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 — 247 Comments

  1. Todd Wilken :
    A quote within a quote within a quote within a comment. Eric, you have set a record!
    You are my brother even if we are divided by the fiction of LCMS unity. I know we both pray for the real thing. It will come.
    You are pricking consciences, mine included. Don’t give up, but give us some time.
    TW

    Oops…I missed a close-blockquote tag in there someplace. Maybe Mr. Fisher will find it and fix it for me.

    Thank you for understanding what I’m saying. I think if folks will get beyond reactions to substance, we might find out we’re in agreement…and they might even be willing to admit that there are substantive issues that divide Missouri from WELS, and that they are not all errors on Missouri’s part.

    EJG

  2. Bill Kope :
    As I stated back sometime in 2003 at an ACTS meeting

    I think that was Autumn of 2004, Bill, if you’re talking about the meeting at the German restaurant in Versailles (though my memory now fails me as to whether this was before or after the Melrose Park conference…though I think it was before).

    Exercise “In Statu Confessionus” and give the heterodox a “correct or else” mandate the way Trinity, Herrin, IL and Rev. Henson did.

    This, really, is the issue: whether ‘the united conservatives’ are all united in such an idea. The thing that you and I have to wait for is what happens after this convention, as there is no way of telling this now, but there will be then. Either we will see a force rise up in Missouri to confess, or we will see them recede into the woodwork again. I truly think (and pray) that to some extent we will see the former, but not out of those of whom such a thing would be expected (i.e., if Harrison isn’t elected, the non-elected leadership will have a massive change).

    And now, I’ll go and do other things.

    EJG

  3. Eric,

    I concur wholeheartedly with Wilken and very much appreciate your voice in this forum. I know that your participation here is motivated by your love for us still entangled in the web of Missouri’s mess. I also know that you have been fighting the good fight for years, and that past disappointments from brothers who were supposed to be fighting by your side have left you understandably skeptical toward those of us who remain in this synod. Please, keep praying for us, as I know you do, that we might be given the strength to act upon our convictions and follow the correct path, whatever that turns out to be.

    Your sadly-not-in-full-fellowship, but still brother in Christ,
    Tom

  4. Rev. Rossow#145
    Where do I support the W/ELS polity? Synod is in the left hand kingdom, it is not the Church. It is made up of congregations that are the visible Church, but the synod itself is not Church and it most certainly is not required for one to be a member of the true Church. Everyone here seems to be hung up on Missouri Synod being the one true Church. It is not. The true Church is beyond Missouri, W/ELS, ELCA ELDoNA, ACLC or any other body. This is the point I have been trying to make and which everyone attacks.

    Johannes#147
    Unless you have something to challange the status quo or the downhill trend, there is nothing you can “win”. The majority congregations and Ministers in Missouri Synod do not really know what has happened to you synod and most do not really care. They just want to do their own thing with the least attention from the district or synod. There was once upon a time when I could go to a Missouri Synod congregation and I would have no doubt of following the liturgy of page 5 or page 15. I would have no qualms of communing at that place. That changed in the 80’s and it became more and more difficult to find a congregation that used the liturgy. I was a member of a Missouri Synod from 1950 until 2005. Mainly there was no other truely orthodox option. The congregations appeared to be orthodox on the outside, but inside they were really corrupt. Rotting from the inside out. Doctrine had changed and the Lutheran Symbols were either ignored, overlooked or thrown out. I have seen this in the past, back in the 60’s when the old ALC moved away from Scripture and joined TALC and later ELCA.

    A question to you all; When will your synod have gone too far and you must leave? Will it be the ordination of women, of homosexuals, laymen with little or not training as Ministers? I do not advote leaving without the proper preparation and educating the sheep as to the siuation, but will you draw a line in the sand or will you continue with the same old same old?

  5. @Bill Kope #155
    “Johannes#147
    Unless you have something to challange the status quo or the downhill trend, there is nothing you can “win”. The majority congregations and Ministers in Missouri Synod do not really know what has happened to you synod and most do not really care.”

    You are right, of course–I agree with everything you said. Perhaps I did not explain myself. I was not talking about “winning” as in win-lose, so much as being effective in getting the message out–the message that Scott Diekmann has stated here. I was talking about making as many people and congregations (and Pastors, too) aware of what is going on. You are spot-on re: those who “do not really know…”, and I have posted on that issue (#65 above). It’s not politics I’m concerned about.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    j

  6. Bill,

    I was not clear. I meant my reference to your support for WELS polity as a good thing. The WELS polity has DP’s and the SP guarding doctrine and practice and the LCMS does that too, at least in the handbook where it lists the SP’s duties.

    TR

  7. Rev Stefanski:

    I am not speaking for the WELS, I am just an Elder. So here is my personal take on our discussions at hand. Personally, at least at this time, I don’t see WELS/ELS in fellowship with the LCMS, especially with the unfortunate mess that the LCMS is in. Many in our synod are grieved beyond words at what has happened to the LCMS.

