Sad, sick, struggling Christians not welcome?

I’m a big fan of Twitter and I know some of you are, too. I came across a curious tweet from Michigan District President David Maier:

A good read for Pastors and Churches also … Happy customers make for happy businesses | Case Foundation

Except it’s not a good read. It’s about businesses understanding that social media is transforming the way they should think about customer satisfaction. It’s an incredibly brief article that doesn’t even explain this in that much detail but it hits the major cliches basics — “Think about customer service as an opportunity rather than an obligation!” — etc.

Of all the things I might recommend “Pastors and Churches” to read, this wouldn’t even rank. Is it that we’re supposed to think of our congregations as businesses? Is our goal to have “satisfied” customers? Who are “happy”? What does that mean? What does that mean, exactly, for a woman whose husband just left her? For a man who has been out of work for years? For people who are dying? What kind of metric is “happiness”? What happens when “happiness” is elusive despite faithfulness in preaching and the sacraments? Is this the language that the church should use in measuring it’s “success”?

Generally speaking, pastors and congregations would be well advised to avoid emulating profit-driven corporations when dealing with the sick, suffering, wounded people of Christ. They would be well served to meditate on Scripture, the Confessions, the wisdom of the saints who have gone before.

I am not sure it’s helpful to have one’s district president advocating anything other than a pastoral approach to pastoral care.

On the other hand, the Twitter feed of “BigSkyMaverick” did alert me to this fantastic letter to the editor (at the bottom) from President Matthew Harrison regarding the March for Life.


Sad, sick, struggling Christians not welcome? — 90 Comments

  1. I must respectfully take issue with the use of the phrase “You scare me,” when applied to another in the context of a simple disagreement. It is really a passive-aggressive form of insult which has gained unfortunate usage in recent years as one of an arsenal of less-than-honest tools used by some to stifle debate. Over-reliance on the 8th Commandment has already been mentioned in earlier posts, and it serves a similar function. Words matter, and IMHO we should reserve statements about being scared of people for situations where fear is actually warranted. I really don’t think we Lutherans are a very scary bunch, on the whole.

  2. “. . . For those who want more than just a drink, there will be “little coffee seminars” to explain the “story” of how the coffee gets from the growers to Journeys and to explain specialty preparation techniques for high-quality brews.

    “We want them to love the coffee for what it is and engage them,” he said. “We can tell them what region and what cities their coffee comes from.”

    This is an interesting idea that needs market differentiation. Everybody does coffee houses. I suggest each LCMS congregation open a micro brewery where people can learn about beer. Lutherans are already associated with beer. I would bet that we get better numeric results, especially if open on weekend nights. 🙂

  3. @Pam and Phillip

    I completely understand why reading this site scares you (and why you, Pam, find that it also drives you to read it again and again).

    Most of you are leaders in our churches, and yet you seem to feel perfectly comfortable calling out one of our DPs (my DP, no less), without following the principles of Matthew 18 and/or without giving Pastor Maier an opportunity to defend himself, by making all kinds of accusations and assumptions.

    I think that way too much is being read into his tweet, yet I shudder to think what he would have been accused of had he tweeted a similar article from a non-Lutheran Christian source! He’s just shouting out some internet logic, nothing more!

    I ask you to please think before you snark on others without just cause. Keep in mind Proverbs 3:30 – Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.

    Pastor Maier is a godly man who wants nothing more than to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have known him since his college days, and I think very highly of him and his family. They have undergone so much, especially in the way of physical illness within their immediate family, and yet those difficulties have done nothing but strengthen their faith in Jesus! To call him out here is shameful.

    Also, I hope this article will be of some interest. Willow Creek announced way back in 2007 that their methods were ineffective, and that good old, time tested Bible preaching and discipleship is what works.

  4. As noted above, I will post Rev. Maier’s response as soon as it it made….

    @Ellen #54

    “…yet I shudder to think what he would have been accused of had he tweeted a similar article from a non-Lutheran Christian source! He’s just shouting out some internet logic, nothing more!…”

    Like this one?
    “There is a cost to everything.You either pay the cost of being disciplined with your life now, or the cost of regret later.”

    You may also decide if the quote is a good one. I do, however, find it a bit ironic that our DP and Rick Warren both tweeted this same quote on the same day January 24th.

