Thy Strong Word - Chapter Ten: Practical Applications
A Pyramid of Lapdogs
Lutherans are encouraged to view synods as competing franchises, but they are really a pyramid of lapdogs. His holiness, the Antichrist, sits on the lap of Satan and serves him night and day. No other religious organization has the resources and doctrinal aberrations to attack the Gospel world-wide, night and day. On the lap of the Antichrist sits the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, panting and grinning, pleased to have been welcomed into such an esteemed position. ELCA is completely apostate, glorying in the shame of killing her own unborn children and grandchildren with funds from the pastors’ health insurance. ELCA has a synod on each knee: the Lutheran-Church Missouri Synod and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. The Missouri and Wisconsin Synods are allowed to growl and snap every so often, but a few cuffs on the head bring both of them back into line. WELS has the Evangelical Lutheran Synod on one knee and the Church of the Lutheran Confession on the other knee. The ELS thinks it is the top dog because of its position in the pyramid of lapdogs. The CLC needs to be house-trained but loyally waits for a little attention and affection.
Anyone who sees hope for the future in this pyramid of lapdogs is delusional. For almost three decades I have heard various parties speak optimistically about change within their groups, and the synods have only become more corrupt, brutal, self-serving, and dishonest. Their worship of money and pursuit of power is all-consuming.
One of the fundamental errors of this age is the assumption that we are stuck with the established synods. Enjoying the luxury and comfort from estate gifts, the sleek cows of the Lutheran Church shrink from minor sacrifices to proclaim the truth, unmindful of their forefathers, who crossed the ocean in misery, arrived in poverty, labored to bring untilled land into production, and built towering churches glorifying the Means of Grace. We have every luxury imaginable, and they had almost none. Nevertheless, the early Lutherans devoted an inordinate amount of time, money, and effort to publishing the Lutheran classics and making them available to pastors and laity, who scraped together their pennies to buy massive tomes filled with wisdom. When I come across something like Chemnitz' Examen in Latin in a book sale from the estates of pastors, I am reminded that ministers once bought and read Chemnitz in Latin. Now we have the same work in English but it is allowed to go out of print.
Below is a modest proposal for applying the lessons of this book. If the Word of God is applied to our current situation, the pyramid of lapdogs will tumble down, snarling and biting. This effort does not require a re-structuring of the Lutheran synods, except for abandoning the shipwreck of ELCA. No faithful minister can serve in ELCA and no believer can participate in good conscience in the Hellish corruption of ELCA. Moreover, the ELCA leaders have learned their lessons well from the Antichrist and know how to deal with dissent. The Church of Rome can turn a bishop into a gas station attendant if the prelate gets out of line. Therefore, except for encouraging believers to leave ELCA, the proposal is entirely one of applying sound doctrine and repudiating the divorce of the Holy Spirit from the Word and Sacraments, whether the heresy goes by the name of Enthusiasm, Pietism, the Church Growth Movement, or Purpose Driven Churches.
"We should not consider the slightest error against the Word of God unimportant."
What Luther Says, An Anthology, 3 vols., ed., Ewald Plass, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, II, p. 637.
Worship God in the Beauty of His Holiness
KJV 2 Chronicles 20:21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever.
A Lutheran congregation has only one responsibility. It is not to grow numerically, to be successful, to balance the budget, or to have a congregation of happy campers. The sole responsibility of the congregation is to worship God in the beauty of His holiness. The marks of the true Church are
1) preaching the Word of God in its truth and purity and
2) administering the Sacraments according to the Scriptures.
The Sunday School is actually a recent invention and the result of the Sunday School Movement, which was largely non-Lutheran in origin.
Consider this comparison of mission congregations. When I was called to A Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church in Phoenix, the Wisconsin Synod began a mission in the same general area at almost the same time. Before we were moved into the house, we had our first regular worship service. From that time on we have had worship services and classes. The WELS mission did not have a name (not approved by the board yet) and did not worship for almost a year, because they had to achieve certain goals first. We worship in a converted garage and the Wisconsin Synod mission is buying property, pending board approval. I do not have a full-time salary. The mission pastor’s princely salary is subsidized by the synod. Obviously the difference in cost for the two missions is enormous, and the expenses become golden chains that bind people together by the force of law with mission loans, mission goals, and mission board meddling. If someone does not agree with the mission board’s Reformed doctrine, his entire congregation can be dissolved before his eyes and restarted with another name and another pastor.
