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Lutheranism: Too clannish, cliquish and negative?

March 19th, 2007
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I had a very interesting conversation with some new friends Sunday morning. They are a couple who recently joined our congregation and found their way to our congregation after listening to Lutheran radio. They both come from a non-church background. In conversation one of them asked me why it is that Lutherans are so insular and stick so much to themselves and never really do much to tell non-Lutherans much about Lutheranism. Good questions! Then we talked about how odd it is that when Lutherans do try to get aggressive about reaching out they often just present themselves as no different from the E-Free or non-denom. down the road. I told her how I told the woman in the
couple that it has always been my observation that conservative
Lutherans suffer from an inferiority complex. I told her
that many of us are convinced that nobody would, or could, really be
interested in classic historic Lutheranism and so we fall all over
ourselves excusing it and even apologizing for it, and then try to
present ourselves as generic protestants when we
have such an awesome treasure of truth to offer.

It’s frustrating.
Why are we Lutherans so often so clannish and cliquish? Why are we embarrassed and unsure of our own doctrinal heritage and
liturgical traditions and think that nobody but "us" will really be
interested?

I’m forever making contact with people who, in their own way, basically are all saying the same thing: "What’s wrong with you silly Lutherans? Why don’t you tell anyone about
yourselves? And why do you do such a bad job at reaching out boldly
with your Lutheran distinctives?" Notice, for instance, the poignant
comments in the Gerhardt post below! So, what’s with us Lutherans?

What is our major malfunction when it comes to being positive,
winsome and bold about reaching out with our unique message? Are we
really capable only of being negative about everything that isn’t
Lutheran? Sometimes it seems that all we can ever do is criticize and
blast anything that is not Lutheran, but how much time and energy do we
spend on presenting our unique doctrinal heritage in a positive and
winsome manner?

Then we fall into the ditch on the other side of the road when we do get passionate about outreach and tend to want to water down our Lutheran distinctives to make ourselves more "attractive" to non-Lutherans. I had an odd conversation a few months back with a Lutheran pastor who seriously asked me why I use the word "Lutheranism" so much. He said, "It sounds like an ‘-ism’ and that’s not good. Don’t you think we should just talk about Christianity more?" I was left speachless by this remark. I responded, "Well, the Roman Catholics don’t seem to be too concerned about talking about Catholicism, so why should we be concerned about talking about Lutheranism?" This is a good illustration of the flip side of my main point here. We do not have to give up the unique distinctives of Lutheranism in order to reach out boldly with the Gospel as Lutherans. In fact, it is precisely in the unique distinctives of Lutheranism that we can, do and must reach out boldly with the Gospel!

But I have been very concerned for a long time that we are spending so
much time letting everyone know what we don’t like, what we are
against, what is wrong with everything that is not Lutheran that we
finally don’t have much time left to pursue an energetic program to
tell people all the good things there are about Lutheranism.

I’ve lost track of the number of converts who have contacted me over the years from various places telling me all the reasons they were attracted to Lutheranism And you know what? I can’t think of a one of them who told me, "I was really attracted to Lutheranism because it blasted XYZ." Nope. In every instance I’ve been told by converts that what attracted them was a Lutheran pastor or teacher or layperson who was so fired up by the beauty and treasure that is Lutheranism that their zeal was infectious and contagious. One convert told me it was precisely in how Biblically powerful Lutheranism’s presentation on Holy Baptism is that convinced him. Another told me that he had never heard the Lord’s Supper so beautifully explained and confessed and lived out as it is in Lutheranism. Time and time again converts tell me that it was in the clear proclamation of the liberating Gospel that they found only in Lutheranism that they were won over for Lutheranism. I simply do not recall many converts who told me that the reason they were attracted to Lutheranism was because of how powerfully negative Lutherans were about anything that wasn’t Lutheran.

Please hear me out. If you have spent any time at all reading this blog you know I do not hesitate to speak out against error and what is wrong. But what I’m talking about here is how we approach non-Lutherans with our Lutheran heritage. For every minute we spend criticizing and finding fault (and there is plenty to find!) with non-Lutheran churches, let’s just be sure we are spending two or three minutes teaching clearly, simply and plainly what Lutheranism is all about and why it is so correct and so powerfully liberating and so faithfully Biblical. I’m adding some more to this post after a few comments. Notice the one from the man who is expressing a very legitimate concern about the extent to which, or not, we teach those who have been brought into our congregations. Very telling remark!

