Tuesday, April 6, 2010

This is Embarrassing

It’s really embarrassing when it’s left to a non-Lutheran to point out the less-than-Lutheran practices of a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod congregation, but that’s what’s happened in this case.

I took a trip to Ship of Fools, a non-denominational website that includes a plethora of offerings in the way of things churchly. The Ship’s editor, Simon Jenkins, states that “our aim is to help Christians be self-critical and honest about the failings of Christianity, as we believe honesty can only strengthen faith." On board the ship are an online community, religious headlines, features and projects ranging from the satirical to the theological, regular columnist articles, and other miscellany including a “gadgets for god” section with items worthy of inclusion in The Museum of Idolatry.

Ship of Fools also has a feature called the “Mystery Worshipper,” described thusly:

Since ancient times (ok, 1998), Ship of Fools has been sending Mystery Worshippers to churches worldwide. Travelling incognito, they ask those questions which go to the heart of church life: How long was the sermon? How hard the pew? How cold was the coffee? How warm the welcome?

They seem to have a large stable of Mystery Worshippers, all of whom answer the same set of questions about the church they’ve visited. I read through quite a few of the reviews, mostly reviews of Lutheran churches. I didn’t detect any sort of agenda among the reviewers, and they generally offered matter-of-fact responses that were both insightful and sometimes humorous. First time visitors often offer observations and annoyances that the regular crowd no longer notices.

One of the Lutheran churches visited was an LCMS church in Troy, Michigan. This is a big church with “a splashy 1000 seat (plus) venue,” “served by five ministers (all male) and a support staff of nearly 40 employees.”

To set the stage, here are a few of non-Lutheran Mystery Worshipper Angel Unaware’s comments on his or her visit to the “family life center”:

How full was the building?
160 souls in the 1000 (plus) seat worship center.

Did anyone welcome you personally?
No one greeted me before or after the service. Mercifully, the service started almost as soon as I was seated.

Was your pew comfortable?
Very comfy and plush cineplex-style upholstered theater seats. They must have busted their budget for these beauties.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Quiet. Empty. Three cameramen were practicing swiveling their cameras about. It was so abandoned that I consulted my bulletin twice to make sure I was at the correct place at the correct time for worship. Soon the praise band warmed up, and then vocalists began to sing the prelude – or rehearse for the service, I wasn't sure which.

What books did the congregation use during the service?
Bible verses were projected up on a screen, as were all the songs, karaoke-style, over photos of seagulls, sunsets, ocean waves and bedewed roses. Even with such appealing graphics, though, no one around me participated in the singing.

What musical instruments were played?
Piano, digital keyboard, guitars, and two percussions sets (one encased in a plexiglas “fishbowl”). A large, amplified choir, all dressed in street clothes, stood behind the musicians.

Angel Unaware also reports that the pastor wore khakis and a silky, open-necked camp shirt. At this point I’m beginning to wonder if this is one of the mega-churches that the LCMS uses to discover its “best practices” for church growth. This is also where the story takes a really sordid swing to the non-Lutheran side of the tracks. Our reviewer continues:


Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Lutherans trying to be charismatic. Even though the sacrament of holy baptism was administered to an infant, the pastor chose to speak extemporaneously about the sacrament rather than follow any historic Lutheran liturgy. The rest of the service also followed this free-form, rambling model. The parents and godparents of the baptized infant had the good sense to be more appropriately dressed for the occasion than did the pastor.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
2 – The pastor used amazingly dull, run-of-the-mill stuff for much of the sermon: the importance of passing the baton to today’s youth (an opaque reference to the baptism?), a moral lesson about being optimistic in the face of challenges, another lesson about being patient – all of which was hard to argue with. The problem was that the sermon wasn’t particularly robust, moving, or sharply focused. As my teenage son would say, "It was totally random." What is more, the message was completely disconnected from the scripture lesson. Ironically, the sermon was entitled “Help!” Indeed!

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
It began with a 30-second video introduction to a new 13 week sermon series. After the video clip, a bulletin insert of the sermon outline was projected to help us follow the flow of the sermon. We were invited to “fill in the blanks” on the insert as the pastor progressed through the sermon, even though the answers were flashed up on the screen. The sermon was a 36 minute recitation of random thoughts and clichés that could be summed up in two sentences: "God, in God’s goodness, does not give us what we deserve. Therein is our hope." Most curious was the centerpiece of the sermon: a sort of intermission as a soloist sang the Beatles’ hit song “Help.” After this American Idol moment was over, the pastor concluded his talk and we went back to filling in our blanks!

