Small Groups Introduced in My Parish On Sunday – Well, Sort Of… by Pr. Rossow

On Sunday I introduced small groups at the parish I serve, well, sort of. We had some fun in Bible class. I have spent the last eight weeks teaching Article V of the Formula of Concord on Law and Gospel. This week I asked the class to form into groups of three to five people and randomly pick passages out of the Bible and determine if there was any law, gospel or both in each passage. We had some fun joking about how I was introducing small groups into the parish.

Of course these are not “small groups” as we are using that term on this website. This was just a helpful exercise to test the students to see how well they had learned the material, and this is important – it was an exercise that was dependant upon and secondary to the scriptural role of teaching by the pastor.

This little episode actually provides a timely opportunity to define “small groups.” Our discussions of the pros and cons of small groups on this website will benefit from better definition. In his pamphlet titled “The Proper Form of a Christian Congregation” Walther defines small groups for us. Before getting to that he tells us what things are necessary for the word of God to dwell richly in the congregation. Here is his list (paragraphs 20 – 25):

  1. Establish the public ministry in the parish.
  2. Call a pastor.
  3. Conduct public services on Sunday, feast days, and penitential mid-week services during Advent and Lent.
  4. Baptize infants soon after birth.
  5. Catechize the young.
  6. Practice absolution.
  7. Celebrate the Lord’s Supper.
  8. Publicly solemnize marriages.
  9. Have the pastor visit the sick and bring them the Word of God.
  10. Provide Christian burial.
  11. If possible establish a Lutheran Day School.

Notice he does not mention Bible class or small groups. Bible class, as best I can tell, came into the LCMS via the Sunday School movement of the early 20th century. If you have ever read any of Walther’s sermons, you know why he did not need Bible class. His sermons were about 45 minutes long and included lengthy sections of doctrinal instruction. So Bible class appears to me to be an innovation in the LCMS. But, it is in innovation that grows out of the scriptural role of teacher given to the pastor. The Scriptures and the Confessions use “teacher” and “pastor/preacher” interchangeably.

Notice that small groups are left off the list. Not only so but in the very next paragraph they are actually forbidden by Walther. Here is what he says:

º 25. In order that the Word of God may have full scope in a congregation, the congregation should lastly tolerate no divisions by way of conventicles, that is, of meetings for instruction and prayer aside from the divinely ordained public ministry, 1 Cor. 11:18; Jas. 3:1; 1 Cor. 12:29; 14:28; Acts 6:4; Rom. 10:15: “How shall they preach except they be sent?”

Note well that in the scripture passages, Walther defends this rejection of small groups via the doctrine of the office of the ministry. For example, he argues, if we allow conventicles, we are violating Romans 10:15 which says it is given to the pastor to preach and teach.

Paragraph 25 of “The Proper Form…” is probably the best definition one could offer of a small group. A small group is “a meeting for instruction and prayer aside from the divinely ordained public ministry.” This is the bare bones definition. I would also add that it is important to understand the historical setting in which small groups arise and this is why I am so concerned about the small groups at Concordia Seminary. The two times that I know of in church history that small groups have risen to prominence are the age of pietism (late 17th century to the mid 18th century) and now (the late 20th century into the early 21st century). This historical reality is profound. Each of these eras is characterized by a reaction of individual piety and emotion against the perceived “dead orthodoxy” of the time.

Do the Concordia Seminary groups fit Walther’s description? I have said in a previous post that the CSL groups are not your typical small group. The difference is the presence of an ordained pastor in each group. The important thing in my mind is that the seminary has started a small group program that has much in common with the typical small group program and more importantly, that they have started small groups at all. Seminarians will be leaving St. Louis as pastors and will be starting small groups in their parishes and will be able to say – we did this at the seminary in St. Louis. The problem is that they are not going to have a pastor in each of their small groups in their parish but the precedent for small groups in the church has now been set by CSL.

In addition, the small groups at the seminary are using a typical approach out of small group theory wherein there is an emphasis on interaction and a lack of emphasis on the pastor as teacher. The seminary is using the SOAP method which is Scripture, Observation, Application, Prayer. I believe Walther used the TEACH method, that is the pastor as the called teacher of the word, teaches the word to the sheep. I am convinced that the seminary’s small groups are a product of the current trend in the church. If there were no 1960’s romantic and narcissistic turn in church culture, I am convinced, the seminary would not be doing small groups. That is why I make the connection between the seminary’s use of small groups and Pietism. There is no doubt we are smack dab in the middle of a new wave of Pietism. We ought to guard against it; not compromise with it. Has CSL organized the small groups with proper supervisory authority? It seems so. That is good. Do the groups reflect the relational turn of the new pietiesm? Yes, I believe they do and this is a bad precedent.

In future posts I will talk more about the reasons why Walther and others reject the use of small groups. The summary and review of my time in St. Louis is still in the works and will be published soon. I figured our little fun with small groups in church last Sunday was a good segue into a post defining 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.