  5. Ellen, et. al.,

    Was the tweet we discussed not public? How does it violate Matthew 18 to discuss a public tweet? Inquiring minds want to know.

    As for discussing a public tweet (what you call “calling out,” I guess), I have no doubt at all that President Maier is fine with such a discussion and would appreciate learning from our discussion.

    What would it mean to say otherwise?

  6. (James Sarver @ #50) “I suggest each LCMS congregation open a micro brewery where people can learn about beer.” Marvelous suggestion — opens the flood gates to honest theological conversation, after all: in vino veritas! not to mention taking off our own rough edges.

  7. While the article’s point about using social networking can be a valid, SMALL, part of the church’s ministry of staying in touch, the piece is very poorly written and uses no useful language for a Christian church layperson, or pastor.
    I’m surprised that a pastor, or DP, would recommend it. As Mollie indicates in her title line, Twitter is not the avenue by which to help a hurting person.

  8. Pam,

    You wrote,

    I don’t see a problem “imitating” something someone else is doing that is successful in spreading the Gospel.

    You’re assuming that Willow Creek is successful in proclaiming the Gospel. They’re successful at something, I don’t think it’s proclaiming the Gospel.

    You cite St. Paul’s “be imitators of me.” That’s the problem. Willow Creek isn’t imitating Paul. Paul preached the Christ Crucified at every opportunity, Willow Creek rejects this. Their own Mark Mittelberg says:

    Not every Sunday is about the Gospel. For instance, we’ll do a series on marriage or the family…. Some churches in the Southern Baptist tradition, for instance, feel that at the end of every service you have to bring it around to preach the Gospel, and challenge people to commit to it. No, we don’t do that every week

    We should imitate this?



  9. This is an interesting post. We are all “religious consumers” from a certain point of view, and using the church to make money was major complaint even back during the reformation. Why would we expect it to end now?

    Churches compete with each other all the time and try to be appealling to as many people as possible. Their staple customers are parents trying to raise kids with a moral standard. There is good money in it for good-looking charismatic speakers willing to start a “church business.” Pick a nice upper-middle class suburb, minimize divisive or offensive doctrine like original sin and depravity of man, maximize love relationships and outreach programs and you’ll be knocking back six figures in a way less time than it takes to climb the corporate ladder.

    Multiply this model by a few dozen and it makes a nice pyramid scheme for corporate churchmen with a career in denominational management. The problem is that most of the church businesses turn a higher profit margin when they drop all the corporate over-heads and go non-denominational.

    So what is a “religous consumer” like me to do? Vote with my feet and with my dollars to make sure I’m “consuming” legit Christianity based on the Word and focused on Christ.

  10. @Pam #49
    What do you mean by “so called”? Do you not believe these people exist? I assure you they do. I happen to have personally known many people who feel unworthy to enter a church of almost any kind because of either a past life experience with a church, or because of life choices they’ve made that make them feel unacceptable to God. I for one am happy to leave the comfort and safety of my church walls to join or create an environment in which they’d feel welcome and loved…”[quote of 1 Cor. 9:21-23]


    Thank you for your response. I would like to point out that I don’t believe you are using 1 Corinthians in its proper context. Paul is writing about how he gave up his Christian liberty in order to preach the Gospel (v. 15). He is writing about becoming a “servant to all” (v. 19) and not about what some imagine to be a virtual “chameleon” for the Gospel who changes and does anything in order to win some. Indeed, we know from the very next chapter that Paul had not been “Corinthianized.” He didn’t adopt the pagan practices of the city in order to “win some.” He did preach the Gospel.

    Regarding my point. I use “so-called” because such a class of people is the construction of the Church Growth movement. The reality of the situation is that there are sinners who will set foot into a church because they know they are sick and in need of the forgiveness of sins and want to hear both the law and the gospel preached. And then there are sinners who will not set foot into any church that preaches solid law and gospel, because they don’t know they are sick and in need of the forgiveness of sins, and they are offended by the preaching of the cross of Christ, or they are not entertained with solid law and gospel preaching. These same people hate God (Romans 8:7) and will enter a coffee house “church” to put on a show of “spirituality,” drink your coffee, eat your cookies, and then leave. Once another “church” can make them feel better about themselves and offer “better” programs, they will hop over to that “church.” These people would not dare set foot in a church preaching solid law/gospel, since their ears don’t get the tickling they desire. Of course, there are other reasons given by some for not entering into a church where solid law and gospel is being preached, but the bottom line is what Paul instructs us is the case in Romans 8:7 and elsewhere. There are none who are good, and nobody seeks God. It is the Holy Spirit working through the preached Gospel and the Sacraments that draws people to Christ. It isn’t your Seeker Sensitive, TCN, type programs in the LCMS that are doing anything.