I’m all for
apologetics and polemics, but that’s never the end of the story, but if
you listen to Lutherans and read Lutheran blogs [mea culpa, even this
one!], you may come away with the distinct impresion that we are more
interested in telling everyone what we are against, than what we are for. And more’s the pity!

What do you think? Is Lutheranism too clannish, cliquish and negative?

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Categories: Lutheranism
  1. Bror Erickson
    March 19th, 2007 at 16:15 | #1

    I think we often don’t know how wonderful our theology is. If we have grown up in Lutheranism, we tend to take it for granted. Often we believe that the other churches believe the same thing we do so we don’t have any reason to share with them. It wasn’t until I was exposed to other churches in the Air Force that I learned what a blessing I had had growing up. It was then that I decided to become a pastor. I was shocked at how many people went to church their whole lives and never heard the Gospel.
    It can even be hard as a Lutheran transfering in to a new congregation. But I think the tides might be turning. I could be wrong, but I see many of my fellow confessional pastors,working to bring the message out to the people. And new converts seem to have a nack for it. Maybe becasue they know what a treasure it is that they have stumbled on.

  2. Mike Baker
    March 19th, 2007 at 16:22 | #2

    This is an issue that I brought up at a recent evangelism workshop.
    There is not enough focus on “inreach” within the synod. I have seen massive efforts launched to reach out to the community and to knock on doors, but an individual is pretty much on his own if he shows up at the church and is actually interested in what is going on.
    From my personal experience, it takes alot of investigative effort on the part of the convert to learn about lutheranism and the convert almost has to nag lutherans to get anything out of them.
    A convert should not have an uphill battle to get into the “in crowds” of the congregation. I have seen examples where new members will attend weekly for months without ever being seriously engaged in conversation by anyone other than the pastor.
    I feel that we do not do enough initial education, sponsorship, and aclimation for new members and visitors who express interest in joining.
    The LCMS could gain alot of ground by putting forth a little more effort in this area.

  3. Paul Beisel
    March 19th, 2007 at 17:03 | #3

    Maybe you’re right. But then, maybe you’re wrong. I just lost another family to the local ELCA church (that makes about four since I’ve been here), so apparently I’m not doing a good enough job of teaching people why ELCA is bad.
    McCain: Have you been able to find out specifically why they are leaving your congregation for the ELCA congregation?

  4. March 19th, 2007 at 18:46 | #4

    It’s easy to feel that way when it is the truth. The LCMS spends far too much time trying to trash each other. You are fighting to maintain something that cannot be maintained. The warfare is very thinly disguised power grabbing. Wait until those new Lutherans get a copy of the Reclaim newsletter or Christian News [or: JesusFirst or DayStar]. They’ll wonder what ever was in their head when they picked this church body.

  5. Christopher Martin
    March 19th, 2007 at 21:04 | #5

    I too have been dumbfounded by the lack of passion in outreach. Is it fear of looking “Church Growth”, is it a fear of pietism in general, much like your good observation about preaching good works? I came to the Lutheran confession by conviction – by reading the Book of Concord. My working thesis is something that I believe Rev. Senkbeil said – something like “the closer you hold the truth and keep it, the easier it is to let go”. If that is true, then I begin to wonder if the reason folks don’t reach out is a lack of conviction about what they believe.

