St. Louis Seminary Replaces Chapel Tomorrow with Small Groups, by Pr. Rossow

The following post will appear in the Concordia Seminary – St. Louis announcements tomorrow.

Small Groups TODAY!!!
Tuesday, September 28, there will be no daily chapel service. Everyone is encouraged to participate in a small group which will use the devotional tool SOAP: Scripture-Observation-Application-Prayer. Group lists and locations are posted on campus and shared are attached to the Daily Announcements today.
Attached to this email are the location and group listings in PDF format. Groups and Locations have been updated. Spouses, fiancées, and/or significant others should attend the same small group as their companion.
Dean Burreson (9/28/2010)

Well, first contemporary worship (the verdict is still out on that) and now small groups. There are ways in which these two things can be done in a Lutheran way but bringing them both onto the seminary campus in a matter of a couple of weeks really raises some questions.

Detailed critique will need to wait until we hear more about this new program. For now I will say this. It looks like an attempt to break the so-called “ivory tower syndrome” in which pastors are accused by their parishes of being out of touch with things like feelings, relationships and the real world. I am not sure there is such a problem and even if there is, this does not seem like the answer.

One more thing, I am a St. Louis graduate, so don’t take this as biased. I really believe the recent curriculum changes at Ft. Wayne, where they divide the classes into study and mentor groups, is a much better adjustment to make to the seminary program in order to better form pastors. That program was just going into effect at the Fort when I was finishing up my D Min and it seemed to be received very well. I look forward to our readers comments and insights on these developments. It just does not seem right to me that the seminary Walther founded is dabbling in contemporary worship and small groups.

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.


St. Louis Seminary Replaces Chapel Tomorrow with Small Groups, by Pr. Rossow — 99 Comments

  1. @Rev. Kory Boster #29

    I have found C.F.W Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel , cph, 1929 ed. very useful in understanding Pietists/ Pietisms. Here is an excerpt from pg.422 indexes:

    “Pietists. Faith must be preceded by a long time of penitence , p.253. They made a false distinction between spiritual awakening and conversion pp. 362.363.368.( When Scripture speaks of awakening it always means conversion.) They mistook the inability to believe for not being permitted to believe and warned against believing too soon p.372.373. They reasoned they must not allow their hearers to appropriate what does not yet belong to them because it would prove a false comfort to them , pg 377;… they must be able to state exact hour of their conversion pg. 193.Reason: They imagined a person must suddenly experience a heavenly joy and hear an inner voice p.194 . they divided mankind into many classes p.311. Pietists and the Beatitudes p.95, p.96. “

  2. Today, I was writing to a seminarian about a different matter. I ended the email:

    “BTW- What’s up with the small groups in place of chapel? 🙂 ”

    His reply:

    “I don’t have anything good to say about what’s going on at the chapel this year. They are ‘diversifying.'”

  3. Another seminarian defended the practice:

    “The point of the small group is to foster devotional time that seemed to be lacking on campus. The groups will meet a few times a quarter in that Tuesday chapel time slot in the hopes of generating a greater sense of community and devotional life. ”

    My reply:

    “Lord have mercy! Does the above sound anything like this?

    “Pietism succeeded in introducing a new theology of worship grounded not in the delivery of the fruits of Christ’s redeeming work but rather in the edification of the saint.”

    Spener writes, ‘But it is not enough that your ear hears it. Do you let in penetrate inwardly into your heart and allow the heavenly food to be digested there, so that you get the benefit of its vitality and power, or does it go in one ear and out the other?”

    “Spener offers three suggestions for the increased use of the Bible: … Special meetings be organized for the reading and application of the Scriptures. It is the development of this third point which will be most influential in pietism.

    According to Spener, these gatherings would be “the ancient and apostolic kind of church meeting.” These meetings were not designed to replace the divine service but to supplement it. Spener describes how these assemblies would function: In addition to our customary services with preaching, other assemblies would also be held in the manner which Paul describes them in I Corinthians 14:26-40. One person would not rise to preach (although the practice would be continued at other times), but others who have been blessed with gifts and knowledge would also speak and present their pious opinions on the proposed subject to the judgment of the rest, doing all this in such a way as to avoid disorder and strife. This might conveniently be done by having several ministers (in places where a number of them live in a town) meet together or by having several members of a congregation who have a fair knowledge of God or desire to increase their knowledge meet under the leadership of a minister, take up the Holy Scriptures, read aloud from them, and fraternally discuss each verse in order to discover its simple meaning and whatever may be useful to the edification of all. Anybody who is not satisfied with his understanding of a matter should be permitted to express his doubts and seek further explanation. On the other hand those (including the ministers) who have made progress should be allowed the freedom to state how they understand each passage. Then all that has been contributed, insofar as it accords with the sense of the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures, should be carefully considered by the rest, especially by the ordained ministers, and applied to the edification of the whole meeting.

