One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong

SesameStreet-OneThingDoesntBelongOkay, who remembers that Sesame Street song—“One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn’t belong”? That’s what comes to mind when I read the purpose statement of “FiveTwo.”

According to their website, “FiveTwo,” yet another faddish movement in Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod circles, explains why they exist: “FiveTwo exists to fuel a movement of sacramental entrepreneurs who start a variety of spiritual communities that create baptized followers of Jesus from lost people” (emphasis added). I am not at all certain that our Lord Jesus, or the Scriptural witness that He has given, calls us to “fuel” movements or start a “variety of spiritual communities.” After all, there is only “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church,” and the Holy Spirit already creates her and makes “baptized followers of Jesus from lost people” by means of the Gospel and the Sacraments (cf. AC V and SC, Third Article of the Creed). He always has, and He always will, regardless of new “movements.”

The two things that truly do not belong together are “sacramental” and “entrepreneurs.”

First, let’s consider “FiveTwo’s” definition of “sacramental.” The term “sacramental” would seem to imply that we are discussing the sacraments that Jesus Himself has given—Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution and Holy Supper—along with what they are, what they deliver, and who rightly receives them. But not for “FiveTwo.”

“FiveTwo” uses some curious pairs of terms evidently intended to elucidate their understanding of “sacramental”: “historical and contemporary”; “mystical and material”; “deepening and extending.” But what do these terms even mean, individually or in their pairings?

Confusion-ChimpThen “FiveTwo” says, “A great love for the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper.” We must—absolutely must—ask: What is necessarily “sacramental” about such an anthropocentric approach to the sacraments? It is not our love for those gifts from our Lord that makes them sacraments or makes our use of them “sacramental.”

“FiveTwo” further defines their “sacramental” as: “Men and women with a deep love for the mysterious presence of Jesus in the sacraments AND who believe His presence in them makes them the presence of Jesus — His sacraments — in their communities.” In addition to defining “sacramental” in terms of our love for the sacraments, “FiveTwo” apparently seeks to make new sacraments out of sinful men and women. Where in the Scriptures does God make His people “the presence of Jesus — His sacraments — in their communities”?

Such language certainly cheapens the true sacraments—Baptism, Absolution, and Lord’s Supper—that Jesus has given to His Church. It confuses the divinely given gifts of Jesus with the people of the Church. It also speaks volumes by omitting any reference to the forgiveness of sins, the life, and the salvation that Jesus delivers by means of His “means of grace.”

Next, let’s look at “FiveTwo’s” use of the term “entrepreneurs.” The term “entrepreneur” generally refers to one who begins and manages a business, seeking to make and sell a product and thus make a profit. Does this apply to “FiveTwo”?

Their website refers to “Men and women who enjoy doing and starting new.” Then, oddly enough, it refers to something quite old: “the generative offices of Ephesians 4: Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists.” (One wonders why they leave out “pastors and teachers” from the list!) And these “entrepreneurs” then “must partner with the shepherding and teaching offices once up and running.”

Just a few questions should point out the utter gibberish of these statements. What does “FiveTwo’s” “doing and starting new” necessarily mean? Doing and starting new what? We Lutherans, by contrast, boldly and proudly confess the ancient faith handed down to us, and we gladly keep the traditions of the church where they clearly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the things that truly make us new, that is, forgiven and holy before God.

Confusion1What is a “generative office,” and what does it have to do with “doing and starting new”? How many “shepherding and teaching offices” are there in the church? According to Scripture, Jesus only gives us one office of the holy ministry. Does that office really need “entrepreneurs” to “partner” with it? Is this a subtle way of insinuating that Jesus’ gift of “pastors and teachers” to His church (Eph. 4:12-13) is somehow insufficient for tending and feeding the flock? Is this some sort of mission creep for pastors to leave their true calling (i.e. shepherding the flock of God with the Word of God) and take up entrepreneurial ventures (i.e. acting more like corporate CEOs and motivational speakers)? Have we 21st century Christians become so enlightened by modern business strategies and “high-powered vision” gurus that we presume to give the church something that Jesus somehow failed to give?