When pastors cared more about the truth than their salaries and benefits, they had the independence of thought to establish congregations free to unite with or separate from ecclesiastical organizations. American synodical history is complicated because of this freedom, so a chart of Lutheran history looks like a map of the Los Angeles freeway system. In the past, ministers have been free to earn an income from secular work, as the Apostle Paul did, and serve a congregation. Today a trained pastor can obtain certification in Microsoft or Cisco, or learn programming, and then earn a handsome salary with benefits while serving an independent congregation. Anyone who has learned Greek and Hebrew will find computer science easy and interesting. Those opportunities do not mean that everyone needs to go out and start an independent congregation, but a pastor today should have the skills needed to support himself if his doctrinal fidelity causes the synod to jettison him. Lacking secular job skills will tend to make a minister timid in the face of synodical disapproval. What we lack in the beginning is not job skills, but faith in God. Count me as one who believed that God would provide but wondered if God would provide until He provided. Beyond all hope, in the midst of many disappointments and betrayals, God has proven this passage true, many times over:
KJV Psalm 37:25 I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 26 He is ever merciful, and lendeth; and his seed is blessed.
Our Old Adam does not like to weather the blows of evil men, but we need to realize that the Holy Spirit is so powerful that He can use their worst behavior to drive us forward into blessings we would have never realized without their spitefulness. Four different Lutheran presses refused to publish Catholic, Lutheran, Protestant, in spite of promises from three of them, so I had the unique opportunity to self-publish, a burden and blessing at the same time. I would never have entered book publishing on my own. Someone had to force me. Now I hope the lessons I learned will help others as they become established.
One reason for the many delays of this book is the time I have spent on the phone with distraught pastors and laity. Many times I thought, “Yes. Now I have an evening to write, a pot of coffee, and energy to work.” Then the phone would ring and I would listen and talk for several hours, finally exhausted at the end by the latest examples of disgraceful conduct of conservative Lutheran leaders. My advice has been and continues to be, “Teach the Word and God will take care of the details.” If the caller is a minister, I often say, “Better men than you have been tossed out of the ministry.” That reply is often good for a laugh. A good friend of mine phoned and suggested a different response for me, when I was fired from the CLC for having a pancake supper. His suggestion was: “I have been thrown out of better synods than this!” The worst aspect of all this turmoil is the crushing disappointment of learning how treacherous so-called friends can be, but it also teaches us to rely on the Word of God alone. Many ministers can be bought with a call or threatened into silence. When they do an about face, they are worse than the synod officials who turned them to the dark side.
Lutheran Worship Principles
KJV Hebrews 12:22 But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, 23 To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
The Lutheran congregation has only one task, to proclaim God’s grace through worship, with all other activities subordinate to the Means of Grace. Many people have conspired together to ruin Lutheran worship in the name of making it attractive and appealing to the young. The same synods now must face the fact that they are completely hollowed out. The vast majority of their worship attendance and financial support comes from those in retirement, meaning that the synods are teetering on collapse in the next two decades. The Church Growth foxes first argued for entertaining hymnals with feminist language and got them, especially with the Lutheran Book of Worship and its Baptist-like clone, Christian Worship. Then, after getting the wretched hymnals they coveted, the WELS Pietists argued for no hymnals and no liturgy at all. They worshiped with the song lyrics of the Enthusiasts projected on the wall, just like the Assemblies of God. The result has been an embarrassing number of Lutheran clergy who have turned Pentecostal-Baptist, taking away or wrecking huge investments in time and money. In my opinion, this trend is only beginning. The Missouri Synod already has its own Pentecostal non-geographical district, Renewal in Missouri, with 200 tongue-speaking, miracle-working pastors, who have swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all. The current Barry/Otten administration takes this in stride, just as it accepts and promotes joint religious projects with ELCA.
