequently do you introduce new songs in the service? Additionally, does the congreation sing the entire song or do they mostly participate via the chorus with the “worship team” tacking up the slack?

  20. Dear Mr. Grepke, et.al.

    I am responding to Grepke’s comment #97, per Pastor Rossow’s request above. In that comment, Grepke said:

    “As a lifelong member of the LCMS, a graduate of three LCMS schools, and a churchworker of 14 years, every day I grow more and more disillusioned with the stark difference between what I read in the Bible and what these “true believers” say is the ONLY way to honor our Lord. Quite frankly, if God expected us to adhere to Lutheran doctrine as if it is on par with Scripture, he would have inspired its writers to write those words, not the ones they did. Over and over and over, in Jesus’s own words, it is VERY clear what we must focus on: That HE is the only way to salvation and that LOVE is the greatest gifts/action/command. Where is the love in this blog?Some years back, the late Dr. Preus said to a local pastor, who was concerned about immature Christians going into and coming out of the Seminary unprepared: “When they come out of Seminary they are DEAD orthodox.”

    First, I am not one of those people who say that the Lutheran liturgical traditions stemming from Luther’s Latin and German Mass, translated via the Common Service, adapted in The Lutheran Hymnal, and manifested in the primary Divine Services of LBW, LW, and LSB are the ONLY ways to honor our Lord. Nor, in a more general sense, would I say that even the general form of the Western mass, with its texts, ordinary, propers, and hymns, are the ONLY ways. I know that there are some pastors who say this, but I disagree respectfully.

    Second, I would say that the Lutheran liturgical heritage, and its hymnody, as outlined above, is by far the BEST “fit” for the doctrines of the Lutheran church, particularly as that pertains to our understandings of the Word, doctrine, preaching, the confession of sins, confession of faith, prayer, the aspect of reverence, and the Sacraments. Nothing else even comes close.

    Third, I believe that modern instruments and modern idioms of music can be used in a Lutheran way, as Phil Magness has done at Bethany, Naperville. I believe that modern texts and imagery can be used in a Lutheran way, as Steve Starke has done for the LSB. But not everyone has these gifts.

    I know. I am a Lutheran church musician, pipe organist, pianist, guitarist, choral singer, conductor, with a Director of Parish Music at Concordia, River Forest (1979), under Carl Schalk, Paul Bunjes, Tom Gieschen, Richard Hillert, Carl Waldschmidt, Les Zeddies, Herb Gotsch, Paul Bouman (at Grace LC), etc. I am a performer not a creator. I do not have the unique and special gifts of melodic or lyrical composition, which create “new music,” like Magness and Starke.

    There are too many “wannabee” creators out there, who understand neither music nor theology. The “wannabees” give a bad name to contemporary worship, since all they do is a poor imitation of “Calvary Chapel worship” (some one else’s term). I don’t know if you are a “wannabee” or the real thing. I am willing to give you or anyone else a chance to prove their mettle, musically and theologically, so don’t consider this a blanket condemnation of your creative work.

    Fourth, regarding my second point about “best fit,” if someone puts Baptist “worship” together with Lutheran doctrine, it is Baptist shoes on Lutheran feet. (You can substitute another faith tradition for “Baptist,” and the point is still the same). The Lutheran (i.e., the person who thinks about and relates to God as a Lutheran) can walk for a while in those shoes, but eventually they chafe, blister, etc. Of course, the Baptist (i.e., the person who thinks about and relate to God as a Baptist) who happens to be in a Lutheran church will feel very comfortable, and will start demanding that everyone else start wearing the same shoes. That is where the fights come from and why you don’t “feel the love” on this topic.

    Fifth, you Mr. Grepke, have an obvious dislike or misunderstanding of “Lutheran doctrine.” You assume that it is inferior to Scripture. So how do YOU teach the Bible? Do you read a Bible verse, close the book, and say, “Thus says the Lord”, end of class? If you don’t follow Lutheran doctrine (as it appears from your statement) when you teach religion, then you are either following the fancies of your own mind, in which you have started a new sect called “Grepkeism,” or you are pulling out of the recesses of your mind something you heard previously.

    Lutheran doctrine is, first and foremost, a METHOD of teaching the truths of Scriptures. It is the most “literal” of all methods of doing so. It abstains from the “tropism” of Calvinism, the “traditionalist-conciliarism” of Catholicism, and the “rationalist-anti-supernaturalism” of Liberal Protestantism.

