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Monthly Archives: April 2011

I think childishly about CCM = I am the weaker brother = ? (part III of III)

See part I here and part II here.

I think I have a good idea about why you feel you can’t submit.  Perhaps you think something like this: “I do not know what your feelings are here, but I know I love the lost.  Like Paul, I want to save as many as possible.  I want to insist that while God does all the work, I to, without being ashamed, can say, ‘that I might save some’, ‘that I may save myself and my hearers’, etc.”  I understand.  Maybe you also think: “I want to say that I can feel some rightful pride in doing what God has called me to do, that is, like Ezekiel, be like the watchman who warns the world of the wrath to come.”  I agree.   Sometimes, I must admit, it seems like some of those more traditionally liturgical folks would deny even this speech!  Therefore, here is what I submit: have your small groups, your conventicles, your prayers services, your praise services, your “seeker services” (even as those unconverted who seek do not seek the true God – even as they may find what they are not looking for as He blasts into their world!) – all with the goal of not only praising Christ and getting to know Him better – but to seek and save the lost as He did (in the sense of imitating His pre-Passion ministry).

I, for one, would not condemn this.  To take one example, gathering like the Apostles did – seemingly outside of a public worship context in order to pray – is not necessarily pietism but can indeed be piety (and yet, I will refuse to feel guilty that I should participate in these, as there are even other avenues for corporate prayer…)!  I will warn you however – if you do this, history tells us that you may be in for more than you bargained for.  Sociologically, people might start to feel the small groups are more real and authentic than their family relationships.  But even more importantly, you may lose the love of the traditional services (like those the LSB retains).  You may not see them as valuable or relevant in any sense.  You may even lose some fear of God, who, like Aslan, is not safe and tame, but good.  And like many Lutherans who have fallen, you may forget that God comes to us through others first and foremost in humble and simple things like words, water, bread and wine.  You may, like those who started the [highly successful and influential] Evangelical Free Churches, for example, eventually decide that dropping Lutheran not only on the sign but in your heart is a good idea.

Then again, perhaps if these dangers are acknowledged upfront, the danger can be minimized – and good things for everyone can come out of this!  Perhaps a prayer like this could be used to start off such a outside-of-public-worship service:

“Sovereign Lord – we desire to speak your word with boldness, as did the Apostles in the book of Acts.  We desire to pray for this and all things not just when we feel the need, but every day.  Fill us with your Holy Spirit.  Ignite our hearts with a passion for you, one another and the lost you came to save through your Son.  Lord, even as we attend here to read your word and to pray, we beg you that we would not look down on those who feel called to connect with you , your people, and the lost in different ways.   And we also beg you that we would never forget the simple gifts you give us.  Bind us to our pastors, our confessions, and the most precious Sacraments.  May our hearts not grow far from these sacraments, but may we desire to partake of them with increasing frequency – that we may know you most intimately.  May all Christians continue to gather together around the Word and Sacraments that create the unity that we have in your Son.  Heal, strengthen, and energize all of us through your good gifts, that we may desire to run the way of your commandments, preaching your word far and wide.”

Please think and pray on these things.  I think that it would be tragic for us to divide among the lines of those who think that our Gospel proclamation should be driven in part (or perhaps in whole!) by the doctrine of predestination (these folks might point out that lots of Calvinists seem to do evangelism, as counter-intuitive as that may seem!), for example, or that it should be driven by a Spirit-driven zeal for the lost.  May our proclamation – our confessing/evangelizing, be driven by a united desire to lift up Christ crucified for a dying world to see.  What greater honor is there for us than to proclaim the praises of our King who has suffered and died for His the sins of the whole world – and will come again to make all things new?

So come let us worship and bow down together – and proclaim His Name to the ends of the earth!

If you consider me weak then, won’t you join me? – and any that may be even weaker than me?  Or at least hear me and discuss (i.e. engage)?

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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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I think childishly about CCM = I am the weaker brother = ? (part II of III)

See part I here.

