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Archive for October, 2007

Willow Creek Has Made a Huge Mistake

October 31st, 2007 9 comments

That great sucking sound you hear is the sound of  church planting task forces and mission executives gasping in horror  at this Halloween  "trick or treat" revelation.

Here is a quote from the story.

Willow Creek has released the results of a multi-year study on the
effectiveness of their programs and philosophy of ministry. The study’s
findings are in a new book titled Reveal: Where Are You?,
co-authored by Cally Parkinson and Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of
Willow Creek Community Church. Hybels himself called the findings
“earth shaking,” “ground breaking” and “mind blowing.” And no wonder:
it seems that the “experts” were wrong.

The report reveals that most of what they have been doing for these
many years and what they have taught millions of others to do is not
producing solid disciples of Jesus Christ. Numbers yes, but not
disciples. It gets worse. Hybels laments:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking
it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the
data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other
things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much
staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

If you simply want a crowd, the “seeker sensitive” model produces
results. If you want solid, sincere, mature followers of Christ, it’s a
bust. In a shocking confession, Hybels states:

We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the
line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling
people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to
become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how
to read their bible between services, how to do the spiritual practices
much more aggressively on their own.

Incredibly, the guru of church growth now tells us that people need to
be reading their bibles and taking responsibility for their spiritual
growth.

Just as Spock’s “mistake” was no minor error, so the error of the
seeker sensitive movement is monumental in its scope. The foundation of
thousands of American churches is now discovered to be mere sand. The
one individual who has had perhaps the greatest influence on the
American church in our generation has now admitted his philosophy of
ministry, in large part, was a “mistake.” The extent of this error
defies measurement.

Perhaps the most shocking thing of all in this revelation coming out of Willow Creek is in a summary statement by Greg Hawkins:

Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That
we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old
assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed
by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover
what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet.

Isn’t that what we were told when this whole seeker-sensitive thing
started? The church growth gurus again want to throw away their old
assumptions and “take out a clean sheet of paper” and, presumably, come
up with a new paradigm for ministry.

Categories: Uncategorized

Drive Through Church

October 31st, 2007 2 comments

Categories: Uncategorized

Ridiculing Christianity is Acceptable in the USA

October 30th, 2007 5 comments

Imagine the outcry if a blatantly racist photo of whites with blacks was used as cover art on a pop star’s new CD. Or, consider if the photos would show the pop star in various stages of undress with a person portraying the Prophet Muhammad. Or, what if the pop star was featured in jack books and a swastika on the arm herding Jews toward a a death camp train? The howls of protest would deafen us. But, when Briney Spears, the drug/booze addicted tramp poses semi-nude on the lap of a man dressed as a Roman Catholic priest, in a confessional, and sprawls suggestively against a confessional, this is considered appropriate and acceptable in American culture today. What this person lacks in talent, morals, virtue or character, she must now make up for by choosing the most sensational sort of cover album art. And even more pathetic is that the American media gives this attention. Dumb and dumber. Sick and sicker. And the thing most sad of all is that there are some Christians out there who actually believe it is "ok" for them to "enjoy" this kind of visual and auditory raunch and filth. Blind leading the blind. Advice to Christian parents: be sure to monitor what is on your children’s iPods. Check the titles, then look up the lyrics. Better safe than sorry.

Categories: Internet Resource

The Blessing of Holy Baptism

October 30th, 2007 3 comments

One of our readers sent in this moving account of a recent experience he had. I post it with his permission, but at his request, without his name.

You may already be aware that I am a physician in family practice with
obstetrics.  Yesterday morning at 4:30, I got a frantic call from the labor room
telling me that a patient of mine was there.  She was only 22 weeks (about 4 1/2
months) along, but she was having hard contractions and was completely dilated. 
I rushed to the hospital and, to my dismay, confirmed that the nurse’s
assessment had been correct.
    I explained to the mother that delivery was
imminent and, at this early stage, the chance of survival for the baby was
zero.  I offered a brief, silent prayer, and then asked the only question that
really mattered: did she want the baby baptized?  She said yes, because she
thought the baby’s father (who had not yet arrived from work at the moment)
would want that.  When he arrived, I asked him the same question and he
confirmed that yes, they did want the baby baptized.
    At about 6:30, the
mother delivered a little boy.  Shortly thereafter, the chaplain arrived and
baptized the baby.  The baby’s mother held him, wrapped in blankets, in her arms
as the chaplain poured water out of a Styrofoam cup and he received “the washing
of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  About two hours later, he
died.
    It was, to say the least, profoundly moving.  Interestingly, my
understanding is that the parents do not even have a church home (although I
would guess that at least the father must have some kind of church background if
he wanted the baby baptized).  Even
those who do not spend a great deal of time contemplating the blessings of the
sacrament will cling to the comfort it gives when no other comfort is
available.  And it is, indeed, extremely comforting to know that this very
little lamb rests in the arms of the Good Shepherd.  With All Saints’ Day just
around the corner, it is a great joy to know that this little saint (oh, how I
wish I could share his name!) also rejoices "with angels and archangels and all
the company of heaven."

