Saturday, January 31, 2009

ELCA Sex Statement
Yes, Another One

From leather-bound Bibles to leather.

ELCA task force concludes work on sexuality statement

Sam Hodges E-mail News tips

A task force of he Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has concluded its work on a human sexuality statement and on a report with recommendations about possible changes to policies that don't allow ministers to be in a same-sex relationship.

But the documents won't be made public for a few weeks. Here's a press release:


January 30, 2009

ELCA Task Force Concludes Work on Social Statement, Ministry Standards 09-027-MRC

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Task Force for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Studies on Sexuality finalized its work on a proposed social statement on human sexuality, and it finalized a report with recommendations on ministry standards regarding possible changes to policies that preclude pastors in committed same-sex relationships from the ELCA clergy roster.
The two documents will be released to the public Feb. 19.
The task force concluded its work Jan. 23-25, according to the Rev. Peter Strommen, Shepherd of the Lake Lutheran Church, Prior Lake, Minn., and task force chair. He said the task force's "very difficult discussions" centered on "how do we make good recommendations for the sake of the church."
"It is evident that there is a deep commitment on the part of task force members to love (their) neighbor and realize that their neighbors are more than the people with whom they agree," he said.
Members of the task force "are people of widely different perspectives (from) across the church, and they wrestle actively with a way through on this issue that can somehow honor (their neighbors) and honor truth as they see it. This is a very complex and sometimes an excruciating process that is profoundly different from simply being an advocacy group," Strommen said.
In the course of its work that began in May 2002, the task force published three studies and a youth resource inviting deliberation and response across the ELCA under the "Journey Together Faithfully" banner.

Time line for process, decision-making
The ELCA Conference of Bishops will review the two proposed documents March 5-10. The conference is an advisory body of the church consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary.
The ELCA Church Council will work to "recommend a finalized text" of both the proposed social statement and ministry recommendations when it meets here March 27-29. The council is the ELCA's board of directors and legislative authority of the church between churchwide assemblies.
The documents will be posted April 2 on the ELCA Web site. ELCA members will discuss and respond to the recommended documents in synod assemblies held Apri through June.
The 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly will consider both the recommended proposed social statement and the recommended report on ministry standards Aug. 17-23, in Minneapolis.
Social statements are teaching documents that assist Lutherans in forming judgments on social issues. They provide theological and ethical frameworks for discussion, discernment and decision-making, set policy for the church, and guide the church's advocacy and work in church and society.
- - -
Information about the ELCA Studies on Sexuality is at on the ELCA Web site.

Audio of Strommen's comments is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or ELCA News Blog:

Bailing Water Comments - Good, Bad, and Where Did You Go to School?
Finkelstein for Sausage Factory Prez

Heretics concentrate at Church and Chicanery Events.

The Bailing Water Blog

Anonymous said...
Yes, Ben, the Reformed manufacture disciples, so their Reformed Bible must also make disciples. The Reformed reject the Sacraments, so the Sacraments must disappear from the NIV and its clones. The Reformed want to be hip, so the NIV must be a feminist book.


January 30, 2009 8:25 PM


California on my mind said...
Go and make disciples...Go ye therefore and teach...

The anti-Church Growth crowd likes to argue the Greek word means teach and not make disciples of, but make disciples is a translation even Kretzmann and Lenski used in their commentaries, long before there was a Church Growth Movement. There's nothing wrong with using the make disciples of translation, but a person dare not forget how that's done. Jesus says it's accomplished by baptizing and teaching. That is real church growth, the Bible way.

January 30, 2009 8:26 PM


Freddy Finkelstein said...
Interestingly, over the past couple of days, Issues, Etc. has produced some programs that are directly relevant to John's post and to some of the responses that have resulted from it, above.

The "Pastor's Roundtable" segment, yesterday (1/29), was the conclusion of a discussion series on the Lord's Prayer. They spent a great deal of time discussing and defining the “The Kingdom,” “The Power,” and “The Glory,” focusing on Who establishes this Kingdom, Who nurtures it and makes it grow, via what Means He works, and for what purpose. They specifically address Church Growth theology and methodologies, particularly the idea that such methods may serve to “augment” the Holy Spirit's work, and they reject that notion.

When we speak of the “Great Commission” in Matt. 28, we speak of Christ's exhortation to the Church that it use the Means of Grace, specifically the Sacrament of Baptism and the public proclamation of God's Word. That's it. Not programs, not music, not worldly methods and measures by any stretch of the imagination. We have nothing to add to the Holy Spirit's work. He makes the Church grow, when and where He wills it to grow, and He works through the Means of Grace to make this happen. Period.

Here is the link:

Additionally, in yesterday's “Biblical Examples of Preaching” (1/29), the focus of attention during the second half of this segment was that of addressing false doctrine in the course of public preaching, even the role of fierce polemic against the errors which plague the Church, and which threaten the spiritual well being of Christians who fall under error's influence. Using the example of Jesus in Matt. 23 (the “seven woes”), Who in this account publicly exposes the errors of the Scribes and Pharisees, and excoriates them, yesterday's discussion addressed the need to preach Law directly and firmly, especially when it is specifically needed – that is, when bald and specific errors attack the Church and God's people and threatens to overshadow the Gospel, specific and public application of Law is in order. “Winsome” preaching is the same in this case as in all others, it is issued from Love – love for God, love for God's Word, and love for God's people.

One aspect of Rev. Webber's sermon (at the head of John's blog entry, above) that I especially appreciated, was his willingness to call out the error of Church Growth by name, to define it and differentiate from true Scriptural teaching. While not at all what I would call polemic, it was still quite effective. Part of the challenge for laymen is in knowing what errors they are to avoid -- some errors are obvious, others are rather subtle. Church Growth theology is both subtle and insidious to those who don't know what to look for. Rev. Webber helps by identifying the error and explaining why it is false. I think more pastors should follow his lead.

Here is the link:

In today's follow-on segment of “Biblical Examples of Preaching” (1/30), most of the focus was on Peter's sermon in Acts 4, which has direct application to the question, “Are our pastors afraid to address error in public? What do they have to fear?” When Peter accused the Jews in Acts 3, saying, “But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of Life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses,” he was standing in the Temple courts! He placed himself, and those with him, in mortal danger – and he knew this full well. In fact, they were arrested shortly thereafter. Yet despite this, they continued to stand against the influence of error and refused to be silenced. My understanding is that there are political machinations at work in WELS that would serve to attenuate the witness of our pastors regarding the errors of Church Growth. We very much need them to stand with the boldness of St. Peter.

Here is the link:

I recognize that such is happening in various quarters of the WELS, even within the ranks of Church and Change. We are told that C&C rejects Church Growth, but discussions within their private forums, which are now being made public, make it clear that their leadership has long been enamoured with false teachers and the teachings of Church Growth -- and that they have insisted on the basis of principle that actively receiving false teachers, and publicly promoting their teachings, is not a Fellowship issue, but is adiaphora. Just today, a poster over on Ichabod copied statements from Rev. Aaron Frey (WELS), issued to the leadership of C&C (and others, it seems), that constitute a clear call to repentance and the rejection of Church Growth theology and the false teachers who promote it. We need more of this from our pastors. The laity is waking up, the issues are public now -- we might as well have it out in the open.

(Of course, it should be noted that the comments were posted to Ichabod anonymously and attributed to Rev. Frey, so maybe those who are on the C&C list can confirm the authenticity and authorship of these comments.)

Here is the link: Comments to Ichabod blog post Will the Words Be Spoken?

Freddy Finkelstein

January 30, 2009 9:10 PM


Anonymous said...

The NIV translation is wrong. The object of the verb is not "disciples" but "all nations". The apostles were commissioned to "disciple" (i.e. "authoritatively teach") the nations, not to make disciples of all nations. Big difference.


January 30, 2009 9:52 PM


Freddy Finkelstein said...
Matt 28:18-20, reads, {18} And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, “All Power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. {19} Go, ye, therefore, and teach [or, 'make disciples of'] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: {20} Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

The thrust of “teach” or “make disciples of” isn't that we are responsible for a specific result, it's that disciples are made when we carry out what we are commanded by Jesus to do. Whether we use the word “teach” or use the phrase “make disciples,” the words that follow qualify these terms, and define for us precisely how we are expected to carry out this task: Baptize and Teach – the public use of the Means of Grace.

If this sounds simplistic, or even fantastical, I'll submit that Jesus knew full well that His disciples would think the same, and so offers his assurances in the preamble to the Great Commission in v18, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” The authority of Christ stands behind His command to use the Means of Grace, and the power of God attends our use of them. This could not be more clear from this reference.

But this is not the only place in Scripture which points directly to the power and authority of Christ with reference to the use of the Means of Grace. Interestingly, the assurance of God's authority and power in the use of the Means is repeated by St. Peter, who heard the Great Commission firsthand, and who later states, “ the resurrection of Jesus Christ; Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Pet. 3:21-22). And to what is Peter attaching the power and authority of the resurrected Christ? Read from the beginning of v21, “Baptism does now also save us... by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, etc...” St. Peter, in this reference, applies the power and authority of Christ to the efficacy of the Means of Grace – specifically, to Baptism. Baptism does save, and St. Peter assures us of this by pointing to the authority of the One who instituted it, Who also pointed to His own authority and power when He commissioned the Church with its use. If the words of Jesus and of St. Peter sound fantastical (and to our human reason, they certainly do), we have the clear promise of Jesus Christ regarding the efficacy of Baptism as a Means of Grace, and by His resurrection, we can have full assurance that He has both the authority to make such promises and the power to keep them.

On the other hand, Church Growth theology/methodology represents the replacement of the Means of Grace – i.e., the Means via which God works to build His Church, in His way and according to His timing – with the use of man's means – i.e., new buildings, contemporary music, the creation of programs of various forms, etc. – all of which stand behind strategies to market the congregation. The objective is an increase in number, in man's time, according to man's narrow concerns. In the most charitable construction, such methods, if they are not intended to replace the Means, are thought to augment the Means. Even so, such regard for the Means constitutes something far less than a faithful and simple trust in God's promises and in His Work through His Means. It represents an anxious apprehension regarding their efficacy.

But Church Growth is more than just a collection of methods. It is a way of thinking about man's effort that makes him a contributor to God's work rather than a Joyful participant in and beneficiary of it. It is a way of thinking about Christian Vocation, that removes it from the context of everyday tasks and virtually limits it to service within the congregation. It is a way of thinking about other Christians that identifies the “spiritually mature” with respect to weaker brothers, generally based on their works of contribution or other outward expression, creating levels of Christians in the congregation and creating a hierarchy of ministerial authority outside the context of the Divine Call. It is a way of thinking about the Means of Grace that leads one to accuse those who trust their efficacy of complacency, of regarding the Means (particularly the Sacraments) as mere opus operatum, and that consequently calls for effort from Christians which, by virtue of the effort, would bring about results Christians would naturally expect from the Holy Spirit by Means of Word and Sacrament – results which they, in fact, work to produce on their own, and which they later refer to as the Holy Spirit's work. Such working does not constitute evangelical zeal, but instead, presumptuous and impatient demands laid by man upon God the Holy Spirit. Church Growth is a theology of glory. It represents a gross overemphasis on Sanctification, and a twisting of it into a teaching of man's service for God. It is present day Pietism, pure and simple. It must be avoided.

True Christians have evangelical zeal. They don't need a command from Christ to know that the Gospel needs to be shared, rather, they are compelled to do so by virtue of the infinite gifts that are freely and assuredly theirs by faith. But thank God He did give us a command, a law that we may use as a guide as we carry out our tasks in this regard. Of all the means our minds may contrive of and work to justify, only His Means are efficacious.