    I only see a fellowship possibility with a split LCMS, such as a synod A. Many of us hope and pray that the LCMS doesn’t go the way of ELCA.

    You mention what proper church and ministry is, but the example of your definition is a disaster. How can you say that the LCMS way of church and ministry is better, when the house is burning down?

    WELS, (by God’s grace) hasn’t had these problems. The reason is this; we are united in doctrine and practice. Please go to one of our conventions and see this for yourself. Why? Because the pastors are church, the called workers are church, and so is the synod. This allows the false doctrine pastors to be properly disciplined by the district presidents, etc.

    Your example is like a fat lady (400 pounds or so) driving around with a bumper sticker on her car that says, “ask me how to lose weight?” If you want to lose weight, certainly you wouldn’t want ask her how. If you want to look at church and ministry, your model has big problems.

    In the WELS/ELS, there is a consistancy of the type of churches that we have. If you go to roughly 15 churches in a given area, probably at least 14 are doing historical, liturgical Lutheran worship. I can assure you this much, the one’s that are not, are not feeling very comfortable, because they are being watched very closely, and they are being warned.

    Many in our synod do not want to grow, because we are fearful of controlling false doctrine. That is a far cry from the “ablaze movement.”

    I am exremely confident, that with our synod president and our district presidents, these particular churches will eventually either repent or asked to leave our synod.

    Again, we are not perfect, we are sinful. But we are concerned and frightful of the poison of the CG movement. And, while not perfect, I believe that our system of church and ministry has proved Biblical, and much more succesful in dealing with false teachers.

    I will be in daily prayer for the LCMS, and especially pastors like yourself that have had the courage to take a stand on this issue.

    Blessings,

  8. There are lots of fine things being debated here but many of us are off track from the original post. This is too bad because Principal Grepke wrote a provacative response to Scott’s original post and we have for the most part ignored that and gotten far afield.

    I am normally open to whatever direction post comments take but in this case we are over-looking some very important stuff.

    Please limit future comments on this string to the original post and Grepke’s response.

    TR

  9. Tim:

    I think that Principal Grepke has made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t consider the Lutheran Confessions binding on him or his congregation’s worship practice.

    With statements like, “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,” he obviously considers the Lutheran Confessions in conflict with the teachings of the Bible.

    The only question remaining is, why is he attending a Lutheran Church?

    TW

  10. Todd Wilken :
    The only question remaining is, why is he attending a Lutheran Church?
    TW

    An equally important question to ask: Why is that “Lutheran Church” attending him?

  11. Rev. Wilkins#162
    This reminds me of the Mid-South District convention in 2003. I sat next to a Vicar and a DCE. A discussion was going on about something that was brought before the convention, I believe it had to do with the district layminister program. I had my Book of Concord out and was referring to the sections of Augsburg that applied to the Office of Holy Ministry, the call and ordination. The vicar next to me asked the DCE what book I was looking at and the DCE said it was the Book of Concord, but he didn’t need to be concerned. He had a copy somewhere and did look at it at some point in time. Two things disturbed me about this discussion. First was a Vicar that was a voting delegate and second a DCE from the same congregation that was a voting delegate and not concerned about adhering to the BOC. It was at that time that I fully realized that our synod members had no idea about Lutheran theology. I see finally after so many years, studies of the Book of Concord are beginning to take place. Bible Studies are great, but knowledge of the Book of Concord sheds Lutheran light on Scripture rather then what I think Scripture says.

  12. Todd & Scott, your questions in posts 162 & 164 scare me. This truly scares me. If we don’t understand how or why, where do we go from here? How do we fight something we can’t see or understand?

    Equally frightening, this man is a principal in an LCMS school, what are those kids being taught?

  13. Lloyd,

    Your zealousness for the faith is to be commended. But several times you have identified yourself as an “elder”. Just some food for thought- the lay office of elder is a calvinistic intrusion into the Lutheran Church. In Holy Scripture Elder/Presbyter refers ONLY to what English speaking Lutherans call Pastor. How many good pastors out there in both WELS and the LCMS have had to “be fired”, tormented or bullied by an unscriptural “Board Elders”. Sure some of you have avoided this for various reasons, but this trojan horse is one of the reasons why this very thread exists; the “Board of Elders” approved of such and such worship service.

    Find a church body that truly has its doctine of the ministry correct- only Ordained Presbsters are elders; only Presbyters are Presidents of congregations as well. For the Priest/Presbyters presides over the congregations as a representative of Christ (of course under a Bishop in an episcopal situation). Whatever realignment is envisioned for the future by you God fearing folks, please do away with layministry altogether and restore the offices of Deacon, Subdeacon, Reader, etc.

  14. Johannes,
    I know this parasite is in every denom. That isn’t really what I meant. I meant that, we see the falseness & danger, but those who believe CG/Emergent theology are blind to the false teaching & danger of it. They seem to have scales on their eyes in this.