Comments

Small Groups Introduced in My Parish On Sunday – Well, Sort Of… by Pr. Rossow — 149 Comments

  1. @John Clark #100

    John Clark :Here’s another one: Can ONLY a pastor forgive me for a sin that I have committed? Is he the only person to whom I should be confessing my sin apart from private confession to God? If I commit a sin of commission or omission against my spouse, parent, child, friend or neighbor can she (or he) absolve me of that sin – or do I need to do confess that sin in the presence of my pastor so that he can absolve me?
    When I tell my spouse or child, “That’s okay, I forgive you,” does that forgiveness include God’s forgiveness?
    I’ve always wondered about these things.

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or arguing from the extreme! 😀
    On the off-chance you are serious, here’s my take on it:
    You are commanded to confess your sins to the brother whom you wronged. He is commanded to forgive you. If he doesn’t, he is judged by God. It’s in Matthew, James, etc., but I’m feeling too lazy to look up the passages. 😛
    You can also confess to the pastor, to whom the keys are given. He can forgive you or withhold forgiveness from you (in the case of unrepentant sin). That’s also in Matthew, John, etc.

  2. Concerned Seminarian :
    @John Clark #100

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or arguing from the extreme!
    On the off-chance you are serious, here’s my take on it:
    You are commanded to confess your sins to the brother whom you wronged. He is commanded to forgive you. If he doesn’t, he is judged by God. It’s in Matthew, James, etc., but I’m feeling too lazy to look up the passages.
    You can also confess to the pastor, to whom the keys are given. He can forgive you or withhold forgiveness from you (in the case of unrepentant sin). That’s also in Matthew, John, etc.

    I’m being (partially) serious. I was told by a pastor once (quite a long time ago, in fact) that only he or another properly ordained and called pastor (who hold the Office of the Keys) could truly absolve my sin. My wife could personally forgive me, but until a pastor absolved me I should not think that forgiveness had come from God. Still bothers me, and I wonder how prevalent this view is in the LCMS and if he was really speaking the truth.

    If he was, I need to go see my pastor pronto.

  3. @John Clark #102

    As far as I know (not having taken Systematics II, III, or IV) your pastor is kinda crazy. But, then, “I’m sorry, but I’m just a seminarian and I don’t know that yet. You’ll have to talk to the pastor about it.” I’d suggest bringing a Bible with you, lol 😉

  4. Martin,

    I think the best question here is this. Did Walther routinely enlist lay people to teach regularly in his parish and would Walther set up a small group structure in his parish? I am convinced the answers to both of these are “no.” I know of no example of Walther or Luther or Paul or St. Augustine doing this.

    I am convinced that Walther’s experience with the Methodists and his own youthful expereince with conventicles taught him that these would be harmful practices.

    Can a layman teach? I suppose so, but it is just not the way the Scriptures speak and “think.” The Scriptures, and thus Luther in the Small Catechism Table of Duties, state clearly (and Walther seconded this in Curch and Ministry, even thirding it and fourthing it) that it is the vocation of the pastor to preach/teach and the vocation of the laity is to hear what is preached/taught.

    Martin – I commend you for your defense of the layman – I am a strong defender of the layman, the voter’s assembly, the responsibility of the layman to judge what the pastor is teaching, etc, but what you have said above is misleading people into thinking that Luther, Walther and the Scriptures would have everyone teaching and leading Bible studies. That is just not the case. This is an egalitarian age and the average person thinks this is an extreme position (see Lifelong Lutheran’s comment in #99 above) but it is not. It is a simple teaching of Scripture that Luther inscribed in the simplest book of all – the Small Catechism, drawn straight from Scripture.

    TR

  5. @John Clark #102

    I did just think of one (possibly intentional) positive side effect of your pastor’s focus on the pastor’s absolution:
    Placing a higher emphasis on private confession and absolution
    (Of course, if he doesn’t actually do private c & a, then never mind)

    Having said that, I kind of think he should emphasize both, but that’s just me…

  6. Lifelong Lutheran,

    Why do you think this is an extreme teaching. As I said above, it is the simple teaching of the Table of Duties. It is the pastor’s job to teach.

    Explain to me why the LWML needs to have a Bible study without the pastor present? You must answer this question. Why is this a necessity? Who in that Bible study is equipped to teach the word and answer the difficult questions that certainly arise. Why would you want someone other than a pastor teaching the word to you?

    Do you not have Bible studies led by your pastor that you can attend? He is the one given to you by God to teach you the word. We have an LWML Bible study in our parish and it is taught by the Associate Pastor. We have a Bible study everyday of the week by Monday and all of them are taught by the pastor and everyone of them has room for more members. As a matter of fact, since our sanctuary holds 500+ people, we could have a potential of 3,000 people in our pastor-led Bible studies each week.

    TR

  7. Everyone,

    Please do not get me wrong. I am not some sort of anti-layman pastor. You would all be very surprised at how much I support the laity. For instance, we have a Ladies Lifelight study every Friday. They meet for the first hour and go over the homework that they completed for the week then I come in and do an hour long teaching on that week’s lesson. Now, hears the interesting part…

    We start each two hour session with a brief devotional from page 295 in LSB. For two the nine months that this study goes on I cannot be there for the deovtional so I have the organizer of the group, a spiritually mature woman from the congregation, lead the devotional. It is the exception and not the rule but since she is only leading other women I see no problem with this. I would not have her teach or preach, but leading the ladies through the simplified morning office in LSB seems fine to me.