Freddy Finkelstein

January 31, 2009 10:49 AM


Anonymous said...
For those who might not have a good Internet connection, so that downloading the audio file might be difficult, the text of Rev. Webber's sermon (in HTML) is on this web page:

January 31, 2009 10:53 AM


Anonymous said...
"There's nothing wrong with using the make disciples of translation."

Except for the fact that is not what the verb means. If you wish to translate the verb as "disciple" rather than the essence of what the verb is to English hearers, "to teach," fine, but then you must translate the words, "disciple all nations" which is a different thought than to "make disciples of all nations" which is not the sense of what the verb and its direct object convey. You ignore the fact that the direct object is "all nations" and not as the construction in the NIV would have you believe "disciples."

By the way, a disciple is a believer. Therefore you are saying our Lord told his apostles "to make believers of all nations." No. The corollary is Mark 16's "preach the Gospel." That is the commission to the apostles, to preach, or to disciple or to teach, and the Spirit converts where and when it pleases Him.

January 31, 2009 10:57 AM


Anonymous said...
Help me understand this. Surely it ultimately comes down to "preach the Word." But I don't think we should simply preach the Word in Greek and Hebrew -- no one would hear the message. So language - that is one thing we are contemporary about. What else can we/should we be contemporary about and what guides that decision?

January 31, 2009 5:12 PM


GJ - Sausage Factory grads use the argument about "preaching German to people who know only English" as their lame excuse for studying at Fuller, drinking in wisdom from Trinity Deerfield and Dallas Seminary, and attending pastoral academies at Willow Creek Community Church.

WELS members are waking up.

Church and Chicaneries Discuss Church Door Symposium Cancellation

C. P. Wagner gave Kent Hunter and Waldo Werning
His Who-Zoo CG Awards

The CHARIS Institute, Inc.

Announces its 3rd Annual


"Effective Evangelistic Churches"

March 6 and 7, 2006
Wisconsin Lutheran College

Effective Evangelistic Churches

Why do some churches experience greater success in reaching the lost
than others? What factors contribute to greater effectiveness in
attracting and integrating new members into the church? Building on
previous symposia which focused on understanding the culture in which
the church exists, this year's symposium will balance theory with
practice by providing both outstanding keynote presentations by several
leading authors on mission-focused ministry, as well as the narrative
accounts of pastors and leaders in congregations that have demonstrated
their ability to reach the lost. This combination of the abstract with
the concrete is intended to give symposium attendees theoretical and
practical insights into how effective congregations organize and
function to share the gospel with their communities.

Much has been written by conservative Lutheran theologians which is
critical of "church growth" methodologies. At the same time, utilization
of practical strategies within "means of grace" ministries is a proper
use of God-given reason and should be explored so that others can
benefit from the knowledge and experience of churches which have been
shown to be effective at sharing the gospel.

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Aubrey Malphurs is Professor of Pastoral Ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas, Texas. He is a widely known church consultant and is the author of numerous books on church leadership and planning.

Dr. Kent Hunter is the president of Church Doctor Ministries. He is a former LC-MS pastor who has consulted with hundreds of congregations. He is the author of numerous books including those which related church growth methodologies to Lutheran theology.

Dr. Waldo Werning is a retired LC-MS pastor who is the originator of the "Empowering and Mobilizing God's People" discipleship series. He is also the author of "Seed Planting Churches" and "12 Pillars of a Healthy Church."

Nuts and Bolts Presentations

Pastors and leaders from churches that have been shown to be effective
at reaching into their communities with the gospel will tell their
stories. Participants will gain insights into the unique environmental
contexts of each church and learn how congregational leaders organized
their outreach efforts. These "congregational narratives" are intended
to balance the theoretical with the practical and challenge symposium
participants to think about the opportunities and challenges provided by
their own congregation's context.

Registration Materials

Additional symposium information including the schedule and registration
materials is available at:

In my opinion, a clearer definition of true "Church Growth" methodology
would be "Humanistic, non-evangelical short-cuts used to effect
substantial numerical increases in attendance and membership"

Two questions: 1) How could one possibly benefit from the study of a
methodology whose very essence is intrinsically founded on man's wisdom
and not on God's powerful means of grace? 2) Therefore, why would one
even attempt to incorporate such a humanistic methodology into their own
means-of-grace ministry? The product of such a union would be (at best)
a watered down means-of-grace ministry.

Allow me to loosely paraphrase 2 Cor. 6:14,15: Do not be yoked together
with humanistic church growth vendors. For what do God's means of grace
and humanistic church growth methodologies have in common? Or what
fellowship can God's means of grace have with humanistic church growth?
What harmony is there between God's means of grace and humanistic church

Maybe Paul's "Keep away from them" warning ought to be considered here
(and at other similarly proposed venues). Peter's warning may also be a
beneficial addendum to Paul's: Why keep away from them? "[Because] your
enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to
devour." Be careful, your faith really isn't that strong, no matter how
long you've been a believer or how often you read your Bible. Only the
One in whom your faith is founded is strong - the One who builds us up
alone through the truths of His Word, not through the humanistic, false
teachings of the heterodox.

Consider this: Paul and Peter never went humanistic in their approach to
ministry. They simply proclaimed to those inside and outside the visible
church the truths of God's law and gospel to all who would listen. By
doing so, they continued their "on the job training" and their personal
"getting to know the culture education." They then taught their sheep to
do the same. That's Great Commission, evangelical, means of grace

I truly believe that if we'd spend our time doing the same, there
wouldn't be this perceived need on the parts of so many of us to go and
find "better" and "more effective" ways of doing (in our own corners of
the world) what the Lord has already equipped us to do with the tools of
His powerful Word and sacraments. I do understand that we all can and
ought to learn and grow from fellow like-minded believers. Yet, let's
continue to place our trust and confidence when it comes to the
"effectiveness" of our ministries where it belongs - on our Lord Jesus
and His powerful Word & sacraments, and not on "better, more effective
ways" of "doing ministry." Remember, no "better, more effective way" has
or will ever save anyone.

Paul Lindhorst

Using such logic why don't we go back to doing our entire services in German, or
get yet in Hebrew and Greek? After its the Word and Sacrament that brings
people to faith, it doesn't have to be communicated in a way that is
understandable, or in an environment that is comfortable and inviting to those
we want to hear it.

This argument that changing methods in order to communicate the same
never-changing message is somehow heresy and a denial of the power of the means
of grace is seriously getting a bit tiresome. I am sure that those who wanted
to change from German to English heard it.

Bill Ritchie


Please reread Paul's message. While I, too, find the
arguments about changing methods to communicate the
never-changing message tiresome, Paul did not breathe
a word of it. He merely repeated Paul's (the Apostle)
command to stay away from false teachers. I know we're
used to long and drawn-out arguments on this server
along the lines that are wearing thin with you, but
that was not the point of brother Paul's message. To
put up a straw man in the place of his very valid
points and then knock it down does a great disservice
to him, the readers of this forum, and the Word of

In Christ,
Aaron Frey


In all due respects I don't think I put a straw man up and knocked it down.
If the men at the symposium are coming to preach God's Word to us then I
would agree wholeheartedly that we should stay away. However, I don't think
that is the case.

We all the time hear "Church Growth Movement," its all evil keep away. The fact
is much of it is not evil. Much of it is just practical common sense methods we
can use without negating the message or the power of the gospel.

It has gotten to the point that we are becoming so afraid of the world around us
that we are becoming almost isolationists, and you see where that got the Shakers.

If being orthodox means that I am only going to listen to someone who graduated
from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and only carries the "right credentials," then
God save me from that kind of orthodoxy.

Bill Ritchie

William Ritchie wrote:

”If being orthodox means that I am only going to
listen to someone who graduated from Wisconsin
Lutheran Seminary and only carries the "right
credentials," then God save me from that kind of

One can only hope that upon reflection the author of
these words will come realize just how wrong-headed
(wrong-hearted) they really are.

Steven Rhode

Dear Bill-

A straw man mischaracterizes a person's position,
usually by overstatement. Paul did not say that the
Church Growth Movement is "all evil," and that's why
we should keep away. Neither did I. Paul also said
nothing in his email about methods not being able to
change. Neither did I. No one said that we can only
listen to WLS grads nor mentioned anything about
"right credentials."

The point is that the Apostle Paul told us to stay
away from false teachers. "I urge you, brothers, to
watch out for those who cause divisions and put
obstacles in your way that are contrary to the
teaching you have learned. Keep away from them"
(Romans 16:17). He didn't say, "What you really need
to look out for is when they mount a pulpit and tell
you they're going to be preaching the Word of God to
you." "Have nothing to do with them," he says to Titus
(3:10). When he says in Romans 16:18 that the false
teacher serves his own appetite, he does not say
"except for the ones who really seem to be able to get
people into their churches." And note also that he
does not make that judgment based on how much they
teach falsely nor on how much they may have to say
that may have some wisdom in it. That only makes the
falsehood harder to discern.

The fact is that these speakers are going one step
beyond where Sweet was, and that by the symposium's
own words: "...this year's symposium will balance
theory with practice by providing...outstanding
keynote presentations by several leading authors on
mission-focused ministry." Note that we're not
listening to them on culture anymore. We're listening
to them about "mission-focused ministry." That is
doctrine, whether the speakers mount a pulpit or stand
behind a podium, that's doctrine.

I've read Kent Hunter's "Confessions of a Church
Growth Enthusiast." Of course he says things that I
wouldn't argue with. Catholics say things that I
wouldn't argue with. But he also claims that CGM
material is free from doctrinal bias. He also
downplays the power of the gospel. He also
mischaracterizes gospel ministry. He downplays the
value of teaching correctly, even though he pays lip
service to it again and again. He quotes his own words
from a different book at the head of chapter 7 (p.
181): "Unless God himself tells me otherwise, I will
hold fast to my doctrinal heritage until the day I
die. But I would much rather work with those who share
my passion for the Great Commission than debate with
those who share my doctrinal distinctives." Well,
while a prideful love of debate can, indeed, prevent
us from the doing the work we are here to do, God has
told us to stay away from false teachers, no matter
how much passion they appear to show for the Great
Commission. "Doctrinal distinctives?" No, Kent,
*doctrine*. Let us not forget that the Great
Commission includes the mandate to teach everything
with which the Lord has instructed us.

How can we really believe that if we give Kent Hunter
the stage for a speech about "effective evangelistic
churches," he will not talk doctrine?

This is not a matter of judging the percentage of
falsehood from a teacher, but judging whether they are
false teachers or not. Even the Antichrist sets
himself up in the temple of God (2Th 2:4) and the
people of the world have a form of godliness (2Ti
3:5). Let's deal with that topic, and not whether or
not CGM or any of these speakers is "all evil."

In Christ,
Aaron Frey


Like you, I certainly would not invite Kent Hunter to preach a sermon in my
church or lead my adult Bible study. However, I think we can make a distinction
between that and what he is doing at this symposium. As I understand this
symposium, he is going to come and he is going to share practical methods he has
employed to reach people with his message and he is probably going to have break
out groupsor something so that we can actually practice the "method." I think
that is what he means by balancing practice and theory. The truth of the matter
is you could invite anyone to do that. It could just as easily have been
someone from the business world talking about how they marketed refrigerators or

If there is something practical we can learn from them, I see no problem with
listening. If he is going to preach his doctrine, then I agree with you
wholeheartedly. I would hope and trust that those putting on the symposium
would ask the speakers to stay away from doctrine and concentrate on the
practical as I think Dr. Sweet did an overall pretty good job of doing. If they
allow him to come in and preach to us that doctrine isn't important, that it
really is the method and not the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God
that converts people, then I will be happy to stand alongside you and condemn
such sponsorship of a presentation. Maybe here you could say that I am being
too trusting, but I tend to trust people until they prove to me I can't.