    This seems to be an example of the Wheat & Tare parable, our Lord taught
    (Matthew 13: 13-24, 36-43).
    Or, am I looking at this whole incorrectly?

  15. @Neil Grepke #97

    Mr. Grepke,
    You wrote, “While we who know this well already would look at the phrase “Jesus is better than football” with a “DUH!” there are many who need to have this basic reality put before them. I am dumbfounded that so many learned and devout shepherds of God’s flock could so intensely disdain an attempt to put the basic truths of the faith in terms someone outside the chruch might actually get.”

    Can we put the basic truths of the faith in terms someone outside the church might actually get? Can we make the mysteries of God “getable” or understandable to anyone? Does “getting it” equate with faith? Do we “get” (read understand) the basic truths in order for the Holy Spirit to bring us to faith in Christ or are we given the basic Truth in the clear proclamation of God’s word and in His Holy Sacraments?

  16. @Pastor Tim Rossow #161

    OK, Pastor, Rossow, let me try. Here goes:

    I offer an edited quote from a friend, who has “followed” this thread somewhat vicariously, including the original post, and Mr. Grepke’s response, and a few others.

    “What Mr. Grepke misses is that the whole CW phenomenon is built on the foundation of worship as human work. To tell God how great He is is not the complete picture of biblical worship. To recite His magnificent works, yes; to revel in His magnificent grace, yes; but to compare Jesus and football with Jesus coming out on top is to miss the point entirely. AC IV vanishes like the Cheshire cat in all of this mischief.

    What all these approaches have in common is to equate the exhilaration of praise with genuine worship. Remember Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration. He spoke truthfully saying “Lord, it is good that we are here.” But then the voice from the shekinah cloud said, in effect, “Shut up – This is my beloved Son: listen to Him.” Thus the Lambs and Sheep need to hear the Shepherd’s voice, not bleat all over the place about how wonderful He is.

    The crowd dynamic of American Football and ‘praise worship’ is of one piece. Both provide big doses of adrenaline that lend a sense of exhilaration to the experience.”

    Using Scott’s metaphorical approach then, we can discern a continuity between CW and what is going on in Synod. Good intentions notwithstanding, Synod, like CW, is dangerously close to “Transforming” itself from Justification-centered (what God has done), to Great Commission-centered (what we are doing.) And although Synod’s mission statement stops short of “make disciples”, saying only to “vigorously make known…,” the leadership has, in effect, gone the step beyond, to “Jesus saved you, so get to work.” And so, as my friend has observed above, AC IV, like the cat, has become, (quoting Alice), only “a grin without a cat”: The substance (Justification) has disappeared , and only style (God talk) remains.

    johannes, the Not-grinning

  17. @Dutch #169

    I’m not so sure about the wheat and the tares. If that were the case, it’s not our job to sort them, parabolically speaking.

    I think you see it correctly–it’s the whole point of Scott’s piece, and you understand it. Pr. Wilken and others see it clearly, too. Perhaps my friend’s observations, and my conclusion above (#171) may help. It’s pretty obvious that we’ve identified the issue, but aren’t quite ready to take the next step, whatever that step is. Gospel reductionism, enthusiasm, evangelicalsim, and Reformed theology and pracice, to mention just a few, will ever haunt us. We are part of the Church Militant, after all. The exhortations to the Seven Churches ought to be required reading.

    j

  18. Pastor Tim Rossow :
    Please limit future comments on this string to the original post and Grepke’s response.

    (Since all y’all are preparing for a convention…) Mr. Chairman, point of Gospel privilege?

    (Assuming that you have granted me the floor…)

    Jim Pierce :
    @Rev. Eric J. Stefanski #148
    Pr. Stefanski, please accept my apology. I have misjudged your words regarding the LCMS and you in the process.

    Jim, Baptized son of God, I certainly forgive you. With Christ, in whom your forgiveness is forever assured, I say to you and the others in Missouri: “Go fight in His strength; and if the principalities and powers against whom you fight end up having such control over the flesh and blood with whom you are in fellowship, we will have a home waiting for you…and if they do not, remember when Christ glorifies Himself in your victory over them that such glory ought to redound through your seeking to be in fellowship with those orthodox Lutherans outside of Missouri, as well (even if that means speaking to or of them the way that Walther & Co. would have to wrt the Buffalo or Iowa synods, etc.”

    In keeping with Pr. Rossow’s desire, I will not reply to Mr. Cadle’s post, other than to say that rigidity is always a way to maintain the status quo, but it is no proof of orthodoxy, and that Fr. Daniel Hackney’s statement wrt ‘elder’ is correct (and the genesis of ‘hire’ and ‘fire’).

    EJG

  19. RE: Mr. Diekmann in #130…. I probably should read through all of these responses first, but let me clarify a thing or two.

    1. Mr. Diekmann, you did not address the question of whether or not you have ever actually visited our church in order to make the numerous negative claims about us.

