Rejected by FiveTwo: How I Failed My Sacramental Entrepreneur Aptitude Test
The first time I heard the title “sacramental entrepreneur” I’m pretty sure my brow furrowed with confusion. I know what a Sacrament is. I know what an entrepreneur is. Most of us can get that far on our own, but putting them together makes little sense. Do some googling and you’ll see it comes from the FiveTwo ministry.
Why Is Everyone Talking About FiveTwo?
Now, a lot has been written on them lately, after their Wiki14 conference – the first time they decided to grace social media with a deluge of their material – brought them and their mission to people’s attention. If you want a crash course on this organization, I highly recommend reading Jon Rodebraugh’s latest piece here. He does a great job of laying out the basics and pointing you to some of FiveTwo’s own words worth taking note of. So go read it. Really. It opens in a new window, so I’ll still be here waiting when you finish.
One of the posts he links to notes the following 7 marks of being a sacramental entrepreneur:
1. I’m burdened for Jesus’ lost people. Very simply, I love them; I want to reach them; I think the Church should reach them; and frankly, I enjoy being with them, oftentimes more so than being with followers of Jesus. They’re refreshing. I want them in heaven.
2. I’m tired of the status quo. I am frustrated by problems that go unresolved and practices that need reforming. Today is the day to start moving the ball down the field.
3. I see “beyond” today. I can see what the future would be like if we move beyond today’s changeable reality. And while that future might move through pain, it is full of hope.
4. I multiply growth. More people, more groups, more impact, more cities, more whatever. Somehow when God has me touch things, they increase. Especially disciples.
5. I see obstacles as opportunities. Change is a resource. Rules are made to be rewritten. Not God’s rules, but man’s rules, of which there are an abundance.
6. I attract like-minded, new-start people. People tend to say “yes” to my invitations to follow, and we tend to have a good amount of unanimity in the journey.
7. I start things without anyone telling me I should. I’m talking clubs, ministries, groups, businesses…. Everywhere I go, I’m the guy or gal that launches new initiatives. It just seems natural. This characteristic is probably the most telling of your SE-ness. And if this is really strong in you, years later those initiatives are still happening.
Now, I’ve spent the last month or more making phone calls, contacting fellow laity, and using social media to try and bring this to the attention of, well, everyone. You see, this organization is putting out some dangerous teaching. Dangerous, because first and foremost it’s confusing, and second it appears to directly conflict with the Lutheran confessions.
Why does this matter? Well, first, when salvation is at stake, we should never be confusing. Law & Gospel. Clearly preached. If there’s ever any confusion, we should be quick to set it right with the help of Scripture. Secondly, though, this organization was co-founded by a called LC-MS pastor, Pastor Bill Woolsey, and has the support of a number of other LC-MS pastors, including district presidents. (For more info on that, I recommend reading Tim Wood’s pieces, here and here). Sure, FiveTwo isn’t an officially sanctioned LC-MS ministry or organization, but it is listed on the Texas District’s website (which also happens to link to LINC-Houston, run by the FiveTwo Vice President, Mark Junkans, who gave us this delightful little video making a mockery of the Lord’s Supper), and with an LC-MS pastor as the head honcho (and vice-honcho), well, you’d like to think they were bound to our confessions as found in the Book of Concord, at least somewhat.
To put it plainly, there are some troubling points of conflict between their message and our confessions, and some of our Lutheran clergy have sought to get FiveTwo and Pr. Woolsey to address these concerns.
FiveTwo on Facebook
Last week I discovered that several of these clergy had been heavily moderated by the FiveTwo facebook page. And by “heavily moderated”, I mean, every comment they had written on the page had been deleted, and they were banned from leaving any future comments. These pastors certainly weren’t tiptoeing through the tulips, and I’m thankful for that. Where the salvation of souls is at stake, the last thing we should be doing is prancing around as if this is a mere disagreement over whether the potluck should start at noon or at 1pm. I had, up until that point, ignored the FiveTwo facebook page, but once I perused it a bit, I realized just how confusing some of the material was.
Many of the posts were feel-good platitudes, happy words or out-of-context quotes slapped on a pretty picture. My favorite. Not so much, actually. Now, had this been any other ministry – say, an evangelical group or what-have-you – I would have just clicked away and perhaps hidden them from ever showing up on my feed. But, this isn’t another denomination. While the Lutheran ties aren’t obvious, they’re there, and I simply couldn’t sit back and ignore these church-growth, seeker-driven, works-based messages being possibly confused for Lutheran confessions.
So, I started posting. I asked questions. Like these…
And they responded. (Note: you can see their responses to me on their FB page)
I asked more questions. Like these…
And they were ignored.
And then the surprising happened. A message popped up from Pr. Woolsey himself. Now, as far as I knew no one had been able to get a hold of him, and he had never personally or directly responded to any of the questions. Why he contacted me, I’m not sure. But we spoke via Facebook message a few times. He ignored some questions. Answered others. Not to my satisfaction, but he at least answered, I suppose.