As to the "straw man" thing. If you call what I did a straw man, then I guess I
won't argue the poiint (sic). As I see it what I did was take a misapplication of a
truth and show how you can missaply it using the same logic to justify another
totally rediculous proposition. As I understood what he was saying he was
saying that we should not listen to those outside our fellowship at all on any
topic. And that we should not use human reason, I believe he called it
humanistic methodology to improve our communication of the gospel by making the
way we do it more inviting to people. He said that doing so is somehow
negating the truth that it is the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace
that converts people. If one is going to use that logic then you would have to
agree with my proposition which is even more ludicrous that we should just read
the Bibles in Hebrew and Greek to everyone, baptism them using the Greek
langauge and celebrate the Lord's Supper using of course the Greek language when
speaking the words of institution. I think that my illustration is a perfectly
acceptable form of debate.

On the other hand, if we all agree that it is the Holy Spirit working through
the means of grace that converts people, and I hope we all agree on that, but
that there are things we can do methodologically that might attract more people
to listen as we present the gospel then I think we might be able to further our
discussion for the benefit of the church.

Respectfully in Christ,

Bill Ritchie

Dear Bill-

Let me just pose the question again, as I did before.
If you answered it in the last reply, I didn't quite
pick up on it. How can we really believe that if we
give Kent Hunter the stage for a speech about
"effective evangelistic churches," he will not talk

I'll let you answer that as you have the time. I'm
sure you're quite busy today, as I am, getting ready
for worship in the morning. But if your answer was to
point to Sweet's presentation and to say that he did a
decent job of staying away from doctrine, then you
cause me alarm. This is what all the advertisements
said: "What do Starbucks, IKEA, ColdStone Creamery,
and NASCAR 'get' about the culture already in progress
that the church doesn't?" I heard all kinds of people
say that he could stay away from doctrine while
speaking on that point, but I couldn't even count the
number of times he didn't just "exegete the culture,"
but told us what we had to do if we wanted our gospel
preaching to be effective. Bill, that's doctrine. It's
ecclesiology. It's soteriology. I won't say he didn't
say anything interesting or informative--or even
useful. I could even understand some of us going on
our own to hear him and then telling people what we
heard, having humbly attempted to discern the truth
from the falsehood. But we advertised to our entire
church body, and that room was not just full of people
trained to recognize subtleties of teaching that are
difficult to discern. I was surrounded by lay people
writing down and chattering on about his doctrinal
insights along with his quips about Starbucks coffee.

And now we're giving Hunter and two other heterodox
theologians a podium to tell us how to make the gospel
convert more people. Again, I've read his work! This
is, indeed, his area of expertise, and if you know
what he says about it, then you know that what he is
saying will be full of his own doctrinal insight, and
that he will *teach*. Even worse, he will tell us over
and over again, as he does in his books, that he has
"Lutheranized" CGM for himself, even though he claims
that there is not any significant theology in CGM to

If we listened to a salesman tell us how to sell
refrigerators, then we would learn how to sell
refrigerators. No harm in that. But if we see no
difference between that and someone coming in to tell
us how to market the gospel, then there is tremendous
harm. That is preaching. I repeat, that is preaching.
Podium or pulpit, that is preaching.

If an orthodox theologian wanted to talk about
interesting things he had learned from marketing
books--how marketing is not the same as evangelizing
but can teach us something about communication--that
would be great. It would be keeping away from false
teachers. Hunter doesn't do that. He's bad at it. He
is a heterodox theologian. Asking him to speak on that
topic is not keeping away from false teachers. It is
inviting them in.

Again, in reply, please focus on the question, "How
can we really believe that if we give Kent Hunter the
stage for a speech about 'effective evangelistic
churches,' he will not talk doctrine?" That is what
this is about.

Your brother in Christ,
Aaron Frey

Dear Aaron:

I don't know that we can be 100% certain that Kent Hunter will give
his presentation without talking doctrine. The only person that could
be that certain of it is Kent Hunter. However, if I were the one organizing
the symposium (which I am not) that would have been a part of the agreement
when he was contracted to speak. I would assume, that he would then do his
best to live up to that agreement. I realize that there is some risk that a
might in such cases not live up to the agreement 100% and that he might
let something doctrinal slip in and then I would have to at some point be
prepared to deal
with it before everyone left the symposium. However, as I said before, if a man
gives me
his word, I take him at his word until he does something to prove that I should
do otherwise.
Should a doctrinal issue come up wherein he said something with which the Bible
and our
church doctrines disagree, then as the organizer it would also be my
responsibility to give a
clear message rejecting that and I would do so before everyone left the
symposium. Furthermore,
it would probably be the last time I ask that person to speak since he broke his
agreement with me
the first time.

As to your concern about Dr. Sweet "telling us what we had to do if we wanted
our gospel preaching
to be effective," I think you misunderstand Dr. Sweet and others who make such
statements if by that
you are taking them to mean that it is our power of persuasion that converts

I understand why you might take it that way. You and I, as pastors, are taught
to parse words carefully
and we both spend a great deal of time doing the best we can to choose just the
right words to make
sure that we are not misunderstood. And yet you have to admit that no matter
how careful we are, there
are times when someone takes something we say and turns it around to say
something we had never
dreamed of saying. Well, let me tell you from experience, that our training is
very unique in that respect.
Most people are not trained to be as precise. When we hold them to the same
level of preciseness that
we hold ourselves to there can be great misundertanding. (sic)

When Dr. Sweet and others talk about "making our preaching of the gospel more
effective" they are
not talking about changing hearts. What they are talking about is communicating
effectively in a way
that people understand and equally as important in a way that encourages them to
come and listen
to what we have to say. In that respect, they are really talking about what we
might call pre-evangelism
not true evangelism whereby we are talking about how hearts are changed.

You do have one significant advantage over me in that you have read Kent
Hunter's books. I admit
I have not which is one reason that I might be interested in hearing what he has
to say. I have read
many books by other Church Growth writers and my commentary on what I have read
is simply this.
There is a lot in there that I disagree with strongly, especially in areas of
doctrine. However, there is
also a lot of things that I feel is useful and valuable.

As to your quotation of Romans 16:17. I think you are perfectly right to warn
against involving
ourselves in such a way that we are learning false doctrine from them or giving
approval to the false
doctrine that they espouse. I don't think however, that we are precluded from
listening to them in
other areas, consider what they say, and then decide either to accept them or
reject them based on
any number of factors.

Hopefully, this answers your question. As you so graciously said, I understand
that we are both busy
getting ready for tomorrow. Thankfully, I am just about ready. I only
responded so quickly because
I wanted to make sure that others understood my stance. Feel free to take you
time in response, however.

In Christ,

Bill Ritchie


Aaron's taken a couple shots at this, but it's still not clear that you're
really understanding his question. So maybe I'll give it a try, only in the
interest of focusing the conversation.

Your perspective seems to be:

Hunter can talk about "effective evangelistic churches" and we should give
him and the organizers the benefit of the doubt that he won't ADDITIONALLY
talk about doctrine.

But I think Aaron's point is:

There doesn't need to be anything additional to that topic ("effective
evangelistic churches") in order for Hunter to be talking about doctrine.
That topic itself, by its very nature, is a doctrinal topic. I believe this
is the context for Aaron's question:

"How can we really believe that if we give Kent Hunter the stage for a
speech about 'effective evangelistic churches,' he will not talk doctrine?"

In other words it's not about trust that he will go beyond his topic. Rather
his challenge is to demonstrate how the topic is not already doctrinal in

This opens up a much broader area as well, but I'll just leave it there for

Tim Helmen

Dear Bill:

Thank you for your comments.

Rev. Ronald Ash

Thank you, Tim, for that excellent clarification. And
my apologies for not having been that clear before.

And didn't someone say recently in this forum that
laypeople sometimes feel like they have nothing
pertinent to say? Nonsense, and shame on me and any
pastor who ever made you feel that way!

And, Bill, Tim having refined my point, I'll ask you
to respond to his clarification, even though I'm
winding down for the night myself and could probably
write a much longer response, too.

In Christ,
Aaron Frey


Thanks for your input. I disagree that a topic of effective evangelistic
churches in and of itself constitutes a discussion of doctrine. If Mr. Hunter discusses
methods they use to attract unbelievers to hear the word then the discussion can be one
of methods not message.

Bill Ritchie

Pastor Ash:

Your welcome. Thank you for your kind reply.

Rev. Bill Ritchie

Pastor Ritchie-

Next comes the question: What is an acceptable way to
attract visitors and what is not? What constitutes
bait-and-switch or another deceptive practice? If not
everything that "gets them in the door" is acceptable
(and Hunter, in his books, seems to agree with that),
then how do you determine what is acceptable? What is
a good method for bringing them in and what is bad?
What test do you use to determine the difference?

Hunter has already applied his tests and come out with
his recommendations. His talk is inherently doctrinal
because of this. His findings are not merely
statistical nor can they be treated as merely neutral
research garnered from books. They reflect a doctrinal
position that is not compatible with orthodoxy (the
good kind that we all like). His definition of
"effective evangelistic churches" is based not on what
those churches teach, but on how many people they "got
in." That's bad missiology, bad ecclessiology, bad
soteriology (sorry about all the -ology's, folks, but
it's the best way I can make my point at the moment),
and all of that is going to be inherent in what he has
to say.

It doesn't matter if he thinks he can agree to stay
away from doctrine. His books not only prove he is
unqualified to make that promise, but the topic makes
it impossible for him to stay away from doctrine.
We're asking him to do a speech on the very thing that
makes him a heretic and asking him not to teach us any
heresy while doing it. How can I ask an open and eager
thief to demonstrate his trade for me but tell him to
do it without stealing? He's the self-proclaimed
"Church Doctor (tm)"!

I'm not looking just to start an argument here, and
despite my feelings about the last Church and Change
speaker, I have no ill will against the organizers of
these events. Despite the working of sin in my spirit,
I desire here to speak only from brotherly love and in
the spirit of encouragement in the truth with which
God charges us all. Romans 16:17 is fully applicable
here because he is a false teacher being asked to
speak to us about the very thing he teaches falsely.
And that doesn't even begin to treat the Dallas
Theological Seminary professor or Waldo Werning, whose
books I have not read.

I think I need to go to bed. I will pray to the Lord
for more light to lead our way through the hearing of
the Word and the receiving of his body and blood in
the morning. May it increase our love of him and our
love toward each other, to his eternal glory! Amen.

In Christ,
Rev. Aaron C. Frey


Obviously deception would not be an acceptable way to get people in the door.
I personally don't know how Kent Hunter answers that question, nor in fact do I
But if he would like to share with me the methods he uses then I can consult the
and make the decision as to what I deem according to God's Word is appropriate.

Not having heard his talk, I am not qualified to make the judgment you seem to
make. He could very well if requested come in and give just such a talk on
statistics and the methods he has researched. Whether he will do that or not, I
don't know.

I think it is obvious that you and I disagree on this issue, thankfully we have
been blessed
by the Lord to be able to do so without animosity and without being accusatory.
I guess
the best way to leave it is that the information about the symposium is out
there and we
will leave it up to everyone's conscious whether or not they feel it is right
for them to attend
and as to whether they can attend based on their own circumstances.

We can thank God that both us love the Lord, His Word, His Church and desire to
see it grow
spiritually and in the number of people to whom we are reaching out with the
gospel. That is still
the greatest blessing we enjoy as a synod and one that we all ought to thank God
for on a daily basis.

Bill Ritchie

1. Does anyone have Matthew Plocher's e-mail address?
2. Did anyone ever go to church the first time for the right reason?

