Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Point - Counterpoint

So a member of my recent former church tried to make a comment on my previous post.  He could not post it because the Facebook sharing app I use "Networked Blogs" interferes with the comments part if you follow the link from Facebook.  So he just emailed me the comment.  I answered it in email but I thought I would share the points and my responses.  It seems very fair.

Point 1:

 (1) Based on your comments, I agree that you should leave the church and synod. You spoke of a conscience issue, and you must follow your conscience, even if it should be erring or misinformed.

Response 1:

1.)  you are 100% correct.

Point 2:

 (2) I hope you see the irony here. You cite postmodernism and relativism as major enemies to be confronted, yet you based your action on your personal feelings, impressions, and opinions rather than on any doctrine grounded in revealed, absolute truth. You made yourself a kind of poster child for postmodernism by not basing your severing of confessional fellowship on divine truth or established departures from biblical truth, but on your subjective feelings and opinions on adiaphora. (Adiaphora in fact, not an empty word as you say.) 

Response 2:

2.)  I will make sure I am more clear next time. To some degree you are correct based on the information I presented.  I should have been sharper.  After writing what turned out to be a very very long post I took out the doctrinal and confessional points as they sort of became a post of their own but I should have adjusted and added disclaimers to what remained.  I have not posted this other post yet as it needs work. However it would have at least helped to note that I didn't leave the synod based on individual practices.  I left Votl based on individual practices.  I left the synod for doctrinal reasons. If adiaphora were all that was involved I could have just moved to a WELS church near my house.  However I think you are justified in noting that what I presented was ...well...poorly presented.  At a minimum I should have positioned what I wrote as a commentary on where and why I think error is creeping in with a promise that I would expound on the actual errors in the future.  As I think about it...I think I will post a retraction and restate my position.  For the very reason you noted (posterboy...)I do not want to convey the wrong message.

Point 3

(3) Finally, I pray you acknowledge and confess your ethical lapse in throwing out the name "Time of Grace" and accusing it of having "lax doctrinal structure" (whatever that means, it is contextually pejorative) without any substantiation of that. That is slander by Bible standards and contrary to the Eighth Commandment. May you be granted swift repentance and enjoy anew the amazing truth that with God there is full and free forgiveness because of the perfect atoning work of Jesus Christ.

Response 3

3.) Unfortunately on this point there would be no such thing.  I've been dormant in the blogging world for awhile..I did hear this here and there in the past.  I have to admit this is the fastest the 8th commandment card has been whipped out but I will add it to the list.  I didn't know we had to cite substantiation with our accusations but I will do that here AND make sure I correct such things online. It's my mistake for assuming that the ways of PMJ were not in the public domain.  its rare I find someone who sticks up for it.

My Time of Grace Points

1.) The LCMS RSO thing.  You can spin this however you want, finagle the wording, get special dispensations on the rules from LCMS, but it all boils down to a supreme effort to skirt the rules of fellowship.  It was noticed enough to get reasonable support for a memorial against it at the convention.  Alas we gave ToG a mulligan on that one.  I suppose it doesn't matter now since the LCMS ended the RSO status anyways.

