Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Mystery Guest Blogger Frank Gillespie

Frank. He’s our mystery blogger, although he won’t be a mystery to most of you. He’s the LCMS’s official Chief of Volunteer Fireman, and the author of the blog Putting Out the Fire. Pastor Tim Rossow dubbed Frank the “satirical southerner,” the “southerner” part of that name coming from Frank’s place of residence, the “haut south.” I’m not sure what “haut” means, but it sounds exotic.

The “satirical” part of Frank’s nickname comes from his blog posts. Frank has a habit of putting out Ablaze! fires with cold baptismal water, as his logo indicates. He seems to think there’s something that’s just not quite right with the whole Ablaze! “movement.” I think he’s right.

My friendship with Frank was forged in the fire of the Issues, Etc. cancellation. I’d seen his blog long before then, but got to know him through our sometimes rapid fire email conversations. One of my favorite blog posts was my short post on The Wittenberg Trail dissing Frank for admitting to wearing an Ablaze! bracelet, which was titled “A Shocking, Frank, Unrepentant Admission.” That post resulted in a storm of comments and a follow-on mock war of blog posts.

Behind the firefighter’s visored helmet and heavy nomex uniform is a guy who’s a bit like you and me – he’s picked up a lot from Issues, Etc. over the years and was hit hard when it was canceled. Here’s what Frank has to say:

When Issues, Etc. was canceled a year ago many of us had trouble picking our jaws up off the floor. We just couldn’t wrap our heads around why, when reaching out to those who would listen is the order of the day, anyone in their right mind would cancel such a great program. Myself, I was concerned that I’d lost forever something that had helped me make the transition from an enthusiastic new Christian who knew nothing about what or why he believed what he believed to being a Confessional Lutheran.

I had left the faith for fifteen long years for reasons that don’t need to be reviewed here. From the time I was a teenager I was a declared, chip on his shoulder, I’m gonna prove everybody wrong, card carrying atheist. I had left a seeker sensitive Lutheran church that didn’t bother to teach or catechize its members when I was only a teen. At the time, I had no idea Dr. Luther even wrote teaching materials such as the Small Catechism and only knew of him as a historical figure from public schools. Needless to say, my knowledge of what Christianity and the Church was and who was her Head, was sadly lacking.

When I did return to the faith that was promised at my baptism, I was fortunate enough that my wife Laura had already found a faithful church home for the both of us. It was there at that welcoming parish that I was properly catechized and had many patient people help me make the difficult transition of thinking that we just need to do something for Jesus to being able to distinguish Law and Gospel and looking to Christ alone for my salvation. It was one of those patient people that suggested that I listen to Issues, Etc. to further my ongoing catechesis.

It wasn’t long before I was able to proclaim that Issues, Etc. was the real deal! From sermon reviews that taught (or reminded) all of us to listen to the verbs and see if Jesus was doing the doing to visits by some of the top authorities on Scripture to help us laypersons better understand the original languages that spoke God’s Holy Word. The show introduced us to those outside of the gates of Wittenberg in which we could embrace in agreement as well as those and their dangerous doctrines whom we would need to guard ourselves against.

Issues, Etc. also introduced and taught the newly catechized like myself, to a new way of correctly seeing the separation of the two kingdoms by discussing contemporary issues of the day in a way that was not being done anywhere else. Sometimes there were clear answers, sometimes not; but the discussion was always framed through the Scriptural, and when necessary, through the Confessional lens.

When the show was canceled during last year’s Holy Week the unifying cry that went out was “why?” With the cancellation many of us felt as if we had lost a faithful friend who we always turn to to remind us to keep things in perspective and to keep our eyes on Christ.

Thankfully, that old friend only was out on a spring break and soon returned to a new media format to continue the mission of being the absolute best Christ centered, Cross focused program out there.

The show helped me and a great many others grow in our faith, and in both its incarnations, helped make us all better apologists. For that we owe a debt of gratitude to everyone involved, especially Pastor Todd Wilken, Jeff Schwarz, Craig Fichtinger, as well as the show’s original host, Pastor Don Matzat, who got the whole ball rolling.

Thank you guys for all that you have done and here’s to your continued mission of bringing all of us the absolute best Christian radio talk show!

1 comment:

Jim Pierce said...

"Haut South" means Frank is from a part of the south that is "high"... well... highly fashionable that is... hmm... highly fashionable fire fighter... I best be going now. :-)

Happy CAnniversary to IE!