    The Bible was written historically, through many prophetic mouths, to meet the immediate needs of the day AND the perennial needs of God’s people. That is why God did not hand down from heaven Pieper’s dogmatics, which are already outdated for the 21st century (i.e., not wrong, but fails to address current issues).

    Sixth, it is absolutely true that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but he did not say love of the neighbor was the greatest commandment. You should know better than that; you are a 1993 graduate of Ann Arbor (I am a 1979 teacher graduate, BA at River Forest).

    Love of God is the greatest commandment. The question about worship is precisely about the “love of God,” because this is how we Christians express our love of God corporately. Seriously, and with concern for your vocation as a Lutheran teacher, you need to read Luther’s Large Catechism, First, Second, and Third Commandments. I am sorry if your teachers at Ann Arbor did not introduce you to the Large Catechism, because it is the perfect treatise for our Lutheran teachers.

    Seventh, if you enter into a discussion with Christian pastors, and they are talking theology or church practice, prepare to be offended. This is part of their charge from our Lord Jesus Christ, through the apostle Paul, “preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (II Timothy 3:2). Love is not the point of such discussions. “Sound teaching” and “listening to the truth” is the point (II Timothy 3:3-4). Of course, pastors also need to be sensitive to avoiding unnecessary offense, but that does not mean they should “sugar-coat” a “hard pill to swallow.” Walther was entirely in support of parochial schools, but he also warned the church about teachers who wanted to please everyone. Mr. Grepke, we pastors do not have the same office as you.

    Eighth, I knew Robert Preus better than anyone else commenting on this blog so far. He would not put the words “Dead orthodoxy” together, except in a private joke. He was the world’s expert, in his career, on 16th and 17th century Lutheran orthodoxy, for one. For two, he was a staunch upholder of Waltherian orthodoxy. With good reason, too! His great-grandfather was one of Walther’s best friends. Your pastor friend either misunderstood Dr. Preus, or is misrepresenting him.

    Finally, I know your church. You have some right to defend your congregation, because of your position there, even if it is wrong! Nobody condemns the Cubs fans for supporting a losing team all these years, though they certainly are given a “hard time.” The criticisms ultimately do not fall on you, since you are paid to serve your “masters.” Your senior pastor is ultimately responsible for guiding you, or misguiding you, as the case may be. You should share your concerns about Lutheran doctrine with him. He is in the best position to figure out why you have such an animosity to Lutheran doctrine and help you understand that it truly is “all about the Gospel.” I assume he will do that. If not, there a many good Lutheran pastors in your area that I can refer you to.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  21. Rev. Thomas C. Messer :
    Alex wrote:

    Exactly! This is something that those promoting CW fail to understand. Properly catechized Lutherans MIGHT be able to read their theology into the lyrics of many CCM songs, but those not properly catechized simply cannot do so. I’ll say it again: If those promoting CW really desired to proclaim the basic truths of the Gospel to people who don’t know them, they would NEVER use CCM songs, but would employ solid, doctrinally pure, Gospel-proclaiming hymns. It is obvious what their intent really is, namely to make people feel good, entertain them, and invoke an emotional response from them. The Gospel plays second fiddle to these true goals!
    I know . . . been there, done that, got the T-shirt (literally).

    Proper catechise: We sometimes overlook the importance in that. Example. I had extensive bible verse memorization in catechism class when I was a kid. There was a time later in my life that was filled with aberrant behavior to the point that I totally walked away from the church for years. While I was out there massively sinning daily these bible verses would pop into my head at the most embarrassing times and convict my soul. It made me very edgy because I was enjoying what I was doing. More and more my sinning was leaving a cold, empty spot in me. The WORD was working on me. It was dragging me kicking and screaming back to God.

    IF —— I hadn’t had those verses welded to my heart, “My Word will not come back to Me void”, I would have had no defense against the devil and his wiles. Even years later when I did come back I thought I knew better than those “stuffy” Lutherans and went to many non-denoms with CCM, feel good services. God’s Word trumped that and again I was drug back to His Word as ascribed to by the Lutheran Church. I couldn’t win………or in this case I couldn’t loose. His Word sustained me all those years of rebellion and that is why that the word “CATECHISE” (sp?) has been the most important word in my life.

