Doctrine means nothing when Practice can mean anything.

Recently I was discussing some things with a fellow pastor and I uttered the phrase above.  Many comments recently on this blog have been directed to the belief that solid Lutheran beliefs (expressed in the Book of Concord) can find their expression in a wide diversity of practices.

These things remind me of the Coexist bumper stickers you see on cars.  The use a number of religious symbols to spell out the word.  Would an LCMS bumper sticker say the same thing, using symbols of organs, praise bands, vested pastors, polo and khaki pastors, pastors in pulpit, pastors wandering around during sermons,  women readers, communion rails under pastoral care, and drive-by open communion groups?  How much of the discussion around needing such diversity and “broad consensus” stems not from theology but the general attitude that also produces the “coexist” bumper stickers?

While affirming that absolute uniformity in all ceremonies is not necessary in the Church, our fathers in the faith (including LCMS fathers) made uniformity something to be sought after.  The knew the benefit in having practices that lined up with each other from parish to parish.  They knew the comfort that would bring to people of all generations.  They knew the catholic principle behind the church, that it is not trapped in a certain time or place.  They also knew that doctrine informs practice and that practice informs doctrine.

Do we think we know better than our fathers?  Do we really think that diversity of practices can still be upheld and still claim to have doctrinal unity?  And this is now something in the LCMS over a generation old, which means in the flow of Lex Credendi, Lex Orandi, the practices that we have now tolerated have begun to affect our beliefs.

Diverse practices will come home to roost – and I wonder if the great disunity and disharmony today in the LCMS is only the fruit of a generation or better of allowing so many diverse practices to coexist under the banner of confessional Lutheranism.  Too often now, we can find “lifelong Lutherans” with completely different ideas on what it means to be Lutheran, and this is the result of having so many different practices.

But that is another thing that diversity of practices does – it is no longer about beliefs or doctrine, but about practices.  The focus has shifted.  When practice can mean almost anything, doctrine means almost nothing.

Those who now seek after uniformity are accused of being legalistic and loveless, sinning against those whom they try to “impose” ceremonies upon.  But behind the superficial accusation of sin (and the pious rebellion of the Old Adam), is the truth that uniformity serves Christ’s Church and that means Christians, real people who struggle in this life.  Uniformity serves the next generation of Christians by not creating a destructive feedback loop of diverse practices lessening or changing doctrine.  Those who strive for uniformity are trying to show love to those who are not just in front of them, but to those who come later, perhaps generations later.

The practical question is this:  what does uniformity look like in the LCMS of 2012?  I would suggest services of Lutheran Service Book, its Agenda and so forth (including vestments for clergy).  The rites of LSB still resemble those that are common across the whole Evangelical Lutheran Church.  But as of lately, even discussions here on BJS haven’t allowed such “broad consensus” – Is there really a unity of belief underlying this stubborn diversity?


Doctrine means nothing when Practice can mean anything. — 145 Comments

  1. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #99

    @Rev. McCall #100
    Amen Pastors. (And I think the Cocaine comparisson was spot on btw.)
    The Lutheran church is a liturgical church, and it shouldn’t be necessary to prove that each individual example of non-Lutheran worship is heretical or evil in order to keep it out of our churches. Confessionally it should be enough to say “that is not how Lutherans worship.”

  2. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #99

    I apologize for over-reacting and not picking up the joke.   The next time we use Creative Worship I’ll mail you a copy of the bulletin.  Please withhold judgement until you see how orthodox and scriptural it is.  I don’t feel it’s God-pleasing to disrespect the commissions on worship and doctrinal review without at least reading the material.

    Is there any possibility that folks pay more attention when there is some variety (based on pure doctrine)?   In the old days, my mind sort of wandered after droning through page 5 and 15 for 40 years.   Now, however, I really like DS3 when we use it about once a month.  Does God really care about format/style?

  3. @John Rixe #102
    I am thoroughly tired of variety and never knowing what I’ll get from week to week. One’s mind can wander whether the material is fresh or familiar. I think the loving thing for a congregation to do would be to have at least ONE service per month with a familiar service. I completely agree with C. S. Lewis when he wrote:

    “Novelty[in worship], simply as such, can have only an entertainment value. And they don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to /use/ the service, or, if you prefer, to /enact/ it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best–if you like, it “works” best–when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling. The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.

    But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping. The important question about the Grail was “for what does it serve?” “‘Tis mad idolatry that makes the service greater than the god.”