    Thus the conventicle was born as a para-liturgical assembly. Spener outlines what he sees to be the benefits of these assemblies. Preachers would gain a more intimate knowledge of the spiritual weaknesses of their people while the people would grow in confidence in their ministers. Those who participate would experience personal growth better enabling them to give religious instruction to their children and servants at home. Both sermons and the private reading of the Bible would be better understood. The apostolic admonition of Colossians 3:16 would be fulfilled as “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” would be used in these gatherings “for the praise of God and the inspiration of the participants.” While Spener did not envision the conventicle as a replacement for the divine service, the history of pietism provides evidence that these meetings, not the divine service, would come to the focal point of the spiritual life. Ultimately the songs of the conventicle would find their way into the liturgical services.”

    Ironically, I heard this paper read at CSL, at the Pieper Lectures in 1998.”

  4. Philo #51 thanks for the extra info. since my post this morning I also re-read a portion of Pieper III p174 ff. it is too long to post here but he wrote much better than I pietism’s emphasis on inner experience (Jesus in me) rather than objective truth (Jesus for me and to me). I just blew the dust off my copy of Bengt Hagglund History of Theology. He has a chapter on pietism, but haven’t read it yet as I’ve gone back a bit farther to study the 17th century methods called Lutheran orthodoxy and its emphases, in an attempt to better understand the historical and philosophical context that leads to pietism.

    boaz #44, 46, 48 why so snarky? does sitting in separate pews divide? come on. who is the one being absurd, writing ‘nonsense’ and showing lack of charity? I and others are expressing a concern that some of these small group actions have similarities to an error that had a significant impact in Lutheran history. are you familiar with the negative aspects of pietism? If not I encourage you to read up on them so the conversation might be more instructive. there are some problems with small groups and everyone should be aware of them. Specifically, I am concerned about small groups that are substitutes for worship. How and where is it people grow in faith? Historically and even in recent times these sort of ‘conventicles’ have been demonstrated to direct people away from God’s gifts of word and sacrament to an emphasis on works and subjective authority, downplayed the need for worship attendance and the Office of the Public Ministry, and brought Christ’s promises into question. As one example of an error that can develop in small groups, I’ve seen prayer spoken of as a new sacrament replacing the Lord’s supper, the place where God comes to us. Another serious problem I’ve experienced with small groups is a knack for people considering the group they belong to as more “spiritual” or better “disciples” than the other “carnal” christians. if you haven’t experienced or heard these, be thankful.

    One more note, I wrote earlier today that I had not received a response from CSL about the small groups. Since then (not due to my post here) I was contacted. it was cordial but brief, and I have agreed not to discuss their comments further here. As John #50 recommends, concerns about the seminary should be addressed to the regents or to Missouri District President Mirly.

  5. I’m glad to see that the conversation has taken to making more solid arguments regarding the topic of small groups. I appreciate reading critiques rather than pronouncements. I think there are many valid comments on both sides of this issue.

    A few thoughts: I think the ultimate concern is with the content of small groups rather than small groups themselves. If we follow through with the logic that the only Biblical teaching that can take place within the church must be done by a Pastor then we must throw out Sunday School, Christian Day Schools, and any Bible Study or Confirmation Class taught by anyone other than a Pastor. I think we’ve found a way for Pastors to properly administer the Word by supervising the doctrinal content of Sunday School classes and Bible Studies as to not throw us into heterodox practices (Yes, I know that “Small Group” is a loaded term, however one can not critique the term small group the critique must be on the content)

    Have we considered that the reason that the small group was placed during the chapel time was because there are no classes scheduled at this time? In an attempt to test this concept out it is possible that they chose a time when the most students had the opportunity to participate. Let’s assume that this was a confessional, orthodox, examination of Scripture it would make sense not to have it compete with classes. (Do I think Chapel was the best time to do it? Probably not, but maybe it isn’t a sinister plot to remove Chapel from the seminarians’ life but instead a logistical decision)

    Now that the day has passed and we’ve been able to discuss why small groups can lead to pietism and the potential errors that can be introduced, but have we been able to address the original issue of whether or not the small groups at the seminary fit into any of the definitions that have been described here?

    I want it to be clear that I am not defending nor criticizing the Seminary’s Small Group exercise. I don’t have enough information to make an informed critique one way or the other. I am, however, defending fair, respectful discussion and arguments based on facts and not speculations.

