The Anti-Church

ChurchNew ideas require new ways of speaking.  Old terminology doesn’t cut it when it comes to modern conceptions of church, especially when those modern approaches represent a radical break from traditional ecclesiology.  To be sure, it is helpful when this is recognized.  There’s nothing worse than attending what you think is a confessional Lutheran church only to find out it’s more Baptist than Lutheran.  There seems to be a trend among some Lutheran churches to drop “Lutheran” from their name (usually in the name of outreach).  While I lament the decline of the Lutheran church, I’d rather a nominal Lutheran church not identify themselves as “Lutheran.”  For these churches to make this identification is misleading and gives people the wrong idea as to what Lutheranism is really all about.

To the “missional” crowd, using the language of the confessions to describe the Church is the equivalent of putting new wine into old wineskins (Matthew 9:17).  “Out with the old, in with the new.”  New ways of speaking are needed to describe new understandings of the church (as are new creeds, liturgies, etc.).  For the missionals to use traditional language and identify themselves with the traditional symbols is misleading.  In this respect, it is actually helpful for those who promote ahistoric understandings of the church to use novel terms like “missional.”

Lucas Woodford traces the origin of the term “missional” back to 1998, which arose during a time when there was a desire to “stop, check our assumptions, and ask if there might be a different way of being the church.” [endnote 1]  However, this new understanding of church is actually anti-church, quite the opposite of biblical ecclesiology.

For Lutherans, there is no better summary of biblical ecclesiology than Article VII of the Augsburg Confession, which says, “The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.”  For the missionally-minded, such an understanding of  church is too inwardly focused.  The missional, according to Carl Raschke, are those who “must incessantly reach out to those who are beyond the fringes of established Christianity, and they must do so in a way that is integral rather than incidental to their mission and purpose.” [endnote 2]  It is striking how different this conception of church is from AC VII.  While AC VII emphasizes those who belong to Jesus (saints gathered around Word and Sacrament), the missional conception emphasizes those who do not.

In addition to needing new language to describe itself, the missional church is constantly looking for new ways of doing things.  Time Anti-churchthat could have been spent on exegesis is instead spent writing new liturgies.  Hymnals, which contain texts that cannot be manipulated, are replaced by screens, where the message is supposed to change.  The body of Christ, in which each part plays a vital role and members are dependent on one another (1 Cor 12:21) is severed into several parts (“small groups”), which have little to no interaction with one another.  Ironically, the focus on outreach is quickly lost, and the true mission of the missional church becomes one of reinvention, of coming up with new ways of expressing itself.  The Gospel is replaced with the endless quest of coming up with the next big thing.

That the missional approach to church is anti-church can also be seen in their loss of the church’s marks, the purely preached Gospel and rightly administered sacraments.  The distinction between Law and Gospel no longer plays a vital role in preaching or the liturgy, which is replaced with a desire to motivate or entertain.  The proper administration of the sacraments is disregarded, which is particularly evident in the practice of open communion and the use of women in distributing the Sacrament.  Anything that would hinder a total stranger to Christianity from fully participating or feeling immediately comfortable in the service is removed.  The culture sets the agenda and the church begins practicing what William Willimon calls “promiscuous ministry–ministry with no internal, critical judgment about what care is worth giving.” [endnote 3]  He continues, “We have become the victims of a culture of insatiable need.  We live in a capitalist, consumptive culture where there is no purpose to our society other than ‘meeting our needs.’” [endnote 4]

The classic definition of church, as set forth in AC VII, is a truly “missional” definition (if we may risk identifying ourselves with such a term).  For there, God is at work accomplishing His mission.  Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given, who creates faith when and where it pleases God (AC V).  In this Church, the Holy Spirit is at work calling, gathering, enlightening and sanctifying His people (SC, Creed, III).  Replacing doctrine with emotional manipulation, compromising with the culture, and the latest strategies from TCN will not “grow the church”; they are anti-church.  Only God gives growth, and He does it in the same way He always has.

