I don’t enjoy coffee with my pastor — the honest frustrations of a layman

coffeeI take that back, I really do enjoy a cup of coffee with my pastor. As long as our conversation stays within the realm of family, hobbies and things happening in our congregation it’s usually quite a joy. It is however rare that our conversation does not enter the not so happy theme of the many issues of the LCMS’s seemingly large amount of disunity and failings. I’m not a lifelong member of the LCMS so maybe these things have been going on for years or maybe I just see the great things we have in the Lutheran church that seem to be just thrown to the wayside by pastors and congregations. It makes me need something stronger then coffee.

I have a hard enough time telling people that I’m Lutheran because I worry they will think I’m an ELCA Lutheran, which doesn’t amount to much these days. To be quite honest, in my area I have a hard time wanting to tell people I am LCMS. What does that even mean in my area? Some of the LCMS churches couldn’t pass for a Lutheran church on their best Sunday. They are closer to ELCA then LCMS in many ways. And what is being done about our lack of unity.    Jack.   I shortened that answer for the pietists out there. Nothing is being done besides meetings and Koinonia projects which result in nothing being done about anything. It’s a good thing the real church on earth and our Savior continue to bless the people of God with forgiveness, mercy and grace from above.

I suggest all of the layman reading this take your pastor out for a cup of coffee or a beer and talk to him about anything and everything going on in your area that you should know about. These things matter to our life together in the LCMS. Sweeping our issues under the rug and not talking about them accomplishes nothing. It will only create more disunity and problems for the future. Lord, Have Mercy.

About Nathan Redman

Nathan Redman was baptized into Christ at Bethel Lutheran Church (ELCA) Wahpeton, North Dakota on June 17th 1979. He and his wife, Bernice and their two children, Elsie and Porter are members of Redeemer Lutheran Church (LCMS) in St. Cloud, Minnesota. Nathan works for a family owned Pepsi distributor in St. Cloud. In his spare time he enjoys watching Doctor Who, listening to Frank Sinatra and drinking single malt Scotch. Nathan considers it a privilege to write for Steadfast Lutherans.


I don’t enjoy coffee with my pastor — the honest frustrations of a layman — 49 Comments

  1. Treat your pastor to 18 holes of golf at your
    local city golf course. Take your pastor to
    a college football or basketball game. Invite
    your pastor to join you at Red Lobster and you
    can pick up the tab. Coffee and beer is so
    19th century.

  2. What’s hard is when you’re a Michigan fan and your pastor is unconverted…er, a Michigan State or Ohio State fan.

  3. Nathan, I can’t speak for anyone other member of our laity, but this was spectacular! Thank you, thank you, oh, thank you.

    I have, in fact, done so, over a beer. Had a blast! Productive…not so much.

    My Dad, used to have our Pastor over for a martini, or two/a few…maybe Dad was on to something…kidding, just kidding.

  4. @Pastor Dave Likeness #3

    I’d take coffee and beer anytime. Of course, if you really want straight talk, join me in the gym on squat day.

    And as for golf, how in the world can you have a productive conversation while cursing at that tiny white ball? Unless, of course, you bring beer… 😉

  5. Perhaps your finding of fault with LCMS pastors and congregations, other Lutheran denominations, “pietists” and others, excluding you and the “real church,” IOW your expressed frustrations, manifest a need for something other than a conversation over coffee or a beer, Mr. Redman.

    Perhaps an individual confession/Absolution conversation with your pastor is in order. Then you can go on to talk about the LCMS failings and how you are so ashamed of the LCMS (“I have a hard time wanting to tell people I am LCMS.”). Or maybe not.

    May you find peace.

  6. To be quite honest, in my area I have a hard time wanting to tell people I am LCMS.

    Seems like kind of an odd perspective.   Have you ever spent any time in a Lutheran day school classroom?   Have you ever visited a Laborers for Christ project?   Are you ashamed of our two seminaries?  Why on earth do you want to remain LCMS?