    @Pam #49
    Unless, of course, you believe the Gospel can only be preached in its purity from behind a pulpit in the front of a church with a properly set altar and wearing the proper vestments, standing facing the proper direction saying only the prescribed words in the liturgy with people dressed in proper clothing sitting in proper seating? A coffee shop environment may be where worship, sharing of the Gospel, and administration of the sacrament takes place, or it may simply be a conduit for reaching the lost and showing God’s love through which they eventually will choose to join you in worship in another location.

    We must have a very different understanding of Christian worship. In my understanding of Christian worship, God’s children are gathered together to hear solid law and gospel preaching. They come together to corporately confess their sins, receive absolution, and to take the Lord’s Supper. A coffee shop is a business. It isn’t a church by any stretch of the imagination. The moment a properly called and ordained pastor begins to preach the Gospel and offer the Sacraments in such a building is the day that the coffee house closes down and a church opens.

    As for “conduits reaching the lost,” we are all what Luther called “the masks of God.” Through our respective vocations we can show love and mercy to all those we come in contact with. That can happen at the coffee house or anywhere else. Indeed, we can share the good news with anyone, at anytime, in any setting. But when we “do church” we remember that it is for the children of God who are there to receive the forgiveness of sins through word and sacrament. Church is about Christ serving those who know they need Him. It isn’t about serving coffee and biscotti to “seekers;” hoping they will fall for the bait-n-switch and repent. I find it ironic that those doing Seeker Sensitive and Church Growth think they are so “free,” but in reality they have discarded their freedom and designed systems locking them into what is “successful missions.” That’s the problem with buying a formula for success, it really boxes people in.

  11. Pam #49

    – As one who represents us our DP is in a official capacity and there is no reason to be wasting such time. There are, in his charge, a large number of pastors and circuit counselors that would be better served by internal, specific issue, conference calls or web meetings and face to face sessions. Tweeting as one NOT a DP is fine if you want to waste your time with the latest fad, that is your business, but not on my behalf of the District and not on our dime! No 140 blip or reference from a Tweet can communicate in a deeply human and Christ like manner. You can take that to the bank; even the secular distance learning designers can tell you as much. Even broadcast email are far more effective. Having said that I am most appalled by the content of the referred site even more than the method of reference. The church is not a business and there is very little we can learn from a business model developed by the men who have lead our culture to embrace a vacuum of ethics. No, today’s Business leaders are not your Grandparents business leaders so why would we want to emulate them? If you think that is not the case I direct you to an article in Fast Company regarding Willow Creek’s rush to embrace secular humanism as a model for leadership. A servant leader is a foreign concept in the secular world because ultimately they MANAGE through incentives and disincentives; they do not truly lead anyone. Called Pastors must work with and alongside VOLUNTEERS and that is very different unless of course you go out and hire a massive team and hire and fire at will which is also outside the theology of the call.

  12. @Pam #49

    This is this congregation’s way of giving back to their community and showing God’s love, which was his last command to His disciples.

    Dear Pam,

    This is not true. Having spoken with Pr. Ed Doerner myself about this, he informed me that the new “Journeys” coffeehouse will “not be just another place of business, but an extension of Messiah’s mission and ministry, a place to introduce people to Christ through a variety of means,” and that “the Word of God will be permeating the place.”

    In other words, this is not simply this congregation’s way of giving back to their community and showing God’s love, but this congregation’s way of doing mission and ministry. Big difference there.

    This is not the Lutheran way of doing mission and ministry, but the Americanized Protestant way, which has the goal of getting people into “a personal relationship with Jesus” however they can. The Lutheran way is making disciples of Christ through the means He Himself has established – His Holy Word and Sacraments. Having been involved in both ways in my life, I can say with confidence that they are as different as night is from day.

