This is the Missouri Synod?

The following article was written by Rev. Dr. Kristian Kincaid, and was published in the April 2016 Lutheran Clarion, a publication of The Lutheran Concerns Association. Reprinted with permission.

Lutheran Clarion

This is the Missouri Synod?

“We should know what to expect in the Missouri Synod.” This comment was made to me by one of my members who had traveled and located a sister congregation of our Synod. Much to her chagrin and dismay, that which she rightly expected was not to be found. No hymnal, but screens. No hymns, but theologically void praise songs. No vestments, but collared shirt and khaki pants. No liturgy, no Law and Gospel, no lectern, no pulpit, no historic Creed, no Christ, no order of worship but disorder. Those gathered in that particular sanctuary heard a “how to” sermon that could only lead to pride or pessimism. A rare occurrence? Sadly, no. As she left the service my member pondered, “This is the Missouri Synod?”

We have come to expect the unexpected in our Missouri Synod. This should not be. You enter a McDonald’s fully knowing what to expect. How much more so the House of God! We are not walking as one in doctrine and practice. I challenge you to visit various congregations in the Synod. A plethora of worship styles and practices will be readily evident. We are fragmented. “What works” is the end all in far too many parishes, instead of “what is right.” Open communion, “how to” sermons devoid of Christ, clips of movies shown in sanctuaries, meaningless ditties, and entertainment driven anthropocentric services among others leads me to lament also… “This is the Missouri Synod?”

This IS the state of our Missouri Synod. While on vacation, my family and I have witnessed these things first hand. One of my sons, after a “drama service” said to me, “Dad, why? Why would they do that?” “We heard nothing of Jesus.” We are told that “successful congregations” are growing. They have a mixed bag approach that draws people in. Stagnant congregations are encouraged to adopt similar strategies so that they will increase numerically too. Why would they do that? Far too many Pastors do whatever is right in their own eyes, acquiescing to societal norms and various strategies. Why would they do that? Pastors are called to be faithful, not successful. The right proclamation of the Word and administration of the Holy sacraments may mean fewer members, not more. Faithful Pastors suffer for rightly scorning the acclamation of men and leaving canned programs in their shiny wrappers. The right doctrine leads to the right practice; the right practice reflects the right doctrine.

The truth be told: our Synod has problems. We must dismiss the glowing propaganda of the Reporter. Laxity and dishonesty only deepens problems. District Presidents should visit their congregations as should Circuit Visitors to encourage faithfulness. Our convention should call for the faithfulness of each Pastor and congregation, each District President, each Circuit Visitor. There is a dangerous timidity in our Synod that mirrors the deadly political correctness of the wicked world. The unwritten rule wafting through Synodical air: do not be critical of any other congregation or Pastor you might be sued. You dare not say anything. How dare we not!

I have heard of the desire to have a harmonious Synodical convention in Milwaukee. Why would they do that? I pray for contention. May unabashed honesty mark our Synod’s convention and not disingenuous harmony. One thing is certain: if we fail to address these issues the days of knowing what to expect in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod are forever gone. We stood silently while chaos reigned. Why would they do that?

Rev. Dr. Kristian Kincaid
Senior Pastor, Our Redeemer Lutheran Church Dubuque, IA

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.


This is the Missouri Synod? — 88 Comments

  1. @John Rixe #50

    That’s a reasonable position, but is not in accordance with the Scriptures. And it is not in accordance with Walther and Pieper. It’s unionism.

    (If any reader thinks I’m wrong here, please show me quotes from the Bible, Walther or dr Pieper that contradict me.)

  2. You gave us a list a few years ago, but I couldn’t find it. This is helpful for those who feel the need to explore other possible affiliations.