  7. @John Rixe #10

    I see your point. I suppose it’s really my own sinfulness. I’d rather not have to explain to people the differences within the LCMS. It’s one thing to have to explain to people the differences between the ELCA and LCMS but when I have to explain why different churches in the area practice and confess different things it bothers me. It’s something I feel we shouldn’t have to do. Call me lazy if you want but I’m just being honest. I admit there are many great things going on in the LCMS. I’m not blind to these things, however those things are things we are supposed to do and shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back for. Maybe that’s why it’s easier for me to rant on the negatives. That’s all this post was really, a rant and a call for people to ask their pastors questions about what may or may not being going on in their area.

  8. Nathan –

    Great job! Don’t let Kirchner and Rixe bring you down. They both need hobbies or something to occupy their time.


  9. @jb #12

    Agreed – good advice for us all.

    “Aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands.”
    1Thess 4

  10. I think you need to study more about the beliefs and teachings of the LCMS. It appears you are still caught up in the ELCA and the desire to move around to other churches. Is your background also Baptist?

  11. In regards to a few of the posts here, I think some may not know, what laity hear or do, if we are vocal, the other 6 days of the week.

    Unless you are Lutheran, try to explain, just the basic differences between the Lutheran Synods.

    I think we all need to remember, the phrase, “explain it to me, in layman’s terms”. It’s a popular phrase, for a reason.
    I find it interesting, that 1 Thessalonians 4 was listed, in this respect. That is just, verse 11, there are another 17, which support what this article, is trying to relay. At least, as I take the context.
    Oddly enough, I seem to remember, this being used, when BJS, first came into being, for the reasons, BJS, began. It may have been a few years , however, it still fresh, in my memory.

    It was a handful of Pastors, a handful of laity, stating interactions, situations, and it was a combination, of laity & Pastors. I know some of the names here, as I am sure, they remember mine. I wonder, do we, remember why this site is here? For my part, I do.

    I stand b what I posted, ok, maybe minus the martini part, it was really weird, for a teen to see, in your house.

    Nathan, thank you again. I think this thread, proves, it was a great article. Needed to be said, I should think.

  12. Just a reminder, for the long posting:

    Remember when Phil, name may be wrong:

    “The LCMS is like a box of chocolates. Ya never know what yer gonna get.”
    That was a long time ago, Mollie, Todd, etc. may remember far better than I.
    It’s 2015, folks, what has really changed, other than BJS, having a hand, in admitting, there be issues?

    Not much.

  13. I have an easy solution. Just admit that the LCMS, as a confessional Lutheran synod is done for. My personal attitude is that hoping for a confessional revival is hopeless. So my goal now is to continue to be faithful, do the work God has given me to do, and quit worrying about it. I don’t run the world, the country, or the Synod. I just have the work and responsibilities I have, so my concern and focus is there. Besides, the Bible makes it clear, God’s kingdom is always under attack from evil from outside and within. So why cry about it. It is what it is.

  14. Huzzah, Pastor Zell, #17.

    Can I take away, that goes for laity, as well?

    This all, across the board, is still the same issue, as was here years ago:

    Quia vs Quantenus?
    Forgive spelling, I learned my Latin, here at BJS.

  15. Well done, Nathan! As is so often the case when the truth is spoken about openly, many who do not want to face it, or hear it, will try to disregard what you’ve said in any number of ways, but do not be discouraged. Your honest expression of reality is a breath of fresh air.

  16. John R. #21,
    No one, is giving up here. At least, not me. I may be, way more gun shy, than I used to be, however, no one is giving up, on our Synod.

    Giving up, asking the same things, maybe. I’m coming up on 9 years, with this stuff. I would not have left WELS, after my divorce, if I had given up, on the LCMS, that raised me. It just doesn’t resemble, the Synod, that did. I’m only 46.

    I do, think it is interesting, that when laity, write articles, or post, the plain, open, honest truth, is sets off, alarm bells. I wish it did elsewhere, not just at BJS. Then maybe, someone, in authority, would take notice.

    I for one, will go down, with the good ship. Chocolate box & all. I owe, far too many, at least that much. If they were here & not at Home, they would do nothing different. If it were they, I know, not think, I know, they would not be quiet, nor nice, for the doing.

  17. @Rev. Loren Zell #17

    As a variation on your observation, my sense is that the Synod has a repressed immune system. This is manifested by the number of districts promoting or protecting false doctrine, and the number of clergy / congregations that are no longer recognizably Lutheran in any Confessional sense. As the internal contagions grow, the system which is the LCMS approaches a tipping point when the heterodox outnumbber the orthodox.

