Church Growth Conference at Redeemer, Fort Wayne – Not the way you think.

Ok, it’s just a play on words, the good folks at Redeemer are not going off the deep end into the error-laden world of church growth – they are focused on God’s created way for growth within the church (being fruitful and multiplying, and then raising the fruit of a marriage in the Faith).

I recently found out about an annual conference that is hosted at Redeemer, Fort Wayne every year.  Their website is here.  It is a conference for families.  That is right, a conference on something often forgotten in the quest to be the next big, relevant, hip, fad-driven, outwardly focused church – marriage and family.  The conference appears to have all sorts of fun (play), study (work), and prayer offices and even a Divine Service (worship).  It even has all of these available for all ages at the same time.  No, they are not dividing the church by age group or what each finds appealing, but just gathering all the church together and letting them be Christians within their vocations of husband, wife, father, mother, children, siblings, and so forth.

It looks like from their FAQ section that they are going to be very inclusive!

I can only commend such a conference as being a great gift to the Church and those families who choose to take part.  This is a great idea for our Life Together as a Church, encouraging families and providing opportunities for them to simply be Christian families.  Imagine the evangelism potential as Christian families are encouraged to interact with others of the same faith, all within the context of family and our Faith.  Maybe some future families will trace their roots to such events as these conferences.

Maybe other congregations throughout our Synod will (or already do) imitate this fine example.

If you are around the Fort Wayne area, or maybe are looking for a last minute family vacation, check it out.

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Church Growth Conference at Redeemer, Fort Wayne – Not the way you think. — 35 Comments

  1. It would be great if events like this were publicized to congregations. Do the organizers email info to congregations?

  2. PJS
    So, according to your first paragraph, God’s way of growing the Lutheran church is biological. Silly me. And here I thought Jesus’ command to build the church was far more–like witnessing to unbelievers. I fear you are limiting “election” to the church enclosure and those already in the family of God. (Hoping I just misunderstood you.)

  3. @Sue wilson #3
    Sue,
    Do you not believe that God’s gift of children and catechesis is a God-given way to grow the church?

    I understand that to the missional minded folks who find their righteousness in following Jesus’ commands that such a simple approach may be “silly” and even “far less” than the grand task of witnessing.

    I witness to my children every night as I teach them the faith. They were conceived in iniquity and needed conversion too. They also need continued care for their souls and to be raised in the faith.

    And they are my neighbor too!

    Where have I limited election to the church enclosure? I am simply advocating faithfully taking care of the things which God has given. If God so brings others into the Church, then thanks be to God. As that happens I will do my vocation of being their pastor and taking care of their souls. I still have the vocation of being a father and husband as well, and those in my household are my closest neighbors, they are the ones whom God gives me the most opportunities to share Jesus with.

    Be a Christian wherever God puts you. Let Him give the increase. That increase may be the stranger, but it may also be the child that God has already given.

  4. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #4

    Pastor Scheer,

    I commend your clarity in talking about this area of church growth. We lose so many of our own people, especially our youth from the church. When we focus too much on the lost and unbelieving, we often exclude those sheep already in our church midst. How sad. The balance of witness and catechesis in our midst is as important and perhaps more important today.

    Blessings.

    Perry Lund

  5. How much can this conference be advertised and copied before it starts being a program? How un-successful and poorly attended does it have to remain before it starts becoming big, relevant, and hip? This is a self contradicting arguement to rip on others for being outwardly focused and then encouraging the members of your own little clicke to advertise and copy an example set by another church. Sounds like your just starting another program more to your liking.

  6. Sue wilson :
    PJS
    So, according to your first paragraph, God’s way of growing the Lutheran church is biological. Silly me. And here I thought Jesus’ command to build the church was far more–like witnessing to unbelievers. I fear you are limiting “election” to the church enclosure and those already in the family of God. (Hoping I just misunderstood you.)