    What, so all good confessional Lutherans can “explore other possible affiliations” and ultimately bequeath the LCMS to those who would make it fit to do the Lord’s work?
    Tell you what; we appear to be at an impasse, at loggerheads. What good does it do to effect change, à la Five2 and TCN, when it is deemed by many in the Synod as breaking faith and causes them to become disaffected? What have you gained? So in the missional mindset, it’s okay to run off the confessionals in order to serve the higher purpose of reaching all those souls outside the church that God really cares about? Mark Driscoll would agree as he is famous for his philosophy, “You either get on the bus or you get run over by the bus. Those are the options; but the bus ain’t gonna stop.” The “new wave outreachers” seem so obsessed with blaming institutional church for being irrelevant trying to reach the lost that they lose sight of its primary purpose: The preaching of the Word and administration of the Sacraments for the forgiveness of sins to those who are already IN the church. Stop, already, with the disparaging remarks like, “Lutherans loathe change” as if stricken by some genetic neurosis that makes us that way. And statements like, “Small congregations are small because they’re turned in on themselves” and don’t care about lost souls as though we’re anti-social xenophobes.
    Missionalism (in its popular narrow sense) may well overtake the LCMS to the exclusion of confessional doctrine and practice but don’t expect me to acquiesce while it is joined to the ranks of the ELCA or to some other run-of-the-mill (read “American Evangelical”), nondenominational churches. Why not be distinctly, confessionally Lutheran in an otherwise doctrinally mushy evangelical milieu? The confessional argument is strong against the mercurial movement that denigrates the historic, catholic liturgy and those who love it. I find it interesting how church growth gurus must have a straw man to blame for the church’s declining attendance and membership. What better straw man to blame than stuffy, institutional church? If only Christendom would jettison the non-essentials and keep the main thing the main thing, they say. For what it’s worth, I was born into the Brethren Church, an Anabaptist Christian denomination, and wasn’t baptized until I was 10 years old. I grew up in ALC and LCA congregations and have many fond memories. I was confirmed at 15 years in silent protest, even though the memory work was very light. I have no reason to be loyal to the Lutheran confessions and to cherish them and I didn’t for the longest time. In fact, they have not brought me peace, but a sword that will not depart from my life. Still, I trust them as The reliable guide to understanding Holy Scripture. Next to God’s word, they are the expository crown jewels of their adherents.

  3. There is a dangerous timidity in our Synod that mirrors the deadly political correctness of the wicked world.

    I liken this to District promoting the Friday-casual approach to “doing” church in order to mirror secular corporate life. Whatever the popular culture (read, “world”) wants, the popular culture gets. If you care about pure “Lutheran aka Christian” doctrine and think it matters you are like a character in a spy fiction thriller wherein nobody can be trusted, not even at the highest levels, as you try to find someone who understands and can help you expose and correct institutionalized corruption. You’re like John Book in the movie, “The Witness” (1985) or Serpico (1973) trying to reach someone on the force with integrity but alas, are all the while being pulled deeper into the conspiracy despite sounding the alarm. Or worse, you are ignored and marginalized as irrelevant. You get blank, vacant stares from those to whom you mention “the problem” of becoming like the megachurch down the street, or “the problem” of viewing Steven Furtick and Craig Groeschel videos during Sunday school hour. After a while, you begin to wonder why no one else sees what you see. They want to know if your concerns are salvific, and if not why do you bother them? And then discouragement turns to disillusionment when you learn that, for all the talk about getting the Synod back on track, our SP has had little influence on the COP as they continue to upgrade their Districts to meet the demands of post-modern 21st Century and steadily move away from the historic catholic faith, doctrine, and practice of Scripture and the Confessions. The DPs ultimately are interested in BITPS and encourage hip and trendy methods of church modernization to make it more appealing (ixnay on the insay) to the unbelieving and unchurched and label it “obedience to the Great Commission,” to counter the dismal science of dwindling church demographics; a very convenient untruth. Not that church demographics aren’t languishing but that the blame has been projected onto those of us in the institutional church with so-called “regressive attitudes.” But you’ve heard all this before.

  4. @John Rixe #50

    John Rixe, from which fount does this apparent new found love for confessionalism burst forth? I haven’t been on this site in a long while. You were a card-carrying liberal and now you’ve seen the light? God be praised, indeed.