    Furthermore, it is interesting that you bring up the “new commandment” our Lord gave to His disciples on the night of His betrayal and arrest. There, our Lord’s mandate to His disciples is that they “love one another,” since it will be the love they have for one another that will show others that they are His disciples. You seem to suggest that our Lord’s mandate is fulfilled by “loving the lost” or “reaching people for Jesus.” I understand your confusion, especially when this faulty understanding has been promoted by synodical leaders and many a Lutheran pastor. What is ironic is that the very people who promote the idea that we’re fulfilling our Lord’s mandate by “loving the lost” are guilty of not abiding by our Lord’s mandate, since in their zeal to “love the lost,” they fail to love the brethren by not even taking a moment to consider what affect their actions might have on those they are supposed to love.

    In this particular case, the pastors of the congregation did not consult their brother pastors in their circuit (to which I belong) before petitioning the District for funds regarding this “mission/ministry.” How is that “loving one another”? Further, one of the reasons they did not consult their brother pastors is because they suspected that their brother pastors would be opposed to the idea, which was confirmed by Pr. Doerner in my conversation with him. How is that “loving one another”? Then, after the deal was done, when many of their brother pastors were upset that a) they had not been consulted and b) the District had given funds to support this endeavor when there are struggling schools, campus ministries, etc. that could use the money to do actual Lutheran mission and ministry, those brother pastors were accused of being “unloving” and of “tearing the Kingdom down,” the idea being that we should simply trust them and offer our support. How is that “loving one another”?

    But, it’s not just this particular case. Most of the sad divisions we have in our synod were brought on by those who paid little to no attention to how their actions might affect the broader fellowship to which they belong and just went ahead and did their own thing. And, as is exemplified by this particular case, when criticism came, they simply charged their critics with being “unloving” and moved along, continuing to do whatever they thought was right in their eyes, because, after all, they “loved the lost” and were doing “whatever it takes” to “win people for Jesus,” unlike their critics, who were hung up on maintaining pure doctrine and practice, which, of course, meant that they couldn’t care less about the lost and reaching them for Jesus.

    And so it continues, as shown forth on this thread . . .

  13. “Unless, of course, you believe the Gospel can only be preached in its purity from behind a pulpit in the front of a church with a properly set altar and wearing the proper vestments, standing facing the proper direction saying only the prescribed words in the liturgy with people dressed in proper clothing sitting in proper seating? ”

    Yes! Briefly, it bespeak of the Scriptural nature of worship in reverence and holiness. Church architecture and setting is a matter of theology. The vestments, pulpit convey the respect and bespeak of the Office of Christ and His authority. The altar is symbolic of Christ and the place of holiness where His gifts are distributed. It is a picture of heaven on earth if you understand temple theology and heavenly worship (as in Isaiah, Revelation). The Liturgy involves holy words and songs of heaven given to us that we echo to God.

    But of course the idea of reverence and awe is just outdated (Hebrew 12:28?). There is no such thing as ‘casual worship’ or ‘informal repentance’ when wretched children come before a holy God. How is it people show more respect in courtrooms, civil ceremonies, dress up for weddings and the workplace – but less is acceptable when it comes to worship? Something is wrong here. Sacredness is lost in our post-modern world. And the idea that the number of people being saved will change with ‘coffee shop churches” is most unBiblical, unLutheran as we consider the doctrine of election.

    But understand, a chaplain on the battlefield with a make-shift altar, or even a dirty shack can be a place of holiness as God’s people with contrite hearts worship Him, making due with what they have in the circumstances of His will! What is heart breaking is so many people could set apart a beautiful place of sacred worship and they would rather open coffee shops or gyms and worship becomes the ‘secondary’ purpose of the space. Lord have mercy upon us.

  14. Its the same kind of thought that goes into psychology and sociology overtaking theology at every turn in American Christendom and in the LCMS these days. Being comfortable overtakes comfort in the gospel, being nice replaces love and kindness, success replaces faithfulness, and enlarging membership replaces making discipleship and catechesis and the sacramental life together. All pastors must be extroverted salesmen, back-slapping politicians, and cruise directors these days. Meanwhile the laity get Word and Sacrament delegated to them regardless of call, ordination, training, or the order of creation.

  15. Pam 49

    This is this congregation’s way of giving back to their community and showing God’s love, which was his last command to His disciples.