    2. This video was NOT shown in church. And the Sacrament of Holy Communion was properly prefaced, explained and prayed over.

    3. I am passionate about my Lutheran perspective — a concept that to me means honoring God’s word above all calls to “works.” I continue to be confused that a group of folks who would die to fight against the concept of “works righteousness” could so intensely advocated for a Roman Catholic-like adherence to rites and traditions.

    I truly hope to come to a better understanding as I read further posts.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH, Mr. Diekmann, for re-posting my response.

  20. Johannes, I would very much appreciate being informed and enlightened about any songs we used in that service that are not keeping with Lutheran doctrine. Please feel free to contact me at [email protected].

  21. Fr. Daniel:

    The main reason that I say that I am an Elder, is so people will not think that I am a pastor:

    Here is our Manuel of Duties, for the Board of Elders:

    Section 1: God-given Privileges and Responsibilities:

    A. They shall adorn their office with an honest conduct and be good examples to the congregation (1 Timothy 3:8-12).

    B. They shall aid the Pastor(s) in the spiritual affairs of the church and hold to the Bible as the inerrant Word which guides doctrine and practice.

    C. They shall be responsible for good order in the services.

    D. They shall particularly care in love for the poor, the sick, the widows, and orphans (Galatians 6:9-10).

    Section 2: Duties and Obligations:

    A. Assist the Pastor(s) in counseling with difficult cases and in finding peaceful and God-pleasing solutions to personnel problems in the congregation.

    B. Engage in continual review of communion and church attendance of all members and make calls on delinquents.

    C. Encourage truly spiritual programs on the part of all the organizations in the congregation.

    D. Periodically review, under the leadership of the Pastor(s), the nature, purpose and conduct of God-pleasing public worship.

    E. Provide recommendations to the Council on new forms of worship, liturgies, and hymns for use in public worship and report other necessary information to the council.

    F. Coordinate and oversee the ushers.

    We also serve communion to the Pastors.

    Our WELS pastors have to go to school for eight years, and are required to be able to read fluently, Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic & Latin. Once a month (in the Phoenix area) many will get together and do an O.T. Bible study in Hebrew and Aramiac. And on the other months, they get together and do their N.T. Bible studies in the Greek. I kid you not, the pastors will occasionally do our adult Bible classes right from the original languages.

    Quite obviously, they are trained in the ministry far above and beyond the Elders.

    As Dirty Harry once said, “A man has got to know his limitations.”

  22. Henry in #170 Terrific, useful questions. You bring up one of the important dichotomies of the faith. On one hand, God is vast, mysterious, unfathomable. Simultaneously, He has revealed himself to us through His Holy Word.

    Can we ever truly get it? Nope. We cannot by our own understanding “get it.” The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts. However, I believe Scripture is quite clear in its commands for us to take the Word to the people. Using Christ’s own example, he went to the most egregious sinners he found and sat down with them, meeting with them on their terms. He did NOT hold up in a building preaching, “PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! Get it or die!”

    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?

  23. Mr. Grepke,

    While Scott is certainly capable of speaking for himself, why must he, or anyone else, actually visit your church to draw conclusions about your doctrine and practice? Does your actual doctrine and practice differ from what is presented publicly on your congregation’s website, or from your own testimony and description within this thread?

    How does your doctrine and practice uphold what you, as a professed Lutheran, claim to confess in AC XXIV and APXXIV? If you don’t like what our Confessions have to say about worship, and have no desire to put into practice what they confess, why are you a Lutheran?

  24. Johannes in #171 quotes a friend: “What Mr. Grepke misses is that the whole CW phenomenon is built on the foundation of worship as human work. To tell God how great He is is not the complete picture of biblical worship. To recite His magnificent works, yes; to revel in His magnificent grace, yes; but to compare Jesus and football with Jesus coming out on top is to miss the point entirely. AC IV vanishes like the Cheshire cat in all of this mischief.

    What all these approaches have in common is to equate the exhilaration of praise with genuine worship.”

    On the contrary, I am not blind to this concept at all. CW, as it is stereotyped, and, in fact, exists in some places, IS in fact faulty in that it elevates the importance of man and, as one previous commentor said, “Emphasizes the Christian, not Christ.” NOT ALL CW does this and that is a FUNDAMENTAL mistake being made by those who feel this US/THEM mentality in our synod. It is as fundamentally wrong and absurd as the comment made by one YouTube observer that “rock-n-roll is slang for sex.” If you start with a damning presupposition, you will naturally draw the yes-man responses that lead to a mob of people calling for a rift in the Synod. I am saddened beyond belief.

  25. Fr. Daniel:

    One last thought: The easy part of the Manuel of Duties is: Section 2:E. The new form of Worship is our new Christian Worship Supplement, right out of the Hymnal.

    Thank God that it is not “Calvary Chapel music.” All of our worship is done right out of the hymnal!

  26. @Neil Grepke #174
    Hi Mr. Grepke.