  5. @Rev. Jakob Fjellander #51

    The number of LCMS churches that adhere to Walther and Peiper must number in the very low double digits. It’s hard to imagine a culture more anti-Peiper than the one in which we presently toil. I’m soon leaving the US for post-Christian Europe, where I intend to renounce my citizenship. I imagine I’ll soon be missing even the liberal LCMS congregations.

  6. A prudent choice, no doubt. I’ve been a Christian for many years and still haven’t found a denomination that completely satisfies me doctrinally. I think you’re right; Christian is the only label that matters.

  7. Mr. Diekmann,

    I am a young Lutheran layman who attends an LCMS church that is currently divided between confessional influence (the minority) and evangelical/missional influence (the majority). I was wondering if I may ask you some questions via email. I would like to hear another layman’s perspective.

    Thank you,


  8. @Dakota Monday #58
    Dear Dakota,
    As a Pastor, your comment lovingly makes no sense. Confessional and evangelical / missional go hand in hand. There is no difference, just another side of the same coin. What do you really mean, Ask a Pastor please.

  9. @Pastor Prentice #60

    This is false and insulting to Dakota. Generally speaking, evangelicals are interested in contemporary worship and works righteousness. To be Confessional is to adhere without reservation to the Lutheran Confessions as originally written. Lovingly, your response is demeaning. And ridiculous, frankly.

  10. @Jamie #61
    Dear Jamie,
    Sorry you think insulting, but you need to rethink what being a Lutheran and confessional is all about. We are both inward and outward, saved at the cross and then going to share it with my neighbor. We are both, and terms do matter.
    If you want to go down a line of liturgical style, say so…and give it some thought please what you think.
    As for works, this confessional will remind you that they flow from the fact I am justified, called sanctification.
    We must stop tossing terms around and then meaning something else.

  11. @Pastor Prentice #62
    Reread what Dakota said Pastor Prentice. He said the church “is currently divided between confessional influence (the minority) and evangelical/missional influence (the majority).” You don’t need to criticize him for framing it that way. He means the church is divided between those who want to spread the Gospel in a confessional way through Word and Sacrament ministry and those who want to spread the Gospel via, what I assume could be via a bunch of programs and other emphases focused on you and what you’re doing. “Evangelical/missional” means “NOT LUTHERAN.” He can correct me if I’m wrong. I doubt he’s going to be asking you for advice after you refuted an argument he (and Jamie) didn’t make, in a rather sacerdotal-sounding rebuke. Dakota can certainly also email any of the pastors who write for BJS, all of whom would be more than willing to help.

  12. Maybe we’re all just talking past each other again and not explaining everything in the kindest way despite intentions. Unfortunately it’s easy to do on blogs where tone is impossible to communicate.

    We wait in hope for the Lord;
        he is our help and our shield.
    In him our hearts rejoice,
        for we trust in his holy name.
    May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
        even as we put our hope in you.

    Ps 33

  13. Pr. Prentice, et al…

    The conservatives self identify as confessionals.
    the liberals (old ‘moderates’) self identify as missional.

    In an ideal world (or maybe once upon a time) both terms can be beautifully applicable. Of late, however, these terms have taken on a meaning of what the two political camps in the LCMS are. I dare say I completely knew what Dakota Monday was talking about, and the frustration that person is having. Living on the east coast, I experience it almost all the time.

  14. Dear Scott, all,

    I think we need to truly remind our audiences the terms and what is the ideal. Yes, I get it,
    I read Dakota’s comments as contemporary worship is coming to town, as opposed to a drive to being more mission minded in the communities we serve.

    Confessionals should be missional, they go hand in hand truly, the Bible exhorts us to do so.

    Yes, we need to drive back to that ideal world, but clean up the junk as well.

    I challenge (wrong word, ask and desire you) Dakota to send me the specifics, and as a Circuit Visitor, perhaps I can see if this plays in my town.

  15. @Scott Diekmann #63
    Dear Scott,
    As I reread your comments, I understand the disdain you and many have for non-Lutheran practice of theology, but being Lutheran IS being mission minded.