Yes, let me concede it for the sake of this argument: I am the weaker brother. So, if this is the case – if this evaluation of myself seems accurate to you, I only ask you this: why will you not submit to me?  I do not desire that you bow to me because I want to experience any power over you (at least, this is what I believe to be true insofar as I am new in Christ!) – let me again concede for the sake of argument that perhaps the Spirit is moving you in a way that I too, should, or will be, moved – even as now I suffer in weak and pitiful blindness!  In which case, from your perspective, should you not submit to those like me so that our weak faith will not be endangered – or even destroyed?  Paul gives specific instructions of how to treat those in the fellowship whose faith only allows them, in good conscience, to eat vegetables, i.e. those who feel constrained and limited.  Please note, that now at least, from my perspective, you really do not seem to care about these concerns of mine at all. As it stands now, I understand it is increasingly difficult for pastors who think like me to be able to start (i.e. be funded) congregations that operate like those I mentioned above.  How is this not like a marriage where one person takes no concern for what troubles their spouse greatly?  Indeed, in the marriage that is Christ and the Church, should we not even be more concerned?  Or have the overabundance of “denominations” caused us to not even see this as scandalous?

Further, it is not as if there aren’t other reasons to think that submitting to those like me of weak faith would be wise.  These folks, as weak as their faith may be (again, I am assuming this for the sake of argument), are also concerned about the people of the Church and its mission.  As regards its people, they are concerned about the fact that the first impulse of those who leave CCM LC-MS congregations often seems to be to join the Sacramental-less community church nearby instead of the faithful confessional church.  They do not seek out the one that offers the Gospel purely preached and the Sacramental gifts that God desires to give His people – for their nourishment and power.  As regards mission, some have wisely pointed out how our “target audience” in “the West” is increasingly Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu, for example – and that it makes sense that we should practice worship as something that these groups will at least recognize as worship (as opposed to a soft rock concert geared primarily to older, Westernized adults – which might actually revolt them).  Really, is there nothing to what seems to be the universal human conclusion that worship ought to be highly reverent and serious business?  Even from the CCM practitioner’s perspective about making worship relevant: if this is a weakness in the non-believer (i.e. not realizing that God, in Jesus, shows Himself to be our friend, and it is not necessary to be so reverent), should we not accommodate them in this way?

So I request this: please stick to what we have all agreed to in our latest hymnal – this is not to say that you need to get approval for every new hymn that you sing, but in general, please abide by this!  If you have only a CCM service now, gradually work towards preparing your people for a “second service” that does just this.  Do you think that this request is impossible?  That it ignores the plight of the lost?  That such a traditionally-minded congregation – or a congregation that is moving towards this – is not likely to be able to sustain and nourish a mission-minded approach and mindset?  Why do you think this?  Why must this necessarily be the case?  Cannot people be mission-minded in different ways, expressed differently in their lives?  To my knowledge, some of our most devoted LC-MS missionaries are those who are more traditional and “confessional”.

I hope it is clear that I am certainly not insisting that if you do not submit here that you are not a Christian.  A love which submits is hard work and love covers over a multitude of sins.  If any person who values the traditional liturgy ever tells you that in order to be a Christian you must worship in a certain way (other than clinging to the Word and Sacraments for forgiveness and power), then I urge you to leave the 99 and to seek the one who actually does need repentance! Shake the dust off your feet from those who would bind your consciences in this way – as if the style of music we use was an article of faith!  They indeed are like the Pharisees.  But if your brothers beg you to submit simply for the sake of good order and some happy consistency in the Church – and do not insist that your salvation is at stake, namely that you must do this to be saved – do no such thing!

But even if you do not call me a Pharisee – and you continue in your ways – I do not see how this cannot strain the marriage.  Heresy is not at issue here (yet!), but schism certainly may be.  Adultery, leading to divorce, may not be at issue – but apathy, leading to separation, certainly seems to be in the cards.  Again, I urge you to ask yourself this question: why will you not submit?