    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question “What on earth is he up to now?” will intrude. It lays one’s devotion waste. There is really some excuse for the man who said, “I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.”

    In my last days, I hope my memory will reach far into my youth for the familiar liturgy I grew up with.

  4. @Janet #103

    I respect your ideas and you should work hard in your congregation to make sure that your preferences are maintained.  I just don’t think they should be imposed on other congregations that may have different preferences.  

  5. @John Rixe #102
    “Is there any possibility that folks pay more attention when there is some variety (based on pure doctrine)? In the old days, my mind sort of wandered after droning through page 5 and 15 for 40 years. Now, however, I really like DS3 when we use it about once a month. Does God really care about format/style?”

    As a pastor I am always concerned about the Old Adam/New Man distinction. Boredom and lack of attention is an Old Adam tactic. Do we feed to that? I don’t think that is helpful. Also, on a given Sunday I am not so concerned about that specific Sunday’s worship experience as I am about gradually, week after week, preparing and teaching my people to die (yes, weekly their boredoms die along with their Old Adam as they learn and relearn those same patterns of words, over and over).

    I would put this before you – is the focus on paying attention more of a Lutheran (means of grace, focus on faith being the key to worship) or a Calvinist (mental reasoning and logical conclusions) root?

  6. @Rev. McCall #100
    (enter joke mode) Amen, but don’t you think that the song Holy, Holy, Holy around the throne has gotten old by now? Don’t you think the 24 elders had to come up with more attention grabbing lyrics? St. John was so outdated and the worship he describes is so first century, eternity will be spent with countless and endless innovation to the god who always changes and never stays the same… maybe each person will get a set “time” to direct the heavenly worship according to their whim and pleasure. (leave joke mode)

    I hope to sing and hear the songs that Isaiah heard, the ones that St. John witnessed. They sing of the Triune God who is never changing, the God who in Christ Jesus had mercy on me, a sinner, the God who in His book is imposing about worship (He is an imposing God, and thank God for that – He has imposed upon me, a person who could not believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him).

  7. @John Rixe #108
    I don’t think there is a fix for it. It saddens me to come to that realization, but the time for “fixing” it would have come for the first generation that had to deal with it, but now it is entrenched and given Synodical license (even while going against our own Constitution). Mutual respect is hard when each side views the other as “imposing” things on the whole.

    Coming to a theological solution will be almost impossible, although the Koinonia Project may try. After having several private discussions about these matters with others from the “other side”, I don’t see an honest consensus – Compromise, maybe (compromise is not good for the church). Eventually compromise drew the United States into a Civil War (each side was left wanting with each compromise until finally they were sick of it and just decided to fight it out).

    Sorry to burst your bubble. I think the only working emphasis of President Harrison’s “It’s Time” is on the “broad”. Broad is not the way of our fathers who constructed extremely narrow church orders (President Harrison’s paper on that stuff is absolutely golden).

    The whole deal of it makes me sad – but then again I have been sad lately.

  8. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #109

    There’s enough great stuff going on in local congregations and schools to more than offset the crazy synod wrangling.  I used to be blissfully unaware of any goings on outside my circuit.   If nothing can be fixed, why be sad?   Just continue the good and faithful work in your neighborhood.  Blessings on your ministry.

  9. I know more about what the synod is doing than anything going on in my own circuit, or district for that matter.

  10. @John Rixe #104
    I humbly submit that your comment is indicative of the embracing of post-modernism. It implies that truth is relative and different to each and every context and circumstance.

    IMO, CoWo in and of itself is full blown post-modernism at play in the church. To suggest that one must submit to one form or one set of rules or one truth is the mortal enemy of post-modernism. Therefore it strives against it and claims that no truth and no rule can bind me, only the truth that I decide is relevant for my life and my worship. Christian love, tradition, synod, even Scripture, none of these things can make post-modern thinking change because post-modernism serves only the self. It says that your answers or your worship style can’t apply to me because only I decide what is true and right. So in a sense, we can’t can’t come to any agreement on anything in the “worship wars” until we agree that there truly is one universal truth found only in Christ and His Word, that He does say something about how we are to worship him, that there is right and wrong and everything is not relative, and that my views and my tastes must be set aside because I am not what is most important. Synod, my brother/sister in Christ, tradition, God’s Word. Everything BUT me must be the focus of why I worship the way I do.