Categories: Christian Life

Lutheran Reformation Day Apology

October 27th, 2007 16 comments

Stthammernail
Once a year I find myself feeling the need to apologize for Reformation Day messages that are not much more than apologetic hand-wringing wimpering, "Oh, we should all be so, so sad on this day that the Reformation happened. Isn’t it so sad? The church was divided." Huh? What kind of drivel is this? If you are one who is afflicted with this kind of message on Reformation Day, I apologize for such apologies.

Let’s review:

(1) The Gospel had been obscured to the point of  being lost in many ways.
(2) The Reformation had to take place.
(3) Rome could have prevented it by repenting of its damning error.
(4) Yes, it is sad that it had to happen, but not sad that it did happen.

I’m not advocating some sort of "all praise be to Luther" fest either. Hermann Sasse wisely noted once that when the Luther statues started going up, that was about the same time that Luther’s theology began to recede into the background in favor of rationalism, while Luther the hero was preserved.

But, don’t let me hear any of this sniveling, "Oh, boo-hoo, the Reformation happened" bunk on this day. Let me hear a glorious celebration of the great blessing and gift of the Reformation of the Church, a glorious celebration of the Gospel of Christ!

Repentance? Of course. Repent for our sin. Repent for our weak resignation. Repent of the sinful pride and arrogance that is always a present danger to a focus on Christ. But repent for the Reformation? Never. Of course not. How silly.

Happy Reformation Day!!!

Categories: Lutheranism

Next Door to St. Mary’s

October 26th, 2007 2 comments

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Thought you might like to see how close the SELK/LCMS Ministry Center in Wittenberg actually is to St. Mary’s Church, the "mother church" of the Lutheran Reformation.

See the people walking out the door of the church? That building in the background, the grey one to the left of the fron of the church, that’s it.

Categories: Lutheranism

My Computer Odyssey Continues

October 23rd, 2007 9 comments

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I finally….after too many years…sat down over the weekend and figured out how to use iPhoto and iDVD on my Macintosh. Two word reaction: "wow" and "amazing." My journey into computers began way back in a time before time (in computer time that is): back in 1984 when I was one of the fortunate few who were allowed to use an amazing new technology on the big huge mainframe system at Concordia College, River Forest (now known as Concordia University Chicago). It was called "Gramcord" and it was the mother of all of today’s Bible research software. I had little use for computers. I even made the amazingly stupid declaration to my brother (a compute science major, of course), "I’ll never use a computer!" But then I started to. And I was hooked. Our first personal computer was an Apple IIC, which was a cool little machine. I actually taught myself how to program in Basic. But then I saw Macintosh. And I was smitten. Head over heels in love. And by 1987 I had one. A Macintosh SE. With a stunning new feature: a hard disk drive! Yes, twenty whole megabytes of hard disk space. What to do with all that room? I got into heated arguments at the seminary with friends who told me that the Macintosh’s silly "graphical user interface" with "icons" and "windows" was ridiculous, a crutch for the feeble-minded, not any sort of computer for the real computer lover, who wants to spend time typing in command lines. But I had one advantage on them back in those days. I actually used both platforms, extensively. I sweated over the command lines too. And I did not enjoy it. But I produced several books using a PC. But all the while, the Macintosh was there. I upgraded it myself. I installed a new motherboard in it. I obtained a "high resolution" dot matrix printer that offered 300 d.p.i. (that’s "dots per inch"). Then I upgraded again to a full page monitor on which I would layout newsletters and books. And on we went. Well, over the weekend I finally sat down to figure out how to use the Macintosh’s latest productivity software: the whole iLife family of tools. Two word reaction: "wow" and "amazing." I’m such a Macintosh fanatic and addict. I use a PC still. We have a Dell here at home that continues to work just fine. It’s going on seven years old. For work though I use two Macs: an iMac at the desktop in the office at my job and a PowerBook when I’m away. I do so enjoy the Apple Macintosh line of products. October 26 will see a new operating upgrade, a major upgrade and it is only going to get better. And then, of course, there are the iPods. That too is a whole other story which has revolutionized my music listening habits and abilities. Macintosh. Love it.

Categories: Macintosh

What if we don’t have the luxury of having a “one issue” election next time?

