[In Case You Missed It...][6]

Bible Study
Bo Giertz
Book Reviews
C.F.W. Walther
Current Events
Daniel Preus
Dog Days
Dr. John Kleinig
Evangelizing Evangelicals
Facebook Theology
False Teachers
Friedrich Carl Wyneken
Germans Like Latin
Herman Sasse
Holy Sacraments
Luther's Commentaries
Lutheran Doctrine
Lutheran Podcasts
Lutherandom Musings
Lutheranism 101
Martin Chemnitz
Martin Luther
Matthew C. Harrison
Office of the Holy Ministry
Pop Culture
Prayer Requests
Propitiation Posts
Rock N Blogroll
Salomon Deyling
Seeking Seminary
Twitter Patter Five
What Luther Says

The Confessional Lutheran 'Sleeping Giant' Is Waking Up!

Billy Graham once called the Lutheran Church in America the "sleeping giant," implying that if it woke, revival was sure to come to the whole Christian church in the U.S.

Use of the term "revival" aside, especially given what we believe, teach, and confess about the existence and growth of Christ's Church here on earth, I found myself thinking about that famous quote tonight -- on the eve of Reformation Sunday.

I've been away from my computer, the Internet, and the Lutheran Blogosphere for a couple of weeks now due to a new job that has me working the 3rd Shift for the first time in my life.

The little free time that I've had so far has been spent fulfilling my vocations as a husband, father, and neighbor with only intermittent access to all the wonderfully edifying Lutheran blogs, podcasts, and websites I have grown so accustomed to.

Tonight, I finally got a chance to "catch up" on some 2 weeks worth of listening and reading. In short? Although I have been just as angry by the "Five Two"/"Wiki 14" crowd as all of you have been, I'm starting to appreciate their misguided boldness for the impact it's having on us Confessional Lutheran types within the LCMS.

1 Corinthians 11:18-19 (ESV) 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.

That's because it seems like I've been hearing and reading SO MUCH MORE from Confessional Lutheran pastors and laity alike since Five Two's little false theology fiasco at Wiki 14 in Texas a few weeks back to the point where it seems like there are now more faithful Confessional Lutheran voices online than ever before since I've become one myself.

Friends, this is GREAT NEWS for many obvious reasons!

2009: A Confessional Lutheran Looks At Evangelism By Rev. Scott Blazek 
(Editor’s Note: We know Pastor Blazek for his cartoons but he is also a fine theologian. He wrote the following article to go along with this quarter’s cartoon. The next issue of the Steadfast Quarterly is being printed and prepared for delivery to our members. It is a special double issue about confessional Lutherans doing evangelism. Once it is mailed to our members we will make the pdf available here on the website.)