    In the current anti-family culture, it is important to teach our children about healthy views of family life to counter the worldly materialistic view of relationships. The current popular opinion that it is better or more responsible to have fewer children needs to be countered by the truth, so that young people who would otherwise be open to God’s gift of children aren’t unduly pressured by the culture. We should not be silent and allow the world’s opinion to be the only opinion that is ever heard or tolerated.

  7. Burned :
    You know who is going off the deep end theologically is bapticostal Lutherans at the five two thing. Is this the future of the LCMS? http://Www.fivetwo.com

    I gave it the quick scan. Is this LCMS Lutheran? Huh?

    Johannes

  8. @Joe #7
    In reference to the idea of my involvement with a clique, I have attended Redeemer a few times while in seminary (less than 5), so I am not sure which clique you are talking about. If it is the clique of parents who thank God for the precious gifts given to them in their children, and who see it as their highest calling to raise those children to both have faith in Christ and love for their neighbor – I guess I am a part of that clique (wouldn’t that clique be all Christian parents?).

    Your comment seems to spew anger and tries to rip others for whom you have no knowledge.

    Nowhere have I mentioned a program (or movement). I just think it is a good idea for others to imitate (especially at the congregational level).

    As for success and numbers of attendees – you speak as a fine example of Church Growth-ese. Success in this case would be that families enjoy themselves, learn more about Christ and vocation within the family, and receive the good gifts from Christ that He offers through Divine Service As far as how many attendees, it doesn’t matter (the Church has never been very good at counting, may it always remain so).

    As far as advertising things, I thought this would be a good idea to advertise this conference (I will not be able to attend) since one of our emphases here at BJS is:
    “Encourage and equip husbands to be the spiritual head of their household and a strong voice of leadership in their local congregation.”

  9. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #4 I don’t think that Sue Wilson is suggesting that we not catechize our children. For you to suggest that seems to me a red herring. Then to suggest that those who want to take the Gospel outside of the family and the church “find their righteousness in following Jesus’ commands” throws out yet another red herring. That’s a rather antinomian thing to say. I suggest you read the “Portals of Prayer” devotion for June 15 and the CTCR’s “Theological Statement of Mission” (www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=416).

  10. @Sue wilson #3
    PJS
    So, according to your first paragraph, God’s way of growing the Lutheran church is biological. Silly me. And here I thought Jesus’ command to build the church was far more–like witnessing to unbelievers.

    God’s first way of growing the church was biological, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

    A family conference is a rare event in today’s church. Whereas in my childhood, the family went to church and church activities together, today everything seems to be age or interest segregated. We lose a great many of our young people because of it.
    We’ve also lost a great many old people because they don’t feel wanted in the new “coffeehouse” Missouri (although they are expected to pony up to create it).

    Christ did say “Baptize and teach”. (To teach “everything I have commanded you”, a lifetime is not too long!) He didn’t say “abandon them when you’ve baptized them” but that is what has been going on lately. i’ve actually heard district “facilitators” say they expected members to be lost in their race to the latest fad.

    Cheers to Redeemer which remembers that Christ also said, “Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep.”

    I didn’t see anything in Pr. Scheer’s report to get hot about. The Gospel is for both members and strangers, not “either/or”!

  11. My, my, have we quickly forgotten President Harrison’s three-fold emphasis for our Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:

    • Witness
    • Mercy
    • life Together

    and how it’s his prayer that we grow in ALL THREE of these areas!

    We also should remember that we are not all called to preach like Paul, or even like your pastor; instead, we are called to be faithful to our Lord in whatever vocation our Lord has placed us in, whether it be father, mother, son, daughter, master, servant, whatever. (Check out your copy of Luther’s Small Catechism and look for the Table of Duties … it’s in there!) If this conference at Redeemer helps its participants to work out their vocation in a more God-pleasing way, then more power to them!

  12. @Johannes #9
    Those are LCMS pastors, but like you after listening to the videos and going over their website, there is nothing “Lutheran” there. If LCMS pastors are embarassed, see it a barrier, intentionally not label themselves as a “Lutheran” … they should leave the LCMS. (also for the post-modern culture, avoid any clergy labels -Pastor, Rev.)