    TR

  8. About the sin question,

    No one has the authority to forgive Bob’s sin against Larry but Larry and the Pastor, and if the pastor does it he will instruct Bob to go seek Larry’s forgiveness as well.

    Laity can forgive the sins sinned against them. They can even speak about Christ’s forgiveness to those who need to hear it but it is not appropriate to talk about everyone as the forgiver of anyone else. God has given us pastors for public forgiveness. If I forgive Larry’s sin against me, that is a private matter. I should still encourage Larry to go to the pastor for confession and absolution. But if you are talking about forgiving Larry’s sin against Bob that is really something for the pastor to do.

    Please do not forget that it is never easy. Larry may wrongly think that he has sinned and Bob may be heaping unecessary guilt on him. The pastor is trained in Law and Gospel and is able to sort out our complex webs of selfishness and sin and also knows the Scriptures well enough to properly diagnose sin and then give the right scriptures for comfort.

    Having said that, I think it is also important that we realize that we can forgive our own sin in a curious sort of way. If you think you have sinned, confess it to God and then pronounce God’s forgiveness to yourself. There is nothing wrong with that. Again, the pastor is trained to be able to sort out sin and forgiveness so it is always good to go to him but not necesary.

    Just be cautioned, it is not a healthy church where everyone is going to everyone else but the pastor for absolution. I think you can all see, when it is put that way, that absolution from the pastor is the best way to go.

    It’s like the lay teacher thing – is it permissable? I suppose, but what has moved our entire culture to a point where all of this experimentation is going on? Why was it less prominent a generation ago? It is because we have had a romantic, emotional, subjective turn in culture over the last generation and it is now coming home to roost in the church. We may be able to survive if for this generation but the generation after us will either take it to the next extreme point or will, as is happening with Gerneration X, see how silly it is and desire a return back to the solid traditions and authority of the past.

    TR

  9. Dear Pastor Rossow,

    I think you and I agree on everything here (referring to your comments #104-108).

    I think you are right to point out how my comments could lead to misunderstanding. There is one commenter here who is an outstanding example of people who take the exception and make it the rule.

    I remember in my second parish discussing the necessity of baptism (Augsburg Confession IX) with a pastor’s wife (not my own, mind you 🙂 ). She pointed to the thief on the cross as proof that you don’t need to be baptized. I couldn’t convince her otherwise, either by pointing out that counterexamples cannot establish principles (your point, i.e., “that the exception does not determine the rule”) nor by pointing to AC IX nor by pointing to Jesus’ command.

    I think you are right to take a stand on this, in our non-denominational, lets-try-something-new-this-Sunday culture. You are absolutelty correct to say that small groups should not replace the role of the divine service of a congregation; and that small group leaders should not replace the role of the pastor. Where they do that, I would seriously doubt that they are Lutherans.

    It makes sense for Methodists, Evangelicals, American-type of Baptists, Holiness churches, Pentecostals, and charismatics to demean and discard the role of the pastor and the divine service. After all, they are always looking for the “Holy Spirit,” not for the Word of God. These type of churches (they say they are non-denominational, but that is a lie) don’t need a pastor or Scripture-based liturgy and prayers, because the Spirit talks to everyone equally, whether or not you understand the Scripture. At root, this is Enthusiasm, condemned in Smalcald Articles III, viii in the harshest terms.

    As a Lutheran pastor, I have neither more nor less of the Holy Spirit than anyone else in my congregation. That is not the issue for Lutherans. The issue for Lutherans is this: their pastors are “under orders.” I have received the public call of the congregation, and have vowed before God and them that I would teach nothing but God’s Word, not my own fancies or inventions or interpretations. I know that God will judge me strictly (James 3:1) for this stewardship. “My conscience is bound to the Scriptures” says Luther.

    So we condemn the improper use, while accepting the proper use. “Abusus non tollit est sed confirmabat.”

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  10. @Mark Louderback #96
    Hi Pastor Louderback.

    Yes, I have taught a “Bible study” at my church, assuming by Bible study you mean some sort of adult education class. It was a class that explored how a Christian “worldview” relates to science and evolution, in which I filled in for the vicar on a couple of occasions when he couldn’t teach the class. My pastor alluded to wanting me to teach a recurring class at some time, and my reply was that I wasn’t qualified to teach anything.

    Dr. Noland did a good job explaining Walther’s views on who can teach in a congregation. My point is not that somebody other than the pastor should under no circumstances be allowed to teach, but that it is the primary duty of the pastor to do the teaching, since he is the one who is called to do so – contrasting that with the view where the pastor follows the everyone-a-minister mindset, thus abdicating his duties to the congregants. I was a member of a congregation like that. The pastor didn’t teach any Bible study. He said he was to be the minister for the “staff.” I don’t think that’s a Scriptural position.