  6. March 19th, 2007 at 22:41 | #6

    Good discussion, Rev. McCain.
    I came to Lutheranism from the Reformed-Presbyterian world. I did so somewhat enthusiastically but in all honesty continue to remain so with less energy. I struggle with the issues you raise.
    Last Sunday Rev. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia, preached at our church. There were two themes in his sermon that stuck out in my mind. The first is that our churches shouldn’t be museums. They should be alive with the gospel. Dr. Meyer wasn’t speaking to this discussion thread of course, but he’s correct, our churches shouldn’t be museums. Unfortunately, if the Lutheran blogosphere (or conservative Lutheran academia) is an indicator, there are certainly no shortages of Walther sentences to parse and Luther footnotes to quibble over. Meanwhile the world turns …
    Dr. Meyer’s second theme that struck me is that we shouldn’t leave Jesus in the tomb when we preach the work of Jesus. It’s not left off, of course, in Lutheran though but often times it seems as if it is only a footnote to the death of Christ. The resurrection changes things! It creates newness and life! It’s God’s eschatological work of new creation burst wide open in 33 AD and in the here and now! We have a new orientation to the law, to self, to neighbor, and to to God. If that doesn’t change how we relate in community then something is not being preached or being heard.
    Also, and I suspect I’ll get blasted for this but I am of the growing opinion that a certain interpretation of the Lutheran law/gospel hermeneutic breeds complacency, if not antinomianism. This spills over in the pew.
    [And for the record, I am not arguing the other way. Church growth and adaptation from generic evangelicalism will not move us from the problem. But staying in the Lutheran ghetto will not suffice either]
    In less critical fashion and to be fair, I think many of the complaints of Lutheran newcomers would be said even if the context was a Methodist church, an Episcopal church, or a mainline Presbyterian church. Evangelicals typically find the less-chatty nature of liturgical/sacramental church life to be “cold”.

  7. Kelly
    March 20th, 2007 at 00:55 | #7

    Being someone who is a relatively new Lutheran, I have two separate observations on the matter. As far as life-long Lutherans not seeming interested in sharing what’s so wonderful about their theology, that was one of my biggest challenges to becoming Lutheran. It seemed impossible that a church with such high regard for the Scriptures should seem so largely apathetic concerning Bible study or reading, or that a church with such a theology of Holy Communion would seem to have less interest and desire for it than the “symbolic-only” church down the street. Also, any church that is largely considered in terms of culture and heritage is bound to fall back into cliquishness, unfortunately. I see a mentality of “everyone else already has their own church, and this one just so happens to be ours.” This live-and-let-live mentality is bound to drive some Lutherans crazy and result in orneriness regarding all that is un-Lutheran. After all, it can be hard to get across to Lutherans themselves how good they have it unless it’s clearly explained just what they *could* have ended up with. I think most of this manner of “blasting” is meant for the benefit of unaware Lutherans– not thought of in terms of outreach.
    As far as Lutherans being ornery about that which opposes their theology, that will be more common among those with stronger convictions, both the life-longers and the recent converts. It may be that recent converts end up a little better equipped to balance out what’s bad with what they found to be positive and liberating about Lutheranism, simply because of their life experience. I think you hear more about the “higher highs” and the “lower lows” from more recent converts– probably for reasons not entirely unlike those who give their testimonies. I’ve found that newer converts seem generally more likely to to use both of these extremes in an effort to speak to both life-long Lutherans and non-Lutherans about their faith.
    I’d agree with you completely about the problem of overt negativism, especially if we’re thinking in terms of outreach! By contrast, I also wish people loved what they had enough to be a little more strongly opposed to that which stands in its way. If they really do love it, that part will come out, too.

  8. Bror Erickson
    March 20th, 2007 at 08:38 | #8

    When visitors come to my congregation I always do a follow up visit. During that visit I give them a copy of “The Spirituality of the Cross, and a Bible with Luther’s Small catechism in it, and orders for prayer.” Then we talk about them. I also try to introduce them to other people in the congregation that have the same interests, this means you have to know your congregation. Sometimes it’s hard to do, but a pastor can do a lot to break down barriers between people. Inviting a few people over to your house for a card game. My dad used to do a dinners for eight program that worked very well. Word and Sacrament are the primary focus of a pastor, but that isn’t where the pastor’s job ends.
    McCain: Bror, God bless your faithful intentional efforts! This isn’t exactly rocket science, but it does take work!

  9. Eric
    March 20th, 2007 at 11:26 | #9

    As for bashing non-Lutherans, I converted to Lutheranism from Methodism largely because of listening to Issues Etcetera which, I think it is fair to say, does a lot of blasting of XYZ. In my case, it was good to hear the contrasts between Lutheranism and everything else. However, along with the bashing, Issues etc. has a lot of positive discussion on Lutheran theology. After joining an LCMS church, it quickly became apparent that most Lutherans do not understand how good they have it.