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #107
    Now it does repeat one word over and over (Holy, holy, holy), very similar to most praise music. Hmmm…

  11. @Rev. McCall #112

    As we have discussed over and over, my perspective is that you are talking about substance and I am talking about form. To imply that diversity in worship format/style indicates post-modern relativism is just silly.  I’m beginning to agree with Pr Scheer.  This can’t be fixed.  It is the Father of Lies that is behind this wedge and distrust.  We probably just need to mind our own local business.  These discussions are fun but a waste of time.

  12. @John Rixe #113

    See the Latin bumper sitcker at the top of the thread… Some of us do not believe that form and practice can be so perfectly divorced from each other and have no influence on the other. As so, some of us do not view worship forms to be so openly adiaphora.

    And Pr. Scheer does not want us to all become 6000+ synods of one. We will not retain all of our congregations, but we do hope to actually walk TOGETHER with a large portion of them.

    I am reminded of the parable of the Good Samaritan. The Levite and the Priest just wanted to mind their own business. It was the Samaritan that wished to be with another. Or the Lost Sheep. I will eisigesis this one… The one sheep is searched for, yes because it is special, as we all are to Jesus. But also, the wolves do not go after the herd, they go after to solitary (lame sick, weak). Once found, I am pretty sure the Shepherd brought the one back into the fold. Jesus did say in the Gospels He is gathering his sheep form many pens (the Gentiles).

    5th Commandment, meaning: … help and support [our neighber] (synod members?) in every physical need. And the folowing Commandments have similar meaning in dealing positively WITH OUR NEIGHBORS. You know not just the unchurched, but also our Christian brothers and sisters. Heaven forbid, maybe even our LC-MS members. 😯 Kinda hard to do that when we mind our own business.

    I care for when I may need to move, or I eventually send my daughter off to college. To Whom shall she go? Who will care for her spiritually? Who can I trust and fellowship with? Does “LC-MS” no longer mean anything? These discussion can be fun, but are not a waste. Troubling and difficult at times, but always worth the effort.

    Ben Franklin, on the eve of the Revolution: “We must all hang together, or most assuradly we will all hang seperately.”

  13. @John Rixe #113
    As we have discussed, over and over, you can’t divorce substance from form. Can a lawyer walk into a courtroom dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, cut off jean shorts, and flip flops, with messy hair and a five-o’clock shadow, smoking a cigarette and say, “Hey judge, don’t kick me out man, because I know my stuff! It’s all about substance anyways man, don’t get hung up on form!” Yet in some twisted take on Christian freedom we claim this principle of substance and form being interconnected (that applies everywhere else in life) somehow doesn’t apply to worship. It’s not silly to imply post-modernism has anything to with this, it does! God’s Word can’t work through the liturgy in CA but it can in TN? Is God’s Word limited? Does it need a contemporary touch to be truly effective or relevant in some particular places? Look at your answer again, “We probably just need to mind our own local business.” Why? That way we don’t have to talk about how form is undeniably linked and reflective of substance? That way we don’t have to talk about truth? I’ll just do what I want and you just do what you want and we can both claim to be correct. (That’s called post-modernism)

    From Pr. Hans Feine:

    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 doctrine 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.


    The World

  14. @John Rixe #117
    By the way, I enjoy reading all your posts. At the very least you provoke good discussion and don’t get your feather’s too ruffled. (As I myself often fail miserably at) 🙂
    My response to those congregations with varied, un-synodically approved worship styles:
    “Do you want to be a member of synod or not? You might not like this answer, but that means submitting yourselves in Christian love to the unity we have agreed to walk together in in both doctrine AND practice. If you come to the table and are unwilling to walk together in both doctrine AND practice, to submit in Christian love to the unity synod is trying to create, why stay? If you don’t want to walk together in our practice through the use of synodically approved liturgy, you have in effect broken unity. You are a walking oxymoron who claims to be walking together with the other churches, yet refusing to actually do so.

    So that question has to be answered before we can fix anything. If we refuse to give up our individual preferences for the sake of walking together we can never achieve unity. We are just inevitably headed for another split.

  15. Rev. McCall: “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.”

    I think the more common attitude is not that the church is so readily guilty of these things, but that Christians as individuals exhibit this behavior – which of course is true. Most of the non-Christians I meet today do not even have an opinion about Christ, but they sure have opinions about Christians. In fact, I think most non-believers can’t understand why Christians don’t reflect what little they have heard about Christ. I do not believe I have ever met anyone – except some who have fallen away from faith – who I could actually classify as “hating” Christ.