  6. Went to St. Louis too. ’86. I had considerable small-group experience while I was there. Back then we used a very ancient term to describe the phenomenon: We called it, “friendship”.

    Sometimes we’d argue theology; sometimes we’d focus on matters of faith; sometimes we’d pray for each other and sometimes we’d drink beer and smoke big fat cigars. But I found my friendships in seminary most meaningful and rewarding. They were never official or required or even sponsored by any of the higher ups. We just naturally fell into friendship. We sought and found friends.

    I honestly think the small group thing is a remnant of the 60’s “c’mon people now smile on your brother, everybody get together (in small groups) gotta love one another right now.”

    Notice the imperatives! While the sixties liberals seem so easy going, they were actually quite draconian (as are the liberals of today). That’s why small groups have a bad smell about them I think. It’s applied social engineering. (Think table talks at synod conventions…. so very meaningful…..NOT)

  7. I agree with those who advocate focusing on the content of small groups, rather than the concept of small groups. After all, the first Christian small group was the 12-member one that Jesus Himself led.

    In my pre-Lutheran days, when I was in college, I was heavily involved in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). Small groups are central in IVCF’s campus ministry model, not as a replacement for worship, but rather as a supplement to it. In fact, IVCF recognizes itself as a parachurch organization, and strongly encourages every student to get involved in a local congregation, as well.

    I received training from InterVarsity in how to prepare and lead “inductive” small group Bible studies. The heavy emphasis was on asking open-ended questions to help the participants focus on what the text says (observation), what the text means (interpretation), and how the text works (application). Notice that it is all about the (objective) text itself, not anyone’s (subjective) “feelings” about it; the ultimate goal is always to ascertain the author’s intended meaning as it is expressed in the text.

    Unfortunately, over the years since then, I have seen very few small groups that have followed this kind of rigorous approach. Instead, most use a published study guide, read a book, or watch a video (or do some combination of these). No doubt it is much “easier” to “lead” a small group this way, but I always come away from such gatherings “feeling” like folks were settling for a shallow understanding of the subject matter. In my experience, IVCF’s inductive method forces a group to dig much deeper; but obviously the leader has to be someone who knows what he/she is doing and is willing and able to let Scripture speak for itself, rather than imposing a particular agenda on it.

    For me, the bottom line is that a well-led small group can be an excellent context in which a layperson can get to know the Bible better, and also get to know a few fellow believers better. However, by no means should it ever be treated as a substitute for corporate worship/fellowship and the associated proclamation of the Word and administration of the Sacraments by a called and ordained pastor.

  8. As someone who went to chapel every single day (and loved it. My son learned the SPP and Matins there) for most of my Seminary career, this is somewhat funny to see my brother-alums complain. Far too many times did I see an empty chapel day after day after day. I would leave and take my son over to Loeber to get a snack and watch all these guys sitting there playing pool and watching TV (as did I a lot my first year). Whenever I would say “missed you in chapel” I was met with the cries of “pietist!”
    So now Dean Burreson (a known Confessional and High Church prof) is changing chapel for one day in favor of SOAP (whatever that is). I say, if it scares enough anti-nomians out of the game room and back to chapel, bravo. We can chalk it up to the Law doing its work. If not, then it seems the chapel will be empty still, only for a different reason.
    I remember the chapel attendance was an issue. As a reporter for the Tower, I interviewed the then-Dean of students Reed Lessing on the topic of tepid chapel attendance. He said he was disturbed by the anti-nomianism, but didn’t want to require it either. Personally, I believe it shouldn’t be looked at as “Required” but rather as a regular part of your daily life.
    Food for thought.

    Rev. Brandt Hoffman
    Anchorage, AK

  9. I see here all the pluses and minuses of Confessional Lutherans (a group of humans, distinct from Confessional Lutheranism – a system of beliefs). I see some people saying, “Oh no! Small Groups! Rick Warren talks about them! Flee!”

    I see others saying, “These work well. We should do them.”

    And I see people willing to acknowledge that over-reliance on any technique can quickly become a Law unto itself.

    Remember that we believe in the theology of the cross. We must die to self daily by Christ’s grace. We must acknowledge that each one of us is just as susceptible to error as anyone else – my reason and ego are broken and curved in on themselves. We rely on grace alone for our salvation (not a morning prayer or a small group), we receive this grace only through faith (not through our experience of chapel or small groups), and this faith can only be delivered through Scripture alone (not matins, not small groups, except insofar as they are indwelt by the Word).

