Concordia Seminary may be Dropping Chapel Services but Bethany Naperville is Adding More, by Pr. Rossow

Concordia Seminary may be dropping chapel services in favor of “small group ministry” but here at Bethany Lutheran Church and School we are adding chapel services. As a matter of fact, I have already attended two chapels today and we had two more earlier this week.

At 8 AM this morning we had staff chapel (the entire congregation is welcome) and then at 9 AM I led the ten minute chapel for our Ladies Lifelight Bible study group. The staff chapel is a beautiful service based on the daily prayer services in the LSB (p. 294 ff.). Those services are based on the minor offices that the church has used for centuries. The Ladies Lifelight chapel was based on the same order but is a little less sophisticated since the staff chapel  has a cantor, band director and an organist involved. On Wednesday we had our regular school chapel (congregation invited) where we typically sing Morning Prayer. After that I led our pre-school and Kindergarten chapel where we do a real short version of Morning Prayer. (This was the day where I use a big cardboard cross that I hold in front of my torso to show the kids how to make the sign of the cross.)

It is too bad that Concordia Seminary and all the congregations that have gone to the small group model of organization are trying to script something that ought to be natural – the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren. At Bethany it happens naturally. We don’t need no “stinking small groups” – we actually spend time with each other. We gather around food in the shared church and school work room (that was by architectural design). We stop in each others offices and classrooms to chat about our shared work or simply about nothing. The congregation also spends time with each other at our numerous potlucks and feast day celebrations. (We just had another one last Sunday – the annual Family Reunion in honor of all the mew members that have joined in the previous year.) Besides, who doesn’t complain that we are too busy these days? Who doesn’t complain that the family unit is being undermined. The last thing we need is another night for small groups that further divides families.

Please know that I understand that good things come out of small groups. I am not naive. Good things also come out of forest fires and hurricanes. I reject small groups as an organizational principle for the parish and as teaching units even though acknowledging that some good can come from them. I reject them because they inculcate bad theology (trying to answer the question “what does this mean to you?” without the pastor in place to answer the more fundamental question “what does this mean?”), they are rooted in a methabapticostal notion that the Christian faith is fundamentally relational rather than rooted in the proclamation of objective justification, they undermine the office of the ministry, and among other things, they are just not necessary per my point above that the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren need not be scripted and if it is, there may be greater problems in a congregation not resolvable by small groups.

Back to the Bethany chapels – there are few things as wonderful as 20 plus Lutheran teachers, pastors and secretaries chanting the psalm and singing the Lord’s Prayer accapella. We also add to the order of service a recitation of part of the Small Catechism and include a time for ex corde prayer in the form of “For such and such a petition…let us pray to Lord – Lord have mercy.”

Here is cute little story form chapel this morning. At the end of the serive we exchange the peace of the Lord. As I was extending my hand to the 1st grade teacher she was extending her hand to the 8th grade teacher. She simply gave me her left hand, exchanged the peace and then proudly exclaimed “I am multi-tasking.” Multi-tasking the peace of the Lord. What a great way to start a Friday.

So I plead with the leadership of Concordia to reconsider their decision to replace chapel services with small groups once a week. It is not a healthy direction for a seminary of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod to turn. I am also convinced that somewhere in a cemetery on the south side of town, the founder of the seminary, a lifelong opponent of all things methabapticostal, is rolling in his grave. And more unbelievable than that is the fact that somewhere in Saxony, Philipp Jacob Spener is lying in his grave and smiling.

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.


Comments

Concordia Seminary may be Dropping Chapel Services but Bethany Naperville is Adding More, by Pr. Rossow — 40 Comments

  1. Or lying in his grave and smiling…

    Sorry, the incorrect use of lie and lay is a pet peeve. And such incorrect use in a paper would constitute a lowering of half-a- grade in Rev. Rossow’s class. 🙂 (It happened. I put an apostrophe in the possessive pronoun “its.,” and I’ll never do that again!)

  2. Dude, the sem is not doing small groups once a week in lieu of chapel. Get your facts right before you launch on unfounded accusations and (seemingly) overenthusiastic pious pleas.