3. Could we hear about WELS' outreach methods that are superior to Sweet and
4. Is a list-serve supposed to be a format for dialogue?

Thank you. Rolfe Westendorf

Dear Pastors Paul Lindhorst and Aaron Frey:

Thank you for your comments. They were precisely correct. Your
comments demonstrate your loving concern primarily for the faithful
confession of the truth of God's holy Word -- to the glory of God and
the salvation of souls.

Evangelism is the proclamation of God's holy Gospel -- period.
That's what the word means. A truly "effective evangelistic church" is
one which faithfully proclaims the holy Gospel in its truth and purity.
Churches which get bigger and bigger by any methods -- ANY methods --
which are not in harmony with the pure truth of God's holy Gospel are
NOT truly "evangelistic churches" and have NOTHING to teach the faithful
about "effective" evangelism. St. Paul said "mark and avoid" them. He
did not say "bring in the heterodox preachers and teachers, show them
lots of honor, hold them up as shining lights, emulate what they are
doing, do your best to look and act like them," or anything else of the

So thank you, Paul and Aaron, for your faithful testimony. I know
that many slings and arrows will be thrown at stubborn old German
Lutheran sticks-in-the-mud like us -- guys who believe in our heart of
hearts that it is not a good thing to keep holding up heretics such as
Hunter before our people as if he has got the answers that our synod's
congregations must adopt if we really want to grow.

I fully believe that several guys will chew me out for writing these
things because they do not agree with our position. I may even be told
that this listserve is not the right forum for expressing our
conscientious misgivings about entertaining heretics and supporting them
in their work of spreading heresy.

I also believe that this will prove that our synod is becoming
increasingly divided over the preaching and teaching of the one thing
needful, as well as over the doctrine and practice of church
fellowship. This recurring issue, which some among us continue to push
in the faces of deeply concerned brothers, has become an occasion for
the manifestation of the divisions in our synod.

We continue to invite Hunter to enlighten us and teach us, and those
who extend these invitations to Hunter do so with impunity. Que
lastima! They know that they can get away with it, because what is
going to happen to them if they do? Nothing. They'll have their
conference just as they want to have it, and there will be no negative
consequences for them. Nobody will step in and say "NO; you can't do
this in our district/synod!"

By inviting the heterodox into our midst rather than taking a stand
against their heterodoxy, and even allowing many in our midst to revel
in their enlightened use of their freedom to bring in the heterodox, are
we not becoming heterodox ourselves? (Remember, "heterodox" means
"mixed with other teachings" -- i.e., mixing truth with heresy.) Some
of us honestly fear that we are gradually becoming a heterodox body
because we intentionally allow heterodox teachers to come teach us about
the core of what we are all about: the faithful proclamation of the evangel.

I know; sometimes we ask the guest heretic not to talk about
doctrinal issues about which we disagree. But then they do it anyway.
We ask them not to lead us in prayer because that's a touchy subject in
our midst, but then they do it anyway. We express misgivings to
conference hosts and leaders and we're reassured that the heretics
possess expertise that nobody in our fellowship has, and that they will
just be talking about the changing society in which we are doing
ministry -- but then the heretics teach us how to worship and do our
ministry better (as if it were possible to learn how to better use the
tools God gave us from people who don't use the same tools we use or who
don't correctly understand the tools which God has given us in the first
place). Can you see how credibility begins to suffer?

Everyone knows that you can pack the church building every week if
you advertise and give away free beer, but that's not really effective
evangelism, and that doesn't make you an "effective evangelistic
church." Effective evangelism is the faithful proclamation of the
evangel to sinners who need to hear it. It is the simple message that
Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God, became flesh in order to
live for us, die for us, rise for us, ascend for us, and that one day he
will come again for us in order to give all who trust in him eternal
life. The evangel which all people need to hear is the same, regardless
of a congregation's ministry setting, the color of the skin of the
people in its pews, the economic situation of the neighborhood, the
culture in which they live or the language which they speak. Everybody
always needs to be told the same thing: God's Word, God's way. Law &
Gospel. Sin and grace. Jesus Christ, and him crucified and risen.

We don't need to keep studying sociology and psychology in order to
better proclaim the evangel. Some study of those subjects is just fine
in order to help us become educated people, but what we really need to
focus our energies on is the evangel itself! We need to study God's
Word more and more. And as we do, the Holy Spirit will move us and
guide us and inspire us to proclaim God's evangel more and more and more
-- and God will be glorified thereby, and souls may be saved thereby, in
the time and measure the Spirit desires.

To God alone be all the glory -- and keep the heretics and all the
heterodox at a distance!

In Christ's service,
Pastor David Peters (by God's grace a graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran
Seminary [twice])

Please permit me to try to answer your four questions as well as I can.

1) Yes -- but I don't. One of the others on this list serve may have
it. I'm sorry I can't help you on this. Hopefully someone will send it
to you.

2) Yes -- my parents said "Get into the car; we're going to church!"
I was seven years old and unbaptized, but I obeyed God's Fourth
Commandment and did what my parents told me to do. At Grace Ev.
Lutheran Church in Tucson, Pastor E. Arnold Sitz baptized me in the name
of the Triune God. I believe that I went to that church the first time
for the right reason. And my wife and I had Pastor Dick Pagels baptize
both of our babies at Watertown Hospital shortly after they were born;
then we took them to Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church in Johnson Creek, WI,
a week later. I believe that they both went the first time for the
right reasons; they were hauled in by their parents.

3) Yes. Writers in our synod have developed many, but the best ones
are still the old stand-bys: faithfully preaching the pure Gospel in
worship services, faithfully teaching the pure Gospel in classes,
faithfully speaking the pure Gospel to others in our daily lives as God
gives us occasion, faithfully studying the pure Gospel in order to keep
our understanding and proclamation of the Gospel pure, and faithfully
living each day as children of God who believe the pure Gospel of Jesus
Christ. Since Sweet & Hunter are heretics, their version of the Gospel
is not pure and, therefore, their methods cannot help us faithfully
believe, preach, teach, or otherwise spread the pure Gospel. They don't
even know what the pure Gospel is -- or, if they do, they alter or
reject parts of it, leaving their product impure.

4) A list serve serves the list. Announcements are posted on list
serves. Ideas are shared on list serves. Some people discuss those
announcements and ideas on lists serves. If there are two sides (or
more, sometimes) being expressed about a topic on a list serve, then
that list serve is serving as a format for dialogue. If, however, your
question is about whether or not this list serve should serve the list
by providing a forum to enable its members to discuss the announcements
and ideas published on this list serve, then I don't understand why
anyone would answer your question with a "no." So I think that the
correct answer is "yes."

If anyone can answer my good friend Pastor Westendorf's questions
more accurately, please help me out here. This is the best I can do at
this late hour. Thanks!

Your brother in Christ,
Dave Peters

Dear David,

You stated this response to going to church for the right reason:

2) Yes -- my parents said "Get into the car; we're going to church!"
I was seven years old and unbaptized, but I obeyed God's Fourth
Commandment and did what my parents told me to do. At Grace Ev.
Lutheran Church in Tucson, Pastor E. Arnold Sitz baptized me in the name
of the Triune God. I believe that I went to that church the first time
for the right reason. And my wife and I had Pastor Dick Pagels baptize
both of our babies at Watertown Hospital shortly after they were born;
then we took them to Immanuel Ev. Lutheran Church in Johnson Creek, WI,
a week later. I believe that they both went the first time for the
right reasons; they were hauled in by their parents.

My question: Is going to church because of the Law, out of obligation, because
someone told us we have to go, the right reason?

In Christ's Service,
Scott Gostchock

Thanks , David.

As long as we are not on the list-serve, I will venture the following. It is
right for parents to take their children to church, but they don't go of their
own free will, which is the circumstance I had in mind.

I would add to your list the loving relationships that Scripture enjoins as the
missing ingredient in our outreach. I hope we can fix that at Siloah with God's

With love in Christ, Rolfe W.

Aaron Frey wrote:
”What is an acceptable way to attract visitors
and what is not? What constitutes
bait-and-switch or another deceptive practice?”

I would be interested in a friendly discussion of Biblically acceptable means of
outreach to the unchurched. I have known some people to categorically apply the
term "bait-and-switch" to methods that I consider to be acceptable. I contend
that many outreach methods can be carried out in a God pleasing way and the same
methods can be done in a God displeasing manner.

I propose that many means can be properly used in an effort to bring unchurched
neighbors in contact with a congregation and possibly with its facility, so that
those unchurched neighbors become comfortable enough with the congregation to
allow that congregation to help them in spiritual matters.

Can the following outreach methods be done in a God pleasing way?

ESL (English as a Second Language)

A medical dispensary

A food pantry

Open gym night

Exercise classes

Mark Bergemann
to God be all glory

GASP! Aren't those examples of "church growth" methods? (I'm being

John Bauer

Mark Bergemann suggested a short list of outreach ideas that could be used in a
God-pleasing way. For those who haven't yet checked this out, there are a bunch
more great outreach concepts offered (some in great detail) at the following
location on the Church and Change homepage:

Don't limit yourself to the ideas under "outreach" -- there are great outreach
ideas listed under other headings as well. Thanks, Aaron, for getting this
thread started.

Mike Borgwardt

I think the label of "bait-and-switch" is potentially applicable whenever we
offer many of these (and other) services with the *primary intent* of
bringing in new members (or even, of "winning more souls for Christ"). I
believe we are in danger of being deceptive when we give the appearance of
caring for people's physical needs, but in reality we're thinking almost
exclusively about their spiritual needs. In other words, don't even think
about opening a food pantry if it does not truly bother you that many in
your city will go to sleep tonight hungry. (And if you're not troubled by
their physical suffering, it's hard to believe you are honestly concerned
about their spiritual welfare, either.) We can expect (because the Bible
says so) that, when we express our love and concern for our neighbor in
concrete ways, some of those neighbors will be attracted to Christ and will
gain even more than they imagined. But that result is a by-product of our
good deeds, and not their main objective.

But I don't doubt that's part of what Mark was referring to when he said "in
a God pleasing way".

I'd love to hear more ideas, too.

- Guy Marquardt

I know. We do one thing for outreach in foreign
mission fields, but then if we try those things in US
mission fields or our own congregation outreach,
suddenly it's "wrong."

James tells us that our faith produces fruits. God
created us as material beings, just as He created a
material world. Jesus did not neglect or overlook
physicalk needs--in fact, to John's disciples he tells
them to report to John what they see--Jesus heals the
sick, gives sight to the blind, gives hearing to the
deaf, raises the dead. We know on at least two
occasions he fed people who were hungry.

So, yes, I believe we can use the material needs of
people to gain their confidence in more weighty
matters, like spirituality and eternal life.

This link will bring you to a piece that ran in
Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about
homelessness. It seems the homeless see us in the
church as "proseletyzing" them. I wonder if we
*really* get to know the people we claim to serve?
Feel free to comment:

John Hoh

When I think of outreach, I think of when Jesus called his disciples
"fishers of men". God could have caused fish to jump into his disciples
boat, but he still told them to let down their nets (they were actively
involved). In modern day fishing, I think of the means of grace as the
fishing hook. A skilled fisherman doesn't just sit at the boat launch
and fish with a bare hook. Instead, he gets in his boat, finds where
the fish are (GO into all the world....), puts a nice juicy delicious
worm on the hook, and catches some nice fish. What was it that brought
the fish into the boat all along? It was the hook (the Word and the
means of grace). It's always the hook.

So how do you "fish for men" and get people in contact with the means of
grace? What's your juicy worm?....