    You cannot bring the Sacraments in mission, only I can as pastor (in good order); and most of the time, it happens in the Church in the Divine Service.

    But you can bring the Word, accompanied by the works and deeds that flow from following God’s Word, and by sharing the Word of the Christ, the Gospel, the Salvation of the cross and risen Lord Jesus.

    I take it you are truly mission minded.

    We need to, truly we need to not be so scared in the realm of sanctification. We are justified, at the fount by Baptism, at the cross, etc. We than go and share it. And when the evangelized people hear by the Word by the Power of the Holy Spirit alone, they come join us in catechesis, the catechumanete, etc. and then join the saints at the fount, at the Eucharist, etc.

  16. @Pastor Prentice #68

    Agreed Rev. Prentice, although you shouldn’t need to “take it” that I’m “truly mission minded,” since I’ve been writing for BJS since 2008, the year we first opened the door! The written evidence ought to speak for itself. And “truly” sounds like there are levels of mission, or as my friend Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller puts it, “how missional are ya?”

    Here’s a few quotes from Dr. Schulz’ excellent book Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission:

    p. 78 Mission is the act of extending the gift of righteousness and forgiveness to the world through its preaching of the Word and administering of the Sacraments.

    p. 79 Justification is missiological in its very essence, since it describes what mission is at its core: imparting salvation through the forgiveness of sins.

    p. 96 The nature and characteristic of today’s mission undoubtedly finds its place in the mission of the Holy Spirit. While mission becomes in part a holistic endeavor of human care services as the First Article would suggest, and while it is wholly based on the objective and reconciling work of Christ on the cross, mission’s lasting relevancy lies in its being a kerygmatic and sacramental act (Rom. 10:9-17).
    Although there may be some that consider this approach an illegitimate aggrandizement, I nevertheless maintain that the mission of the Church flows from the theocentric and trinitarian impulse and revelation itself. In emphasizing the theocentric dimension of mission, one might think that the concept of missio Dei would have difficulties in incorporating and defining the human enterprise. But the mission of God in time continues through the activity of human preachers and workers throughout the world, while the success of mission remains God’s alone. Newbigin discerns both aspects of mission in this way: “But the Church is not the source of the witness; rather, it is the locus of witness.” Van Rheenen states similarly: “Mission does not originate with human sources, for ultimately it is not a human enterprise. Mission is rooted in the nature of God, who sends and saves.”

    p. 106 All Christians, as members of the priesthood of all believers, have as part of their calling a responsibility to speak the Gospel to their neighbors. 1 Pet. 2:5, 9 states, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of Him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” First Peter 3:15 affirms this continual readiness to give witness on account of the hope of the Gospel.

    p. 144 Affirming the Holy Spirit as the subject of mission from the cross frees Lutheran mission from seeking ambitious goals of expansion. Rather, the Church concentrates on one major activity: the proclamation of the Gospel from which the Church as community emerges and lives. The full extent of the Church’s mission is the correct preaching of God’s Word, and just this constitutes God’s mission. For what goes on beyond our preaching activities lies in the hands of the Holy Spirit, including the growth and expansion of the Church. This understanding summarizes the Lutheran contribution to missiology. The Church participates in the mission of the Holy Spirit, but she does not become “co-redeemer” (co-redemptrix) in the strict sense. To put it simply: the Church’s proclamation of the Word only reaches the ears; she cannot penetrate the heart to bring saving faith, as conversant and as knowledgeable as her preachers may be in the language and culture of the people to whom they minister.

    p. 207 The Church is defined in the indicative, for what she is, rather than by what she does. To be sure, Christians are inclined to understand themselves by what they are doing, by purposes established in their life, and as such they think in terms of ethics and activism. For example, some Christians affirm their Christian calling by getting involved in mission. However, such activism (even mission activism!) should not be confused with the true definition of what the Church is. Any ethical dimension of the Church is only a consequence of what it is: the community of faith.

