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What Luther Says

LCMS Eastern District: Sorry, But 'Young Influentials' Shouldn't Be Influenced By These Guys

What is a newbie Confessional Lutheran layman like me to do?

What is a newbie Confessional Lutheran layman like me to do when BOTH the local LCMS Church where I'm a member AND the LCMS District that the church belongs to are IN TOTAL AGREEMENT about believing, teaching, and confessing the SAME un-Biblical things despite my humble attempts to remind them of what the Bible and our Confessions say to the contrary...AND NOT A SINGLE BROTHER OR SISTER IN CHRIST (MUCH LESS THOSE IN LEADERSHIP POSITIONS) SEEMS TO CARE!?!

Sorry for the CAPS (for "shouting"), and I hate to come off sounding so dramatic, but as an ex-Evangelical who almost "made shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19), it's just so heartbreaking to see everyone around me embracing the very same spiritual poisons that almost killed me.

So I would like to issue a plea. This plea is for anyone who can perhaps influence the current LCMS leadership within the Eastern District (Pastors, District Presidents, and Circuit Counselors alike). I am one of His sheep entrusted to your care and I am pleading for you to repent and turn from this nonsense and return to "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3).

Is it too much for someone like me to ask that our churches in this District actually look and sound Lutheran in the doctrine that is preached and the worship that is practiced as an outflow of that confession of faith?

Or should I resign myself to the fact that fellowship with the Lutheran faithful can only be found outside of this District if not only virtually online via some form of Social Media? I absolutely hate that the only thing that's Lutheran about my church right now is the name on the church sign out front.

Please hear me out on this. I still love you all as brothers in Christ, but as your brother, I'm afraid I must speak "the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15) to you here and now in the hopes that you will respond accordingly. Yes, I still believe that's possible.

You'll recall the last time I requested to discuss my concerns with my brothers within my congregation and how that turned out. You'll remember the concerns I had a short while thereafter in regards to something the LCMS Eastern District was promoting on their website and how that turned out too.

I'm well aware of the 8th Commandment, and I also want to try and put the best construction on things, but when is enough enough? I'm quickly learning that there is a pattern of this sort of thing not just within my church, but throughout my District and it greatly troubles me.

Anyway, I guess all of my recent objections and protests fell on deaf ears and that this is a case of the blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:13-14).

My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, I'm saddened to report that I've just learned that there is a conference coming up at the end of this month that's being marketed to the Lutheran youth in this District with a highly questionable Keynote Speaker.

The Young Influential Gathering

The Young Influential Gathering will run from 1:00pm on Tuesday, March 25th to Noon on Wednesday, March 26th (allowing plenty of time for travel for evening Lenten Service times). We will be hosted by the people of Zion Lutheran, Owego, NY, Pastor Aaron Schian. All lodging and food costs will be covered by the Eastern District. Participants and their congregations are only responsible for travel costs.

What are we hoping to achieve?
+ Camaraderie /Fellowship/ Gemütlichkeit
- “...to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ...”
+ Sharing of Thoughts, Resources and Support

Central Presentation, Bob Newton, President, California/Nevada/Hawaii District
"Being His Church In A Post Church Culture"

What's the big deal?

Well, as with any Christian conference, it's important to be like the Bereans (Acts 17:11) and to "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1) in order to learn more about the featured speakers, especially the Keynote Speaker.

Ok, so who is Bob Newton, President of the California/Nevada/Hawaii District, and why does that concern me? Where do I even begin?

For starters, it's his obvious lack of discernment due to his partnership with a female pastor in promoting the "Worldwide Labyrinth Movement" as a substitute for the Divine Service and Liturgy.

In addition, it's his public pronouncements that resonate with Liberal Christianity and a clear desire to be more like the American Evangelical Church than the Lutheran Church.

Oh, and did I mention that he used his office as District President to electioneer for his preferred candidate for Synod President this past summer?

We should also be very careful whenever Lutherans start insisting that we need to "think evangelically and act missionally" too (that's usually code for something more sinister; sure, these types mean well, but the ends never justify the means!).