    Lets all take a deep breath and remember that Christ is the head of the church. We are called to put the best construction possible on the deeds and words of others. Hyperventilating reactionism in either direction only serves to promote dissension and has little to do with “bearing with one another in love.” Schismatics were just as condemned by Luther as pietists, because both errors place the self above the Word and the body of Christ in the Church.

  10. “I say, if it scares enough anti-nomians out of the game room and back to chapel, bravo. We can chalk it up to the Law doing its work.”

    And what “work” is that? That which gets you dead?

    “The attempt to make men godly by means of the Law and to induce even those who are already believers in Christ to do good by holding up the Law and issuing commands to them, is a very gross confounding of Law and Gospel. This is altogether contrary to the purpose which the Law is to serve after the Fall…

    An enforcer of laws, like a jailer, is not concerned about the condition of the heart of the person with whom he must deal, but only about enforcing that person’s obedience. He stands before his victim with a scourge and tells him that the scourge will come down on his back if he does not obey. The jailer is not concerned about godly motives among his prisoners. The prisoners, on the other hand, while they are fast in stocks and in their cells and are forced to obey, are revolving plans in their minds how to avoid being caught at their next theft. That is what a preacher of the law does to the members of a Christian congregation: he puts them in stocks and fetters them…

    If that is all he can do, he will only lead his people to perdition.” [Walther’s Law and Gospel, 37th Evening Lecture]

    Walther spoke out against the pietists who coerced by the law. There truly is nothing new under the sun.

  11. My wife and I have visited the CTSFW campus many times in the past 10 years or so. We usually try to attend chapel, and I cannot recall a time when there was not a fairly good attendance. It seems odd that chapel attendance has been and continues to be an issue at CSL, and one has wonder why that is. Perhaps I don’t understand what’s going on. And I don’t know if chapel attendance is mandatory at FW.

    As far as “small groups” is/are concerned, I think a word of warning is in order. A case can be made that, of themselves, there’s nothing wrong with small groups. I’ve had a lot of experience in “sanctioned” small groups, and can attest that the danger is that they become cliquish (sic) or a substitute for worship, or mini-congregations, or can pervert Bible study. And I don’t think anyone else on this thread has mentioned that small groups have a tendency to become very “me-centered.” All this aside, as I’ve said above, small groups should not under any circumstances replace the regular chapel service–not ever. It sets an awful precedent for the students, and bodes ill for the congregations that they will serve after graduation. This practice devalues genuine worship. It’s a bad deal. If students want to get together on their own, theres’ nothing to stop them.


  12. What work? Really? I was referring to the 3 uses of the Law. Which says:

    1. Curb – Don’t miss chapel as a rule
    2. Mirror – You are missing out on God’s word in order to play ping pong or pool (or whatever) all the time
    3. Guide – Go to chapel, it’s good for you to hear the Gospel

    If you have a problem with going to chapel for reasons of convenience, it isn’t a hard stretch to say there is a problem. I am not talking about legitimate and rare excuses, but the daily abuse of so-called “freedom”. (The Confessions are clear in distinguishing between Christian freedom and the anarchy of antinomianism that sprung up following the Reformation)

    And to properly understand Walther is to know he was referring people to NOT seek salvation in the Law. NOT to seek the works-righteous view of the pietists. In no way would he ever say that people should abandon regular use of God’s Word and Sacraments in favor of idleness. That’s typical anti-nomian speak. We teach that people should be where the Church is (where the Word is purely preached and the Sacraments are rightly administered) NOT to legalize them into heaven, but in order that they be able to hear God’s word and receive His gifts.

    What I meant by “scaring the anti-nomians” is to say perhaps the people who have taken God’s daily means of grace for granted, may repent of such a thing. In short, a good reminder for all Christians (Seminarians included) is “We should fear and love God that we do not despise preaching or His Word but hold it sacred, gladly hear and learn it.”

    I hope I have clarified my point.


  13. “And to properly understand Walther is to know he was referring people to NOT seek salvation in the Law.”

    Not in this portion of his Law and Gospel. Did you read the 37th Evening lecture?

    “In the nineteenth place, the Word of God is not right divided…when an endeavor is made, by means of the commands of the Law rather than by the admonition of the Gospel, to urge the regenerate to do good.”

    “Why would any congregation want a man as its pastor who blew off chapel while attending the seminary? I know I would not want that man as my pastor.”

    I agree, Paul. Why are they there? Should they be there? But the point is that forcing him to go to chapel by means of the law is not going to help. The law does not change hearts. As in this case, it makes hypocrites; you get a man who did not want to go to chapel but was forced by the law to do so. I would not want that man as my pastor.

