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What Luther Says

Non-Lutheran Teaching At A Lutheran School?

This past June, I took some time to thank everyone who makes the Lutheran Elementary School where my children attend (and have attended for 4 years now) a special place where the Gospel is front-and-center throughout the year.

One of the things I've always appreciated is how even though each class sets aside time each day for religious studies, the entire school also comes together weekly on Wednesdays at the Church for a Children's Chapel Service designed for all grades.

Generally speaking, each week features a new "Guest" who is invited in and tasked with leading a 10-15 minute Bible-based message. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it, no guidelines or oversight, no "message review" by the Pastor, and the Guest Speaker pretty much has free reign to present on any topic he or she wants to. I should know, because I've actually participated in a few of them myself over the past 2 years.

Now, I have to admit that I've never been completely comfortable with this approach, especially within the last several months as I've continued to learn more and more about what it means to be a Confessional Lutheran let alone the role of a layman as it relates to the Doctrine of Vocation too.

In fact, I eventually struggled with whether or not a layman like me should even be participating in delivering a Children's Message like that, but ultimately reasoned that since it was not a "Divine Service" then perhaps it was acceptable (I'm relying on some of you life-long Lutherans to straighten me out and tell me otherwise if I'm wrong in making that conclusion though).

Besides, as I've tried to document over the past several months here, it's become increasingly apparent that the LCMS Church (and School to a lesser extent) is more like and Evangelical Church than a Lutheran one. I began to see it as a great responsibility to deliver Lutheran doctrine to the children enrolled there if given the chance since it appeared as if no one else wanted to do so during these weekly messages.

So, the last time I was asked to lead a Wednesday Children's Chapel Message (about a month ago) I didn't hesitate, and decided to make it a full-blown presentation on Luther's Seal that included a full-blown presentation on the Law and the Gospel. Again, I figured that someone needed to remind everyone that we are a Lutheran Church and School, and if that had to be me then so be it.

Still, as grateful as I was to have been given that opportunity, I couldn't help but wonder why our church's Pastor wasn't the one leading Chapel each and every week, especially when it would only require 10-15 minutes of his time. After all, isn't catechesis supposed to be important to us Lutherans?

Lately, I started to pay closer attention to the people who have been invited to lead Chapel each week. In a majority of cases, I've noticed that they have been other parents just like me. However, I have also noticed that those other parents seem to be non-Lutheran.

So, naturally, I started to wonder what percentage of our school is made of up Christians who are non-Lutheran, because I just never thought about it before and just assumed that almost everyone was Lutheran whether or not they attended our Church next door or not.

I've since come to find out that a significant number of students enrolled at the school are not Lutherans. Of course, this new knowledge made me happy as I thought about the kind of pure Biblical doctrine that they would be exposed to throughout the school year, but then reality set in and I realized that they may never be exposed to Lutheran doctrine at all if there is no Lutheran Pastor leading Chapel each week, or at least reviewing each message that is to be delivered by non-Lutherans leading Chapel instead.

And so we have a problem. Not a small problem either.

My dear friends, I can assure you that I don't go looking for fight all the time, but how can I not be angry and upset to learn that the Guest Speaker who delivered the message at Chapel today to my children and all the others in attendance was a local Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) Pastor?

The LCMS And Other Denominations Q&A

Evangelical Free Church

Q: What are the main differences between the LCMS and the Evangelical Free Church?

While we are not aware of any material that compares the teachings of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) and the LCMS, perhaps these few observations that will be helpful. Please note that there is no formal statement of differences between the LCMS and the EFCA available, since we have had no formal contacts or discussions with the EFCA.

The Evangelical Free Church of America revised their 1950 Statement of Faith, adopting a new Statement of Faith in 2008. The new Statement and additional explanations and resources are available at http://www.efca.org/about-efca/statement-faith/resources-statement-faith-transition.

Although statements of this kind are generally very brief and do not delineate precisely what is meant on topics that are traditionally disputed, it is possible to make some evaluative comments. It is clear from the statement itself, first of all, that there would be a substantial amount of doctrinal agreement between our churches regarding core teachings, such as the doctrine of Holy Scripture, God, salvation, the church as the body of Christ, and the resurrection. At the same time, however, those committed to Lutheran confessional doctrine would want to seriously question certain points in this statement.