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
Watching the parents gratefully bring their child to be baptized. The central stained-glassed window, depicting a cross, also helped me keep my focus through many distractions and confused moments.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
That I was subjected to the “wisdom” of the Beatles as the main meat of a sermon in worship.

How would you feel about making this church your regular (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
1 – I can listen to the Beatles on my own, and be alone on my own.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
On my trek home, I felt inexplicably sad that another Lutheran church has all but abandoned its beautiful, historic liturgy and intellectual tradition in favor of a very bland ministry. Help!
Ouch! When the first time visitor is pointing out the non-Lutheran practices of an LCMS church, maybe it’s time to trade those seeker-sensitive lenses in for something ground a little closer to the Church of the Augsburg Confession. Let’s hope that the next week’s sermon didn’t include a rendition of the Beatles’ “Let It Be.” Enough said.


photo credit: obo-bobolina

55 comments:

X said...

Hey, that's my old church! As soon as I became a Lutheran, I scooted out of there ASAP. They are LINO.

Michael Paul 白霈德牧師 said...

That is really something, Scott. Thank you for posting it here. One of those posts that I laughed even though I knew I should be crying instead.

Anonymous said...

Is this scarey or what? But I'm confused. Where do the questions come from? And who is answering them? I re-read the description, but am still missing something.

What is surprising is that the service was so sparsely attended. Was it at 6 in the morning? Or did it get the "preferential" CW time of 10:30 or thereabouts?

It is truly frightening.

Johannes (CW-challenged)

Frank Gillespie said...

"At this point I’m beginning to wonder if this is one of the mega-churches that the LCMS uses to discover its “best practices” for church growth."

Don't forget the phrase "soul winning congregations" that the Reported used so often last year to promote a style of worship that yields what they deem measurable results.

Congregations like this are not grown in a vacuum...

Scott Diekmann said...

The church is Faith Lutheran. The questions are stock questions that each reviewer answers when they visit a church. The review of Faith Lutheran on Ship of Fools is located here:
http://shipoffools.com/mystery/2009/1680.html

Norman Teigen said...

Wow! That's a pretty powerful indictment of the rush to contemporize.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Scott. I finally figured it out all on my own, but for some reason my post got lost. My bad.
The whole report by Angel Unawares was devestating. My synopsis:

Lowest common denominator worship.
Ashamed of the Gospel teaching.
Confessional poverty.
Sacramental desecration.
Contempt of liturgy.
Lutheran? Hardly.

Johannes

Blessed Lutheran Christian said...

It's most unfortunate that the visitor didn't realize the casual attire of the pastor was due to this being the weekend of the annual picnic on church grounds on Sunday. The three pastors have presented impactfull sermons and each has different styles of presenting Biblically-based sermons. They often address the concerns of today's culture and always present the law and gospel in their messages - unlike seeker churches.

The service shouldn't be judged as harshly because a Saturday evening service is more casual. Those attending often come mainly to worship and leave as soon as the service has concluded. It's unfortunate the visitor critically judged after one isolated visit. It would seem the plan was one of "gotcha" and unchristian instead of observing without prejudice. The person's toxic venom is obvious.

A Blessed Christian who is Lutheran

Anonymous said...

Being a former member of this congregation I know that what you see on Saturday night is what you see on Sunday morning. The only difference is the number of people on Saturday is typically smaller. The service is repeated 4 times in a weekend with the same pastor, same music, same sermon.

Scott Diekmann said...

Dear Blessed Lutheran Christian,

Could you please elaborate on these three questions?

1) Why do you think the visit from Ship of Fools was planned?

2) In what way was what Mystery Worshipper unchristian?

3) What in the review did you think was "toxic venom?"

Der Bettler said...

The service shouldn't be judged as harshly because a Saturday evening service is more casual.

I don't understand why the day of the service should lower the standards to which it should be held. Could you explain?

Dennis Peskey said...

Somehow, we have a failure to communicate. How do I interpret these to sentences, "visitor didn't realize the casual attire of the pastor was due to this being the weekend of the annual picnic on church grounds on Sunday" compared with "The service shouldn't be judged as harshly because a Saturday evening service is more casual"?

Does this Pastor "suit up" on Saturday for the entire weekend or perhaps this Pastor has only one set of clothes? Either way, the events of Sunday seemed to have dictated the attire for Saturday. I am sooo grateful my Pastor vests each and every Divine Service - regardless of the day, hour, month or year.

X said...

They just wear suits normally. They never wear vestments.

Anonymous said...

Does it matter to you what a pastor wears or what his message is?

First, take note that Missouri Synod Lutheran churches do not ordain women. All LCMS pastors are men. The great thing is, if you don't like that, you don't have to join.You are free to join another church that has women pastors, if that matters to you.