  10. Joel
    March 20th, 2007 at 12:49 | #10

    As a church shopper who’s attended an LCMS church for several years, the question of attracting members is complex. There’s the pastor’s sermons and personality. There’s worship style and music and schedule (convenience). There’s the strength of the Sunday school and/or fellowship opportunities.
    To me, the big question is welcoming new members — not a phony crowding around someone the first time they show up, but really making an effort to incorporate someone there a month (or a year) as a full member. At a lot of stable churches, the cliques are established and (unless there’s a lot of new blood at once) you have to fight your way in.
    I think it’s silly to generalize “LCMS” vs. “ELCA”, since at most doctrine is one piece of the puzzle. If a church has a charismatic, exciting pastor (who may or may not be sincere) that often trumps everything else.
    The only way to find why people left is to ask them — preferably by someone to whom they will give a candid answer.

  11. March 20th, 2007 at 13:12 | #11

    I think this is an insightful observation that applies to all sorts of Christians, across the board. It’s very easy to fall into negativism or a “reactive” emphasis because that seems to go along with the widespread shortcomings of human nature (gossip, oversensitivity, hyper-critical remarks, judgmentalism, personal insecurities, etc.).
    I think we all need to learn how to present what we feel is the best version of Christian truth positively, charitably, and pleasantly. It’s an ongoing task.
    Speaking for myself, as a Catholic and therefore outside observer of Lutherans, y’all are, in my estimation, the most respectable and intellectually cogent Protestant denomination. I say that after years of interaction with all sorts of Protestants (and being an evangelical Protestant myself, from 1977-1990).
    I’ve enjoyed my dialogues with Lutherans through the years. I disagree with many things, of course, but it is with a lot of respect and thankfulness for all that Lutherans and Lutheranism have brought to Christianity, historically and in the present era.

  12. March 20th, 2007 at 14:02 | #12

    FWIW, I’d say that the problem is more of being clannish than of being negative.
    As I understand our (LCMS) history, we were basically an ethnic church for 100+ years. There’s nothing wrong with that, since we were escaping forced unionism.
    I think that legacy still affects the practices and habits of many LCMS churches. Immigrant-ethnic churches usually don’t seek to evangelize. You can’t expect too many people to learn German in order to be able to hear the Gospel in German.
    But I think that inculcated a passivity that continues today, even though the vast bulk of LCMS members an entirely assimilated Americans.

  13. Christine
    March 20th, 2007 at 14:59 | #13

    “I think it’s silly to generalize “LCMS” vs. “ELCA”, since at most doctrine is one piece of the puzzle.”
    I have attended ELCA churches in the past and am now reconnecting with the Missouri Synod. To me, the distinctions are very real and very important.
    It’s not just a matter of doctrine. The ELCA’s current ecumenical ties have greatly influenced its present structure and theology.

  14. Bror Erickson
    March 21st, 2007 at 08:24 | #14

    “I think that legacy still affects the practices and habits of many LCMS churches. Immigrant-ethnic churches usually don’t seek to evangelize. You can’t expect too many people to learn German in order to be able to hear the Gospel in German”
    Jim your answer here is partly right, however the Missouri Synod does have a long history of Evangelism that we can be proud of, including mission work to various Indian tribes. Our English district is a by product of those early evangelism attempts. The Missouri Synod also grew because of intense evangelism too German immigrants, and this shouldn’t be discounted. But many individual congregations suffer from the immigrant complex. My great grandfather was a German pastor who refused to learn English. Sadly I think this attitude wore off on many congregations. It will take time for this sort of thing to be corrected. We do, though, need to learn that just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it has bought into church growth. Many otherwise outstanding theologians are harrassed about this when their churches begin to grow. I think jealousy and misunderstanding are often behind this.

