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Faithful Lutherans In Lakeland, FL!?!

My apologies for not writing anything new in this space for almost a month, but I'm still trying to adjust to a new job after being gone for 3 weeks of training.

Ok, so maybe the title of this post is a little misleading (sorry about that too) since the place where I found some faithful Lutherans was in Tampa, FL or 37 minutes from Lakeland, FL.

For those who are new converts to the Lutheran faith (like me), you'll instantly know why I found that to be rather amusing and ironic (some might even say that it's "proof" of God's sense of humor).

Why Lakeland, FL? Well, Lakeland was home to one of the most infamous false prophets in recent years whose so-called "ministry" has had a negative impact on countless souls, and, who somehow still has an impact upon many today despite the shocking truth that's been revealed about him (an acquaintance of mine see's absolutely nothing wrong with the man and his message!).

2 Corinthians 11:12-15 (ESV) 12 And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.

So, there I was in the "Deep South" and only a short drive from the Epicenter of Biblical Error, and lo and behold I actually found the most faithful Lutheran church that I have ever stepped foot in during my 35 years on this planet!

Some of you already know the details (if not, then you can quickly catch up by reading THIS), but suffice it to say that I never expected to find faithful Lutherans worshiping at a faithful Lutheran church in the state of FL, or what I thought was the bastion of Baptists, Evangelicals, Pentecostals, and Non-Denominational types. What a true blessing it was indeed!

Here are some quick observations and thoughts from my 3 weeks in Tampa as a visitor to Holy Trinity Lutheran Church (please forgive me if I'm a bit redundant too)...

*- In my research prior to arriving in Tampa, I narrowed it down to 3 different LCMS churches within a 1-hour driving distance from where I was staying. I even made contact with all 3 Pastors and notified them that I might be in attendance at some point over the next 3 weeks. However, after attending my first worship service at Holy Trinity, it just didn't make any sense to ruin a good thing and so I made the decision to attend the same church the entire time I was there.

*- A Lutheran Church that actually follows the history and tradition of the Church Calendar is more likely to preach Christ-centered sermons and retain the Divine Service and Liturgy than those that do not.

*- If your Lutheran church has abandoned the Divine Service as found in the Lutheran Service Book for "Self-Help/Transform Your Life" sermons with Jesus and a Bible verse or two sprinkled in here-and-there, and replaced Biblically sound hymns with today's Christian Top 100 Hits, then I'm sorry, but you haven't truly received "God for you!" let alone experienced Lutheran worship they way it's supposed to be.

*- I loved how before the Gospel text was read the Pastor would say, "In honor of Christ rising from the dead to defeat sin on our behalf, would you please rise for the reading of the Gospel this morning..." Unfortunately, I've NEVER heard anything like that in the Lutheran churches here in Buffalo, NY! I just loved the continued catechizing done through a simple statement of reverence.

*- Unfortunately, they too allow laypeople to read the Old Testament and Epistle readings from the pulpit during the worship service just before the Gospel text is read by the Pastor. Once again, I was reminded how this is not the best practice -- even if it is practical -- because on one occasion the reader completely botched the text, and several times in just a handful of verses! I'm sorry, but I still firmly believe that only a properly called and ordained servant of the God's Word (a.k.a. a Pastor) should be the one reading the passages of Scripture during the service.

*- Believe it or not, the ONLY thing "no-traditional" about this church I had the pleasure to attend was the presence of two giant projector screens on the wall in front of the church far above the altar and pulpit. Yes, at first, I cringed and wondered if I had been deceived by my own extensive research into the LCMS churches in the area before I flew down to Tampa, but then I saw how the congregation and pastor used them. One word: appropriately. That is to say that they were ONLY used to display the order and words from the Divine Service that was already printed in that service's Church Bulletin so that was a huge relief. Adiaphora arguments aside, they even resisted the urge to use those screens inappropriately during Holy Week or on Easter Sunday when the temptation to be "entertaining" and "relevant" with a movie clip or two would've been strongest.

It didn't take long for me to conclude what must be done.

I returned home with a heavy heart, but a resolve to find a church like that one for me and my family to attend, because it was all about Christ Jesus.

Even so, I've been attending my home church since coming home. Let's just say that differences between the two have been plain as day.

With that in mind, I want to say THANK YOU to Pastor Andrew Schermbeck and all my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL who made me feel so at home those 3 weeks that I was away from home (even though I never got the chance to stick around after each service since I was sharing a car with someone else).

In a Lutheran layman's terms, while there is no "perfect" church on this planet, there is no substitute for a faithful body of believers at a faithful church, because those types tend to proclaim our Substitute, Jesus Christ, in EVERYTHING they say and do when they come together to worship.

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 (James 3:1). 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 aren't that 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 commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, 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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