Also note: if the church picnic (which at that church is a huge Block Party) was on Sunday, it is reasonable to think that attendance would be lower than normal on Saturday. It would also explain the casualness of the service for the weekend. Maybe "angel" should go back.

I've been to this church and they normally have over 2000 people worship on a weekend.
As for your judgement about them breaking the budget, I believe the building is paid for- do you object to comfortable seating?

Yes, the format is contemporary. Evidently there are lots of people that like that because of their high attendance. The doctrine of Faith is Lutheran; the style of worship is not traditional but the message is always Biblical. This is not a church that waters down its message to attract the unchurched - though they welcome the unchurched. Go back.. .take a class.. listen to another sermon. I believe that pastor will be in a suit or at least a shirt and tie and that should make you happy if nothing else does.
while there, walk around the building and notice the ethnic worship service taking place in another part of the building. I suggest you try Sunday worship to get an more accurate picture of this or any other church. That's normally when Christians worship.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:



Faith has three (3) worship services each weekend not 4 as you stated.



To Scott Diekmann



In answer to your questions:



(1) The Ship of Fools websites states: “Since ancient times (ok, 1998), Ship of Fools has been sending Mystery Worshippers to churches worldwide.” Therefore one could assume these are “planned” visits.

(2) The visit was unchristian because it spewed hateful venom regarding a church.

(3) Everything reported was biased in the evaluation and was “poisonous” which is fits the description of being “toxic”.



To Der Betler:



Who determines what the standards are…do you?



To Dennis Peskey:



It is obvious that you are judgmental regarding whether a pastor has one suit or not. It certainly reveals your prejudiced opinion about attire of pastors. Aren’t there more important things to focus upon such as people’s lives being changed as a result of attending a worship service not focusing on the pastor’s suit.



I would like to ask all of you who are judging Faith Lutheran if your church sent over $40,000 to Haiti with one of your pastors and another person to a Lutheran church there to provide assistance to them during this time of crisis? I think not. Do your churches send missionaries to Brazil or Mexico to build homes for people each year or present Vacation Bible School to the children? I think not. Are lives being transformed by the influence of your pastors and staff or marriages being restored?



It would be beneficial if you would spend less time in your liturgical books and more time in the Bible to become more Christ-like in your lives and reactions rather than trying to destroy churches by your narrow minded judgemental remarks.

Anonymous said...

Now we're getting a better picture of this church. It certainly sounds like they are mission minded and not ashamed of the Gospel.
Maybe groups that send out mystery worshippers should be careful about drawing conclusions about churches they "visit".
Maybe some of us need to be more accepting of alternative styles of worship and concentrate more on the teaching of the word.

Anonymous said...

I was at Faith on Palm Sunday. The mystery visiter said he witnessed low attendance. Well, he/she should have been there on Palm Sunday when they had a choir of more than 100 people. It was awesome.

Let's just conclude that this report was based on a picnic weekend and the mysterious visitor didn't have a clue. He jumped to conclusions with out seeking facts. Funny he must not have read the website nor the bulletin to notice the celebration the following day - where hundreds (or maybe thousands) of people attended. (I wasn't there but know it is always huge)

Anonymous said...

Does it matter what a pastor wears?
Yes, it does matter. It confesses what the celebrant believes is happening during the Divine Service (or in this case, what he seems to have forgotten is happening). Vestments hide the man to help keep the focus on Christ.

The sad thing about Faith is that it gives the LCMS a black eye. If they don't want to be Lutheran, they can leave the synod.

If a church picnic keeps people out of the service, then it is a violation of the first commandment.

Lots of people like "contemporary worship" because they don't know any better. If these members were catechised and familiar with the Lutheran Confessions, perhaps they would want a worship service that confesses what Luther taught and would be willing to set aside personal preferences. The doctrine at Faith isn't Lutheran. I attended for 15 years and I never learned anything distinctly Lutheran. I was an "Arminian" bordering on open-theist and was comfortable there. I approached a pastor when I became confused with my synergistic soteriology and my friend's monergistic soteriology. He could have explained what the Lutheran church teaches but he brushed me off. It took me YEARS of struggle and hunting to discover Lutheran doctrine when it SHOULD have been right under my nose the whole time!

JoxhB

Scott Diekmann said...

I listened to a sermon preached during Lent. The sermon was pretty weak from a Law/Gospel perspective. First, there was an awful lot of fluff in the sermon. Second, the presentation of the Law to convict us of our sin was really weak; it was there in a minimal and unthreatening way, but not the wrath of God that should be preached. Third, it was heavy on the Law to tell us what we're supposed to do. In this regard, it was close to just social Gospel. That really was the main emphasis of the sermon. He talks about true spirituality, but seems to imply that true spirituality is about "pulsing with life," a life that is energized by what you're doing, instead of forgiveness of our sins and daily renewal. It sounded in spots more like a sermon you'd hear in an evangelical church. Fourth, it really didn't fit in well with Lent, which should be a focus on the cross and repentance, not a sermon on sanctification.