2.) Change or Die:  So now not only does PMJ participate in this ecumenical conference of ministry with ELCA and LCMS, now he and ToG are sponsoring it.  Even though the COP specifically told the first WELS participants the first time they participated that they should back out. (two did...) PMJ did not.  Again this is not a free conference and seems to show the world that we can all share and participate in ministry together.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some lesbian ELCA pastor/spirit guide has a presentation on ministering to the Inner city of San Francisco.  Can't wait.
3.)Here are some Facebook posts from ToG: 
  • August 5: "When we choose to believe Jesus, we release his blessings into our lives and miracles happen all over again. -PJM"
  • August 13:"God's there for us when we need him. When we trust in him, we give him the chance to make even an illness work for us and his glory.- PMJ"
  • September 2: "Guess what? God guides your daily walk. He cares enough about your life to help you deal with life's toughest questions. Do you feel surrounded by darkness and unsure of what to do? Let him speak to you.- PMJ"
  • September 15:"Today, focus on letting God work in your heart-and don't be so suspicious of his motives.-PMJ"
  • September 16: "Only the love of Christ heals wounds. Only YOU can decide to let Christ calm your spirit and speak gently about what's hurting you.- PMJ"
  • December 10: "Something to focus on this Christmas season-are you one of the INN crowd or one of the STABLE few? Will you make room for Jesus?"
If you'd like I can find more... 
in order to state some more authoritative text in case we even need to do that:
  • Augsburg Confession article XVIII.: "it (man's free will) has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness."
  • Explanation of the Third Article of the Apostles' Creed:  "I believe that I cannot by my own thinking or choosing believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to him."
So since I was contextually pejorative with the term "doctrinally lax"  Hopefully this will put some context around it and what I meant by that.  Even if you can wiggle yourself out of each and every single statement and situation with some explanation that just might make it marginally ok...I would say that stretching the bounds of propriety that often is at best not wise and at worst just a sleazy way to ignore doctrine.  So consider my statement as a kind interpretation because my personal opinion is that ToG is complete and utter crap.


Here is some additional information.  This is from Feb 6th on ToG facebook:  "Moms, it is you who make God believable and real to small children."  And all this time I thought it was the Holy Spirit.  Best Moms can do is make Santa Clause believable perhaps.

In conclusion however, I would like to say that I will post another post just on doctrinal issues.  The first post will remain as a commentary on the sum potential danger that lurks about in modern trends within the church waiting to spring and diminish the gospel. From now on I will aim to be more accurate in my statements.  If any of my readership of now 4 people feel I need to make it any clearer that I did not leave the church and synod due to some personal feelings of style, content, format, etc therefore shifting my shared understanding to a different relationship and thusly espousing my obvious leadership in the post-modern world...please speak up.  I will put more effort in my non-relative Truth post to help those with bated breath.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What Did You Do!?!?

I decided to write a post that I could just point people to whenever someone asks why I left my church and synod.  Not that anyone really knows I left yet, as I walked away relatively quietly and without any fuss.  However it had become a matter of conscience to the point that there really was no other option.  So this serves as my public statement on the matter, I guess.
I will start from the top down.  It is clear that modern society has embraced post-modernism.  Pop culture, media, academia, etc. have all helped to proliferate an evil mindset.  In short, it is the idea that truth is relative and we can only relate to people on the basis of a shared understanding.  My truth may not be your truth and everything is fine.  We just need to relate in some shared way and truth is irrelevant.  There hardly is a more dangerous philosophy for the church to deal with in my opinion.  It allows the Truth of the Word to be reduced down to only what is relevant to an individual. Absolute Truth becomes Truth a-la-carte that caters to the lowest common denominator.
This mindset is slowly and insidiously creeping into the synod and not just my former synod of WELS, but all the others as well to varying degrees.  In the church, the word adiaphora is often used to justify what is just a compromise to the world in an effort to make the church relevant to the masses, whom live and die in the post-modern age of thought.
The examples of this continue to mount and begin with good intentions but ultimately lead to the aforementioned “lowest common denominator” Should I list the one’s I have noticed?  Is it valuable? Perhaps you can comment with your examples.  Here is just one WELS example of good intentions gone horribly, horribly wrong:
Additionally, this trend becomes apparent not only in the beginnings of the effort to create synodical versions of evangelical non-dom’s that are relevant and relational, but also in the effort to usher in a new relevant and relational Bible (NNIV 2011), or to condone the lax doctrinal structure of synod-affiliated organizations such as “Time of Grace”.  That’s low hanging fruit but I’m certain you can provide numerous examples as well.
I do not react generally to individual examples.   I don’t leave my church and synod because someone in particular went too far here or overboard there, or someone just threw common sense out the window.  I left because when the whole “package” crosses your personal line of tolerance, or conscience, you need to take action. One should not pretend there is a way to fix the direction of the synod.  That is laughable. I have a story of a guy named Sisyphus for you if you think that is the way to go.  In that regards, you may as well suggest that Congress can control spending or that the Vikings could win a Super Bowl.  There is no particular “need” for a synod anymore particularly after it has “Jumped the Shark”. For me I will just examine each congregation one at a time.  You might be surprised what you find.
So, I will now go forward in helping an independent confessional congregation here in Milwaukee in rebuilding the church.  I will be more prolific in posting and sharing and making sure people know there is a home for them when their conscience is violated as well.  Whereas sin can never be avoided, we want to make sure we do what is possible to prevent the erosion of Truth not give in to the world.  No person or plan is perfect, but it is time for me to re-focus on the Theology of the Cross and leave behind the Theology of Glory.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Early release of NNIV 2015 Picture Bible