  13. @Johannes #9
    Ironic too, one of their leaders Nate Schaus, at LCMS.org list his church as: Summit Community Lutheran Church (but that’s not their name). Go to their website and its Summit Community Church.

  14. @Kantor Dennis Boettcher #13 Of course, you are right about being faithful in our vocations (I don’t know any Christian who has only one vocation). That’s not contrary to sharing the Gospel in whatever vocations we have.

  15. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #4

    Pr. Scheer:

    I believe Sue’s objection to your post lies in your original wording, “…they are focused on God’s created way for growth within the church.” Not, “one of God’s ways,” or even, “God’s primary way,” but instead “God’s created way,” i.e., THE singular way.

    Interestingly, in your response to Sue you very notably changed your wording to “…*A* God-given way to grow the church” (emphasis added). This revised statement demonstrates that you recognize your initial wording was, to say the least, quite careless.

    Sue certainly did NOT object to catechesis, nor to family conferences; she simply objected to your very regrettable wording, which sadly implied an argument you did not intend to make.

    Unfortunately, instead of simply admitting that you worded yourself poorly and thereby unintentionally generated confusion for a reader, you instead took the wildly inappropriate tack of twisting the discussion around to imply that Sue has no regard for properly raising Christian children.

    I am very sorry to say this, Pr. Scheer, but you should be ashamed.

  16. @MS #17
    I am very sorry to say this, Pr. Scheer, but you should be ashamed.

    WHY?
    God’s “created way” is a good description of family. It doesn’t imply, as Sue jumped to do, that there are not other ways of coming to the church.

    A couple of you have made much ado about nothing, IMO. Maybe Sue should apologize to Pr. Scheer for misunderstanding him and the article?

    Not everyone has a spouse/children.
    Not everyone has a talent for evangelism either.
    The Bible says “some” were given that gift.

  17. Pastor Scheer–
    Thanks for sharing the info about our little conference. It has been a joy to put together the past couple of years. Because we are learning as we go, I think it gets better each year.
    @Joe #7 We are neither a “program” or “unsuccessful and poorly attended.” We are a smallish church putting on a small-ish conference for those who chose to come. No cliques. If we have too many people sign up we would have to turn people away, but so far our numbers have been perfect. We have families of all sizes, from single people to 10+ kids.

  18. @Rev. Weinkauf #15

    Got it! Thanks.

    The conference in the link is all about “outward focus.” That’s great–and I support outward focus.

    The conferance at Redeemer is about “inward focus,” pretty much. And that is no less important. And every bit as much a making of disciples, too. Disciples need nourishment throughout their lives. Sadly, too many programs that stress outward focus fail to pay any attention to current members. Redeemer is doing a very important thing.

    Johannes

  19. @Larry Kleinschmidt #11
    My comment about righteousness above was in reference to Sue referring to “far more” as if it were more important to follow Jesus “command”. She made witnessing to those outside more important than those within.

    If what I wrote concerning those who find their righteousness in following Jesus’ commands is antinomian, then Augsburg IV is antinomian.

    @MS #17
    “they are focused on God’s created way for growth within the church (being fruitful and multiplying, and then raising the fruit of a marriage in the Faith)”
    Check out the word “within” to find that I did write with clarity. Some would use the word “inward”.
    Sue commented about this idea of growth within the church (using God’s created order of parents and children) being silly and that it was far more to be following Jesus command to witness.

    If my words confused her, then she should have asked for a simple explanation of what I meant instead of using sarcasm.

    If my words confused her, I do apologize for the confusion.

    @helen #12
    @helen #18
    Thank you Helen. I spent the day doing home repairs so I didn’t a chance to speak until now, thank you for speaking well of me.

    @IndianaJane #19
    Thank you IndianaJane. I hope your conference is a blessing to many folks.

  20. @Larry Kleinschmidt #16 — Thank you for your response, and I agree with all of what you said in the referenced post.

