Sacramental Entrepreneurship or Franchise Corruption?

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The first Lutherans didn’t use the term “Lutheran” to describe themselves. They identified themselves by the much more apt term “evangelical.” After all, the Lutheran church is founded on the pure proclamation of the Gospel and not the man Luther. So how did we end up with the name “Lutheran”? It was first given to us by our theological opponents, and it ended up sticking.

The first time I heard the term “sacramental entrepreneur” in reference to the FiveTwo movement, I thought it, like the term “Lutheran”, was a pejorative— a critical commentary on FiveTwo theology from opponents of the movement. As it turns out, this term comes from founding leader and president Bill Woolsey, and Sacramental Entrepreneurship is at the core of what they’re all about. According to their website (http://www.fivetwo.com/sacramental-entrepreneurship/), Sacramental Entrepreneurs are:

  • Men and women who have a deep love for the mysterious work of Jesus in the sacraments AND realize that because He’s really present in them, they are the presence of Jesus — His sacraments — in their communities.
  • Therefore they want to start new to reach new.
  • The “new” is a variety of spiritual communities (church plants, business as mission, community development endeavors, house churches, study groups, etc.), all designed to connect Jesus’ lost people into the baptized body of believers.

FiveTwo puts an unmistakable emphasis on the novel. “Start new to reach new.” Entrepreneurs are interested in starting new things. They develop business models and are responsible for their own success or failure. The problem is that the Church is not a business, it is not new, it is not ours to do with as we please, and we are not responsible for the Church’s success or failure.

The FiveTwo movement, however, is entrepreneurial at heart. They are pioneering a brand new way of doing church and theology. They teach new doctrine:

FiveTwoGospel

In keeping with their claim to “be the gospel”—a blasphemous claim if there ever was one—Woolsey speaks of the “sacramental identity” of Christians, whose purpose it is to “release the Sacramental Jesus in others,” (http://billwoolsey.org/five-keys-releasing-sacramental-jesus-others/). It almost sounds as if they’ve already begun coming up with new sacraments to match their new gospel.

FiveTwo is concerned less with fidelity, and more with novelty and numbers. Their vision? “For 10,000 Sacramental Entrepreneurs to start 1,000,000 Sacramental Communities by 2044,” (http://www.fivetwo.com/about/2044-vision/). How can we set numerical goals for the church when it is God who gives the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6)? Did the Holy Spirit give them this “vision”? Can “Sacramental Entrepreneurs” manipulate the Holy Spirit? Or do they not know that the Holy Spirit works faith when and where He wills (Augsburg Confession, V.2)?

The one thing that seems to be holding the FiveTwo crowd back from realizing their full potential is their continued association with Lutheranism. It would be more in keeping with their entrepreneurial spirit for them to disassociate themselves and recognize that they have started something new. Otherwise, Lutheranism will continue to stifle their creativity, and their creativity will continue to corrupt the franchise.


Comments

Sacramental Entrepreneurship or Franchise Corruption? — 14 Comments

  1. Pastor Andersen,

    Thanks for this article.

    I did a very quick search of the LCMS website and a few district websites. “Five-Two” has certainly infiltrated the Synod. Again, by no means was my research extensive. I simply accessed a few websites and there it was. Sort of like cockroaches: You find one or two and you know there are many, many more.

    The COP is aware of “Five-Two.” See this LCMS link that details a presentation Woolsey gave them.
    http://blogs.lcms.org/2012/council-of-presidents-assigns-first-calls

    Mid-South District’s promotion of “Five-Two”:
    https://www.mid-southlcms.org/index.php/personal-developing-your-mission/networks-to-join

    Texas District’s promotion of “Five-Two” via their Mission & Ministry Facilitators website:
    http://www.texasmmf.org/52.wiki.conf.php

    Southeastern District’s promotion of “Five-Two”:
    http://www.se.lcms.org/pages/page.asp?page_id=198792

  2. Actually….

    The “first” Lutheran expressed his disapproval of the term “Lutheran” but then realized that the name was going to stick and explained how it can be, and should be, used properly.

    And it was used early on in the 16th century to identify the confession that the churches of the Augsburg Confession put forward.

    Enough with the myth that the name “Lutheran” is some kind of novelty in the Lutheran Church.

    Just ain’t true.

  3. A variety of spiritual communities? Eh? That is why God established the church, it IS the spiritual community and our communing is through the ordained offices and sacraments.

    A business is not a mission, it is a business. E gads.

    And when we do meet in smaller groups for Bible study it should be with objective of reflecting the local assembly to which we belong thus, indicating to those studying that these are ancillary and our main participation, if you will, should be with the body, corporately, in our service and communing.

    I do not like small groups, myself. They are schismatic. A class which meets at the church is fine (and certainly Biblical) and maybe something led by the Pastor or very trusted Elder but beyond that, no. But with a Pastor or Elder leading a study off-site, you tend to develop prejudices and satellite churches where people are disaffected toward the main congregation and their involvement with corporate communing.

