Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do We Count?

I believe much of the malaise plaguing the Missouri Synod (which, according to some, is "unified like never before") involves our church's ungodly obsession with numbers. As a result of this consumer mentality, there are some in our synod who want to run the church the same way you would run a "successful" coffeehouse, McDonald's, or brokerage firm. Such "executives" even adopt the uniform, vocabulary, and reading list of the secular business world (and I suppose that if the Holy Spirit wants to be involved, He can just buy a few shares of stock and get a vote like everybody else).

Anyway, more than 7,000 people have signed the online petition to restore the radio show Issues, Etc. that was summarily canceled on Holy Tuesday by executives in our church body. All sorts of excuses have been made by our church's leadership, such as the show "lost" $250,000 (the calculation of which is dubious to several former Board for Communication Services members). Since when is worldwide outreach expected to turn a profit? In truth, this figure is not terribly much more than the salary of the synodical president - especially when benefits and perks (such as worldwide travel) are rolled in (not to mention the president's wife's salary). Do we make a "profit" on this money? Furthermore, isn't the church a "non-profit" entity?

As a result of the first ever protest held at the LCMS headquarters, the St. Louis Post Dispatch ran an article in which KFUO hatchet-man David Strand, executive director of the Board for Communication Services, brushed aside the 7,000+ passionate signers as statistically insignificant. Of course, 7,000 is not an insignificant number if the Scriptures (1 Kings 19-18) are to be believed.

Again, the curse of "numerolatry" dogs our synod and taints our proclamation of the Gospel.

Anyway, Kelly, the wife of the Rev. Alex Klages of Manitoba, has given us another installment of "Draw Boldly."

She correctly casts David Strand in the role of Emperor Charles V in 1530, as the confessional reformers were summoned to recant their confession and instead pledge fealty to the church bureaucracy. Instead, the confessors (laymen who were mostly princes) refused to recant, and instead signed a "petition" of their own, known as the Augsburg Confession. Thus, this world-changing "petition" was signed by a mere seven faithful Evangelical Catholics (who were mocked by the name "Lutheran") on behalf of the entire confessing movement. It bears mentioning that the signers of this "petition" were threatened and intimidated by their own church leaders.

What would David Strand do?

This whole scandal runs much deeper than the shameful firing of two faithful employees, one of whom was an ordained pastor with what is known in our circles as a "divine call." It is much more than simply the cancellation of a radio program that proclaimed the gospel and taught the holy faith worldwide (as terrible as that is). This whole matter is symptomatic of the lack of faith by some in our leadership in the reality that the Holy Spirit grows the Church, that salvation is a mystery involving election and predestination over and against "decision theology," that the biblical evangelism model is a sower recklessly casting seeds, as opposed to a sales executive researching market forces and demographic trends in order to sell a product. Until we come to grips with this fissure in our theology, we will not be able to put our "unified as never before" Humpty Synod back together again.

For the record, those seven men who knelt before the emperor and bared their necks to him, willing to die before relinquishing their confession, who presented the confession to the emperor at Augsburg were named: John, George, Ernest, Philip, John Frederick, Francis, and Wolfgang. We stand in their train. We will not recant. We will not be bullied. We will not be cowed into silence.

Luther supposedly said: "Laugh at the devil and he will flee from you." Thanks again to Kelly for her wonderful insight.

2 comments:

Past Elder said...

I think you're right on the money -- so to speak -- here.

BTW, I like the new "Father Hollywood" sidebar!

Happy to be signer #443 of the petition! It may not get Issues back, but as you point out there's a lot more going on than just Issues.

Benjamin J. Ulledalen said...

"that the biblical evangelism model is a sower recklessly casting seeds…"

Sort of like answering questions that strangers ask you in public after seeing your clerical? Seemingly insignificant in our eyes- just like a seed would be.

That is a helpful way to put it. I have never heard it that way before. We don't need to present some spotless, end-all proclamation and defense of Christianity. Just confess, at let the Holy Spirit take care of it.

No painstaking calculation- whether inspired by business world obsession with numbers, or Law based obsession with presenting a harrowing defense of the faith and completely catechize the person once for all on the spot.

That really simplifies things.

Thanks.

Pax Christi,

Ben