Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A letter to a concerned parishoner

The following was written to a parishoner in a Missouri Synod parish who wrote me because he had no where else to go.

Alright...a chance to sit down and give your letter the attention it merits. :)

I hear a lot of pain in what you write, -------, and I'm with you. One of the chief elements of authentic Christianity (an element missing from many congregations) is the theology of the cross. In this world we will have trouble, but Christ has given us the promise of peace in his death and resurrection. As you face down the beast and its many heads which seek to distract you, to put you back on yourself, to dissuade you from knowing nothing but Christ and him crucified, your solace and comfort is that Christ and his resurrection knows you. He has baptized you into his holy, triune Name. He is our one and only hope, even as the Church.

It does not surprise me that you have not been able to engage anyone at --------, with regard to ecclesiology, theology and the depth of faith you have found in apologetics resources like -----------. It is an unfortunate reality for all too many LCMS congregations in these gray and latter days, but we have bought into the american revivalism notion that we can do mission without theology - which is to forget that the theology is the mission! It is the Word which spreads and grows the Church. Yet glamor, people and dollars drive the church growth movement and its predecessor big tent revivals. To these winds of teaching, true doctrine is anathema. Currently, most are more concerned with propping up failing institutions than with striving to point those institutions back to the Vine from which they have detached themselves. Are the people not reaching out? There is a reason - they have no reason to reach. The only reason one reaches spontaneously is because the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Christ for you for the forgiveness of your sins has taken root in the heart. It's the only thing that matters. Only theology - Bible study, Church study, and expository preaching - can bring such life to mission.

When we think that we will bring more to "faith" and then bring them to theology, we have put the cart before the horse. Theology is the knowledge of God. One cannot have faith/trust in the Risen Lord Jesus without knowing who he is. And one cannot tell others about him and what he's done without hearing who he is, week in and week out. You don't go out to a garden and tell your plants: "Grow!" "Bear fruit!" You water the garden, and then the garden bears fruit.

RE, the article "----------," it is the same old story. It's these very ideas that have been slaughtering the health of the Church in the US for decades. The old mainline churches went this route with high culture nearly a century ago, and now...well...Bob Tiller is an example. Now Evangelicals are doing the same thing with pop culture. Where Christ says, "Come out of the world," "Be in it not of it," and "He who loves the world hates God," the gurus of marketing are telling us, "Be worldly," "Be of it," "Stop being religious."

It's bad news. I'm glad your discernment meter picked up on the sell-out strategy and balked.

There is much to be said for not being idiots when it comes to our community relations. Going to events, being in the community, getting back to mercy and care works - these are all good things. But the reason churches don't do these things is the same I've stated above - they (or their pastors) already bought the "less theology more community" line a generation ago. The fruit is what you see. Now, we try to fix the problem by doing more of what caused the problem. We call it "change," but nothing has changed. The simple fact is that if you tickle the flesh to attract people to your congregation, you will have a congregation full of flesh-driven people, but no Church. What you draw people with, you will also have to keep people with. Our Lord said, "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up like a snake on a poll" and "When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself."

The Church of Jesus draws people with the preaching/confessing of Christ crucified for the forgiveness of our sins. The less we do of that, the more trouble we will see. We might save an institution or two, but we will not be the Church.

In this way, the ELCA has become and is what it is. I know many fine and faithful Christians in the ELCA - but the greatest tribute to their faith is their own concern and lament for the lack of Christianity in the ELCA. Like all the mainline denominations who followed the classical liberal rabbit trails, they have taken themselves outside the sheep pen. Dr. Tiller was once a member of an LCMS congregation. He was excommunicated for his refusal to repent of his abortions. The ELCA has long publicly endoresed a "woman's right to choose" as a Christian virtue. In many ways it goes hand in hand with the entire feminist agenda, including women clergy, etc.

How can this happen? The antichrist always makes his seat in the Church of God. The devil isn't as busy in the world as we often think. He's busy in the Church. In the world, he's already got people. What he wants to do is take down that cross, get Jesus to the side or dressed up like a happy pet, and by no means giving his blood in the holy Sacrament for the forgiveness of your sins.

There are those in the ELCA who hold to the Bible. But even then, it is done so officially with the caveat that the Bible contains errors because it was written by man. This is a giant loophole that has allowed the ELCA to be at the forefront of liberal social agendas such as abortion for a long time. How can we dialogue with them? I really don't know. I know we can dialogue with those in their midst who are fighting the tide, but the body itself is a great danger. Many of the laity do not know all that their church body is up to, but truly, that is not a good excuse.

OK. Now for some links for you!!!!

The murder of the murderer has been well discussed at Issues, Etc - which will help you as much or more than --------. Here is an interview with Dr. John Warwick Montgomery of Patrick Henry College, and another with Greg Koukal of Stand to Reason.

On the Decline of the American Church, here is a phenomenal interview with Dr. David Wells of Gordon Conwell Seminary. And on the Missouri Synod's great failures in this light, here is the last of a three part series on Eastern Orthodoxy with Rev. David Jay Weber. It is a fantastic analysis.

Ok. And now for two book recommendations.

The first is "Christ have mercy" by Rev. Matthew Harrison. You want to get out in the community the Scriptural way, this book is a must read.

The second is "Redefining Christianity" by Bob DeWay. It is an analysis of the Purpose-Driven movement and it's unScriptural basis and dangers.

God bless you -----. You may have some tough decisions to make in the years ahead. But it starts with getting yourself more and more ingrained in the theological confessors movement of Lutherans in the LCMS. Your best tool for that right now is Issues, Etc. And, of course, the Church's prayer, "Lord, have mercy. Come, Lord Jesus, Come."

PS I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to be posting a version of this letter on my blog, with the names removed to protect the innocent and guilty alike!


Adam said...

You have given the thirsty man the living water of Christ from the pure, clear fountain of Israel—awesome.

Acolyte4236 said...

Actually the Issues Etc. programon Orthodoxy was filled with demonstratable inaccuracies.

RevFisk said...

Thanks for the comment.

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