Monday, March 31, 2008

Confirmation Memories

Since Confirmation season is now underway, we thought we would hearken back to the essays given by many of us as 14 year-olds, when we were paraded up to the front of church to each give our testimony or sermon to let the congregation know what Jesus, God, confirmation, or the Lord’s Supper meant to us after our few brief years of poor catechesis. (Any Lutheran congregation where this custom is observed has poor catechesis.)

Then, after doing our first preaching, as a reward, we were allowed to receive Christ’s Body and Blood. Maybe. If Confirmation was on a Communion Sunday that year, which it may not have been, because Confirmation Sunday gets a lot of visitors, and we don’t want to offend visitors. We’ll offend our own members by withholding the Sacrament of the Altar from them. In fact we’ll even defend the practice of only offering the Sacrament once or twice a month to our deaths, but we dare not offend those golden calves, those potential giving units, the visitors.

(Note: A very informal survey of pastors who are against an every-Sunday offering of the Lord’s Body and Blood for the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation because they are afraid of offending visitors has not yet found one pastor who can give one example of one visitor who has ever been offended by the offering of the Sacrament. They have received questions about closed communion, which any pastor worth his maniple should be able to answer though not always leading to a cheery resolution. Besides, if you want visitors there every Sunday, which these pastors claim they do, then why would you want to offend them at all? Why have any Communion Sundays?)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Cheap Church

You cannot save your way to financial freedom. If you are taking in less than your bare-bones budget needs to keep your congregation afloat, you cannot save enough by making cuts to meet your budget. Congregations who cut pastors’ and teachers’ salaries or don’t pay their secretaries, organists, or janitors, or cut out frills like call-waiting and heat in the church office generally still don’t make their budget. Perhaps it is because this creates a mindset that we can, in fact, do everything in God’s house cheaply, or circumvent the laws of the state or nation and should be commended for it. This tends not to sit well with members who have to run businesses, deal with employees who are looking for fair pay and hours for their experience and education, or any members who have to run their own family finances within realistic means and the rule of law.

Asking for money is unpleasant, but in a non-profit organization, it sometimes becomes necessary. The nebulous goal of “meeting the budget” doesn’t resonate with many in the congregation, especially if they are having trouble meeting their own budget at home or if they don’t have a defined budget at home. Congregations don’t need to resort to cutesy stunts or send everyone free return address labels to con them into giving more. The simplest approach is usually the best. Someone, not the pastor, standing up (please, please NOT during the Divine Service!) and saying “Look folks, if we don’t get $x this week, we can’t pay the electric bill” works wonders. Or “Pr. Schmidlap won’t be able to cash his paycheck and his twelve kids won’t be able to have clear broth to eat this week because our checking account has insufficient funds” will probably move some kind soul to donate out of his/her bounty of gifts from God to help the freezing, shoeless, skinny pastor’s kids live another week.

This relates to the congregation’s pay scale for organists, teachers, secretaries, janitors, and pastors as well. These tend to be, proportionately, some of the biggest givers in a congregation. Ten percent of squat is squat. If you expect your janitor or organist to perform services for the church out of the bottomless kindness of his/her heart and love for Jesus, they may not be inclined to put any coin in the plate on Sunday morning. Ten percent of zero is even less than ten percent of squat. Oddly enough, it appears, at least from anecdotal evidence, that if church workers are paid a fair salary (say near district/synod code), they are more inclined to give back to the church and will still have enough to keep their kids in second hand shoes.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This One's for Rob from MI

A good source for info on the KFUO "issue" is here.

Fantastic responses to the situation in general and to Mr. Strand's latest release can be found on Pr. Petersen's blog. Although he referred to us as "snarky", in our expansive magnanimity, we'll let it go.

This is the most hilarious coverage.

And, in case you haven't already, you can sign the petition here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Calling all Confessionals!

It was recently overheard that the “Confessional Lutherans” should organize to better play in the politics and bureaucracy of a four-letter synod in order to thwart the designs of the church-growth groups (WELS-think Church and Change, LCMS-think JesusFirst). The lack of a blog for these “Confessional Lutherans” was lamented. Ah, yes, salvation by blog! Nevermind that there are already many excellent Confessional Lutheran blogs in cyberspace. Nevermind that if people aren’t reading what’s out there now, they are not likely to read anything new. The particular blog idea being pushed was a blog about contraception. The thought was that this would unite the “Confessional Lutherans” and next synod convention they would take the presidency and the church on earth would be salvaged.