    If or when that happens, the Synod may be lost. There are, however, a goodly number of antibodies still fighting the various infections, and since they stand on the Word of God, I’m not ready to count them out yet. But we’ll see in time if or when that tipping point comes.

    While I personally hope and pray for the orthodox to expel the infectious false doctrine of those who are corrupting it, I think it is way past time for everyone to expunge the phrase “our beloved synod” from their vocabulary. Loving a beaurocracy is a dangerous path to sacrificing doctrine for the sake of unity.

  18. Brad #23,
    Great analogy, however, that would be an auto-immune, issue. It attacks itself. The whole, sees what is vital to life, as a threat.

    How did you know, what analogy, to use?! Spectacular, for the immune system. It’s a body’s army, w/armor. For whatever the reason, it falls, the whole body does.

  19. @John Rixe #21

    A whole lot of Red herring going on.

    The author of this article has not suggested the LCMS is a lost cause. The author has not suggested anyone should convert to the Eastern Orthodox faith. The author has not suggested anything about excommunication. No one on this thread has expected perfection (the best you can imagine). What if what is expected is exactly what should be expected; no less, and no more? What if what is being tolerated in the LCMS, should not by any means be tolerated? What if all the author’s complaints are very necessary? What if LCMS, Inc. picks and chooses which offenses it speaks out against publicly, not on the basis of what God would have them do according to His Word and the Confessions, but on the basis of personal and political preferences? That is the reality.

    The opinion that the LCMS is better than it has been is just that, an opinion. It is a very biased perspective, and opinion. That perception is not the reality for a great many people in the LCMS community. I have participated in the LCMS community for over 50 years, through all kinds of different roles, and in different states of this nation. I don’t agree that the LCMS is better than it has been. We can thank God for His mercies and gifts, but at the same time, there are big problems and a good number of our leaders have actively chosen to disregard the ways God specifically calls them to address these problems. Instead, they have chosen to deal with these problems in ways that are more personally and politically comfortable for themselves. That is the reality.

  20. The opinion that the LCMS is better than it has been is just that, an opinion. It is a very biased perspective and opinion…I don’t agree that the LCMS is better than it has been… [leaders] have chosen to deal with these problems in ways that are more personally and politically comfortable for themselves.

    That is a very biased perspective and opinion as well.  

  21. @John Rixe #28

    The opinion that the LCMS is better than it has been is just that, an opinion. It is a very biased perspective and opinion…I don’t agree that the LCMS is better than it has been… [leaders] have chosen to deal with these problems in ways that are more personally and politically comfortable for themselves.

    “That is a very biased perspective and opinion as well.” –Rixe

    I can only form my opinions from what I’ve read, heard and lived through. I don’t know what the LCMS “has been” except out of several books; I’ve only belonged to it since 1964. The 70’s were “educational”! Living in Texas has been a “learning experience”, too, discouraging many times.

    Our leadership here in Texas has made it plain that confessional liturgical Lutheran faith is not what they are supporting. [That is policy, not a “perspective”… only “contempo/praise/pastor-vested-in-slacks&Tshirt” churches are planted by district.]

  22. I have read this with interest. As one who is in the beginning stages of moving away / out of the bible church scene (where there is no governing body / doctrine), and looking toward to LCMS (the church body of my youth), what should I expect to find in an LCMS church?

  23. @Doug Cohenour #30

    Ah, that is the question, isn’t it? It depends on where you’re located, mate. But given the days in which we live, I’d say you need to visit the local congregations in your area, and chat with their respective pastors. If you keep the questioning positive and pleasant, those pastors will likely be able to guide you to the parish you’re looking for… whether you tell them you want a contemporary or traditional congregation, they will know which are which in your district.

  24. There are all kinds of reasons for my previous post. Lets look at some of the problems. Widespread open communion, the SMP program, the acceptance of women filling the roles of congregational president or elder, and now the inability and unwillingness of the LCMS to remove an open false teacher. 40 years ago, these kinds of people knew that they were not in friendly territory and many left. Not so any more. And this is just a few of the many problems. Therefore, there is no reason for optimism at this point. I have not seen any serious efforts to rectify some of these problems so far except a lot of talk.

