Saturday, July 25, 2009

You were warned...

...that this blog could be a bit of a roller coaster.

So, I should be sleeping right now. Normal people --unlike Mr. Claraspet who works midnights -- are sleeping. On any given day I can't stay awake much past 11, 10 if school is in session. I made one big mistake tonight. When I picked up my nightly book for reading, I passed up my normal fluff, i.e., "A Right To Be Merry" by Mother Mary Francis PCC, the auction catalog from the Tasha Tudor clothing collection sale, or "The Rosary" by Florence Barclay (a beautiful novel from ca. 1909 which is anything but light reading and based on the song "The Rosary" by Ethelbert Nevin.) OK, so I've been reading "The Mistress of Shenstone" by Florence Barclay as well, but you get the idea of what I consider "light" reading. So, tired out, I head for bed, do my nightly reading in Herzberger's "Family Altar", and end up looking at "Be All They Graces Now Outpoured" by Rodney Lensch. Big mistake.

I found the book several years ago through the Renewal in Missouri (RIM) website, which I found through Daystar's site. At that time there was a lot of complaining that those people weren't being fair towards Daystar and RIM, so I tracked down a copy of the book just to see what this charismatic renewal was all about. I was rather disturbed by what I found in that book. He used Walther to prove he was right, but he took Walther out of context. He made a point that there was only one place in the Book of Concord (BoC) where the gifts of the Spirit are mentioned, but when I looked up the quote in the Apology, I found that it was in the section on Monastic Vows (XXVII). Read the whole section, not just the first few sentences, and his use of that as proof doesn't make sense. Oddly enough, however, what is keeping me up is some of the questions he asks later in the book (page 119-120). Keep in mind this was published in 1998. (All of the questions are worth looking at, but tonight I'm only dealing with the ones keeping me awake.)

2. Why is it that less than 40% of the baptized membership of many congregations attend Sunday services and that less than 10% of the communicant members participate in the Sunday morning Bible class?

My answer: I once calculated out percentages of church attendance, based on the numbers at the Synod's website. I found that the smaller churches had better attendance, and that the more faithful to the historic liturgy the church is, the better the percentage as well. (I will supply numbers upon request). The only oddball I found is Shepherd's Gate, but while they claim synodical affiliation, there is no resemblance to Missouri teaching or practice. (Interestingly enough, there is no link to their website from the Synod's, but the site is out there.)

If the Synod is reporting the numbers correctly, then it appears that the current push "the bigger the church the better" and "the liturgy doesn't sell" is not true. In a smaller congregation it is much harder to hide, skip church without being noticed, etc. Even in my congregation, about 1000 baptized members, around 500 in church weekly, it is very easy to go missing. My mom once quit going to church for 2 months without either pastor or an elder making a call to see why, and she never missed a Sunday before that.

3. Why is it that Synod barely holds its own when other evangelical denominations are thriving?

In John 6, Jesus explains the Lord's Supper, and after that we read that many left and "walked with Him no more" (John 6:66, NKJV).

I'm left asking the question, "Why do numbers mean so much when it appears that Jesus didn't lay stock in them?"

(I split this last question up for ease of answering)
7.a. Why are personal testimonies rarely if ever given by the laity in the Sunday morning services?

Having witnessed many of these in my own congregation recently, after the service, not during, all but two were focused on self. Oh, they were proper testimonials. "The congregation did such and such for me, everyone stuck by me through the hard times..." People cried and felt good for having heard them. I kept track of how many times I heard congregation vs God one week: 22 mentions of congregation, and God was mentioned twice, Jesus once. The Bible reading which preceded the testimonial mentioned God once and Jesus once. Not once did that person mention Word and Sacrament, the very gifts received at the altar. According to some of the elders, though, it was a success, so I'm either going to get to listen to more or have to make up my mind to leave.

7.b.Why are there no altar calls following messages?

Altar calls began in the mid1800s with Charles Finney. An altar call asks an individual to commit to "giving up" sin and puts salvation upon the individual. If you drown yourself daily in your Baptism (through contrition and repentance), you don't need an altar call or the sinner's prayer.

7.c.Why is there no anointing the sick with oil as the Bible prescribes in James 5:14-16?

Good question, and I have a question (OK, two) to answer the question with. Which is it that heals? The oil, or the prayer? Or maybe God Himself? And why is it that the oil and anointing is so important, but the concept of confession is skimmed past????

I could probably go on for a long time yet, but it's 3:15 AM, and I should try to go to sleep now. However, there's one thing still bothering me that I often hear in conjuntion with these same questions. What about the pastor shortage? I keep hearing about this pastor shortage in the Synod, but if it really exists, why are there so many pastors without churches? Is it that the Missouri Synod wants pastors who believe Jesus-was-all-about-luv-man-not-sin? Forget about the Jesus who suffered and died, He-wants-us-all-to-get-along-because-there-is-no-absolute-truth-anyway?

Yeah. Time to call it a night.

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