There may be a few flaws in this thinking. There are already at least a couple blogs promoting, in theory, “Confessional Lutheran” thoughts on contraception, yet those are not uniting the “Confessionals”. Perhaps the “Confessionals” don’t all agree on contraception. Maybe this isn’t the issue they all want to rally around.

Yes, if your church is organized into a bureaucracy, you will have to work through it and not against it. Planning and uniting to a common cause is fine. However, a bureaucracy will not preserve the Church on Earth, neither will a blog or a group of like-mindeds. Christ will preserve His Bride, the Church. Contend for the truth of the Gospel where you are, pray and trust that Christ will work all things for our good, which He will, although it will almost always look and feel like the faithful are being pummeled.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008


A brief word on quotations: as the AL fact checker will attest, our quotes have been entirely accurate to date. Quoting something distributed widely and publicly is not the same as distorting, misrepresenting, or misconstruing what was said or written. It is to avoid just that impression that all our authors try to stick to extended quotes, not short snippets that can be pulled out of context.

For example, in last week's Together, we had very little issue with what Pres. Schroeder wrote in the first paragraph: "One activity by far exceeds all others in involving people directly with the life and work of a congregation—worship. Public worship is so central to our understanding of the church that we couldn't possibly conceive of the church without it. It's the time when we gather with our fellow believers to hear the precious Word of God proclaimed. It's the setting for us to confess our sins and to receive the precious news of God's forgiveness. In worship we kneel beside those who share our faith and receive the body and blood of our Savior. In worship we witness and celebrate the new life that God creates in Holy Baptism. In worship we join our hearts and voices in prayer and in songs of praise to a gracious God. In worship, as God conveys his love to us in Word and sacrament, we convey to him our thanks, our gifts, and our faith-generated commitment to a life of faithful service."

While that is a bit heavy on what we do in worship, it can be understood well, which the author of our post, "O Sorrow Dread! The Synod's Dead!" did. It was in the further explanation in the following paragraphs of Together where issues came up that were questionable. We have to assume that what someone writes for or speaks to the public is what is believed by the author. We try to choose our words carefully and assume others do likewise unless it is proven differently.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Something for Everyone

When you attempt to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing. From the brochure for the WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts: “Who should come? Anyone whose church is: Small-with fewer than 75 people in attendance on Sunday mornings, Large-with many members and many musical resources, Traditional-with a deep desire to retain familiar worship patterns, Diverse-with members and visitors of many ages and cultures, Evangelistic-with a congregational mindset for reaching the lost, Evaluating-with a desire to enhance worship that edifies members and guests, Experimenting-with a growing interest in new forms and music for worship, Actually a chapel-where daily worship serves high school or college students, Really a classroom-where children gather each day to worship the Lord.”

It’s all about us. And it doesn’t seem to matter what you are doing or what you believe. If there is an underlying theology, it is well-hidden. Lip service is paid to Lutheran heritage and Gospel proclamation, but WE predominate. Pastor Aaron Christie in the March WELS Connection said that decisions about music need to be made in love. “What I like may not be what my brothers and sisters like.” We “need to experiment with musical styles in love.” Again, it’s all about us. Worship is what WE do for God, and lucky Him, He can hear both my bad taste in music and your bad taste in music. Hey, it’s all the same anyway.

Another telling statement from the March WELS Connection came from Grace Hennig, a presenter at the upcoming conference, “The wonderful thing is that more people are getting involved in the worship.” She was referring to the extra musicians and singers who are recruited for performances in church. This gives evidence of a common and faulty mindset in American Lutheranism, the only people involved in worship are the ones who are actively, outwardly doing something: pastor, musician(s), singers, readers, flag wavers, liturgical dancers, etc. This is simply not true. All members of the Bride of Christ are involved deeply and meaningfully. They receive God’s gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation, and pray, thank and praise God for them. We are not there primarily to “do stuff” but to “get stuff”.

From the director of the high school Honors Choir for the National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts, Michael Goede: “If the mission of the Church really is to spread the Gospel to all nations, how do we reflect the global church within each of the congregations and really recognize the different cultures that are coming in? And to integrate that into our worship, I think, is really important.”