Most notably, however, is the most tragic irony of ironies given Dr. Newton's infamous role in an Oakland, CA court case back in 2007-2012 in which $millions$ were taken from the "Missions" fund to pay the legal fees (NOTE: the official LCMS position on this story is much different).

Now, given those FACTS, is he really someone you would want leading and teaching your children or grandchildren about Biblical truth? Sorry, I'll pass.

I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised though, because also mentioned in one of those articles linked above is our current LCMS Eastern District President, Chris Wicher, who has a "Missional List" of his own. I mean, "Birds of A Feather..." right? In other words, Mr. Wicher invited Mr. Newton, because he clearly wanted his friend who shares a similar mindset to lead this upcoming conference.

One Lutheran blog had this to say about Dr. Newton from 2010...

Dr. Mark Nispel has characterized Dr. Newton’s seminal paper “Accountability and Faithfulness in Reaching the Lost” as “problematic,” and that Dr. Newton has made “careless use and cavalier redefinition of theological terms.”8,9 Dr. Nispel summarizes: “…It appears that President Newton has made such a substantial change to the meaning of the word ‘gospel’ because he wants to make use of the word gospel to support his theological model of mission.” Dr. Newton’s “model” is the same model that President Kieschnick endorses – one that is not a Biblical one and one that should be avoided in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. The endorsement of Newton’s model is another clear indicator that some people in the LCMS have made another full loop in the vicious circle of heterodoxy, and that our practice has now overcome our doctrine.

Not good, my friends. Not good at all.

I'll admit that I may be overly sensitive when it comes to this next point given my Evangelical past, but even the name of the conference ("Young Influentials") evokes more of a "Theology of Glory" than a "Theology of The Cross," doesn't it?

For emphasis, here's why this whole "missional" mindset is most dangerous at its root although it sounds great on the surface...

The Augsburg Confession, Article VII describes the church as that place where “the Gospel is preached in its purity and the sacraments are administered according to Christ’s command.” I do not recommend that you use the word “mission” to describe the duties of the church (“mission” is a non-biblical word that comes out of the corporate world of the late 1980′s), but if you insist on it, there it is in plain English from the Augusburg Confession. The church is to be about preaching the Gospel (and making sure it is preached in its purity) and administering the sacraments (and making sure that they are administered the way Christ commanded and not in some sort of Bapticostal way which does the liturgy in an informal way that belies a lack of belief in the real presence). Thus, the church is about forgiving sins because that is what the Gospel and the sacraments do. Once you talk about the “mission” of the church apart from these words of Augusburg VII you will tend to get away from the confessional and Scriptural emphasis on the Gospel and Sacraments and their purity and proper administration. An emphasis on the concept of “mission” also leads one to overemphasize evangelism and an overemphasis on evangelism leads one to place too much emphasis on sociology and psychology and not let the word do its thing, for example, restructuring the liturgy in such a way that the culture finds relevant and meaningful. Both Dr. Newton and Dr. Sweet do not properly appreciate the power of God’s Word. Simple words of law (you are a sinner and have fallen short of the glory of God) and Gospel (Christ has shed his blood to forgive you of your sins) are what the church is about. One does not need to understand the culture in order to preach law and Gospel. Preaching law and Gospel to a postmodern in words, concepts and visuals that they understand and appreciate does not make the Word of God any more effective. I hope to post a more thorough study of the “Basic Theological Principles…” document and the proposals themselves, but for now will limit myself to this review of the conference in general.


When will it end? Will it ever end?

Not sure if I caught this in time let alone if little old me can do anything to prevent Dr. Bob Newton from appearing and speaking at this upcoming conference.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Dr. Newton is one of many within the LCMS today who are rushing to overemphasize mission at the expense of justification.

I believe it's possible for laymen to be an instrument that God uses to speak as the voice of truth leading to the restoration of another brother (Galatians 6:1).

However, until the aforementioned parties are brought to repentance and return to our shared and cherished faith and confessions again, I wouldn't want my son or daughter listening to their brand of un-Biblical teaching on subjects like this since it could one day lead to apostasy, blasphemy, and/or heresy.

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 our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. 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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