    In the small group I participated in at that church, the layman leader of the group I was in knew less than I did about the topic at hand (no offense to the leader, who was doing the best he could do under the circumstances). That group fell short in the pastoral-supervision department. Small groups when they are used in the Church can be detrimental. Pastors, when they don’t fulfill their call and abdicate their duties to the lay people can be extremely detrimental to the spiritual well-being of the congregation.

    I had a [different] pastor who wanted to review and have oversight on the various teaching aspects in our congregation. At the time I found that somewhat annoying at times. Now I realize he was doing exactly what he should be doing, caring for his flock and protecting them from false doctrine. We layman need to be appreciative of the efforts our pastors put forth when they teach us, and be a little more patient in our expectations. If there’s only one pastor, go to his class. There’s no bylaw that says an LCMS church must offer multiple adult education topics on a given Sunday, and there’s no bylaw that says that every class the pastor teaches has to be a Bible study. I know very few laymen who can out-teach their pastor.

  11. @Concerned Seminarian #103
    As far as I know (not having taken Systematics II, III, or IV) your pastor is kinda crazy

    assumption w/o evidence: better take the classes!

    @Concerned Seminarian #105
    I did just think of one (possibly intentional) positive side effect of your pastor’s focus on the pastor’s absolution

    good! I begin to have hope for you. 😉
    [if he doesn’t do c&a, he should consider it
    of course, WNDITWB, [for about 50 yrs?] so: catechesis first!

  12. @Helen #111

    lol, I was at least partly joking. That said, I am concerned by what that pastor said. As Rev. Rossow said above, the pastor can forgive sins which the parishioner confesses to him; a fellow believer can also forgive sins committed against him.

  13. In all of the recent threads on small groups here on BJS, I don’t believe I’ve seen one mention of (are you ready?) “Triads.” This is part of the Transforming Churches program. A Triad consists of (1) a mature member (2) a less mature member and (3) a non-Christian, seeker, or unbeliever (take your pick). They get together periodically, and read thru a portion of scripture. As I understand it, they choose their own scripture passages to read. This practice allegedly has been shown to (are you ready again) grow the church.

    This is the ultimate small group–it’s very small–can’t get much smaller–, and from what I’ve been able to glean, gets little, if any, direct pastoral supervision. I may be wrong about the pastoral supervision part, but nothing I’ve read says anything about that.

    I hope this isn’t too far off-topic, and doesn’t derail discussion here. Wanted to bring it up, but didn’t know where to do that. I’m sure that Bethany does not have any triads.

    Johannes (never tried triads, but tired of triads)

  14. @Mark Louderback #96

    Pastor Louderback commented that “If you cannot convince people (in your Synod) that your position is Scriptural, then perhaps it is not.”

    It seems from the responses of the three people in this thread with a “Dr.” in front of their name who are all members of the LCMS, that he has completely failed to convince any of them of his position. Reference comments 14, 46, 48, 92, 104, and 109, and especially Dr. Noland’s remark in #109: “There is one commenter here who is an outstanding example of people who take the exception and make it the rule.”

  15. @CS #84
    @Dutch #86

    False doctrine? That gets hard to “prove,” although the methodoligy just appears so flawed.

    For Reformation Sunday, teh traditional service had a coupel fo Luther hymns (Mighty Fortress) but the two contemporary services played their usual shlock. Our one friend/daughter’s God-mother visited, and we joked about how being Lutheran, since “our guy” started the whole thing, aren’t we “required” to celebrate Remormation? 😉 Paraments were read because my one friend on Altar Guild is always asking me question. But for All Saints Day they will be green because the other Altar Guild leader has a dispute about the white paraments, and the pastor is useless in teaching, correcting, etc. (based on what my friend descibed as the conversation they had about it)

    The Sermon… My pastor does not follow the lectionary so he started a 4 week marriage sermon series. (Reformation hymns fit nicely with the sermon theme 😛 ) Good Biblical stuff about working together, God’s design for life-long marriage…20 minute sermon, at 10 min God was really bought into the sermon, lots of reconciliation stuff. Towards the end, “And God sent His Son Jesus to reconcil us to Him.” (I think I got that pretty lose to the exact quote) That’s it? That is the clearest (only?) mention of Jesus? That is the Gospel message? Because let’s be honest, it may not be works righteous, bu tit is still work we should do to strengthen our marriage. Is it false doctrine? I would say no, but is it Lutheran? Again I say no, because it fails on being clear in the Gospel message, and absolutely improper in it’s Law to Gospel balance. I do not see it where the Gospel is predominating.

    So to those I would begin to consider friends (Helen, CS, Dutch, Scott…) or mentors (Pr. Rossow…), where am I wrong? What am I not seeing correctly? Is there something behind the scenes I may not know and should just trust and respect? Things just don’t “feel” right. (sorry for the emotional word, but you know what I mean) No, I cannot see into other people’s hearts, but if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck…. I have felt troubled almost the whole time this pastor has been here, and I have always been trying to understnad why I am uneasy. I think I am figuring it out, but yes, I am stressed, likely biased, and just want to go somewhere else. (which I will in two months)

    Thanks for listening, and I hope others can examine this example to help put a finger on things they see.

