In Name Only.

luther-roseI used to be a diehard Minnesota Twins baseball fan. I used to watch every game on television and even had partial season tickets. I knew all the players names, their strengths and their weaknesses. I wore Twins t-shirts, hats and jackets on a daily basis. I was faithful to them even if they were horrible and an embarrassment to baseball. I dressed my children in Twins apparel and exposed them to the baseball world I loved so much. I was not a fair weather fan. I lived to read the box scores and watched highlights online. I was truly a diehard baseball fan. After my children were born I found myself having less time and money to dedicate to baseball. Over time I lost interest in the game I loved so much before. I still watched from time to time and maybe went to one game a year. Then we disconnected our cable and I found myself not missing baseball at all. Can I still call myself a diehard baseball fan when I never watch and don’t really care about the game? I don’t think I can even call myself a fair weather fan. If the Twins were winning that wouldn’t make me hook up my cable to watch or go spend $20 on a t-shirt. I think I know all about baseball but don’t pay attention to it. My heart isn’t in it. If I’m totally honest I’m a baseball fan “In Name Only”.

“In Name Only” is the way many people and churches are today in the world of Lutheranism. I regularly see posts on Facebook from friends whose churches are “Lutheran”. Upon visiting their church’s Facebook page or website very little is found about Lutheranism. This fact crosses Lutheranism’s denominational lines. I grew up in the ELCA but this fact isn’t specific to the ELCA. Even visiting local congregations in my area within the LCMS expose this fact. Many LCMS churches fail at confessing much of anything. There is more focus on family, friends, and fellowship then any confession of the Lutheran faith. Sadly most “Lutheran” websites barely confess Christ, let alone The Lutheran Confessions. Churches are more worried about their current program or series then practicing the historic liturgy. The Lutheran Confessions are not taught and bible studies are replaced with worldly topics of the day. We fall into the mistake of thinking that the Lutheran faith is something else besides what has already been given to us in the Scriptures and Lutheran Confessions. Trying to add to it and take things away from it are the works of our sin and the devil.

Worldly preaching with Christ thrown in every once and awhile when it’s convenient is not Lutheranism. Dust collecting on the church’s copy of the Lutheran Confessions is not Lutheranism. Discounting the Liturgy is not Lutheranism. Marginalizing the importance of weekly communion for sinners is not Lutheranism. Your church’s confession should be apparent in way they preach, teach, and confess the Holy Christian faith. If your church is Lutheran “In Name Only”, kindly ask them to drop “Lutheran” from their name. You’re not fooling anyone. Why give prospective members the wrong idea? I’m not sure what you should call your church, but “Lutheran” isn’t it.

Properly confessing the Lutheran faith means properly confessing the faith we have in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came for sinners. He came for Lutherans and he even came for Lutherans “In Name Only”. How are sinners supposed to know the great Gospel of Jesus Christ when it is so obviously downplayed by the practice and confession of Lutheran “In Name Only” churches. Repent and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins in accordance to the Scriptures. The Word of God which proclaims God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ for us all. The Word of God is truly and beautifully stated in the Lutheran Confessions. It’s what the Lutheran Church is all about. Thanks be to God for his Word and the Lutheran Confessions which proclaim the name of Jesus Christ, and not just “In Name Only”.


In Name Only. — 18 Comments

  1. We talked about this in our class before divine service this morning. My husband and I were nearly brought to tears, grateful that we were directed to a church that is Lutheran in all that is preached, taught and confessed there.

    Last year, at this time, I was searching for a faithful LC-MS church. My husband wanted nothing more to do with church and I don’t blame him. We had heard the simplicity and clarity of the gospel from Dr. Rod Rosenbladt, Pr. Chris Rosebrough, Pr. Jonathan Fisk, Pr. Ernie Lassman, Pr. Jeremy Rhode and too many others to name them all. All of them were pointing us to the LC-MS. What I found in the LC-MS churches in our city was indistinguishable from what we had left. It was a heartbreaking experience for me.

    I wondered if it was just our city. Online I pulled up a list of LC-MS churches in our state. Every one that had a web site, I read through. Every one that had sermons online, I listened to one to three sermons. If I wasn’t depressed enough by the churches in my city, that sure did it. I’ve since met or read of other ex-evangelicals (for lack of a better term), who are searching for a faithful confessional LC-MS church. Unfortunately, there are “dead zones” (places where the nearest is an hour or more away) across the country. For the most part, these are people living in cities, who have an LC-MS (in name only) church within a few minutes of their homes. My husband and I could walk to the closest one to us.

