Great Stuff — Jerry, It’s Not Your Church Either

Found over on Letters from Hanwell:


Beautiful-old-faceThe church I have been called to serve is full of grandfathers and grandmothers. It’s full of grandfathers and grandmothers who raised their children in the church. They struggled to teach their children the faith. They fought the culture and took their children to catechism classes, even though their children complained about it. They brought them Sunday morning. They taught them, when they could, between homework and sports.

Then their children went to college. Some of those college students went to church in college. Many of them didn’t. Some came back to the church after college; many of them didn’t. Some of their children continued to stay in the faith; many of them didn’t.

And so many of the grandfathers and grandmothers in the church I serve have worn out prayers shawls pleading with God to work in the hearts of their children who have left. They have worn out the carpet next to their beds, crying out in pain. They wonder what they did wrong. What should they have said? What more can they say? What’s the word they might speak to their children to bring them back? If these grandfathers and grandmothers have the courage, they’ll find some oblique way to ask pastor what to say. They don’t want to let on that they hurt over this. But they do. They watch generation after generation grow up farther from the church. So they pray; and they wait. And they cry. And they suffer.

At church, grandfathers and grandmothers are the ones who give. Statistics show the younger people don’t give like their grandfathers or grandmothers. They remain loyal to their church. Even when their pastor doesn’t always choose the old hymns they love, or even when he says something crazy, or even when he talks too fast they can’t hardly understand him, they stay. You won’t find such loyalty (generally speaking) among the young.

Then they hear a former president of their church body say: “Grandpa, it’s not your church anymore. Sorry grandma, it’s not yours either.” No, your church belongs to the young people, who don’t come. Your church belongs to the young people, who don’t provide for the church. Your church belongs to the young people, who get up and leave whenever they get offended. Your church belongs to those who like to shop around, so make them comfortable or they won’t stay.

Now I know there are young people out there who do show loyalty. I’ve got a few couples in my congregation who care greatly about the church. But I’ve had far more young people leave or refuse to join because they were uncomfortable with what the Word of God speaks.

The callous, heartless attitude of diminishing the work, sorrow, and pain of grandfathers and grandmothers in our church sickens me.

So, Jerry, if the church doesn’t belong to the grandfathers and grandmothers, then it doesn’t belong to you either. Jerry, it’s not your church anymore. (Kind of hurts, doesn’t it?)

In fact, it never was. It’s always been the church of those who came before us, and it will always be the church of those yet to come. It’s the church of the entire body, of all the saints in celestial song before the throne of the Lamb. It’s the church of the Body of Christ, regardless of age.

And since I don’t know those yet to come, and since what they will have to speak is the same message my grandfather now speaks, I’ll be content hanging out in the house of my faithful, Lutheran grandfather—and grandmother.

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,, 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.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


Great Stuff — Jerry, It’s Not Your Church Either — 59 Comments

  1. @jb #50
    But those men are serving the Church in the capacity in which they were divinely called, as was, and do I.

    I don’t quite know where to look for a “divine call” to be an elected bureaucrat, especially those who run hard for the office. I am not aware that our current DP did that, BTW, and I accept your description of him, as I accept your very gentle reproof.

    We pray regularly for our leaders, and I pray even more earnestly for our parish Pastors, who are on the front lines of the battle for our souls.
    (And they are not likely to be feted by LCEF). 😉

  2. Helen –

    I really did not write to “reprove you” – that’s not my style. But thank you for your kind words in response!

    The Pastors “elected” – whether or not they “run hard” for whatever office, are still Pastors. There is a measure of respect due, and they do so with the blessing of the Church (LCMS). So they are legit. And I thank you for your “parish pastor” prayers – always and every day! “I” need those prayers every day.

    Thank you!

    I do not envy those men – they catch flack all the time. Get 100 Lutherans together, and there are 200 opinions. Go figure. I cannot. You and I are members of one of the few remaining Churches that stand for something. Yeah, like a family, we have our “in house squabbles” – but Ole Missouri has always navigated through difficult waters. Despite the naysayers, we are the most “confessional: Lutheran Church body in the world.

    While I do address specifics on occasion, we most often fall into the correct camp. Thank the Lord and sing His praise. It’s all about the Gospel of Christ.

    Thanks for your gracious comment.

    Pax tecum – jb

  3. @jb #2

    jb :
    we are the most “confessional: Lutheran Church body in the world.jb

    Are you really sure you know enough about our sister churches abroad to make such a blunt statement? I am sure that in some of them you would find a much greater degree of koinonia in the commitment to be Scriptural and Confessional than what we have in the LCMS.

  4. @helen #1 (p. 2): “I don’t quite know where to look for a “divine call” to be an elected bureaucrat.”

    Helen, you can quit looking, at least in the Missouri Synod. The elected executive offices in the Missouri Synod corporation do not come with a Divine Call, although some corporate executives in the Missouri Synod may, separately, have a Divine Call to the preaching office from one or more congregations.

    According to Kirche und Amt Thesis VI on the Ministry: The office of the ministry is transferred by God through a congregation, as the possessor of all church power or the keys, and through its call, which is prescribed by God (Das Predigtamt wird von Gott durche die Gemeinde, als Inhaberin aller Kirchengewalt oder der Schlüssel, und durch deren von Gott vorgeschriebenen Beruf übertragen.).