“Hundreds of other church bodies claim to believe in the Bible (to one degree or another). What makes your church stand out from the rest?” or words to that effect were posed by a married couple coming from a non-liturgical church background, but were looking for a “Bible-believing fellowship.” This family was military, and had been going to a local Baptist church. While they were getting comfortable in that church (liking the people and the pastor, singing in the choir) they had two basic questions: “Does this [Baptist] church have a statement that would help us know just what it believes?” and “How do we join?” To the first question the Baptist pastor responded that his church believed in the Bible, offering no other explanation beyond that, leaving the couple a bit frustrated. To the second question, the pastor told them that they had to be baptized in his congregation. To this the couple responded, “Oh, but we are already baptized!” But the Baptist pastor insisted that in order to join his church, they had to be baptized in his church. 
This sent the couple on the search for another church. The husband asked his father, who was a “leader” in the Plymouth Brethren Church, for advice as to what they might do and where they should go. The father’s answer went something like this: “I have a recommendation, but you’re probably not going to like it.” This only intrigued his son the more. The father continued, “I recommend the Lutheran Church, but it has to be Missouri Synod.” The young husband asked his father, “Why Lutheran-Missouri Synod, and why won’t we like it?” The father said, “It has to be Lutheran-Missouri Synod because it is solid in Biblical teaching, but you won’t like it, because it is liturgical.” 
The next Sunday, this family looked up and tried our church. Halfway through the Divine Service, the husband said to the wife that he was really uncomfortable with the formal liturgy and wanted to leave then and there. His wife quietly responded, “Come on, patience! We certainly can be polite and make it through the whole service.” After the service and having greeted the pastor, the young man wandered into the church library. Somehow he managed to find and pull the Book of Concord off the shelf. He opened to the Augsburg Confession and began reading its articles, thinking to himself, “These people know what they believe!” He then began to reflect on the liturgical service that he and his wife had just attended, realizing just how much of the liturgical components was solidly rooted in Holy Scripture. Fast forward a bit: the young man was deployed overseas, but took a Book of Concord with him. He and his wife were later confirmed in the LCMS and have been just as active as they can be in the Lutheran Church ever since. Oh, and the both of them seemed to have grown into an appreciation for the liturgical Divine Service. 
Some of us talk about and claim to be confessional Lutherans, but do we stop to realize what leverage in sharing the faith we may be neglecting by just leaving our confessions on the shelf? Is it our outstanding covered-dish dinners, or perhaps our overt friendliness, maybe our great choirs and outstanding youth programs that win people to our church? Sorry to say if this sort of thing happens to draw them and keep them, most of us are out-gunned by other denominational churches in our community. So what is it that we have to offer, about which the other guys on the block have no clue (including apparently the Church Growthers)? Being solid in the Holy Scripture and holding steadfastly to the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, from the correct balance of Law/Gospel to Sola Scriptura/Sola Gratia/Sola Fide to the sensitivity of adiaphora v. the integrity of the means of grace and especially the sacraments, we have a clear proclamation of salvation through Jesus Christ alone. There are those out there who are looking for something solid. They are tired of the cotton candy and sugar filled icing or Law-oriented, legalistic churches, yet are not quite sure they know for what they are looking. Perhaps the way to best examine effective outreach of the Gospel (evangelism) is to have those who joined the Lutheran Church as adults to tell us how and why? 
Perhaps the likes of Gene Veith (Spirituality of the Cross), Craig Parton (The Defense Never Rests), and others who were attracted to Confessional Lutheranism as adults ought to enlighten and instruct those of the home-grown variety as to just what value and appeal we really have to offer the world and our neighbor. Perhaps these folks ought to serve on a national Evangelism Board of Confessional Lutherans (the EBCL) to help us open our eyes to “the one thing needful” and help us all look afresh at the Lord Jesus Christ’s “Great Commission.” As if that would happen in the present LCMS! 
Back in the mid eighties, I was being interviewed for a synodical position (on the LCMS Board of Youth Ministry). Somewhere in the middle of the interview, which consisted of a large number of rapid fire questions on an array of topics, Will Barge (then LCMS Director of Personnel) commented that the LCMS has sometimes been referred to as the “sleeping giant” amongst Christian denominations. He followed this comment by asking me what I believed was the LCMS’s greatest asset and what was its greatest weakness. I told him and all those gathered for this interview that its greatest asset was its longstanding heritage on Scriptural solidity and Confessional integrity; its greatest weakness was in reality under the LCMS umbrella there was not one synod but at least two, that we as a church body were not “walking together” in unity of doctrine and practice, and that this unfortunate scenario caused confusion at best and division at its worst, all of which hampered the effectiveness of nurturing the faithful and giving a unified witness to the world. Needless to say, after the interview, I was not offered the position. Lest I only read between the lines with guess work, a member of the interview committee in confidence later confirmed that it was indeed my answer to this particular question that knocked me out of consideration for the position. Let the reader be assured that if I had it all to do over again, I would answer in just the same manner. And if this interview were today (ha!), I know this type of response would even moreso torpedo any chance of my ever serving in the present LCMS hierarchy of Executive Boards. Am I the only one who thinks this? 
So, if there is any validity to my answer about the strength and weakness of the LCMS, is not our evangelism outreach as a church body hamstrung because our confessional integrity has been seriously compromised? Wake-up O Sleeping Giant of Confessional Lutheranism, for the souls of men are aimlessly wandering and/or dying. You’ve been drugged on the sentimentalism of staying yoked to a synod which is now two synods and therefore no longer your grandfather’s synod. Not even a grand churchman, such as Dr. Al Barry, who had such a deep love for evangelism outreach, could unite this so-called synod. What is more important? Sentimentalism or Confessionalism? Do we find ourselves more tied to buildings and sentimental trappings to a Synod that has drastically changed, or are we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to remain steadfast to Christ’s Word and truth and the integrity of the Confessions? Is it not the time for our divided “Synod” to take to heart the last verses of Acts 15 (36 – 41); and like Barnabas and Paul (who no longer saw eye to eye) sail our separate ways for the sake of the Great Commission and the sharing of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ with this lost world? 
A few years ago, during a break between sessions at a District Pastoral Conference, one of the Presidents of a Concordia University told me that as we enter the 21st Century, denominationalism is over. In other words, the new generation of people have lost what we used to take for granted–denominational loyalty. Can you say “back door losses”? Yet many in this new millennium hunger for that which is Scriptural, along with that which is solid, consistent, and displays genuine integrity. They may not know it yet, but what they want and need is Confessional Lutheranism. Ask the likes of Parton and Veith.