    “The attempt to…induce even those who are already believers in Christ to do good by holding up the Law and issuing commands to them, is a very gross confounding of Law and Gospel. This is altogether contrary to the purpose which the Law is to serve after the Fall…”

  14. Quoting Dr. John Kleinig from his article titled ”Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio: What Makes a Theologian?” in the July 2002 CTQ:

    “Secondly, in his teaching on meditation, Luther derives the private devotional life of the student from his involvement in public worship. He says:

    Thus you see how David constantly boasts in Psalm 119 that, day and night and always, he would not speak, compose, say, sing, hear, and read anything except God’s word and commandments. For God will not give you his Spirit without the external word. So be guided by that, for it was not for nothing that he commanded that it should be written, preached, read, heard, sung, and spoken externally.

    Luther does not envisage the practice of meditation as an inward, mental activity, but as an outward ritual enactment. As such it was inspired by the liturgy and derived from the enactment of God’s word publicly in the divine service. God commands the church to preach, read, hear, sing, and speak His word, so that He could thereby convey and deliver His Holy Spirit to His people. That external proclamation and enactment of God’s word determines how the student of theology meditates. Just as the Scriptures are read in the Divine Service, so he reads them out aloud to himself as he meditates on some part of them. Just as the psalms are sung there, so he sings them to himself. Just as God’s word is preached there, so he preaches it to himself. Just as God’s word is spoken there, so he hears it addressed personally to himself. Luther therefore advocates the practice of liturgical meditation on God’s word, the exercise of liturgical piety.

    All this has, I hold, important implications for the way that we learn theology in our seminaries. The whole life of a seminary should revolve around daily worship, the be-all and end-all in the receptive life of faith. Both teachers and students need to be disciples of God’s word as it is spoken and enacted in worship. How can we have a Lutheran seminary where the curriculum does not issue from the divine service and lead students and teachers back into it? How can we properly model and teach our students the art of meditation except in corporate worship? They will most certainly not become good preachers of God’s word unless they have first become meditative listeners of it. The fruit of meditation, as Luther recognized, is the preaching and teaching of God’s word.”

  15. @Don Kirchner #66


    Curious… did you learn somewhere that going to Church was a good work? I never learned that. I learned that God is Good… His Word is good… His means of grace are good.
    I learned that humans are fallen and broken. I learned that God “calls, gathers and enlightens His Church on earth”. I learned that sinners hear and receive the forgiveness of sins and other untold blessings in the Divine Service. I never learned that going to Church was a “good work credited to me as righteousness” or some anti-nomian silliness such as that.
    You’ll notice that Thesis XXIII (from which you partially quoted) points to preaching and proper faith. This reference you made is almost counter-intuitive to my point.
    While CFW Walther clearly points to proper LAW/GOSPEL preaching, and service based on faith and not works (see plantation reference) my point was “PEOPLE SHOULD BE THERE TO HEAR GOD’S WORD”. Going to Church (I repeat) Going to church is not a good work on our part, rather a gift from God for our benefit.”
    Of course, if going to Church were a “good work” (properly speaking) our confessions are clear that it is not for the purpose of salvation but AC VI is clear on this:
    “1 Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit [Galatians 5:22–23]. It is necessary to do good works commanded by God [Ephesians 2:10], because of God’s will.
    Concordia : The Lutheran Confessions. 2005 (Edited by Paul Timothy McCain) (33). St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House.”
    So either way, wether it is done out of faith or by the encouragement of others, Going to Church must never be thought of (By Christians) as a point of contention. It is clearly a Gift from God (See AC VII)
    End of story. Are we clear, now?

  16. How I teach my confirmands to pray the 3rd commandment:
    Lord, have mercy, that we may never forsake the assembling together of ourserlves, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more, especially as we see the Day drawing near; always and gladly receiving Your life-giving Word and holy sacraments.

  17. Roger Gallup :
    The offensive thing here is the canceling of the daily chapel. If they desire to encourage students to get together to SOAP each other that may well be fine. To cancel chapel to do so puts SOAP – ing on a par with gathering together for worship; indeed on this day more important!

    I would have to agree. Another response (I am not going to sift through the 70+ again to pull the exact quote) posits that the purpose of these small groups is to foster a greater devotional life among the student body. That is indeed a laudable goal. I don’t think there was enough encouragement of this when I was a student – and that includes the dorm devos we single guys had. With an ever increasing population of married students, even those devotions would be lacking.

    But to replace worship with devotion time is problematic. Since these small groups are not taking place every week, but a couple of times each year, would it not be more appropriate to schedule them on Wednesdays following the Divine Service during the time allotted for “convocation.” You still have a period of time during which no classes are scheduled. It is a time that is set aside in the community for continued education in topical matters. That would seem to be a better time to set aside for such devotions, rather than canceling worship where the Word is proclaimed.