The best hymnal in use today is The Lutheran Hymnal, printed in 1941. It is not perfect, but it is far better than the improvements that followed afterwards. Lutherans should be ashamed that they have had so many years to build a better hymnal than TLH but continue to produce worse versions. However, we know they have made a ton of money forcing their hymnals on their congregations. WELS congregations had no choice, but the Evangelical Lutheran Synod looked at the proposed hymnal and said, “We can do better.” Nevertheless, for all their posing, WELS and the ELS both borrow from the Liberal Book of Weirdness, painfully obvious if the copyright notices are studied carefully. Lutheran Worship is a sanitized version of the ELCA LBW, so all the Lutheran hymnals in print are clones of the ELCA project, which represented the peak of ecumenical and activist fervor in the Lutheran synods in its time.
People argue against TLH because of its old English language and lack of feminist sensitivity. Ironically, droves of feminists and youth have not joined the synods who replaced TLH with pious mirth. The tendency for all the clones has been to make their hymnals less Lutheran, more Reformed, more Roman Catholic, and more Pentecostal-Baptist. There was once a movement toward liturgical consistency along confessional Lutheran principles, but now the Church of Rome and Fuller Seminary dictate worship guidelines for 99% of Lutherans, a frightening prospect.
The essential retrograde action supporting do-your-own-thing worship has been accomplished in the Lutheran synods. Whatever works is good and Lutherans sigh for acceptance by generic Protestant visitors. Gerberding fought against this attitude in the Muhlenberg tradition, disgusted that worship varied from parish to parish, that pastors let out a loud “Haw!” every so often in the sermon in imitation of Reformed preachers. Now Lutherans are caught between the high church (smells and bells) leaders aping the Church of Rome and the Fuller graduates fighting for no worship at all on Sunday, just a Seeker Service.
The following points express my opinion about Lutheran worship, and I believe it rests upon a Scriptural foundation and sound Lutheran practice.
1. The Lutheran Hymnal is the best choice for worship today because it preserves a formal style of English harmonious with dignified praise of the Holy Trinity. The King James Version remains the most precise English translation to use, the best version for reading in a worship service, and the closest to Luther’s translation.
2. When we lack the vocabulary to understand the words of the liturgy, we should lift up our educational level and not bring worship down to the perspective of Beavis and Butthead, Jane Fonda and Marva Dawn.
3. Latin and Greek names should be preserved and used without blushing. Soon the Collect and Kyrie, Septuagesima and Oculi, as well as the Votum and Nunc dimittis will be forgotten terms among the young.
4. The Sunday worship service should be conducted as worship only. It is not a time to recruit new members by trying to hide our Lutheran identity, to rouse the members to higher levels of institutional glory, or to magnify the synod.
5. The historic pericopes should be used instead of the ELCA/Church of Rome three year cycle. The historic pericopes are exactly what we find in the Lenker Sermons of Luther set, Epistles and Gospels. When that treasure trove is exhausted, send me a letter. Luther found it valuable to preach repeatedly on the same text.
6. Close communion is the only genuine Christian form of the Sacrament of the Altar. If visitors are offended, they belong in an inoffensive congregation.
7. The sermon should reflect Luther’s doctrine. Yes, many ministers claim to be Bible-only, but they usually read Reformed works. The text can be studied in Luther’s sermons, in the Book of Concord, and in many great books becoming available through Repristination Press. The only genuine Lutheran sermon is a proclamation of Law and Gospel.
8. The hymns sung during the worship service should reflect the best of Lutheran worship rather than popular trends. The biographical sketches at the end of this book were gathered to facilitate Lutheran hymn singing. In the worship bulletin, I list Lutheran authors of hymns and discuss their backgrounds during certain services.
9. The worship bulletin should not be oriented toward money, budgets, and being busy, but aimed at the spiritual edification of the members. It is an ideal opportunity to list important Lutheran quotations for the consideration of the members and the pastor. I place a different quotation on the back of each bulletin. Pastors need the wisdom of Lutheran authors, too.
10. The Holy Spirit calls the pastor through the congregation. This call is a unique role based upon his responsibility to God for the souls of the congregation. The members should feel free to ask questions about doctrine and practice, but they should also avoid usurping authority, especially when they simply do not like something, like close communion. Members should never allow an outsider to usurp the role of the divinely called pastor by interfering with the congregation.
GJ - There is some hope for WELS at this point, but the strong will defeat the weak. So far, the critics of Church and Change are weak.
The Glory Has Departed
Friday, October 31, 2008
Posted by Ichabod the Glory Has Departed at 10:08 AM