  3. I know, Mr. Pierce. 😉 That’s why I did it. We all err.

    Rev. Rossow was somewhat more lenient in the misuse of commas for restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Just marked it in red. 🙂

  4. I would give them to you, but you are responsible for finding them from the source, namely the seminary, specifically the Dean of the Chapel, if you are going to post about these issues. Just as an FYI, the fact that you are asking for them demonstrates to me that you were originally more interested in your reaction and the rallying cry you thought this post would be than you were in spending the time to find out what the issues are. Who has gone to the source to find them out?

  5. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5
    See, that’s the problem. There weren’t any concerns with “the facts” when it was originally posted and even after nearly 100 comments there has still been little or no focus on “the facts”. The entire thread is full of personal opinion, assumptions, and conjecture. I will say that there has been a very solid case made on that thread regarding the dangers of small groups. For that I am thankful. There were some things that were raised that I had not considered before. However, it is threads like that one that make it challenging for people to take Confessional Lutherans seriously. Instead of making criticisms based on facts we just come off as looking like traditionalists who hate anything that wasn’t created 500+ years ago.

  6. Tom,

    I know you are using hyperbole but here are a list of things invented in the last 500 years that we use in our church:

    Most of the hymns that we sing from the hymnal
    Toilet paper
    Electricity to enrgize the pipe organ blower
    Hot water heaters
    A modern piano
    Electric lights
    Computers, Copiers and printers to produce worship aids
    Christ centered music and lyrics from African, Hispanic, Irish, etc. liturgical expressions found in the LSB,
    Accordian, modern brass instruments…
    …and one of my favorites – flush toliets.

    Things that we do not use that have been invented since the year 1517 include those items and programs that are not beneficial to the Gospel including the pop music style (which is narcissistic in nature), small groups (for the reasons listed above), emergent theology and practice, pietistic theology and practice, liberal theology and practice, books and programs written by Rick Warren, Beth Moore, and the like, etc.

    I am not a repristinater. I am not romanticly devoted to 16th century Germany. I am authentically Christian and Lutheran which encompasses a wide variety of styles and expressions but rejects those things that detract from the Gospel.

    TR

  7. Don,

    Thanks for your patience. I really am verbally and rhetorically challenged. The proofreaders in my circle of friends shudder when they think of my typos and errors. They often get things corrected but most of them are off on Fridays. 🙂

    TR

  8. Pastor Tim Rossow :Don,
    Thanks for your patience. I really am verbally and rhetorically challenged. The proofreaders in my circle of friends shutter when they think of my typos and errors. They often get things corrected but most of them are off on Fridays.
    TR

    Ah, so they’re hiding (behind shutters)! 🙂

    I know, Tim. We all do it. I could never post anonymously, for everyone would spot my transposed “teh” immediately. 😉

    I think quickly typing posts online has really affected grammar, spelling, and punctuation in a negative way. I know it has for me! Sometimes, if I’m doing a longer post, I’ll put it in a word doc so I can see the red-lined typos.

    Pax,
    Don

  9. @Pastor Tim Rossow #8
    This is indeed a good question: What ARE the facts? The only quote from the daily announcements that I saw on the previous thread was that daily chapel was replaced on one day with small groups. This thread asserts that the Seminary is dropping SERVICES (plural). Was there some evidence for the assertion that this has happened more than once? I didn’t see anything about it. If I missed it, I apologize.

    I am troubled by the method of argumentation here which holds the one who responds to an assertion responsble for providing the facts for the assertion rather than the one makes the assertion. That seems so backwards and illogical to me. I also feel it could be harmful for the case of confessional Lutheranism. Shouldn’t we “explain everything in the kindest possible way” until we know otherwise? I don’t want to see my alma mater wrongly defamed.

    Just for the record, let me state clearly that I agree that there are serious errors and dangers in the way small groups are used in much of American Christianity. I would be opposed to them. I’m also overjoyed (and slightly envious in a pious sort of way) to hear of the worship life at Bethany in Naperville. I’m overwhelmingly in favor of expanded worship opportutnies. I’m sorry I feel the need to make such a confession, but sometimes opposition to one’s premises or method of argumentation is taken as opposition to one’s theology. And that is not the case here. I plead for criticism which is fair and factual and not based solely on opinion of what might be happening.