We have an easy solution: the historic liturgy of the Church. Because of its age and multitude of geographical sources, the liturgy reflects the true multiculturalism of the Church better than any new, contrived program could. Parts extend back to before the time of Christ in Jewish synagogue worship. Other parts come from North Africa, Syria, Greece, Rome, Germany, France, England, and Spain. In every place the liturgy is used, those who pray it add their own stamp through hymnody. All three sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) are represented by their descendants’ contributions to the liturgy of the Church catholic. The liturgy of the Church is not exclusive to one culture, it transcends all human cultures. Though the contributions came from different locations, the source for all of the liturgy is Scripture. To say, as some have, that when “ministering” to certain ethnic groups we should ditch the liturgy in favor of pandering to human culture, is racist. To assume that because of the color of someone’s skin, where they live, or their socio-economic situation, they should be fed thinly veiled Pentecostalism, Methodism, or American Evangelicalism by “Lutherans” is judging, condescending, and wrong. There is not a black form of Christianity, or a white form, or a Hispanic form. There is one faith, one Lord, one Baptism. Through the historic liturgy of the Church, we transcend our earthly ethnicity and embrace our ethnicity as the people of God. We have unity with Christians around the world, as well as those who have gone before us into the Heavenly Feast, and God-willing, those who will come after us.

Friday, March 21, 2008


There are a lot of Angry Lutherans this week, due to the cancellation of the radio program Issues, Etc. We're upset too. However, now, before anything rash is done, might be a good time to step back and ask, "What's your goal?"

Two admirable goals have already become well-established since Tuesday: supporting the men who lost their employment and putting a good Lutheran program back on the airwaves. What should be done to achieve these goals? At least one petition has been started, which as of this posting has 2,326 names. Calls and emails have flooded the KFUO offices and LCMS offices voicing displeasure at the decision and the way it has been handled. These are good, calm ways to address the situation and possibly achieve the goals stated above.

Unfortunately, some are starting to discuss a full-scale, 60s-style protest outside the Purple Palace in St. Louis. Will this accomplish the goals of providing for the two men who were terminated and their families or getting the program back on the airwaves? No. The only "good" this would accomplish is a swelled feeling of self-righteousness among the protesters. There is, as of right now, no proof of what happened, only rumors and conspiracy theories. There is no need to be that vocal in voicing displeasure over what has happened. The people responsible know that you are not happy. They would benefit from you showing up with placards and screaming your heads off. They would appear to the the cooler headed group, while your actions would confirm the caricature of Confessional Lutherans as raving lunatics.

Instead, we propose another plan:
1. Recruit more people to sign petitions.
2. Keep calling the proper offices to voice your feelings.
3. Donate to help the men who lost their jobs.
4. If you donated to KFUO, ask for your money back. This is the surest way to let them know that you do not support this decision.
5. Work to find another venue for the show, whether radio or internet. With all the interest this situation has generated, it's possible that another station might want to pick up the show. It had a respectable sized listenership before; now, at least for a while, the number of people tuning in would probably be larger due to the controversy. This also makes it an advertiser's dream. If another venue is found, sponsors will probably be plentiful.

Don't get caught up in emotion. This is an excellent opportunity to support a good program and to keep the focus on the very strange things that happened this past Tuesday. As our Lord said, "I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

O Sorrow Dread! The Synod’s Dead!

It appears the worship wars in the WELS are over. And the winner is…everyone! And really, no one. Anything goes in the WELS world of worship, provided it is “done well”. We have become the Anglicans and the Roman Catholics. Roman Catholic in that the liturgy or worship has become the work of the people, and Anglican in that there is little theology behind worship, so as long as it is pretty or “done well”, anything and everything is ok. Here’s WELS President, Mark Schroeder on worship, specifically the upcoming WELS National Worship Conference: “Since worship is such an important activity in our lives as Christians, it's absolutely vital that we get it right. We need to be sure our worship is Christ-centered and biblically based. We need to be sure that our worship expresses the joy that we have in Christ and that it proclaims clearly the reason and basis for that joy. We need to plan carefully and to carry out our worship in a way that touches the hearts and lives of God's people and in a way that equips them for lives of service to him. In worship, as in anything we do as Christians, we will want to strive for excellence as we give God the glory and honor due him.”