I wouldn't say the sermon was a total failure, it did touch on Holy Communion and said a little about sin and redemption, but overall it was poor. It didn't focus on the cross at all, which is particularly odd for a Lenten sermon.

Anonymous said...

I stand corrected on the number of services -- memory failed me and I got mixed up the number. My point was that all services are identical.

From the website:

"There are three identical worship services at Faith. Each worship service lasts approximately one hour. Communion is celebrated on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of each month."

Anonymous said...

You sound like a holier than though person. Do you really believe a pastor has to be wearing a vestmant to preach the Gospel?
I can certainly hear the
Gospel through the man without regard to what he is wearing.

Evidently the Missouri Synod doesn't have a problem with Faith Lutheran because they haven't been "kicked out".
As for me, we've looked for LCMS churches up north in summers and have found those that demand their pastor wear vestments and follow the Divine Service you mention as sleepy churches. Most people are falling asleep there... and they have not been very well attended. I don't remember any sermons that could "hold a candle" to a single one that I've heard at Faith.

Faith giving Lutherans a "black eye"? I don't think so. Faith is a bright light of the LCMS- this is a Bible based, culturally relevant church that is vital in its ministry. Rather, it is the LCMS churches that are afraid to accept anything new that give the LCMS a bad image. That is evident in declining attendance in most LCMS churches...

So, you don't agree with the type of service at Faith? go elsewhere. But why do you have to blog about your criticism? You have a bone to pick with them, go to the pastor. Talk with him. Isn't that what the Bible calls us to do?
Note: There are 4 pastors at Faith plus on occasion, the Vicar, Family Life Minister or Youth Pastor might speak. Since you don't mention any names, it isn't clear whose message you heard during Lent. Each pastor has their own style of preaching (as do all pastors), each has their own strengths and their own focus (based on their area of ministry. Yes, that's right in a large congregation, the areas of ministry are divided- something else for you to critcize.

why do you believe there is only one way to be Lutheran? Have you ever been to Valparaiso University? barefeet there as people take communion- seems to me Valparaiso is a Missouri Dynod college.

Anonymous said...

No one says that the church picnic keeps people out of service- Note: Many people who usually attend church on Saturday night, choose to worship on Sunday during the weekend of the picnic so they can attend both worship and the picnic. The picnic is held on church grounds right after the service. Note: the weekend of the picnic is one that church members are asked to invite friends so some of the sermon message might be addressed to them (I don't know, I don't wsrite sermons. I'm just guessing)
I would imagine that other churches would change their schedules when they have an annual picnic.
By the way, this anonomyous commentor is a lifelong Lutheran who has been through Confirmation so don't be so quick with your criticism.
I'm done... you are just too judmental for me. I just hope you are NOT a pastor for the sake of the LCMS.

Scott Diekmann said...

Of course Faith hasn't been kicked out of the LCMS. It's the apple of LCMS Inc.'s eye. It's all about the numbers, as you emphasize in your comments. Never mind that the sheep are in disarray because of the teaching that's going on, as one commenter above noted. I've been a member of a big LCMS church and heard all the arguments. The boasting about how that church was Lutheran didn't match reality. Your pastor has already been spoken to in the past. It didn't change the CGM paradigm.

I haven't been to Valparaiso University, but that hasn't kept me from figuring out it isn't a beacon of Lutheranism, nor is it an LCMS University, although you can't give something a thumbs up just because its got an LCMS label on it.

Anonymous said...

Youth pastor -- you mean the person in charge of youth ministries? Not an ordained man?

I find the Wilken diagnostic very helpful as I listen for Law and Gospel in any sermon. So many sermons in churches (not just Faith) are all me and tend to be legalistic.

The 3 questions:

1) How often is Jesus mentioned?
2) If Jesus is mentioned, is He the subject of the verbs?
3) What are those verbs?

Anonymous said...

Wearing vestments is part of our Lutheran identity. It's part of our practice. Practice and confession go hand in hand. Vestments confesses that we have not abolished the Mass (among other things). It's not just the lack of vestments that concerns me. It's the lack of reverence overall and the lack of catechesis among members. Faith draws "inspiration" (for lack of a better word) from heterodox influences much like a musician draws influence from other bands and artists. A Lutheran looking to Rob Bell for influence is like Josh Groban taking inspiration from William Hung (famous AI reject). It only serves to ruin.