  10. Keep in mind Pr. Rossow said that Concordia Seminary “MAY” be dropping chapel. I don’t see any inaccuracy in his statement. It is simply conjecture. Let’s all calm down here.

  11. I have been guilty of doing the small group chapel thing in the past. It was during my more confessional days, before my unwittingly straying from the confessions times. I had a class of 8th graders do small groups to plan chapels, for shut ins and at senior care centers. All work the students did for the chapel had to be approved by me and then a pastor before we could take it on the road. This was not instead of chapel, but in addition to chapel.

    “Back to the Bethany chapels – there are few things as wonderful as 20 plus Lutheran teachers, pastors and secretaries chanting the psalm and singing the Lord’s Prayer accapella. We also add to the order of service a recitation of part of the Small Catechism and include a time for ex corde prayer in the form of “For such and such a petition…let us pray to Lord – Lord have mercy.”

    That sound really beautiful.

    Andrew- recovering confessional or would that be recovering unconfessional?

  12. Yes, three times this academic year is what I’ve heard. Better fact check with someone at the sem, then retract any errors you have published.

  13. I go to Concordia Seminary, Saint Louis. The small groups have met, to date, once this year. Another small group event is scheduled for October. That will be the second ever small group meeting. Given this trajectory, there may very well be one in November. The pattern looks to be about once a month, or three times a quarter. It is NOT a weekly basis, and I have seen nothing from the daily announcements that explicitly stated or even implied that it would be a weekly practice. The professor in my small group said he thought it was a 2or 3 times per quarter type of thing.

  14. @Andrew Strickland #16

    I had David Lumpp for my OT class Fall ’97. Early on my attendance wasn’t the best, so he told me to sit in the same spot so he could figure me out, and know if I was there. My attendance did get better…

    During my time at CSP, I went to chapel everyday, and loved it. Small groups there at the time were basically all the different Bible studies. I think they had close to 40 a week. But they never did them during chapel time. There were a couple of class hours before hand, and chapel was the ONLY thing scheduled for that 40 minutes, on the entire campus. Then classes resumed. Didn’t see how that was so difficult. Not everyone attended, but most of the churck work students did. Considering how sem is training THE pastors (and top leaders), I find it disheartening that any student would goof off and not attend. (this topic was also broached in the previous thread)

    But I have enjoyed the humor. 🙂

  15. The chapel services at Fort Wayne are available online and their whole chapel program is so much better organized and executed than St. Louis. They have a regular pattern of the various liturgies in LSB–which is also very practical, helping to introduce them all to the students. They have fantastic music: choirs, instruments, special hymn arrangements, cantors, etc. A nice frequent feature is visiting children’s choirs. Sorry to say that the past half-dozen times I’ve visited chapel at St. Louis in the last year, I would probably skip it for a “small group” too. It isn’t even up to what you would expect on a college level, let alone at a seminary. Their fantastic facility and organ are not being utilized as they should be. And in particular the conduct of the services is very uneven, idiosyncratic, and NOT the kind of example you want to have for seminary students.

  16. Another Layman,

    FYI – I contacted the Dean of the Chapel about the new chapel band at CSL and never got a response.

    TR

    Pastor Rossow,

    Are you really surprised by this? You’re making accusations based on the Daily Announcements. Sorry to say this but in many people’s eyes you’re not the most credible source of information. You posting about this doesn’t help.

    Scott+

  17. @Jason #22
    I was a regular chapel attendee, 97-00, until my student teaching days ended that. Dr. Lumpp was my first advisor, and he did laugh when I was assigned to him, since I was going to be a teacher and he had no idea what to do with me!

    Dr. Trapp, despite his grading on my David test, taught me so much!

    Andrew

  18. @Scott #24
    “…in many people’s eyes you’re not the most credible source of information.”