    It’s not easy to be a Christian in today’s society. It’s even more difficult to raise a Christian family under the present pagan milieu. For Redeemer Lutheran to present a conference that works to strengthen the ties that bind us together as Christians — as a nuclear, extended, and spiritual family — they deserve kudos as well as our prayers for presenting this to their people and beyond their congregational circle.

    Whether Rev. Scheer meant to say “THE singular way” or not, I believe we can certainly agree that “biological growth” … i.e. the care and nurture of our parish families … has gone by the wayside by many of the practitioners of “church growth.” As mentioned above, church growthers seem to supplant the growth of the whole family with targeted, segregated growth (e.g. emphases towards “baby boomers,” “gen-X’ers,” “gen-Y’ers,” and the list can go on). But Jesus came to save ALL PEOPLE. And so the church, by reaching out to the family — however that family may be constructed — and caring, nurturing, and strengthening those families, emulates Christ by reaching out with the Gospel to ALL PEOPLE.

  21. @IndianaJane #19
    We have families of all sizes, from single people to 10+ kids.

    Bless you for making singles feel welcome at a conference for the church family!
    Not every church thinks of that.

  22. A few quick quips from ole’ Krusty here. From very early in FAQ section: ” it is okay to come without dad, etc. Uh, no it is not, far to many christian families have da momma exercising headship. Which last time I checked the brotherhood was DEAD set against.

    2. It is hard to tell from what is provided, but do they really expect that children will sit still for all this church?

    3. “Home-School educators ” a bit of an oxymoron. We have many wonderful Lutheran school system. Home school educators are a secular extension of the theology of glory if you ask me. I know, I know you did not ask but there you go. My experience with home school parents is that it is all about them and what they want, what they are not getting from either the public or parochial school education offered in there area. It is all about them and their needs percieved or real.

    You cannot have your cake and eat it too brothers.

    Just because it is in Ft. Wayne does not make it good.

  23. @Krusty Kraut #24
    I think the lack of “dad” comment in the FAQ was because the conference is during the week, and dads may not have the vacation time to take. Can a dad exercise authority and headship by telling mom and kids to go to a conference that he cannot make it to?
    Apply what you said to attending Church as well (especially since the conference involves Divine Service and teaching), should women not take kids to church when dad can’t go? I don’t think the FAQ was meant in any way to rob fatherly authority of its responsibility or honor.

    2. Yes children do sit, and if they wiggle and make a little noise then so be it. The point is that you are teaching them something by just having them there. They are baptized and need to be involved as “hearers” in the Church as well.

    3. Home-school educators are not an extension of secular educators, but part of God’s first schools (before any building was constructed to house many children from many families, each house was its own school). You may have a Lutheran school nearby, some do not. Some families (under dad’s authority) have chosen to teach their kids at home for a variety of reasons. Are parents not allowed to do “what they want” with the children that God has given them to raise? It is about them and their children and what God has given them to do in giving them the children they have.

    No one has said that Fort Wayne has some divine power to make things good (God’s Word alone does that).

  24. “My experience with home school parents is that it is all about them and what they want, what they are not getting from either the public or parochial school education offered in there area. It is all about them and their needs percieved or real.”

    As a homeschool parent, I would say there is some truth to this, at least for me. I like being with my kids 24/7, and I like choosing what they learn and how it is presented. They aren’t socialized into kid culture but into our home culture. Is that real or perceived? Eh, probably both depending on what it is.

  25. I seriously thought Krusty Kraut at #24 was writing “Onion”-style parody until a couple of you responded seriously.

    Beyond that I won’t reply except to say that Pastor Scheer gets it. 🙂

  26. @Johannes #20
    “The conference in the link is all about “outward focus.” That’s great–and I support outward focus.”

    Why does “outward focus” mean you have empty Lutheran theology and identity?

  27. I apologize to IndianaJane and anyone else who thought my previous comment #7 was an accusation against the membership or practice of Redeemer, Fort Wayne or any of the people attending the conference. I sincerely hope and pray that the conference is a blessing and a benefit to all who attend.