I had recently discovered that they are already working on the NNIV 2015 Bible in a quest to be relevant and relational.  WELS is already evaluating it for readability and its importance to relating to all Bro's.  Here is an excerpt:

Monday, January 21, 2013

I Was Wrong!

There I said it.  I have decided it is important to finally declare it on this blog.  This blog started as a vehicle to mostly defend contemporary worship as a legitimate and beneficial style of worship.  I defended it as worthy of the effort to start a mission that could reach the unchurched.  I have been active in that effort for over 6 years and now...I have to say, I was wrong.

If I wanted to be thorough, I could go out there into the blogosphere and find all the quotes from others who warned me.  I'm not going to though, because it is not necessary.  The point is that this blog has a long running history of me trying to make arguments that at best were unwise to being just plain foolish.

Some time ago a blogger once said, "Tim is in a position to see where the best of intentions lead." Well he couldn't have been more correct.  I see a slippery slope at multiple levels and I have decided I am tired of navigating slippery slopes.  There are slippery slopes in society, government, synod and congregation.  I can only address that which I can control directly and that is only myself.  I have spent 3.5 to 4 years studying, learning and digesting but now its time to execute.

I am not making any promises to resume my blogging in any regular fashion as I tried a year ago and failed to do miserably.  Work is too busy to allow me to be regular in my writing.  However, I will try.  I will just make my posts shorter and sweeter perhaps and that might make a return that much easier.

Tim - Lutheran 3.0

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Contemporary Worship

I will have to admit that I have certainly changed over the last 5 years in regards to my thoughts on worship.  I started out as a gung-ho advocate of contemporary worship and exploring all kinds of worship options to coming around 165 degrees on those ideas.  Now I find myself instead of being a gung-ho advocate to hopefully being a more conservative watchdog on practice and doctrine. 
After debating for so many years on the subject, many warnings and pitfalls were espoused to me over those early years.  I tended to imagine that they were the warnings and pitfalls of worry-warts and pessimists.   However over time I am seeing that the dangers are real.  Other congregations in the WELS have in my opinion gone over the top (jumped the Lutheran shark if you will) and left the realm of the reasonable and prudent.  They should just declare themselves a non-dom and then at least their confessions will match their practice. 

I have noted some of the dangers that have been noted in the blogosphere in the past do crop up here and there at Victory.  With so many new Christians in the church the spiritual maturity is just not there and left unchecked that could steer a church in the wrong direction.  I stay at Victory because I believe the Pastor keeps a good doctrinal discipline even in the face of a large number of members who are not very doctrinally astute.  Victory also prominently and regularly provides the sacraments, has confession and absolution, a rock solid message with a good balance of Law and Gospel, and uses traditional hymns (albeit in contemporized form of a band) in its service.
I will admit that of the warnings and such I have heard over the years there are a few things I just don’t worry about.  On-screen projection of the order of service, hymns, readings,  etc are not a problem.  They are quite helpful.  I don’t care if it is for a smells and bells traditional service or a contemporary service.  It’s just a good way to guide people through.  Yes they can use the front of the hymnal.  Yes they can use it listed in the bulletin and Yes, it can be on the screen.  I will admit that I like that our Pastor does NOT put up graphics in his sermons except very very rarely.  I think this makes a big difference in how his messages come across and minimizes distraction.

