Great Stuff — Better methodology… Really!

Another great post over on Pastoral Meanderings:

 

VisualmethodologieswordleI was sent a copy of remarks by Synod Presidential candidate David Maier (apparently on Facebook which I am not on more than once every few months).  According to the email, his campaign committee recorded his response to an informational forum in Florida.  There he is reported to have said, I believe that God wants us to spend more time finding better methods for equipping, encouraging, and supporting our laity in the mission work within our neighborhoods and communities – especially as we face the rise of secularism and Islam – and less time examining the doctrinal purity and practice of others.

Methodology?  That is our greatest problem?  We need better models and paradigms?  Really?  I do not believe that there has ever been a time when there have been more diverse methodologies for equipping, encouraging, and supporting our laity in the mission work within our neighborhoods and communities. We have a plethora of choices available to us, a staggeringly confusing array of people, programs, and perspectives on how to fix Mother Mo (LCMS to the outsider).  We have as many different plans as there are Districts, Synodical offices, parachurch organizations, recognized service organizations, auxiliaries (you know, LLL, LWML), etc…  Everyone I know has an answer for what ails Missouri.

I am stunned by the idea that we have too few choices before us.  I have found just the opposite.  We have so many choices we do not know what to do.  It is like going to a restaurant with a 20 page menu.  We cannot figure out what we want to eat — not because we have too few options but precisely because we have too many.  Sure, many of them are similar but they still offer us choices beyond reason and within them is the possibility of more fully customizing the plans and programs even further.

I do not know David Maier.  I am sure he is a fine man and a good pastor and an effective District President.  I know that many people believe he is THE man for this time in Synod.  But I cannot get past his basic point.  Our problem is a lack of methodologies.  I beg to disagree.  We were most effective when we had fewer methods, fewer paradigms, fewer choices…  We were most effective when we all seemed to be in the same play book, working together for the same purpose with the same game plan.  It is not the past I wish to repristinate.  It is the unity and unanimity within our Synod that I long for.  I wish for the day when we had more uniformity to the content of the catechetical endeavor.  I long for the day when we can expect to find Word and Sacrament on Sunday morning in any Lutheran parish.  I pray for the day when we have a semblance of resemblance to what takes place in the Divine Service — not slavish obedience to rules but one born of common conviction that this is who we are and how we worship.  I lament how the staggering array of choices have left us all confused about who Lutherans are, what Lutherans believe, and how Lutherans live.

I refuse to vote for more choice, for more paradigms, for more nuanced distinctions, for more overt differences, for more methodologies, or for more diversity.  We have tried that and it has left us bleeding people every year, suspicious and skeptical of each other, unsure that God will work through His Word without a little extra help from us, and more divided than every before.  I have watched our church body borrow more and more from others outside, blindly following the next big guru, and quick to jump on the next big band wagon.  What has it gotten us?  Are we more confident of God’s Word and promise?  More united in faith and practice?  More positive and trusting?  More united and charitable toward each other?  No.  The answer is “no”.  We have a myriad of choices and, like the diner in the restaurant, we are still not sure what will be best, what to do without regretting our choice, and what will live up to the hype.  No, President Maier, we do not need more methods. – See more at: http://pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/2013/06/better-methodology-really.html#sthash.G5PdkPrO.dpuf

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 — Better methodology… Really! — 11 Comments

  1. Dear Norm,

    Thanks for more “Great Stuff”!

    I don’t want to make any negative comments about Michigan District President David Maier; and I won’t. I know him and his wife from college days, his brother Walter III, and his mom and dad, Walter II. His dad was one of the faithful few among the pastors of his generation who defended the authority of Scripture in a public way–and was one of my esteemed professors too! We all have great respect for the Maier family and what they have contributed to the LCMS over the years!

    The comments that Pastor Peters makes are, however, certainly appropriate. “Finding better methods” is a typically “Methodistic” approach. Our Lutheran forefathers were against “new measures”, as can be seen clearly in C.S. Meyer, Moving Frontiers (St Louis: CPH, 1964), pp. 99, 144, 356. The answer to apathy in Christians is not “new methods” or “better methods”, but simply rededication to the basics: corporate worship, private prayer and family devotions, and especially the study of God’s Word.

    Among the Resolutions to come before the convention, the following that address these issues are (refers to 2013 Today’s Business):

    Resolution 1-05, p. 51 “joyful evangelization, sharing with confidence and courage their hope in Christ–namely, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life” (3rd resolved).

    Resolution 1-09, p. 54 “the study of God’s Word and the Lutheran Confessions and Lutheran apologetics, in defense of the Christian faith” (1st resolved).

    Resolution 2-11, pp. 67-68, regarding “Planting Gospel Seeds While Serving Human Needs.”

    Regarding the issue of “doctrinal purity and practice,” this is a necessary work of the church that wants to follow Jesus and His word. “The popes, the councils, and scholastic theologians have befouled the church with their dung” (an approximate quote from Luther). Nobody likes cleaning up the “dog poop” on the front or back yards, but somebody has to do it–or it will be sprayed to high heaven when you mow the grass. Speaking from personal experience here, both literally and metaphorically! 🙂

    If pastors and theologians do not address the preconceptions about religion in people’s minds, e.g., the definitions of all the important theological terms in Scripture, then the people “hear” orthodox preaching and teaching in a heterodox way. Definition of terms is just one of many issues in the matter of doctrinal correction. And, really, this sort of “correction” is a basic part of the pastor’s office, as Saint Paul told Timothy (2 Timothy 3:16; see also Johann Gerhard, On the Ministry, Part Two in his Theological Commonplaces, 26-2 (St Louis: CPH, 2012), 104-105 [section 268 “How sermons should be formed”]).