    The phrase giving back is a Marxist phrase. Why would one give back? Did one steal something that needs to be given back. Did one not earn what he has and now must give it back? One may be benevolent as God expects but “giving back” has no place in the church. It has its origin in Alinsky propaganda. And if one was “giving back”coffee seems a strange thing to “give back”.

  16. Mollie

    Do you think Pastor Maier’s idea was to use business models and forget about caring for the flock, or did he suggest that maybe we could use some idea’s from the business world in caring for our flock.

    Is this social online forum using a worldly tool to express and share ideas, is that theologically bad???

    I do not believe Pastor Maier is throwing out the churches confessions, doctrines, and scripture by pointing to ideas from an outside source.

  17. Really interesting comments here. I have read this post by Mollie several times and have come to many different conclusions, from anger, outrage, bewilderment, and finally an understanding. I am not able to come to the same conclusion as she did and others have here, but it is good to understand the difficulty of using social media. A simple comment that may be meant as one thing, could lead to other interpretations and certainly not be a violation of the 8th commandment, but could lead to digressions that could cause the 8th commandment to be broken or violating Matthew 18.

    Social media could be truly effective as a tool for making connections, but should not be relied upon as a sole source of communication.

    @helen #2

    “The church shoots its wounded”. Sadly all too true.

  18. Andrew #68

    “Social media” seems so oxymoronic. How is one able to be truly social via a media? I think you put it best, it can be effective as an introduction but real social interaction requires contact with real live human beings! 🙂 Other internet based programs such as email or even these conversations allow for far greater detail. As for breaking the 8th commandment, sometimes one who is being misleading in a public setting sees any public correction as a breaking of the 8th commandment. Especially prone are those in leadership who put their views out there for all to see. Public action requires a strong conviction, a stiff spine and/or the wearing of an athletic cup!:)

    BTW the actual quote is “the Christian Church is the only army that shoots its own wounded” from a book by the same name by Dwight Carlson MD (a “shrink” in the Christian church who has done great work in removing the stigma associated with emotional or mental illness within the Christian world.)

  19. @Larry Wright #55

    I follow many, many people on Twitter with whom I agree on nothing. So it’s important to note that following someone on Twitter does not mean that you endorse them. Maier does follow Warren on Twitter (!/BigSkyMaverick/following).

    Also, I love the way many of the Lutherans I follow on Twitter use it. They link to blog posts or sermons they’ve written. They promote books, magazines or other items of interest. It can be a great tool — not just for reporters such as myself but others, too.

  20. Just finished Dr. Wenthe’s article in the Dave Scaer Festschrift from a decade ago. How timely! Pastors as CEO’s or “therapists” vs. pastors as stewards of the Mysteries.

    Could (hypothetically speaking) a coffee shop be *a* venue in which a church (the Body of Christ in a particular place) “makes contact” with people for purposes (pardon the change in the order here) of mercy, witness and, as God the Holy Spirit “blows”, Life Together? sure. The problem, *as Mollie was pointing out right from the start on this thread*, is that we are adopting the consumerist *framework* for how the Church does what it does–and then, the world has won the battle for our minds and hearts. We are “consumerists” in America–we can’t hardly help but be. It’s our way of thinking. *Therefore* we as confessional Lutherans (that is, as Biblical Christians) *must* constantly examine ourselves to be sure that the world (outside us and inside us) has not co-opted us as the Church. This “coffee-shop” Willow Creek approach has already conceded the battle field to the opposition.

  21. @Rev. David Mueller #72
    Could (hypothetically speaking) a coffee shop be *a* venue in which a church (the Body of Christ in a particular place) “makes contact” with people for purposes (pardon the change in the order here) of mercy, witness…

    Two problems:
    1. People are expecting coffee, not religion, at a “coffeehouse”. To have an altar tucked away on the side somewhere (as I have seen on videos) teaches that religion is a secondary non necessity, so what do you expect to accomplish?

    2. IF people from that environment do come into the sanctuary, they have been trained to think the coffee should come with them and get very insulted/confused if you suggest that in church the focus should be on Word and Sacrament.

    This “coffee-shop” Willow Creek approach has already conceded the battle field to the opposition. Amen!

  22. @helen #73

    Great points, Helen! Your first point is so obvious it is amazing that so many miss it. People go to coffeehouses for coffee, not to be bothered about anyone’s religion. Your second point is why I’ve stopped describing “evangelistic” methods like this as “bait and switch.” They’re really just “bait and bait and bait and . . .,” since the “switch” never happens.