  15. rebelliouspastorswife
    March 21st, 2007 at 13:49 | #15

    I grew up in an LCMS school and went through confirmation, and a big reason why I left was because when I asked “why do we do this?” too often, the answer was “because we do.”
    When I was drawn back to Christianity, I went to a nondenominational church. Not because I wanted to be “entertained” by the cool music, but because they really showed that they loved the Bible, the sermons were long and involved and I learned a tremendous amount from them (I didn’t hear a soul griping about how pastor’s 1 hour sermon was too long…Lutherans hate it if it is beyond 12 minutes). Lutherans rarely even brought their own Bibles to church.
    When I returned to Lutheranism, it was because the small Utah church that I “was stuck with” had a very confessional interim pastor who loved to teach “why.” Not very many people were excited to learn, though.
    When we were on vicarage in Arizona, the pastor and my husband did a Bible study on the liturgy for the snowbird group, we had many people saying “I’ve been a Lutheran for over 70 years. I’ve never even THOUGHT about why we say that.”
    We can say “how can we not be proud of our heritage after reading Walther?” but the vast majority of those who claim the name LCMS haven’t heard of him. Many haven’t heard of the Book of Concord or think that it is for theologians (I’ve seen how the promoting of the new edition has changed that some…so keep marketing it!), few view the Small Catechism as anything more than a confirmation textbook, and along with that, don’t see their responsibility to teach their children. And many Lutherans don’t know how to use their Bibles.
    They understand the real presence, but they don’t know how to deal with it when Grandma and Grandpa come to church with them and Pastor won’t let them commune. If they don’t know how to deal with that, then they aren’t going to be inviting their neighbors either. While on one level they understand it, they don’t know what to do when the issue meets reality. It is not something they know how to explain or know how to be proud of it. And that makes a huge difference.
    How can people reach out when they are so ill-equipt? I’m not blaming the pastor. Often, the confessional pastor is more than willing to teach about this, to discuss it….but the Bible class is half empty. Many adults don’t feel like they “need” it. Many don’t know how ignorant they are of their own Lutheranism and so therefore, don’t know how to share it.

  16. weedon
    March 21st, 2007 at 14:17 | #16

    There is something to beware of here. I shudder every time I hear about “our” German heritage. The Synod, it is true, had a German heritage, but I am not German.
    McCain: I’m not German either. I think the point is simply that a church that has its roots in an immigrant movement does have a certain amount of “baggage” from that experience. A corporate culture takes hold and often does not let go well into the generations following. Ironically, the people in our Synod I notice the most talking about how “German” we are, or were, are Germans, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of our founders. These are often the same folks who are nearly embarrassed by their Lutheranism and seem not to be able to distinguish between what is “German” and what is simply just Lutheran. Irish people don’t seem as bothered by it. We even recently had an Irishmen as our Synodical president, but nobody seemed to make much of that. Barry’s name was, “O’Barry” until they dropped the “O” due to prejudice against the Irish in the States.
    Never have been. Never will be. And the use of “our” in the phrase “our German heritage” very smoothly and distinctly reminds me that such is not MY heritage, that I am not “really” a part of the Synod, etc. That’s the kind of thing we DO need to beware of. Not where you’re ancestors came from, but what confession they held THAT should be what we celebrate as our heritage. And that heritage is as much mine now as any true blue blooded Missourian who came across the sea with Stephan.
    McCain: Amen brother. And isn’t it sad that we find those who share common blood with the founders of The LCMS are sometimes their most ardent critics and detractors? More weirdness to ponder. It’s a weird kind of reverse racism, of sorts, I do think.

  17. Marilyn Lane
    March 21st, 2007 at 14:27 | #17

    As a life long Lutheran who has relocated many times for career opportunities, having experienced the “frozen chosen” is nothing new. When will my fellow Lutherans thaw out?

  18. March 21st, 2007 at 18:32 | #18

    Pastor McCain.
    I discovered after becoming Lutheran that they are “quietists”, they stay quiet even though they have the good news.
    I think WWII has beaten the Lutheran to the corner.
    When German Lutherans in my church ask me how I became a Lutheran, you are not German – you are Filipino?
    I answer, I was a RC kid, who became Pentecostal but my boyhood education suggested that Luther was our priest.
    Anyway indeed Issues etc. helped me too to drive me further to the Lutheran Confession, something I already toyed with several decades ago.
    Lito

  19. Christine
    March 22nd, 2007 at 08:05 | #19

    Ah, but the good news is that perusing the bulletin in Lutheran churches these days one finds a whole spectrum of names rooted in many nationalities.
    The Lutheran church is truly catholic in that way and is becoming more so.
    It is so true that our Confessional Lutheran Christianity is what unites us, not our ethnic origins. We are all part of that “multitude of nations and tongues” that will stand before the throne of the Lamb on that great and glorious day.
    Thanks be to God!

