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.)