    Klaus Detlev Schulz, Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission (St. Louis: CPH, 2009)

    End of quotes.

    One more comment, I don’t think Lutherans are scared in the realm of sanctification. I see plenty of sanctification going on from the pew-sitters viewpoint. One need only read our confession to torpedo the “Lutherans are weak on sanctification” argument – it was Eck who first promulgated that lie:

    FC SD, II, 71-72: “But the question is about the effective cause. Who works this in us? How does a person have this? How does he get it? Therefore, this teaching informs us that, since the natural powers of mankind cannot do anything or help toward it (1 Corinthians 2:14; 2 Corinthians 3:5), God, out of His infinite goodness and mercy, comes first to us. He causes His Holy Gospel to be preached. The Holy Spirit desires to work and accomplish this conversion and renewal in us. Through preaching and meditation on His Word God kindles faith and other godly virtues in us. They are the Holy Spirit’s gifts and works alone. Therefore, this teaching directs us to the means that the Holy Spirit desires to begin and do this. It also teaches us about how those gifts are preserved, strengthened, and increased. It warns us that we should not let God’s grace be bestowed on us in vain, but diligently use it and ponder how great a sin it is to hinder and resist such works of the Holy Spirit [Acts 7:51].”

  17. @Pastor Prentice #68

    As I reread your comments, I understand the disdain you and many have for non-Lutheran practice of theology, but being Lutheran IS being mission minded.

    Yes, “being Lutheran is being mission minded”.

    But try selling that to the people who say “missional” with a sneer for anyone who isn’t “doing worship” with a band in the chancel or pushing the latest [fundraising] program out of the district office.

    Confessional Lutherans know what being mission minded is. Genuine missionaries have been supported since the beginning of LCMS.

    But “missional” is another jargon, as Jason tried to explain to you.
    Whether it actually means reaching formerly unchurched individuals, as you might think, is a good question!

  18. @Pastor Prentice #62

    In my experience, conservative confessional Lutherans are not particularly interested mission or evangelizing beyond those in the congregation. Actually, it’s one of the things about confessionalism that turned me off. But no one should pay any attention to me. I’m currently worshipping at a COGIC congregation.

  19. @Jamie #75
    Dear Jamie,
    That is sad, but I have seen that too. There is a balancing act. In my case, I am really trying hard to empower my congregation to go out and share the Gospel. Yet, I must make sure that the flock is cared for with the utmost care when they come inside His Church, and yes, that is by Word and Sacrament.
    It is a hostile world out there but we need to keep trying to share the Good News when able.

  20. I really shouldn’t even comment on this issue (so why does he keeping commenting, they asked incredulously), but my last confessional experience felt like a closed cult. I don’t agree with all the theology of the Baptists and Pentecostals, I’m aware of Luther’s wise injunction against enthusiasm, but I also want to worship in a happy place, not the funeral setting of a legalistic cult. It’s frustrating that I have to choose between doctrinal orthodoxy and satisfying worship.

  21. The worst thing about the staid, buttoned down, conservatism of my last congregation was that it bleached all the joy out of worship. So condemn my COGIC brothers and sisters, condemn holiness, condemn the Four Square Gospel,but at least I get to feel and experience the power of the Spirit.

  22. @Jamie #78

    “…but at least I get to feel and experience the power of the Spirit.” (contrasted against: …but I also want to worship in a happy place, not the funeral setting of a legalistic cult.)


    Please read the following in the understanding that I am not picking on you rather you provide a good opportunity to make a point. And I do deeply appreciate your comments more that I have time to indicate through writing.

    At the risk of being crass, if one had an orgasm while sitting in a pew while hearing the Law and Gospel preached soundly from the pulpit or receiving the blessed Sacrament, what confidence or assurance would one have that the Spirit was at work or what they had just heard was in fact truth?

    No confidence comes from the flesh. True confidence comes completely and solely by faith in the alien righteousness of God Himself to His promises in His Word. Not by subjective enthusiasm.

    This is war with the flesh.