  22. Johannes, I am a school principal. I have a flak jacket grafted to my skin.

    Martin (#224): I think you for your detailed treatise. Without going back through 223 posts, I will say that you have A) covered a lot of ground that has been hashed, rehashed, rebutted, and analyzed, though perhaps to no one’s satisfaction; and that you have misrepresented a number of things I have said, from the Preus quote to my position on Lutheran doctrine. Despite the appearance of my actions and attitudes, I do not despise Lutheran doctrine, but I made a statement that what we have written to flesh out Scripture is NOT ITSELF Scripture. This is the topic that continues to intrigue me the most in the larger thread. I say that, and I know a number of folks immediate condemn the statement has heresy. I receive that RESPONSE and I immediately think of the RESPONSE as heresy. Now, I know that is a weighty word to toss around. I am NOT making this accusation. Nor am I saying that “there are many valid interpretations of Scripture.” God has one divine intent in Scripture. As much as it will be blasted here, I must say that this sort of discussion reminds me of what little I know of Luther — that his pusuits of the Truth came in opposition to a church body that “cornered the market” on God’s will. Now, the biggest difference is that I DO believe that Lutheran Doctrine IS consistent with Scripture. However, when it comes to something like song lyrics — which are also NOT Scripture (unless they are) — can be twisted and interpretted any manner you wish. I know this because during a summer-long discussion with a Sem student friend, I took on that task just to see what would happen. I started going to the LSB and putting the worst construction on every hymn. It wasn’t hard to come up with flaws in every one. Their merit, and why I am using more and more hymns in the services I lead (Thy Strong Word; Shepherd of Tender Youth; Joyful, Joyful; Amighty Fortress; Hark, The Voice of Jesus Crying come to mind) is that hymns by they length and depth eventually get around to the important points. Scott’s advice above, then, is well taken.

  23. Neil Grepke :
    Now, the biggest difference is that I DO believe that Lutheran Doctrine IS consistent with Scripture. However, when it comes to something like song lyrics — which are also NOT Scripture (unless they are) — can be twisted and interpretted any manner you wish. I know this because during a summer-long discussion with a Sem student friend, I took on that task just to see what would happen. I started going to the LSB and putting the worst construction on every hymn. It wasn’t hard to come up with flaws in every one. Their merit, and why I am using more and more hymns in the services I lead (Thy Strong Word; Shepherd of Tender Youth; Joyful, Joyful; Amighty Fortress; Hark, The Voice of Jesus Crying come to mind) is that hymns by they length and depth eventually get around to the important points. Scott’s advice above, then, is well taken.

    Maybe we forget but hymns are, in itself, a small sermon and what is taught in a song whether it is CM or Lutheran Hymns is a statement of what we believe and an should be an expression of Law and Gospel in our lives.

    .

  24. John, I think you hit on something that is an important distinction about my songs. Each has been merely a companion to a sermon, and therefore has not needed the fullness and detail that the sermon itself provided. I recognize the obvious, then, that for the songs to have life beyond our specific church services is to leave them “uncovered” by the more detailed sermon they accompanied. Interestingly, this brings us FULL CIRCLE to Jesus Is Better Than Football and perhaps (tongue firmly in cheek) closes this dialogue. 😉

  25. Neil Grepke :Despite the appearance of my actions and attitudes, I do not despise Lutheran doctrine, but I made a statement that what we have written to flesh out Scripture is NOT ITSELF Scripture. This is the topic that continues to intrigue me the most in the larger thread. I say that, and I know a number of folks immediate condemn the statement has heresy.

    Mr. Grepke, what you stated was more than a statement of the obvious. You wrote, “Quite frankly, if God expected us to adhere to Lutheran doctrine as if it is on par with Scripture, he would have inspired its writers to write those words, not the ones they did” which is an expression of a quarternus subscrption to the Lutheran confessions and that is what you are being taken to task over. Those who hold to a quia subscription to the Lutheran confessions do not equate our confessions with the Holy Scriptures. If you want to confess a quia subscription, do so but please do not try to minimize what your statement means.

    I receive that RESPONSE and I immediately think of the RESPONSE as heresy. Now, I know that is a weighty word to toss around. I am NOT making this accusation. Nor am I saying that “there are many valid interpretations of Scripture.”

    There is an issue with what you did write, and namely,

    “The irony here is that while I would think most of these respondants would agree with you that God is beyond our understanding, how is it that these same folks are insisting that ONLY THEIR understanding of God is valid?”

    You have been asked to clarify your remark which implies there are many valid understandings of God; but you have yet to clarify your remark.

  26. @Jim Pierce #230
    Just for clarification for everyone who isn’t familiar with the Latin:

    A quaetenus subscription means “in so far as” and has been used to refer to a conditional subscription to the Confessions, which is really no confession at all: “I agree with the Lutheran Confessions in so far as they agree with the Bible.”

    A quia subscription: “I subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions because they agree with the Bible.”

  27. @Neil Grepke #211

    Neil,

    I have a couple of questions/comments about your song “Not a Thing I can do”.

