Harrison Teaches and Wows Delegates at NID Convention, by Pr. Rossow

President Matthew Harrison taught and wowed the delegates at the Northern Illinois District (NID) convention Friday afternoon. He started his presentation with an insightful study of Scriptures that taught the Biblical basis for the Witness, Mercy, Life Together emphasis for synod.

The Bible study was peppered with Greek (which he translated for the laity) and was not done in some dialogical, small-group fashion (like the convention devotion earlier in the day), but in a straight-forward fashion, with conviction and with authority. But that is not to say the presentation was impersonal. Far from it. According to the several delegates I heard from, who represented all sorts of perspectives in the synod, Harrison was engaging, personal and warm. I did not sense a single ounce of synodocrat in him despite the fact that the first half of his term has been consumed by the laborious task of figuring out exactly what the Blue Ribbon structural changes are all about and reorganizing the synod on the basis of those sweeping changes wrought by the synod convention in 2010.

This was a nice change from the past three cycles of conventions when the president’s presentations were clear and engaging but lacking in spontaneity and sincerity and overloaded with bureaucracy and programing. Harrison’s presentation lived and breathed Lutheran distinctives such as Law/Gospel, Christ crucified, the forgiveness of sins rather than past presidential presentations that seemed to have a little Lutheranism sprinkled on top of bureaucratic schemes and blueprints.

Harrison taught the delegates with Scripture and wowed them with his warmth, charm, humor and self-deprecation. Part of the warmth and sincerity came from his many references to contemporary culture. For instance, at one point he said “We have the technology” (a reference to the seventies show “The Six Million Dollar Man”) and then quickly added, – “Actually I should say we have the theology.”

At one point Harrison mentioned his trip to Washington D. C. in passing but the delegates would not let the historic moment slip by them in a quick reference and so they interrupted him with a round of applause, reflecting the pride that all of us felt in the LCMS that day because of the way Harrison carried himself in that intimidating environment.

The topic of Washington D. C. led to some more refreshing silliness in reference to the little fish Harrison keeps in his office in a cramped little fish bowl. He said the fish’s cramped quarters were like the narrow space into which the U. S. Health and Human Services department has put our synod’s health plan. He said he likes his little fish because he has figured out that when you become President of the Synod you sometimes have to look to lower forms of life for whatever friendship and support you can muster. Based on the love he was feeling from the delegates that was unnecessary but certainly sincere self-deprecation.

My favorite line of the day was President Harrison’s reference to our squeaky clean first vice president. Harrison said of him: “Herb Mueller has so little guile in him, when I am around him he sucks up some of mine.”

Right after Harrison’s presentation it was really disappointing to see a “district ministry” video about all the funky start-ups our district is sponsoring. I believe the Northern Illinois District is slowly morphing in a positive, confessional way but I couldn’t have proved it based on at least one member of our district staff who led this part of the convention and seems to be out of step with that metamorphosis. He seems bound to a now passé modern approach that tries to force the Gospel through the funnel of the latest fads from the evangelicals. There was a stark contrast between Harrison’s organically Lutheran way of speaking and the faddish and decision-theology based jargon of the pastors and laymen on the video.  The video was filled with words like “passion,” “seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit,” “missional,” etc. The essential justification I heard given for all of the funky new measures was that “the world is drastically changing.” Has it ever dawned on the synodocrats that the answer for a changing world is the constant and eternal Gospel?

Rev. 14:6 – Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.

Thanks to President Harrison it was a great day for authentic, real, traditional and confessional Lutheranism. This was only the third of thirty-five districts President Harrison will be teaching and wowing. It looks like there is a wonderful spring awaiting the LCMS.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Harrison Teaches and Wows Delegates at NID Convention, by Pr. Rossow — 12 Comments

  1. @Ted Crandall #1: “Speaking of passé fads, has Ablaze!™ been officially laid to rest?”

    The 2004-convention-endorsed Ablaze fundraiser, later rename “Fan into Flame,” officially concluded in October 2011. Compared to the goal of $100 million, the appeal raised “nearly 67 million dollars,” out of which $19.5 million was spent on “operational costs.”

    The March issue of The Lutheran Witness has a one-page article, with a sidebar on where the money went (with no details).

  2. The Ablaze!® initiative to ignite 100 million hearts with the Gospel before 2017 is still “active,” although the last “witnessing story” was from a year ago, back when the Ablaze!® counter (no longer displayed) was 11,358,286.

  3. @Ted Crandall #1
    Ouch! I would hardly consider Andre Rieu to be “faddish.” His is one of the few classical music concerts that DO NOT put you to sleep. The music is lively and energetic. I do encourage you to see him next time his orchestra tours in your area. You might even find yourself liking classical music after attending one of his concerts.

    So Andre Rieu chose to perform with the Harlem Gospel Choir. Although black baptist songs are sung, I would consider such a group hardly promoting any specific church. A quick review of the Harlem Gospel Choir’s website suggests that this traveling choir exists primarily to raise money for various non-religious charity programs. Sorry, I did not feel the Andre Rieu example fit in with your reflections about faddish decision theology.

    People have short attention spans. Train them to expect that the church needs to change every couple of years. When one fad ends, start a new one! I do wonder when large numbers of people will ever tire of the tacky “gimmicks” of the non-denominational megachurch. Chris Rosebrough seems to think that fads are a permanent way of doing church business, but I hope he will be proven wrong someday.

    Regarding Ablaze!, the people responsible for maintaining the program will feel the urge to justify their existence somehow. I do wonder if synod will try to resurrect the program under a different name. Business as usual, or has synod restructuring finally killed the Ablaze! effort?

  4. @Lumpenkönig #6
    I think @Ted Crandall #1’s reference to the Hallelujah chorus was in response to the quote and not something critical of the clip he posted. I imagined him posting that rather than posting a clip of him singing it himself. Of course, I didn’t watch the clip since it is midnight and I don’t want to wake my family up, so perhaps I’m wrong on my interpretation here. Feel free to correct me if so.

  5. Mission Mobilizer,

    I do beleive you are right. I went through the same thought process when I saw Ted’s post. I think it is actaully delicious irony that he chose Andre Rieu in praise of stomping out faddish trends.

    (BTW – I must confess that I too, like Lumpen… am a Rieu fan although sometimes I have to turn him off because it can quickly get way to syruppy but overall, I enjoy his “fun” approach to the classics.)

  6. Sorry, I couldn’t resist defending Rieu. I stand corrected, thanks! Hallelujah indeed!

    Let’s hope that the Ablaze! beast won’t rise up from the dead. I prefer to see the Koinonia Project fix synod’s decades-old problems.

  7. A “Six Million Dollar Man” reference? Cool. It’s a bit of icing on the cake to have an SP (it was going to happen someday, to be sure) from my own generation. I wanted to *be* the Six Million Dollar Man” when I was a kid.

    More seriously, I have yet to hear Pastor Harrison speak when he didn’t, under the Word of God, convict me of my sin, and joyfully remind me of Christ-crucified, even in “reports”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.