  16. Scott Diekmann :@Johannes #114
    Triad = thesis, antithesis, synthesis = Hegelian dialectic = thus saith the group

    Yeah, you’re right on, Scott. Scarey stuff, eh?

    So in “Triads” the practice is called “Triadlectic”?

    Johannes (just askin’)

  17. @Johannes #118

    The titanic Triadlectic misadventure. “Triads arise out of the initiative of individual Christians, not church programs, and become a non-threatening place for seekers to ask questions, share concerns and meet the personal Jesus.” Triad members “agree to read a section of scripture and review it, sharing questions and reactions. Then discuss difficulties, sins and obstacles to a relationship with Jesus and pray about ways to overcome these.”

  18. @Jason #117

    Jason,

    It sounds like you’re a confessional Lutheran in a church that thinks that “numbers” are more important than truth. The two mix together just like oil and water. It also sounds like you’ve made an effort to try and improve the situation to no avail. I’ve read arguments from a lot of different people about why you should stay in such a situation, as well as why you should leave. There’s not a right or wrong answer – you must decide based on your own conscience considering what you think is best for you and your family’s spiritual well-being. Personally, I think you’ve made the right decision in moving to a more confessional congregation. When you find that your congregation causes a great deal of stress for all the wrong reasons, it may be time to shake the dust from your feet and move on to a place where God’s word is preached and taught in all its truth and purity.

    Isaiah 35:4-10 ESV
    4 Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.”
    5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
    6 then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
    7 the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; in the haunt of jackals, where they lie down, the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
    8 And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
    9 No lion shall be there, nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there.
    10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

    Be joyful in God’s promises Jason. Sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

  19. The Sermon… My pastor does not follow the lectionary so he started a 4 week marriage sermon series. (Reformation hymns fit nicely with the sermon theme ) Good Biblical stuff about working together, God’s design for life-long marriage…20 minute sermon, at 10 min God >

    I hate to be frivolous when you’re talking about really, seriously, challenging spiritual issues, but I couldn’t help laughing at the thought of someone preaching on marriage on Reformation Day, and then the congregation singing ‘And take they our wife, goods, fame, child, and life, let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won…’

  20. @Jason #117
    Jason,
    Scott has given you good counsel. You won’t be able to find a perfect pastor or church just as you won’t be a perfect parishioner, but it sounds like you may be able to find some which are more faithful in their proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. I think that you will find greater peace at a confessional congregation where the Word and Sacraments are rightly administered by a shepherd who shows pastoral care for you. I’ll keep you in my prayers.

  21. @CS #123

    My wife says that… I am not looking for a perfect church. I know there is no such thing. But I would like to find one with a pastor who at least TRIES. I am LC-MS, and I think I am pretty confessional. I also WANT to be these things, because I believe that our Confessions are in line with Scripture, and that Scripture is authoritative and eternal. Is that too much to ask from our pastors? To preach the Word and administer the Sacrament? The Word will go out and fruitful, because of the power of the Holy Spirit, not by what we wish to add or detract form it.

    I also see this as a stewarship issue, in that we are to give our firstfruits to God. So I get distraught with leaders who act like they think liturgy is crap, don’t know and don’t care what paraments are on the Altar, would rather have a laser light show instead of trying to speak the Word of God… You know the saying, “if it was easy, anyone could do it.” So no, I do not like observing men be so careless with the Office they have been called to.

  22. Jason,
    Find another church. We’ll never find one that’s perfect; (if we did it wouldn’t have us as members). But we can try to find one that provides Word and Sacrament and takes God’s service to us seriously. [Nice if the Pastor cares a little about providing the most reverent worship setting, too.]
    I wish you the best!
    –helen

  23. @Jason #124

    Jason,

    ’round these here parts, folks prefer that we not use the c-word. “Dung” is preferred. (Smile)

    And you are dead right with your the stewardship/first fruits comment.

  24. @Jason #124

    Jason–there’s nothing a whole lot worse than going to church each Sunday and sinning while sitting the pew, judging all that is going on, then driving home in a cloud of funk. You have received some wise counsel here. You are on our prayer list.

    While John Clark (#126) may not prefer the word “crap” it might be well to note that its source is the name of the man who invented the flush toilet, Mr. Crapper, an Englishman (might have been “Lord Crapper”, in fact his first name might have been “John”). It’s a perfectly legitimate word, altho it does have a somewhat negative aroma to it. I suspect that is related to its proximity to punch bowls, which is not a good thing.

    A lot of what we see here is witness to the devaluation of both the Holy Ministry. the Church, and worship. A nasty trend.

    Johannes

  25. Johannes,

    I was just having a little fun. Dutch slapped my wrist a bit a few months back, I conceded the point and even had a little fun with Rev. Rossow over the same point.

    With your admonishment, I’ll stop.

  26. @John Clark #128

    No reason to stop–gee whillikers, can’t we have a little fun here on BJS? Altho my comments defended at the use of this perfectly legitimate word, I hope my pastor (and yours, for that matter) don’t use it in a sermon. Don’t give up having fun–I certainly don’t intend to, altho Dr. Eck might not have liked it.