    Even in a sermon, pastors need to spend some time in both correct interpretation of the text and doctrinal confession (see the helpful article by David R. Schmitt, “The Tapestry of Preaching,” Concordia Journal 37 #2 (Spring 2011): 107-129).

    If a Lutheran pastor does not do this, people will hear what he says through the “filter” of the popular preachers and CCM singers on the radio, “Family Christian Bookstores,” magazines, heterodox blogs, etc. The result is that the people will not hear the Word of God, as is quite obvious in the followers of preachers like Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen. If people don’t hear the Word of God, or it is garbled or confused, then the Holy Spirit will not do his work through that word–it is that simple.

    Thanks, as always, Norm for finding great stuff for us to read and consider and talk about for mutual edification!

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  2. If a Lutheran pastor does not do this, people will hear what he says through the “filter” of the popular preachers and CCM singers on the radio, “Family Christian Bookstores,” magazines, heterodox blogs, etc.

    I’ve never seen anyone make this point before. And I agree.

  3. “I believe that God wants us to spend more time finding better methods for equipping, encouraging, and supporting our laity in the mission work within our neighborhoods and communities – especially as we face the rise of secularism and Islam – and less time examining the doctrinal purity and practice of others.” President David Maier

    By “others” is he referring to other religions, denominations and synods or does he mean other LCMS members? If he is referring to LCMS members this kind of thinking seems contrary to the very crucial role of ecclesiastical supervision established by the LCMS.

    If he is talking about other denominations and religions he is diminishing the important role of apologetics. If we don’t know the difference between Lutheran doctrine and that of various false religions and can’t make a case for our faith we are more likely to join in ignorant bliss with unbelievers rather than reach out to them in truth and love.

    I agree with Rev. Peters that we don’t need more methodologies. We need to stick with what President Barry used to say. “Keep the message straight, Missouri! Get the message out, Missouri!” It’s as simple and difficult as being in the Word and letting the Holy Spirit work through that Word. No other program or methodology needed. If President Maier is calling for LCMS Lutherans to spend more time studying the word of God then I can agree with him. If he is looking for a way to add to LCMS bureaucracy while decreasing our concern for God’s word, I couldn’t disagree more.

  4. A complete post of David Maier’s remarks is here:
    https://www.facebook.com/friendsofdavidmaier/posts/168948153281093

    From the blog entry at Pastoral Meanderings:
    “We have so many choices we do not know what to do.”

    That claim is unsubstantiated. What are the choices that are so problematic? And where is the evidence of widespread paralysis?

    The blog entry further complains that we are left “unsure that God will work through His Word without a little extra help from us….” Do we not need sermons, then? Why don’t the scripture readings alone suffice?

  5. #6 Carl:

    I think his claims are substantiated in what evidence he gives of widespread paralysis in the LCMS by what he feels the need to pray for.

    “I wish for the day when we had more uniformity to the content of the catechetical endeavor. I long for the day when we can expect to find Word and Sacrament on Sunday morning in any Lutheran parish. I pray for the day when we have a semblance of resemblance to what takes place in the Divine Service.”

    I find it embarrassing that there are catechized members of the LCMS that cannot properly distinguish Law and Gospel. I find it embarrassing that I need to check an LCMS church’s website before I visit to see if they are serving the Sacrament that week. I find it embarrassing that there are LCMS churches that hardly have a hint of Christ-crucified and raised for our salvation in their “liturgy.”

    I think what this blog entry is getting at is that a consolidation of LCMS “game-plans” might help to create unity in what matters; a claim that is at least plausible when one looks at the current lack of results.

  6. “Methodology? That is our greatest problem? We need better models and paradigms? ”

    Our sinful nature loves to set up it’s own system. Old Adam wants to be in control. It is a bankrupt system. Brother can you spare me a paradigm?

  7. @Carl H #6
    The blog entry further complains that we are left “unsure that God will work through His Word without a little extra help from us….” Do we not need sermons, then? Why don’t the scripture readings alone suffice?

    We need sermons because Christ commanded the disciples (and the pastors who followed them) to baptize and teach… , to do a Word and Sacrament ministry.

    When church leaders complain that “Word and Sacrament ministry isn’t doing enough for the numbers”, they demonstrate that they have more faith in “numbers” than in God. [And possibly more interest in the size of their salaries than in the souls of their flock.]

  8. “If pastors and theologians do not address the preconceptions about religion in people’s minds, e.g., the definitions of all the important theological terms in Scripture, then the people ‘hear’ orthodox preaching and teaching in a heterodox way.”

    The great pitfall many pastors and preachers miss – kudos to Pastor Noland for nailing that necessary understanding – is that none of this is “about us” – to say or believe so would be a travesty of faith and of the Gospel . . .

    It is FOR us.

    Do we get that distinction?

    “Numbers” are a joke – Jesus reduced those numbers to “two or three” to reduce our need for numbers to being a joke – so all other wailing and gnashing of teeth in the lack of, or perceived gain of numbers is damnably vain.

    There are two questions: 1) Do you love Jesus? 2) Will you serve Him, and your every neighbor? “Mercy and compassion” – the rest is commentary.

    That’s it, Spots Fans.

    Simplistic, but it is what it is.

    Pax – jb

  9. Ahh, now we are turning the discussion back to focus on what is really needed. New methods, no not really. We need to study the doctrine of vocation and apply it. Then we will understand our proper role and what tasks we laity have in our vocations in family, society and church. The good news of this is that with the correct view of vocation we, the laity, know how to serve our neighbors in love, as the Masks of God. We will also understand that the harvest is of the Holy Spirit, we are the sowers, pure and simple, no guilt, no pressure, no numbers, just go out there and serve your neighbor in love. Gene

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