Confessional Lutheran Reformation around the Globe Capped by Harrison Election, by Pr. Rossow

The Confessional Lutheran momentum that just may lead to the election of Matt Harrison as  LCMS president has its origin years ago and has been building through those years. Here is my list of the five most influential causes of the current revival of Confessional Lutheranism in the LCMS and the world.  You may have a different list and I invite you to share your thoughts in the comment section below but from my perspective here are the fundamental contributors.

The Faculty Assembled at Ft. Wayne by Robert Preus – I am a St. Louis graduate but I received my Doctor of Ministry from Concordia Fort Wayne a few years ago and that is where I learned of and experienced the huge influence of Robert Preus. He was long gone by the time I enrolled but I was privileged to sit at the feet of his proteges in the lecture hall and break bread with them in  the dining hall and what a force they have been for Confessional Lutheranism. I am speaking of the likes of Marquart,   Scaer, Just, Weinrich, Mackenzie, and Voelz (now at St. Louis), and including another of  the Preus proteges, Dean Wenthe,  who is running the institution and continuing the Preus legacy.  I wish I had space to name the entire faculty. They are to a person, godly and delightful. I will also name my good friend Herr Ziegler and his partner in “gift” theology Masaki because they are a testimony to the international emphasis Robert Preus brought to American Lutheranism, which Matt Harrison is promising to extend and further develop.

Norman Nagel Joins the Concordia St. Louis Faculty– I know Robert Preus gets a lot of credit for bringing most or all of the people I named above to Fort Wayne. I am not sure who gets the credit for bringing Norman Nagel to Concordia, St. Louis, but what a gift it was and still is. Norman Nagel brought to the LCMS a study of genuine Lutheranism. His teaching  of Elert, Sasse and Luther himself, have profoundly changed the last generation of LCMS pastors. He didn’t just teach about Luther but actually drew the students into the very texts of Luther. Dr. Nagel knew and taught the law of God but he truly brought to light the teaching of Walther that the Gospel must predominate. Nagel’s emphasis on the office of the ministry, the sacraments and the liturgy also contributed to the Confessional renewal in the LCMS that is also making its way around the world.

Liturgical Renewal – This is the one item on my list that is pan-Lutheran. I am no liturgical expert. I have had to learn an appreciation for the liturgy and unlearn my youthful preference for “contemporary” worship. Even while Larry Norman, The Second Chapter of Acts and Keith Green were establishing the Christian pop top forty, there was a profound renewal of the liturgy going on not only in Lutheranism but in the Church overall. Liturgical renewal certainly has its downside (the pragma-mysticism of Kavanaugh for instance) but all in all, it has served the church well in the last generation by rejecting the narcissism of pop worship and replacing it with the 2,000 year old tradition of the divine monergism in the Divine Service.

Lutheran Heritage Foundation – LHF is going through  some changes right now that I am not sure are all helpful  but it is one of my top five causes of Confessional renewal.  LHF  has brought Confessional Lutheranism to Africa, Siberia, Kazakhstan  and numerous other places around the globe.  LHF has been hit by some serious budget cuts recently but I am convinced that the work they have started will continue to blossom. This is also a good point to mention the Luther Academy that is also expanding Confessional Lutheranism around the globe and the work of Tim Quill and others at Ft. Wayne to uphold the Gospel in Siberia, Madagascar and elsewhere.

Issues Etc.   – Remember the 7,000 signatures on the petition to restore Issues Etc. to KFUO? What Don Matzat got started, Todd and Jeff have taken to new heights. Speaking of the 7,000 signatures, there were countless folks who gave testimonies on that petition about being  brought into the doctrinal purity and godly piety of Confessional Lutheranism by the work of Issues Etc. It is certainly one of the keys to Confessional renewal around the world.

I hope we can  add  BJS  to the  list in the coming years. With God’s blessing, your support and continued growth we can keep  growing our readership and membership, chapters and confessional reading groups so that we can  make our own contribution to  the  Confessional Lutheran reformation going on around the world.

I suppose I could also add the church growth mentality to the list of contributors to the Confessional renewal.  The current LCMS administration and so many others  have fueled the fire of Confessional renewal by pedaling thier  their misplaced emphasis on human efforts of psychology and  sociology that has resulted in such curious caricatures of churches like The Alley and Jefferson Hills. They have captured the hearts of many in the LCMS and for sure, not all of their efforts harm the Gospel, but the over promotion of such things as leadership, outreach, and identity with the culture have pushed many of us back into the fold of  the the perennial, long-standing and traditional liturgical approach that has been the life-blood of the Church for 2,000 years.

Matt Harrison is no stranger to  these five fundamental causes of Confessional Lutheranism. He is a well balanced pastor and theologian and his election would be another solid plank in the bridge that has been being built for a generation now, that is leading us to Confessional Lutheran renewal around the world.

(As mentioned above, I would love to have you critique my list of five and/or hear your list of five significant causes of Confessional Lutheran renewal.)

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Confessional Lutheran Reformation around the Globe Capped by Harrison Election, by Pr. Rossow — 18 Comments

  1. Can I comment on my own post? Under “Liturgical Renewal” I would include those who are dedicated to the old TLH. I know that “purists” find much lacking in TLH liturgically speaking, but I would much rather attend a die-hard TLH service than a “contemporary” service. I have used TLH, LW and LSB in my years and recommend LSB but I have also been served the Gospel faithfully in the many TLH churches I have attended.