  23. I have recently been rereading my copy of C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters.” This book by Lewis opens one’s eyes to the subtle ways of the old evil foe when it comes to God’s people. “The Screwtape Letters” were written by an arch-demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, schooling him in the fine art of temptation. (Of course that means the “Enemy” in Screwtape’s letters to Wormwood is God.) This letter on worship practice is relevant to the discussion. I have especially been pondering of late the final lines of this letter. “Where Christ builds a church, Satan builds a chapel” is sadly so very, very true.


    You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only, since he was converted, and that he is not wholly pleased with it. May I ask what you are about? Why have I no report on the causes of his fidelity to the parish church? Do you realise that unless it is due to indifference it is a very bad thing? Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.

    The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a “suitable” church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil. What He wants of the layman in church is an attitude which may, indeed, be critical in the sense of rejecting what is false or unhelpful, but which is wholly uncritical in the sense that it does not appraise—does not waste time in thinking about what it rejects, but lays itself open in uncommenting, humble receptivity to any nourishment that is going. (You see how grovelling, how unspiritual, how irredeemably vulgar He is!) This attitude, especially during sermons, creates the condition (most hostile to our whole policy) in which platitudes can become really audible to a human soul. There is hardly any sermon, or any book, which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in this temper. So pray bestir yourself and send this fool the round of the neighbouring churches as soon as possible. Your record up to date has not given us much satisfaction.

    The two churches nearest to him, I have looked up in the office. Both have certain claims. At the first of these the Vicar is a man who has been so long engaged in watering down the faith to make it easier for supposedly incredulous and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his parishioners with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul’s Christianity. His conduct of the services is also admirable. In order to spare the laity all “difficulties” he has deserted both the lectionary and the appointed psalms and now, without noticing it, revolves endlessly round the little treadmill of his fifteen favourite psalms and twenty favourite lessons. We are thus safe from the danger that any truth not already familiar to him and to his flock should over reach them through Scripture. But perhaps bur patient is not quite silly enough for this church—or not yet?

    At the other church we have Fr. Spike. The humans are often puzzled to understand the range of his opinions—why he is one day almost a Communist and the next not far from some kind of theocratic Fascism—one day a scholastic, and the next prepared to deny human reason altogether—one day immersed in politics, and, the day after, declaring that all states of us world are equally “under judgment”. We, of course, see the connecting link, which is Hatred. The man cannot bring himself to teach anything which is not calculated to mock, grieve, puzzle, or humiliate his parents and their friends. A sermon which such people would accept would be to him as insipid as a poem which they could scan. There is also a promising streak of dishonesty in him; we are teaching him to say “The teaching of the Church is” when he really means “I’m almost sure I read recently in Maritain or someone of that sort”. But I must warn you that he has one fatal defect: he really believes. And this may yet mar all.

    But there is one good point which both these churches have in common—they are both party churches. I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it. I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better. And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice. The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion” when neither party could possibly state the difference between, say, Hooker’s doctrine and Thomas Aquinas’, in any form which would hold water for five minutes. And all the purely indifferent things—candles and clothes and what not—are an admirable ground for our activities. We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials—namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples. You would think they could not fail to see the application. You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry. And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour. Without that the variety of usage within the Church of England might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility,

    Your affectionate uncle

  24. @CS #45
    “There are many different circumstances that can lead to a church closure, but when this sad event does occur I think any remaining funds should be used to help other struggling congregations.”

    It’s an admirable sentiment, however, in most cases that I am familiar with, congregations that close rarely have any assets, in fact, their assets are more often than not, “toxic”:
    Unpaid loans (often from LCEF)–the districts often get stuck with them
    Buildings in dire need of maintenance
    Buildings on which utilities must be paid
    Vandalism issues
    Property with extremely limited market value

    The whole business of “ecclesiastical toxic assets” ought to be the subject of another thread, but I had to get in my two cents’ worth. I am especially concerned about the issue of loans–our districts are potentially at great risk.


  25. Todd Wilken :

    We should imitate this?

    I was referencing imitating a particular outreach ministry which may have been successful…not imitating their entire theology. I think you know what I was talking about, Pastor. I also believe we should only do what God calls us to do, and not simply copycat what God has called others to do.