    I’ll admit, having spent my ministry in the Texas and Southeast Districts might give me a very different point of view than if I was in Wyoming or Northern Ill. But that is the way I see it. .

  25. @Brad #31

    What Brad told you, is the best & most wise course, to take. Coming back, to the Church that raised, trained, & taught us, may not always be, what you will find. That varies, from Congregation to Congregation. If you want to stand fast in Liturgy & what we knew when we were small, you may have to visit a few.

    Remember, Doctrine is not Tradition, Doctrine is Foundation, & those are worlds, apart. I do not suggest, you take kids, with you, until you have narrowed down to the top 3. If you are lucky, you’ll have 3 Liturgical LCMS, in your area.
    I pray, it is blessedly easy, for you.
    Visit several times, sign the guest register, request a call back. Only if, it is one, you want, to call you back.
    What we knew, when we were small, is out there, just not, as we may have known it. BJS can help you, if you ask them. Just hit contact & they will help you. So will all of us, here. I can’t think of anyone, who would not! I’m in the same boat, coming from WELS to LCMS. I’ve found mine, my questions, well…the answers are not, what I was taught. You will be fine. Remember, we walk by Faith, we have Armor, & we have a family, brothers & sisters in Christ, our Lord. You can do this, you have, all of us.

  26. @Brad #31

    Thanks for the reply! My plan is to communicate my shift (return actually) to Lutheranism to my wife first, then to find a congregation, and then to communicate with my current bible church. Something has to change.

  27. @Dutch #33

    Good advice! Thanks for the reply. See my plan above. I hope to find a church where I can attend during the week and then with my wife at the bible church on Sunday, for as long as it takes. (No kids to consider) If there is a thread or place here to talk more about navigating this upcoming minefield, please point me to it. I don’t want to hijack this thread. 🙂

  28. @Doug Cohenour #35

    @Doug Cohenour #35

    Stay here! If you would like, contact BJS, & they can give emails, for those you would like to get in touch with. You have my permission, to ask for mine.
    Glad to hear, kids are not a factor. That, is a mighty sticky wicket, I have 2.
    Do not push, prod, nor manipulate, your dear wife, that is not, in any way, helpful. This is where, Corinthians 13, comes into play, even, yes, in this. If she has never had or known, it will take time. Invite yet never force. However, you do need to be brave enough to say, “I’m going, today.”
    Like I said, we walk by Faith, we have armor, for a reason, and we know Who walks before us, and you have many, family. It’s what brothers & sisters in Christ our Lord, just, well, quite plainly, do.
    This is not, an “ISM”. Confessional, is just being Lutheran, those are worldly terms. We are children of Christ, who are Lutheran.
    Sola Scriptura, Sola Gracia, Sola Fide, Sola Christos. 1st clue, if ya can’t find Luther’s Seal, on the website or just inside the front door, take note.
    Pax Christi, Doug!

  29. @Rev. Loren Zell #32
    Dear Rev. Zell,
    Come off the “ledge” my man, all is not that bleak, remember, old Elijah was all mournful and bummed out, but God told him their are a few others around. Yes, there are other believers and pastors for them (some here have a low view of the ministry and ordained men, not because of the heart and zeal for the ministry, but they only see the GPA).

    First thing we can do is “walk with the Lord”, have faith. Then as we walk, we feed the sheep we are under-shepherd for, then we look inside and see we fail, and we look to the cross, find God’s forgiveness through His Son…then we pick up and keep walking until with God, until He calls us home.

    Tonight, perhaps in Ascension service, I proclaim Torah as I remind them that Jesus came to fulfill what we could not.

    God IS good and all you can do is feed and tend the small plot that God assigned.

    I will say a prayer for you brother tonight. Prentice from NID “out”.

  30. @Pastor Prentice #37

    Pastor P,
    Thank you! It’s been a while, (1994) since I’ve heard a shepherd, speak so lovingly plain. I can’t imagine, how heartfelt & difficult, it must be, to encourage, fellow holders of the Office, yet you said it, very well indeed.

    Funny thing about Pastors doing that, when laity can see, you do it for all of us, too.

    Pray for all of us, here at BJS. One & all, if I may ask you, to do so. I do, every time, I visit.

