Thursday, October 21, 2010

Crusader Update???

Alright I have been silent for many months in the area of debating those I affectionately named the Confessional Crusaders. It has been a lesson about be careful the terms you coin, you just might become one.

I have spent the time still observing debates but moreso just studying and absorbing than participating. I would like to announce that my views are quite a bit different and muted than they used to be when I took up the supposed arguments. So to update those who may care, here is a more revised statement on the issues I used to fight for so much in the past.

Contemporary Worship

Indeed we still participate at Victory and are active there. We are active there because I believe Victory is still true to its Lutheran origin. We work hard to maintain our Lutheran hymns in worship despite their being done in a contemporary way. We stick with the basic CW liturgy. We visibly and regularly promote the Sacraments and pastor still gives law/gospel sermons of his own creation (not hijacked from some non-dom site like lifechurch or groeschel). However, I will confess this, as the church grows the dangers of evangelicalism and non-dom’s that many have warned of are there and continually and increasingly require attention. Increasingly I hear comments by newer members who want to reduce the number of hymns and replace it with that ewwy gooey modern crap that use endless refrains to say absolutely nothing. Members who want to be even more contemporary than we are. Basically new Christians (praise God) that want the more emotion based worship (sigh!!) Now we are working on calling a second pastor and hopefully the introduction of a pastor that can work with new members and lead bible studies and congregation education can add more meat and potatoes to the new Christians we are gaining. This is ever so important so as not to develop a church that has no knowledge of what it means to be Lutheran.

Doctrines and Trends

This is my biggest fear. That if the vigor of maintaining Lutheranism ever waned at Victory, that it too will fall the way of other WELS churches that seem to be caving in totally to the non-dom or emergent church model. It is sad enough to see some relatives fall away from the doctrinal soundness of the confessions, and forgoing the benefits of the sacraments, the dangers of decision theology, and focusing on all the sanctified living kind of thing of a Baptist non-dom but at least it is clear because it is a non-dom. You expect a kind of “feel good” church light in doctrine and heavy on goo when you think of that model. It is so much worse if a Lutheran church pretends to be Lutheran but in its essence is a non-dom. That is the sad part of what I have been observing more recently in some WELS experiments.

I think that a number of WELS churches and ministries are starting to cross the lines of Lutheranism. It is sad that we are not doing more to draw some lines in the sand. I have heard some sermons at some of the oft cited synod “bad boys” churches and have to admit they were poor. Basically more about sanctified living and vague gospel notions. No law…very light on the proclamation of the gospel work of Christ as a response to the preaching of the law. I think it is unfortunate these kinds of churches are not called on the carpet more often. There is no excuse for borrowing from other denominations for sermon series. There is no excuse for preaching a watered down message filled with sanctification and “goodness”. It is sad that a church who I think does traditional Lutheran music in a contemporary way probably the best as can be done, then blows it big time with a sermon that is filled with blehhh. However it’s not just the churches the WELS is cropping up all kinds of ministries…particularly on campuses…that if adopted to the WELS mainstream will put the confessional stance of the synod in serious jeopardy.

There is a particular debate that continues nearly non-stop regarding universal objective justification that I must say I have learned a lot about and definitely feel the synod should clean up its position on. Their statements on this doctrine are sloppy and misleading for some. I think most people like me who were confirmed 30 years ago (using the old brown KJV Luther’s catechism from days of yor ) the doctrine is clear and often in the debates we are all arguing for the same thing using different definitions for terms trying to find a way to make the current statement on justification from the WELS fit the doctrines we learned years ago. In this department I have appreciated the debate and the clarification of terms. I regret many of my statements of two years ago and I will say that I have grown a lot in this area. I have elected Joe Krohn to be my spokesman in this area and rarely need to add more.