    You didn’t ask about whether or not I’d visited, so I didn’t answer. No, I have not visited St. John’s; to characterize my research as supposition or hearsay though, would be innacurate. One doesn’t need to make a trip to Washington D.C. to ascertain the politcal views of this or that person – examining their practice suffices. In this case, just taking your own words and reading them reveals a lack of understanding of Lutheran theology and the Confessions.

    My apologies for saying in my comment that the video was shown in church, when it wasn’t. I misunderstood what you said.

    You’re welcome. I’m glad you’re taking the opportunity to comment.

    Regarding your statement above in comment #177, ” He [Jesus] did NOT hold up in a building preaching, “PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE!,” I don’t think Jesus was in a building when he uttered the words we now call “the Great Commission,” but He said precisely what you say He didn’t say: “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” This “teaching” is doctrine. You’re creating a false dichotomy between doctrine and practice.

  27. Rev. Messer (#178) and others who have questioned my desire to remain Lutheran or why my church would continue to have me or, far worse than all, have implied that I am misleading the children of our school…

    I have been very blessed by this dialogue in many ways and welcome more direction and feedback. Like many of you, I am saddened by the conflicts that have arisen between brothers, but I recognize these things are sometimes necessary. In fact, when I earlier questioned “where is the love,” I did not mean to imply that we should, for the sake of love and harmony, set aside a firm stance on Biblical principles.

    If you read what I have actually written, I have not denied or defamed the Lutheran Confessions. Nor have I, to my understanding, done anything to reject them. I will state again, however, what seems obvious to me: that the documents of our Lutheran church are not in and of themselves Scripture. If you tell me that the only acceptable way to worship our Lord and Savior is in the Divine Service, I will stand confidently and passionately on God’s word to say that you are completely wrong. NOTE that I am not saying that the Divine service is not an exceptional way for God to feed His people. It IS. It’s just not the only way.

    I see the value in Lutherans sharing basic worship tenents. One of the main things we teach the children of our school — after the basics of being saved by grace through faith — is that worship is not something we DO FOR God. God feeds us in worship. I could NOT AGREE MORE that CW must take care to avoid limiting itself to merely stating how great God is. Worship must instruct and admonish, which every service on the “evil” south end of our building (down the long, dark hallway) does do.

    Pardon me for being obtuse, but I still cannot see after all this dialogue why my Lutheranism is being questioned. In fact, the only things I have read the border on heretical are ones that deny the primacy of Scripture in favor of the words and opinions of men.

    As for why Mr. Diekmann must actually experience services here to make the accusations he did (which interestingly were almost exact quotes from a mutual friend who is both a member here and is receiving money from this congregation to attend the seminary), is that his descriptions are flatly false and inflammatory. They imply that we are heterodox and that we are not truly Lutheran. I deny these claims and I take issue with the fact that our efforts to “reach out” are slammed and twisted. Worship in and of itself is NOT outreach, but what we do at St. John is SIGNIFICANTLY more like the outreach of Christ than that of must LCMS churches of which I have been a member, where “outreach” is sending a few bucks to a third world country and “evangalism” is making sure the doctrine is pure in case someone actually walks through the old wooden doors.

    May God bless every one of you and your churches. May He use us for His divine purposes!

  28. Neil Grepke : Using Christ’s own example, he went to the most egregious sinners he found and sat down with them, meeting with them on their terms. He did NOT hold up in a building preaching, “PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! Get it or die!”
    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?

    Mr. Grepke, you should seriously examine and reconsider your words. Why do we insist that only our understanding of God is valid? Do you really wish to imply that there are many valid understandings of God that are valid? You seem to me to be speaking what I call “pomoese” or the language of the postmodernist on this point.

    And, once again, I am concerned about your apparent anti-doctrine stance. The position you are taking is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Jesus, the Apostles, and our Lutheran fathers. PURE DOCTRINE is extremely important, or didn’t you know that teachers who purport to speak for God and get the truth wrong will have to answer to God for false teachings? Indeed, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). When you minimize teaching PURE DOCTRINE you are actually removing hope from people that can only be found through God’s means of Grace, His Word, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. Sound words, sound doctrine are terribly important (2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 1:9; 2 Tim. 2:2). Yes, scriptures are given for DOCTRINE (2 Tim. 3:16) and we are exhorted in the Holy Scriptures to let the Word of Christ “dwell in us richly” (Col. 3:16) and to stand fast in the doctrinal traditions that that we have been taught in the scriptures (2 Thess. 2:15). This is precisely the attitude of the early church who followed their Lord’s command to “teach and baptize” for we read that they continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s doctrine (Acts 2:42).

  29. @Neil Grepke #177

    Jesus did not hold up in one building during His ministry, but he did spend a lot of time in His Father’s house reading Scripture and teaching pure doctrine. He revealed how prophecy was fulfilled in Him. He was among the people of that day saving them just as He is among us today in Word and Sacrament ministry.