  20. Bill Kerner
    March 22nd, 2007 at 19:14 | #20

    Rebelliouspastorswife said:
    “I don’t blame the pastor. Often the confessional pastor is more than willing to teach about this, to discus it…but the Bible class is half empty. Many adults don’t feel like they “need” it. Many don’t know how ignorant they are of their own Lutheranism and so, therefore don’t know how to share it.”
    You have swerved into one of my pet peeves. I fear that I may be irritating people by saying this whenever I can. The way for Lutherans to learn Lutheran theology, and even some of the theological reasons for Lutheran worship practices is to preach it to them in SERMONS. You answer your own questions in an earlier part of your comment, when you said:
    “the sermons were long and involved and I learned a tremendous amount from them…”
    That aspect of sermons need not be left behind. Read Luther’s sermons. I’ll bet they will remind you a lot more of the sermons you loved than what you remember from your weak Lutheran childhood. I haven’t read them, but I have heard that the sermons of Chemnitz and Gerhard and even Walther were like that too. I understand that the attention span of many Lutheran congregations may be a little short to give them an hour sermon right away (maybe ever), but that problem can be mitigated by breaking longer sermons into a series of short ones, and gradually lengthing them until you hit your congregation’s tolerance limit (although that limit may not be as short as you think).
    Maybe if you subtly suggest this to Pastorrebellious he’ll consider it ;o). Seriously though, I really think we confessional Lutherans won’t solve this problem of uninformed Lutheran laymen until our clergy overcomes this taboo against preaching theology in sermons.
    McCain: Not add to your concern over this, but it won’t surprise you to learn that I’m noticing Lutheran sermons posted to the Internet as audio files are often only EIGHT MINUTES long, in the case of one pastor with whom I’m familiar. EIGHT MINUTES! Perhaps, “as much” as TWELVE MINUTES. Now honestly, what can we possibly expect when we are giving the saints only twelve minute sermons?

  21. weedon
    March 23rd, 2007 at 09:12 | #21

    Some of the absolute greatest sermons ever preached (that I’ve read, at any rate) were by St. Peter Chrysologus. His average sermon time looks to have been about the 12 minute mark. Gerhard’s sermons appear to be, on the whole, a bit shorter than Luther’s. I’d love to see examples of Chemnitz’ sermons, but I’ve not been able to come across any.
    [McCain: Couple of remarks....I believe that the reason that Mr. Kerner is pleading for longer sermons that actually teach and instruct the faithful is because this is the *only* place and *only* time they are in Church to receive such teaching and instruction. I would suspect that Chysologus' sermons were not such that the faithful gathered to hear them were *only* in Church for one hour on one day of the week. As for Chemnitz...they were probably 45 minutes to one hour long, based on the Postil I've looked at that he produced.]
    The point of all that is simply this: the length of the sermon is in the best sense irrelevant. What matters is delivering the goods – and once that is done, but all means, the preacher should shut up. Granted, 12 minutes of fluff helps nothing. But then again, neither does 20 or 40 minutes of it. St. Augustine’s wise words should be heeded: “If I had had more time, I would have written less.”
    [McCain: Many of Augustine's main Sunday sermons appear to have been thirty minutes long]
    Message for us pastors: spend more time on writing sermons that say more in less words.
    [McCain: I believe we do have a real crisis in teaching/preaching/instruction of the faithful and 10-12 minute sermons, once a week, just are not going to answer the crisis].

  22. Paul W
    March 23rd, 2007 at 09:31 | #22

    What can we expect? We can expect to be the first in line at the restaurant after the late service or be home before kickoff. It’s shameful that the pastor feels he needs to cut the service short, drop elements of the liturgy or else he’ll run the risk of going over an hour and angering the “FFC” the First Families of the Church. What does it say about us as Christians if we can’t fathom spending more than an hour in worship of the God who sent His Son, in human flesh, to die on the cross for our salvation? the families that come to church because they always have and then run right after to avoid the adult studies…or drop their kids off for Sunday School (often to fulfill the family expection that they will be confirmed—and then never darken the doorstep of the church again) and then peel out of the parking lot.
    There’s a sick mentality of complacency within the LCMS….it needs a doctor (which is the risen Christ) but too often we are looking for a second opinion even when the cure is in front of us.