    Pr. Rossow says he’s attended both seminaries.
    Why should either have a problem with him?

    If the information is incorrect, provide better.
    If it’s true, why blame the writer?

    @Anonymous #21
    The professor in my small group said he thought it was a 2or 3 times per quarter type of thing. –student

    Thank you to the seminarian! That a professor was involved in his small group should mean that one at least was discussing the text more than the participants’ “feelings” about it. (At least, we can hope so.)

    I have no objection to reading all the accurate information available about Concordia Seminary, on this site or any other. Does Concordia have a problem about providing it? (Those of us with long memories hope it’s not “deja vu all over again” !)

    Pr. Rossow and others have not said that “small groups” were happening every week.
    The question is whether chapel time could be better employed.
    Now, from Kebas’ comments, one wonders whether it is well planned, whatever the format. That is sad in an undergraduate Concordia. In the sem, it’s neglecting a teaching/practicing tool that could be a real resource and a joy instead of a chore.

    Do we have “pop entertainment” in the chancel because our future pastors aren’t doing Lutheran worship in school?

    [And don’t blame that comment on Rossow!]

  19. @Pastor Tim Rossow #11 & #12

    Ok, so I immediately regretted the last line of my previous post because I realized that it would distract from the actual point I was trying to make. You’re right I was using hyperbole and said “look like” not “are”…but I digress…

    Ok to adress your question “What are the facts?” First, as editor of this blog it should be your responsibility to discover and report all of the facts of a situation that you plan on making an accusation about.

    However, here are the facts as I have been able to gather them from the posts so far:

    1.You created a post where the first line was “The following post will appear in the Concordia Seminary – St. Louis announcements tomorrow.” — this starts the conversation by saying “This event that we are going to criticize in this blog post hasn’t even taken place yet but we are going to critique it anyway (and given the nature of this site and our historic beliefs about the Church seems to imply that since it uses the phrase “small group” we are going to assume the worst possible outcome). This sets the conversation up for failure because it paints the conversation into a corner. If the event doesn’t turn out like the assumption then there is no going back because so much has already been written. Sort of a “shoot first, ask questions later” kind of mentality.

    2. Even though you appear to have early access to the Seminary announcements you don’t seem to have any contacts with students who participated in the small groups. I say this because I haven’t seen you post anything regarding what actually took place in these small groups. I think the other post and the following critique would have been far more appropriate after the small groups had taken place and there were actual facts to critique. That way you could have said “Here is the announcement that was released and here is what we know from talking to people and we are concerned with the direction that the seminary is headed”. Like I said before, all the previous post did was lead to opinion, conjecture and assumption none of which was based in any more “fact” than the announcement that said they were trying a small group.

    3.From those who have commented on both threads who seem to be connected to the seminary I think we have determined that these small groups were not permanently replacing chapel (as early speculation seemed to indicate), are going to occur approximately once per month, and include 4th year seminarians (who we trust to preach and lead Bible studies) and faculty (ordained clergy) (which addresses the the concern of a lack of Pastoral oversight or undermining of the Pastoral office) There has been nothing factual to indicate that they are pietistic in nature or that they are intended to devalue the preaching and teaching of the word.

    Ultimately, I support your right to be concerned about pastoral formation and the church. I believe that history has taught us the importance of this. However, the “assume first and ask questions later” style of concern and critique is more harmful than good. I believe that it will seriously undermine President Harrison’s efforts to get the factions in our synod to talk with each other if this is the style of conversation that we choose to have. In the future I hope that Christian love and charity would prevail and that we would hold ourselves to a higher standard of determining the truth before making accusations.

    Disclaimer: For those of you who did not read my comments on the previous post, I am not arguing in support of small groups, I am arguing in support of fair and factual discussion and critique that doesn’t undermine our position as Confessional Lutherans

  20. Another layman :Dude, the sem is not doing small groups once a week in lieu of chapel. Get your facts right before you launch on unfounded accusations and (seemingly) overenthusiastic pious pleas.

    Another layman, Dude, one fact you omit is your name. If you want to post accusations, you should do so using your own name, not hide behind anonymity.