    My purpose in my previous post was to point out the contradiction in Pastor Scheer’s postion – not to critique or insult Redeemer’s conference. Pastor Scheer was lamenting the wide-spread program driven contemporary culture of western Christianity, and offered up Redeemer’s conference as a refreshing change from that norm and encouraged the readers of this page to participate. In so doing, Pastor Scheer proposed an arguement that is logically contradictory.

    If Pastor Scheer’s intentions succeeded, perhaps far more than he intended, and people attended Redeemer’s conference and took the conceptual idea back to their own churches to be replicated there, then Pastor Scheer would become guilty of propegating the exact same program driven church culture that the conference and his invitation are intended to counter – with one exception. Now Pastor Scheer, or maybe Redeemer Lutheran would be the head of the new popular program, instead of Rick Warren, Focus on the Family, or any other peddler of church programs.

    My point is that there is nothing inherently wrong with being popular or well attended. There is also nothing wrong with reaching out to people outside the faith in ways that are more comfortable for them – that let them get to know the members of the congregation and gives the members a chance to get to know each other. This builds friendships and community with the church at the center – which I think is Pastor Scheer’s earnest intent. This can happen at a softball game, a barbeque, basketball game, trivia night, or Bible study. The problem I believe is when the fiscal or numeric success of the program becomes the goal and not the success of the participants as Pastor Scheer pointed out in his rebutal to me. The true success of any person lies only in Christ.

    I find it interesting that Pastor Scheer believes my comment #7 spews anger and rips on people of whom I have no knowledge, yet he apparently sees himself completely innocent and in no way guilty of the same accusation. By clique I meant BJS and and all of us who read it, being a small group of larger Christendom. Pastor Scheer claims innocence of ever mentioning a program for others to imitate. Apparently he didn’t read is own post:

    “I can only commend such a conference as being a great gift to the Church and those families who choose to take part. This is a great idea for our Life Together as a Church, encouraging families and providing opportunities for them to simply be Christian families. Imagine the evangelism potential as Christian families are encouraged to interact with others of the same faith, all within the context of family and our Faith. Maybe some future families will trace their roots to such events as these conferences”

    Suppose 100 people respond asking to hold a similar conference at their church. They are going to contact either Pastor Scheer or Redeemer Lutheran and get details – schedule, speakers, recreation activities, facilities used, etc. Suppose those 100 people all hold conferences that raise interest in 10 people each who in turn request to do something similar at their churches. Now Pastor Scheer or Redeemer is providing directions to 1000 people. That is going to take time and cost money to do, so someone would have to put together a package of general information that can be shipped to people upon request, and naturally Redeemer or Pastor Scheer would ask for financial compensation for the time and materials that went into the package. Bingo – you’ve got a program.

    But according to Pastor Scheer, programs are error-laden chruch-growthism heresy. So, to keep from falling into error, a numeric limit needs to be set on the number of people who can attend and replicate Redeemer’s family-friendly conference – which is exactly what I asked in my first message. How many people can attend before it becomes popular? How many people can hold similar conferences before we are all wrong?

    In Pastor Scheer’s response, he mentioned that it isn’t about the number of people who attend. So if popularity is not wrong, then why does he use it as an insult describing the big, hip, relevant church growth people? Also, if error-laden church-growthism is error-laden, but not because they are big and popular, then it must be because of who is driving the programs. It must be more acceptable for Pastor Scheer, BJS, or Redeemer Church to run a program than any of the other organizations out there who just happen to be error-laden. Hence my conclusion in post 7 then fits – if Redeemer’s family-friendly conference were to become popular, it would be more to the liking of Pastor Scheer than other programs available – but it would still be a program.

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #10

  28. “My purpose in my previous post was to point out the contradiction in Pastor Scheer’s postion – not to critique or insult Redeemer’s conference. Pastor Scheer was lamenting the wide-spread program driven contemporary culture of western Christianity, and offered up Redeemer’s conference as a refreshing change from that norm and encouraged the readers of this page to participate. In so doing, Pastor Scheer proposed an arguement that is logically contradictory.”

