The Disconnect was Complete – Catechism and Youth Work, by Pr. Rossow

“Catechism was something one had to teach in confirmation classes. The disconnect was complete,” so writes Pastor Mike Schroeder on one of the other comment strings on BJS. He is referring to the fact that catechesis and youth ministry get dragged apart in the model of “feel good” gatherings and relevant “teaching” that has taken over the notion of youth work in the LCMS in the last generation.

If I had only one thing to say to our middle of the road and thorough-going church growth readers it would be “Listen to people like Pastor Mark Schroeder.” He and so many others (including me) have been down the path of using church growth tactics to “bring the faith to life.” It is a misleading road that takes the church away from an emphasis on Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins and the one thing alone that delivers that good – the means of grace.

Here is the comment Pastor Schroeder wrote. It is comment #9. (Note: Yaconelli and Rice are noted youth “ministry” innovators and are used in this comment as a symbol of all that was funky and cool in youth work for the last generation.)

In my first years of pastoral ministry I was a regular subscriber to Youth magazine and would read everything Yaconelli/Rice would write, and Catechism was something one had to teach in confirmation classes. The disconnect was complete.  I have since repented.  And since then it seems that the 60s/post-Enlightenment captivity of the Church has not been broken.  This is sad.  Truly our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities in the heavenly places:  Prayer and Liturgy, the Word of God.  I not only thank Rev. Fisk for the video and Brian for his recommendation but add to both the Amen!

Thank you Pastor Schroeder for that great line: “the disconnect was complete.” Thanks to you and all the humble, Christ-centered and cross-focused people on this website, at Issues, Etc., and throughout Confessional Lutheranism; the connection is being made between simple catechetical instruction and a really “living faith.”

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.


The Disconnect was Complete – Catechism and Youth Work, by Pr. Rossow — 14 Comments

  1. Pr. Rossow, you are welcome. I was confirmed in ’68 at a large LCMS congregation in suburban Chicago. The vicar, after teaching confirmation, was really excited to show us the new youth room with the theme: “Snoopy’s Doghouse”, and the walls painted with Peanuts characters. I remember alot of eye-rolling from the confirmands and comments like, “how queer”. Yet, that vicar also pointed out in class that the Te Deum was one of the oldest Christian hymns and I thought that was cool. If only I had remembered that a whole lot earlier! And we are still in the doghouse!

  2. “And since then it seems that the 60s/post-Enlightenment captivity of the Church has not been broken.”

    I think we’ve come a long way, though.

  3. As a person who has a long, long history in the popular model of evangelicalism, now I’m almost 50, I encourage all church leaders to have mercy on young people. Don’t teach them to look for Jesus in their heart based on what mood they may happen to be in that day (or hour). Teach them the words of the catechism. Teach them to believe in God and to trust God’s heart toward them by what He says in His word and not by the way they feel God feels about them. Make life simple for them (it is complicated enough) by giving them the pure doctrine of the Gospel that the Living Word speaks through
    His written word. There is plenty of room for enjoying each others company and having fun as the church cares for the young folks in our midst. But the words of the catechism are serious and if we (the church) do not teach our beloved children that life is serious business and needs a serious faith, we are hurting them.

  4. @Nathaniel Jensen #2
    Nathaniel, yes, I think we have come along way insofar that we are discussing this as a serious problem and not accepting these various enthusiasms as settled new dogma, or as the way we do things as Christ’s Church. It was not that long ago many pastors and people would say, yup that’s the way we do youth ministry. But looking at youth convention, it is also clear, there is along way to go.

  5. I guess you can say we’ve come a long way in that we have an alternative youth ministry – Higher Things. We can say that we’ve come a long way in that our younger pastors are less likely to support the pandering schlock. But we still have a massive amount of heavy lifting to do.

  6. Yes I’ll put in my 2 cents for Higher Things. We Seniors on s.s. went to the services when they were in town two times. They were outstanding and the Prof.s that gave the sermons were outstanding geared for the youth. We oldrsters got much out of the sermons and I have to tell mention this, counselors were very outgoing and and struck up many a conversation. Also with the youth. I have to say we went to church! They had many activities aside the topics they have for their gatherings.

    I have a bit of advice to people that don’t know what it is about. LOOK INTO IT. The Magazine that is quarterly is well worth the price. I have handed these out when some timely advice was needed. No I ‘m not on a soap box,just wanted to share an opinion.