Who puts Christ in worship? We do! Who makes worship efficacious? We do! No focus on God coming to us with his gifts in Word and Sacrament. Instead, worship is “an important activity in our lives as Christians” that we need to do correctly. Instead of the Holy Spirit working when and where He wills, we “carry out our worship in a way that touches the hearts and lives of God’s people”. Then there is the reference to the NIV translation of Ephesians 4:11-12” It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” These passages are mangled by the NIV and are not what the original text actually says, which is something you would think the president of a Lutheran church body would know. A more exact English translation is the KJV “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” Note the difference. In the NIV Christ gave these for two reasons: “to prepare God’s people for works of service” and “so that the body of Christ may be built up”. In the KJV Christ gave these servants for three reasons: “for the perfecting of the saints”, “for the work of the ministry”, and “for the edifying of the body of Christ”. The KJV is closer to the original, but in a church body that sees us doing stuff in worship instead of God giving to us, it is no surprise that the NIV was alluded to.

Pres. Schroeder goes on to say that “we will want to strive for excellence as we give God the glory and honor due him.” Yes, of course we will. However, in worship, in Lutheran worship, we are primarily passive. Our excellence is not based on our performance, it is our debasement of self in allowing God to serve us, and even that is not a work of our own. We come with nothing. We are the tax collector who only begs for mercy. God grants us mercy, grace, and forgiveness, and then we respond with our praise, thanks, and prayers, but the work is still primarily not ours but God’s. The “excellence” of our worship is not determined by the number of mistakes made by the musicians, the cleverness of the preacher, the smiles on the faces, or how we felt it went. It is determined by the faithful proclamation of Christ the Word and the administration of the Sacraments.

And again Pres. Schroeder, from the same source, the March 17, 2008 edition of Together: “In a day when so much discussion on worship is taking place, this conference will help to clarify the important principles to keep in mind as we plan and carry out our worship. It will be a means for us to unite around the timeless worship heritage and values that we share and to explore the best possible ways for us to exercise our Christian freedom in worship in ways that glorify God, proclaim the saving gospel, and touch the hearts and lives of God's people.”

The WELS enjoys principles. Don’t call their principles laws. That will only get you into trouble. Principles are carefully distinguished from laws, as in the preaching paradigm: law, gospel, application (principle).

The WELS also enjoys “Christian freedom in worship”. Yes, as we are constantly reminded, there is no ceremonial law in the New Testament. Therefore, some in WELS are taking that to its logical conclusion which is: anything goes. The oft-touted Christian freedom regarding worship tends to blur another principle, one that has been around longer than the WELS, that of lex orandi, lex credendi-the law of prayer is the law of belief. In other words, if you worship like a Baptist, you will believe like a Baptist. What you “do” in worship is not neutral. Everything has meaning. Even something as mundane as having the little kids sing from the front of church as opposed to the balcony has meaning. If the kids are up front where everyone can admire their cuteness, where is the focus? Is it on the children or the One they are singing about? All attention is on them, the message becomes secondary. If they are in the balcony, the message heard takes center stage, while those giving it, the sinful little humans, are in the background. The latter example is Lutheran, the former is not.

Again Pres. Schroeder is looking to “touch the hearts and lives of God’s people”. An admirable goal, but WE don’t do that. God does. Finding the “best possible ways” seems to be a misplaced faith in what we are doing instead of letting worship be what it is: where God comes to us.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Pastors Say the Darndest Things II

Some congregations have schools associated with them. This can be a good thing for the children of the congregation, but it gives Pr. Scheisskerl and his associate, Pr. Mistkerl, more people to have to work with. This can be a challenge. Some advice:

1. When talking to a teacher, NEVER say, “Well, sure that’s a nice idea, if the school stays open.”

2. Don’t let the teachers conduct devotions of their choosing and then complain that said devotions were from less-than-Lutheran sources. Of course they were! Look at what is taught at where most of your teachers received their training! You are the pastor. Teach the teachers. Without being a jerk.

3. If a child, parent, or teacher asks you why your four-letter synod believes what they believe, you had better have an answer ready. And it had better sound like it makes sense. And it had better sound like at least you believe it.

4. DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use the Office of the Holy Ministry (LCMS) or call as a male pastor in the full-time public ministry (WELS) to beat your teachers into submission. It will backfire. Painfully.