Jonathan Favorite

Bait and switch is an unethical business (not spiritual) practice to entice
people to spend money on a product they did not want because the stores do not
have available the product advertised. I'm having difficulty understanding how
this could enter into any thoughts of outreach with the Gospel. The closest
experience I have to draw on follows:
Years ago as members of a congregation out west were planning to do a
children's outreach program in a local park several questions arose as to how to
complete the paperwork to 1) purchase a list of homes in the area where children
resided between certain ages, and 2) receive a city use permit for the park.
Churches in the past had been denied permits to use the parks for outreach
activities and lists of homes where children resided sent up red flags. We
decided to follow Scripture's words and speak the truth in love on both forms
and asked God to clear the path if this was His will. We printed up a sample
door hanger and submitted it to the list company. The words Creatiion For Kids
and the sponsoring church name leaped off the flyer. We received the lists
requested with a one time use condition. The city looked at our application and
said no permit was necessary for this activity for children. She made note of it
and said to use her name should any questions arise. We were
cautioned not to bring in loud speaker equipment. The day of the event we
walked around the park with flyers and invited people to bring their children to
the activity tables sponsored by ________ Lutheran Church. Once in a while
someone would say "oh, we have a church home or we're Catholic" and we would let
them know it was okay and the kids were welcome to participate anyway. That day
we had many opportunities to plant seeds. We left the watering and harvest to
the Lord.

When we follow the examples we read in God's Word, I don't think we ever need
to be concerned about bait and switch. We are not talking about taking people's
money or selling them anything.

If I allow my child to participate in basketball games at the Mormon church, I
should anticipate that they will share their beliefs with my child.
If we are asked if we will share our beliefs within our facilities or at our
outreach activity away from church, we would have to answer yes, wouldn't we? I
could not help but share my faith as it is who I am, and I'm sure you would say
the same.

Anne Huet

I think I am going to ask what may be perceived as a naive or even ignorant
question, but I'm going to ask it anyway.

Are we speaking of outreach being done to plant the seed and spread the Word?
Are we speaking of outreach being done to gain new members only?

Another way to say this might be
Are we fishing for men? or Are we fishing for members?

And could there be a difference?

Is it not our fervent prayer the Holy Spirit would move the person to
membership as the by-product of fishing for men?

Would an application for this discussion be similar to the book of Acts where
people were saying they were for this leader or for that leader and Paul said
don't do that. One plants, one waters. . .

Maybe I'm out of my depth on this subject and drowning in my own simplicity.
Are there two different reasons for following Christ's command to go and teach
and make disciples?

Anne Huet


You are correct. "Bait and Switch" refers to
advertizing one thing, but not having the advertized
item in stock and trying to get the customer to buy a
different item. Sometimes this is overt ("We don't
have that product, but we do have this product that's
just $x more"). Sometimes it is covert. I remember a
sem roommate and I looking at VCRs at a local
electronics emporium. There would be a tag with
features but, gosh, each tag had a feature that wasn't
with *that* product, but if you want *that* feature,
hey, for another $10 you can get this model. We soon
saw that the incremental marketing which saw us come
in for I believe a $150 VCR had us looking at $300
models wondering how we got there. We walked out
without making a purchase.

I think if our buildings state we are a Lutheran
church, then by insinuation people will *suspect* that
ESL or food pantries or whatever means we use to build
connections and relationships will be seen with
skepticism (I sent a link to an article in Sunday's
paper where some of the patrons expressed that
feeling). But I haven't seen this skepticism keep
people from coming to Salem for help from the food
pantry. Again, it's building a relationship so that
people are familiar with us (and we with them). And if
we aren't "vultures" waiting to prey on each "carcass"
as an evangelical opportunity that comes through the
door, the comfort level goes up to the point where the
Holy Spirit has tilled the soil of rocky hearts to be
receptive to planting or watering. Who knows what
planting or watering we actually do anyway? Wouldn't
it be neat to know the quiet power the Holy Spirit is
continually working even though we don't see it?

Pastor Westendorf asked if there's ever a proper
reason someone comes the first time to church. Heck,
I'll bet the reasons I go to church for an improper
reason vastly outnumber the times I come for the
proper reason. As everyone at Salem knows, I come to
show off my neck ties! ;)

The Apostle Paul worked in the culture he was in.
Sometimes that meant acknowledging that the pagan's
had a spirituality that could be commended--they had
an altar to "an unknown god!" Laugh if you must, but
doesn't that speak of a spirituality and a searching
for answers? Paul used that positive to share with the
Athenians the message of the "unknown god." He sewed
tents to make a living. Do you think Paul did not make
connections and forge relationships in this endeavor?
"To the Jew I became a Jew, to the one under the law I
became like one under the law, to the Gentile I became
like a Gentile that in being all things to all men I
might win some for Christ."

Anne, I liked the straight-forward approach you took
in the children's outing. Perhaps other churches had
difficulties because they sought to use the park(s) in
a way of fund-raising? It's hard to say, but God does
indeed open doors for us and guide us through

As far as whether we are "fishing for men" or "fishing
for members," when the world, and budget committees,
look at numbers, that distinction becomes blurred. Add
to that if there is a financial stress, the need to
"fish for members" clouds our vision to "fish for
men." Again, fishing for men means we build
relationships and let the relationship nurture as God
wills. Of course, being a "pew potato" it's easy for
me to say.

John Hoh


I can answer #1 for you. It's mplocher@... (work, where
I spend too much time), and mjp@... (home).

I would also like to take a stab at #3 - superior outreach methods.
Methods are many, principles are few. Methods always change, principles
never do.

Focusing on outreach for the sake of outreach (what methods we want to
use - canvassing, VBS, etc.) is like trying to start driving a stick
shift in 2nd or 3rd gear. The car bucks and fights, and it will probably
stall. I believe the focus that the WELS takes on the Great Commission
is like trying to start a car in 2nd gear (anyone tried to get a group
together to canvass a neighborhood recently?). Without building on the
proper foundation, any outreach effort (method, technique, etc.) will
sputter and stall (cf: 400,000 WELS members for decades). It's only with
the proper foundation that outreach will work.

Jesus tells us what that proper foundation is (I call it the Great
Commandment) in Mark 12:29-31 - Love the Lord your God, and love your
neighbor as yourself. "There is NO COMMANDMENT greater than these,"
Jesus said. (v. 31b)

The Apostle John says it this way: "...because we obey (God's) commands
and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name
of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us."
(I John 3:22b-23) Notice that John didn't say "And the third command is
to take the Gospel to the unbelieving world."

If we command people that they are supposed to tell others about Jesus,
but we don't give them the reason to do it, we will get the results that
we have been getting for decades. In fact, if you notice in his
epistles, Paul doesn't spend a lot of time telling us to go tell others
about Jesus. Instead, he focuses over and over again on faith, hope and
love. Take care of our own faith. Don't lose sight of the hope we have
of our heavenly home. And now, because of the love God showed you in
Jesus, go love (not tell) other people. He realizes that when we
understand how long and wide and high and deep that love is, it doesn't
matter what the methods are. No one will be able to stop us from telling
others about Jesus.

The WELS is known as "the strict church," "the church that won't let
women vote/preach/speak," etc., etc., etc. Why is that? How is it that
we can be guardians of the purity of the Word, but not get people to
listen to it? I think that answer is in I Corinthians 13:1 - "If I speak
in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a
resounding (read: annoying) gong or clanging cymbal."

Because we spread the Gospel out of obligation instead of love, people
tune us out.

I challenge you pastors reading this to take some informal, one-on-one
surveys of your members. Ask them what grace means. If they give you the
stock answer - undeserved love - dig deeper and find out if they really
know love means. I would bet that very few really know.

On Christmas Day, Pastor Carl Pagel preached one of the best sermons I
have ever heard, focused on Jesus' love. I will ask him to post it for
you to read.

I would also recommend that everyone read the book "A Love Worth Giving"
by Max Lucado.

We need to stop being guardians of the Word of God and start being
distributors of the Love of Christ.

Thank You,

Matthew J. Plocher

Thanks! I hope he will post. I love sermons! Your post was very good and
insightful. It makes a lot of sence.

Jennifer Kluender

Matthew J. Plocher wrote:
”We need to stop being guardians of the
Word of God and start being
distributors of the Love of Christ.”

I would say that doing either one of these properly results in doing the other
also. A proper "guardian" of the Word would have to put to use that Word or
else he no longer has it. Faith and works, you can not have one without the

Mark Bergemann
to God be all glory

“We need to stop being guardians of the Word of God and start being
distributors of the Love of Christ.

Thank You,
Matthew J. Plocher”


I'm sure you didn't mean the above statement exactly as written. I'm
guessing you don't mean we should stop starting guarding the Word. I'm
assuming you meant to say, "We need to stop MERELY being guardians and start
ALSO being distributors of the Love of Christ."

Sorry if I'm adding words to your statement but I hope it's safe to assume
that's what you meant. Otherwise, I can see you being blasted for that
statement as it's worded. :-)

In Christ,
Tadd Fellers

When I vicared the church was conducting a survey of
its members. The survey was designed before I got
there, but the previous vicar suggested adding the two
Kennedy Evangelism explosion questions (If I die
tonight, where would my sould go? If God asked me why
He should let me into heaven, what would I say?) The
answers were startling. Less than 1/3 "embraced grace"
in their answers. Usually it was "I try to follow
God's Law" or "I'm basically good," etc. And this was
an established WELS congregation, with the pure
doctrine and emphasis on sola fide, sola gratia (and,
it appeared, "o solo mio!").

Luther commented that the Law is a constant dweller in
a man's heart, the Gospel an infrequent guest.

John Hoh

Due to the brotherly concerns expressed by numerous clergy and Synod
officials around issues of church fellowship, I have reluctantly
concluded that the most prudent thing to do is cancel this year's Church
Door Symposium. Although I disagree with the judgments that hosting
non-WELS speakers represents a violation of Scripture and WELS doctrine,
my desire for harmony in the church, coupled with my concern for the
continued success and vitality of CHARIS and Wisconsin Lutheran College,
must override the need to take a stand on this issue.

It is very apparent that great confusion exists among us around
applications of the fellowship principles. Rather than contribute to
this confusion, I have decided to cancel this year's Symposium. May God
give us wisdom to guide us as we strive to live and work in the freedom
of the gospel so that we can be salt and light to a dying world.

John E. Bauer, Ph.D.
Executive Director, The CHARIS Institute, Inc.
Wisconsin Lutheran College

Dr. Bauer-

This must have been a difficult decision for you to
make. I applaud your brotherly concern and thank you
for making the tough choice for the sake of your
brothers and sisters.

Since you desire to make a clear witness to the truth
in this matter, I encourage you also to be more
specific about the actual concerns others have had
regarding the speakers at the previously scheduled
event. Your email makes it sound as though the concern
was over non-WELS speakers being invited to speak for
any reason and on any subject. I doubt you want to
leave that impression with those who care about the
work of Charis, WLC and Church and Change.

Claiming that it would be wrong to have someone speak
to a college's faculty and staff about matters of
administration and legal issues would be unfair and
wrong. If the concerns expressed were about having
false teachers speak on subjects that establish their
very heterodoxy, well, then, that is a different
matter. I believe the struggles that are ahead for us
in coming to an understanding of biblical fellowship
priniciples require us to be more specific about our
reasons for choosing whether or not to have specific
speakers in.

Again, thank you for making a very hard decision for
the sake of the body of Christ on earth. With you I
pray for the healing I believe our synod needs--a
healing that can only come through the life-giving
truth God has given us by sending his Son, the Word
made flesh.

In Christ,
Aaron Frey

Dr Bauer:

While I probably would not have made the same decision you did, I understand
why you made it and respect your decision. God bless your ministry at WLC.