Our conversation made me a bit more brazen in my comments. I began commenting a bit stronger messages, like this one:
And tougher questions, like these:
I had his and the organization’s attention, after all, and I was hungry not only for answers, but to hopefully help others understand how some of the posts on the page were confusing to the point that they could mislead folks away from Christ. Apparently I was too hungry for answers and pushed too hard.
The next morning I woke up to a message from a friend “Are you banned?” I quickly went to the page, and sure enough, every one of my questions and comments had been deleted, and I no longer had access to comment on the page. I could like them, could see and share all their content, but my voice was not welcome or allowed.
That rejection confirmed my suspicions — there is an unlisted 8th mark, and I had failed my sacramental entrepreneur aptitude test.
To be a sacramental entrepreneur, you must not question or doubt the message preached to you by the leaders, but simply fall in line, obey and take their word for it when they assure you they’re not heretics. (Because, we all know heretics always proudly wear that label. Oh wait, they don’t?) And here I had dared to question their authority. I questioned the scriptural basis of their words and message. I questioned them. And like any good fascist organization, they will not tolerate being questioned.
Note: Since my attempted silencing and banning by the FiveTwo Facebook moderators, several others have endured the same fate, their words scrubbed, their voices banned. Oddly enough, you can still see FiveTwo’s responses to our deleted comments, as seen here:
Our Synod’s Response
If you’re curious to know what the LC-MS has to say about all of this, well, it sounds a lot like crickets chirping. I spoke to someone at the synod office, and left with the overwhelming feeling that we — the concerned clergy and laity — were mostly on our own and that synod leadership hoped to simply ride this out and let it die down like any other good controversy. After all, bureaucratic organizations are made up of elected officials, and we all know politicians don’t get elected by pissing people off. I understand that, to a point, but I think they underestimate that by doing nothing they are, in fact, pissing people off.
Now, I haven’t been an LC-MS Lutheran for very long. Not even two years now. But it doesn’t — or, rather, it shouldn’t — take a genius to realize what makes us Lutheran is not simply slapping that label on ourselves, but adhering and accepting our Lutheran confessions. Yet, it seems that some in our synod have forgotten that “concord” — that not-so-fancy word for “unity” — is built upon the sharing of these beliefs and confessions, not on our willingness and ability to hold hands, fake a smile, and turn a blind eye when a fellow Lutheran preaches something out of sync with those confessions.
The LC-MS supposedly lives by the phrases: Witness, Mercy, Life Together.
These phrases — Witness, Mercy, Life Together — illustrate how the church lives and works together to proclaim the Gospel and to provide for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our congregations, communities and throughout the world. And in all we do, Christ is at the center, leading us, sustaining us, keeping us focused on our mission. This will never change.
FiveTwo, though, is quite blatantly shoving Christ away from the center and telling everyone that it is us – you and me – who are the sacraments, the means by which people receive salvation in Christ. Jesus is still there, but now he’s shoved in between the lines of the “look at me, look at me” message. And yet the LC-MS, which claims “Christ is at the center” and “This will never change”, has decided it can change, and when it does it’s best not to make a fuss over it. Because we can’t let there be any indication that we are not “working together”, even if that together-ness is nothing but a ruse.
If our synod leadership doesn’t step up and address this soon, they might want to reconsider changing our slogan. May I suggest: “LC-MS — our doctrinal welcome mat is clean, because we sweep all the dirt under the rug.”
What Can We Do?
Whether you’re clergy or laity, get off your duff. Seriously. Don’t just look at this situation and decide “oh, that’s too big for little old me” or “meh, I’m just over here in my small congregation in the middle of nowhere and this isn’t my problem”. We shouldn’t be so willing to let heterodoxy or heresy infiltrate our church bodies. We have fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have found refuge in our Lutheran churches after years of being broken by false teachers. They see what is happening, and they recognize it, because they’ve seen these same messages, movements and ministries affect their past churches. Souls are at stake, quite literally. False teaching is harmful. Heterodoxy is damaging. We don’t need to accept this as “just how it is now”, and we shouldn’t accept this as “someone else’s fight”.
Writing letters. Sending emails. Leaving comments on social media. These are great things to do, but as we’ve seen these can be ignored, deleted and even blocked from happening. Making phone calls is better — harder, I know, I hate calling people on the phone, but also harder to be dismissed and ignored. Beyond that, talk to others in the synod – laity and clergy alike. Build awareness about this situation. Rally. Brush up on our confessions, know what we believe and why. Ask questions. And above all, pray.
We have many obstacles before us here, but we have an opportunity to fight this and push back and protect our confessions and our synod from being overrun, distorted, and mangled.
Wait… obstacles… opportunity. That sounds familiar… Am I a sacramental entrepreneur after all?