    Not really. Most churches have confirmation “programs” that have teen students study for a couple of years before confirmation. They also have LWML “programs” if you want to call them that. Sunday school programs, VBS programs, choir etc. The point is not a program, but its content and the way it promoted. Probably any program can be done improperly or unfaithfully, which is the problem.

  29. @Joe #29

    I see how one could get a start toward seeing what Pr Scheer said as propagating a program, but it’s only a start, and falls short of becoming a program. In programs, we invent pretty much from whole cloth, such as dividing people by age. Age divisions are not shown for us in the Bible, but the family is. So to get with what God invented, the family, we are not inventing from whole clothe but following, even though the conference involves some creativity on the congregation’s part. For me, this is enough of a difference to take Pr Scheer’s proposal out of the category of a program.

    This conference holds immense potential. The strength of the faith is in the home when the head of the home leads there. Luther thought this, which is why the Small Catechism is to be taught by the head of the house in the home. Many fathers feel incompetent to lead in the home, and yet think how powerful it would be for men to simply read the Catechism aloud to their wives and children. Their wives would gain more respect for their husbands, and appreciate them for taking care of the children spiritually. The children would learn that religion is not just for women and children. It will be for them when they are adults. Yet how to get men to actuate on their role in the home. One benefit I see of this conference is increasing the fathers’ confidence and ability to lead, and to give them an occasion to speak with other fathers about this role in the home, and lift one another up in mutual support.

    Remember that John the Baptizer came in the spirit and power of Elijah to, in part, turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and thereby prepare the way of the Lord. This conference can do something to help turn the hearts of fathers to children (not that they are not already toward their children, but to strengthen them in it).

    All blessings to the congregation and everyone who attends.

  30. @Joe #29

    “Pastor Scheer was lamenting the wide-spread program driven contemporary culture of western Christianity, and offered up Redeemer’s conference as a refreshing change from that norm and encouraged the readers of this page to participate. In so doing, Pastor Scheer proposed an arguement that is logically contradictory.”

    Joe, I am scratching my head trying to figure out where you are getting this from. I can’t find any place in his post that Pastor Scheer even uses the word “program.” He is not criticizing programs–he is criticizing “the error-laden world of church growth”–meaning the Church Growth model that takes its cues from the culture. And I don’t see how his giving a tip of the hat to what one congregation is doing is promoting programs (not that I think programs are inherently bad)–he is merely letting people know about the conference, affirming what they are doing, and suggesting that there may be other congregations that might want to consider doing something similar (hold a family-oriented conference in their area). If that were to happen, why would those congregations have to get their marching orders from Redeemer? Why would it have to become a top-down thing? A different church in a different area with different people would come up with something suited to their community. They might take some ideas from what the folks at Redeemer are doing (salad recipes, anyone?), but that hardly amounts to Redeemer overseeing some growing program. I know for a fact that the people who are putting on this conference have enough to do in their own neck of the woods without worrying about what the church a few states over is doing (or trying to direct and manage it).

    There is no logical contradiction here, no matter how hard you try to find one. There is no suggestion to develop a new program, and there is no criticism of the concept of programs. And it gets tiresome to have people repeatedly look for conflicts and divisions where there are none.

  31. @Joe #29
    First of all, look at the other comments that follow yours. They answer the things you address pretty quick.

    Secondly, it seems to me that you made a number of assumptions about why I wrote what I wrote as well as my goal for what should happen based upon what I wrote. The others who just commented after yours settle that issue quite well.

  32. You guys have all made good points. My choice of the phrase “far more” certainly did seem to denigrate caring for our greatest blessing, our children. What I should have done is encourage us all to be sure to include the lost outside of the family of God when we speak of caring for the spiritual welfare of all those God loves and His Son died to save.

    Thanks for the reminder to engage heart before opening mouth!

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