“Sacramental” and “entrepreneurs.” One of these things is not like the other; one of these things just doesn’t belong.

When we speak of things “sacramental,” we refer to things that our Lord Jesus Christ has given to His church purely and solely out of His goodness and mercy. The Third Article gifts of His Sacraments are “rites that have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added” (Apology XIII:3). They are “not only marks of profession among men, but even more, to be signs and testimonies of God’s will toward us” (AC XIII:1).

When we speak of things entrepreneurial, we do well to keep such First Article matters clearly distinct, and perhaps separate, from the Third Article matters of the Sacraments and the Holy Spirit’s work of creating and sustaining followers of Jesus. The church (both at-large and, especially, in local congregations) must and will continue to practice things entrepreneurial as she carries out her mission of bearing witness to Jesus Christ, showing mercy to those in need, and fostering her life together. Certain entrepreneurial tasks, such as raising money and balancing budgets, are simply good stewardship and will necessarily take place. However, we cannot and must not confuse such First Article endeavors with the Third Article—truly “sacramental”—matters of the Holy Spirit’s work of bringing us to faith in Christ and keeping us in that faith.

One final note on things not belonging together. Based on their self-stated reason for existence, the “movement” known as “FiveTwo” certainly does not belong in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS). Their confusion of “sacramental” with “entrepreneurs” only gives a confusing confession and does not mesh with the doctrine and practice so clearly given in the Scriptures and the Confessions.

According the the LCMS constitution, the first and chief objective of the Synod “under Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions” is: “Conserve and promote the unity of the true faith (Eph. 4:3–6; 1 Cor. 1:10), work through its official structure toward fellowship with other Christian church bodies, and provide a united defense against schism, sectarianism (Rom. 16:17), and heresy” (Art. III.1).

ItsTimeWe appeal to the leadership of the LCMS to address these two things that are not alike, these two things that do not belong together: the “FiveTwo” confession of faith vs. the Lutheran confession of faith. The sooner that LCMS leadership can address this obvious variance in teaching things “sacramental,” the sooner we can honestly claim to “conserve and promote the unity of the true faith.”

For the good of God’s people and in order to “conserve and promote the unity of the true faith,” IT’S TIME for our LCMS leadership to step up and do the serious work of defending us against schism and sectarianism, because, after all, one of these things just doesn’t belong in our midst.

About Pastor Randy Asburry

Pr. Randy Asburry serves as Senior Pastor of Hope Lutheran Church, St. Louis, MO. In addition to earning his MA in Classics (Greek and Latin) from Washington University, St. Louis (1992), he also earned his STM in Systematic Theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (1998), writing on Luther’s view of faith in the Catechisms. He has written for Good News magazine and Concordia Publishing House, served on subcommittees for Lutheran Service Book, and has been a regular guest on Issues, Etc. He serves as regular fill-in host for KFUO's "Thy Strong Word" Bible study program, and now produces the podcast called Sacred Meditations.


One of These Things Just Doesn’t Belong — 21 Comments

  1. I wonder if the wedding of disparate terms like “sacramental” and “entrepreneurs” doesn’t result in a purposeful anthropocentric dialectic where the focus is taken off what Christ is doing, in favor of a synthesis of what we are doing.

  2. To quote Spurgeon: “If these men believe such things, let them teach them, and construct churches, unions, and brotherhoods for themselves! Why must they come among us?”

  3. I fear that our Synod is, to all intents, gone. Harrison’s election put a small lid on the ‘growthers’, but they seem to have become bolder and more aggressive in their rebellion. There is clearly a determination to have their way at any price; it is not enough that they have a dozen synergistic alternative denominations to choose from.

    Follow the “local” map on 52 to see just how deeply this cancer has spread. It is especially disturbing to see how the nonsense jargon and category errors are cloned in the respective network web sites. 52 is nothing less than a shadow synod.