    In the Chorus

    Sanctify; Glorify; Send us in truth.
    Magnify; Help us to find Your way in this world. Sanctify.

    are we asking for God to Sanctify; Glorify; and Magnify; us or himself?
    I’m a little slow and am probably missing something here, but I honestly don’t “get” how these words are meant to be used in the chorus.

    Secondly, and once again I might have missed something, but in my opinion you seem to have left out some crucial words from the biblical text in this song. The words are included in Jesus’ prayer for his disciples where He points out in vs. 8 and vs. 14 that he has “given them your word.” Again in vs. 17 Jesus says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Our faith and salvation, prayers, words, works and everything we have in Christ come from the Holy Spirit working through God’s word. And when we speak of God’s word it is always fitting to speak of his word combined with the common elements in the sacraments. There we have his word proclaimed to us in a most tangible way.

  28. Rev. Stefanski and Pastor Rossow:

    I just wanted to clarify how WELS would handle a pastor that was teaching false doctrine or breaking the by-laws on communion practices:

    Let’s say that the pastor is teaching false doctrine. The elder would enact Matt. 18. with the pastor. If the pastor persisted in false doctrine, the elder would tell the council. The council would then sit down with the pastor and discuss the situation with him. If the pastor still persisted in false doctrine, the council would then tell the circuit pastor. Then the circuit pastor would sit down with the council and the pastor and discuss it. If the pastor persited in the false doctrine, the congregation would then rescind the call of the pastor.

    If the pastor persisted in teaching false doctrine, and the congregation would not rescind the call of the pastor, the synod (or district president) has authority over the congregation, and they would ask the congregation to leave the synod. In other words, the synod holds the congregation responsible for allowing the pastor to teach false doctrine. The synod makes sure that the congregations are following Biblical, confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice.

    Now on to communion practices. We had a case several years ago in Wisconsin, where the pastor wanted to serve communion on a case by case basis, according to his judgment of whether the person understood the Lutheran view of communion or not. The pastor took the issue up with the circuit pastor and the other pastors involved, and he was instructed of the WELS practice of only WELS members or the 21 other CELC Lutheran church bodies that we are in fellowship with, only those members could take communion. The pastor did not like the WELS practice, so he left.

    Now at our local WELS church, where I am on the council, we have had many folks leave and never come back as visiters because our pastor would not serve them communion. We have one great couple attending our church for over a year now, and they are LCMS. They come to our church because there aren’t any LCMS churches in the Phoenix area that they have found that are historical, liturgical Lutheran churches. Our pastor will still not let them commune, because of the WELS doctrine. They are o.k. with it, and they respect our doctrine and practice.

    Now as great a Lutheran as Pastor Todd Wilken is, or the great Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, we still would not let them commune because they are not WELS, or in fellowship with us. Now what is ironic about all of this is that the LCMS has the same exact policy as we do on communion, but many of the churches do not uphold their own synod doctrine. Our pastors must, or they will come into the problems that are listed above.

    When I said that as an elder, I would attempt to get a pastor fired for teaching false doctrine, of course, it would have to go through Matt. 18, and then the proper channels listed above.

    Hope this clears up some of the WELS practice of church and ministry.

  29. “A long dark metaphorical corridor separates the sanctuary and the worship center. On the floor of the corridor is a string with a Dixie cup affixed to each end in case either side wants to speak to the other. Those Dixie cups have been laying there gathering dust for a long, long time. While the dust gathers, the lifeblood of the LCMS, the doctrine of Christ, slips between our fingers. We must close our hand to grasp the didache of Christ, before it entirely slips away. This isn’t a time for either “side” to sit smugly and point fingers at the other. It’s a time for repentance. Like Hilkiah’s rediscovery of the Book of the Law (2 Kings 22), we must, like King Josiah upon hearing its words, tear our clothes and repent of our own disobedience to the Word of the Lord. We must reaffirm that which we have sworn to confess, so that we may come before the Lord’s throne with boldness, receiving His good gifts and rightly proclaiming to the world what He has done.”

    If anyone who posts here has any doubt about the truth of Scott’s assertions above, go back and read this thread from start to finish. His words almost plead with us: this is no time for smug finger-pointing, yet it seems we took those words as a challenge, and 235 posts later, we’re still at it. The Dixie cups lay mouldering on the floor of that metaphorical long and dark corridor. Should we try using them? As we pick them up, pulling the strings taut, we speak two different languages, it seems, so why not just leave them laying there?

    Today is Super Sunday Eve. I hope my pastor doesn’t even mention football tomorrow, but I know he’ll preach Christ.