  18. ‘Are we clear, now?’

    No, not really. It’s hard to follow your inconsistency, Brandt. At first, you stated that Walther “was referring people to NOT seek salvation in the Law.” Tthen you changed, claiming that he is talking about good works. Then you put up a straw man, that I was holding that going to Church was a good work. Ironically, you are the one who proposed using the law to coerce folks to receive the gifts! “I say, if it scares enough anti-nomians out of the game room and back to chapel, bravo. We can chalk it up to the Law doing its work.”

    Wow, even Spener spoke against such a view! “We are bound diligently to hear the Word of God not only because we are commanded to do so but because it is the divine hand which offers and presents grace to the believer, whom the Word itself awakens through the Holy Spirit.”

    And let’s keep in mind that we are talking about meeting in small groups, not about the Divine Service. As a seminarian informed us:

    “The point of the small group is to foster devotional time that seemed to be lacking on campus. The groups will meet a few times a quarter in that Tuesday chapel time slot in the hopes of generating a greater sense of community and devotional life.”

    As Pless writes: “Pietism succeeded in introducing a new theology of worship grounded not in the delivery of the fruits of Christ’s redeeming work but rather in the edification of the saint.”

    You advocate using the law to coerce attendance at small group and, presumably, at chapel. Forcing gifts on one renders it a non-gift. Instead, it creates a hypocrite.

  19. Rev. Paul T. McCain :
    Why would any congregation want a man as its pastor who blew off chapel while attending the seminary? I know I would not want that man as my pastor.

    Unfortunately, calling congregations are not allowed to see any information about a seminarian that they are considering including GPA, SET documents or chapel attendance. I would very much like some evidence that a candidate was diligent about his studies, worship and spiritual formation. Some more transparency here might make more congregations willing to accept seminarians as well as motivating accountable behavior from seminarians.

  20. As stated above, Matt, “motivating accountable behavior from seminarians” could merely end up gvivng you a seminarian who had no desire to attend chapel but did so by coercion of the law. I.e., you end up with an impious hypocrite.

    While I agree that I would not want such a man for my pastor, thanks be to God that we receive according to God’s will and the divine call rather than what we want.

    “Article VIII: What the Church Is.

    1] Although the Church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers, nevertheless, since in this life many hypocrites and evil persons are mingled therewith, it is lawful to use Sacraments administered by evil men, according to the saying of Christ: The Scribes and 2] the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat, etc. Matt. 23, 2. Both the Sacraments and Word are effectual by reason of the institution and commandment of Christ, notwithstanding they be administered by evil men.

    3] They condemn the Donatists, and such like, who denied it to be lawful to use the ministry of evil men in the Church, and who thought the ministry of evil men to be unprofitable and of none effect.”

  21. As it was explained to me many years ago, the thinking behind having manditory chapel attendance for first year students was to develop the habit of regular prayer and devotion, this takes the view that chapel attenance is a part of the practial instruction of the student. Though chapel attendance would be voluntary in the following years at the Seminary there would be other requirments related to the chapel, such as serving as Lector. I understand the concern about turning chapel attendance into a good work, but there are many other instances in the life of a Seminarian when their activites are tracked and reported, such as their participation in the ministries and services of the field work churches they are assigned to, as well as their activities on vicarage.
    If the Seminary can assign you to a field work church and require reports on your participation, if they can ask how many classes you’ve taught and sermons you’ve preached then I don’t think its too much to ask that chapel be a requirement for at least part of your time at the Seminary.

  22. Good point, Allen, if it is seen as a training tool. And I have no problem with the Dean calling the guys playing pool during chapel into his office and asking ehm why they are at Sem and why they want to be a pastor.

    To show how clueless I am, I didn’t even know that chapel was mandatory our first year! I simply went, rejoicing in the fact that I could go to church every day!

    Perhaps things have changed. I don’t recall a lot of guys skipping chapel. I do remember walking into Saints Timothy and Titus one morning and seeing Dr. Nagel standing at the door crying out to a couple of guys heading toward Loeber: “Gentlemen! He has gifts for you here!” That would be the sort of Gospel exhortation that I think Walther addresses.

  23. shouldn’t the shepherds of God’s people be tending their sheep and not be blogging about trivial matters? I’m concerned for the spiritual well-being of your people.

  24. Pastor Rossow, I also believe you of all people should understand the benefit of small groups. Look at Trinity Lisle, not too far from Naperville. Their church is fueled by small groups and they have grown exponentially and are on the brink of opening a second site. All of this is done without compromising the precious doctrine passed on from previous generations of Lutherans.