    Before you correct me, I am fully aware that unbelief is the equivalent of hating God/Christ.

  16. @John Rixe #102

    @Janet #103
    I often enjoy CS Lewis, but here’s Luther’s take on using a variety of texts from his intro to the Small Catechism:

    “Therefore I entreat [and adjure] you all for God’s sake, my dear sirs and brethren, who are pastors or preachers, to devote yourselves heartily to your office, to have pity on the people who are entrusted to you, and to help us inculcate the Catechism upon the people, and especially upon the young. And let those of you who cannot do better [If any of you are so unskilled that you have absolutely no knowledge of these matters, let them not be ashamed to] take these tables and forms and impress them, word for word, on the people, as follows:–

    In the first place, let the preacher above all be careful to avoid many kinds of or various texts and forms of the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Sacraments, etc., but choose one form to which he adheres, and which he inculcates all the time, year after year. For [I give this advice, however, because I know that] young and simple people must be taught by uniform, settled texts and forms, otherwise they easily become confused when the teacher to-day teaches them thus, and in a year some other way, as if he wished to make improvements, and thus all effort and labor [which has been expended in teaching] is lost.”

    When I apply Luther’s assertion from the SC to Mr. Rixe’s question: Is there any possibility that folks pay more attention when there is some variety (based on pure doctrine)? My answer is no, not meaningfully.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  17. @Rich #119
    The letter was written by another pastor on his blog, Pr. Feine, and the context was in regards to worship, but I’ll take a stab at it anway. The problem is always still unbelief. And an unbeliever will use whatever excuse necessary to stay out of church (mean Christians, sinful Christians, slow music, no band, etc.) If we think we can somehow fix them or get them to come by having a praise band or by trying to be less sinful it won’t work. In fact we’ll just end up looking like the foolish girlfriend who thinks she can reach and change the boy that no one else can. We’ll chase every fad that pops up thinking that somehow that will stop the unbelief. The problem is still unbelief, or as Pr. Feine states it, hatred of Christ and His message.

  18. What people are tending to forget is that the two primary reasons for uniformity are 1) to ensure that the congregation isn’t drifting too far away from the central teachings, and 2) to ensure that visiting LCMS members/those looking for a new church home feel at home and welcome. If I have to visit or look for a new church, say because I moved, I want to know that they practice the same doctrine and teachings that I know from my current church. Given that my church (Immanuel Lutheran, Alexandria, VA) is well grounded in Lutheran orthodoxy, the standards are high. Like the book/cover problem – you can’t read every book in the store so you must select according to the dust cover blurbs and illustrations – a new member doesn’t have time or resources to fully investigate a church before joining. So, he/she goes by the solidness and familiarity of the one service they attend. Minor differences are one thing, whole-hearted changes to the liturgy with no apparent good motive is another.

  19. @Rev. McCall #118

    I’m not sure what you mean by synodically approved worship styles, but if you mean materials approved by the Commission on Worship then I agree.

  20. @Matthew Mills #120

    I agree.  The specific English translation of the catechism and the Bible should be used consistently and only changed after many decades when outdated usage requires it.

  21. @John Rixe #124
    Why? Wouldn’t variety help us keep the catechism and the Bible fresh and new?
    If not, isn’t there a Catechetical aspect to the Liturgy as well?

  22. @John Rixe #104


    I had to back out into lurker mode for awhile, but wanted to comment.

    First, there was a remark some time ago by John Rixe (who, by the way, I am impressed with your cordial spirit in how you are conducting your side of the discussion). John, you said that preferences played a large role in worship. “I respect your ideas and you should work hard in your congregation to make sure that your preferences are maintained. I just don’t think they should be imposed on other congregations that may have different preferences.” (Comment 104).

    I think there is a misunderstanding of law and gospel here. The Lutheran liturgy is not a “preference” that various people or the Synod itself are trying to impose on any congregation. Nor is it a man-made, stuck in the rut style that congregations deal with or ignore because of a subjective decision, as if it were one hairstyle over another, or one hobby over another.

    The Lutheran liturgy in its historic form is the Biblical delivery of justification by grace alone. In this, the means of grace (also called the means of the Holy Spirit) is central, because it is by these means that God in His Word has promised He will come to us poor miserable sinners. Because He has said it in His Word, even if our reason disagrees, our senses don’t get it, and our experience doesn’t match up, we must be certain that God has said so in His infallible Word.

