Great Stuff Found on the Web — P.S. I Hate You (Part 1)

Thanks to a BJS reader for pointing us to this posting on a new to me blog from Pastor Fiene.

 


 

Dear Low Church, Praise Band Guy,

I just wanted to drop you a quick line and set the record straight on a few things you seem to be confused about.

You see, lately I’ve heard you lamenting how fewer and fewer people are coming to church and how the church herself is really failing to reach these folks.  I’ve heard you talk about how you need to find ways to reach people who wouldn’t be reached in traditional ways, how you need to offer them a form of worship that speaks their language and meets them where they are.  You use words like impact and authentic.  You talk about all this stuff very sincerely and I’m sure you mean well.  But the reason I don’t go to church isn’t that the traditions of the past don’t speak to me.  It’s not that I find organs and old hymns to be boring.  And it’s not that I don’t have the attention span to learn a liturgy that’s not always terribly easy to follow.  When you say things like that, you’re really just embarrassing yourself by doing two things.  Those two things are:

  1. Projecting onto me the things you actually don’t like about going to church
  2. Revealing that you’ve never actually talked to me about why I don’t go to church.

So since you seem to be quite ignorant of why I’d rather sleep or jog or fornicate on Sunday morning, let me just state things very clearly for you:

The reason I don’t go to church is because I hate the Gospel.  I hate Jesus.  I hate the notion that I was a sinner who needed to be redeemed by God taking on human flesh and shedding His blood on a cross.  I hate the notion that Jesus gets every ounce of credit for my salvation.  I hate the idea that God doesn’t dwell in my heart, that God isn’t who I make Him out to be in the religion of my own creation.  And I hate the teaching that the only way for me to know the true God is by hearing and reading the Bible.

So that’s why I don’t come to church.  I don’t come to church because I find the Christian faith to be stupid, irrational, barbaric, sexist, homophobic, outdated, mean spirited, ugly, offensive and any other number of things that are bad.  I don’t come to church because I hate the One who founded her.

So please stop embarrassing yourself.  Stop acting like an insecure college girl who dates guys who treat her like crap because she thinks she can reach the good men inside them that no other girl could reach before.  Stop thinking that you can say something to me that I haven’t heard before.  Stop thinking that you can love me better than anyone else ever has.  You’re supposed to believe in original sin.  Act like it.  Remember that my default position is to hate Jesus.  And as long I hate Him, I won’t feel any different about you.

And stop trying to relate to me.  Stop thinking that your life-application-sermon-skills can do for me what Law and Gospel preaching hasn’t ever done.  Stop thinking that the one thing preventing me from being baptized is not having a sandal wearing pastor to call by his first name.  Stop thinking that I glumly sip my coffee on Sunday morning, saying to myself, “golly gee, I really want to hear the Word of God today, but I just can’t do it in a place that doesn’t have guitars and a light show.”  Remember that, as long as I hate the gift, it doesn’t matter how flashy you think your new wrapping job is.  I’m still not going to open it.

So I hate to be this frank.  But I thought you needed to hear it straight.  I hate the Gospel.  I hate Jesus.  And as long as that’s the case, I will always hate you.

Sincerely,

The World

Posted by Pastor Fiene

 


 

Follow Pastor Fiene’s other posts (and watch for further parts of this posting) at http://thehighmidlife.blogspot.com.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff Found on the Web — P.S. I Hate You (Part 1) — 74 Comments

  1. Couldn’t have said it better myself! As a Baptist pastor, it is encouraging and heartening to see Lutherans who have eyes open to the reality of what is wrong with the goals of many churches today. Those who do not agree with this post most likely have spent little time sharing their faith in the parks, door to door, at events. If they had, they would recognize the truth of this post as being right on target. The law and the gospel offends but also brings people to true saving faith in Jesus Christ. thanks for this letter and God bless your blog.

  2. The explanation to the Third Article of the Creed should help in this discussion; “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” This also means that I cannot by my own reason or strength cause someone else to believe in Jesus Christ or come to Him by pandering to his felt needs or somehow trying to make the Law more comfortable and the Gospel less offensive.

    Question 157 in the Catechism: “Why do you need the Holy Spirit to begin and sustain this faith in you?” Answer: By nature I am spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God, as Scriptures teach:”
    1Cor. 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    Eph. 2:1 You were dead in your transgressions and sins.
    Rom. 8:7 The sinful mind is hostile to God.
    Your nice neighbor who makes all the excuses for not going to church, who would only believe if they could just find a congregation that reflects their personality, etc. etc. is indeed a blind enemy of God.