    C.F.W. Walther stated in his paper on Church and Ministry (Preaching Office):

    “The question came up in connection with ordination: if the preacher could still exercise the functions of the Office, in the same way as if he were still in the Holy Office, when he is no longer in the Office. The answer to this was that a distinction needs to be made. If the preacher is driven out of his Office against his will, because of God and the truth, then in this case he is still the lawful bishop of the congregation that has driven him out. If he has laid down his Office voluntarily, then in that case he lost all the authority of the Office. If the Call of the congregation has ended, to which he was called, then his Office authority ends, because there is no universal Call for the whole Church; only the Apostles had this Call.”
    From Kirche and Amt at the 1851 Synodical Convention, Synodal-Bericht (1851), 169-171. Literal translation by Gerald Paul, found in Rev. Peperkorn’s STM Thesis, Appendix III.

    LMMV (Loeheist mileage may vary)

  5. Jais H. Tinglund :@jb #2

    jb :we are the most “confessional: Lutheran Church body in the world.jb

    Are you really sure you know enough about our sister churches abroad to make such a blunt statement? I am sure that in some of them you would find a much greater degree of koinonia in the commitment to be Scriptural and Confessional than what we have in the LCMS.

    I’m sure JB didn’t mean to slight the 34 church bodies worldwide with whom The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is in altar and pulpit fellowship. He meant the LCMS — as opposed to those “Lutheran” denominations we are not in fellowship with — we all together are the most confessional Lutherans in the world.

    Read more:

  6. Fr. Ted –

    Thanks for clarifying what I said. I have the most recent maps of all the nations and churches with whom we are in fellowship on the back wall of the sanctuary.

    Pax tecum – jb

  7. @jb #48

    Thank you for your response. I agree with you.

    “It’s y’all’s call . . .”

    It’s not my call at all. If it were, I would say “Sem.” He doesn’t have a family.

    “We are where we are to shepherd souls to eternity. We need to know what we are doing.”

    I don’t know enough about the SMP program to judge it. I’m sure there are very good people in charge of it. I have had such good pastors in my life that I am “hooked” on my pastor having the excellent training that we give him at our seminaries. I feel more confident that I am not being misled by false teaching.

    When I mentioned “innovation” – I was referring to the churches (and this one) who are reading the manual of the “emerging” churches (not “emergent”). The “young, restless, and Reformed” manual. Especially Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, etc. Now, I have listened to them myself. I have learned from some of their preaching. They have built up big churches by some heavy-hitting, concentrated, Word teaching. They are untrained as far as seminary. Although Mark has taken some seminary courses near him.

    They use strong marketing techniques, or “campaigns,” as they call them. They are young and have drive. I can admire some of that. Mark started the Acts 29 network, which is church planting. He admits that 60% of these churches have failed. A lot of young men look at him and “wannabee” Mark Driscoll with his “success.” But, of course, we, nor anyone, really knows what that looks like behind the scenes.

    There is a strong temptation to emulate these guys, not only in “style” but in Reformed-type teaching as well. I guess, because they think that “works.” I appreciate the Reformed strong sense of Grace. But we part ways sacramentally. And our view of the sacraments is where our strong sense of assurance lies.

    We can look at a very famous preacher – Billy Graham. He could pack stadiums full. I enjoyed his preaching too. But their organization admits that they could never rise above 10% follow-up of the people who responded to the altar calls. And his grandson, Tullian T., said that one of his grandfathers’ greatest regrets was that he never attended seminary.

    So, what is my point? I like what Pastor Schulz said: “If he is relying on anything but Christ and Him crucified there is a problem…” I know that this young man believes that. But I see the temptation to rely on innovation more. With heavy Law manipulation, and Jesus tacked quickly on the end to get it in there. And that is where, I think I see the problem (at this point at least). Our true Lutheran doctrine rightly taught.

    From the last several messages I have heard (online), my sense is: guilt. To “grow” the church. I don’t sense the “receiving” of God’s gifts given to us. I realize that this may be due to the inexperience and lack of training at this point. The way this seems to be going is putting the cart before the horse. And I hope and pray that collateral damage can be minimized.

    I like what this taught about calling someone to be a pastor by Martin Chemnitz:

    All I can ask, is that anyone responsible for the SMP program, please examine this carefully for the sake of the Pastors and people. I know you probably are.

  8. jb :Fr. Ted –
    Thanks for clarifying what I said. I have the most recent maps of all the nations and churches with whom we are in fellowship on the back wall of the sanctuary.
    Pax tecum – jb

    Glad to help. Not only does it make me glad to be reminded that the remnant isn’t as small as it can sometimes seem, but I also get a little tickled correcting the harsh critics of the LCMS who falsely charge us with being in fellowship with no one. (No, that’s not what happened here.)

  9. One last thing. Mark Driscoll is his own church. He wrote a book called “Doctrine” which he makes everyone read when they join his church. The people I have experienced who seem to want to emulate this “Driscollite” approach have a noticeable disrespect for the LCMS and want to hide even their affiliation with it. I have learned enough now to realize that this is the contention and divide in our LCMS. And that, these churches are leaning heavily on their autonomy as an individual entity. When I grew up I remember a distinct cohesiveness in our body. I never heard antagonism expressed anywhere in the church toward our organization. I grew up with high respect for the LCMS. I personally now do not want to belong to a church who has this individualistic attitude toward our body. I do not want to be led by someone who thinks they are as autonomous as Mark D. To me, it is too many steps away from the historic church and it is too easy to mess up doctrine. I am not a follower of “so-and-so,” but of the Apostolic teachings. It is getting too confusing in our church. And God is not a God of confusion.

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