The second thing I just can’t get worked up about is contemporizing hymns.  I don’t think playing classic Lutheran hymns by a band makes the music “evangelical” or anthropomorphic or less focused on Christ as the center of worship.  I suppose there is always someone or some artsy fartsy person who is “feeling” the music or someone noticing the devil’s chords or deciding that distortion on a guitar in some interlude is taking the focus off of Christ.  But for me personally, I don’t see the difference in the song being played by a band or a church organ.  It’s the words that count..not the style. I’ll be honest here, although I recognize the dangers in the warnings of music style affecting worship, I believe the problem of letting this happen is simply weakness or Christian immaturity.

However, this leads me to what I have come to dislike a decent amount and that is in finding good modern songs. So I have no problems with modern styles but I have a growing problem with modern song content.  Except for a few modern songs we do that I totally dislike for their over sanctified messages( with no reference to the justification that would prompt such sanctified activities) , the songs we play are reasonably acceptable in content (yet certainly not rich in content…but they don’t totally fail).  However I think I dislike the praise song format more and more.  The endless refrains and repetition…OMG.  Is it bad if the sound guy loses track of where we are and just is waiting for a song to mercifully end? Yeah if I never heard another song in church written after say…1940 I would be happy.  I would love to transform Victory to play band versions of TLH.  That would be sort of Koine-like I suppose.  I know I am in the minority at Victory on this as I get older and more curmudgeon-like.  I hear people asking for more modern content and asking the questions why we keep those old hymns in there.  Sigh.  The irony is that I have been in traditional services where the music is focused and on message but the sermon was often poorly focused.  Here I get great sermons but our music is poorly focused.

In another post I will put down my thoughts on larger debates within the WELS as I have also transformed a bit on some of these brewing issues as well.

Victory Update

To refresh your memories, just over 5 years ago we left our large congregation of St. Paul’s Lutheran in Muskego to join a small band of people which was about 12 in size at the time to start a mission congregation in Franklin, WI.  This congregation was started as a daughter congregation of St. Paul’s and is a bit different from most other congregation starts in the WELS.  The first goal was that this church would not be the typical daughter congregation which simply became a new regionally convenient church for existing WELS members.  This mission was chartered to be a church trying to reach the unchurched in a rapidly growing suburban area.  This mission was started with only a few people and hardly any money.  We called a pastor who had hardly anyone or anything as resources to help him get going. 

However God has blessed this mission and it is growing and doing what it has been chartered to do.  The list of weird things that can happen to a nomadic mission church is becoming ever longer. The Polonia Soccer Club provided many such stories involving sewage, furnaces, power outages, and the dealings with the aftermath of countless QuinceaƱera’s.  Now we have been meeting in Showtime Cinema for a couple of years and our troubles are different.  Now we have to change our Bible class time because of the theater’s contractual obligations to show JarJar Binks the proper number of times per day.  Seriously..who needs to see JarJar Binks at 11:30 on a Sunday….or ever.
I continue to help with the sound system control and more recently in beginning our webcast streaming. It was unfortunate that right when I was beginning the streaming, that Marcus Cinema’s bought Showtime and discontinued the internet connection. So now I am creating a webcast after the fact and posting it instead of being able to stream it live. Oh well. I still host and maintain the website and podcasts etc. Katie is an active member of the Bible Quest team at least for seven more weeks.
However the congregation continues to evolve.  We have been self-supporting for the last three years. We have added a half-time pastor and a half-time Children’s Ministry Director.  We have roughly 200 members and even our 270 person theater is getting more and more crowded each Sunday.  We have incorporated and are in the process of separating our books from big mamma St. Paul’s, Muskego who has graciously been providing bookkeeping and office staff support for us all this time.  We are in the midst of finalizing a 17 acre land purchase at the intersection of Loomis and Ryan Road.  This will be exciting to begin the next phase in finding a permanent home.  Honestly it is tough to find space to accommodate this many people in southwestern Franklin.  Also it will be nice to not have to pull out an entire church from behind the screens and setup up everything every Sunday morning and then take it all down after the service.  However I’m sure the building part will still be another 5 years away if I was to guess. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Children