5. You can’t die on every hill. If the eighth graders are being shown the Left Behind video series for religion class, you should deal with that-it’s a hill to die on. If the preschool kids are parading up to the front of church once a month to sing some meaningless sappy song, it may annoy you and all parishioners with Lutheran sensibilities, but this is not a hill worth dying on.

6. Let the principal and teachers do their jobs and thank them. They are getting just as much grief as you are. Parents can be just as bad as methobaptiluthecostals.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stop, Drop, and Roll in the Dough

LCMS district officials are just giddy over new mission starts these days. And why wouldn’t they be? The more congregations that are started, the more we fulfill the Great Commission and speed Jesus’ return. Or something like that... Yes, spreading the Word is wonderful, however the push for new starts is causing some puzzlement among some long-time members of the LCMS, specifically those in older and smaller congregations.

The money for these glorious new starts is coming from current members. Should these current members go looking to their district for financial assistance for their congregation, they may be out of luck because their district may be one which is only interested in new mission starts.

Shouldn’t existing congregations be able to support themselves? Usually yes, but this gives the impression that new starts and the members contained therein are more important or more valuable than the congregations and members that have been around, some for more than a century, and for whatever reason are now falling on financial hard times.

When a district official advises a new seminary graduate to close up the parish to which he has just been assigned and give its money to Fan into Flame, that gives the impression that the few members of the existing congregation are not as worthy of preaching, teaching, and administration of the Sacraments as are the potential members of the new mission start which could be funded by the cash realized by closing the existing parish.

Theologically, while hopefully unintentional, this smacks of decision theology (those who have already asked Jesus into their hearts are not in need of pastors or keeping their churches open) and a once-saved, always-saved mentality (these members are already in the church and don’t need to be evangelized anymore; time to go find new converts). The Theology of Glory pervades. If a congregation is not successful, in terms of money and new converts, shut it down and start something new. Then our statistics look better, or our rocket ship or other bureaucratically chosen symbol of success will take off! No thought to what was being taught in that congregation, whether the Gospel was faithfully proclaimed and the Sacraments rightly administered. No reflection on what Our Lord said about bearing the cross and examples from His own earthly ministry when by the standards of numbers, He failed miserably.

It is an insult to those faithful pastors and members of small congregations. The districts are, in effect, saying that they are not important, not worth the time or money of the district. This may be part of the reason the Ablaze! movement hasn’t moved too many.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can We Get a GPS?

What is the direction of the Lutheran church in America? Are we heading up, down, or sideways? Some would say things have improved in the last few generations: every Sunday offering of the Sacrament of the Altar, renewed interest in liturgical worship, renewed interest in study of the Lutheran Confessions and patristics. Yet, this is but one end of the spectrum. At the other end is the wholesale sell-out to Evangelicalism, Pietism, and Enthusiasm. Between these poles is every variation of good, bad, and indifferent.

Thirty to forty years ago, with some exceptions, American Lutheranism was a homogenous mass of mediocrity. While alternating between page 5 and page 15 in TLH from week to week may not have been ideal, it was quite possibly the saving grace of those generations. Where the preaching was weak, the liturgy remained strong and constant. It made certain the faithful heard God’s Word of salvation every Lord’s Day, even if the pastor was not well-versed in Lutheran theology.

Today, we have gone to the extreme in heterogeneousness. You cannot predict from the acronym on the sign out in front of the building what you will hear and see inside. In some places, this is very good. In others, it is terribly sad.

In some locations today the preaching is Christ-centered with liturgical worship and every Lord’s Day celebrations of the Sacrament with excellent catechesis. In others, the Lutheran congregation is indistinguishable from the Christian Reformed church down the street, right down to quoting long sections from Joel Osteen’s latest bestseller during the sermon.

Overall, it has been a lateral move. There is no large consensus among Lutherans. Glaring differences in practice from congregation to congregation make it impossible to hide the differences in doctrine. This should come as no surprise, for it has always been this way with the Church Militant and will be until our Lord returns. There is no golden age to which to return when there were no quarrels and heresies, nor is there such an age coming while on this earth. While we can and should be thankful for those places where the Gospel is preached and the Sacraments rightly administered, we dare not fall into triumphalism. Things are not getting better. That is not what Our Lord promised for His Church on Earth. Here the Church endures because God preserves Her. That is what we are promised. Not success, not growth, but endurance (endurance of the Church, not necessarily your congregation or church body). The Glory is not for the Church Militant but the Church Triumphant.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Having Authority Without Having Authority

Pretend your congregation needs a new treasurer. There is a retired CPA in the congregation willing to serve and fully competent for the task. No one else is qualified or remotely interested. The retired CPA should get the position easily, right? Ah, no. Because your congregation is WELS and the position of treasurer is a member of the church council, and, unfortunately, the retired CPA is a woman. For those not familiar with WELS teaching on the roles of man and woman, no woman can have authority over any man. They extend this authority to voting both in the church and in secular elections (though this varies depending on who you talk to-it’s fun to watch the tap-dancing when this question is asked).