    We are grateful that we talked to Pr. Lassman, who directed us to a church under an hour away in the neighboring state. For an ex-evangelical, a confessional Lutheran church is a precious treasure. On Sundays, we are like two kids on Christmas morning. Every part of the liturgy is another gift. Oh! What joy to speak, sing and chant such wonders, hear Scripture read with such reverence (and sooo much of it!), confession and absolution for wretched sinners like us, Christ crucified and raised again for us proclaimed from the pulpit (no gospel nuggets, as Pr. Rosebrough would say), the Lord’s Supper offered nearly every Sunday. Finally, to be sent back into the world in peace.

  2. This brings up a point that I would propose being addressed on this site: what do you do when you see a church starting to flirt with the LINO stand? What do you do when you see CoWo being advocated, or an evangelical program (like “The Story,” which is basically a Reader’s Digest version of the Bible repackaged for what appears to be a profit motive), or starts putting in screens and playing video snippets during the service? What’s a faithful parishoner to do?

  3. Our LCMS congregation did “The Story” and I can see how it could be termed a Reader’s Digest version of the Bible – but a lot depends on how the pastor teaches from the material. Our pastor is a young, confessional sort but as he said, this material helps to get everyone on the same page. Honestly, I was deeply suspicious of the program initially – but we are a very tiny minority faith in our southern city and a lot of people are/have transitioned from evangelical churches. It gave a starting point to those that needed it. “The Story” stayed in the fellowship hall however – no screens in our very traditional, liturgical Divine Service!

    @J.Dean – parishioners need to speak to their elders and pastor about any concerns they have about LINO leanings. Try and get like-minded members to pack onto the boards so they have influence and can be heard. I have provided a link to this website to members and also to Gottesdienst online. And always, we need to educate the young about our beautiful historic liturgy.

  4. @Jan Payne #3


    J. Dean makes some great points. Regarding “The Story”, I recommend you closely look at the material and the source. For instance, the authors, Max Lucado and Randy Frazee, are both ministers at Oakhills Church [of Christ]. Their beliefs can easily be accessed online. Their beliefs stray far away from scripture and our confessions. So, I have to ask, why would any pastor want or need to bring in “material” that is authored by false teachers? We are not talking about reading a book to have a discussion and debate, but instead, “The Story” is being used as the key component in liturgy. I know you stated that “it” stayed in the fellowship hall. I’m not sure I understand what that meant. Anyway, bringing such material into a church should make the hair on the back of your neck stand up in my opinion.

    Jan, I think I understand where you’re coming from. I’m also in a Southern area surrounded by the charismatic movement that has infiltrated many church bodies, including the LCMS. I don’t know you or your pastor, but I have personally seen these types of things being introduced in congregations. What may initially appear to be an innocent undertaking can often be the first step toward very bad things. Remember, drinking even a little Drano can do you harm.

    J. Dean poses a great question: What do you do when a church starts to flirt with LINO practices? Well, lets see, the Drano warning label states:

    Keep out of reach of children. Harmful if swallowed. Seek immediate medical attention if ingested………….

    Perhaps we could start by taking a hint from the makers of Drano……..

  5. As Randy pointed out, stay away from Max Lucado, et al.

    The opportunity I see is two fold:

    1) Who is the et al
    2) Point out the errors

    I would love to see one of the Pastors here put together a series on false teachings so that I can easily identify them.

    I know the short answer is: read the book, our confessions, etc. Doing that – I am asking for putting those teachings to practice. Pastor Scheer’s recent examples of how to apply the 10 commandments to Pastoral “firing” is a great piece.

    In a colloquial summary, “more please.”

  6. @Big Boy #5

    Agree! At a minimum, I’d like to see a confessional pastor’s expert analysis of “The Story” since it’s so widely used in LINO congregations.

  7. @Isaiah #7

    Thank you, Isaiah, for this link. Finally!, an analysis of “The Story.” Thank you, Rev. Ogrodowicz, for the analysis.


  8. @ Isiah

    I echo my brother’s adulation. And thanks for the link to another good site.

  9. @Letetia #1
    Letetia – Wow! Absolutely wonderful comments.
    I very much agree and also my husband and I are so
    thankful for a great Lutheran Church that is just what we
    were looking for after being in Evangelicalism and seeing that
    go so far from preaching Christ and the Word.