    Can more than one understanding of God be valid?

  30. Neil #197

    “Using Christ’s own example, he went to the most egregious sinners he found and sat down with them, meeting with them on their terms. He did NOT hold up in a building preaching, “PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! PURE DOCTRINE! Get it or die!” ”

    Your example involves Jesus’ daily life, not how worship was conducted. Should we reach out and show mercy to those in need and despised by society, absolutely! I know how many sins God has forgiven me, how much more so then has he forgiven the few public sins of someone else. Paul also went to people where they were. Jesus never marginalized his message nor compromised doctrine to win converts. Paul also never promoted anything other than a pure understanding of scripture. I have yet to find an example in scripture where worship is changed to better reflect the tastes of the culture. If you have found such a passage I would appreciate the reference. Even something from an early church father or the Book of Concord would work.

    I think outreach and worship have often become intertwined, likely due to the influence of American Evangelicalism that surrounds us, and a proper understanding of vocation is not taught enough. Worship is not the place to showcase our faith for others to decide if it meets their tastes and too often people attend church one day a week and live like the unchurched the other 6 days. These problems are not limited to churches with CW, but can be addressed in any church by better adult catechesis.

  31. “…[T]heology is not made up of the variable notions and opinions of men, but is the immutable divine truth or God’s own doctrine (doctrina divina). It has this quality because of the source from which it is drawn. Acoording to the witness of Christ and His Apostles and its own self-attestation in the hearts of the Christians, Holy Scripture is God’s infallible Word, and therefore the doctrine taken from the Scripture is not ‘after the tradition of men’ (Col. 2:8), not man’s doctrine, but God’s own doctrine, ‘the doctrine of God our Savior’ (Titus 2:10). And in God’s Church nothing but God’s own doctrine may be preached and heard. The door of the Church is closed to all doctrines devised by men.” —Francis Pieper, “Christian Dogmatics”, Vol.1 p. 52.

  32. Mr. Grepke,
    I stand by what I said about my fears for the children in that school. Since it was shown in Church, I must assume some of them saw it. What exactly does it teach them?

    Our sons are being taught to “fear” God the Father, God the Son, & God the Holy Spirit.
    In Luther’s meanings of the Commandments, he uses the words “to fear and love God so that we may…”. That “fear” is to give reverence to. Webster’s definition of reverence is:

    Reverence: profound adoring awed respect

    Where is that reverence/fear in this? As a parent of boys in Lutheran school, I should be concerned. I am held to account for what I allow my sons to be taught & exposed to.
    I don’t want them learning anything like this. Again, I stand by what I said.

  33. Dutch,

    As a correction Neil stated in #174 that the video was not shown in church. Scott acknowledged in #181 that the had misunderstood.

  34. @Alex #188
    Here is Mr. Grepke’s comment, from his original post, #97:

    “We then prayed a number of petitions, including the Lord’s Prayer, then read the Lectionary Readings for the week. This was followed by the message and the song, Jesus is Better than Football. This was followed by Holy Communion, during which we sang How He Loves Us and Enough, again emphasizing the idea that nothing we embrace in this life compares to God’s amazing grace, love and majesty. “

  35. Fr. Daniel:

    You state: “Find a church body that truly has its doctrine of ministry correct.”

    Your church body (LCMS) has churches in the Phoenix area that have elders that are not pastors. So, using your own advice, maybe you should find a church body that is consistant with your own terms for ministry.

    Again, your system of “church and ministry”, has lead to inconsistencies and heresies all over the place.

    Every church does it’s own thing, with the district presidents just standing there and letting pastors break their own by-laws as they see fit. This “correct system of church and ministry” is adiaphora anarchy. Poor practice of doctrine, leads to false doctrine.

    I just don’t understand how the conservatives and confessional pastors can put up with a system of church and ministry that doesn’t work. Look at the disunity at your conventions. No one is united in doctrine and practice. Anything goes, I/N/O “adiaphora.”

    If the conservatives do split off from the LCMS and use the same system of “church and ministry” that they now have in place, you will have a repeat of adiaphora anarchy, and be thus forced to split off again. Folks that don’t learn from their mistakes, will just keep repeating them.

    Time is much better spent on preaching the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, then spending all this time in trying to correct a screwed up system.

    Sorry to be so blunt.

  36. Scott,

    So I guess it sounds like it was sung, but the video was not shown. Neil, is this correct?