So, what to do in the case of the treasurer? You create a new position in the church! Well, of course! Problem solved. The retired CPA is now your Financial Secretary. She gets the privilege of doing all the work of the church treasurer without the title! The title of Treasurer goes to a man, who will do nothing related to the finances of the congregation but attend council meetings.

This is nothing new. For years, female WELS teachers of one-room schools were not principals of those schools because that would involve authority (Over whom? Good question. Some will say over the 8th-grade men-students, others will say over the fathers of the students, others just shrug when asked). Sure, they did all the work of the principal, but the title went to the pastor.

The same situation is now seen in WELS early childhood education centers. Many times the pastor is named the head of the ECE facility, even though he has nothing to do with it. It’s all about the titles. So, yes, as a woman in the WELS, you can do important work in the church; just don’t expect a title that describes what you are actually doing. Expect that to go to a male person who likely has nothing to do with what his title implies.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Pastors Say the Darndest Things

So, a church has a new pastor. He seems like a nice guy. He’s a self-titled “Confessional Lutheran”. Sounds great! The congregation is also “Confessionally Lutheran”, as far as they know. Then he gets into the pulpit the week after installation and he begins his sermon: “In the milieu….the Theotokos….Blessed Fr. Luther….Chrysostom….Blessed ever-virgin Mary….Mass….Sexagesima….(ten minutes of head scratching later)Amen.” Later, during the consecration, the congregation gets quite concerned when this new preacher has to bend down TWICE to pick up things he apparently dropped.

Then the complaints start. The congregation is pretty sure their new pastor is a Roman priest seeking to reclaim Cross of Glory Evangelical Lutheran back into the fold of the Bishop of Rome, but they aren’t positive because they have no idea what the guy actually said. Meanwhile, the pastor is completely clueless as to why these horrible people are criticizing him. Goodness, all he did was preach a fine “Confessional Lutheran” sermon. What is wrong with these American Enthusiasts? He is tempted to send them off to their Joel Osteen prattle since that’s what they seem to want. He is ready and willing to be martyred for the cause of “Confessional Lutheranism”. He is sure that generations will praise him for his bold confession of the truth in the midst of these pseudo-Lutherans, who in the future will know how unfairly they treated him and will weep at his graveside. Oh, if only they had brought their thesauruses, dictionaries, and French translators to church with them! Then they would have appreciated and learned so much from Pr. Wichtigtuer and not stoned him in the parking lot between conventicles. (By the way, this is only applicable to the LCMS, as the number of WELS sem grads who even know what a thesaurus is can be counted using the six fingers on one of their inbred hillbilly hands-the Great Commission does not mean it’s ok to marry your first cousin for the sake of having more babies to baptize and teach).

Church history for most laypeople extends back to their earliest remembrances of Sunday School and VBS. What they were taught by good old Pr. Wahrheit is considered to be straight from God’s mouth. Likely, it was not. However, when a new pastor comes in and changes practices which in the minds of life-long members were instituted by God himself, that pastor is going to have problems. He may be doing nothing wrong, but he is acting quite stupidly. True Confessional Lutheran pastors teach. They teach the Lutheran faith. They will not convince everyone. Most Lutheran congregations have some Baptists and Methodists spooking about, sometimes loudly making trouble for the actual Lutherans, but it’s the Church Militant, so that’s to be expected.

When these Confessional Lutheran pastors teach, they speak so as to be understandable. If they really get a hankerin’ for four and five-syllable words or to throw in some French, German, or Greek, they wait until they are at a pastors’ conference or at home with their families, who likely have learned to ignore such outbursts.