  26. Pam :

    Todd Wilken :
    We should imitate this?TWTW

    I was referencing imitating a particular outreach ministry which may have been successful…not imitating their entire theology. I think you know what I was talking about, Pastor. I also believe we should only do what God calls us to do, and not simply copycat what God has called others to do.

    God has called Bill Hybels of Willow Creek to push his Church Growth/Seeker Sensitive idols? Can you clarify what you meant with that last statement, since I think you might have misspoke. Thanks.

  27. Jim Pierce :

    He didn’t adopt the pagan practices of the city in order to “win some.” He did preach the Gospel.

    Hanging out in a coffee house with non-Christians is not a pagan practice.

    Regarding my point. I use “so-called” because such a class of people is the construction of the Church Growth movement…These same people hate God (Romans 8:7) and will enter a coffee house “church” to put on a show of “spirituality,” drink your coffee, eat your cookies, and then leave. Once another “church” can make them feel better about themselves and offer “better” programs, they will hop over to that “church.” These people would not dare set foot in a church preaching solid law/gospel, since their ears don’t get the tickling they desire.

    Really? You think the Church Growth movement actually invented the idea that there are “so called” people who won’t come through the doors of a church because of past hurts, or past mistakes? And that they all hate God and aren’t willing to hear the law and Gospel unless it is presented to them in a palatable way? Well…if so…then I will be happy to meet them where they are. I do not think they are unworthy until they can drag their poor, miserable sinner souls through one of our church doors. That entire paragraph is shameful, judgmental, and Pharisaical. And for those of you who believe it is wrong to be scared…these are the type of statements that “scare” me, knowing there are even people in our church body who actually believe this.

    I agree it is the work of the Holy Spirit which draws people to Christ. Why do you insist on believing that everyone who is sensitive to seekers or has a program that reaches outside the walls of their church believes it is THEIR work that is drawing people? I know it is hard watching other churches grow, but making judgment calls regarding their motives and where they give credit is out of line.

  28. @Jim Pierce #78

    I don’t understand what you don’t understand. I said I wasn’t suggesting we imitate their theology. I also said we are all called to do what God calls US to do and not summarily copycat every successful ministry outreach program we see happening successfully.

  29. @Rev. Thomas C. Messer #64

    Rev. Messer,

    It is unfortunate the way that story played out. I also realize I’m hearing one side of the story here, but I am sure the hurt is real.

    Thank you for the clarification on the New Commandment. That makes sense…funny how Christ knew, even then, that love for one another was going to be something with which we would struggle. And you are so very correct, it is not only in our Synod, but worldwide Christians don’t show love toward one another. It is one of the most effective tools Satan uses to marginalize Christianity. I do have to say, though, in my 48 years as a LCMS Christian, I have never seen as much judgmental, hateful talk as I see here on this site, and I only return occasionally, I think, to remind me to be kind and to pray for all Christians. Unfortunately, satan gets a hold of me here also at times. He certainly knows my achilles heal.

  30. @Mark #83
    I like what Pastor Wilken said about that term once on Issues Etc. I won’t be able to quote him exactly, but it was along the lines of “seeker” not being a biblical term at all. The biblical term is “unbeliever.”

  31. @Pam #79

    Hi Pam,

    Once again, thank you for responding to my questions and points. First, let’s clear the table of the “Pharisee card” you played. The statement I made is not Pharisaical, or judgemental. Although, if I were approaching the subject of missions from the theological bent of those promulgating Seeker Sensitive and Church Growth methodologies, then I would be inclined to play the same card you did. The point to be gleaned here, I think, is that we are coming at this from two distinct theologies. I haven’t been as clear as I would like and that is also a problem for the reader, so I take some responsibility for the misunderstanding and hope to rectify the issue now.

    The point I was making is grounded on our Lutheran confession of faith, straight from the Small Catechism, and namely;

    “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true” (on-line source).

    The explanation for the third article provided above expresses what the Scripture I quoted earlier does, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Romans 8:7). The unregenerate individual hates God by his very nature. As Paul writes to the Romans “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:10). Those who are dead in their trespasses and sins hate God and they do not seek God. The individual who has not been drawn to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God is hopelessly lost and can’t bring themselves to our savior. Their very will is in bondage.