[1] Woodford, “Great Commission, Great Confusion, or Great Confession?”  Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2012 (4).

[2] Woodford, 5.

[3] Woodford, 4 (fn 8).

[4] Ibid.


The Anti-Church — 38 Comments

  1. Anti-church is a good name for many things that seek to undermine God’s divine role in His service. Before final next comment, I agree that the false dichotomy of missional and confessional is contrived by those who do not believe any church body has God’s clear teaching. If one believes we simply have the best of what’s out there, the same one will fall for anything. (Especially see Walther’s first few theses here:

    Even so, my father was changed in small groups. The Holy Spirit worked through the Word to produce fruit I never saw in him throughout my years before college. I am not saying that God will always work through small groups but He will always work through the Word which I can evidence in this case for which I am incredibly grateful.

  2. @Jaime A. Nava #4
    Thanks for your comment, as I didn’t mean to give the impression there’s no place for small groups. A choir, for example, is a type of small group, as are many other good organizations that may be found within a congregation. What is problematic is when such groups divide the congregation into several parts that work in isolation (or even against one another) and so undermine the unity of our life together in the Body of Christ. Small groups can perpetuate individualism over life together, which can result in several ghettos or cliques within the congregation (though this isn’t necessarily the case- it’s a danger to guard against). In some larger congregations, small groups have been emphasized to the point where small groups are seen as the main thing, and the gathering together of the whole body is something of an afterthought. Certainly the Holy Spirit works through His Word when and where He wills, whether it’s in preaching, bible study, the mutual conversation of the brethren, etc (cf. SA III: IV). I’m glad this was true for your father, and certainly we rejoice with the angels over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:10).

  3. Nope, as I read this I am struck by the bias that is shown.

    Let me take this one phrase: Anything that would hinder a total stranger to Christianity from fully participating or feeling immediately comfortable in the service is removed.

    Well, as a Christian of some 33 years I started looking into Lutheranism about 4 to 5 years ago.
    Going into a Lutheran Church for the first time was an amazing experience and got me very concerned. The formality, the terminology, the ‘upper class’ pompousness all got me highly confused. And, no one took any time to explain anything to me. It was only after searching the net and asking questions that I got given information, and even that took some asking! It was almost like “These are our secrets and we are not willing to share them!”

    Let me expand a little, even after attending Lutheran services and asking questions no answers were forthcoming but a condescending “Well, this is the Lutheran way based on years of tradition, take it or leave it.”

    So in one sense I think it is brilliant that people drop the façade and make Church more inviting and more understandable.
    However, that does not mean one drops what is right, but, remembering that it is Jesus and His atoning sacrifice that is necessary and imperative for folk to hear, not the formal rituals that you have and that cloud the message.

    I don’t know about all Lutheran Churches, but the ones I attended told me that I was the first visitor they had had – I could also see that from the guest book I was asked to sign.
    So, what if they attached an elder or deacon to every visitor that came in, to sit with them and explain what is going on and why as the meeting goes forward? To take them and sit with them after the meeting and talk about the meeting, the structures and reasons and significance of everything? Even after the meetings I would have to pursue people to talk to!

    I ran an ‘Enquirers meeting’ every Sunday morning for bikers and those attached to the biking culture. We would meet at 7am for an hour and I did, once becoming aware of it, make sure that Law and Gospel were proclaimed. However, before the meeting would begin, we would stress that at any stage during the meeting people were permitted to stop me and ask questions. This was because we reckoned that to have someone understand as we went forward was far more important that just getting through the process having lost the person in the first 5 minutes because they did not understand something and so the rest of what went on would be a mystery to them.
    If it was a real technical sort of question that would take time to cover properly, then someone would take that person outside the pub and sit and chat with them while the meeting progressed.

    I really don’t think that Jesus is that much of a problem to a lot of folk, the biggest issue is trying to get someone to explain it to them, someone who is prepared to step outside of the pomposity and aloofness of being a Lutheran!