    Johannes

  27. John Clark,
    It wasn’t a slap, it was a gentle reminder that ladies are present, well, in theory anyway. (LOL), it’s better grammar, to boot. Ladies don’t get looked at sideways for using terms that are “used” in Scripture, we are however, with words like cr*p. Though, both end up in the contraption Thomas Crapper popularized. lol

    Jason,
    take Scott’s advice & encouragement for you. It’s odd you mention your tithe, Reformation was replaced at our last Congregation, with a rather large Thrivent/Stewardship Drive, complete w/presentation & graphs, no Ref. Hymns, just “stewardship friendly”. Ug. Your going to hear the “perfect church” arguement a fair bit, we did too. The only thing that I can add, is do your utmost to make this a husband/wife prayerfully & thoughtfilled choice, should you depart for a new Congregation. Somewhere on this site, is a list of Confessional Churches, look for one or two in your area. If you can’t find any, shoot an email here. Or ask in a post, many are more than willing to aid you, & will pray for you as well.

    I’m guessing this has been discussed between you both, but the decision to depart should be one made by ya both. Especially, if you have kids. We made a decision early into it, that my husband would be the one to speak per phone or face to face, with whomever called. Yes, believe it or not, I, Dutch, said nothing, w/o discussing if or what I should say to whom, I thought it best for me to just be schtum. Make sure your wife is totally on board, and agrees & encourages your decisions in this, & you with her. It will be important for you & her.
    It was hard on our entire family, when we made the choice we did. Our kids lost, all their friends from that Congregation, as did we. If you have kids, do your best to explain things as age appropriate but lovingly honest. Kids are much smarter than we give them credit for!!!! Be prepared, should you choose to depart & find a new Congregation, but remember the Blessings & Promises that come from standing for what is good, right & true. You gain much more than ya lose. We did.

  28. Johannes,
    Your too right, good grief, jockularity, jockularity, jockularity!!! I’m still giggling from your above posts!!!! Thanks!!!

  29. I am a little behind in comments.

    Going back to Johannes and triads.

    Formalizing such a program is the problem. Actually, I am perfectly confortable with members meeting unbelievers at the coffee shop and opening their Bibles to make a point. I think it would be great if they prayed together as well! But, to make this some sort of regular meeting turns the layman into a mini-pastor which is not right or necessary.

    Informal chats with non-beleivers using the word is a great thing. The unbeleiver will recognize it as informal and thus will not consider the layman a teacher. But, if it is a regular thing, it is beyond the calling of the layman.

    TR

  30. Jason,

    You are figuring it out. Good for you. You ought to “feel” concerned.

    BTW – I find that where I often want to say “feel” I just replace it with “discern” or another cognitive word.

    For example: “I started to feel that something was wrong” becomes “I started to discern that something was wrong.”

    Feelings are OK. They are a gift from God but Christianity is at its heart a religion of revealed truths that need to be discerned and believed. Feelings need to be secondary.

    TR

  31. Pastor Rossow,
    I totally, 100% agree w/you. Whether it be because of calling, or because laity reaches a point, where we cease to be effective, which is when that lost lamb is pointed to a Pastor or Congregation, your 100% correct! If I do this, outside my Church, one on one, to engage that person, that’s one thing. But, when the premise is given that, cushy couches, low lighting, indie music, and skinny lattes are “services” we fuel the I need, I require, I choose Him & He meets me in my zone” type of theology. The “I, me, mine” takes away the reverence we are to have at all times, not least of which, when we attend Worship, Sacrament & Instruction.

    That just isn’t so, & is dishonest to do so, especially to those who are still lost. It’s wrong, bait & switch, that I can see the analogy for. I’ve heard it, from the lost I know, who have chosen to be so. Even they see the “reverence” issue.

  32. Dutch :Johannes,Your too right, good grief, jockularity, jockularity, jockularity!!! I’m still giggling from your above posts!!!! Thanks!!!

    Dutch–I just can’t pass this up. Being as I’m not particularly athletically inclined, I would prefer “jocularity” to “jockularity.” The former spelling best describes a klutz with a sense of humor (me) and the latter, an athletic humorist, or a humorous athlete. As I was never much of an athlete, I confined my pursuits to that of an athletic supporter.

    Thanks for the kind words, however.

    Johannes (115 bowling average, .265 batting average, and one for sixteen from the free throw line.)

  33. Johannes,
    That just goes to show my lack of athletic knowledge, let alone ability, not to mention spelling. I was thinking about Father Mulcahy, from MASH.

    I failed basketball, cross country skiing, and bowling my senior year in HS. Failed both physical & written for basketball, bowling, my best was a 16, not 116, 16. And cross country, even I thought I deserved the F.

    Although temping as it may be, I’m not going to address the “pursuits to that of an athletic supporter”, makes the spelling of joc/k/ularity even funnier.

    (Fully engaged in raucous laughter, even on a Monday), (could be the codine cough meds)
    Dutch

  34. Thank you to all for listening and giving advice. I am hoping to attend a place that will support the faith journey of me and my family, and I really trust that my new congregation and pastor will do that. I also do not wish to enable and give public support through attendance and membership of a place that I find drifting to worldly ways of “ministry.” So if I am in a better place, it can be the sanctuary it was aptly and appropriately named, where I can be rejuvinated from hearing the Word, and can therefore be a witness to the world, both inside and outside the church. I wish for this peace of God for all us us.