    Thank you again.

  31. @Rev. Loren Zell #32

    Rev. Zell, I appreciate your honest comments and that there are important truths in your statements. I do not get the impression that your comments mean you are on the “ledge” but if that were the case, then it would be worth the reminder that there is always hope. I think you are very observant, however, in recognizing that “optimism” can be taken too far and used as an excuse to try to avoid dealing with unpleasant problems in the ways God, in His Word and the Confessions, calls us to deal with them. It is much easier, and in the short-term, personally and politically more beneficial to our leaders to do what they have been doing instead of what they should be doing according to God’s Word and the Confessions. That’s what it boils down to. In the long-term (and in the short-term for many of us) it hurts all of us, but our leaders will never admit that, so that is where your disappointment and feelings of discouragement are very valid. Like I said, I do not get the impression that you have lost all hope, however, so while I would agree with those who say “Do not lose hope,” I would also say that you have every right and reason to complain, given the realities.

    Your last sentence also illustrates very well, exactly a big part of the problem, so thank you for openly sharing your experience, and instead of spelling it out here, for those who don’t see what’s going on, maybe that is better left in the “let the reader understand” category at this time.

    Now to get ready for God’s mercies, gifts and blessings at our Ascension Service tonight. Thanks be to God!

  32. The Lutheran Quartet,
    Built on the Rock, the Church Doth Stand.
    Hymn #467

    Need anyone, say or ask, anything more?

  33. If you all don’t mind a question:

    In an evangelical / Bible church, the standard procedure before you are contemplating joining the church is to meet with the senior pastor and establish a relationship with him, getting to know one another, and investigating the doctrinal position of the church. In my experience this results in a friendship, or close personal relationship with the pastor which is watered and grown by attending various functions (men’s small groups, couple’s study, etc) and being drafted in to service ministries. In a small Bible church, this type of relationship is fairly easy to maintain.

    What is the expectation of a Lutheran pastor toward men like me who are investigating their church? I assume a private meeting with a pastor would be appropriate, considering I would be interested in becoming a communicant member.

    I don’t want to go into this with unrealistic expectations. I suspect that some of the emphasis on building a personal relationship with a pastor or other church leaders comes from a pietistic view of things. I appreciate your input. 🙂

  34. @Doug Cohenour #41


    A couple thoughts. Assuming you find a faithful and traditional Lutheran congregation, I think you can assume the ability to build a healthy relationship with your pastor. What is likely distinguished among Lutherans that is different from your other environment, is the doctrine of vocation. Pastors are people like everyone else, but they are called to solemnly execute the duties of their office by the command and in the stead of Christ– which means they will preach the Law in all its terror, and the Gospel in all its sweetness, administering the Sacraments as Christ instituted them. The pastor wouldn’t presume to step in and do the vocational duties of the fathers and mothers of his parish (and I doubt you would want him to try to be husband to your wife!) and the parishioners should not presume to step in and do the duties of the pastor. The lines that are drawn between pastor and parishioner are of vocation and duty, not of dignity or elevation.

    The center of life in the Lutheran congregation is Word and Sacrament. It is certainly true that Lutherans will engage the world in coordinated acts of mercy and charity, or gather together in smaller or larger groups of like minded people to enjoy each others’ company, but the small group dynamic with which you are familiar is not the traditional model of Lutheran life. Where pietists seem to find the real heart and soul of the church in the experience of small groups, Lutherans (like all catholic Christians) find the real heart and soul of the church where Christ delivers His gifts in Word and Sacrament.

    After meeting with the pastor, you’ll likely be invited to a new member’s education opportunity, so that you can understand Lutheran doctrine and practice in that place. It will usually be rooted in Luther’s Small Catechism, with a lot of discussion of Lutheran Biblical distinctives relative to other Christian and non-Christian groups. If through the journey of this course you and your pastor discover that you are of the same confession of the faith, you will be invited to join the congregation– a time when you will affirm the faith and confessions of the Lutheran Church as your own, and the congregation will joyfully commit to walking with you in that same confession.