    So, with the above in mind, and as a starting point, it is clear that yes, all unrepentant sinners hate God and are incapable of seeking Him. As Lutherans we believe, teach, and confess, that we are incapable of coming to Christ by our own strength or reason. The unregenerate man can’t be wooed into receiving the forgiveness of sins by anything that we do. This is where the Church Growth and Seeker Sensitive type of endeavors get hung up. Why? Because they are founded upon false teachings about the sinful nature of humanity. These movements are grounded in Decision Theology and the underlying theological assumption to them is that unregenerate sinners are capable of making a choice for Jesus. That is, the human will is not under bondage to sin, it isn’t fully marred by our sinful natures, but that we can recognize our sinfulness through our reason and move ourselves towards God. Hence these movements do everything they can to attract the “unChurched” into their doors, since the idea is that once in the doors, these people will see that church isn’t so bad afterall and they will make a choice to stay and live for Christ.

    I hope it is also apparent by now that the talk of people not coming through the doors because of past hurts and mistakes is based upon the underlying theology of the Seeker Sensitive and Church Growth methods. According to the Apostle Paul, as sinners who don’t have Christ, we hate God. Yes, we also have our hurts and painful mistakes, but these aren’t the reasons why we don’t set foot in a church that proclaims solid law and gospel. The reason why is just as the Scriptures and our Lutheran confession tells us. We hate God and we don’t have the power in ourselves to change that. Without Christ we are “seekers,” but not seekers of Christ. We are seeking to dull the pain and make ourselves better in response to past mistakes. We seek a form of spirituality, but detest true Godliness.

    I hope the above answers you. If you find that I haven’t responded directly to one of your points, please let me know and I will try to do so.

    @Pam #80

    Actually, my question was whether or not you were saying Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) is called by God to push his Church Growth and Seeker Sensitive methods. Your generalization seems to include him, too. Does it?

  32. @Young Blood #84

    We’ve exchanged the Biblical terms for the psychological/sociological terms. And, by doing so, we’ve changed what the Church is supposed to do.

    Unbeliever –> Unchurched
    Sinner –> Seeker
    Believer –> Fully Devoted Christ-Follower


  33. Pam 82d

    Yes Marxist. That is the origin of the term “giving back”. It implies that somehow one took what was not theirs and now is giving back. It is designed to engender guilt rather than love motivation.

    On another note NO ONE “seeks” God, He seeks them. We are all spiritually blind , dead and enemies of God until he rescues us. The responsibility, as Peter says, of every Christian is to be ready at all times to give a reason for your belief and deliver it in love. THAT is how God brings folks to himself, through His Word delivered by us. The unfortunate thing is that the average pew sitter could not begin to give a reason even if he is in the faith and that is the kind of equipping our Pastors are to be about. I watched a congregation grow from 400 to 2000 members without using church growth methods. What was used was an emphasis that every member attend a course on why we believe what we believe and encouragement for every member to be trained to share his faith and handle as many objections as possible. This brought people in by the dozens to learn more. I do not recall anyone seeking, we sought them.

  34. @David LCMS Teacher #68

    You ask if I think Pr. Maier’s idea was to use business models or to simply learn from business models.

    Honestly, I think he was probably just thinking about the good parts of the article — helpful tools for thinking about social media.

    I think he probably forgot that the headline and bulk of the article was about operating an organization with a consumer-driven format. I think he probably didn’t think through how such advice would be taken by pastors and others seeking to remain true to the confessions of our church.

    I don’t actually know Pastor Maier but my assumption is that he cares about Scriptural fidelity. I certainly assume that he does not mind a discussion of how the corporatist mindset has invaded our church.

    And I hope that everyone here can at least give thought to the difference and distinction between Biblical models and capitalism. I’m a libertarian with an economics degree, so I do my own fair share of cheerleading for free-market capitalism. But there’s a difference between how a church operates and how a business operates. Can we learn from the secular realm? Certainly. But my concern was with the headline and angle of this piece: “Happy customers make for happy businesses.” I think that’s very true for businesses. I think it’s a problem when we apply that model to a congregation of poor, miserable sinners.

  35. Mollie

    I cannot judge Maier’s motives but find his judgement a serious problem. He has been invested in the CGM for a long time so these kind of views are not new from him.

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