    The “confessional” understanding of the Scriptures and the subsequent deliberate intentional purposeful personal conviction of orientation to it results from the Gospel itself. This moves us away from what we want by our nature and toward doing what we don’t want acting in faith. Keep on the alert (in all things) for the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. In short, endure what you don’t like for a time for the sake of faithfulness to Christ. ( I am NOT advocating subjecting yourself to a legalistic cult if in fact that is what it is. That is also folly.)

    I commend and encourage you for your desire to diligently search the Scriptures for in them is Eternal Life.

    Peace be with you in Christ Jesus where ever He leads you in this life. May He guide you in His faithfulness!



  23. @noye #79

    I’m aware of all that. I’m thoroughly acquainted with Lutheran theology. Ive read the Confessions, Peiper, Walther, What Luther Said, etc ad infinitum. The reality is Luther wouldn’t recognize what has become of his church. Luther was a passionate man, full of fun and humor. Most confessional congregations are dull, plodding, and, yes, funereal. You know, there isn’t actually a Biblical injunction against entertaining worship. And lose the orgasm metaphor. It’s gross.

  24. @noye #79

    Not only that, I subscribe fully to the unaltered Confessions and believe orthodox Lutheran theology to be correct in all its points. My problem with the church is probably mostly personal. I went through a difficult period in my life and received plenty of Law and zero Gospel. I think I could have been convinced to change my decision had I not received cold, stony judgement and accusations of heresy. I would sooner cut off a hand than commit heresy.I’m anxious to return to a confessional church, but I live in a town with few options. So I study the sermons of Luther and listen to the Lutheran Hour. I sure miss Communion.

  25. It’s a vexing conundrum. I want to be confessional, but I have no congregation where I can exercise that wish.

  26. @Jamie #82

    If you want to be confessional, Jamie, you understand that you need Word and Sacrament regularly. You don’t deprive yourself of these things because you feel the organist plays too slowly. [I’ve “been there, survived that.” (For decades.)]

    Get to church, and look for what’s there, instead of what’s lacking!
    Things will only be perfect in heaven.

  27. @helen #83

    You’re right. My specific situation is a dearth of confessional churches in my area. Of course, when I move to Scotland, I’ll have to find a Lutheran congregation amid the unacceptable Calvinism of the state church.

  28. @Jamie #82

    Metaphor lost. Admonishment accepted.
    From what you write you are doing well my brother. Continue!
    As I wrote I deeply appreciate your position especially as you elaborated further. I myself could have written what you did.
    Similar past personal experiences and current concerns with regard to worship in quasi-confessional congregations, many with the name Lutheran. Hmmm…seems to be a theme of increasing magnitude and frequency.
    Ever considered starting your own congregation? I’m not joking. Even if it is with just your family?
    Matthew 18:20 “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
    You might just be a needed answer to prayer to some in Scotland!

    Peace in Christ,


  29. I apologize for not responding to the comments sooner. When I get a chance today I will respond to them specifically. My concern with the LCMS church I go to is not contemporary worship. Instead it’s more of that “old time gospel” signing. I came out of the Southern baptist denomination two years ago. So when I say “evangelical/missional” I am thinking of SBC way of doing things which I see in my lutheran church. SBC way is not focused on the sacraments at all. It worries me to see the LCMS church I go to be influenced by baptist theology. Some hold off on baptizing their infants. Some want a more open communion. We are without a pastor and in the mist of calling one which is taking a long time.

    I’ll be happy to talk via email to any pastor. Contact me at

    Thank you.

  30. @Dakota Monday #87
    Dear Dakota,
    Thanks for sharing, you have my email.

    As for some of the ana-baptist type influences, especially on baptism, I would be happy to share some thoughts.

    Baptism is so solid and central to the Grace of God, especially infant Baptism, waiting is not a proper option. I am working on my MA at Wheaton, a whole bunch of evangelicals, and I think some are even swinging to infant baptism, the debates are good and the Biblical record is so solid.

    Even Holy Communion practice we discuss, and they understand “closed” communion that we practice.

    I would love to chat…

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