Bill Ritchie

Brother John,

I also applaud your decision, especially considering how difficult it must
have been. Regardless of whether I agree with you or with those who
feel these speakers ought not be invited into our midst, I feel you came to
the right conclusion in choosing not to push things, but rather to allow time
for study of the issues, with the prayer that we come to a Scriptural
consensus. May both "sides" in this debate be willing to entertain the
possibility that they might be wrong, listen to brotherly counsel, and return
to Scripture alone to be guided to the most God-pleasing conclusion.

Rik Krahn

Wow! You must have received SOME pressure!

John Huebner

Thank you for your kind words.
John Bauer

Thanks for your kind words.
John Bauer

I know it's old news that the Church Door Symposium has been cancelled
due to concerns regarding presenters who are not WELS. I respect Dr.
Bauer's decision but do not agree that he should have cancelled it
because of the pressures from others. I am curious if those who opposed
the presenters at the symposium are also opposing the presenters at the
EduTech conference being held in June? Are each of the presenters in
fellowship with our synod? Just food for thought.

Lyle Strehler

Isn't there a big difference between inviting someone
to speak to us about web-site design and maintenance,
and inviting someone to speak to us about effective
evangelism? One can easily be seen by everyone not to
involve religious fellowship. The other is by nature
teaching the gospel because that's what evangelism is.
Even if it isn't opened with devotion and prayer, can
it be outside the parameters of fellowship?

It seems to me there is a good purpose for events like
Church Door. I hope that it can be done in such a way
that it does not cause people to sin against their consciences.

Pastor Dan Wagenknecht
Grace Lutheran Church (WELS)
Yorba Linda, CA

How do we know that those in attendance at the symposium would be
subjected to anything that would be contrary to our fellowship
principles? I don't wish to beat a dead horse, but it seems that there
are different rules for different events depending on who is sponsoring
them. I would like to see our members be able to think and discern for
themselves when attending workshops. We claim that we have the truth
about the Gospel message and that we train our members in the light of
God's Word. With that, I have no argument. However, are we so insecure
about our faith and beliefs that we can't use and discard certain things
from a workshop no matter who is presenting? It's not a matter of
sinning against one's conscience. For those who are weak in the faith,
they simply need not attend.

Lyle Strehler

Mr. Strehler,

Don't assume that everyone who had concerns about the choice of speakers for the
Church Door Symposium is insecure in his faith or has a weak faith.

David Wenzel


”Are we so insecure
about our faith and beliefs that we can't use and
discard certain things
from a workshop no matter who is presenting? It's
not a matter of
sinning against one's conscience. For those who are
weak in the faith,
they simply need not attend.”

Are you trying to say that anyone who doesn't approve
of this workshop has an inferior faith to yours? Or
are you proposing that someone act as a gatekeeper and
determine which of our members has a strong enough
faith to come be subjected to false teaching? I hope
neither of these are what you meant, but that's the
way it came across to me.

Where is the concern for our "weaker brothers" in this
attitude? How much false doctrine do we tolerate in
*our own* symposiums???

Don't get me wrong, I use lots of non-WELS resources
for my study and benefit from them. On a couple of
occasions I've attended non-Lutheran conferences with
some other members and benefitted (sic) from those as well.
I've also supported church workshops that invited
non-WELS speakers to present on some isolated topics
(i.e. Creation Science.) That's a far cry from
inviting and endorsing errorists to speak to doctrinal
matters in our own conferences, though! (And leaving
our members to "sort it out" for themselves). How is
that building the Kingdom up???

I'm not even taking sides for the moment on the
particular recent decision about the symposium - I
don't know enough details to be sure who I would side
with. I'm just concerned that I seem to be hearing
some people express the sentiment that the those who
don't espouse some particular new methods, or who
don't feel comfortable inviting some particular
heterodox teachers to teach at our seminars, somehow
have a "weaker faith" than those who are more
progressive. (Usually its not stated that bluntly,
but that's the attitude that seems to come across -
maybe that's just me misinterpreting things over

- Mark Salzwedel

Me, personally, I make sure not to read any books that are not sold by
Northwestern Publishing House (LOL, tongue in cheek).

Matt Plocher

I'm not sure how you could read into my post that I feel that the faith
of some is inferior to mine. You totally missed my point. The good
Lord has given each of us a will and conscience to choose and discern
things that are according to his will. No "gatekeeper" is needed for
those who can put their faith into practice. I get my back up when
others are making decisions for me as to what I can and cannot handle
regarding presenters and their presentations at symposiums and
workshops. If these symposiums bother the consciences of some, why must
they impose their attitudes and beliefs on me? I'm perfectly capable of
making my own God-pleasing decisions and "building up the Kingdom" with
information that I deem useful. All that I'm asking is that those who
have a problem with presenters outside of our synod express their
concerns to the individual organizing the event. However, I see no need
for constantly bringing up fellowship issues and expecting/demanding
that some views are the only views that are right and that those who are
organizing the event better not cross that line.

Lyle Strehler

FACT: When considering whom to invite to speak at the Church Door
Symposium, I purchased books written by Aubrey Malphurs and Waldo
Werning at Northwestern Publishing House Book Store.

CONCLUSION: We appear to have greater confidence in lay people with no
theological training to purchase the books by these authors and to
independently discern truth from error than we have in pastors and
college and seminary professors to engage in academic discussion with
these very same authors.

John Bauer

--- Lyle Strehler wrote:

>>How do we know that those in attendance at the symposium would be subjected to
anything that would be contrary to our fellowship principles? I don't wish to
beat a dead horse, but it seems that there are different rules for different
events depending on who is sponsoring them. I would like to see our members be
able to think and discern for themselves when attending workshops. We claim
that we have the truth about the Gospel message and that we train our members in
the light of God's Word. With that, I have no argument. However, are we so
insecure about our faith and beliefs that we can't use and discard certain
things from a workshop no matter who is presenting? It's not a matter of
sinning against one's conscience. For those who are weak in the faith, they
simply need not attend.
>>Lyle Strehler
>>Bloomington Living Hope Lutheran Church and School

Many of your fellow WELS Christians (and I include myself in this
number) believe in our hearts that it is a bad thing to bring heretics
into our church in order to teach us either how we should change our
Means of Grace ministry or how we should change the way we think about
doing Means of Grace ministry. You clearly don't think that this is a
bad thing.

The workshops/symposia about which you speak are either held in or
sponsored by churches/schools/institute of our fellowship. We WELS
Christians believe that our schools are also "church" and that our
teachers as well as our pastors are ministers of the Gospel. We would
be loathe to invite a heretic to come into our churches in order to
teach us about spiritual truths and how to change the way we administer
those spiritual truths. We have no problems with inviting a heretic to
teach us how to improve our electrical or plumbing or computer systems.
We hold our schools (and their institutes) to the same standard as we
hold our churches. Inviting a heretic to teach us how to do basic life
support on Resusci Ann is one thing; inviting him to teach us how to
change our ministry in order to be a more effective evangelistic church
is another matter. Does anyone honestly have difficulty discerning a

There are those among us who think that it is just fine to bring
heretics into our midst to teach us how to change our ministries and the
ways we think about doing ministry. Much has been written and said
about that subject. Those who think as you do, Tr. Strehler, that we
"who are weak in the faith ... simply need not attend," are incredibly
-- unbelievably -- cavalier in their approach to their brothers! What a
loveless, unbrotherly attitude! People with that attitude accuse guys
like me of being legalists, while they on the other hand are standing
firm in their Christian freedom.

Christian freedom is NOT a license to run roughshod over one's neighbor.

I am no legalist. I stand by our God-given freedom, as I'm certain
you do. But I admonish you, as a Lutheran Christian, never to forget
BOTH halves of that paradox taught by Dr. Luther in his /Freedom of the
Christian Man/:
*"A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none;
a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to every

Luther elucidates: "Although these statements appear
contradictory, yet, when they are found to agree together, they
will make excellently for my purpose. They are both the
statements of Paul himself, who says, '/Though I be free from
all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all/' (1Co 9:19),
and '/Owe no man anything, but to love one another/' (Ro 13:8).
Now love is by its own nature dutiful and obedient to the
beloved object. Thus even Christ, though Lord of all things,
was yet made of a woman; made under the law; at once free and a
servant; at once in the form of God and in the form of a servant."

Luther did his theology well. He argued from Scripture alone. He
was no legalist. Luther drew his doctrine and learned his practice from
God's Word. He was entirely, thoroughly evangelical.

Christian love prohibits me from exercising my "Christian freedom"
(and I'm not conceding that we are free to bring heretics into our
church to teach us about how we should administer the Means of Grace)
when it grieves and hurts my neighbor. A free Christian man would
recognize his debt of love to his neighbor and would subject himself as
the servant of his brother. It is NOT a godly attitude of a free
Christian man simply to write off his brothers who have reservations
about something like this as being "insecure in [their] faith and
beliefs," as being "weak in the faith," and as people who "simply need
not attend." In regards to problems you may have understanding how to
apply these principles in an evangelical Lutheran manner, I urge you
study over what St. Paul said about eating meat sacrificed to idols in
First Corinthians.

May God bless us with the same wisdom, understanding, and
evangelical manner & method as our dear forefather, Dr. Luther! And may
he bless us with spiritual unity through the bond of peace, which the
Holy Spirit establishes and maintains only through his precious Word and

In Christ's service,
Pastor David Peters

ANOTHER FACT: There are many of us who are unhappy with NPH's
practice of selling heretical books without some sort of caveat emptor
notice affixed. Our synod's constitution says that one of our reasons
for existing as a synod is to disseminate orthodox Lutheran literature.
(That's a paraphrase; I don't have my copy of the constitution at
hand.) The question is this: If a book is loaded with unLutheran
doctrine, then why does NPH sell it? Everyone can ask NPH this question
whenever confronted by this situation.

For years I have been one of many book reviewers for NPH -- some
published by NPH, and some published by others and sent to NPH as
samples with the hope that NPH will order more copies and sell them in
their store and catalog. Most non-NPH books we reject as not being
appropriate for our people. We reviewers mail back to NPH, as part of
our review, a recommendation about the audience appropriate for each
book. For example, should this book be sold to scholars? to pastors? to
teachers? to laymen? to teens? to children? But I have never seen
(maybe it exists!) any statement affixed to any book at NPH restricting
its purchase to just scholars or pastors or whomever.... Many of the
books I review I reject as being unfit for NPH to sell. To some of the
books I give my nihil obstat -- if I see no reason why we shouldn't
offer that book for sale. When I've asked NPH why certain heretical
books are on their shelves for sale, I've been told that every book they
sell has received the approval of some WELS pastor/reviewer.

CONCLUSION: We pastors/reviewers each operate with our own standards
as to what is wise and good, and what is foolish and bad, when it comes
to book reviews. What? WELS pastors with differing opinions? Go

Have a happy day!
Pastor David Peters

I get
> my back up when
> others are making decisions for me as to what I can
> and cannot handle
> regarding presenters and their presentations at
> symposiums and
> workshops.

I don't think anybody is trying to decide what you can
"handle", or what symposiums you could or should
attend. I think that's confusing the issue, Lyle.

If these symposiums bother the
> consciences of some, why must
> they impose their attitudes and beliefs on me?

I don't want to be unfair and take this out of
context, but this kind of statement concerns me. (In
a loose sense, our entire reason for existence as a
church is to "impose our attitudes and beliefs" on
others!) Paul calls on the mature Christians to
sacrifice their Christian liberties in order to
prevent stumbling blocks for the weak (Romans 14:20).
If that applies to things like foods, how much more
does it apply to actually promoting (directly or
indirectly) false doctrine! (Matthew 18:6)

> However, I see no need
> for constantly bringing up fellowship issues and
> expecting/demanding
> that some views are the only views that are right
> and that those who are
> organizing the event better not cross that line.