  10. @Randy #4
    Hi Randy, I understand the concern with Max Lucado & Randy Frazee – I did look into the program when it was announced and was dismayed. The adult Bible Study class had just spent the prior year on the book of John and I would have liked to continue with that. “The Story” was used in our Bible Study class, not as part of worship (we use the fellowship hall for the adult bible study class-sorry I didn’t explain that!)

    Fortunately we are done with that. We are now embarking on a safer journey with CPH’s “Gangway to Galilee” for an all ages VBS this summer.

  11. @Isaiah #7
    I really liked how reviewer Rev. Ryan Ogrodowicz ended the piece:

    “In the context of a Bible study focused on comparing and contrasting different theologies led by faithful pastor or layman, ‘The Story’ would make for a good study”.

    Why, oh, why do Lutheran pastors even agree to having this stuff in their churches? Of course the pastors do have the educational background to discern the errors and one would hope they would use that discernment. However, if ‘The Story’ gets into the hands of a new Lutheran christian or even life-long ones, will they be able to see the errors by themselves? I doubt it very much.

    In Christ,

  12. Diane :@Isaiah #7 I really liked how reviewer Rev. Ryan Ogrodowicz ended the piece:
    However, if ‘The Story’ gets into the hands of a new Lutheran christian or even life-long ones, will they be able to see the errors by themselves? I doubt it very much.

    I’d like to think if less time was spent on studying things like “The Story” and more time spent on The Lutheran Confessions would help people with their discernment between good and bad theology.

  13. @Nathan Redman #14
    Hi Nathan,

    Just a clarification on what Rev. Ogrodowicz said at the end of his review. He said,

    “In the context of a Bible study focused on comparing and contrasting different theologies led by faithful pastor or layman, ‘The Story’ would make for a good study”.

    My thoughts followed not Rev. Ogrodowicz’s. Sorry if there was confusion.

    In Christ,

  14. My LCMS church is going to do “The Story” for the next 31 weeks. I plan to keep a copy of Pr. Ryan’s article to bring to discussions with my lead pastor, with my Book of Concord.

    After 30 years in the ELCA and having to cross my fingers because of false doctrine during each sermon, I convinced my family to swim the Mississippi and join the LCMS. Well, at least we still have liturgical Divine Service. When the hymnals go, we go. And the Willow Creek Association membership doesn’t do me any favors…

    Can you believe, we now have a wall where people put plaques for remembering our congregation in their wills, to encourage us to to likewise? Financial pietism! We changed our minds about giving our Thrivent Choice Dollars to our new church. Just read Matthew 6:1-4…

    I will try to convince my junior, more confessional pastor, to preach hints of Gospel found in the Old Testament Law as we go through “The Story”. Maybe he’ll see the light…

  15. The congregation I attend began using “The Story.” Review of Scripture, the Confessions, the Constitution, and Zondervan’s promo material made it clear that TS is a serious departure from the the written OT and NT, and that God’s wrath is to be feared (cf., Rev. 21:18-19).
    In addition, scribes both Hebrew and Christian labored carefully for 3,000 years to preserve the written Word of God for us. This was their life’s work, their chief gift to generations they would never know until all believers are glorified together with Christ. Thousands of manuscripts testify to their exacting care. Yet two popular writers of inspirational literature get a word processor, take from and add to the written Word of God, and *pastors* so easily buy it — in principle and by the case?!? This is shocking beyond words!
    How will they answer a teen, a poorly-educated adult, a shut-in who embraces TS as the written Word of God, quoting and relying on it as Scripture, because their pastors gave the appearance that it WAS the written Word of God since they themselves led their congregations to use in during Divine Service? More than that, how will they answer Christ??
    Can you imagine how the Gnostics would have seized on this in the 2nd Century? More, how many other special-interest groups “oppressed” by a “patriarchal” text obviously biased by countless male scribes — who were, we will be told, too afraid to reveal their *real* sexual orientation as homosexual — will be emboldened to likewise mutilate the text (whether eclectic or received) and create their own? First it was “The Story,” now “Her Story” and even “Our Story” or “The Rainbow Story?”
    Thank you, well-intentioned but clueless novelists and pastors for unraveling millenia of textual fidelity. You will have to answer for this on the day of your reckoning!

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