    So, No, I don’t think people are that much ‘anti-church’ as they are anti-formal, ritualistic, un-understandable traditions that baffle them.

  4. This type of either/or talk has really started to bother me. As a confessional/missional pastor of a congregation who is confessional/missional, I do not like the either/or implications. it is a both/and.

    We faithfully follow the Scripture and Confessions, are liturgical, have our “small groups” that are NOT dividing the church. We have Voters Assemblies 4 times a year that “run” the church.

    Our missional activity is both local and global. It truly is living our vocation as Christian, being the hands and feet and mouth of Christ as He works through us in our day-to-day activities.

    I am not anti-church. Let’s stop the either/or talk. In the spirit of koinonia it is not helpful.

  5. Once again I see the either/or argument here. It is NOT either/or. It is both/and as clearly demonstrated in my congregation. We are confessional. We are missional. The marks of the Church are not lost. Voters Assemblies are not lost. The liturgy is not lost. We are the hands, feet, and mouth of Christ within our community as we live out our vocation as Christian.

    President Harrison said it at the Convention. We are confessional. We are missional. I agree. Pitting us against one another by using the term “anti-church” is not helpful dialogue.

  6. Stef:
    thank you for your insight, very good.

    Bob: You are right; a congregation can and should be both confessional and missional.
    (Curious, Google spellcheck does not recognize “missional” as a word.)
    Our congregation is doing both, taking care of the current members as well as reaching out to those who do not yet know their Savior.

  7. @Stef #6
    The formality, the terminology, the ‘upper class’ pompousness all got me highly confused.

    The German farmers I grew up among would find “upper class” highly amusing!
    You mean they changed their “barn boots” for their “Sunday shoes”?

  8. @Stef #6
    I’m not sure that we should judge Confessional Lutheranism, or the historical western liturgy by their ability to bring in “a Christian of some 33 years.” That’s not strictly speaking “missions” it’s “sheep stealing,” and if you went to my pastor and told him that you belonged to another Christian church he’s going to tread very carefully out of respect for your current pastor. Perhaps that was the dynamic you saw at work 4 or 5 years ago. We don’t believe that we are the only saving church, and our mission work hasn’t traditionally focused on fighting for our share of the broader spiritual-needs market.

    Authentic Lutheran mission work is centered on preaching God’s Word, and faithfully administering His sacraments, not out of pompousness, or love of ritual, but because that’s how we actually believe, teach and confess that the Holy Spirit creates saving faith in poor miserable sinners. We don’t evaluate the effectiveness of Word and Sacrament ministry numerically, because we don’t believe that our works or programs save anyone. That’s why comparing Confessional Lutheran outreach, and Neo-Evangelical outreach is an apples and oranges effort at best.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

    p.s. I don’t have a biking ministry per se up here in Anchorage, but I have put in over 1,200 miles of bike commuting in 2013 so far (over 350 in the snow on my fat bike.)

  9. @Bob Pase #8

    Maybe you are “both/and.” But many now are not. When you read this statement, who does it sound like?

    “Furthermore, there’s a discernible aloofness and even pharisaical demeanor exhibited by some pastors, obvious during worship services and in pastoral ministry functions as well. Intentionally or unintentionally, this telegraphs a “holier than thou” attitude in both work and worship.”

    I can say, this can fit on both sides of the fence. I have heard the “progressives” sound just like this about the “confessionals.” I see “progressives” wanting to avoid the “confessionals” like the plague. A lot of vitriol on both sides. It is hurting our church and the laypeople.

    That is why the past convention was like a breath of fresh air. It was peaceful.

  10. Not everything that is put forth by those who self-identify as missionals is bad, which is true also of those who identify themselves as Baptists, Catholics, etc. However, there are aspects of missional ecclesiology which diverge from confessional ecclesiology. The desire (by some) to continue using the designation “missional” alongside of (or perhaps instead of) a term like “confessional” indicates the belief that there is some deficiency with confessional eccelsiology. If that weren’t the case, there would be no need for a novel term like missional.