The oldest got married last February as noted in the post, "The Wedding".  Zach married his high school sweetheart after 5 years of annoying her.  There were a couple of years in there where they were not dating, but you'd hardly know it from the phone minutes and long conversations at the weekly parties etc.  I would note several ironic points in this period of "not dating" is that even when Zach made a few attempts with other girls in his circle they would tell them "Oh I couldn't date you, You and Chrissy aren't done yet."  Well their prediction came true and they are now married.  They live in Jacksonville, NC where Zach is still stationed at New River Air Station.  Chrissy is a daycare teacher at a local daycare. They have a nice duplex there which is now filled with the sounds of a baby....kitten.  Well and also Momma Cat, the stray cat that adopted them and likes to produce kittens.  We got to visit with our grandcat and great grandkitten over Christmas as they came with Zach and Chrissy for the holidays.  Zach has 1.75 years left with the Marine Corps and is looking forward to getting out.  He is working on an entrepreneurial venture that I think has some promise and hope that he can launch right into it.

The middle child.  Oh good Lord, the middle child.  Since Katie graduated she has been working as a daycare teacher.  First she was at a large daycare center in Muskego and now is at the School of Early Learning at St. Paul, Muskego,  the latter situation being a much more pleasant environment.  She has been much happier at SOEL and the higher standards, more attentive ratios, and just overall dedication to the kids there.  However these positions have only been a temporary stepping stone to Katie's choice for a future.  On March 27th, Katie is leaving for Basic Training for the Air Force in San Antonio, TX.  She has been waiting for the right career within the Air Force to open up and she finally got it.  Her position will be as a Linguist.  We don't find out the language she will be assigned until just before going to the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, CA after Basic training is done.  It is a tough school and position.  Depending on the language she could be there for a year to up to 20 months for the most difficult languages.  She tested very high so she could get any of the top tier (difficult) languages such as Korean, Chinese, or Arabic.  Arabic has been the most common assignment out of those three, but Korean might be a significant focus these days. After Katie is done with school she will fulfill a 6 year obligation sitting somewhere in the world, or in an airplane above the world, listening and reading conversations and translating them for Air Force intelligence.  I have said this before that God created something that naturally tells both the child and the parents when they need to leave the house.  That time is now.  For Zach it was 3 months before he graduated from high school.  I realize that in modern society children don't leave well and they come back etc..modern society is stupid.  In any case I'm proud of Katie for sorting out what she wants and taking control of her future and just going for it.  It is nice to have a multi-branch family as well.  There are more marathons to run now.

Ike with his ever present Michelle, a Psuedo child of ours and
Ike's best friend in the world
The baby has been on cruise control.  He continues his online high school.  It is going well. There is always a little butt kicking needed to make sure everything is in by the last day of the semester but in general it is going well.  We accelerated his classes so that he can finish high school in three years.  That means that this year he is a Junior.  This also catches him up a bit to his age group and all his friends who are Juniors and Seniors as well.  He has worked at a sports card shop for a while and now is a dishwasher at a nice restaurant in Hales Corners.  When not working or doing school he spends a ton of time with his friends.  For a kid who is not in a brick and mortar school, he far exceeds the other kids in his social interaction.  He had a girlfriend there for a while but he is a picky and particular person and only the right person will do.  Ike is planning on joining the military as well after high school.  However he should not exceed God's natural desire for him to leave the house at the appointed time.  That time is no later than July 15th, 2013.  The question will be which branch will he join.  I don't think it will be the Marines but it might.  It might be a toss-up between Air Force and Army based on which has the best career paths. The Marines might make it in there even if Zach is a negative Nancy on the concept of the military life in general and Marines specifically.  It is true that a passive aggressive, technical minded person who is not a "Moto-Marine" may not appreciate the structure they provide for the common jarhead, however, Ike is a different animal in this respect and very well may be more Marine-like. However if Ordnance Disposal doesn't work out perhaps he can work as the activities director on a cruise ship.