  37. johannes :
    @Bubbles #50
    Check out David Adams’ “Three Missouris” and “PIETISM IN MISSOURI’S MISSION:
    FROM MISSION AFFIRMATIONS TO ABLAZE!”, by Klemet Preus. I believe both can be found in the LOGIA archives, and perhaps the Preus article can be accessed here. YOu can contact Adams at CSL and request his paper.
    The same reluctance to “enforce orthodoxy” that you describe goes back even to the post-Seminex days. Many of the seminex grads filtered back into the synod, and nobody noticed or cared. Pr. Stefanski sees things pretty accurately.
    Don’t discount the influence of so called “Christian” TV and radio, either.
    j

    I once saw a quote that mentioned that the pastors that are retiring are donating their libraries to the LCMS Historical Society. It was mentioned that a lot of the publications were of reformed content and theologically contradictory to Lutheran teachings (BoC, Luther, Walther). Someone mentioned on another site that there wasn’t much available the last 50 years that were good solid, confessional books. I don’t go along with that excuse. There is always a way to get good solid writings from the church fathers.

    .

  38. Lloyd,

    Actually if memory serves me correctly Fr Daniel has found a church body that is consistent with his terms for ministry. I believe he is in the Orthodox Church and not LCMS, though I don’t think that has come up yet in this thread.

  39. @Neil Grepke #179
    Mr. Grepke—

    I’m willing to concede that you understand the issue (problem) with much of CW. I have played the keyboard in a praise band, and have more than a passing acquaintance with CW. Your characterization of CW critics as “starting with a damning proposition” is unfortunate, as is the description “mob mentality calling for a rift in the Synod.” The rift already exists—and has for a long time. The question is, what should we do? Leaving the Synod is, to most of us, a last resort, I believe, and saddens not only you, but all of us. Reading the posts here ought to make that clear. However, let’s deal with the immediate issue, CW, which is symptomatic of a larger one. Let’s just look at four of the songs in the worship service you have outlined for us, using as our template the quotation that CW & praise songs “Emphasize the Christian, not Christ.” I Googled the titles as you gave them, and reproduce the lyrics, at least in part, and sometimes condensed. As we read these songs, let us ask ourselves these two questions: (1) Where is Christ (or the Gospel)?, and (2) Is the Christian emphasized? I add an important third question: (3) What do these songs teach us about Christianity? Rather than press the argument, I’ll simply let the readers, and you, I hope, ask (and answer) the above three questions.

    “Majestic” (Lincoln Brewster)

    Oh Lord, Our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth (repeat)
    The heavens declare Your greatness
    The oceans cry out to You
    The mountains, they bow down before You
    So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll sing…
    The heavens declare Your greatness
    The oceans cry out to You
    The mountains, they bow down before You
    So I’ll join with the earth and I’ll give my praise to You
    Ooohhhh…
    And I will worship You, I will worship You
    I will worship You (I will worship You, Oh God)
    I will worship You, We will worship You (We will worship You, Oh God)
    We will worship You

    “Children of the living God” (Feranando Ortega)

    Come and sing sing out loud children of the living God– Sing to the Living God

    Verse 2: Sing of the wonders he has made bird in flight falling rain
    Sing of the wonders he has made sing to the living God
    Chorus:
    How he loves us with great love he who sits enthroned above for our lives he spilled his blood sent his spirit like a flood Children of the Living God sing to the living God

    Verse 3: Sing of his gentle healing hands how they found the lowliest man sing of his gentle healing hands sing to the living God (Chorus)

    Verse 4: Sing of the mercy that he gives though we sin he forgives sing of the mercy that he gives sing to the living God (Chorus)

    “How He Loves Us” (David Crowder?)

    He is jealous for me,
    Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
    Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy.
    When all of a sudden,
    I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
    And I realise just how beautiful You are,
    And how great Your affections are for me.

    And oh, how He loves us so, Oh how He loves us, How He loves us all
    Yeah, He loves us, Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves us, Oh! how He loves.

    We are His portion and He is our prize,
    Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
    If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
    And Heaven meets earth like an unforseen kiss,
    And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
    I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
    When I think about, the way…
    He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us,
    Oh how He loves. Yeah, He loves us, Whoa! how He loves us.

    “Enough” (ChrisTomlin)

    All of You is more than enough for all of me
    For every thirst and every need
    You satisfy me with Your love
    And all I have in You is more than enough
    You are my supply, My breath of life
    And still more awesome than I know
    You are my reward, worth living for
    And still more awesome than I know
    All of You is more than enough for all of me
    For every thirst and every need
    You satisfy me with Your love
    And all I have in You is more than enough
    You’re my sacrifice, Of greatest price
    And still more awesome than I know
    You’re the coming King, You are everything
    And still more awesome than I know
    More than all I want, More than all I need
    You are more than enough for me
    More than all I know, More than all I can say
    You are more than enough for me.

    I hope that I have made my difficulty with CW clear, especially with songs such as these. You have shown great courage in entering this discussion, and taking a lot of flak, some of which I delivered, and which, in retrospect was offensive. Please forgive me.

    Rather than escalating the discussion, however, I would commend to you Rev. Sean Rippy’s “In Defense of Historical Worship” which may be found here.