  7. OYoung, I think the “60s/post-Enlightenment captivity of the Church” is dying out with those older pastors in our congregations who would promote it. I have heard of and met many young and soon to be pastors (and young parishoners) who are more theologically sound than those of the past couple of decades.

  8. Nathaniel,
    Consider this: Pr. Harrison was ordained in 1989. He did not attend pre-Seminex St. Louis, or Concordia Senior College. They were long passed into history by the time he started his studies. We are at the retirement of the seminary class of 1971. Probably a third to half of them are already gone. And its curious to see the effects of this. I know a certain pastor who attended the Senior College. He’s conservative on the authority of Scripture but he’s a total anti-nomian. He rejected liberalism to a point, but was still shaped and formed by it. It’ take another ten years or so for the last of these guys to flushed out of the system. But their influence is definitely on the wane. But we must be on our guard against young pastors who grew up in their congregations and were influenced by them.

  9. @Rev. Jody Walter #9
    “It’ (ll) take another ten years or so for the last of these guys to (be) flushed out of the system.”

    Rev. Walter,
    I am a graduate of the Senior College and of Seminex, as are many others. I take exception to your statement that we just need wait around for us to be “flushed out of the system” like so much excrement. Here are my exceptions:
    1. Implied in that statement is that once the decade is gone, then we will have a pure Church. I do not think so as long as the Old Adam hangs about our necks.
    2. Also implied is that those born into the newer generational alphabet milieu (X,Y etc.), somehow those persons are immune from the zeitgeist and it’s allure. Again, see the Old Adam.
    3. I said that by God’s grace, I have repented. I obviously did not use the word “repent” as a euphemism. We are all called to repentance, esp. those who have strayed away from the Word of God…which we all tend to do.
    4. A pastor will eventually realize in a tough parish, “If I just wait it out, certain people will die”. Using the last enemy, death, as pastoral servant is just plain grim and worse: it’s wrong. Such thinking precludes, again, repentance and salvation in the Lord. Such thinking implies people are trash.
    5. I referenced in my posting Ephesians 6: 12. I have come out of the ELCA. FWIW, I have struggled mightily with the Ephesians verse: our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities. I find it so easy to be against flesh and blood and use the Sword of the Spirit to slice someone up. I started college in Concordia, Milwaukee in ’72 and ’73 the schism occured. I thought JAO Preus was the devil incarnate. ‘If we just get rid of Preus, then everything will be all right.’ Then later, waking up, many of us realized that the new Lutheran church in ’88 was going horribly astray. The first battle was not over sexuality but the Holy Trinity: pastors were baptizing in the ‘name’ of creator, redeemer and sanctifier because of false dogma of feminism. This false dogma was one of the powers in the heavenly places we were fighting…but again it’s so easy to say “it’s them”. The other Scripture I have struggled with is 1 John, written because of rank heresy and schism (1 John 2: 19) and yet it speaks eloquently of agape and without the Lord we can do nothing (John 15): His love is so necessary in the church struggles. Hermann Sasse writes somewhere there was never a time of a united church, the call is always to repentance. But not rejection. I have rejected others, but the Lord pursued me. Yes, salvation takes time, but not our time, as we reckon time. After all, as someone has said, It took the Lord only 6 days to create the heavens and the earth, but it took Him 33 years to save us. We so need to take His time with others: after all, I want it for myself when I fall into the pit.

    Peace in the Christ,

  10. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #10

    I have said many times that the Church of every age struggles against heresy. If we sit back and rest on our laurels then we will be overcome by the newest wave of heresy to come along.

    We must always be vigilant or we will fall as well.

  11. Rev. Schroeder,
    I am not the first nor the last to make such observations, so I would suggest you might not want to be quite so sensitive. Many fine pastors did come out of that era. But many were not perceptive enough to fully come out of it. While each age has it’s errors, sound training at the college and seminary level serves to reduce the problem.

    While we are always to preach, teach and model repentance, the sad reality is that some will never repent. Nor are we always in the position to remove the unrepentant. In some cases we don’t even know who is or is not repentant and thus cannot act. So sometimes conflicts in the church do die old age. Like it or not that is simply reality.

  12. @Pr. Mark Schroeder #10

    Eloquently spoken. The LCMS paid and is paying a heavy price for the false doctrine that was taught at the seminary. But anyone who thinks that waiting for those men to retire is going to solve anything is mistaken. The spiritual forces you wrestle with are not limited in their lies. Church Growth hasn’t done us any good, nor has pentecostalism. And there’s a lot more out there (and in here).

    Thanks for your post.


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