This is in no way to imply that your hearers are of a lesser intellect. There are probably several listening who have a higher IQ and more expertise in various areas than the one speaking. A middle ground must be found between talking down to the laity and talking over their heads. It does no good to preach the healing of the Great Physician in technical jargon to show how intelligent you are, just as it does no good to treat your hearers like toddlers. You will unintentionally, but inevitably make your listeners feel inferior, and they will dislike you. And, more importantly, they will not know what or Whom you are preaching.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

OT/NT Connections

From Augsburg Confession, Article XXVIII, paragraphs 61-62: "There are monstrous debates about changing the law, ceremonies of the new law, and changing the Sabbath Day. They have all sprung from the false belief that in the Church there must be something similar to the services set forth in Leviticus (1-7), and that Christ had commissioned the apostles and bishops to come up with new ceremonies necessary to salvation."

Note that it doesn't say the ceremonies from Leviticus are NOT similar and do not foreshadow those in the New Testament Church, but they are arguing against those who say there MUST be something similar, that bishops are to create new ceremonies, and that such ceremonies are NECESSARY to salvation.

The very specific instructions for sin offerings in Leviticus 4 and 5 foreshadow the New Testament Holy Absolution. When an individual sinned, he brought and killed an offering (confession), the priest made atonement with the blood of the sacrifice, and the sin is forgiven (Absolution). In both OT and NT situations, the actual sin offering is, of course, Christ.

This also relates the OT royal priesthood (Exodus 19:6) with it's more popular counterpart, the NT royal priesthood. The NT royal priesthood still receives Absolution through God's appointed ministers/priests.

This is not to say that something in the pastor makes the Absolution valid. God always works through means, both in the OT Church and in the NT Church. Holy Absolution is received by the royal priesthood through the means of called and ordained men standing in the place of Christ for that very purpose. There is beautiful continuity from the Old Testament Church to the New Testament Church.

*The ALs thank Prs. TandP for assistance in articulation.

Pay Your Organists

If someone were called on with four hours notice to work part of his/her weekend, should that person expect to be paid for time, skill, and inconvenience, or at least not lose money by being reimbursed for mileage? If you are a Lutheran organist, the answer you’ll still get at some congregations is a stunned “What?!”

Yes, we all “serve the Lord with gladness”, but that gladness is tough to muster when being taken advantage of. Organists, for the most part, buy their own shoes and books, paid for their own training, and provide their own transportation. Most also do not just show up for services and sight-read but take time out of their schedules to do careful preparation for each service.

Organists are largely very generous and don’t mind donating their time as the pay per service is usually quite low. However, it is one thing to give a token amount as a thank-you and acknowledgement that the organist did some skilled work for the congregation and quite another when the organist is expected to take the good ol’ Lutheran “bend over and grab your ankles” routine with good humor and grace. Some congregations have financial constraints which make it next to impossible to pay the organist anything near what is suggested by the
American Guild of Organists, but those congregations can still pay something. If a congregation of less than one hundred souls in a poor, rural area can still toss ten dollars the organist’s way each service, so can yours.

It’s not about the money, it’s the principle. Most organists do not make a living playing but do it as a service to a congregation, while keeping other jobs that actually pay the bills. Many give back their organ pay and much more in offerings. The surest way to tighten organists’ grips on their wallets and purses is to not pay them. They will not only not give monetarily to your congregation, they probably won’t answer the phone the next time you’re looking for an organist either.

The argument has been raised: “Well then, why don’t we pay Sunday School teachers then too?” One answer those in Lutheranism will understand is “We’ve never done it that way before.” And possibly with good reason. Organists are trained (or should be) longer than Sunday School teachers, and most organists paid for that training, while most Sunday School teachers did not. Also, the time involved for a dedicated organist is far more than most Sunday School teachers. Plus, most organists provide their own music paid for out of pocket, but most Sunday School materials are provided at no cost to the Sunday School teachers by the congregation.

If pastors would like to have organists who take the time to prepare carefully and bother to learn why the Lutheran church does what it does and sings what it sings, then please show them enough respect to pay them.

What if your organist refuses pay? This sometimes happens whether for pious or self-serving motives on the part of the organist. It might be best to say, “Gee, (insert name of organist), we appreciate your willingness to play for free, but you won’t be able to always be here, so we need to have a fair pay scale in place for those rare times when you need a substitute and for when you, sadly, are no longer able to play. If you’d like to donate your pay back to the church or to any charity, you are certainly free to do so, but we would really like to show the congregation’s appreciation for your work and the work of other organists by paying you $x per service.”