October 22nd, 2007 37 comments

I was listening to my favorite confessional Lutheran talk-radio show, Issues, etc. driving home and Todd Wilken was talking about the Republican candidates for US President. Rudy Guiliani is out in front of the pack. The thought struck me, "What if I don’t have the luxury of being a "one issue" voter next time?" Guiliani is no more a pro-life candidate than Hilary Clinton would be, or Obama. So, what do pro-life voters do if they have to face the choice of two candidates that have little interest in promoting a pro-life agenda? What would we do if we pro-life voters no longer had a "one issue" ticket facing us?

What then? Your thoughts?

Categories: Uncategorized

Boring Blogging

October 21st, 2007 7 comments

Yawn
I monitor a lot of blog sites. Thanks to "Google Reader" you can scan new topics and see what’s buzzing about the Blogophere. On the Lutheran blogosphere I will, routinely, bump into a blog post about blogging. Actually, it’s usually a kind of self-indulgent sort of twaddle that truly strikes me as the most boring of all blog posts: the blogging about blogging post. I just read another one recently.

Advice to Lutheran bloggers: blog about what you know best. Don’t bore us with blog posts about why you blog, or how you blog, or when you blog, or how you don’t really care about what others say about your blog but then proceed to explain in several paragraphs of passive-aggression how you are, boo-hoo, misunderstood and under appreciated, or try to convince us of how "you are controversial" and "oh, this is going to make somebody upset."

A friend recently said it best. People are not reading our Lutheran pastors’ blogs to get our opinions about much other than Lutheranism. So…let’s keep that in mind fellow Lutheran bloggers.

Now, tell me, is there anything as boring as reading a post about
posting? I think not. Case in point? Read this
post again. See what I mean? Yawn!

Categories: Blogging

Holy Communion or Unholy Chaos?

October 21st, 2007 5 comments

How is it possible that the most holy night of our Lord’s life has
given rise to dissension and disunity in Christendom? How can it be that our Lord’s sacred meal has become the cause of turmoil, confusion and a splintering of fellowship among Christians who trace their theological ancestry to Rome, Wittenberg, Geneva or Zurich?

What should the church’s response to this disunity be? There are two
options. The first option is the response of historic Christianity: To
lament the disunity, to pray and to work for agreement, but until genuine
agreement is reached, to avoid communing together in order to avoid giving expression to a unity that does not yet exist. The second option is the response of the Ecumenical Movement: To assert that in spite of a lack of unity in the confession of the truth faith, Christian churches commune
together. The Ecumenical Movement’s use of the Lord’s Supper as a tool toward union has turned Holy Communion into an unholy chaos.

The New Testament and Early Church Understanding of Fellowship
Historically, the Christian church did not recognize the
distinctions we know of today. The individual Christian was not considered a
"free agent" when it came to where he communed. The early church clearly
understood that church fellowship was a matter of a church’s corporate
confession, not merely an expression of an individuals personal opinions.
Thus, Arians did not receive the Sacrament at a congregation that stood for
Nicene orthodoxy and Athanasian Christians would not commune at Arian
altars. The early church recognized that church fellowship and the
expression of that fellowship was always a matter of fellowship in the means
by which Christ creates and sustains His church-the preaching of the Gospel
and the administration of the Holy Sacraments. Unlike our present age, any
question about what an individual Christian believed, or stood for, was
decided based on where that person regularly received the Sacrament of Holy
Communion.i

Read more…

Categories: Uncategorized

Twelve Critical Problems Facing Modern Evangelicalism

October 19th, 2007 11 comments

Internet pundit Michael Spencer put this up for conversation. I thought it might be interesting here too. Swap the word "Lutheranism" for "Evangelicalism" to make it a much more interesting conversation.

THE TWELVE CRITICAL PROBLEMS FACING CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALISM

1. Vast evidence of a growing doctrinal deterioration on the essentials and implications of the Gospel.

2. The expansion and influence of the “Prosperity Gospel” throughout evangelicalism.

3. The loss of the concept of meaningful church membership and the rise of the “audience-only” model of church participation.

4. The loss of the theological “center” in mainline churches at the
precise time many evangelicals are open to reconsidering the mainline
vision of worship, especially in Anglicanism.

5. The triumph and glorification of unchecked pragmatic
entrepreneurialism, especially in worship, but in all areas of
evangelical life.

6. The corrosive and compromised influence of Christian publishing
in shaping evangelicalism, as exemplified in the rise of Joel Osteen,
The Prayer of Jabez and the Prosperity Gospel.

6. Growing chaos in the theological and practical preparation of pastors, especially in the “emerging” church.

7. The failure of the “Seeker” model to use its vast resources and
influence to produce a Christian counter-culture or challenge the
“program centered/facilities centered” model of evangelicalism.