    Worship is all about the central article of the faith. But this is communicated not only by the substance, but also by the style of worship. In other words, one cannot drive a wedge between doctrine and practice. Doctrine is enacted in practice. Feel free to test me on this point by asking me about any practice, be it in a traditional Lutheran liturgy or in a contemporary worship service.

    It is my argument that contemporary worship in the contemporary worship, neo-Evangelical style does not communicate justification through faith alone, but instead communicates justification through faith plus experience. Faith in Christ alone is not enough for contemporary worship. Faith needs a “worshipful experience” in contemporary worship to prove that it has been effective. In other words, one cannot trust God’s Word and Sacraments to be efficacious. In contemporary worship circles, man by following certain methods (praise band, screens, a more “personalized” revamping of liturgical statements) brings power to God’s seemingly dead Word that creates a mountain top worship experience, simply because one cannot trust that God’s Word alone will justify.

    John Rixe – One big difference that I see between the contemporary side and the liturgical side is that contemporary worship sees the Lutheran liturgy as a mere preference of an individual’s (or a group’s) choice. In other words, man’s sanctified will has a big place in what happens in the service. The service is designed to please man’s will – which then makes it then anthropocentric and man-centered.

    The liturgical side, however, sees the Lutheran liturgy in its historical presentation grounded in Scripture as the Scriptural expression of its teaching of justification by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone. Thus man’s sanctified will has very little place in determining what happens in the details of worship. For the liturgical side rightly says that God’s Word takes precedence above man’s will. The historic Lutheran liturgy is not man-centered, but Christ-centered. All of the parts of the service confess this, from why we sing the Sanctus when we do, to why we confess the Creed why we do, to why we sing the Nunc Dimittis. By removing these things, at best the contemporary side weakens their confession of justification through faith alone. At worst, removing these liturgical things confesses a different confession of justification.

    Therefore, insisting on using the Lutheran liturgy is not an act of the Law (a superimposing of someone’s will on some church to force them to do something). This view is completely wrong headed. Insisting on using the Lutheran liturgy only is insisting that the confession of the Gospel remain pure according to His Word. Insisting on the Lutheran liturgy only is also insisting that one confess that the Word of God is living and active by itself, and not dead and inert that man (or a praise band of men) must make effective and relevant. Insisting on using the Lutheran liturgy only is insisting on worship that is centered on Christ and not on sinful men. If one allows non-Lutheran forms and even prefers them, it shows that that person is under a great misunderstanding. He is inviting Trojans into his church, and leading the people of that church to see less of a difference between Biblical Lutherans and sectarian errorists.

    I know it’s a long post, and I have to stop. Please feel free to answer back, however. I look forward to your responses.

  23. @Rev. Robert Mayes #126
    “the Word of God is living and active by itself, and not dead and inert that man … must make effective and relevant.”

    In that case, I propose we do away with sermon illustrations.

  24. Carl H :
    In that case, I propose we do away with sermon illustrations.

    I’m fine with that. I have seen some that are good, some that are okay, and a lot that are dumb and irrelavant. Sometimes too many sermon illustrations use up all the preaching, and little to none is heard about what Jesus did for us on the cross. Then maybe more time can be spent on the Biblical narrative, or maybe have some time left over for something out of the Book of Concord. (now there’s a thought….)

  25. @Jason #128
    I’m always struck when I read Luther just how little he uses illustrations. He speaks from the text and explains the text using other Scriptures but he doesn’t need to spend half his time on sermon illustrations.

    @John Rixe #123
    Hey, I agree too! From strictly a synod, walking together standpoint, if a church is using synodically approved worship materials (even if we don’t like them, such as perhaps Creative Worship) that church is still keeping in the spirit of synod and walking together and in fellowship. It’s like bunting in baseball. I may not like it, but I still respect the fact that the person doing it is still playing by the rules. When we are walking together according to synod we can have engaging discussions on changes we may or may not like to make in worship practice and in the meantime, we are all at least playing by the current rules (so to speak). Now the issue becomes, in regards to synod, when churches start using CoWo hymns that are not synodically approved materials, liturgy that is not synodically approved, but made up each week, etc. Those churches are breaking fellowship and not walking in synod and IMHO have no right to even come to the table for discussion. Sort of like Barry Bonds cheating with steroids for all those years and then trying to have a say in how baseball should be run. For the sake of the synod alone that these churches claim to be voluntarily a part of, they need to stop what they are doing, repent, and begin to use the same materials we have agreed upon, then we can start to have a discussion. God Bless John!

