This upcoming Sunday, October 5th, will mark the end of my first year in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. It was, and has continued to be a breath of fresh air. It’s not that my previous 16 years in the Christian & Missionary Alliance were terrible. I had sound pastors that cared for me and always pointed me to God’s word, and although we now disagree on several key doctrines, I am still thankful for the care and instruction they gave me.
Nonetheless, my last year and a half in the C&MA, although educational, was extremely taxing. Our long term pastor was elected to the District Superintendent seat. The ensuing pastoral search process really opened my eyes to short comings in the C&MA doctrinal confessions. The C&MA doesn’t really have a large or detailed confession. It is primarily a conservative non-sacramental denomination that pitches its tent on “The Fourfold Gospel” as laid out by founder A.B. Simpson along with a subscription to premillenial eschatology and a focus on missions. It’s simply a conservative evangelical denomination. The glaring weakness, which some promote positively as inclusive, is that there are no confessional stances on justification, soteriology, free will, election, etc. So in a sense, each congregation within the denomination can be theologically autonomous (within reason) as the pastor is the rudder that steers doctrine within the individual churches. This make things rather complex when trying to replace a pastor. When the theological framework is shaped by the pastor instead of the institution, finding a replacement can be rather difficult. Add in the fact that since many congregants never attempt to figure out or settle on the vast nuances of the faith, incoming pastoral candidates are judged more on their charisma than their beliefs. Of all the candidates that I saw before I left, one thing was clear, both my fellow congregants and the pastoral candidates were infatuated with being “missional” and “wanting application.” I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. It is the current fad within Evangelicalism. Christian Publishers are pumping out missional materials as fast as pastors can write them. Look at the success of the David Platt’s and the Kyle Idelman’s of the world. Missional radicalism is all around and I’m convinced it’s the new legalism…but I digress.
Having methodically researched my own beliefs over 5 years, I knew that I would be making a change no matter whether the new pastor was solid, squishy or somewhere in between. As an adult Sunday school teacher and worship leader I was in a no-win situation. My views on baptism and the Lord’s supper had drastically changed and I knew that if I taught what I now believed, I would stir division in an already temperamental environment. On the contrary, if I remained silent and taught against my believes, I’d be lying. Realizing that it was I who had changed, not the C&MA, I withdrew my membership and began looking for a denomination with a strong confession that taught what I believe the bible teaches. I found this in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Having just gone through a tough, stressful and incomplete pastoral search while dealing with week after week of fill in pastors who waded no deeper than a theological mud puddle , I was ecstatic to see the Lutheran confessions clearly and succinctly laid out in the Book of Concord. As I studied, I discovered that the LCMS church lined up quite well with the list of theological superlatives that I had created over my 5 years of in depth study.
The search was over and I was finally home.
Fast forward to last week. It was then that I was first introduced to the FiveTwo network which is a spawn of CrossPoint Church (LCMS) and its pastor, Bill Woolsey. I was aghast at what I saw. The same missional jargon that was festering in the C&MA and other Evangelical Churches was now repackaged ever-so-neatly in confessional Lutheran wrapping paper. The video’s I watched spoke of the necessity for each of us to be “Sacramental Entrepreneurs” which is post modern speak for a strange and innovative “pay it forward” view of the sacraments. Not only is the language confusing and misconstrued, it is in no way confessionally Lutheran. We are not sacraments, nor will we ever be. We can only be receivers of the sacraments and receiving them does not transform us into sacraments. Even though sacraments do effect us as they either gift or strengthen our faith, we never, at any point, become the sacraments. This is clearly stated in Article V of the Augsburg Confession. As I sat at my computer, mouth agape, I could not believe that this garbage was infiltrating the LCMS, the very place that I sought refuge from this brand of false teaching. As I continued to research FiveTwo and Pastor Woolsey, I came across Wiki14 which is a conference hosted by the FiveTwo Network. My Twitter feed was inundated with #wiki14. Some of my twitter peers were present and gobbling it up while tweeting snippets for us watching at home. I soon learned that even some district presidents were present (it’s my sincere prayer that they attended for evidence, not for corporate indoctrination). Soon, videos of the conference began to surface. What I saw angered me to the core. Pastor Woolsey clearly rejects Article XIV of the Augsburg Confession. Here is the video.
In addition, here is a video of FiveTwo’s Vice President of the Board of Directors Mark Junkans talking about communion. This is in opposition to 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 as well as the Lutheran teaching on the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a corporate act done in church unless the communicant is physically unable to attend (such as eldery shut-ins, the disabled or those on death’s door). A small group of people passing a “good” bottle of wine around the table at home may be an enjoyable intimate gathering, but it is not the Sacrament of the Altar.
There are so many questions running around my head. I can understand this sort of false teaching infiltrating a denomination with a weak confession, but the LCMS has a lengthy detailed confession that each pastor must profess to uphold. When there is blatant rejection then, reprimand, repentance and removal should take place. On the flip side, I sincerely wonder why on earth would Pastor Woolsey desires to stay in the LCMS? What is in it for him? Why would he want to cause division?
Then there was this…
I am increasingly thankful for my congregation at Trinity Lutheran in Toledo, Ohio and appreciate the leadership’s desire to stay true to our confession of faith. Even so, I am deeply concerned for the synod as a whole. I am not sure how deep the FiveTwo roots are, but the synod should be proactively fighting to secure its confessional future. I do not want or desire a church split but I am in favor or removing cancer before it metastasizes to a terminal stage. False teaching is cancerous and the stuff that FiveTwo is pedaling will be the downfall and eventual death of the LCMS if action is not soon taken. What we need now is strong leadership. We need our leaders protecting us and carrying the torch of our confessions against the winds of change. I left the Christian and Missionary Alliance because I had changed and could not serve faithfully within the context of their beliefs and teaching. I wish Pastor Woolsey and his network would take a similar path.