    So back to the origianl topic, how I have seen my soon-to-be former congregation describe there small groups, it would b ebetter if they treat them more as a fellowship event. Even then it is concerning how me-focused and secular slef-help chat fests they could become. I find it far more diturbing to imply they may be Bible studies. The Bible is not the book or source material they will be using. So would this not set up the attendees to receive a false sense of security, a false sense of salvation? I can see here that it will devolve into pietism because I am afraid listeners will work on morality but without a clear Christilogical center.

  35. Jason,
    As a wife, could you please indulge me here? Is your better half, on board, in full & encouraging agreement with you, in this? You will & are going to need her in this, more than you realise Jason.

    I like to be very specific, when I pray for others, believe me, I’m mighty specific when I pray for me! lol

    Never stop praying for those you are leaving behind, mostly for those who have endevored to dabble in things, we are taught to avoid. You know, they only see the “now”, but never stop praying for them. And pray for His Mercy in this, for all of those concerned. It is most warranted, and always wise to do so.

  36. @Dutch #139

    I am leaving now because my wife wasn’t ready like I was two years ago. I could see it coming way back then. I was patiently explaing why I saw things the way I did. She already knew confirmation wasn’t great, but lately that has been renamed Teen Affirmation Class. (whatever…) She stated as acceptance to the new CoWo as long as they still left a traditional service. But the particular leaders of that I truly believe in their heart would love to convert this last service over. The straw was when Sunday school became VBS via Station Rotation. Fun and activites were emphasized, and a lot of core content got neglected (gutted). Got to make it fun to draw people in, but the numbers noticeably dropped. Sure attendance in Sunday school and worship are increasing some, but that’s because we are attracing casual Christians. They could just as easily go to the Methodist church when they move to the next town.

    So I would say that proof is emerging of what I have long suspected. She is noticing how programatic this congregation has become, and is now also wondering about what it stands for. She is on board now, and both of us are concerned about raised our new daughter in a faith building environment, not a social service environment. (there is a difference) And I am accutely aware of needing her support.

    FYI, I have had encouragement on and off to enroll in seminary. Once in a while my wife has thought of that. But she is no where near ready to live in that “fishbowl.” So I cannot have a career/life change until she is also ready. The stress to both of us would be too great if we are not traveling the same path. But she is supportive of my active involvement in church. At the new place I will have the opportunity to step that up more, and seeing that, she may become more comfortable in what my future my (likely?) hold. But there is a time for everything, and I will be the faithful servant in the way God had designed for me at this moment, too.

  37. Jason,
    Thanks so very much, for your post. It is great that you both are on the same page, & are both concerned about the enviroment your kids are in. That was a biggie with us too. Our last straw was Centering Prayer. But, we both “saw” things at different times too.
    I’m so thankful you “see the need” for ya both, we knew some who didn’t & caused huge strife for them. I didn’t really have any doubts about you, hope you didn’t take that away, from what I wrote. One of the many casualties from this type of situation, can sometimes be part of a marriage. So,…important to have asked & said though, I think.
    You & your family are in my prayers,
    Dutch

  38. @Dutch #141

    Thank you, Dutch. One good thing is my wife pounds on me a little bit, which is good to keep me honest and grounded. This way I am not leaving emotionally half-cocked. We have friends here, and she kept wondering if I could try. I did at times, ask questions and engage. Sometimes I would lie low a little bit. But if it looks like a duck and sounds liek a duck…. If it smells liek a duck and walks like a duck…. If it eats duck food and leaves duck droppings…. I never found enough to really hang my hat on.

    Based on the audio from the newest blog, I can see many leaders here being very pietistic, to the extreme that whatever is left Lutheran is being phased out. Hence a more Baptist feel. That is the slippery slope of Pietism. Once you stop caring about the 1st tablet of the Law, you cannot be Lutheran, because you are not focusing on God, therefore no Jesus, salvation, justification… I could go on, but you and most here now the deal. It is sad because there are nice people here. But nice isn’t the issue. Jesus is always the issue.

  39. Jason,
    Trust me, leaving the friends we had, was hard, them leaving us afterwards, that was harder, but then again, we can’t say we weren’t told that could happen, see Scripture.

    Pariah, is a term that leaps to mind. It was hard for them too, that I also know. We were late comers, and friendships & fellowships were already formed before we came, etc, etc, etc. We do see some, out & about, but the “deer in the headlights” look we get is, well at this point, kind of comical for us. How odd & truly sad, is that?!
    This is going to sting, that I can say, but what you, your better half, & your kids will gain, far outways anything you’ll loose. That is a promise. Not from the get-go or out of the shoot, but later. Trust me, go where you must, find what is good, right, & true, as now you know. Quite the “Rip Van Winkle” moment, isn’t it?

