Dangerous move

There are a couple of families that have recently left our congregation for greener pastures. Friends of their’s (who are still members of our church) say that there just wasn’t enough going on at our church for them. So they left for much larger churches where they have huge youth programs and lots of activities.saddleback Church by Cheng-YU Yu(Tony)

We have Sunday school, and we have a Word and Sacrament ministry and basically that is about it. No youth programs (other than Sunday school). We have maybe 8 or 10 little kids,  and no teenagers. We do, once a month when the weather is warm, have a ‘fun day’ when we have a barbeque and rent a jumper for the kids and pinatas and games.

But these families have decided that what they want is more important than what they need. What do I mean by that? Well, they want ready-made programs without having to build them themselves. Understandable. They want lots of choices and lots of kids the same age as their children. Understandable. They want their kids to be excited about going to church. Understandable, even if it is for the wrong reasons.saddleback church by musically speaking

The real danger in all of this is that they have chosen churches that are law driven. The churches they have chosen are very large, “successful”, non-denominational churches where the Sacraments are not present. These churches deny the Sacraments, they despise and preach against infant Baptism. They deny and preach against traditional worship. They deny the salvation process and instead put all thier hope in their “free will decision” for Jesus.

One mother in one of those families told me that they (their new church) really do use the Bible and follow it very closely and already their children “are guarding themselves against sinning”. There it is. The law. I wish them good luck in their “sin guarding” endeavors. That kind of exercise will only bring them to despair, or to phoniness, or to self-righteousness.

That kind of a “church” is a dangerous place to be. Those churches, as my pastor says, have in common with us the same vocabulary words… but the meanings vary greatly. Yes, they use the Bible, but they come up with a radically different message than the message of the forgiveness of sins for sinners (the gospel). Their message all boils down to… ‘you’, and what you do or don’t do, and what you think about and feel about  God.

This is dangerous.




Photos from Flickr and musically speaking

and Flickr and Cheng-YU Yu


10 Responses

  1. Steve,

    You’ve NAILED this!

    I can confess personally that this is a GREAT temptation. When we first found our present Lutheran church there was nothing fancy about it, small, a bit aged, older building, etc… Coming from large SB and PCA churches with tons support and money and youthful vigor my gut reaction, and I was very Luther read at the time, yet the temptation is ALWAYS there; my reaction internally was this: Boy is this place going to last very long? But the Gospel is so RICH in everything it preaches, teaches and confesses.

    I mean I confessed to my wife my internal “gut reaction” just to warn her should something ever happen to me, “Be aware of one’s own reaction to the seemingly ‘nothingness’ of the Cross and its Gospel. It’s very desireable to the Old Adam to find glory in things getting good and big and such, while the apparent paucity of the Cross is the real glory where real forgiveness and righteousness is GIVEN to us for nothing, yes, even and partcularly in spite of ourselves.

    It’s a trial of faith for laymen and pastors alike to “grow” and be “big” and full of things and power and NOT “just” the absolution and sacraments. Those things, just like the cross, have nothing intrinsically exciting or drawing about them, they even seem “boring” to the Old Adam. And thus Satan tempts us away for more power and glory.

    I put it to my wife this way: If ever in the future you were at church and the pastor was about to give you the very body and blood of Christ in the bread and wine and in runs an excited person screaming, “It’s a real miracle in the sky God is making the stars form a cross”. Do you run out to such excitement and appearance that it might really be God, OR do you go up and eat and drink the revealed God that’s not so exciting.

    The temptation is that GREAT!



  2. Yeah but…I understand these parents’ frustration. They themselves are obviously not in the solid food stage in their faith to understand the implications of their decision. This is all born out of the ‘instant gratification’ and ‘someone else will do it’ menality of our culture. But what else should the parents do? What else could the congregation do to support the youth? We need youth groups led by solid Lutheran roll-models of every vocation, whether they are a parent, grand-parent, young adult, or senior to take a direct interest in the youth to pass on to them what it means to be a Lutheran Christian, what the Lutheran difference is and why it is cool in their peer group to dare to be Lutheran. If the kids’ parents aren’t up to the task, then we have a duty to do it as we promise when we speak in the baptism liturgy to the newly baptised members of our congregation, “We welcome you as a fellow member of the body of Christ.” Just my two cents worth.

  3. I’m currently reading Phillip Cary’s “Good News for Anxious Christians” which identifies 10 wrong (and dangerous) beliefs permeating the contemporary evangelical church. Having spent 30 years in these churches, I agree with his assessment. Things like “hearing God’s voice in your heart” and “finding God’s will” permeate evangelical culture. They sound “spiritual” but create a great deal of anxiety as it is all works-oriented.

    This book might be a great resource for reaching out to those being sucked in by this phony spirituality.

  4. Alden,

    Can’t go wrong with P. Carey. He did the BEST non-Lutheran analysis of Calvin vs Luther I’ve ever read.

    I’ll have to get this one, didn’t know about it. Thanks for the lead!

  5. When you get right down to it where the rubber meets the road, evangelical “gospel” (read = another gospel) and their application preaching, teaching and confessing is really nothing more than the great, great, great grandchildren of Purtin and Calvinistic theology with some mingling of some Wesleyanism in some circles, which itself is Calvinistically derived.

    Evangelicalism really is just a “Walmart” version of Purtitan theology. Just read John Owen, John Edwards (must be somthing about the name “John” and Calvinism??) etc… It’s a “higer dollar” version of works righteousness than todays boiled down evangelicalism but principly the same. Puritanism is to modern evangelicalism as Pelagianism is to Semi-pelagianism.

  6. Thanks very much, gentlemen.

    I really appeciate your comments and observations.

    It is very sad for me to see long time members of our congregation leave and subject themselves and their children to doctrines which deny the very gospel itself.

  7. I am not shocked by any of this. It is amazing to me that parents would do this to their children! I would want my children sitting there hearing week after week that they were sinners but that they are forgiven for Christ’s sake. I want my chldren to hear that final word from God week after week. I don’t want to drive the law into my kids hearts because IT IS ALREADY THERE! I want counter intuitive Jesus plastered. AGGHHHHH how frustrated you must be!

  8. Robin,

    You are so right. The law is” ALREADY THERE!”

    Those flames need to be doused…and instead gasoline is thrown on them.

    It is frustrating. Think of how my pastor must feel.

    “AGGHHHHH”…about says it all.

    Thanks, my friend.

  9. Hi Steve:

    I enjoy the observations Pastor Peters makes at his blog. He just commented on an individual who disappeared for awhile to see if the “grass were greener.” Interesting to see this person’s conclusion about what they found (or didn’t find) in a “non-denominational” setting. I also thought Rev. Brown’s comment hit the nail on the head. This is the link:


    Thanks for your blog. I haven’t commented for a long time, but like to see what’s up from time to time. Keep up the good work.

    — Dennis

  10. Thanks, Dennis!

    Pastor Peter’s observations were very interesting, indeed.

    And you are right…Rev. Brown nailed it!

    – Steve

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