To one degree I wonder what difference the minute distinctions being made effect the day-to-day life of the WELS churches as so far I have not seen a WELS church take the implications of a poor understanding of UOJ to the ultimate extreme warned about and illustrated in the Blogosphere. However I guess I do see it illustrated in what is loosely called a Lutheran (or even Christian) church, the ELCA. So whereas I don’t see the WELS sloppiness on the issue leading to such dire consequences…it is something to watch out for… just like those members who want to take the church the non-dom route. I guess as I read out there somewhere “What is the harm of clarifying this one up all nice and tidy?”

What does this sum up to? I am definitely a more cautious individual and I scrutinize a lot more. If I hear a song played in worship that reeks of sanctification I call it out. If a sermon is weak in law or gospel I make a note of it. I want to promote the sacraments more. I am studying a lot more and am more cautious about a blanket endorsement of all things contemporary. Restraint and respect for Lutheran doctrine are still necessary and even moreso today. We need to police ourselves better and resist the urge of ecumenism and doctrinal compromise. To undo the statement of Groeshel who said “we must do everything short of sinning to reach people.” I say not true as ignoring doctrine in order to reach people is not doing any Christian a service. So I guess when I use the term Confessional Crusader these days I don’t mean it with derision as I use to. I have found it is indeed something we need to keep close and study or indeed we will lose the truth restored to us at the reformation one little piece at a time.


Anonymous said...

yo Tim

rock on.
It sounds to me like you're in the position (at your church) where you need to be actively encouraging your pastor in the right direction. Go to it!

But then the question I have for you is: If the growth (new members) are the ones pushing to get rid of Confessional Lutheranism, are you sure that your church's growth isn't a result of improper methods?

Maybe all these new members pushing towards the non-dom wishy washy crap (or however you aptly put it)--maybe they were given the wrong impression of your church by it's outreach methods. I'm inclined to believe that if a person is truly convicted by the Spirit in the Word and joins a church because of its true teachings they are probably not going to be challenging the church's doctrine or practice.

I'm not assuming--just guessing. Anyway for what it's worth...

Happy to hear yer a Confessional Crusader!

Tim Niedfeldt said...


I would mention that the pastor is very good at staying on the right track. However it perhaps requires more vigor. That is what is the big differentiator between what we have here and other new experiments which in my view are not applying a similar vigor.

I could see that in using contemporary stylings it might tend to make new members see the potential to then use those stylings to introduce what I consider weak and useless songs. However I also don't think that this is much different in a traditional setting. I remember back at my church in NH that the pastor decided to explore more of the songs contained within CW and started using hymns that most of us had never sung. Even there you'd hear the comments about the weird melodies and unwieldy lyrics and it would be nice to go back to our tried and true hymns. I think Freddy did a good post about our hymns once and how our most popular ones tend to be hymns that are lighter on content yet have melodies that make them emotionally more appealing (Now Thank We All Our God and Amazing Grace come to mind) I think the commentary around this all centered around how even in our current traditional hymns the hymns adopted from spirituals and methodism have the same affect on worshipers.

So the difference here? Our church membership is 60 percent derived from unchurched and formally fallen away churchgoers from a variety of backgrounds. They have a very basic and new faith and they bring with them baggage and worldly influences. I think the key is providing the education and catechesis that these new christians need to be able to understand the importance of a strong Christ-centered message in Word, song and sacraments.

So perhaps I'm just too insensitive to understand how methods can influence people (I will admit to my weakness in that I view those people controlled by emotions as weak..I don't score points in the empathy department). I only care about the message. Whether the band plays "Thy Strong Word" or an organ does it means nothing to me. It is all about the message of the words. However if we did a song like "Hands and Feet" I will want to barf...but is really no less useful than "Hark The Voice of Jesus Crying" or Bringing in the Sheaves.

So in short I'm not so sure its the methods so much as it is a natural phenomenon with new...and perhaps weathered Christians to gravitate towards a desire to have an emotional connection in worship and life. Unfortunately, I see it everywhere regardless of worship style. Clearly the evangelical goal is to tap into that and it is evident in the messages they deliver. The solution is in proper bible instruction and catechesis so people are not slaves to this attribute of our sinful human nature.