Monday, April 7, 2008

Let Them Go

On the day that Wilken and Schwarz were at the IC getting fired, President Kieschnick was at KFUO giving an interview.

One of the initial conversations he had with the host considered what the LCMS should do about trying to keep "denominational loyalty." It was noted that sometimes when Lutherans move to a new community, they change churches. They may attend a Baptist church because that congregation has lots of fun activities for the kiddoes. For Dr. Kieschnick, it seemed like LCMS congregations need to do such things that keep us up with the St. Jones's. If we're losing members to other denominations because they have better activities, then, by golly, we ought to make sure that we can offer activities that are just as good.

Thus, the Ablaze! movement moves us into the realm of church marketing and "customer satisfaction." That might not just be limited to extracurricular ecclesiastical activities, but . . . well . . . matters of doctrine, too.

I know what it's like to be told by unsatisfied members that their "spiritual needs" weren't being met. I asked them, "What? Have your sins not been forgiven you? Are you not hearing the life-giving Word of God, rightly distinguished and applied Law and Gospel?" That wasn't the point. That wasn't what they meant by "spiritual needs." They (predating Oprah's comments on spirituality) had FELT needs. Spirituality was something that was more of a feeling than a belief or (ugh) doctrine.

One distinguishing characteristic in Jesus' ministry that appears to be lacking in the Ablaze! movement is an apparent willingness to let people go who are offended by doctrine. This is indicated, for example, in John 6 where the evangelist records:

Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?" When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father." From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.

And Jesus let them go.

Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:60-68)

And He let them stay.


Anonymous said...

I am involved in a situation which is the opposite of what you write about here. Two months ago I told my pastor and board of elders that I need to move my family to a different LCMS congregation because our spiritual needs were not being met.
Our liturgy and sermons have been getting more and more man centered. Confessional members who have raised their voices of concern have been lambasted and basically told to go some where else. I got the message and I am afraid with small children who are growing up quickly, I don't have time to stick around and fight for the truth.

Rev. Joel A. Brondos said...

Dear anonymous,

I'm so sorry to hear that this has happened to you. From what you write, it sounds like your spiritual needs really _aren't_ being met - and you are doing the right thing to find a place where the Word of God is preached and taught in truth and purity.

Can you imagine what it was like in Old Testament times when Israel's priests started giving themselves over to "blended" worship . . . and then to the worship of Baal? What do you suppose faithful Israelites and their families have to do back then?

I am angry that "fellow" pastors are giving themselves over to vain worship. And even though you are anonymous, I will remember you and your family in my prayers.