    If someone objects by mentioning “house churches” in Acts the answer is just that, the various houses where the on-site location at that time.

    God gave us a sacramental community, it is called the body of Christ, his church and has given rather clear protocols for who leads and how we, who are not ordained, participate in that body. If people would invest in their local sacramental community where believers already exist and into whom new believers can enter through evangelism, they wouldn’t feel the new to create new kinds. The problem isn’t new formats being needed it is those who are members belonging to the formatted church need to be involved as a community member.

  4. “The one thing that seems to be holding the FiveTwo crowd back from realizing their full potential is their continued association with Lutheranism. It would be more in keeping with their entrepreneurial spirit for them to disassociate themselves and recognize that they have started something new. Otherwise, Lutheranism will continue to stifle their creativity, and their creativity will continue to corrupt the franchise.”

    The problem is these guys would be nobodies outside of The LC-MS. After all, they’re peddling a very old product. Only Lutherans who haven’t recognized what’s been going on in the rest of American Christianity for the last twenty years or so lap this stuff up. Plus, if they leave the synod, they have to sink or swim on their own. No more fawning district presidents promoting their stuff and making sure mission funds get channeled to them. They’d actually have to compete with people who have been doing this stuff for years and doing it much better (if heresy can be done better).

  5. Rev George Naylor :

    The problem is these guys would be nobodies outside of The LC-MS.

    Considering the LCMS isn’t that big, relatively speaking… Yes. Here they can ‘big’ fishes in our ‘little’ pond. But on their own, they would be dwarfed by Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, or even compared to the retired ministries of Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. They wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar screen, and not self-sustaining. Can’t imagine they’d have CPS type health benefits, relying on what their spouses got through their jobs. Sad our lack of supervision enables this kind of peddling.

  6. @Jason #6
    The problem is these guys would be nobodies outside of The LC-MS.

    They would be less than nobodies because a nice supply of Lutherans illiterate in the faith is their only market. All the rest have “been there, done that” and aren’t going back.

    Every congregation which obediently gives to a liberal district budget is feeding the false teachers.

    The problem is, those pastors who say, “We don’t give to the district because it won’t support confessional Lutheranism.” often end up with congregations which don’t give at all, to anyone outside themselves. [The pastors don’t argue; their own salary doesn’t suffer.]

  7. That quote you highlighted from their twitter should set off alarm bells in every confessional Christian. And I would hope that good Lutheran officials would denounce this statement immediately.

  8. I do believe you are being fair. To point one thing out, that quote you used from twitter about not preaching the gospel but being the gospel has a context to it. It was said by a brave women who reaches out to those trapped in the sex industry. She was implying that they don’t always lead with the Gospel when entering strip clubs to help these women but see themselves as demonstrating Gods grace through the help they do through a ministry of presence, love, and support. The hope is these women would join support groups where the Gospel would be spoken and proclaimed to them. That was the context, she valued the spoken Gospel but knew those they ministered needed to know they were loved first. A delicate ministry situation. While these tweets were being made at the conference I knew like interpreting scripture how important context is. Jesus saved Polly from unspeakable horrors and she has been called to bring Jesus to those who are in bondage to sin. I believe you express yourself in this article well, but need a context to your tweets, because there is another layer of interpretation here.

  9. @DS #9

    DS,

    Thanks for the additional information. Of course, context is crucial, and I very much appreciate one who seeks to help those in need. However, I don’t believe that any situation dictates a change to the fundamental truths. Altering the truth, such as, “We are the Gospel” displays a wholesale disregard for what Jesus has given us. It’s not helpful in any way. Perhaps that, and other, statements/tweets were a result of some sort of euphoric frenzy created by the “wiki conference” and folks didn’t really mean what they said. If that’s the case, then that alone is cause for alarms to start ringing, don’t you think?

  10. “sacramental identity” – does not the body of Christ have this? Isn’t that the point – that we are, in some sense, rightly said to be the body of Christ? Or is this language purely metaphorical?

    That said, in the statement above that, they say they are “sacraments”. Does anyone else wonder if this view is the opposite side of the idea that ordination is a sacrament? And if not, why not? I will admit I have not read about nor reflected on this matter deeply.

    +Nathan

  11. I noted elsewhere that Pr. Rick Stuckwisch, in his “Sacramentally Shaped Life,” has a more nuanced view of this subject. He is certainly no radical, but does indeed venture into this concept. It is posted elsewhere on BJS. Should be required listening.

  12. If anybody has some really good questions they’d like to ask the FiveTwo folks, please email me at NRinneatgmaildotcom

    I’ve started the process myself:

    https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2014/10/02/a-sincere-question-for-my-fivetwo-brethren/

    If anyone thinks this is inappropriate (using this blog to direct traffic to my own – not being on Facebook and Twitter, this is one effective way for me to do this), please take this link down and I apologize.

    +Nathan

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