  2. A few other significant items I’d add:

    1. the publication of Logia: A Journal of Lutheran Theology
    2. Dr. Kenneth Korby’s impact on many confessional/liturgical pastors in the LCMS
    3. the renewal of catechesis
    4. Higher Things
    5. translation of historic Lutheran works never before in English (CPH, Repristination Press, Northwestern, and Lutheran Legacy)
    6. CAT41

  3. Nice article. Might I propose considering CPH for your list?

    > I would much rather attend a die-hard TLH service than a “contemporary” service


  4. I knew there would be some great additions. How could I leave out Higher Things and McCain’s work at CPH? And of course Logia – my wife and I were the first treasurers/shipping dept. for Logia. Could also add the work of Grimm and Vieker on the Commision on Worship.


  5. All of the open (usually conservative) web forums / blogs … LQ, CAT41, and more lately of course this one. Despite their many problems, they provide a place where anybody can ask a question and often get some good answers. Does anybody remember what it was like before?

  6. I don’t know if you can say that this is a cause for confessional Lutheran reformation, but I do think the total moral and theological collapse of the ELCA codified in thier convention last summer has certainly helped to draw a distinction between those lutherans who desire liturgical worship and right theology and those who may want liturgical worship but who have lost thier moorings theologically.

  7. Karl,

    That is a very good point. That is another helpful way to understand that the Liturgical Renewal that I mentioned above is not a guarantor of theological purity.

    To add to your point, I have noticed that liberals have a tendency to like the liturgy. Why is that? In part it is becaue they have given up on the blood atonement and so they need something to hold the “community” together and they see the language of the liturgy as a bonding force. Their post-modern love of communal truth causes them to see the liturgy as community “truth.” It is indeed a bonding force but it is meaningless when void of the blood atonement.

    BTW – good to have you commenting on the site.


  8. The faculty at the Fort Wayne Seminary has had a huge impact far beyond training of pastors. After we attended Harold Senkbeil’s “Equipped to Serve” retreat there, we fell in love with the place, and fortunately, we live close enough to visit occasionally. Dr. Senkbeil’s retreat begins by reminding us who we are as Lutherans–it’s a lesson we all need to learn. Anyone who follows these threads can readily see that much of the LCMS’ problem(s) is that we have forgotten who we are. All of the talk emanating from St. Louis notwithstanding, it is true of SynodInc., as well. Sitting in classes on the FW campus, listening to lectures at the symposia, enjoying special presentations by faculty members–these are synod treasures–and almost without exception, they call us back to our roots. I have been blessed to hear first-hand accounts of the Battle for the Bible from the lips of those who led the struggle: Walter Dissen, Alvin Briel, and Paul Zimmerman–it’s an ongoing struggle these days–the issues are different, but the struggle remains. I thank God for those men, and for CTSFW! And, I hasten to add, BJS, IssuesEtc., Necessary Roughness, and StandfFirm.


  9. The seminaries “spread the Word” with the professors’ continuing education courses around the country. The courses aren’t just for Pastors any more; laity may sit in and it is well worth while to do so. Here in Austin we had a couple down from Tennesee several years because they had nothing like it where they lived. (They found out about CE at Symposium.)
    Recent incentive: seniors may attend at a reduced rate.

  10. Perhaps a couple other additions…

    1) Survivors of the pop-church culture, such as Gene Veith (“The Spirituality of the Cross”), who have been quite vocal about the differences between the Theology of Glory they are fleeing from and the Theology of the Cross they now lovingly embrace.

    2) The general shift of the population from liberalism to conservatism. For example, there have been numerous articles published around the blogsphere about the growing number of youth who are more interested in “traditional” worship forms and more importantly, authentic, historic, Christianity.

    3) But most importantly, the working of the Holy Spirit through His Word and Sacraments being faithfully delivered to people like me. That is, as a “big sinner” (an atheist for 18 years) I need to hear both solid law and gospel and receive the forgiveness of sins as often as possible. People like me, who have past experiences in “evangelicalism”, understand that the Gospel is pronounced through the conservative liturgy at every turn; unlike the “baptimethocostal” type of “worship service” where the focus is typically law oriented and what you need to do to be a better you.

  11. How about our dear brothers in the faith who were trained by these men, and often paid dearly for their confession, some even paying the ultimate price for what they believed. They are no longer with us, but will not be forgotten.


  12. I would also add Lutheran converts like Chris Rosebrough and his leap of faith with Pirate Christian Radio. This shows the response of someone who has been fed bologni their hole life, and then gets to eat his first prime rib (all you can eat)!

  13. (to respnd to post #7)I find it interesting that many theological liberals do, in fact, hold up liturgical worship as a way of holding the faith community together. The problem with that is that the reality on which the liturgy is based (incarnation, atonement, actual means of grace) is denied in thier theology.

    I also find it interesting that many neo evangelicals and some LCMS Lutherans are embracing worship forms such as the next great thing-emergent church styles-no liturgy, no Creed, Christ divorced from the cradle of the historic Church. Both end up at the same place, or different sides of the same coin. One group has kept form, and gutted theology, and is thus empty. The other has disdained the historic Church, and proclaims a Christ that is rooted in the culture, and the individual, not in the historic church. Both are ultimatly empty, and hurt the soul and the Church.

    That is why faithful and winsome use of our liturgy along with our theology bears fruit. Just some ramblings on a late afternoon.

  14. How about the influence of the church throughout the world, which continues to challenge us when we need challenging, and seeks to re-introduce confessional Lutheran Christianity in parts of the world where Biblical orthodoxy has been disappearing? Wouldn’t our sister churches be on the list as those who have done more than received training from God through us, but have also taken that training and blessed so many others with it?

  15. Pr. John A. Frahm :The sad thing is that many of those who fought valiantly in the Battle of the Bible have no clue on what the issues are today.

    I beg to disagree. Those I have talked with understand the issues, and their opponents wasted no time in attempting to remove them from positions of influence.

    It’s the delegates whom I’m concerned about.


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