  23. organshoes
    March 23rd, 2007 at 09:38 | #23

    I doubt this ignorance is restricted to Lutherans.
    Ask 10 Roman Catholics why their priests are forbidden marriage, you will likely get 10 answers.
    Ask 10 Pentecostals why women should not cut their hair, get 10 answers.
    The important thing seems to have become that they do it.
    I hear from Lutherans who understand liturgy and theology more rightly, even after their pastor’s overt instruction of it, after attending non-liturgical services when out of town (yes, LCMS churches). They hunger first for the habit of liturgy, then for the content they realize was in the home church all along.
    I imagine we understand a lot more, just from the ‘doing’ of liturgy, than we realize.
    As to the sharing of our theology: what was it Luther said about cows staring at a new fence? Talking about the theology of the cross–and not even getting to doctrine– often garners just that response.
    So, yes, we find ourselves preferring to talk to one another.
    I blame the cows.

  24. Rebellious Pastor’s Wife
    March 23rd, 2007 at 14:23 | #24

    Kerner wrote:
    >Maybe if you subtly suggest this to Pastorrebellious he’ll consider it ;o). Seriously though, I really think we confessional Lutherans won’t solve this problem of uninformed Lutheran laymen until our clergy overcomes this taboo against preaching theology in sermons.
    LOL….I completely agree. I hate the generic “the law is what condemns you, the gospel is what saves you” format that barely even addresses the text, is full of cliche, and doesn’t touch on any theology.
    My husband actually consistently preaches a 27-30 minute sermon, and they are good, IMHO…rich with theology, they dig deep into the pericope, talk about sanctification as it is appropriate to the text, and is strong in both law and gospel, (not to brag or anything, but I do rather like him ;) ).
    After 3 years, the congregation is learning that complaining isn’t doing much…he’ll say what needs to be said.
    I have a historical fiction book for my children “Thunderstorm in the Church” which is based largely on Luther’s Table Talks, and a young pastor asks Luther to help him learn to preach on a text for a 1/2 hour. Luther said if you can’t get 60 minutes out of it, then you aren’t worth your salt as a preacher.
    When I was non-denominational, they didn’t have pericopes, so it was on the text the pastor wanted to preach on, but it was rare that the sermon was less than an hour, and sometimes was two. And people flocked to get the tape when the service was done.
    I love our theology, and believe that we have the truest interpretation of scripture in our confessions..but I do miss the zeal that I experienced in other churches.

  25. March 29th, 2007 at 10:22 | #25

    One thing I noticed since moving from Calvinism to Lutheranism is that Lutherans tend to believe that being a Christian is largely pastor’s job. Pastor teaches my kids the faith. Pastor knows the Bible. Pastor knows what we believe. Pastor tells people about Christ. My job is to live a life indistinguishable from that of the heathen world and not trouble myself with anything concerning religion, except showing up on Sunday.
    Unfortunately, many pastors appear to share this view. Only Pietists think laymen should know the (whole) Bible, only Calvinists think laymen should know theology, and only Catholics think that laymen should know how to defend their religion.

  26. Christine
    March 29th, 2007 at 15:20 | #26

    “Lutherans tend to believe that being a Christian is largely pastor’s job. Pastor teaches my kids the faith. Pastor knows the Bible. Pastor knows what we believe. Pastor tells people about Christ. My job is to live a life indistinguishable from that of the heathen world and not trouble myself with anything concerning religion, except showing up on Sunday.”
    Ouch. To be honest, though, I’ve experienced some troubling “Adult education” sessions in the more liberal Lutheran bodies that rely heavily on the laity. There’s nothing more discouraging than hearing a layperson who is leading a Bible study, etc. chirp out “Your opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s.” It’s one of the things that make me very glad to be back to the Missouri Synod.
    Perhaps some of our Lutheran pastors are a bit “overprotective” but there’s so much heresy (gasp!) and Pelagianism infecting much of mainstream Christianity that I can understand it. On the other hand, my niece recently asked my sister (we were both raised Lutheran) “Mom, why are you Lutheran?” My sister was stumped.
    Shame on us lay people who allow ourselves to get to that point. We all need to go back and reconnect with our Confessional, Scriptural and liturgical roots (me included). We need to support our Pastors in their efforts to teach us the riches of our tradition (and the riches of the Lutheran Church are very *rich* indeed).