  25. Has anyone contacted Rev Harrison about this? I would think people on this blog should trust him as he is who they wanted elected. I’m sure he is well aware of this. Perhaps he is making sure it is done in a way as a benefit to the Seminary students.

  26. What you see here is the bad fruit of not praying Matins and Vespers as a staple of the Seminarian formation. For me as a student in the nineties, morning chapel was a challenge. You never knew what you would be doing that morning. Sometimes Matins or Morning Prayer with a short meditation, or other times a few hymns, prayers, psalms and a longer sermon. It was different every day; consistency of a familiar prayer office was not prevalent.

    Rather than these services, As a seminarian I would relish in Tuesday and Thursday evenings when we prayed real prayer offices at 10PM. These offices were distinct; they had names, shape and form. But morning chapel never has on a daily basis. Forsake the historic prayer offices, and this is what always happens. You cannot have it both ways. Thus in a certain sense nothing has changed. These “small groups” are just the latest step in the devolution of the western catholic tradition in Lutheranism, and the LCMS.

  27. One more thing to add. I suspect the reason why morning chapel never was a context for praying Matins was the false belief that such a prayer time HAD to have a sermon. This is false. Inundated with class after class, lecture after lecture; the last thing a seminarian needs is another lecture (except at Divine Service on Wednesdays at Saint Louis). Instead, the a steady diet of Matins every day would in a counter-intuitive way transform the lives of those who pray it. The Psalms would convict, confirm and console. The Canticles would reinforce, reform and rejuvinate. The cold, stony hearts of those who day after day peer into the deep things of God would be made alive in the redundancy of such a daily office. This is what Pietists hungered for (even if they were not aware of such offices), but were not offered- daily prayer offices at their local parish. This is what is needed to break the rationalism that so often besets such Seminary communities. May God bring such historic, catholic, orthodox spirituality to Concordia, Saint Louis.

  28. @Fr Daniel #82
    “You never knew what you would be doing that morning. Sometimes Matins or Morning Prayer with a short meditation, or other times a few hymns, prayers, psalms and a longer sermon. It was different every day; consistency of a familiar prayer office was not prevalent.”

    This is unreal. You mean to tell us there was/is no schedule? Were not the services for the upcoming week posted someplace? I’ll have to admit that, for myself at least, Matins was an acquired taste–perhaps others find it so as well.

    The story about Dr. Nagel told by Rev. Kirchner (#77 above) is tragic. It would appear that worship is poorly understood, and perhaps inadequately taught. Say it ain’t so!


  29. I have always appreciated CTSFW’s prayer service offerings: 7:30am, 10am, 4:30pm, 9:30pm. I was greatly disheartened on behalf of my brothers when some friends at CSL shared that they are not offered the same exposure to the beautiful services in our hymnal.

  30. Fr. Daniel and Johannes: Your analysis of worship at CSL is sad but true. The diagnoses is also accurate — but will the patient comply, or slowly sicken, and die?

  31. I recall quite a few students being in the commons and / or the library during chapel. you would walk in for morning coffee and there’d many students there already…same thing with the library.

    And this was at Fort Wayne.

    Of course, I was guilty of it too, on certain days, especially if I knew the preacher was going to be someone I’d rather not hear from… 🙂

  32. Isn’t this telling people that they don’t need to go to church? Skip it and just go to the fellowship time before or after? Or just hit the weekly bible study class and call that your weekly Mass?

    Sorry if the students are lacking in time for fellowship. Welcome to the real world.

  33. “If the sermon is too bad, you can read the Psalms in the hymnal.” — mid 90’s advice from Prof. Marquart, (quoted to me). [There was a bad patch, I understand.]

  34. You know, I teach a class on the New Testament, and I have the participants journal. However, I have them use the method recommended by John Saleska on this issues, etc. episode:

    I got it from a CTSFW article attached to the show, which is unfortunately no longer available. Basically, it goes: What shows us our sin and need of a Savior? What shows us the kindness of God and our Savior? What invites us to faith and acts of faith?

    Why doesn’t the Seminary use a more fruitful method like this for Bible study/small groups–especially one developed and used by its steadfast instructors? All the SOAP examples I’ve seen are atrocious, though I suppose it could be done right (of course…)

  35. A few thoughts, not all of which relate directly to “Small Groups,” but which also address what I believe are patterns of reactinig to others’ actions. What follows deserves further editing, and it is not all related to the question of “small groups.”

    First, one could make the argument that a winkel is a “small group.”

