Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ablaze! Numbers With Honor

Ablaze!, the rightfully maligned LCMS missiological “movement,” seems to be struggling. As Mollie Ziegler points out, while 30% of the time allotted to reach 100 million people has elapsed, we haven’t even met 10% of the goal. Not to worry though. They’re now counting kids in LCMS schools as “critical events” in order to inflate the numbers. 183,203 were added to “the number of unreached or uncommitted people with whom the Gospel has been shared and reported,” because these particular kids are not members of Christian churches. Apparently they just aren’t committed enough. Maybe they could count their parents as well.

In an effort to solve this gnarly numbers problem, I’ve come up with a diplomatic solution.

In 1968 President Nixon ran for reelection. Part of his platform was a pledge to end the Vietnam war, but in a way which would bring “peace with honor.” In 1973 he fulfilled his commitment with a diplomatic solution. The troops came home. Never mind that the fighting continued and the communists eventually controlled both North Vietnam and South Vietnam. It was peace with honor.

We can achieve a similar “numbers with honor,” ending our long synodical nightmare. It will be quick, painless, and a lot cheaper. Here’s how.

I propose taking out a 60 second spot during the 2009 Super Bowl. With 60 seconds to burn, we could present a phenomenal Gospel presentation. Last year’s Super Bowl reached 93.2 million people. Even if this year’s numbers were a little less, add that to the 9.3 million people we’ve already reached, and we’d have met our goal, in one day. Yes, you could make the argument that some of the viewers are already Christians, or that some of them missed the commercial because they were grabbing another beer, but it’s no less disingenuous than counting kids in LCMS schools, or counting at all for that matter. Numbers with honor.

Some of you are squawking that a commercial costs too much. The price for a 30 second spot on NBC for the 2009 Super Bowl is $3 million. I’m sure they’d give us a break for the additional 30 seconds. I know that sounds like a lot, but it’s nothing compared to what they want to spend on Ablaze! The goal is to raise $100 million by 2010, with another seven years to go after that.

It seems preposterous that an evangelistic effort could cause division, yet that is what has happened. What would you expect from a “movement” whose most visible aspects are a number, a narcissistic reflection, a theology of glory, and a cloud of dust. The Ablaze! program is like the ark of the covenant in Philistine hands - it’s a plague. Let’s send it back where it came from. Instead, let’s continue the movement that’s based on the way God intends His Church to be nurtured, through Word and Sacrament ministry, and the resulting service to our neighbor in vocation. This is the way God grows His Church, one Baptism at a time.

“Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.” Amen (LSB, p. 305)

If you’d like to learn more about the problems associated with Ablaze!, read Professor David Berger’s article “Ablaze®, the Movement,” Rev. Todd Wilken’s article “That Exclamation Mark," and Frank Gillespie's article What's Wrong With Ablaze!


O.H. Lee said...

Best. Idea. Ever. Maybe then we can close this woeful chapter of our synod's life. And then, in the words of Monty Python, "And now for something completely different!"

After all, Ablaze! is a "movement" alright.

Orianna Laun said...

Thank You! My husband and I have been saying that for years! One commercial will cover it all, and we'll have done with it.

Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

Good suggestion. Thanks!

Peter said...

I often find myself meditating on how Lutheran churches in Germany look at things. The emphasis is not so much on numbers, church attendance, and the like, (would they like their churches full on Sunday; most definitely yes!) but rather the empahsis is on the gospel influencing people and culture that mere statistics cannot record.