8. The lack of rising “Billy Graham” quality new leaders for the larger evangelical movement.

9. The failure of most evangelical denominations to broadly embrace and effectively mentor the current church planting movement.

10. The demise of quality Biblical preaching at the hands of technology and entertainment.

11. The apparently fatal infection of much of the emerging church movement with the failed theology of 20th century liberalism.

12. The cannibalism of evangelicalism on issues related to theological, cultural, social and political diversity.

Categories: Uncategorized

St. Ignatius Day

October 17th, 2007 Comments off

Nice post on St. Ignatius by Pastor Asburry.

Wittenberg Here We Come! SELK and LCMS Establish Presence in the Birthplace of the Reformation

October 17th, 2007 8 comments

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I’m very excited to report that things are progressing marvelously on the development of a new Luther center in Wittenberg, Germany, as a result of a partnership amongst The LCMS Board for World Missions, LCMS Board for Human Care and Concordia Publishing House, with funding provided by the Lutheran Church Extension Fund and grants and gifts coming in from individuals, congregations and Synodical districts and other agencies.

The photo you see is the sign for the center at its temporary office location on the site of what once was the Wittenberg University. It states simply:

 

Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church
The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Wittenberg Office

The SELK pastor stationed now in Wittenberg, has his office here until the renovations are complete on the building that has been purchased and which stands prominently, very appropriately so, next to St. Mary Church, the birthplace of the Lutheran Reformation. Within these walls, Luther’s sermons on the Gospel rang out and spread throughout Europe. All visitors to Wittenberg, and it is estimated there are nearly 600,000 English speaking tourists a year making their way to Wittenberg, will see the Luther Center as they enter the St. Mary Church, for it is to the immediate left of the main door into the church. And in that center will be a CPH bookstore!

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Here is the building. It was constructed by Elector August I in the early 1560s as a gymnasium (boy’s high school). You might remember that August I was the sponsor of the Book of Concord and virtually saved Lutheranism when finally he realized that Melanchthonian Lutherans whom he had trusted were actually just trying to sneak Calvinism in. Once they were exposed and removed from Wittenberg, things took a definite turn for the better and as a result we have our Book of Concord today! So, a very appropriate building, in a great location, in a very important city indeed.

Go to the Lutheran Witness for the full story and more details.

Categories: Uncategorized

Luther and the 95 Theses, Preaching and at the Diet of Worms

October 17th, 2007 Comments off

I found this on YouTube, an extended clip from the Luther movie. Some people questioned if the movie had taken liberties with how John Tetzel peddled indulgences. In fact, all the records from the time indicate that this is actually quite accurate, even down to the claims Tetzel makes about the power of the indulgence. It is hard for us today to imagine the dramatic impact such a spectacle would have had on people who were mostly illiterate and had only the most rare opportunities for any such "multimedia" presentation like this. We know banners were carried, drums were used, a performance of a depiction of hell was put on in the town squares wherever Tetzel went. Quite historically accurate, even the line about defiling the Mother of God.
And as for whether or not Luther actually posted the theses on the Castle Church door in Wittenberg, Dr. Kurt Aland prepared a well researched book on this and demonstrates that it is highly probably that in fact Luther did post his theses. Whether posted on the door or only by mail, Luther did post the theses, that’s to be sure.
You may purchase the Luther movie here. The clip showing Luther preaching was inaccurate in that it is highly unlikely Luther left the pulpit to stroll among the people. However to show the close interaction between Luther and people the producers took this liberty. The words he speaks are direct quotes from his sermons. The last clip here from the movie is of Luther at the Diet of Worms. Again, the dialogue is virtually verbatim from the transcripts kept of the events, though whether Luther actually said, "Here I stand. God help me. Amen" is, again, subject to debate. On a period woodcut created some years later Luther wrote the words, "Here I stand. God help me. Amen."



Categories: Lutheranism

What to Do When You Doubt: Receive the Lord’s Supper!

October 16th, 2007 3 comments

Holy_eucharist
That our faith might always have a new pledge of the forgiveness of sins, Christ also instituted His Holy Supper. This Sacrament provides new support for our faith so it can remain firm against every wavering and weakening. Whoever has gone to Holy Communion can say, “How can I doubt, asking if I have a share in Christ’s atonement for the world and if my sins are forgiven me? Christ has given me a share in His body, which He presented to God on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, and He has given me to drink of the blood that flowed on Golgotha for the universal forgiveness! What more could Christ do to convince me that I belong to those who have been pardoned by Him? Here all doubt must vanish.

Source:
Walther
God Grant It
Page. 790.