    Question 38, “How is this done?” (i.e., sinning against the 3rd Commandment) We despise preaching and the Word of God A) when we do not attend public worship: B) when we do not use the Word of God and the Sacraments; C) when we use the Word of God and the Sacraments negligently or carelessly.

    When the owner of the house (Luke 13:25-27) gets up and closes the door, what will we say? “I would have come in, but I was shy and don’t really know how to make friends, besides that the church didn’t play my favorite music, and they only served Folgers during fellowship time?” Will the rejection of the word, the sacraments and fellowsihp with the body of Christ for fickle, facile, faddish and selfish reasons be accepted by our Lord on the day of judgment? We can come up with all sorts of excuses for people not worshipping the Lord, but in the end it is a sin when men do not do so because men do not desire to do so. Christ condescended to us in his incarnation, life suffering and death the cross, but that is not enough for some. Christians are far too willing to blame the church and the right preaching of the gospel for the unbelief and the indifference of their neighbors.

  3. revaggie :Is it truly an agreed upon order that is the expression of love in Godly unity? Or is it unity in common proclamation that is the expression of love in Godly unity? I am going to say it is more the second than the first.

    Unity in proclaiming the Gospel and administering the Sacraments is unity in the Holy Spirit. I don’t agree that “right proclamation of the Gospel and right administration of the Sacraments” necessarily results in liturgical uniformity or even liturgical similarity, necessarily.

    But love for one another and for the weak should move us to sacrifice our freedom in liturgical matters if our diversity gives the impression of a difference in doctrine. And I think it does do that.

    When I see an LCMS congregation that completely jettisons the western liturgy and the corpus of Lutheran hymns (and maybe even the catechism), and looks like Calvary Chapel, I begin to wonder whether we are really united in what we proclaim. I start to wonder if a congregation wants so badly to be like Calvary Chapel stylistically, whether they might really want to be like them doctrinally as well. Particularly when you consider that many members of churches are only moderately interested in what the Church teaches and much more concerned with how it “looks” and “feels.”

    Also, when members of LCMS churches move from one state to another and find the order and style of worship in the new congregation to be drastically different from what they were getting before–and then maybe cease attending–I think love calls us to reign in our freedom.

    So if the thing that does everything is the Gospel, and we are united in the Gospel–the one thing needful–let’s make every effort to make that clear in the way we conduct the Divine Service. I’m not arguing here for absolute uniformity, which is impossible. But for clear parameters in which, out of love, and for the sake of not causing division where there is none, we are going to freely choose to abide.

    The reason I think this is such an issue for some people–not you–in the Missouri Synod is that they are convinced that praise bands and coffee houses and the pastor dressed in jeans and a t-shirt are necessary for evangelism. And that to me is evidence of a doctrinal problem–that we think that human work adds to the effectiveness of the Gospel.

    But where there is unity in the Gospel, let’s work out a way that we can not only preach the same word, but not put any stumbling blocks in front of the weak by being radically different in “style” or order. I’m willing to give on some things that I like for the sake of those who confess the same thing but have different tastes. I’m willing to have a long discussion about what things are really important and what things aren’t.

    You know what would be even better than having the Koinonia project do this for us? If pastors in circuits could work on these things together.

  4. Andrew Strickland :
    “Projecting onto me the things you actually don’t like about going to church.”
    This sums up the entire problem quite well.

    Well, this would sum up the problem well if it were true. However, the projection is just a stereotype of the actor known as “low church, praise-band-guy”. How are we called to deal with the fact that the World hates Jesus and the Gospel?. By blaming imaginary praise-band guy? Really?

  5. @DA #57
    Thanks for calling me out on that. I am not blaming imaginary praise-band guy, the sentence stood out when I read it the other day as I was in the midst of an email discussion with a friend who is an atheist and that very thing came up. He finds the whole notion of churches “coming down to his level” as insulting.

  6. @Andrew Strickland #58

    I am with you there, brother. As Bonhoeffer wrote: “cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

    In contrast to this he also describes costly grace:
    “costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    Peace

  7. @DA #59

    … and we’ve been practicing cheap grace for far too long, even in too many circle sof the LC-MS.

    Andrew Strickland :@DA #57 He finds the whole notion of churches “coming down to his level” as insulting.

    We should never have to or want to come down for anything. Jesus already did that for us. So “coming down” to the worldly levels is akin ot taking the light off the pole and hiding it under a bucket. I beleieve we should strvie to be Christ-like for the world to see, so that the world can see God in action, because He is in action in us, calling us out to do His good things.