  26. @Carl H #127

    Hey, Isaiah 55 and Heb. 4:12 speak about the efficacy of the Word. It is either living and powerful in itself, apart from any work or energizing of man to make it relevant and powerful – or it is not the Word of God we are talking about. Do you disagree that the Word is efficacious as Scripture says? If so, we need to talk about that.

    And as for sermon illustrations – or for any matter of practice, for that matter… We start first with what the Word says, not with what various pastors or congregations that we know of are doing. Then we base our practice on the Word, as our foundation and norm for teaching and practice. If the conclusion from the Word of God is that the practice of sermon illustrations lessens the efficacy of the Word because it makes people think that the Word is not powerful in and of itself to create and sustain faith, then yes, we would need to make our practice go according to that Word.

    Think about this: it was the position of the Roman Catholic church of the 16th century to say, We base our practice in church based on what the church has accepted. It was the position of the Lutheran church in the 16th century to say, We base our practice only on the Word of God, because it is possible for churches to be deceived, but the Word of God is never deceived. Are we more Lutheran or Roman Catholic today in how we adopt practices from contemporary worship? I have noticed us having a similar position to the church of Rome more so than to Luther. And that’s scary.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  27. @Rich #119

    Most of the non-Christians I meet today do not even have an opinion about Christ, but they sure have opinions about Christians.

    But isn’t that the same opinion each Christian has of himself?

    “Chief of sinners though I be,
    Jesus shed his blood for me,…”

    Or maybe the erroneous Wesleyan views of Christian perfection have taken root in the secular consciousness.

  28. @John Rixe #116

    Sorry for the lateness of this reply…

    Vote. That is a big and crucial thing. Help get the right (right-minded) delgates to district and synod conventions. BE the right delegate, if necessary. (I am kinda doing that…) Hopefully the synod can start maker better choices.

    First, scrap the DRP. I think it really has become a terrible system. From all the different comments all over BJS, it didn’t seem to help Preus keep his job at Fort Wayne when Bohlmann fired him. Instead of chastizing Benke, it got Schulz fired at LHM. It allows Becker to openly flaunt his heresies at Valpo. Tell me how this works? it’s like all carrot and no stick. Until we can deal with people who are causing harm to our synod, we will be powerless to move forward. There is tolerance, and then there is stupidity. We could spend a lot mor etime on this, bu tif you have been reading about every post here, then I hope you have a feel for what BJS members think on this subject. I tihnk this shoudl be our first priority. Onc ethis allows us to correct erring members, then we can better handle synod resturcturing, SMP, OWN, and lots of other things.

    Second, the seminaries. Remember, voting to school board and such. I can have an impact. Look at how things played out for Seminex. But also, if we can get the seminarie sto a good place, then we can get good pastors coming out of them. The Fort seems to have revamped its cirriculum to FORM pastors, and focus on Gospel preacing of Christ. St. Lousi we hear about praise bands, and small group ministry, and a school pres who talks a lot about micro -synods (which I think give fuel to individualism leading to irrelevancy of the national body).

    From finding histories about our synod on the internet, it sounded like the liberals started in missions, and then wanted to influence seminary, to bring the synod to a new way of thinking. Makes sense, tug at the heart strings and train the minds of our future leaders. Likewise, let us restore a more quia attitude into the pastors coming out. The defacto postion is most lay people look to and give their pastor great leadership leeway. They will follow him. Let’s make sure he is a Godly leader, not some CEO.

    After these two big ones, I have another tier of ideas, but I don’t want to make this post too long. As it is, I probably need to flesh out more of my first to challenges. I will write more if you’d like. Thanks for listening.

  29. @Jason #133
    Jason, I just don’t think the LCMS will ever be capable of successfully addressing the SMP and OWN issues as long as we remain committed to a congregational form of governance. People in our synod are free to do as the choose in their churches without having to answer to anybody, as far as I know. We would use a healthy (moderate) dose of federalism in our polity, it could do us a ton of good, especially with the current administration. Sure, lay people are responsible for the pastor they call. But how’s that working out for us? Are you sure that our local congregations have no need/use for authority/guidance/accountability beyond their local assembly? Mutual submission requires mutual accountability, so unless we restructure we will just have to be content with our current diversity.