  21. Is there any connection between what’s going on at CSL these days, and the recent departure of Dr. Paul Grime for CTSFW? I would hope not.

    Perhaps someone can enlighten us.

    In the meantime, we ought to be careful that we don’t throw “mays”, “it’s reported,” and the ever odious, “he never responded to my query” around with reckless abandon. There is a periodical that has been doing that for many years, and BJS doesn’t need to go there. One is enough. The comments above which are critical of such postings are appropriate.

    Johannes

  22. I meant to include this on this most recent post, here is the text of the daily announcements that were posted:
    “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.”

    I don’t believe there are enough facts here to draw most (if any) of the conclusions that have stated throughout this discussion. If these are the facts that we are going on I think it would have been wise to hold off until more was discovered.

  23. @Helen #26
    “Pr. Rossow and others have not said that “small groups” were happening every week.”

    But that’s exactly what Pastor Rossow said in the last paragraph of his post: “So I plead with the leadership of Concordia to reconsider their decision to replace chapel services with small groups once a week.”

    I rejoice over what is happening at Pastor Rossow’s congregation. Oh that it were happening at more congregations. But this unnecessary and untrue swipe at Concordia Seminary helps neither his credibility or his cause.

  24. Tom,

    I’m just not convinced your concerns are tenable.

    This site is a “go to” place for Lutheran news. Pastor offers his comments on what was put out to the public. Sure, it looks like now the cancelling of chapel for the promotion of “small group” discussion groups will be monthly, not weekly. Fine. Correction made. Why beat a dead horse?

    Your digressions away from the point haven’t helped. They’ve just sidetracked the thread. Maybe BJS should add some ombudsman thread for folks to offer how they would run this blog, but the constant harping on process and shooting of messengers (by several, not just you in this case) just isn’t productive.

    You talk of accusations…….and then make accusations yourself. If Pastor Rossow is supposed to have done more to contact everyone involved on this issue – then why haven’t you contacted him or members of the BJS Board?

    Look, BJS notices what is happening in Lutheran news. Rossow, Preus, Hemmingway, and others offer their opinions. Folks from ALL sides offer theirs. The idea is the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethern. And folks who disagree with us on various things – like Tim Schneider, Jack Gilbert, and Charlie Mueller – do a great job of chiming in and offering their opinions as well. Why not just leave it at that? Deal with the facts available. We don’t need a task force to define “chapel” and “small groups” in order to discuss the recent publicity put forth by the seminary that used these commonly used words in our church.

    I realize I am now feeding the discussion about process & protocol and fear we will now have a discussion about the “process about the process”, leading this thread further off topic. But after several threads getting into sidetracks like this, I thought it best to speak up.

    I appeal to everyone on this blog to let public statements stand in the public square, and accept that they are out there for people to think and talk and write about. Otherwise, why publicize anything? And if there are misunderstandings, let them be cleared up with facts rather than further obfuscated with counter-assertions and second-guessings of the messengers.

    Frankly, if I were Dr. Burreson (sp), I would welcomed this opportunity to clarify and explain a new program I was starting. I hope he and others “in the know” about this will post here soon.

    Back to the point of this thread – it was a glib, fun headline to illustrate a simple, observable point worth commentary: in St. Louis, chapel was cancelled (albeit just once a month so far) to encourage folks to meet for a small group devotion & discussion session. At Bethany, a small group devotion & discussion session (“faculty devotions”) was replaced by a chapel service.

    I doubt Dr. Burreson himself would object to noting the irony, and, having met him and enjoyed his company, suspect he would chuckle along with the rest of us on this.

  25. Johannes :
    In the meantime, we ought to be careful that we don’t throw “mays”, “it’s reported,” and the ever odious, “he never responded to my query” around with reckless abandon. There is a periodical that has been doing that for many years, and BJS doesn’t need to go there. One is enough. The comments above which are critical of such postings are appropriate.
    Johannes

    Yes but that kind of response from CSL and any other office in LCMS is a smug, condescending and irresponsible attitude that is not tolerant in any circles even though, as you say “there has been a periodical (actually receiving these type of responces) that has been doing it for years”. If it hadn’t been for Pr Rossow and that “other periodical” there would not have been any faithful Christian warriors standing up for the confessional, Christians in the synod.