  11. @Abby #12
    I agree. It comes from both sides. In my limited view of things not many who consider themselves missional are doing what my congregation is doing. We are emphasizing Luther and his doctrine of vocation while keeping true Lutheran identity. Seems like both sides have problems with what we’re doing. Kinda fun.

  12. @Bob Pase #14
    That’s my point: not many who consider themselves missional are emphasizing vocation or staying true to our identity as Lutherans. Not only is the term novel, so is the approach. CNH President Robert Newton acknowledged the vast difference in the “confessional” and “missional” paths prior to the election (

  13. @Pastor Eric Andersen #13

    “The desire (by some) to continue using the designation “missional” alongside of (or perhaps instead of) a term like “confessional” indicates the belief that there is some deficiency with confessional eccelsiology. If that weren’t the case, there would be no need for a novel term like missional.”

    I too am struggling with the creation of some of these words. Because, to me, it tends to create this dividing line. And it seems to me that it is trying to create a “new identity.” As if we need to figure out how to help the Holy Spirit do His work. (He is the one who calls.) But the thing I don’t like the most is the dividing line. Because I think that is intentional as saying that this group is better than the old model. And that is false. And will be shown so somewhere down the line.

    I heard a man say, about his experience at a “missional” congregation: “This church is nothing like the Lutheran church I grew up in. And that is a good thing.” Is he saying he didn’t become a Christian in his “old” church? Obviously not. He was just trading “styles.” And considers that he has found something new and “better.” But he did not find this missional church as a previously unchurched person. He was already a Christian. From the old model. So, there you have it. It is just a trading of languages. I say, the new missional models lack so much depth of teaching. That, down the road, it becomes “old” and unsatisfying much sooner.

    I was just thinking today how I grew up in a traditional/high liturgical church setting. Nothing about it was boring to me as a child. It was rich. It gave me such a strong faith. Even much stronger than I have now. The hymns taught me. The liturgy taught me. Even if I didn’t understand it all at various times, I was still learning and absorbing. And it was beautiful. And it reminded me that I was worshipping a great and powerful God. It was full of majesty. Not many reproduce this depth of worship anymore. And I miss it greatly. But I would not trade our Lutheran doctrine for anything. Even if I have to receive Holy Communion on the hood of a car, along with a small service, like sometimes happens in the military on the field.

  14. @Bob Pase #14

    “We are emphasizing Luther and his doctrine of vocation while keeping true Lutheran identity.”

    You are doing well. Would that others would not be ashamed of who we are and remove all identifications and names. I have looked at church websites, where not even the affilliation to the LCMS could be found. And only this new language abounds. And yet they seemingly remain so attached for whatever reason.

    Pray for our church.

  15. @Matthew Mills #11

    Matthew, you are missing the point a bit 🙂

    If I, as someone understanding Church to a degree, walk into a meeting and am confused and bewildered with what is going on, how much more so someone who is not a believer?

    If I, as someone ….. have to doggedly go after answers, fortunately being a tenacious little git, what does the non believer go through to get anything from someone? Bearing in mind that I had at this stage started listening to Fighting for the Faith, Issues etc, and wanted to pursue Lutheranism so I stuck to it despite many off putting and sometimes downright insulting comments and remarks from Lutherans on various Lutheran websites as I asked questions!

    So the point is, in my opinion, if Lutherans changed a bit, without losing or dropping what is essential, then perhaps one would see more folk coming across and not fleeing to something that is more understandable, more able and willing to answer their questions, more accepting and understanding that no one except Lutheran children grow up knowing what all the language and symbolism means from the get go!

  16. “While I lament the decline of the Lutheran church, I’d rather a nominal Lutheran church not identify themselves as “Lutheran.” For these churches to make this identification is misleading and gives people the wrong idea as to what Lutheranism is really all about.”

