Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Cat is Out of the Bag...and This Time I Really Mean It

I post this with a heavy heart. I don't want this blog to become a diatribe against my church body (LCMS). Complaints lead to bitterness, and that to all kinds of spiritually harmful thoughts and feelings. On the contrary, St. Paul urges us to think on "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy" (Phil. 4:8 NKJV).

I want to do that, but feel I must share the following. This is press release included in an insert in the latest issue of The Reporter, "The Official Newspaper of the LCMS."

A new LCMS mission start in Broken Arrow [Oklahoma] began worship and fellowship activities April 7 at Liberty Elementary School. Ablaze! Live Church, sponsored by the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, Tulsa, kicked off its opening day with an Easter egg hunt at Liberty Elementary School at 10 a.m. Despite the cold weather, 500 people participated—250 of them, children. There were plenty of live music, eggs, candy, and fun for all.

Ninety-five people came back for the evening worship service at 7 p.m. The band Zion’s Fire led worship, kids had their own children’s church, and Pastor Tom Dreier gave the message: “What every family needs to know about Easter.”

God exceeded the congregation’s wildest expectations and plans for the birth of His new mission start. More than 40 volunteers helped with various aspects of this church—including music, teaching, children’s church, nursery, greeters, and builders. What an awesome God we serve, and what a witness!

Ablaze! Live Church worships at 7 p.m. on Saturdays at Liberty Elementary School in Broken Arrow. For more information, visit the mission’s Web site at www.ablazelive.com or call (918) 704-6224.
Yes, the name of this congregation is "Ablaze! Live Church." (Please keep your comments PG-rated.)

But I really don't want to belabor the objections and troublesome issues outlined in this press release. What I feel I must say is that the cat is out of the bag. I know some folks have been crying this for some time, telling us over and over again that the Emperor has no clothes (and I have been aware of this for some time), yet instances like this drive the point home all the more. And, Lord have mercy, I believe this is only the tip of the iceberg.

9 comments :

  1. Chris Jones said...

    Pr Hall,

    Is this new Church heterodox, or is your difficulty with it more a matter of style? Obviously it is quite different in externals; but does that necessarily mean that the Gospel is not being rightly preached and the sacraments not rightly administered?

    It is not that I disagree with your being disturbed by it. But I'd like to understand exactly why you find it disturbing.

  2. Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

    As difficult as it was finding liturgical churches in Oklahoma, this makes me sad, too, Pastor Hall. How far is this away from your congregation?

    Chris,
    In my opinion children's church is an external that is borderline heterodoxy. The separation of kids from the preaching of the Word is a travesty.

  3. Rev. Eric J Brown said...

    And it all boils down to what we do. Oh look - 500 show up for the fun. . . and wow. . 75 came back for Church. Well, that's a better ratio than Jesus got with the lepers. . .

    It becomes a matter of approach - are we selling at item to fill people's "spiritual" appetite, or are we holding to our understanding of the 3rd Article of the Creed - I believe I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Christ Jesus my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel. . . .

    40 people helped out - what a witness. 2 suicide bombers just blew themselves up - what a witness to their faith in Allah. I don't care about witnesses - I care about the One about whom the witness is born. As a professional messenger more attention to who is giving the message tends to annoy me.

    And there's the fact that next week is our district Pastor's conference and we'll probably be told how wonderful this is over and over.

    Oigh.

  4. Randy Asburry said...

    Pr. Hall,

    You rightly quote St. Paul in saying, "whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy" (Phil. 4:8 NKJV), however, you forgot to finish the verse! It goes on to say, "...meditate on these things."

    Therefore, I find it best just to "not meditate" on the Ablaze! nonsense in our midst. It's there. It's not going away anytime soon. And it most certainly is NOT true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, or virtuous or even praise worthy! In fact, I would argue that, yes, it is heterodox, as it comes from Pentecostal sources, as we can see in the Pentecostal "style" of worship that typically accompanies "Ablaze!" proponents and events. (Actually, we can say that it has some Scriptural warrant. Check out Malachi 4:1 in the ESV! ;-)

    So, what shall we discuss that IS true, noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous and praise worthy? :-)

  5. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Pr. Asburry,

    You are so gracious to save me from myself! Actually, I placed the "think/meditate" clause at the beginning, outside the quotes, but perhaps that doesn't read clearly.

  6. Doorman-Priest said...

    The bottom line is:
    Is the gospel being preached? If it is and people are being brought to a saving knowledge of God through Jesus, then differences of style are irrelevant.

    D.P.

  7. Chris Jones said...

    DP,

    You are right about what the bottom line is. That is why I posed the question to Pr Hall the way that I did: is the difficulty one of style or of substance?

    But the manner in which the Divine Liturgy is celebrated is not an adiaphoron. For it is through the Church's ministry of Word and Sacrament (AC V) -- and therefore through the Church's liturgy -- that the Gospel is imparted. If the structure and essential content of the liturgy is other than according to the use of the Church Catholic, then it is difficult to be sure that the Gospel is being rightly taught and sacraments rightly administered.

    The problem with "creative" worship is that the Gospel may or may not actually be delivered through "creative" worship. It depends on the personal orthodoxy, intellectual prowess, writing ability, and musical gifts of those who are being creative. On the other hand, using the liturgy of the Church means delivering the message of the Church -- that is, the Gospel -- not the message of an individual who has devised a "creative" liturgy.

    That's my answer to the question I originally posed to Pr Hall. That's not to say that you aren't right that what matters is whether the Gospel is being preached; but sometimes it is not so obvious whether or not it is the Gospel in its fulness that is being preached.

  8. Christopher D. Hall said...

    Yes, Chris, not avoiding you, but thinking.

    I do sincerely believe that when the Mass is not retained (AC XXIV)not only are those parishes prima facie not Lutheran, but also the Gospel may not be present, and the Sacraments are certainly not being "rightly administered."

    The "style versus substance" argument is bogus. The two are not separate liturgically. Nor can they be distinguished in other media, as Neil Postman argues in Amusing ourselves....

  9. Christine said...

    This makes me sad, too, Pastor Hall. I recall the beautiful, reverent worship I knew in the LCMS as a child.

    My Lutheran sister is not happy with the developments in the ELCA and but she would never be attracted to the Ablaze type of format in the LCMS.

    I sincerely hope that the Synod does a 360 degree turnaround before it's too late and a split occurs.