Please note that I was the one who emphasized certain points of that piece for impact.

Maybe it's just me, but I'd like to think that my assessment here is accurate.

Here's how I'm feeling tonight...

So, I'm praying that we'll be witnessing (if not taking part in ourselves) a bolder, more courageous proclamation of what we Confessional Lutherans believe, teach, and confess within our local churches as well as within the public square.

Again, I want to be careful so that I don't use the term "revival" here, or suggest that something like that is even possible, especially given our clear views on the Holy Spirit's role in building Christ's Church, including the role the Doctrine of Vocation plays in our own private lives and in growing His Church.

But what I've heard and seen in catching up on the past 2 weeks tonight is very encouraging to me to say the least. It suggests that perhaps -- and I stress the word "perhaps" -- the LCMS is actually willing to repent and die (so that she might live), as Pastor Donavon Riley once urged us was desperately needed.

The call for renewal and regeneration, the call for reform, is necessary in every generation. It is the call for repentance which leads to death and new life. It is an error to think the Lutheran Reformers beginning with Luther himself set out to reform the churches according to some moral imperative, a need to renovate the status quo, or start a revival movement. No. The call to reform is the call to return to the source of the one truth of the one Gospel for the one Church: Jesus Christ crucified for the sins of the world and raised for our justification. 
Reform won’t be realized by relying on the Lutheran church’s earthly power and influence, by counting the number of bodies in her pews, or the tally of her Sunday morning offerings. Only a church that’s grown tired of the bloody business of dying and rising gauges her success and well-being by earthly standards. This is a foolishness. For the Church bears the same marks as her Master. She is hidden under suffering, weakness, tears, and death. The Lutheran church must sow with tears before she can sing for joy. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod must die to live, or we will continue clinging to a life that was, and is, and never will be truly, rigorously, Lutheran. That is, Apostolic. Christian. The Church. 
*- Pastor Donavon Riley

It's time we stopped apologizing for being Confessional Lutherans.

It's time we stopped living life with our brothers, sisters, family members, friends, and neighbors as though we're embarrassed that we're steadfastly Confessional.

It's time.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, the Confessional Lutheran so-called "sleeping giant" is waking up, and it's time to decide if we ourselves want to be sleeping or steadfast.

To borrow a quote from the ACELC, "If not now, when?"

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

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!

Start typing and press Enter to search