  40. Would “Lutheran Day School” refer to a modern elementary school? If so, how important is the establishment of Lutheran Elementary schools? I ask because I am working to start an (initially) independent Lutheran school. The Lutheran church I attend has no interest in starting one for at least the next 10 years (according to their 10 year plan document). There are schools in nearby communities but none in a practical distance to serve the 75,000 people in my community. There are other Christian schools but I’m beginning to see that these other Christian schools are not an acceptable alternative.

    I believe I have the resources to start a modest school. Would the money be better spent elsewhere? Is this a foolish endeavor? I believe once I had proof of viability (ie. enrollment and proof of financial stability) I could find a local congregation to sponsor the school. As a layperson I have concerns about moving forward – but if the local church shows no interest what should I do?

    Is the establishment of a Lutheran Elementary school important?

  41. James,

    “Day school” refers to Lutheran elementary school.

    I am not sure about starting an independent school. I have never heard of the idea. It seems to me that a Lutheran school needs to have the supervision of a pastor which is why they are always started with a congregation.

    On the other hand I see nothing wrong with starting an independant school that desires to be Lutheran. I am not sure where you would get pastoral supervision from. Keep us posted on your thoughts and plans on this.

    TR

  42. Ya know, the topic of the Lutheran Day School, would make interesting articles. Mission or profit, who has the final authority on curriculum/instruction, qualifications of teachers, yes or no & how much Congregational support (not just $$$ but volunteering) is considered basic, non member Lutheran parents vs non member non Lutheran, etc. This is a great topic, but rarely discussed. With so many closing, and so many members searching for them, it really is a gold mine of topics.
    Would be great to see one or two at BJS.

    Public school grad & proud Lutheran Day School parent,
    Dutch

  43. @James #144

    When we discussed the “church-and-school” concept in History of the LCMS, I remember there being at least 2 important reasons for having a Lutheran school:
    1. Provide the children with a good Lutheran education
    2. Foster a “community” understanding of the church (as in, “church is more than just where we go on Sundays”). This was actually how the school acted as a “ministry/mission/outreach” of the congregation: German immigrants are looking to join a German community, so they send their children to a German-speaking school at a German-speaking church; next thing you know, they’re members of that German-speaking church and bringing liturgically-colored Jello to the monthly potluck!

    I don’t know if all Lutheran schools are always founded by/sponsored by a church today, though I think that was the almost universal practice in the early history of the Synod. I do know that (at least for Lutheran high schools) it has become somewhat common for several churches to sponsor a school together. If no one congregation would be willing to sponsor your school alone, perhaps all the congregations in the area would be willing to form an association together to sponsor it.

    However, here is a caution against starting a Lutheran school: The one drawback to starting a parochial school is tuition. I know that many Lutheran schools (and even churches) have been forced to close because the government now gives funding to private schools (which do not teach religion). One school in New Jersey was told that if they taught religion, the government would not allow families to use education tax credits to pay for the children’s tuition at the private school. The Lutheran church refused to take religion out of the curriculum; the Baptist church did take religion out of the curriculum. As a result, the Lutheran school had to close because very few families were willing to pay more for a Lutheran education when they could just as easily get a Baptist education for less.
    If you know that parents will be willing to pay more for a Lutheran education (which includes religion), then go for it; if not be careful.

  44. I am, in part, a Confessional Lutheran today because of small group ministry. Our CRC church pushed small group ministry and my wife and I suffered through two years of heart wrenching, facilitated group therapy–with a Bible on the table and never opened once. As much as we would ask to use a formal study guide, the group leader did not want any member of the group or any authoritative source to distract us away from listening to the endless, weepy recounting of the prior month in the life of the dysfunctional (read “normal”) families represented around the table. Why? Because that’s what small groups were for — to support each other. Of course we prayed. At the end of the meeting the leader collected prayer requests from each family and he went through the list while we all held hands and whispered heartfelt assent. We dreaded going. Why? Because nobody had any answers for anything, the process of spilling out all the emotion in a safe environment was cleansing, and everyone in the group was completely focused on themselves. Not on our Redeemer. Not on what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross. Not on the comfort of God’s promises. No, on our miserable selves. We finally quit and apologized to each couple individually but some were too hurt to even speak to us. Our pastor visited our small group ONCE in two years while urging us from the pulpit to continue with our fellowship in small groups because that was God’s plan for winning families to Christ. For a year after that I didn’t attend worship services but I did start reading. Thank God for putting both the Bible and Luther in front of me when I believed that I was done with church forever. I now attend a wonderful LC-MS church here in New England where Law and Gospel are preached week in and week out. I don’t know how common my experience is but, believe me, terrible things can happen to people when trapped in a small group of well-intended and ill equipped Christians.

  45. @lusade #148

    The small group disater is common enough. I am transferring form a congregation 15 minutes away to one 35 minutes away, because the the program they are installing. After reading the descriptions on the first five coming out, three of them look to be self-centered chat sessions from day one. And the pastor does not get involved or check up on the groups. He figures his buddies and other selected leaders will just “naturally” do a good job. But then I view him as a business manager and not a pastor, so I am wokring on going to a different congregation where I can be spiritually fed. I am happy you found a good place. I think I will be able to do that too.

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