  27. Mary
    April 9th, 2007 at 07:55 | #27

    I was attracted to confessional Lutheranism because it was the only voice I found in the protestant world that had solid biblical reasons for not skipping happily down the church-growth, purpose-driven road to nowhere. I found a treasure chest full of wonderful Word and Sacrement teaching and practice that renewed my Christian life. Our theology and doctrine are a solid rock and a source of great joy in these weird, faddish times.
    My experience of church life is a different story. Our congregation’s doors stay open through the tireless efforts of about 10 people. The other 100 to 150 may as well be secret mystery members. The primary ministry of the lay people in the church is the sausage and sauerkraut supper. This Irish gal just doesn’t get it! I would never go back to modern evagelicalism, but being a Lutheran convert is a lonely experience. Fellowship exists primarily in the virtual internet world.
    MB

  28. Christine
    April 9th, 2007 at 12:15 | #28

    Hi Mary,
    Wow, I really sympathize with what you are saying. Yes, we do have solid Biblical and Confessional treasures in the LCMS but then your experience at your congregation is something not to be taken lightly. I experienced much the same when I was attending a local Roman Catholic parish over the last ten years until I recently sought out an LCMS congregation.
    The LCMS Church I am now attending and hope to become a member of has some unique approaches to getting folks to know one another. One thing they do that I really like is in their short weekly “newsletter” which is placed in every Sunday bulletin a mini-profile of a member of the congregation is highlighted and other members are encouraged to send a note of greeting and affirmation to that person. That helps to provide a sense of “connection” among members.
    Our pastor is pretty intentional about fostering a welcoming attitude to visitors and newcomers and it is reflected in the members of the congregation who take the initiative to introduce themselves and offer a friendly welcome to new faces.
    Of course, this kind of atmosphere is unfortunately not always present in all congregations in all church bodies.
    I’m sure others posting here will have more ideas.

  29. organshoes
    April 9th, 2007 at 12:54 | #29

    Mary’s comments ring all too true about my own church. Indeed, I wondered if she weren’t another member of my congregation, but alas the the numbers she cites are way off.
    Sometimes, I think confessional Lutheranism is ‘the grownup religion’–it requires us to face our sinful reality like grownups. We can no longer, in honesty, be children who hope to placate the angry parent with a handful of posies from the back yard, or deflect that anger with a flood of tears or by acting cute. We have to face the music to be Lutheran.
    Frankly, the more defenses of non-liturgical, non-confessional ‘styles’ of hymnody and worship I hear, the more I’m convinced of it. I’m not saying we *are* grownups; I’m saying we’re supposed to at least approach faith in a grownup, owning-up way, and neither point fingers at our siblings nor sidestep our own guilt in any way.
    That being said, we ‘grownups’ have a hard time communicating to ‘lower tier adults’what this actually means. We have no great ‘conversion stories’ to tell; no moments when ‘Zap! Christ entered my heart!’ We know our change through faith is not entirely visible; we’re not given to sublime smiles or happy platitudes or slogans. And we don’t go looking for new ways of saying what’s already been said, about the faith, about the cross, about Christ.
    So we get into the comfort zone of Sunday morning liturgy, and hope the spirit speaking through those words speaks to the heart of a visitor like it has spoken to ours. Because what it says is true. And the amazing power or liturgy is that alone: what it says is true, and it says it all for us. We don’t have to invent anything new. Maybe we rely on the ‘terminology’ too much, but, while we are grownups, we’re still sinful children too, who need the teachings the grownups have given us.
    And then there’s the congregant who says he’ll come back to Bible study when Pastor gets back to teaching the Bible and not the Book of Concord, because, well, it’s Bible study and not BOC study. Why stress the things that divide us, rather than the things that unite us?
    That person is already divided. Like an unrepentant child, he’s holding onto his own ideas–having things his way–and that person needs the same witness, the same catechesis, and the same evangelizing as the non-Lutheran visitor in our midst. We need to go after and grab up our own, in our own confessional congregations, as well as the visitor who might feel lost after the first encounter.
    And we know as well as the pastor who’s got this or that notion; who needs to be brought in. Or, *back* in. And all the while we confess this grownup confession, we are scared little kids, wanting other the kids to like us.
    There is an untold number of fronts upon which the confessor fights, or doesn’t, though no one said it would be easy. Except maybe the televangelist or the Baptist across the street who has a handy pamphlet that will tell you if you’re ready to accept Jesus, or let you know maybe you haven’t really done that after all. An untold number of fronts.

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