  30. @Miguel #134

    Yes, our structure is a huge problem, at least how we perceive it now. Again, the DRP helps that individualism, in part because it is far too tolerant. If we tried to harshly apply discipline now, we would hemorage numbers. Part of why we need better pastors coming out of sem, who know how to be humble and submit to authority. Currently, some might say screw LC-MS and take their congregations with them. All because the have me-first, I am better than any one else egos. But if Koinania helps us understand slave to none, but still SERVANT TO ALL, that would help, and if a few extremem cases were removed form our body, maybe it would help jar a few more to think more seriously.

    it is not simple or easy. It will be hard and complex. DP’s do have authrotiy to bounce errant pastors form synodical membership. Then and congregation will have to decide if they want to remain in the LC-MS, they will let that pastor go and conceivably a better pastor would be called who would lead then to confessional Lutheranism. Hence the work at seminary. Dry up the heterodox well. Let the pool only have good pastors, and no more bad ones. But we still have over-authroity of DP’s, who are not accountable to the SP. Kinda oxymoronic, if they are to be synod in place. (and not a “synod” unto themselves) It’s hard because the laity only know what they are taught, and right now they are not being taught much of anything good.

    So When Pres. Harrison talks about Koinania lasting 10 years, I can see it. It will just take time to straighten out our heads, fix our Constitution, By Laws and whatever synod Resolutions. But we won’t get anywhere if we don’t fix our eyes on a goal. And that goal had better be the person and work of Jesus Christ. Not psycho-babel, growth, purpose diven, leadership programs.

  31. @John Rixe #110
    Sorry so late to reply.

    To focus on the congregation while ignoring the larger body does no good. We say we can commune together and yet we don’t agree on things – doesn’t that make a mockery of our Lord’s Supper and even the idea of unity? For instance, my new reply to anyone who makes a mockery of other districts or congregations and their liberal practices/beliefs is that “well, that being said, we are supposed to be communing together”. If we put it in that perspective the differences across the Synod take a strikingly serious nature.

    Plenty of current congregations in the ELCA have used the “not in our congregation” bit, but that too will pass. Jesus said a little leaven leavens the whole lump. It is a coping mechanism I understand, but one which is human made.

  32. Sermon illustrations …. I understand you are all much smarter than I ….. the only sermon I remember from my childhood was a great sermon illustration that points back to scripture but I must remember as pointed out by my sister-in-law who’s father is a LCMS pastor that it really doesn’t matter if anyone understands(visitors etc…)what’s going on during the service. I remember the power of Lutheran osmosis…

  33. @No longer Lutheran #137

    Illustrations certainly have their place — Jesus used lots of them, like the one commonly called the Prodigal Son and that other one, about the Good Samaritan. They can be overdone, though, especially if the point of the illustration has little to do with the point of the Scripture text used in the sermon (assuming that a Scripture text is the foundation of the sermon…). And of course, if the sermon is just one story after another, then it could be called a hi-rise sermon. (Get it? One story after another…)

    Here’s my all-time favorite modern illustration: It was during the Great Depression in the middle of the Dust Bowl. This farm family was so terribly poor that they could barely afford to eat, but then one year, the weather cooperated and the crop was abundant. The father was able to pay off all his bills and even had a bit leftover. He sat the whole family down in the living room and explained that they finally had a little “disposable income” and he wanted them to help decide what they should together splurge on. They pulled out the Sears catalogue and spent many evenings dreaming and discussing before they decided. They wanted to purchase a mirror. They were so poor that they had sold their only mirror in order to buy food. So they selected a fine mirror from the catalogue, filled out the order form, and walked to the post office together to mail it off.

    Day after day, week after week, they excitedly waited for the mailman each day, until the package finally arrived! Once again, the father sat them all down in the living room to watch while he untied the string and carefully unwrapped the brown paper wrapping, saving everything. They all gasped as he opened the box and slid out the framed mirror. He examined it closely to be sure it wasn’t damaged and passed it to Mama. She giggled a little as she fixed her hair a bit, then passed it to the oldest daughter, who giggled in turn as she primped herself and then passed it to the next oldest. Finally, the mirror reached little Willie, the youngest of all the kids. He was so young that he didn’t remember when poverty had forced the family to sell the last mirror. He had never seen himself in a mirror before. When he took his first look, he was startled and looked again, quietly studying his reflection.

    You see, when Willie had just learned to walk, he had let himself out the kitchen door and toddled across the dooryard to the barn. Before his Mama could realize he was gone, he had found his way into the stall of the family’s mule and gotten kicked square in the face. The local doctor did all he could, but even his mother had to admit that what that mule had done to Willie’s face was hideous.