    Somewhere in there, I’m sure you’ll be swarmed by committees and groups that would love to have you participate with them. Feel free to do so, as your own vocational responsibility and talents permit. But for Lutherans, these small groups and outreaches are never the essence of the church, but rather fruits of the faith given by Jesus in the Divine Service. In this way, participation is Gospel rather than Law– freedom, rather than compulsion. The church doesn’t exist to put you to work, but rather to deliver to you the works and gifts of Christ. Enlivened by Christ and His Word, you will by His Spirit accomplish the works God has given to you, starting with caring for and supporting the family He gave you.

    I hope that was helpful. Blessings to you in your search.

  35. I appreciate what Nathan Redman brought up for discussion and prayerful consideration here mainly because I share the same frustrations as a “Newtheran” myself.

    From my humble (and limited I’m sure) perspective, it seems as if the main problem is a lack of on-going catechesis. For whatever reason, DISTINCTLY LUTHERAN catechesis seems to end when a person is confirmed when, in reality, the ideal situation would be for it to continue to and throughout their adult life, correct?

    I mean, I can’t begin to tell you how many “life-long” Lutherans I know who don’t even know the very basics of our shared and cherished confession of faith like what the Small Catechism says, that there’s a thing called the Book of Concord, or that there are some key differences between what we Lutherans believe, teach, and confess with what other Christians believe, teach, and confess.

    Worse, is that all the ones I know have never been properly taught why we should even care about such things, IMHO. After all, “When I die and go to heaven, I’m not going to be asked if I’m a Lutheran!” is an actual response I was given by one life-long Lutheran when I merely attempted to bring up the subject of why we need to be true to all the things we proclaim we believe, teach, and confess by the church sign out front.

    Sorry for the lengthy rant. I just think this is a topic that can’t be brought up enough.

    Grace And Peace,

  36. @Brad #42

    Hi Brad, Yes, that was very helpful. The doctrine of vocation is surely one of the primary differences! I will let you know how it goes. Pray for me. Tonight I hope to broach the subject with my wife over dinner.

  37. @Jeff Radt #43

    Jeff, I can understand your frustration, but the problem goes far beyond amount of catechesis. Who is doing the catechising makes a big difference. It is no secret because it has been stated on this blog before, that there are LCMS Pastors (and District VPs, by the way) who take and teach that view expressed in your quote, “When I die….” In my part of the country, we were not taught that view by our LCMS Pastors in the 60s, 70s, or early 80s, but later on, that view and many other false teachings crept into LCMS churches through the leadership of other LCMS Pastors. Those Pastors recruit like-minded people, many from outside the LCMS, and when the majority shifts, they take over and shove those who disagree with them out. As all of this has happened, and continues to happen more than ever, the confessional, Synodical office-holders who have the ability and platform to speak out, refuse to say anything to warn the unsuspecting public about the Pastors who mislead with these false views.

    So, depending on who is doing the catechising, students may not get the correct information, and life-long instruction into error may even do more harm than good. As Nathan, the author of this article expressed, we’ve got problems. We treasure those LCMS Pastors who are faithful and responsible in their teaching, and we can give thanks to God when we find a few of these embattled under-Shepherds in some parts of our country.

  38. @Doug Cohenour #41

    I like my pastor but his service to me and my family is far more important then if I like him or even get along with him. I’d be careful with having high expectations when it comes to getting close with your pastor on a personal level. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get to know your pastor but always keep in mind the most important role he serves in your life.


  39. @Nathan Redman #46

    Yeah, I understand. In a small Bible church it’s kind of expected. The larger the church, the less it is, but you are still supposed to be involved and committed and mentored and discipled, especially by someone who is on a higher level than you are.

    I’ll try to curb my enthusiasm… 🙂

  40. @SJLC been there done that #25

    The opinion that the LCMS is better than it has been is just that, an opinion. It is a very biased perspective and opinion.


    Pr Wilken is the world’s number one LCMS critic by his own admission – often imitated never duplicated. 🙂

    He simply advocates perspective, patience, persistence instead of surrender and despair.

  41. @John Rixe #48

    I think you missed some of what was being advocated in that speech, but that’s fine, it’s not worth arguing about as far as I’m concerned. Anyway, complete surrender and total despair are not being advocated here. I know you think one of the comments suggested a kind of surrender, but to me, even that looks more like an expression of frustration than any determined push for an actual surrender, so fears of surrender and total despair really are beside the point.

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