    Even if this satire is “disrespectful,” at least it is getting us to talk about and open up about the challenges we face.

  8. DA :

    Andrew Strickland :
    “Projecting onto me the things you actually don’t like about going to church.”
    This sums up the entire problem quite well.

    Well, this would sum up the problem well if it were true. However, the projection is just a stereotype of the actor known as “low church, praise-band-guy”. How are we called to deal with the fact that the World hates Jesus and the Gospel?. By blaming imaginary praise-band guy? Really?

    DA,

    I honestly don’t see how I’m being unfair here. In every conversation I’ve ever had with those who advocate contemporary worship, these people have always defended the practice with the assertion that this form of worship will reach people who wouldn’t otherwise come to their congregation. Every time. In fact, I’ve never once heard an argument for contemporary worship that isn’t somehow rooted in the concept of “worship evangelism.”

    Furthermore, I think you’re missing the point of the post. I’m not, in any way, saying that CW advocates should be blamed for the world hating the Gospel. I’m not even arguing against CW in this post! I’m simply saying that we shouldn’t fool ourselves into believing that there is a way to package the Gospel that will cause those who hate it to love it, which is a point you seem to agree with. And if you (or anyone else) thinks this is just another liturgical guy’s rant against CW, just wait for Part II 🙂

  9. @Jason #60
    “It is crucial for the Church to practice the following four roles: human care (diakonia), witness (martyria), fellowship (koinonia), and worship (leitourgia). … only when these four activities are in lace will a congregation fulfill a balanced and biblical role in this world and serve, figuratively speaking, as a flower whose sweet and inviting smell penetrates the world. The Church thus looks like a flower, blossoms like a flower, smells like a flower, and attracts like a flower. Mission From the Cross p. 236, Klaus Detlev Schulz

  10. Todd Wilken :According to Scripture, are unbelievers friendly, neutral or hostile to Christ and His Gospel?

    “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thourhgts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But, because of his great love for us, God who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in trangressions–it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ….” Ephesians 2:1-6a.

    “Dead”, “objects of wrath,” “dead!”–in the ways of this world
    “Raised up,” “made alive,” “raised up!” in Christ

    Johannes (any more questions?)

  11. Here’s an interesting quote from a James Boice sermon on Ephesians 2:1-3. It’s theology is not necessarily Lutheran, but the picture painted by George Whitefield is apt:

    “Dead in transgressions? Dead in sins? Indeed we were! But God performs resurrections. He reaches down to where ruined, miserable, trapped sinners are living, he brings them to spiritual life again. He calls them; and his voice which quickens the dead, brings them running to that which beforehand they had both shunned and feared.

    “George Whitefield, the great Calvinistic evangelist, compared this to Christ’s raising of Lazarus:

    “Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinners, come and see the place where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, locked up and stinking in a dark cave, with a great stone place on the top of it. View him again and again; go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him. Ah! how he stinketh….Was he bound hand and foot with grave-clothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions: and as a stone was laid on the sepulchre, there is a stone of unbelief upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou hast lain in this state, not only four days, but many years, stinking in God’s nostrils. And, what is still more effecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the power of thy own boasted free-will, and the force and energy of moral persuasion and rational arguments (which, without all doubt, have their proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much vigor, will prove fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who said, “Take away the stone,” and cried “Lazarus, come forth,” also quickens you.'”

    Johannes

  12. @Rev. David Mueller #63
    I’d only adjust your analogy to make it *Diet* Coke–caffeine free.
    (About as disgusting a drink as has ever been invented.)

    Amen.
    I get my morning wake-up call from a cup of coffee and theobromine (dark). 🙂

  13. @Rev. Hans Fiene #61

    Thank you for the response Pastor Fiene, and for the opportunity to clear up my concerns. To start off, I am a concerned about the sarchasm directed at your brothers and sisters in Christ – the so-called “praise-band guys”.

    From Wikipedia: Sarcasm is “a sharp, bitter, or cutting expression or remark; a bitter jibe or taunt” continuing … “The word comes from the late Greek ????????? (sarkazmos) taken from the word ????????? meaning ‘to tear flesh, gnash the teeth, speak bitterly’. Also it notes that “In sarcasm, ridicule or mockery is used harshly, often crudely and contemptuously, for destructive purposes. It may be used in an indirect manner, and have the form of irony, as in “What a fine musician you turned out to be!” or it may be used in the form of a direct statement, “You couldn’t play one piece correctly if you had two assistants.”