Thanks so very much for your concern and this, your expression of it. Thanks for the highlighted vid of Woolsey. It’s so sad–this is rewarmed Church Growth stuff from the 80’s and 90’s–C. P. Wagner and all that. “Start new to reach new”? None of this is new at all. Hang in there with us!
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Well considered and well expressed. Thank you for taking the trouble to put this out.
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For some video you will perhaps find more refreshing, have a look at what the ACELC put out. Just search “ACELC Film” on youtube. I’m with you: secure the confessional future by addressing the issues. If we ignore them, we’re done.
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Thanks for sharing your concerns as they are mine as well. About a month ago, my husband and I were confirmed and placed membership with an LCMS congregation. My family and I stopped attending church for a while after being a part of a nondenominational church that was planted by former church of Christ members. I was a member of this church for about 14 years. My husband never placed membership. During our time at the church, we experienced a split over music styles, instruments versus no instruments, added small groups and two additional services as the praise band did bring additional members. My husband who was an agnostic at the time thought the praise band was a joke as he enjoyed different styles of music and didn’t understand why a church would want to create a concert like setting. He enjoyed the real thing not the cheap knock off.
Over time, more sermons emphasized the need to serve in the church as with more members, more people were needed to serve in the children’s church and youth group. I volunteered and ended up working for two services in the Children’s church on Sunday morning while serving as a middle school small group leader on Wednesday night. I served in these areas for years and as a result was exhausted. I didn’t bother attending the Saturday night service as that was my one free night although I did occasionally help with the children’s church on Saturday night when needed. Please realize that I had three kids at home and worked full time as well. While I was busy doing church and serving, I neglected my children’s spiritual upbringing and my husband. Honestly, I was tired all of the time and frustrated as I was guilt ridden over sin that I was struggling with. I felt like a hypocrite and wasn’t being spiritually fed as I was too busy serving in the church. During that time, I came to believe I wasn’t saved and I eventually gave up and my family and I left the church. We eventually moved and started attending a Baptist church, but I had concerns with their theology. As a result of coming into contact with Lutherans online, I decided to visit an LCMS congregation. I had been listening to Lutheran podcasts, reading more of the Word and reading the work of several Lutherans. Honestly, I found the truth as laid out in the pages of scripture.
Just tonight, I was talking with my 12 year old daughter, and she told me that she didn’t like attending children’s church when she was little. I asked her why, and she said that she didn’t like being made to dance during children’s church. She dreaded going even though there was a fantastic light show and music program. My two adult stepsons have no desire to attend church at all. On a good note, my husband agreed to attend confirmation classes with me, and he was baptized at the time we placed membership. This is something I have prayed about for years and a miracle in my family.
I can’t and won’t go back to moralistic preaching that emphasizes the law with no gospel which I am worried this is the direction Five-Two is headed. I don’t want to be a “sacramental entrepreneur” as I had no success with it when I spent fourteen years trying to be one. I am not Jesus and never will be. Over the last few days, I have lost sleep over the five-two situation. I love the scripture, the liturgy, and the confessions of our church. Why do we think that we need to be innovative and change what has been done for the last two thousand years? I don’t understand why we think that we can improve upon God’s word? Is his Word not precious and clear on our vocations and gifts in the church? Do the ministers and leaders in this movement not realize this has already been done? It is nothing new and while the churches maintain huge memberships, it is just a huge revolving door with people in and out of the church just as quickly. My family needs Jesus and him crucified not a laugh during the pastor’s sitcom like service. I pray that this is not the direction this is the LCMS is headed because I won’t participate in the watering down of the gospel or the carnival like atmosphere that looks great on the surface but is shallow and bereft of the truth. I apologize for the long response to your article, but I needed to share my feelings on this. I am not a gifted writer, and I don’t find enjoyment in sharing my thoughts with the written word, but I don’t want to keep silent in this matter. Thank you for your article.
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Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts Carolyn. I can certainly relate to your experience. One of the major issues in the modern church is a complete misunderstanding about the purpose of the Sunday morning service. When both biblical and traditional elements of the service are dropped for the sake of being culturally relevant and emotionally engaging (along with a healthy dose of entertainment) the focus of the service has been lost. Divine service is not for unbelievers. but for believers. It’s not meant to engage the supposed “seeker” but to feed the sheep with word and sacrament in a reverent and holy setting. The lack of cultural relevance within divine service is not what is keeping unbelievers from darkening church doors, but their unrepentant sin. The sad part that I encountered at the end of my C&MA days were that many in the congregation truly did not care about theology or sound teaching but instead wanted leadership, programming and application. I think this same attitude is alive and well in the LCMS and has grown roots through groups like FiveTwo. A laissez faire attitude will only allow this “movement” to grow. I am thankful that so many are publicly taking a stand against this nonsense. It hits especially close to home for us who recently found rest in the confessions of the LCMS. I encourage you, and all who care about the future of the LCMS, to stand up and make your voice heard.
I was wondering if you might expound a little bit on your comment that “Missional radicalism is all around and I’m convinced it’s the new legalism…” Since it is a digression from the topic of this post, perhaps you could write a post on just that topic?
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Thanks for the question and suggestion Nick. My idea isn’t original, but borrowed from an article by Anthony Bradley at World Mag. I went back and hyperlinked that article above so you can see what I mean. I still may end up devoting a post of my own to it in the near future. Thanks for reading and interacting! Here is the link…https://www.worldmag.com/mobile/article.php?id=26121