    I predict that LCMS leadership will do exactly nothing about it as signaled by 5 DPs attending and evidently endorsing the anti-confessional jamboree. They are confident that the only consequences will be growth in their power and influence.

  4. But – “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:18-20.

    “‘For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ” Matthew 25:14-30.

  5. Tm Wd,

    I am not sure that synod is gone but it is taking on water and listing.

    To me, this signals that the 5/2 crowd really does not care about synod. They are after all, entrepreneurs.

    I am reminded of my visit with our neighboring ELCA church growth church when I went to talk to them about their church’s embracing of gay ordination. They simply said that they do not care about their denomination. It was no big issue for them.

    The synod is roughly three parts. There is one third that is 5/2’ish, one third that is confessional and liturgical and one third in the middle. The 5/2’ers would be happy to have and control synod but it is not something they think about or act to preserve.

    The neighboring ELCA guys had given up on truth as the material principal of church life and so they embraced the sociologocal and psychological as the heart of the church and could care less about their denomination’s embracing of unscriptural practice.

    The 5/2’ers still have a little pietistic fundamentalism about them and so they have not embraced the social sins that come with giving up of truth but they have embraced the doctrinal sins that come with it.

    Is the synod gone. Not yet but one third of us do not see pure doctrine as the mark of the church as taught in Scripture, Luther, the Confessions and Walther (see his thesis 5 in Church and Minsitry).

  6. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5
    I would recommend a reading of David Adam’s “Three Missouris” in a back issue of LOGIA. Spells it out in detail.

    As I’ve described elsewhere on BJS, I visited this pastor’s congregation some time ago and viewed a couple of their sermons. What I witnessed was a demonstration of what Harold Senkbeil in “Sanctification” called “The Gospel as Information.” It is not works righteousness, but rather an undue emphasis on sanctification: “Jesus died for you, so get to work.” In two half-hour sermons, the Gospel got maybe two minutes, and only as information–no Proclamation. No repentance. No forgiveness. The corporate double-speak and gobbledy-gook on this website is more of the same. Not that it isn’t well-intentioned. It’s just full of error. What baffles me is where these pastors are getting their training in exegesis and homeletics. Or are they sleeping through those courses?

  7. When “Synod” shows that it cares about the Augsburg Confession, maybe I will think about caring about the LC-MS again. In the mean time, I will be too busy serving “The Church…in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.”

  8. @Pastor Tim Rossow #5 Thanks for the reassurance, Pr Rossow.

    It is not my nature to be pessimistic, but the ⅓ of the Synod that subscribes to enthusiasm seems to hold a lot of sway. Combine them with the “look-the-other-way” attitude that infuses our relationships with non-confessional entities / outcomes (e.g. LIRS, some of the Concordias, some of the CPH materials of late etc. etc.) then I worry immensely that we are headed for another split.

    As someone who has come out of Fundagelicalism thanks to the “cult of pure doctrine and praxis”, my family is zealous to save what saved us. Pastors, hear your sheep – we desire to be fed, not entertained. We pray that all of you will resist the temptation to take a census on Sunday, rather than proclaim Law and Gospel in season and out of season. Be Steadfast, brothers.

  9. Why is there no response from Synod and President Harrison? Where are our leaders today. If the Synod President has nothing to say about these things, why do we have one?

  10. @Jeremy Royer #11
    I think the same thing some times, but after watching the ACELC video I have to agree with the pastors when they say that President Harrison is just one man. He is first and foremost a Pastor in our synod, but under our synodic structure in his office as Synod President he is simply a political church leader. He has to carry out the will of the delegates at convention while trying to remain faithful to God’s Word. Politicians including church politicians cannot wrangle too many feathers and stay in office.

    If we want Lutheran doctrine and practice in all that we do as a synod, including things like urban ministry, there needs to be a ground swelling of confessional Lutherans in the LCMS to demand and support them. I’m not sure there are enough people in LCMS congregations who care about such things in such a way. We will have to wait and see.