“But are you saying that I must give up everything I feel compelled to do to reach the lost?”, you may be asking…

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

I think childishly about CCM = I am the weaker brother = ? (part I of III)

Perhaps in saying that the faith of a child clings to traditional liturgical forms (here and here), some may think that I am showing myself to be thinking like a child (i.e. childish, not child-like), as opposed to promoting faith like a child.  For the sake of argument, let me concede this – perhaps, the Church’s liturgical forms really do need to undergo radical transformations – including musical transformations – to reach people today.  In other words, if we were all keeping in step with the Spirit, it would be entirely natural for the ever-mission-minded Church of God to flee the temptation to cling to that which is most comfortable, and to always be singing “new songs” – both to praise the Lord, and, by pointing to the cross in a new and fresh way, to draw all people to Christ (John 12:32).  Perhaps it should be obvious that this is what God would have us do?

Yes, maybe it should be obvious to me that this is so (even if, for now, it definitely is not).  Therefore, if this is the case, it seems clear to me that I would be a “weaker brother” (Romans 15).  Again, for the sake of argument, let me list some possible reasons why it should be obvious that though God would have us do this (even if this weaker brother cannot see it): just because something is not explicitly commanded or modeled in Scripture (especially by Jesus and the Apostles), this does not necessarily imply that I should not do something – like radically alter the traditional worship forms that we have received; good Lutherans should note that C.F.W. Walther said that the ways the 10 commandments could be applied were multiple and, in effect, endless; we are, really and truly, free in Christ – we should feel free to do that which we sense we are being led to do – especially as it relates to God’s stated desire that all men would, through repentance, come to a knowledge of the truthHas He not bound all men over to disobedience so that He might have mercy on them all? (Formula of Concord quote)

All of these things I acknowledge – and all of these things, I think, could indeed be used in an argument for the importance of CCM.  Still, assuming that attempts to use CCM to help seek and save the lost are God-pleasing, does this mean that it should be done at the expense of the weaker brother (and perhaps – assuming I am among these “weaker brethren” – there are some who are weaker even than me…)?

Why, more specifically, might I be weak?  Well, when people insist that God is pleased when we change our traditional liturgical forms and music to connect with, and be relevant to the lost, I simply feel compelled here to not go beyond Scripture.  Now I agree that I should be zealous for the lost, and that I should imitate Paul, who desires that he might save as many as possible.  As I am a new man in Christ, I do desire this!  And yet, I do not interpret – I can’t interpret – I Cor. 9:22 the same way as do my CCM brethren.  I am not yet convinced that this is what God would have us do – at all!  Perhaps you might see me as a stubborn Recabite-man – one who does not believe that it is wise to abandon the forms that have grown up around His Word and Sacraments and alter them.  And music is prominent here as well: I do not think it wise for the Church to utilize music that seems to have been designed – albeit consciously or unconsciously, intentionally or unintentionally – to try to create a [Christian?], “worshipful experience” – for both believers and unbelievers – through the means of a song leader’s highly emotional self-expressions of worship to God  (even if one argues that Confessional Lutherans in the early 17th century opened the door to this when some among them argued – vs the pietists! – that the emotionally compelling Baroque Italian Opera music was a good way to “get people in the doors”!)

My view is that passion comes from the simple words God speaks and we confess back to Him (I include the Sacraments here).  Christ – that most wonderful and glorious Savior – is for me?!  Away with all adornments that would detract or distract from the passion-creating power of the “mere” words God speaks to us – and gives us to speak back to Him!  Or *anything* that might imply that they are not enough!  Did not God tell Gideon to send most of his army home?

Perhaps naively, I think that the services that we have inherited were largely the creations of humble, devout, and mission-minded brothers of the past – and that we should cling to what they have created.  And though I certainly do not want things to be confusing and inaccessible for non-believers who come into the Presence of the Lamb, I also think that Christian worship is ultimately meant for Christians – to speak to them of God’s judgment, His saving Presence, and the freedom we now have in Him.  We are to seek the lost sheep, but not at the expense of our own family (and be worse than a pagan) – we are, after all, to love the family of God before all others. The inheritance of that which is public worship is really for these ones – even as this is not to be at the expense of their outreach into the world!  This is what I believe.

Again, let me concede for the sake of argument: I am a weaker brother.

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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