    Second, I remember an instance where an LCMS pastor walked out in protest when I was teaching a group of campers to pray together extemporaneously, with a 3-part format: 1) “Lord, thank you for…”, 2) “Lord, please bless…”, and 3) “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” He thought I was teaching the children to be non-Lutheran. I would submit that I was training them to fulfill their vocational duty. I am grateful for memorized prayers (Lord’s Prayer, Small Catecism, etc.), but Lutheran orthodoxy really is big enough to allow individuals also to offer extemporaneous prayers, and to do so together. The prayers we memorize from the catechism were not given with the assumption that the only valid prayer is one that is memorized. (In fact, as part of my vocation as a pastor I offer extemporaneous prayer with individuals rather regularly.) I would submit that Lutheran orthodoxy actually encourages individuals to offer such prayers as part of their vocation. Likewise, in fulfilling theri current vocation to study, submit to, and confess the word, one could make the argument that seminarians might find it beneficial to engage in Bible study and prayer together. Scheduling such a study in place of chapel does not necessarily constitute a denigration of pulpit proclamation of the word.

    Third, I remember a time when I suggested to the pastors at a winkel that we actually consider a winkel (during Lent), devoted to fasting and prayer. You would have thought I’d suggested we fly to the moon. I am a devotee of liturgical worship, and continually challenge contemporary worship practices. (I have observed repeatedly how contemporary worship catechizes people wrongly, and the error into which they fall is overcome only with great difficulty.) Nevertheless, it troubles me that we somehow dismiss as merely pietistic even practices which have rather significant Biblical precedent. I’m all for sharing God’s word over a beer, as some would suggest, but the suggestion that one not do so over a beer, but in a small devotional group does not constitute an endorsement of pietism.

    Fourth, as regards “Small Groups,” let me make it clear that I do have a negative, visceral reaction to that announcement about the seminary. However, I must temper that reaction with the fact that 1) I am grateful for LifeLight study (a small group study) that meets (without me) in our church; 2) The seminary isn’t a congregation, and there can be other ways of hearing the word that from a pulpit. Utilizing a small group instead of seminary chapel is not equivalent to replacing Divine Service in a congregation with small group study. The seminary is not a congregation, and daily chapel is not Divine Service; 3) I don’t know the content of the study; 4) I have not heard anyone who is alarmed at the announcment say that they have called the person responsible for the study in order to give him the opportunity to his rationale or the content of the study, etc. At the very least, before you criticize him publicly, you owe him that. (And given the burdens of others’ vocations, citing his failure to respond to an e-mail as evidence that he doesn’t care simply isn’t fair. If this issue is so importantm he deserves a phone call. Don’t demand that he take hours ouf of his time to explain everything on your terms, in writing. Preparing such written explanations is an arduous process, and a phone conversation gives him far greater opportunity to explain himself much more clearly and quickly.

  36. For all you small-group haters and seminary graduates, I pose the following question: did your relationship with the almighty increase or decrease when you attended sem? Did you have the internet tempting you? Did you have time for daily devotion and prayer, or did it go by the wayside because of the academic and fiscal demands? Just wondering.

    If so, perhaps you ought not be so quick to trash the small gatherings of sem students for common prayer and accountability. And how can you be so quick to think that our future pastors will make the same mistakes we laymen make in the small group setting (i.e. no leadership, lack of exegetical knowledge, hermeneutics, etc.) BTW, chapel is not church, and the sem needs a congregation to sponsor communion since it is not a congregation.

  37. The seminarians, “future pastors” aren’t laymen?
    No one has said who is leading the groups. Fourth year, we hope, would be different from first.

  38. For those advocating on behalf of small groups, I would like to get your thoughts in response to Prof. John Pless’ paper, “Liturgy and Pietism: Then and Now” (PDF file here) where he does a good job providing a theological basis as to why small groups should be avoided and he cogently ties small groups to pietism.

  39. @Alfred #96
    Alfred thanks for a good point for debate. I’d say any seminary ought to have small group time included in the curriculum rather than as a substitute for chapel. Luther in Saint Paul has had small groups for some time in addition to chapel with weekly eucharist.

    Alfred :For all you small-group haters and seminary graduates, I pose the following question: did your relationship with the almighty increase or decrease when you attended sem?.
    …perhaps you ought not be so quick to trash the small gatherings of sem students for common prayer and accountability. P>

    Seminarians and pastors alike ought to always be learning and always growing more deeply connected to Christ through his Word. Small groups for seminarians, where there’s time to discuss scripture while learning to balance confessional theology and personal understanding would not be detrimental to a future pastor. Quite to opposite: well lead small groups with good teachers willing to model faithful study, fraternal conversation, and honest prayer will help any future pastor.
    God’s blessings on these efforts.

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