    Not only do nominal “Lutherans” insist on continued use (abuse) of that name, but now some are claiming to be “more moderate Confessionals” [insert eyeroll here] when they are in reality as liberal as one can imagine.

    While I agree with the comments that it is a false dichotomy to separate concern for the lost from pure doctrine, we must remember that first and foremost is concern for pure doctrine, from which the concern for the lost will flow.

    “Many say, ‘Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.’ But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.”
    C. F. W. Walther

  17. Great article.

    I have a question .. why do some drop the word ‘Lutheran’ and add the word ‘Pointe’? I’ve seen it many times in “outreach” places. Does ‘pointe’ have a special meaning?

  18. @John Marquardt #20 : “Does ‘pointe’ have a special meaning?”

    pointe: a ballet position in which the body is balanced on the extreme tip of the toe.

    French pointe (du pied), literally, tiptoe. First Known Use: 1846

    ‘Nuf said?!? 😉

  19. @Stef #18

    Stef — a little impatient? 🙂 A lot of lifelong Lutherans I know may not know the answers you are looking for. Most I know are not even listening to “Pirates.” Over their heads. These things take time. This is like putting together a 5000 piece puzzle to get the whole picture. But most people are satisfied with the child’s 10 piece puzzle. But the faith of a child is perfectly ok with God.

    But I know where you are coming from. There are no unchurched people I know who will come to church with me — any “kind.” They do not understand the language — and, really, don’t want to. They don’t even know who God is. And are not “ready or willing” to find out. I have tried.

    There needs to be some kind of Bible 101 class to bring these like-minded people to (if you can get them to come) where they can start from the beginning. And just get to know God. And let the Holy Spirit work through the Word.

    As St. Paul said, “we are dead in our trespasses and sins . . .” and most people want to stay there.

    So, have a little patience with us life-long Lutherans, please. We really may not know the answers you are looking for at the time. Just keep looking. You will find them — or they will find you.

  20. @Pastor Ted Crandall #19

    “For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.”

    “. . .we must remember that first and foremost is concern for pure doctrine, from which the concern for the lost will flow.”

    This is really true. I love that!

  21. I’ll let this speak for itself:

    “”The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting, the pleasures of power, of hatred. For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become. They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self. The Diabolical self is the worse of the two. That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

    ~ Mere Christianity

  22. @Stef #18
    I’m probably just explaining my point poorly, but what do you mean by “change a little bit”?

    The idea that a church service in which the Word and Sacraments of God are delivered to fallen and broken people should be readily accessible to the lost is a very recent idea, and it is certainly not Biblically based. You didn’t understand your first football game intuitively, how much less your first Divine Service.

    Paul tells us directly that “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Cor 2:14) Our historical Western Liturgy presents these “things of the Spirit of God” it is focused not on the signs and wisdom that today’s ideological descendants of St. Paul’s “Jews and Greeks” seek, but “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” A non-believer should be not only “confused and bewildered,” they should be blown away. And yet, this is how and where our God has promised to act miraculously to create faith.

    In my frequent moves as an Air Force officer I saw a lot of Lutheran churches that made the attempt to make their services more accessible to the “unchurched.” From my observations the way they did that was to remove, obscure or downplay “the things of the Spirit of God.” That makes a lot of sense if your goal is instant accessibility, because those are the things we know the old Adam sees as foolish, or stumbling blocks, but it’s like taking all those dreary machines out of the emergency room. It misses the point of what God’s goal is in the Divine Service by removing, obscuring or downplaying the very means by which God miraculously creates faith when and where He will.

