Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pastoral Letters have Changed!

Since the days of the apostles, the hierarchs of the Church have written and circulated pastoral letters, both for the benefit of the clergy and the laity. They continue to this day, even within the LCMS. I can't help but be struck by how different they have become from the days of the apostles and the apostolic fathers versus today.

Here is a first century letter that one most Christians are familiar with. And here is a pastoral letter from the second century that most Christians are probably not familiar with. These two have great similarities, and have a sense of timelessness about them. They were also written during a time of persecution of the Church.

Now let's fast forward...

Here is a letter to pastors from the LCMS of today, and here is another intended to be read by LCMS Christians. How different pastoral letters have become in the 21st century. Is it likely that Christians centuries from now will read these latter two and derive inspiration, exhotation, and comfort? Which set of letters strikes you as "churchly" as opposed to "worldly"?

This may not be our grandfather's church anymore, but I'm not so sure this is a good thing. Maybe the apostles and the apostolic fathers - even without appealing to bylaws, without cracking jokes, without graphs, power point, and polling data - had a better approach to the timeless Christian life and Church than we do today. Maybe we're guilty of what C.S. Lewis called "chronological snobbery."

Sometimes the new way isn't an improvement.

4 comments:

Favorite Apron said...

I don't think there is any "maybe" about it. Dumbing down and crass commercialism is the name of the game. Where is the classic timelessness?

I went to the Ablaze link and read a few of the Ablaze stories. "Soccer parents seek advice" and "My haircut was ablaze," " Biker Donut Ministry" -- is this really what we think "ministry" is these days? It's depressing.

Whey Lay said...

Again I say Uhhg, most of the time when I read letters from the head Corporate office, err I mean Synodical Headquarters it feels like I am at work. Witnessing to the saving work of Christ is certainly our task as Christians, but this pre-occupation with numbers is too worldly. The tact that is being used in the letter is similiar to the type taken by many companies to promote "worker engagment" and "vision buy in". Here business leaders hope to get line workers to care more than senior managment does. It is many times ineffective in the business world, and why we feel the Gospel needs American style business tweeking I don't know. But while we are on this path I call dibbs on the "Hammock Donut Ministry"

Father Hollywood said...

Favorite Apron:

I think you hit it on the head: "crass commercialism." It is the false doctrine that we can "sell" Jesus like vacuum cleaners and Amway products. All we need is the right sales methodology, the right talking points, mission statement, programs, sales force, and incentives. The Holy Spirit is given lip service at best, and the means of grace are specifically taken off of the table for purposes of the Ablaze(tm) counter.

If people really and truly believed that God is present on our altars, and that our sins are serious enough to condemn us to hell, would anyone ever be so flippant with the Christian faith to speak about "biker donut ministry"?

Father Hollywood said...

Whey lay: Kind of makes the expression "Corporate Worship" take on a new meaning.

I half expect the synod to make our churches buy banners like the one in the movie Office Space that says: "Is it good for the company?"

Instead of the "triple bypass," perhaps the LCMS corporate logo should involve paper clips and a Swingline stapler.

Any chance the LCMS can get listed on NASDAQ?