    So Willie quietly studies his reflection in the mirror for the first time, then turns to his mother and asks, “Did you know I looked like this?” His sisters burst out laughing and even his mother and father had to smile.

    “Why yes, Willie, I see you every day.”

    Willie looked baffled as he asked, “And you still love me?”

    His mother pulled him up onto her lap and cuddled him close as she said, “Of course I still love you! You’re mine and I will always love you.”

    You see, Willie’s mother loved him, not because Wille was so lovable, but because his mother was so loving.

    No matter how hideous you might be, God holds you close as he whispers in your ear that you are his and he will always love you, because God is love. That’s why he sent his Son: “For God so loved…”

  34. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy those Lutheran Hymns of faith as much as anyone else. Thy Strong Word is still as powerful today as it was when it was written, but not because it is in the LSB, but because it is Biblically true. I love the LSB, but loving the LSB is not what makes me a Lutheran. Holding steadfast to the Bible, its teachings, and the Lutheran confessions are what make me Lutheran. Since when did the church have any power (or want any) over adiaphora? Where in the Bible does it talk about vestments and worship style? Wasn’t the reformation fought because the church tried to take control over practices the Bible did not speak about? Unity I get, I am all for unity but that unity comes from the unity in teaching and not by the way they are taught. I agree some contemporary music is not Biblically true and should not be used in service, but some songs are excellent and articulate the beauty of the grace of God apart from the law just was wonderfully as any LSB song. When we limit the teaching style we limit the tools we have to communicate clear Biblical truths and the doctrine we hold to. The Bible uses parables, songs, and many other writing styles to teach others clearly. God saw the beauty in diversity. Martin Luther wrote hymns I wish my Pastor would too. How cool would that be if we had a way to sing on to God a new song that was doctrinally sound? If we train our churches and their leaders to recognize the Biblical truth or lack thereof in various worship elements like music, drama, we would not have to worry about unity. The idea of complete unity in practice scares me. How far do we go? Do we only allow CPH material? What about Sunday school and confirmation? Do we just use one curriculum Synod wide? Do we make the pastors all preach the same sermon? Certainly not! We find unity in teaching when we find unity in what we teach, Christ and Him crucified, not in how we teach it. Doctrine means everything! Solo de scriptura!

  35. I like this comment about boundaries of frivolity and irreverence.   I think we can at least all agree here:

    “What we insist upon is the doing of what God has commanded, and the not doing of what God has forbidden.  Thus, along with our Lutheran Confessions, we deplore and decry frivolity, irreverence, anarchy and chaos, spectacles of worldly entertainment, and whatever else contradicts or undermines the Word of Christ (FC SD X.1, 7, 9).  Such things are not adiaphora, but are contrary to the Word of God, and are thus forbidden by God.  Permitting such practices to continue without comment within the fellowship of the Church would be irresponsible and wrong.  So we speak in opposition to frivolity and irreverence, even as we defend and recommend the practice of godly ceremonies that promote dignity and reverence.”

    Rev. Rick Stuckwisch – Gottesdienst

  36. @Rev. Awesome #141
    So, in all fairness, why are you still (I’m assuming) a member of the LCMS? By voluntarily remaining a member you are binding yourself in Christian love to the unity in practice the LCMS is trying to create. That DOES mean using only synodically approved materials, hymns, hymnbooks, and liturgy’s because according to our Constitution and bylaws, that’s what you have agreed to use as a voluntary member of this synod. If you want it to mean only unity in doctrine then you need to change our Constitution and by-laws. Until the Constitution or by-laws are changed though you should either take your voluntary membership seriously and strive for unity or find another church body that better fits your desires.
    Say for instance I join the Marines. My first week in, instead of wearing the Marine dress uniform, I decide I want to wear the army uniform. It’s still clothing. It still is a military uniform. It may even be perfectly acceptable to most people outside the military. Yet the point is, I joined the Marines. I am a part of that group. That means even if I want to wear a different uniform I won’t because I take my membership in the Marines seriously. I want to have that uniformity, even if it means I must set my own seemingly perfectly acceptable desires aside.
    Same with the LCMS. There may not be anything wrong with what you want to do as far as Scripture is concerned, but by virtue of your membership in the LCMS it means you will set your desires aside and instead be uniform, even where adiaphora is concerned.
    The irony of all you said is that by virtue of your not taking your synodical membership seriously in its attempts at unity you are creating disunity while trying to claim it is the other guys fault.

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