So - aren't you saying that their view is wrong and
yours is right, and you are upset that those opposing
you "crossed your line"? In addition, I think you're
setting up a strawman here. The vast majority of
people I've seen on this list who have expressed
concerns have not just blindly made blanket
"fellowship doctrine" objections. Most have given
thoughtful, well reasoned objections to some of the
*specific* presenters and the *specific* topics they
were asked to present about. Many have even gone out
of their way to clarify that their objection does not
mean they think we could never invite a non-WELS
presenter to one of these conferences under some
circumstances. Now - that doesn't necessarily mean
they are right - but I don't think its fair to cast
them as nothing more than emoting fundamentalists of
some sort.

Sorry, Lyle - I hope I'm not being unfair. Its just
that a lot of your posts here lately really contain a
lot of relativistic/post-modern language that triggers
warning sirens in my head - it makes me concerned that
maybe you've fallen into some worldly thinking on some
of these issues. My apologies if I'm off-base here.
As I said earlier - I hope its just a matter of my
poor perceptions. (And I suspect there's a good chance
it is - I've had egg on my face many times before!)

- Mark Salzwedel

P.S. If you want to continue to discuss some of my
concerns offline, I can refer you to some good
Calvinist sources! ;-)

Would it shock you if the very same books were to be found in the
Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Library?
I see book burnings on the horizon.

John Bauer

It is interesting that we allow our pastors the opportunity of seeking
theological degrees from institutions outside our circles.
They sit at the "feet of heretics" in order to gain their
degree. Are we saying that they should go through
a colloquy before they can continue on with their
ministry? After all, they could become spiritually contaminated during
their training and in the process
contaminate their members. The argument (sic) that they
are pastors and can tell the difference between good and false theology
doesn't always stand up since there have been pastors who have gone astray.

Ron Ash

Dear Ron (another classmate) and other Church and Change brothers and sisters,

On the Church and Change blog you wondered out loud about getting degrees in
theology from other places. Don't know. It all depends on whether the school
granting the degree requires you to espouse their views as the price of getting
paper. If they did, I wouldn't go. I went to a Jewish university, way back
when, because I wanted to learn more about the ancient Near East--more than I
could at Mequon. Cyrus Gordon was an intellectual maverick who didn't believe
that "great literature is written by a committee." This meant I wouldn't be
force-fed the fashionable higher critical approach to reading the Hebrew Bible.
That would have happened had I opted for the divinity school at Harvard a few
miles down the road. Did Gordon "feed" other equally objectionable views? Of
course. But I wasn't compelled to regurgitate them as the price of getting a

Sometimes I think we miss overlook that our whole life is a struggle between
temptation and the new man within. It isn't just books or seminars or schools.
It is what I watch on TV, what enters my computer from the net, what I look at
when walking the streets, how far I let my mind wander.

As a school administrator I often reflected on what I wanted from my students.
Little by little it became clear to me that I wanted to see evidence of a
struggle in their lives. Absent evidence of a wrestling with and for the truth
in individuals, I knew the kids (singly and collectively) were sliding toward a
crisis. Sometimes the absense (sic) of a struggle meant an overt embracing of some
sinful behavior. It could equally be a smug self-confidence because students
(singly and collectively) took it for granted that there were safe because they
had the right family, the right church, were following the right set of rules,
and weren't attending a Catholic, public, or Christian Heritage school

My best moments were those times when sin erupted and we had to talk across
generations about life, i.e., that sin is real and that God's love in Jesus
Christ is greater than sin. At these times I could also usually find an occasion
to work with the "Pharisee" dominating the thinking of those students who had
not been caught in "the sin of the moment." What was I left to do between "best
moments"? Make rules? No. I didn't think so. I found that preaching and
teaching was all-important. That and proclaiming the truth of God as a living
example (in the midst of my own struggles, course).

What else is the church to do? What else are parents to do?

We won't win the struggle by drawing yes/no lines regarding books, symposiums,
and schools that will apply to every person and in every case. We will win if
we all struggle and help each other in the fight that Christ has won for us. We
win when Christ Jesus is allied with the new man in a holy coalition that is in
spiritual control one person and one situation at a time. The stronger the
alliance, the more likely there will be an active capacity for discernment,
i.e., making choices about the book to read, the symposium to attend and the
school from which to get a degree.

Collectively as a church we will live in the tension between being overly
permissive (overall) and overly restrictive (overall). We will strive (overall)
not to lead the weak into situations for which their new man/Christ Jesus
coalition is not strong enough. We will (overall) not tempt the new man to
believe self-righteously, i.e. that the new man is "safe" because he sits inside
a circle of protective rules. Satan knows how to exploit both situations.

The best analogy I can think of is that of inoculation (sic). Learn how Satan works
by being vigorously "in Christ" as the "needle" of TV, internet, symposiums,
books, schools--all of which can be Satan's workshop--scratch the surface of
your spiritual life. Be innocuated (sic) individually, but bond with others who are
simultaneously undergoing the painful process of inoculation (sic). The fellowship
of shared faith is wonderful. When I am weak, you my Christian friend are
strong. And vice versa. But you can't inoculate (sic) a group. Innoculation (sic)
happens one person at a time. The active ingredient in spiritual inoculation (sic)
is the Gospel in Word and sacrament. It is apprehended individually. It is
shared in a group.

Again, my prayers are for and with you all as you exchange thoughts and
insights for the benefit of those for whom Christ died and rose again.

In Christ, John C. Lawrenz in Hong Kong

Brothers and sisters,
Some of us may not be taking into account that the
doctrine of fellowship is not only about protecting
our own faith from being exposed to false doctrine.
It is also about giving a clear witness to the false
teacher that we do not agree with or approve of his
teaching because it is contrary to the doctrine we
have learned from Scripture. This is an act of love
to him, calling him to turn from his sin and live.
And it is about giving a clear witness to those who
may be led to listen to his teaching by the seal of
approval we give him when we invite him to speak at
our event, pay him to do so and promote his teaching.
It is an act of love for people whom we do not even
know to make sure that we do not even appear to give
that approval. The issue of offense must be
considered. If I by my action lead someone else to
stumble in his faith I have caused offense. I am not
able to estimate, much less control the number of
people who would get the impression that the teachings
of a false teacher are acceptable simply because I
invited him into my school and invited others to sit
at his feet. If we consider the matter of offense
minor, we will need to read again what the Savior says
about offense in Mark 9:42. We will also want to keep
in mind that we do not fellowship with books. We
fellowship with people.

Jim Naumann

Dear Brother Peters:

I wonder if anyone is as curious as me about why you chose to address me
as TEACHER Strehler. One could conclude that since I graduated from
DMLC as a teacher, my views are somewhat inferior and or irrelevant to
those of a pastor. Maybe you wish to respond.

While you may feel it necessary to admonish me for my thoughts on
Christian liberty, you need to understand that I feel that it is of
utmost importance that Christians should not hide their faith but let it
"shine before men." Attending non-WELS sponsored symposiums,
conferences, workshops, or even attending Catholic colleges like
Marquette gives us wonderful opportunities to discuss and debate
theological issues on which we may not agree. I find that defending my
faith to a Jehovah's Witness is much more edifying than slamming a door
in his face. I urge you to read the lyrics of hymn 474, "Stand Up,
Stand Up for Jesus."

To those, who in good conscience, feel that they are uncomfortable with
having their beliefs challenged at non WELS sponsored events; I would
encourage to not attend.

Let's not cower in our homes and places at work when it comes to issues
of our faith and Christian liberty. Rather, let us be as bold as Luther
before the Diet of Worms expressing our unswerving faith and beliefs in
Jesus our Savior.

May God bless us with the same wisdom, understanding, and
evangelical manner and method as our dear forefather, Dr. Luther!

Lyle Strehler

I wondered myself what was behind that reference. Sure doesn't sound

I have been amazed by all these e-mails going back and forth proclaiming
what we should or should not do in various situations.
What amazes me even more is the lack of scriptural reference in them. It
seems to me that most of you expect to be able to make references to
scriptural principals without chapter and verse, and assume your
audience will be able to understand your point. That's good, since we
should all have a strong, working knowledge of Scripture. But this is
the same audience that can't be trusted to attend seminars with non-WELS
speakers bringing in TECHNIQUES lest we be completely swayed by them and
lose our faith. Doesn't make sense to me.

Thank You,

Matt Plocher

Dear Redeemed and fellow Brothers and Sisters of the WELS,

This internet, what a blessing...and a curse.

I don't think anyone is talking about changing doctrine. I think we
all agree that there are different ways of doing ministry as long as
it is Biblical and I haven't read anything on these threads that was
un-Biblical. I see alot (sic) of 'iron sharpening iron' as a good friend
of mine likes to say. I think we all agree that in general we can
do a better job as a Synod since our growth has been stagnant. If
we can glean some sucessful (sic) strategies from other sources we
should. We may even convert some of these 'heretics'. But I think
this is the rub. I think some have trouble separating these methods
from their doctrine. Because it is their idea, somehow it is
intertwined with their doctrine. It's kind of like separating the
sin from the sinner. Maybe that's a bad analogy, but it works. Or
taking a secular song and changing the lyrics to make it sacred.
Some folks just can't separate the old relationship of the melody
with the old lyrics even though the new song is God pleasing.
(especially for someone who may never have heard the 'old' song.)
It's just a point of perspective. I hope this helps.

Blessings to you all,

Joe Krohn [future Enthusiast at his Rock and Roll blog]

Dear Brother Strehler:

Perhaps there are some out there in our church body who would
belittle a teacher for being a teacher, but I'm not one of them. I'm a
graduate of Martin Luther Academy, spent four of the best years of my
life on the DMLC campus, and I know and love many, many WELS teachers.
I even went to summer school at DMLC and had 12 credits from that fine
institution transfered into my B.A. program at Northwestern. For the
first two years of my ministry I was not only principal of a Lutheran
elementary school in Ellis, Nebraska, but I also taught grades 5-8 all
morning every day.

I don't know you from Adam, Teacher Strehler, so I took a shot in
the dark yesterday and checked in our current synod /Yearbook/ to see
whether you might be a called worker. When I did not find your name
under "Pastors - Active," I checked under "Men Teachers - Active" and
discovered that you entered the teaching ministry of the WELS in 1982 --
and other assorted info. I called you "Teacher Strehler" as a title of
respect for a man whom I don't know personally and with whom I am not on
a first name basis. I can see ZERO reason why you -- or anybody else --
should consider that a put-down.

I love every WELS teacher. They taught my two kids from K-12 in
WELS schools. I have the utmost respect for them as ministers of the
Gospel. That's what I understand by "teacher" in our schools. I now
know for certain that you are a teacher in one of our schools. I hope
that you don't consider "teacher" a term of derision! I would never use
it in that way.

It is true that our teachers don't have nearly as much training in
theology as we pastors have. So what? If an opinion is valid, then it
is valid. If it is not, then it is not. It matters not who expresses
that opinion, and certainly does not matter whether or not that person
has the theological training of a WELS pastor or the training in
religion which our teachers received at New Ulm (less than an
undergraduate minor). If the teacher -- or layman -- has a better idea
or understanding about something than a pastor has, then so be it.

I've known a lot of teachers and laymen who have great wisdom and
spiritual insight and understanding. Many of them taught me how to be a
pastor. I've known a few whose wisdom, insight and understanding I
would characterize as incredibly weak, too. I've also known some
pastors with tremendous spiritual wisdom, insight, and understanding of
theology, and I've known a few who come up with ideas and insights that
betray very poor wisdom, spiritual insight, and understanding of
theology. No vocation -- pastor, teacher, or lay -- can bestow the
spiritual gifts of wisdom, spiritual insight, and understanding of
theology. Those gifts of the Spirit can be cultivated and used or
neglected and abused, but no pastor, teacher, or layman has a monopoly
on them.