Point 7 of the EFCA Statement of Faith says that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper "visibly and tangibly express the gospel," but they "are not the means of salvation." Teaching notes for the new Statement comment that the EFCA prefers the term "ordinances" to the word "sacraments." Those same notes also state that "salvation, viz. conversion/regeneration, is not attained through the actual participation of [the ordinances], contra the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Church." The notes state that the EFCA position allows for both a memorial view of the Lord’s Supper, as well as a "spiritual presence" view, both views that deny the Real Presence of Christ in the Supper. The Lutheran church teaches that Christ’s Body and Blood, according to His Word and promise, are truly present in the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 1 Corinthians 11:27). On the basis of scriptural teaching regarding these two sacraments (not mere "ordinances"), Lutherans have held that they are "means of grace." That is to say, they are divinely appointed vehicles through which the salvation procured by Christ is conveyed to people (Titus 3:5; Matthew 26:26-28) -- just as the spoken Word of the Gospel is a divine means of conveying God’s grace and forgiveness to people (Romans 1:16-17). The EFCA, along with many evangelicals, seems to hold to a view of these sacraments that we would find contrary to biblical teaching.

Point 9 of the EFCA Statement refers explicitly to their premillennial view of the end times. The EFCA Statement’s teaching notes comment that they "embrace a premillennialism that consists of Dispensationalism, Progressive Dispensationalism and Historic Premillennialism, along with pre, mid, or post tribulation positions." They believe that any one of those positions may be embraced but that one "must not deny the other positions." This stands in strong contrast to the Augsburg Confession, which expressly rejects millennialist teaching (Article XVII). You might find the 1989 CTCR report on The End Times to be helpful on this topic, especially the chart at the end of the report.

Several times the teaching notes for the new EFCA Statement of Faith comment that a certain Evangelical Free doctrinal position is only one of several acceptable positions, or that a position may be acceptable but not exclusive. This stands in contrast to the Lutheran Confessions, which affirm certain doctrines and at times "reject and condemn" other positions as "incorrect and contrary to God’s Word."

From a Lutheran perspective what may be regarded by some as non-essential or acceptable positions may in fact directly impinge on the biblical Gospel or biblical truth. For example, the denial of infant baptism in some circles is sometimes dismissed as a point on which differences must be permitted, when in fact in most cases fundamental understandings of the nature of sin, the means of grace, faith, etc. are at issue.
Usage: We urge you to contact an LCMS pastor in your area for more in-depth discussion. Published by: LCMS Church Information Center ©The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295 888-843-5267 • infocenter@lcms.org www.lcms.org/faqs

Why in the world was an EFCA Pastor invited to deliver a Biblical message to the young and impressionable minds of students (including my own two children) at a Lutheran School given these stark differences in doctrinal beliefs!?!

I haven't been able to ask that question just yet, because I'm still recovering from a serious bout with Bronchitis and a Sinus Infection, but I certainly intend to.

I've since learned that it's a Teacher at the school who is in charge of inviting and scheduling these Guest Speakers each week without the Pastor being involved at all whatsoever so that's part of the problem.

I've also learned that this particular EFCA Pastor has a child who attends one of our Pre-School classes and he's had children attend our school in the past so I'm sure that is playing into all of this as well.

Still, there's no denying the fundamental differences in doctrinal beliefs between the LCMS and the EFCA, and I would like to know how I, as a parent, can be assured that none of his EFCA beliefs will be mixed in with his teaching message during Chapel to my kids.

I mean, would we ever consider asking a non-Christian to come into our Church and School to deliver a Chapel Children's Message? No, of course not (at least, I hope not). A Christian with bad theology is just as dangerous if not more so, IMHO.

"Oh come on, Jeff! Jesus is the main thing and doctrine divides anyway so why are you getting all upset over this when, clearly, he believes in Jesus Christ as the Lord and Savior just like we do?"

Can you tell I've been a part of similar conversations like this before? How much do you want to bet that that's going to be the ultimate position and response I get when I approach school officials about their decision to invite him to lead the Children's Chapel Service? After all, denominations don't matter anymore, right? All that matters is Jesus.

Bottom line? The EFCA is heterodox in theology (i.e., they mix false theology with Biblical theology), and because of that truth I simply cannot look the other way. I have to speak up and voice my concerns.

Why? Well, I think Pastor Matt Richard did a great job of reminding us why emphasis matters when it comes to doctrinal beliefs in case you'd like to go a little deeper with this subject today and the issue at hand.

In a Lutheran Layman's terms, although the EFCA believes in the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Scriptures, we differ with them on a number of teachings. The EFCA denies that Baptism and the Lord's Supper are a "means of grace" in the sense that the Lutheran Church uses the phrase. They teach a personal, pre-millennial return and reign of Christ on earth. They allow wide latitude in what they consider "non-essentials to salvation," such as Calvinism and Arminianism. Because of this it is safe to say that they either teach or tolerate errors concerning original sin, conversion, and election.

In other words, to allow an EFCA Pastor to teach a Chapel lesson to my children is to allow non-Lutheran teaching at a Lutheran School.

Not on my watch (1 Corinthians 11:19; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; Galatians 2:4-5; Jude 1:3-4).

[NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with Lutheran doctrine -- in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word -- so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Thank you in advance for your time and help. Grace and peace to you and yours!]


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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