Most country churches are not "well attended" because of the lack of population, but that aside... what matters is quality over quantity. We can't judge by externals.

The blogger only shared the reviewers information from another website. Why do you take such personal offense to a mere observation?

Valparaiso may have been Lutheran at one time, but now they have unchristian practices such as installing female pastors. It's really not a matter of Synod, but a matter of the Lutheran Confessions. Do we believe those confessions and practice what they teach, or don't we?

JoxhB

Scott, if you disagree with anything I have said, please delete my comments.

Scott Diekmann said...

I listened to the Easter sermon. I don’t know who the pastor was because the website doesn’t identify who preached the sermon and he didn’t introduce himself. I’d rate this sermon as an epic fail. The delivery of the sermon was good, preached powerfully. He spent a lot of time talking about how incredible the resurrection was, etc. He states “People ask me, ‘Well what’s the most important thing in the Bible?’… The most important was Jesus was crucified, He died, was buried, and He rose again. That’s of most importance. He [Paul?] says ‘That’s what you need to preach every single weekend.’ That’s what we need to hear and be reminded of, and without that, the book makes no sense.” Oops. Didn’t he just leave something out? 1Cor. 15:3: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures….” Could an LCMS pastor leave the forgiveness of sins out when he’s paraphrasing from 1 Corinthians 15? I suppose he didn’t want to offend the seekers. Later in the sermon he does allude to the forgiveness of sins twice in a minimalist non-convicting way.

Here’s what the pastor should be saying: “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:45-47 ESV).

I would ask, isn’t the seeker going to think all the information about how incredible the resurrection is “nice to know information,” but who cares? They can go home and be “incredibly overwhelmed” by playing on their X-Box. They don’t need an empty tomb for that. Unless they’re shown the depth of their depravity, they aren’t going to have any use for a Savior. This sermon fails to preach the Gospel, because it doesn’t first preach the Law. It is symptomatic of the seeker-sensitive paradigm. If the pastor can’t get the Easter Sunday sermon right, what does that say for the rest of the Church year?

Anonymous said...

Guess what, the youth minister actually teaches the youth... and don't you think he MIGHT actually have something worthwhile to say to the congregation as a whole- not from the pulpit though; oh wait, Faith doesn't have a pulpit. Their pastors usually preach with few notes. Yep the scripture is displayed on the screens so everyone can easily see the words OR the people can find the scripture verses in the Bible that they are encouraged to open EVERY week. Your arguments are weak because anyone who has attended Faith more than casually knows that the sermons are Bible based; that scripture is always the basis for the sermon message and that Jesus is the center of all we do. We have some preconceived notions about this church; too bad.
Very strange but you mention the "all me" ;sermons. Just a few weeks ago, One of the points of the sermon message was about the "entitlement mentality" of our country. (yes, the sermon did relate to our daily lives- to me that's important) And yes, the pastors do preach the Gospel. What part of what has been written on this blog don't you understand. I suggest you be a man and go talk with one of the pastors. Make your accusattions to them- "man" to man. Hold them accountable for their teachings which you so piously criticize OR try attending again and listen for the law and the gospel; it's there... vestments or not.

Having been raised Lutheran, I never cared what the pastor was wearing. It is the message that's important. and you are totally wrong about Faith. Again check it's attendance and compare it with other suburban Detroit LCMA churches- a very populated area.

If the church is reaching people with the Gospel message, why do you care? If people thought it was terrible that the pastor doesn't wear a vestment, they wouldn't go there. Evidently the Gospel taught at Faith is reaching people and changing lives. Isn't that whata Christ taught? did he say, "Go, wear a vestment and teach all nations"? I think not.
As for Valparaiso, it is still a LCMS university- last I heard. I guess yuou'll have to blog about Valparaiso next.

As for the Easter sermon, give me a break. The importanace of Easter is that Christ rose again. That's the important event! Of course people at Faith understood that as a result of that event, our sins are forgiven. I've never listened to sermons of Faith on the Internet but I would guess that the entire service is not presented. The sermon is not the only time of teaching.

Why do I answer you so personally? because I often attend Faith and what you are writing is ridiculous. You have a very limited version of what it means to be a LCMS Lutheran. Yes, I was baptized, confirmed and went to Valparaiso- even won a Bible competition held on the radio in New York as a teenager. Let's not get so hung up on vestments,etc that we forget the big picture and the charge to spread the Gospel message- which Faith does quite effectively .

Let's also give pastors the ability to change the sermon message from week to week. There are different ways to present the Gospel message which Faith's pastors are committed to.
Again I charge you to go speak with the senior pastor. otherwise, stop criticizing them.