    I would like to know how your sarchasm holds up under the requirements placed upon us as disciples of Jesus Christ? There are many passages that apply to be sure. Ephesians 4:1-5 comes to mind as one example.

    Thanks and Peace.

  14. @Lifelong Lutheran #8
    Suffice to say confusion reigns about the proper context of reaching out to the lost. This has been complicated for LCMS churches by the Synod’s 40 year love affair with decision theology. There is good reason to believe that part of the ordeal is coming to an end under new leadership. So, what to use for materials then? My first suggestion would be to suggest you host a CLCC seminar on Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation, which is based on the correct theology for Lutherans. See http://www.theclcc.org for more info.

    The important point is how to bring a local congregation into the correct understanding of what to do locally. These should be considered tasks, not ministry, on the part of the laity. Vocation is a big part of the context that needs to be understood by the laity. The other huge point to understand is the harvest (results) are not theirs to accomplish, it is the will of the Holy Spirit. This takes a huge burden off of the conscience and allows the Lutheran to speak naturally and freely about what God has done in their life.

    The lost will respond based on who which general group of the lost they represent; those who say have never really heard of Jesus and their condemnation under the law, and His gift of salvation, or, they have heard it and reject it.

    We all need to be the best examples of what Christ desires for us as His disciples and love our neighbor. If we do that well the negative reactions to all those hypocrites at church will for the most part go away, at least for Lutherans. We are different and we should understand and appreciate what that difference is. To do that we need to be separated from world in a very visible way.

  15. @DA #67
    DA,

    I honestly don’t see how I’m being sarcastic. As I said before, every defense of contemporary worship I’ve ever heard has been rooted in the belief that it is more effective at reaching the lost than “traditional worship.” That’s the belief that I’m arguing against in a satirical fashion. But satire and sarcasm aren’t the same thing.

    Nonetheless, I don’t want to clutter up this thread anymore than I have, so I’d be more than happy to continue the discussion via email. [email protected].

  16. @Rev. Hans Fiene #69

    Thanks Pastor Fiene,

    I have a couple more quick questions for you. I hope that others will find this of some value rather than just clutter:

    1. If we assume for the moment that your piece is satire, how do you justify your satire in light of the requirements of Ephesians 4:1-5?

    2. You say that every defense of contemporary worship you have ever heard has been rooted in the belief that it is more effective reaching the lost than traditional worship. Have you ever asked “why” people believe this? When you do ask why, do the praise band guys respond with “we think its is because contemporary worship can reach the ‘good men’ inside that no other church could reach before.” or “We think that in contemporary worship, we can love people better than anyone else ever has.”?

    Looking forward to your responses.
    Thanks and peace

  17. Dear Pastor Fiene,

    To sharpen up my concerns and perhaps aid in getting this issue behind us and ending the clutter, here is the bigger picture of where I am coming from. I hope this helps:

    CW in the LCMS has problems. Not the least of these problems is that it is all over the map. In order to resolve these problems, constructive dialog and understanding is needed. Some approaches however, distract from the real issues and cause needless offense. In your piece, you make a good point about the World. This part is useful to the dialog. However, I believe that you injure your own point and put a “dog on the field” when inaccurate thoughts and motivations are attributed to your characters that represent brothers and sisters in Christ.

    If there are people that really believe that CW somehow appeals to the ‘good man’, where traditional liturgy and hymns do not, then perhaps satire could be of some value, although there is always a risk that it will be misunderstood as sarchasm. Satire is at its best when it points out true folly rather than imagined or projected folly.

    Hope this helps get through the clutter.
    Looking forward to your thoughts.
    Thanks again, and peace

    PS: As for contemporary, I prefer acoustic guitar and keyboard to organ music in worship. This style of music causes me to “hear” the message of the words in the song better for some reason, and I tend to repeat it more during the week. I like the liturgy, and also prefer to sing songs in worship that fit the particular theme and re-enforce the message of the service, and especially to hear, learn and sing new songs composed by Lutheran songwriters.

    Again, peace

  18. Would you praise Him with a praise band?
    Would you praise Him with an organ?

    Not in a high church, not in a low church
    Not with an organ, not with a praise band
    I will not praise Him, Pastor Hans!

  19. @Rev. Hans Fiene #72

    James :
    Would you praise Him with a praise band?
    Would you praise Him with an organ?
    Not in a high church, not in a low church
    Not with an organ, not with a praise band
    I will not praise Him, Pastor Hans!

    LOL, out loud even. :>)

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