Why is this contentious? It ought not so to be.

You write that "Attending non-WELS sponsored symposiums,
conferences, workshops, or even attending Catholic colleges like
Marquette gives us wonderful opportunities to discuss and debate
theological issues on which we may not agree." Whereas I completely
agree with that statement, that has not been the /status controversiae/;
neither has it really been under discussion here. What we're discussing
is the wisdom and appropriateness of bringing false teachers into our
church to teach us how to change the way we do church -- i.e., the way
we think about and conduct our ministries of the Means of Grace. Some
of us believe that it's a great thing to do. Some of us don't.
Different people are drawing the line in different places. This is the
/status controversiae/; this is what is under discussion, not whether or
not it's okay to go to UW-Milwaukee but not Marquette, or to attend a
conference or symposium sponsored by the Luther Academy in St. Louis.
Neither are we debating how to deal with the Jehovah's Witness who rings
our doorbell. (I witness to them, too.) And I already know the hymn to
which you refer, but it contributes little to our real discussion --
it's irrelevant, unlike the Scriptures.

All of us, and all whom God places at our feet for instruction, need
the admonition to be as bold as Luther. We are doing exactly that every
time and everywhere that we faithfully proclaim God's Word and
administer the Sacraments as Christ instituted them -- and every time we
boldly stand up to defend the Means of Grace and Christ's holy Church
against those who would introduce errors, or would water down our
preaching and teaching, or would make our churches look and feel more
like the sectarians who don't even have the body of Christ in the
Sacrament and who designed their worship styles and methods to support
their errors. I'm making no accusations at all; I'm only stating the
truth. We all must wear the shoes which fit us.

So let's cut out the bickering and just do the work of the ministry
to which we were called, whether as pastor or teacher. After all, that
is what the laymen who called us expect us to do, that is what Christ's
Church trained us to do, and that is what the Holy Spirit called us to
do! There's no reason for us to devour one another when we should be
out there letting our light shine before men so that they may glorify
God in heaven. Let's just do our ministries faithfully -- faithful to
the Scriptures, to our Confessions, and to the saints who have entrusted
the public administration of the Keys of the Kingdom into our hands.
/Soli Deo gloria./

In Christ's service as a teacher of his holy Word,
Pastor David Peters

As a "newbie" to this forum, I have been reading with interest the
discussion that's been going on about the cancellation of the recent
Church Door Symposium, as well as changes that should be made to
reach out with the gospel more effectively.

I would like to offer my observations (for what they're worth) of
someone who left the WELS in 1975 for the CLC and returned in 2002
via colloquy. What are some of my observations of the discussion on
this listserv, and of the WELS in general since I returned to my

1) I sense that there is a very real fear among many in the
synod that the WELS has been, is and will continue to be a legalistic
church body. Remember when Lloyd Bentson chided Dan Quayle in a vice-
presidential debate about his comment regarding John Kennedy? ("I
knew John Kennedy, and you're no John Kennedy.") In the same way I
can say, "I knew legalism, and the WELS is not legalistic." When the
doctrine of church fellowship and separation is the heart and core of
your proclamation, and not the gospel of objective justification in
Christ—that is legalism. When people give the impression that they're
going to heaven because they have avoided false teachers—that's
legalism. It has been extremely refreshing for me to be back in the
WELS where the gospel is indeed central, and where other doctrines,
like church fellowship, for example, come up only when and where it
is needed.

2) I was privileged to be able to present an exegetical paper at
last year's Minnesota District Pastors' Conference in St. Louis,
partly on 1 Corinthians 9:19-27. In preparing for that paper I came
to the realization that becoming all things to all men is not a goal
in and of itself, but our goal is to preach Christ and everything he
has commanded us (Mt. 28). We become all things to all men so we can
share his Word with everyone so that by all possible means we might
save some. How we do this is a legitimate topic of discussion that
should never be concluded. I realize this every time I go into Sam's
Club here in Fridley (a Twin Cities inner-ring suburb) and there is a
real racial mixture in the people shopping there (sometimes I think
I'm at the U.N.!). As I wait in line to check out, I see south
Asians, Mexicans, native Americans, African-Americans, recent African
immigrants, Russians, etc., etc. I think, "How can we best reach out
to these people, most of whom have probably never ever heard law and
gospel?" My wife teaches preschool in a neighboring WELS congregation
where the majority of her students are the children of Nigerian and
Liberian immigrants. One of the difficulties they've experienced is
transitioning these kids and their families from the preschool into
the church and worship. I can't help but think the problem may (and I
use the word "may" for a reason) be a worship service steeped in 16th
Century German Lutheranism when these people have never, ever
experienced anything like that before. Such people would be much more
comfortable with the worship forms in Nigeria we witnessed in the
February WELS Connection. When I served 10 years in the NC mountains
in my former synod, I would have native Southerners come to church
and I would never see them again after one visit. We were using TLH
liturgy at the time. When I had the chance to talk to them later, one
common complaint I would hear is that our worship was slow and boring
and they thought we were some kind of Catholic church. To adjust
worship forms to become all things to all men so we can share the
Word is not Church Growth. It's only common sense.

3) From a former outsider's perspective, I find that the very
formation of organizations such as "Church and Change," as well
as "Issues in WELS" and the little group that's running the "WELS in
Crisis" blog are divisive to the church body. Forming groups like
this by their very nature is telling the church body and the world
outside that the synod is not one and that the WELS is incapable of
discussing such subjects and dealing with such issues on its own.
What Church and Change wants to promote, and what Issues in WELS
wants to maintain, are all items that should be discussed openly and
freely in a brotherly way in our circuit meetings, pastoral
conferences, district and synodical conventions. These are synodical
issues that affect every single one of us. From my perspective, the
formation of such groups automatically politicizes the issues
involved. In other words, what each group is promoting becomes not an
issue that God's Word decides, but an issue that is decided by which
group has the best connections, the highest positions and the loudest

4) When I read the discussion on the pros and cons of inviting
the dispensationalist professor and the two LC-MS Church Growth men
to the WLC symposium, I see several things going on:

a. People who are involved in one way or another, on both sides
of this issue, are taking all of this personally. Egos and feelings
are definitely getting in the way of any objective discussion on the
basis of what God's Word says. I definitely sensed the personal
disappointment and resentment in the public announcement about the
cancellation from Charis. I also sensed a personal gloating over the
cancellation by others who stand on the other side of the issue.

b. Because of past speakers the school has had (I'm thinking of
Martin Marty, et al.), people on the outside think of WLC as the
Valparaiso of the WELS. For those of you unfamiliar with the history,
Valpo was the "secular" university of the LC-MS outside of the
Concordia system, and for those who remember that far back, Valpo was
blamed for a great deal of the doctrinal degeneration in Missouri.
Rather than get defensive about such concerns that are raised, we
need to be understanding about our members' fears. We need to ask
ourselves if such fears and concerns may have validity, based on what
has happened in the past. You know the old expression, "Those who
don't learn the lessons of history…"

c. I am sincerely surprised ("shocked" would be more like it)
that we have called workers contributing to this forum that by what
they write appear to have no idea what our scriptural doctrine of
religious fellowship and separation is all about. I've read some of
the posts and I've wondered if these individuals have ever read at a
minimum This We Believe or our WELS Doctrinal Statements. It's been
50 years since we've been in the doctrinal debates over fellowship
issues with the LC-MS. That doesn't mean we today should be ignorant
on the subject and what Scripture teaches.

d. I think it's commendable that WLC wants to have scholarly
discussion on vital issues. But I personally don't consider people
like Kent Hunter and Waldo Werning "scholars." One way to have
scholarly discussion is in the form of the old free conference—and
maybe this is how the WLC and Charis people view the Church Door
Forums. But historically speaking, free conferences were used to
discuss doctrinal differences between church bodies "outside the
framework of fellowship" (there's that pesky term). The way Hunter
and Werning and the Texas guy were promoted, however, is that these
men were going to teach us how to do gospel outreach. I must agree
with some who have voiced their opinions in this forum that that very
subject in and of itself is doctrinal in nature. If we wanted to do
this in an unobjectionable way, why not have Hunter and Werning
present their brand of LC-MS evangelism, and we would have WELS men
react and respond, as well as present an alternative view—all outside
of the framework of fellowship? This may have been the intent of
Charis, but it certainly wasn't advertised and presented in that way.

5) In the past history of our synod when issues of doctrine or
the application of doctrine would arise, we fled back to the Word and
we studied the Scriptures to see what the Lord had to tell us. In
this present discussion, I see that as something that is severally
lacking. When we were involved in the fellowship issues of the
1950's, we had men like J. P. Meyer and Walter Schumann who presented
wonderful exegetical studies on passages such as Romans 16:17,18 and
they offered truly evangelical applications dealing with the problems
at hand at that time. Where is that study of the Word today? I heard
through the grapevine there was a study presented to the COP on the
expression "outside the framework of fellowship," but has that been
shared with the called workers in the trenches? Instead of the mud-
slinging and the personal innuendo, hurt feelings and opinion-
sharing, let's restudy all the pertinent passages, and then apply
what God says to the situation at hand.

A study (and re-study) of the Word does wonders for consensus!

Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Steve Kurtzahn

Pastor Kurtzahn,
Thank you for your thoughtful and wise words, and
welcome to the discussion! You made reference to the
paper discussed by the COP on the expression
"Framework of Fellowship." I have a copy because our
district president gave it to the circuit pastors with
the encouragement that we study the paper and discuss
it together at circuit meetings. We will discuss it
on March 13.

It treats 3 John 5-8, Matt 7:15-20, Rom 16:17-18, and
other passages. It summarizes the Lutheran
confessions and the historic practice of church
fellowship, and the use of the term "framework of

In order to get this paper farther "into the trenches"
I would be very willing to copy it and send it to
anyone who wants it. I just ask that you send me an
addressed and stamped envelope (63c postage) since the
paper is 15 pages.

Pastor Dan Wagenknecht
6550 Fairmont Blvd.
Yorba Linda CA 92886

I have heard the paper attributed to two different
writers. Could someone clarify who the writer is, as
I do not have a cover page? Thanks.

Pastor Dan Wagenknecht

Dear brother Kurtzahn,

Thank you for your post. Paul said to Timothy, "Watch your life and doctrine
closely" (1Ti 4:16) What we do and what we teach should not be consciously an
occasion for stumbling. Clay pots (2Co 4:7) are what our Savior chose to use to
reach souls and serve them. There's not a one of us without a seam here and an
imperfection there that can't reduce our ministry to a pile of potsherds. Jesus
said, "Love one another as I have loved you" (Joh 13:34) and "If anyone loves
me, they will keep under guard what I say" (Joh 14:23). Putting pressure on a
brother's weak spot is not love. It may be one step away from wrecking God's
plan for that brother or sister.

You, brother Kurtzahn, remind us to watch carefully the pride over a position
taken (accompanied by the temptation of resentment when challenged) and
encourage us all to follow our Savior's logic which begins with introspection
and balanced thinking when we consider what we say about the speck of sawdust in
another's eye (Mat 7:3). Paul, the great evangelist, listened to Jesus. The
truly spiritual person restores those overtaken in a fault gently, mindful of
the fact that every redeemed child of God has pressure points left
unresolved--forgiven yes, but still ever-present--in the old man/new man
struggle of the Christian life(Gal 6:1).

Please pray for me and those around me--clay pots in a part of the world with
not too many whose lives are framed by God's love in Christ. In like measure I
continue to pray for all the people who expose their weaknesses and offer their
strengths in this blog. Many I know as friends and one-time coworkers.

In Christ, John C. Lawrenz in Hong Kong