    Neil, Scott, Jim, Henry, Helen, Dutch, George, “4th”, Lloyd, Ariel, “Bubbles”, Grandma, Steven, Kiley, Bill, and all you other laymen, I pray that you receive the same–no more, no less. And, pastors, there’s nothing better you can do.

    Johannes

  30. My pastor preached on sin and forgiveness, as well as the concept of excommunication. No football. 🙂

    Jim, you said “There is an issue with what you did write, and namely,

    ‘The irony here is that while I would think most of these respondants would agree with you that God is beyond our understanding, how is it that these same folks are insisting that ONLY THEIR understanding of God is valid?’

    You have been asked to clarify your remark which implies there are many valid understandings of God; but you have yet to clarify your remark.”

    Actually I think this post that I am curretnly writing is a clarification of a clarification, but there are NOT many valid understandings of God. There is ONE valid intent on God’s part, but — by nature of our imperfection — a variety of attempts to understand it. Only through proper Spirit-led exegesis can we hope to come to the valid interpretation. I thank God for the learned scholars and pastors of our church for carefully enduring in this pursuit.

    Henry, you hit on the one snag I have with the song. Sanctify US so we can glorify You. Magnify Yourself so that we may follow Your ways. I undestand your question and I know where this could take the thread. For your second point, I will take a close look at that and consider amending the lyrics. Thanks!

  31. @Neil Grepke #239
    Neil–thank your pastor for me. Our pastor gave us Christ crucified, and zero football. Looks like two congregations where the ratio is an infinity–seems appropriate.

    Neil–you are a good sport (pun intended) to venture here.

    johannes, the bench warmer

  32. @Neil Grepke #239

    Mr. Grepke, thank you for your reply and for responding to at least one of the concerns I see that was raised. The other concern raised that hasn’t been responded to deals with the subscription to our confessions “in so far as” they agree with the scriptures.

    In response to your latest post, I am not sure what you mean with “ONE valid intent on God’s part” when it comes to the scriptures. The written word is objective and has been given to us by God and He gives us understanding of His word. We can be certain in the truth of God’s word and as expressed by doctrine. For example, there is no possibility that when we get to heaven we are going to find out that we were wrong about God eternally existing as three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is no disconnect between God’s intention or meaning and the words we have in the holy scriptures. We can be sure that those words truly do mean what God has said. That, however, doesn’t mean we fully understand the nature of God and so you are right about our imperfect natures. But we can understand the words He gives us to live by. We see through a glass darkly, but we do see because of what God has revealed to us through His holy word. With you I thank God for pastors and teachers who carefully teach us God’s word.

    I do agree with your clarification that there are not many valid understandings of God and would add that in today’s culture it is difficult for us all, at times, to tell others there is only one Gospel truth, one Lord and Savior, and that all others are false. I don’t know too many people who like conflict and I am one of them. So, I want to thank you for coming forward with your words in this forum and as others have already written, you are a good sport.

  33. @Neil Grepke #239

    Neil,

    I’ll second Johannes by agreeing that you are a good sport. I can’t agree with a lot of what you have espoused here, but I appreciate your humility in considering our comments, dialoguing with us and not walking away from the table. Thank you.

  34. No football mentioned in our church either. Just the preaching of the law and the Gospel, and the partaking of the Sacrament of the Altar. And great, historical, liturgical Lutheran worship!

    Praise God for His truth revealed to us in His great Lutheran tradition!
    *************************************************************************
    However, now that we are home, we are ready to pop into the oven a couple of family size Papa Murpheys pizza’s, and get out our Luther’s beer mugs, filled to to brim!

    With the Cardinals (my local team) and the Raiders not in it, I just hope for a good game

    Peace!

  35. WOW!!! No Football (but then I am in Denver and the Broncos didn’t come close) But, not to be disappointed we did get to enjoy a short video-at the end of the service, this time-from the gentleman who will be leading our “Building the Body” seminars on the 20th-21st. You can check him out at http://www.missional.org . Anyway, I am in one of those “divided” congregations.

  36. Milfred Minatrea, Executive Director Missional Church Center
    and author of Shaped by God’s Heart: the Passion and Practices of Missional Churches

    I might have copied the web address in #244 incorrectly but the above is pasted from our congregation website ( http://www.bethluth.net ) Synod, Inc. considers us a “mega-church”.

  37. Steven,
    This wouldn’t have anything to do with the “Cultural Distance” scale, would it?
    The Cd0-Cd4, TCN cultural/demographic scale, I mean.

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