    In the end, Lutherans do not believe that we can increase or decrease the number of those who are being saved, by “changing a little bit.” Saving the lost is God’s job, and as faithful Christians it is our calling to put the humanly ridiculous means of God’s grace, in their purest form, before fallen and broken sinners, and trust that God will use them as He has promised to do.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

  23. @Matthew Mills #26

    Matthew, great answer and look at that, not one single Latin word!!!
    Where do they teach Latin any more?
    Who learns Latin at school anymore?
    How many people under 40 even know what Latin is?
    Or Greek, especially Koine Greek!

    See, one simple little change like just using common everyday language, can make a world of difference!
    and do not tell me that we are commanded to use foreign languages in Church, or vestments, or bric a brac on the altar etc etc….. so trying to claim that these things are the hidden things of God and are spiritually discerned – nonsense, straight and simple! even the order of service and what goes on and why, has absolutely nothing to do with ‘things of the Spirit’ as you put it.

    The message is all important and whilst now I know how that the order of service is in itself an explanation and expounding of the message, it is only now that I know that! after searching far and wide and for a long time to get it explained and guess what, it is not a clear biblical teaching that takes spiritual discernment, no, it takes someone who has a empathy for those that do not know, that are not part of the ‘elite’, who do not first attend a theological seminary before coming to Christ, simple straightforward every day humans for whom Christ died and for whom Christ said “Go and make disciples”.

    And, while we are quoting Paul – Paul said that he becomes all things to all men so he might reach some. Ooooops, that he, Paul might reach some! Naughty Paul, it is the Spirit who is supposed to reach them!
    Paul even said if he could become accursed that others might be saved – Wow, he just gets worse and worse doesn’t he, was he not aware that it was not up to him!
    No, Paul was fully aware and he knew the balance between what the Spirit does and what he had to do and that is what I am talking about!

    This claiming that ‘Only the Spirit of God draws men and saves them’ is a cop out! There is a hiding behind that and think that it absolves you and no matter how much of a hindrance you put in the way of people, “Well, it ain’t our fault the Spirit is not drawing people” and take no responsibility for the blocks and hurdles you place in the pathway!

    I did not tell everyone where I went that I was a Christian and you know what, the response was exactly the same. So whether they thought I was a Christian or not, no one was prepared to discuss any thing with me, except the latest sports or political news.

    Pure doctrine yes, but how you put that across is the critical point! A good teacher is one who can communicate with the students not just rattle of information that is really no information at all if no one understands what the teacher is talking about, and still it comes down to Jesus words, especially that word ‘GO’, not set up camp and expect them to come in but ‘GO’, do what it takes to get them in, even if it means taking a bit of your time to sit with a stranger and chat to them, talking them through what your church meeting does, why it does it and what the significance of it all is and guess what, you could even throw in some law and Gospel and doctrine at the same time and perhaps they will come back to hear more.

    Tell you what Matthew, or anyone, go visit a Lutheran Church where you are not known.
    Do not make it known to them that you are Lutheran and then you will find out first hand what I am talking about – you and I, well, we can sit here typing out all our theories and suppositions till the cows come home, but if you try this simple little thing, you will get to know what it is all about!

    That is why I started Church in da Pub. I went to a number of Churches on my bike and in my biker gear. I even gave them a super big clue as to my status because my patch said quite clearly which club I belonged to: Soldiers for Jesus. Big cross on it and so on but you know what? Still I was treated like a leper to be avoided!
    Here we were trying to convince Bikers to look into Christianity, to go to Church and hear the Word preached but even we, as Christians, received a hostile reception! How would they respond to a 1% Biker coming in with his patch on? Hence, Church in da Pub where we would accept anyone in the front door just as long as it gave us a chance to proclaim (in a language they would understand) the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sin!

  24. @Abby #22

    LOL, these were not fancy questions Abby!

    Why is the bloke up front a cross dresser?
    What is with all the candles and pictures and stuff?
    What language do you guys speak, is it like Latin, Greek, German or what – all these Nunc Dimitus, Kyrie Elesion etc etc, what is with that?

    I don’t know Abbby, the bible says God has placed eternity in every persons heart so at some point they will ask questions – Church in da Pub was done, on the basis we did it, so we would not be a hindrance to anyone seeking answers.