There are very legitimate concerns about where a future generation of church musicians will come from. Encouraging young musicians to serve in the church might be at least a little easier if they knew they would be appreciated and not sink farther into debt by giving of their time and skill to work in the church.

Friday, March 7, 2008

No Blood Test Necessary

If a seminary professor of your church body reads Pia Desideria and says publicly, “Huh! Spener agrees with us…I guess he had some good things to say.” your synod is infected with Pietism.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Know Your Place

Recently spoken by a Lutheran pastor of the LCMS persuasion, “Well, this is a real long Gospel reading, but let’s get through it with just as much energy at the end as we’ll have at the beginning.”

Angry Lutheran response, “What the…?!”

Then, the entire congregation read the Gospel reading. Mind you, this was after a nameless, vestment-less female parishioner had wandered up to the lectern to read the Old Testament and Epistle readings. What was the pastor doing during all this? Standing with his hands at his side and staring into space for the first two readings and then reading the Gospel along with everyone else.

Why would this practice be instituted? You’ve likely heard the answers before: to be inclusive, to give ownership to the people, to get everyone involved, after all, they are a royal priesthood. Now how can Angry Lutherans have a problem with that?

This practice confuses the identities of those present in the Divine Service. Yes, those in the pews are the royal priesthood who sing praise to God, pray, receive God’s gifts, give thanks, and go out into the world to serve as little Christs to their neighbors. However, they are not standing “in the stead and by the command of “ Christ. That is the pastor’s position. He is there to give. The royal priesthood is primarily to receive. Laypeople should revolt at the suggestion that they should be trundling up to the front to “do the readings”! Their response to pastors who would abdicate that part of their responsibility should be, “No! We are the Bride of Christ! We are here to receive gifts from the Bridegroom who loves us and gave Himself up for us! You, who stand in His place, should serve us with His Word and Sacraments! How dare you try to shuck off part of your role! Don’t insult us with your pandering to make us feel more included! Proclaim God’s grace to us! Don’t make us proclaim it to ourselves!”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Are Lutherans ashamed of what their church confesses? Or are they just woefully ignorant of that confession? What is the reason so many Lutherans continue to invite those whose theology is in opposition to the Lutheran church to speak to Lutherans? Do they just not care? Maybe it’s a problem of insecurity or an inferiority complex? Baptists, Methodists, and Reformed congregations aren’t beating down the door of Dr. David Scaer’s office to invite him to come and tell them “how to do ministry” or to give his “testimony”. Their churches wouldn’t agree with what he would have to say and they know it. Do they have a better understanding of their own church’s beliefs or just more integrity than Lutherans? (Prof. Brug’s name from Mequon could have been substituted, but with the fellowship issues involved, even if a WELS professor was invited somewhere, we don’t think he’d be able to go, unless he could present “simultaneously” and not “with” anyone else.)

Lutherans should first, learn what their church’s confession is, and then confess it. Lutherans have no need of the broken cisterns and polluted wells of American Protestantism.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tone Disclaimer

No complaints about tone, please. The tone here is sarcastic, and that is deliberate. The discrepancies, annoyances, and heresies pointed out here have all been presented to the appropriate people over the years in a gentle, evangelical way and were either not answered or not given any credible defense. Because these issues are serious (some more serious than others), they are being discussed again, this time more forcefully and sarcastically. Again, this is intentional. Any complaints about tone will be deleted.

Unless we find them humorous.

Why Anonymous?

This is intentional. Ideas may be considered more carefully if you don’t know who the sources are. For example, if we are LCMS members, some WELS members would immediately retract the right hand of fellowship and replace it with the left hook of Ro 16:17, for there is the belief that nothing good dwells outside the WELS. Likewise, if we are LCMS members of the St. Louis or Fort Wayne persuasions, the other side could ignore what is written as alternately St. Louis or Fort Wayne drivel. If we are WELS members, we may live in fear of retired synod presidents coming after our children or pets in the dead of night or making certain no one in our families receives a call into the public ministry again. If we are female WELS members, no male WELS member would be able to read this, unless it was written in a posture of submissiveness with no attempt at exercising authority over any man anywhere, which is a rather subjective standard and difficult to prove decisively either way.

As we remain anonymous, we will accept anonymous comments, though all comments will be screened and any deemed inappropriate, whether signed or anonymous, will be deleted.