Anonymous said...

Scott,
Valparaiso is certainly an LCMS university. Ask them.
I didn't give it a thumbs up. I was just pointing out that it is sanctioned by the LCMS and people do some things there that I'm sure you'd object to.
If they permit variation at their university, why can't you permit it for individual pastors.

and what's this about Faith being in disarray? now you're pulling at straws.
It's not all about numbers but numbers do reflect that the church is fulfilling the needs of the people. People are attracted to Faith because of its Biblical teaching. Because they saw publicly that they are unashamed of the Gospel. They are unashamedly pro-life. They stand up for Biblical teachings when many churches refuse to mention them. Their teaching is solid.
They offer a 3 Solas class for those considering joining. It is solid Lutheran teaching.

a lack of reverance? now you're drawing conclusions Josh that just aren't true.


What's the big deal? go to your church. Wear vestments. Listen to the same words every week, if that's what you want.
Then notice that your church isn't growing. It's not just 'country church" that aren't growing; it's most churches that seem to be within your paradyme.

Scott Diekmann said...

"What's the big deal? go to your church. Wear vestments. Listen to the same words every week, if that's what you want.
Then notice that your church isn't growing. It's not just 'country church" that aren't growing; it's most churches that seem to be within your paradyme."

We hear solid Law & Gospel sermons every week in my congregation, spoken by a pastor wearing vestments, who proclaims what is of first importance, not just assumes it or purposely leaves it out. And the weird thing that I noticed is that our church is growing.

"So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given [John 20:22]. He works faith, when and where it pleases God [John 3:8], in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake."

Anonymous said...

If you visit the website for Valpo, you'll discover that Valparaiso is an Independent Lutheran university.

Anonymous 26 -- "because I often attend Faith" -- does that mean you are not a member but just an attender?

Should a person talk to the senior pastor who has been at the helm for decades or to his son the associate pastor? Or will the third pastor take concerns to the father/son team? It can be very complicated when you have concerns since many in leadership roles are related beyond the 2 pastors.

It's wrong and dangerous to assume the Gospel -- the congregation needs to hear both Law and Gospel at every opportunity.

You are correct that only the message is on the Internet.

Matt said...

I think it is remarkable how dense some devotees of LCMS church growth congregations are about how their church actually comes across to real outsiders and seekers as opposed to bored boomer and generation X cradle Lutherans who will do anything to distance themselves from their grandfather's church.

Anonymous should take Angel Unaware's comments to heart. Real self-evaluation does not come easily to people who are proud, proud, proud of their trendy church.

Anonymous said...

Faith "Lutheran" Church does lack reverence. I'm not "drawing conclusions", I speak with first-hand experience. I was a member there. I was married there. I was lost, confused and starving most of the time. My small group was plagued by misguided piety. The sermons focused me inward. The worship (in song) was me-centered and was a distraction with gelled lights and jumping singers up on a stage. Faith took a huge turn in the wrong direction when they moved the musicians from the back to the focus.

Martin Luther would roll over in his grave.

JoxhB

Anonymous said...

You know what Scott and Josh - we are very happy with Faith. If you are not - then devote your "attack time to the Bible" and not to this blog. Have a good life - at least I know am saved.

I hope there is a separate Lutheran heaven for you so that you will all be able to wear your vestments and practice doctrine while we are in Paradise with Christians of all Christian denominations.

Anonymous said...

Nobody questioned your salvation, but it sounds like you are questioning ours.

It's not just about vestments. Faith doesn't use the hymnal, the agenda, the altar book, the collects and many of the other prayers of the church. Faith doesn't follow the lectionary. Faith practices open communion and this puts souls in danger.

Faith had a nice growth spurt, but then it shrank. One Sunday my family was visiting another LCMS church in Warren (we were looking for a new home) and they were receiving new members. They received about 30 families that morning and the majority were people that left Faith Lutheran. We invited a girl from work to Faith Lutheran. She stayed for a while and she and her children were very involved. After a while they needed deeper teaching and community. They are Fundamentalist Baptists now. I know a guy who was ordained at Faith. He's broken his ordination vows and is attending a pentecostal church with a female pastor.

JoxhB

Anonymous said...

I think your doctrine is a bit off -- no Lutheran heaven in Scripture.

"Paradise" for those who believe that Christ died for them and their sins are forgiven and only God knows the heart.

I hope that all Lutherans, all people know Christ died on the cross for them and their sins are forgiven -- that is God's will.

"This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

Scott Diekmann said...

Blog of the Week pick 4-9-10:

http://www.issuesetc.org/podcast/465040910H1S2.mp3

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on being picked again -- well deserved.