  26. @John E #33

    I’m not sure what you mean by “That kind of response.” Without knowing the nature of the query, it’s difficult to gage the character of the response. Some of the questions asked by the editor of the “other periodical” do not merit a response. Whether a “no response” can be judged “smug, condescending and irresponsible” depends a lot on the way in which the inquiry was asked.

    If, indeed, the inquiry was polite and without innuendo and freighted language, then a polite factual response without condescending smugness ought to be forthcoming.

    There are a great many “faithful Christian warriors” in the LCMS who have not heard of Pr. Rossow. The “other periodical” has lost much of its relevance, even tho its editor was at the forefront of the battle for the Bible. Putting the best construction on everything is still pretty good advice. It hasn’t always characterized BJS.

    Even if CSL is only doing “small groups” once a month or so, it’s a dangerous step, and we ought not to be comforted by the infrequent meetings. The way these things normally go, it will be once a month for a while, then twice a month, then once a week. To my mind it’s a bit like being a little bit pregnant. I’ve already expressed my opinion that small groups, while not “sinful” in themselves, are dangerous.

    Johannes

  27. I’ve written it before and I’ll write it again.

    The way to address this concern and any like it regarding doctrine and practice issues is to raise a mighty stink with the Board of Regents. Synod elected them, and they are accountable to Synod.

    The faculty and the president are under no compulsion to respond to any inquiry addressed to them that smacks of “you owe me an explanation.” They are accountable to the Board, and only the Board can take action to discipline or remove those who are not in compliance with the will of Synod. None of us can fire the president or remove faculty. We can, through the election process, replace Board members who tolerate actions that go against the will of Synod, the Word of God and the Confessions.

    If the small group issue is a big deal, complain to the Board of Regents. If substituting chapel with small group devotions is a big deal, complain to the Board of Regents. If you are dissatisfied with the fact that faculty and the president do not respond immediately and publicly to every inquiry and question, call up members of the Board of Regents and chew on them for failing to deliver appropriate oversight and policies.

    Contacting faculty and the president about stuff like this is barking up the wrong tree.

  28. @Scott Diekmann #28

    Scott,

    Is anonymity okay in other situations here? Say, for example, if someone wrote anonymously against a church that you found to be problematic in some way or another? I have observed some inconsistencies at this blog on this matter:

    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=164#comment-769 (read the post script)
    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=8805#comment-69908
    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=9496#comment-77049
    //steadfastlutherans.org/?p=10040#comment-80733

    Let’s keep things even if anonymity must be used! By the way, as many here already know, I strongly disagree with the decision to allow anonymous posts, just as I strongly disagree with the decision to post anonymously.

    @Phillip Magness #32

    Cantor Magness,

    Thanks for the nod, but please note that no correction has been made! I haven’t seen any retraction or correction from Pastor Rossow on this subject. Please point me to it if one exists. The article currently says this in the last paragraph: “So I plead with the leadership of Concordia to reconsider their decision to replace chapel services with small groups once a week.” Was this actually the decision? I have heard conflicting reports, but this is the only report that claims the “small group” meetings are taking place more than once a month.

  29. Pastor Gilbert, You asked “Is anonymity okay in other situations here?” I’d say no. Anonymity and pseudonymity seem to act in the same way as alcohol, causing people to say things they wouldn’t say if they were required to post their real name. As food for thought, here’s a couple of questions related to anyonymity for anyone to comment on or discuss if they’d like:

    1) Aren’t we called to confesswith our mouth, which would seem to preclude anonymity, and in the defense of the Gospel, to confess boldly, which also seems to be inimical to anonymity?

    2) What situation would rule out making a public confession of what it is you, or I, believe?

    3) What hat could a person wear that rules out his personal defense of the Gospel? Should being a seminary professor, or signing some piece of paper, then gag you so that you cannot speak freely in the defense of the Gospel, or offer your opinion on another matter, using your own name?

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