    Johannes, Curmudgeon

  40. Pr. Eric,
    Pleease don’t even consider leaving this site. Your insights are greatly appreciated.

  41. MN Grandma #196: The same can be said of the Apostles Creed and the standard confession of sins.

  42. Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

    I have been honored to be a part of this conversation and I pray that God uses it to strengthen and teach me. I am, though, having some trouble keeping up, so I just want to thank you all. Perhaps with some rest and a mental break from the work week, I can return. I really would like to continue the thread on the lyrics posted by (I think) Johannes. I read (and sing) those lyrics and I come away with something that is almost exclusively Christ-centered… and very instructive about his undeserved love and his sacrifice. Again, they are no more human-centered than the Creed or the confession of sins, or even the Lord’s prayer, for that matter.

    But I also realize that each of us comes to the table with different perspectives and I think I understand why someone reading them, especially if they have a predisposition against CW, would see them as just “a lot of I, ME, MY,” so I can respect that view.

    I would be interested in sharing the lyrics from my upcoming CD with any colleagues who are not automatically opposed to the very notion of CCM. I believe, perhaps naively, that some of you would find them quite worthy of Lutheran worship. But then again, I see Majestic, and songs like it (Better is One Day, for example) as being the best possible music for worship — the singing of God’s word virtually verbatim, working in tandem with the other elements through which God feeds us.

    Thank you for allowing me into the conversation. I value this sort of “debate” and I am always looking to learn ways in which I can better serve God and His children.

    Blessings to all!

  43. Neil,

    For when you have time to read this, the Apostle’s Creed and Confession of Sins are necessarily about about we believe, what we have done and what we deserve. I think the Hymn of Praise would be a better element to compare.

    I think besides comparing the words that songs have in common with the parts of the service you mention it is also worth noting some words that do occur in the Apostle’s Creed and Confession on Sins but not in the lyrics posted above. Some of these words are Jesus, Christ, crucified, hell, dead, Father, Holy, judge, saints, resurrection, unclean and punishment. Verse 4 of “Children of the Living God” does mention both forgive and sin, though it is the only place for each word. That song does also have “spilled his blood” which is similar to crucified. I think any focus on Christ or His sacrifice and our being utterly undeserving of it would have to be inferred by someone with that understanding of Scripture since the songs themselves do not seem to supply it. They seem to reflect more of a Theology of Glory than a Theology of the Cross.

    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”. I can see them hearing about God’s love for us, “love” is mentioned 19 times in the above lyrics, however the only possible allusion to it being undeserved is “though we sin” but even that could be easily understood as “yeah, I’ve messed up some, but I try hard and love God”. Such an understanding does not reflect our complete inability to deserve any mercy, let alone complete forgiveness. Someone who has always been a Lutheran can sing “though we sin” and recall all the teachings about our complete depravity, but those who are just visiting won’t have that same understanding. It’s not just a matter of a different perspective of someone who is against CW, which sometimes it may be, but how the lyrics stand on their own. I believe finding a Lutheran interpretation of the lyrics would have to be done by a Lutheran trying to find Lutheran teachings in them. Such is not the case with the Divine Service.

    I hope you will be able to return and post some of the lyrics from your upcoming CD. I also hope you will consider my comments and find them helpful. I am still not convinced that contemporary music works well in worship but perhaps your songs will at least be able to better convey the rich understanding of Scripture that Lutherans have.

  44. Neil,

    I am glad that your church uses the Creeds and the Confession of Sins from the LSB. They are clear and instructive. I noticed that earlier you said “Majestic, essentially a prayer using the words of Psalm 8”. Since scripture is the best source for lyrics in worship I thought it would be good to compare the psalm with “Majestic”. It seems to be more of an expansion of words in the first and last verses than the whole psalm. Verse 4 has “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The verses following go on the relate the many things with which God has blessed us and it ends with “how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

    The song “Majesty” focuses, of course, on God’s majesty but it leaves out the parts of Psalm 8 that indicate the many blessings He has given us, vv. 5-8 “You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas.” as well as our unworthiness “what is man that you are mindful of him”.

    “Majestic” also indicates that heaven and earth declare God’s greatness and bow down to Him so we too should join them in praise. We should certainly praise God, but not because the heavens and the earth praise Him. We should praise Him because the amazing and majestic God whom even the heavens and earth praise loves us so much that He became man, was voluntarily tortured and killed all so that we worthless sinners could be with Him. It wasn’t when we worship Him and think we live a good life that Jesus died for us but “While we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). When we fall we do not need to worry about losing His grace since it was in that state that it was given to us.

    If someone came to me and paid off all my current debts and any debts I will ever have that would be so amazing that I can not imagine someone in my position not wanting to thank that person and tell others how great that person is, to declare their greatness. How much more so than for God who has paid off an infinitely greater debt, and not just for me but for everyone. And the way the debt was paid is so amazing, an infinite, everlasting God being contained in a single person and dying. When the Devil enticed Adam to sin and separated Man from God I don’t think he saw that coming. Praise in response to that would focus more on the cross rather than on God’s glory.

    I look forward to your feedback and any corrections for misunderstandings I may have.

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