Stand Firm is an outstanding blog as is its author Scott.

As your banner says "Stand firm in your faith, or you will not stand at all Exposing the threats to Confessional Lutheranism"

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks anonymous.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your blog being picked for Blof of the Week on Issues Etc.
Your blogs are very interesting and I think, This is Embarrassing, article brings to light that doctrine and practice are confessions of the Lutheran Faith are being abused.
Whose church do people believe it is when they just change up the whole worship service to suit their personal preferences?
Great work of presenting this critique.

Scott Diekmann said...

Thanks anonymous (#2)!

Anonymous said...

so you get a top rating by criticizing a church's style of worship and assuming you know what goes on there and what is being taught. If that makes you feel good, congratulations.
Many Lutheran churches have contemporary worship services WITHOUT the hymnal and I believe their worshippers will be saved. My Bible doesn't have the contraints that yours must have as to what the Lord as to the style of our worship; that's manmade stuff...
It's seems to make you feel pious. Enjoy it... reminds me of Pharisees.

Scott Diekmann said...

"Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16)

Anonymous said...

What you write is YOUR opinion. Don't confuse it with truth.
What is taught at Faith is biblical. That is truth...

You don't like the style of worship- others do.

and note, most churches with contemporary worship services have the musicians at the front of the church. That doesn't make them karaoke nor the "center of attention". They are there to lead. Singing is a form of worship; they are the music worship leaders.
And by the way, no one is jumping up and down as part of the music at Faith.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:20

"

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I have seen people jump up and down. I found it very distracting.
-a former member

Anonymous said...

It's not happening... things change... No one is jumping up and down in Faith's music ministry. Too many mis-statements have been made in this blog. This blog is not accurate.
People who do not attend Faith or who have years ago are making statements that are not true. If you don't know what you are talking about, it is best to remain quiet about a topic.
I repeat. No one jumps up and down in Faith's music ministry.

Why do you continue with this?
If you left Faith, move on, but don't mis-represent what is going on.

Anonymous said...

I thought I saw the worship director jumping up and down as he led worship on Easter. I attended Easter and there was a lot of clapping as well during the worship songs. I noticed as well that during the sermon, applause would break out by some in the congregation. Don't know why but I've never seen this in any other Lutheran Church I've attended in the past.

Anonymous said...

Anon # 43

I'm concerned that Galatians 5:1 (you cited it as 20) was misused.

I think the freedom that St Paul's writes of in Galatians is what Christ did for sinners -- that is He took of our sin, we are forgiven and are no longer slaves to sin. I don't think he's speaking of worship style.

This is Luther's commentary on Galatians 5:1

(http://lcmssermons.com/5mins.php?d=2010-04-27)

Bible Passage:Gal 5:1

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery."


* * *

Paul means to say: Be steadfast; do not be inattentive, but be steady and faithful. Do not lie down and sleep, but stand up. It is as if he intends to say, It is necessary that you be vigilant and constant, deliberately holding fast to that liberty wherein Christ has made you free. For Satan hates the light of the Gospel, that is to say, the doctrine of grace, liberty, consolation, and life, and when he sees it appear, he fights against it with power and intensity, seeking to overthrow it. This is why Paul warns the faithful not to sleep, but constantly and valiantly to resist Satan, that he may not rob them of that liberty which Christ has purchased for them. This is the liberty whereby Christ has made us free, not from an earthly bondage, but from God's everlasting wrath. And this accomplished in the conscience. That is where our liberty is found and no where else. We are now free, meaning that our conscience is now free and at peace, not fearing the wrath of God to come. This is our true and incomparable liberty, of such excellence and majesty that no other can be compared. Following this liberty there is also another, whereby through Christ we are made free from the Law, sin, death, the power of the devil, etc. For as the wrath of God cannot terrify us, so the Law, sin, and death cannot accuse and condemn us, they cannot drive us to desperation, for faith, which overcomes the world, has made us free and delivered us from them all. The pernicious opinion, that the Law justifies and makes men righteous before God, is deeply rooted in man's reason; therefore Paul uses strong language, to persuade the Galatians that they should not suffer the intolerable burden of the Law again to be laid upon their shoulders, or be entangled again with the yoke of that slavery.

jim said...

after a look at several of their "reviews" it appears that the mystery worshipers are not strangers to the denominations that they reviewed. Their use of jargon and liturgical references indicates that they have a more than basic knowledge of worship styles, etc.

Scott Diekmann said...

Scott
Valparaiso is independent Lutheran - we are not owned/operated by any church body. The Lutheran designation is completely by choice, we have an active faith life for students that choose to do so, and students claim near forty different religions. If you are interested in this aspect of our university, feel free to stop by and visit the campus.
Best,
Scott

Lutheran Matters said...