  11. @Jeremy Royer #11
    Why is there no response from Synod and President Harrison? Where are our leaders today. If the Synod President has nothing to say about these things, why do we have one?

    We have the COP… Council of Presidents… too much stuck in the PLI, CG, Willowcreek mode… too much stuck in the “I’m no theologian” mindset [although they surely do love those pretend “doctorates”!!!]

  12. J. Dean :To quote Spurgeon: “If these men believe such things, let them teach them, and construct churches, unions, and brotherhoods for themselves! Why must they come among us?”

    In order to destroy the Church. It’s intentional, sometimes on their part, and always on Satan’s part.

  13. @ross #12 Unless and until the ACELC video gets into the hands of the laity, as well as the pastors, AND is watched, I don’t think the groundswell will happen. We can already see that the leadership is not going to act swiftly or decisively. Please, if you have a copy of the video, SHARE it with your brethren. It’s time to act.

  14. I just heard my pastor has received a copy. Not sure how it has been sent out. But he is a Seminex guy. Unlikely he will watch, no way he will share with congregation. I can’t see him allowing our congregation to potentially be influenced by their concerns. 🙁

  15. @Nicholas #14
    Although there is no doubt in my mind that the evil one is behind these new ways of thinking about Church and the faith, I am pretty sure that these people themselves are not aware that that which they are (deliberately) trying to do would actually destroy the Church. Rather, I am convinced that they see that which is Lutheran faith and doctrine as an unfortunate burden of which it would benefit the Lutheran Church to rid herself – probably along with those who insist on Lutheran faith and doctrine.

    I am fairly convinced that most of these people are convinced themselves, because they grew up in a home associated with the Lutheran Church (I doubt there are many converts to the Lutheran faith among them – of course, one could argue that any converts among them would not be converts to the Lutheran faith, but rather to something else, but that is not the point here), and because they never made a deliberate decision no longer to consider themselves “Lutheran”, that Lutheran is what they are – even though they never became of what is the basic nature of the Lutheran faith, what is unique about it, and why it is so precious for a sinner in need in the mercy of God, or since then forgot – and as such they have no perception of how incompatible their thinking is with Lutheran faith and doctrine, and how it is incompatible.

    In other words, instruments of the evil one as they may be in his scheme against the Church of Christ, they have no deliberate desire to destroy the Church. They have no idea that that is what they are doing. They mean well. And that is perhaps, somehow, the most tragic part of all this!

  16. Jais H. Tinglund :
    @Nicholas #14
    In other words, instruments of the evil one as they may be in his scheme against the Church of Christ, they have no deliberate desire to destroy the Church. They have no idea that that is what they are doing. They mean well. And that is perhaps, somehow, the most tragic part of all this!

    The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

  17. @LadyM #15
    They can watch the youtube video by clicking on the sidebar right here on the BJS site that reads “If Not Now, When” The ACELC Film or they can go to youtube and search for it.
    I was quite impressed with the video and the pastors and laymen who represented ACELC.

  18. @ross #19 Yes, but there are many elderly people who do not use the internet, or people who do not peruse this site, who will never see the video precisely because their shepherds either desire peace more than truth; believe they are protecting their sheep from “political backbiting;” or do not want them to see that their own practices and teachings are not in accord with Scripture and the BOC. Frankly, all of them are wrong reasons for not sharing the DVD.

  19. @LadyM #20
    Point well taken. Upon further investigation I see that a DVD of this video can be gotten at the ACELC website. This video could be a good starting point in helping some Lutherans wake up to what’s happening in their synod. I recommend buying and sharing copies of it along with ACELC literature with Lutheran brothers and sisters.

    However, the ACELC is just one group of people within the LCMS God uses to proclaim the Gospel, warn the sheep and call us to repentance. He has sent many other faithful messengers and shepherds. I pray that shepherds and sheep in the LCMS will be spared from the wolves. Nevertheless, if we in LCMS congregations reject God and His word, he will still be faithful to provide a safe remnant somewhere for His sheep.

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