    We said we were not a Church but a place where people could come and ask questions. We would eventually feed people off into the Church community, but at least they felt comfortable in coming and asking because we did not expect them to act like Christians, nor did we speak to them like they were Christians long before they were even Christians!

  25. @Stef #29

    I know of a Lutheran church, where an excellent Pastor is a biker and is a member of a biker club. If you walked in there wearing your biker Jesus jacket, you would be welcome. But you would still have questions about stained glass windows, altar, candles, robes, no robes, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, etc. But he would have time to talk to you.

    Do you read the Old Testament? How would you explain a Jewish synagogue, or the Temple, and the Jewish rules/commandments to an unchurched person? How would you explain the atonement with the animal sacrificial system? Were these designed and instituted by God? How would you explain why God asked Abraham to kill his own son? Now, coming into the New Testament, how would you explain Holy Communion and Baptism? It takes a healthy amount of Bible study to take on those. “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Questions and answers about the church take a long time. Especially with our Lutheran church because everything we do or don’t do is biblical.

    Almost all unchurched people I know do not have any questions like these. They are not interested in learning about “God things.” And if they truly are interested they will stay and learn because it takes a long time. If they are not interested they will leave. Because most do not want to give up time from their other things for “church.”

    I know of an LCMS Lutheran Church that does not meet in a church building. There is no liturgy. There is no altar, no stained glass windows, no candles, etc. No Greek, Latin, or Hebrew. The service is: some radio-style Christian songs played by a band on a stage, a sermon, more songs, prayer, and that’s it. This is designed to reach the lost.

    I took a really interested unchurched relative of mine there as an experiment. Here is more about that:
    Even though this church stripped itself of all “trappings” there is still a developed church “language” – even though alternative. He still could not understand these simples words. ONLY the Holy Spirit can get through to hearts. And everyone has the power to push Him away and not hear. NO ONE can get through to a person’s heart. NO ONE can make a person stay and learn.

    I am a lifelong Lutheran and I am still learning and asking questions. Even to the day I die I will not understand the politics of the church. It is good you have questions. And if you meet others with questions, good also. But there are many faithful people, who don’t question as much. But they still receive God’s gifts as presented to them in church with the Word and Baptism and Holy Communion.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Yes, we try to get people there. But ONLY the Holy Spirit gets through to hearts by the Word of God.

  26. @Stef #30

    Well, it is true that the depth of God’s work is not delved into by most people. It is just an example of questions and answers about the amazing God that we have. Who is truly unfathomable. God does not condemn deep scholarly work. Neither does he condemn the faith of a child. In fact, if we don’t have the faith of a child, He says we won’t enter heaven. Now, that is a statement that holds a lot of questions!

  27. @Stef #30

    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24 ESV)

    You misused that verse in applying it to Lutherans in discussion about a doctrinal concept. You cannot judge that just because those people are doing this (studying/theology) are guilty of lack of justice, mercy, and faithfulness to others. But that is what the Pharisees were guilty of doing. Because Jesus said so.

  28. Stef seems to take an existential view of our worship practice. One is reminded of Job 38:2.

  29. @LaMarr Blecker #34

    A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience – NO, I DON’T THINK THAT
    in a hostile or indifferent universe, – NO, I DO NOT THINK THAT IS A CORRECT DESCRIPTION OF THE UNIVERSE
    regards human existence as unexplainable, – NO, I THINK SCRIPTURE EXPLAINS IT
    and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts – AND NO I DON’T THINK THAT EITHER.

    So, was the Job quote in regard to yourself?

  30. @Stef #28
    Ego scio Latinam hodie. Cur tu Latinam odis Stef?

    You say you like my answer, and then you prove that you either didn’t understand it, or were actually hostile to it. I think I’m done.

    Pax Christi+,
    -Matt Mills

    And MY bikes have pedals.

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