I took the advice of one of the posters and looked at the classes and events being offered at Faith. I noticed non-Lutheran offerings -- Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, VBS from Group Publishing, Iron Sharpens Iron National Conference for men (no Lutheran speakers). Other offerings didn't list resources so I have no idea where the material comes from.

Course materials usually reflect the doctrine of the author. Beth Moore is very concerning to me for my fellow Lutheran sisters.

http://www.extremetheology.com/2010/03/beth-moores-dangerous-bible-twisting.html

Anonymous said...

Where does it say that Lutherans can only read or study Lutheran books? is that your opinion or is that a dictate? Should we be so narrow minded?

I suggest AGAIN that you, Scott, talk with the pastor of Faith if you have so much that borthers you rather than facilitating this blog which is filled with misrepresentation and opinion.
YOU have not spoken with him... nor has anyone else, as you have claimed. THAT is a FACT!

Anonymous said...

If you are a member of Lutheran Church, the expectation I would have as a fellow Lutheran is that the congregation would be Lutheran in doctrine and practice.

I think there is a danger, especially for laity, if they read mostly non-Lutheran materials as most Christian books are written by authors who bring assumptions to the page. Rick Warren will bring his theology to a book. Rob Bell will bring his theology to his Nooma videos. Bill Hybels will bring his theology to his books. Dr. Gene Veith will also bring his theology, Lutheran, to his books.

What is being misrepresented?

Anonymous said...

Faith is Lutheran in doctrine and practice. You, Scott, have never spoken with the pastor about your concern and he has not been contacted, as you claim. It's been suggested to me that you read Luther's explanation of the 8th commandment in the Book of Concord before criticizing other churches.
Be thankful that you in America have the right to worship where you want. Certainly, heaven will be filled with Christians; not just Missouri synod Lutherans. Shouldn't we be able to read non-Lutheran authors and examine them, as compared to the teachings of our church. I'm thankful to have a pastor who welcomes my questions.

Scott Diekmann said...

You're going to break your neck jumping to conclusions Anonymous #?. The pastor has been spoken to, just not by me. Plus, the post was a quote of someone else's concerns. Playing the 8th Commandment card really isn't an effective conflict management strategy, at least on this blog. Go find a mirror. I didn't note that anyone here said that only Missouri Synod Lutherans would be in heaven. On the contrary, C.F.W. Walther said "The expression 'faithful to the Confessions' is used in Thesis I also for this reason: It indicates that we do not consider the Lutheran church to be 'the' one holy Christian church, outside of which there is no salvation. The only distinction which the Lutheran church makes between itself and other church bodies is that it has the pure doctrine, and this pure doctrine is expressed in its Confessions.
Therefore the last thing we want to do is to be falsely arrogant. The expression 'faithful to the Confessions' simply asserts: We do not claim to be the only Christian church, but we do claim to be the church that is pure in faith and doctrine. That is also why, when we separate ourselves from others, we are not motivated by pride and arrogance, considering ourselves better than others, but rather because we owe God a special debt of gratitude for having entrusted His pure Word to us. And we do not say to anyone, 'You should become a Lutheran, because you should not pledge yourself to a falsified but to the pure Word of God….'”
I am thankful that I live in America where I have the right to worship where I want, although I'm not sure of it's relevance to the post.
We should be able to read non-Lutheran authors and examine them; we shouldn't read non-Lutheran sources and adopt their undiscerning non-Lutheran ideas that contradict our Confession and the plain words of Scripture. Go ask the pastor about the Reclaim! seminar they attended (http://reclaim.stjohnmansfield.org/Reclaim.php) and how many of the un-Biblical prayer practices that were taught have been assimilated into the congregation's practice.
I've had enough of "Anonymous" posts. If you'd like to post anything else, leave your real first and last names, along with your email address so that I can verify that you are who you say you are, or better yet, email me.

Anonymous said...

An update on the 2011 Easter message at Faith Lutheran in Troy.
Pastor Warren Arndt gave the Easter message "Love You Forever" in which he gave a brief message, then showed a segment from a video on the Gospel of John 20:1-8
A little more of his message then for the next 1/3 of the sermon he read a children's book, "Love You Forever" by Robert Munsch with the pages of the book on the big side screens as he read the book.About 7 minutes or so worth of a children's book. I've included the link to a youtube although the pastor didn't have have all the animation that is in the youtube. So the pastor stated in his message, " Will live "Forever"is what Easter is all about! He couldn't post this message on the website due to copyright laws on the book. So, if you thought last years Easter Message Failed this one is worse. Lord have mercy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6z-oBkgJ4Ow