A Brave New Church

Rev. Brent Kuhlman is a LOGIA Forum Editor and pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Murdock, Nebraska.

A theology of preaching to the baptized and unbaptized (especially the proper distinction between the law and the gospel)? A theology of baptism? A theology of absolution? Of repentance?  Of the sacrament of the altar?  Of the holy ministry? Of vocation? All that flows from God's justification of the ungodly for Christ sake. Such is demonized as "maintenance." As such it apparently will be damned by the Lord Jesus on the last day. An LCMS district mission executive applies the Lord's Matthew 25 words "Depart from me, you who are cursed," to "maintenance thinking" Lutheran congregations, ("Marks and Assets of a Maintenance Congregation," Issues in Christian Education  41:3). Who gets the "come, you who are blessed by my Father" words? That's right! You know the drill - the missional thinking Lutheran congregations! "Missionism" governs us.


WARNING! Isms are ideologies. Ideologies are extremely dangerous and destructive. Isms fundamentally flow out of the assumption that what "is" is bad. That what "is" must be destroyed and replaced with something utopianly better. 

Missionism is the ideology that runs far too many Lutheran congregations these days. As such it eliminates the "is" of the biblical faith and how that has been correctly confessed and practiced in Lutheran congregations for generations according to her confessions. David Luecke's writings give ample evidence of this (see especially his Evangelical Style and Lutheran Substance, 1988). Dr. Robert Newton repeatedly speaks of paradigm shifts (e.g. "How Will They Know?" in Mission Moments, September 26, 2008). Restructuring according to missionism's model is now the benevolent tyrannical craze of a Brave New Church. An example of the Brave New Church is revealed in the words of retiring Northwest district president Dr. Warren Schumacher: "I will be blessed, God willing, to complete 15 years of serving you as your 12th District President. As I retire and turn the gavel, car keys, LCMS Handbook, and cell phone over to the new President-Elect, I breathe a prayer of thanks for God‘s gracious care and guidance for the nearly 270 congregations, 100 Early Childhood Centers, 32 elementary schools and 4 high schools in our vast geographical district. I believe that we will eagerly move forward into this 21st Century fully aware that we have closely followed the Tracks of the Holy Spirit. We have implemented the goal of making every congregation a mission outpost, built an outreach and sustaining relationship with every family touched by our schools and social ministries, and identified a growing number of evangelical lay leaders who sincerely desire and require their Professional Church Workers to be as equally future oriented and evangelical in their style and substance. There have been some jarring exceptions to that sort of ‘fit.' Fitness for LCMS ministry demands that trained pastors and commissioned ministers are servants who know the Holy Spirit and are able to share Him with others with positive, humble, approachable, and flexible ministry styles. It is becoming increasingly more common that rigid and aloof professionals do not last long in pulpit or classroom. Those who network with equally past-oriented museum-keeper colleagues usually end up being asked to resign or move on to a better ‘fit.'" Northwest Passage 7:3 (Fall 2008), 3. They're watching your every move! "Conform or else! Get with the Holy Spirit Tracks! And we say that with love, peace and joy in our hearts!"        

Attend a "missional" congregation these days and you know you're not in your grandfather's Lutheran congregation anymore. The paradigm shift is profound and fundamental. What "is" has been demolished and replaced by missionism. This reflects our sinful desire to take over and control via an ideology of our own making. The polar opposite is the vita passiva coram Deo and the "when and where it pleases the Holy Spirit" who promises to do his work through the word and sacraments. Dr. Hermann Sasse (1895-1976) astutely noted decades ago: "The optimism and synergism prevalent in America have made such inroads into American Lutheranism that the Augsburg Confession's 'where it pleases God' has for practical purposes been given up."

He went on to say: "Evidence of this is the uncritical taking over of ideas and programs of stewardship and evangelism from such groups as the Seventh Day Adventists [today it's the Southern Baptists like Paul Borden's Hit the Bullseye: How Denominations Can Aim the Congregation At the Mission Field (Abingdon Press, 2003)]. The pastor schools his people so that with the right kind of pious talk they will be equipped to win other people for the church. In place of the office of preaching reconciliation comes the training of 'soul winners,' teaching them just the right way of talking with people, to make maximum use of the techniques of psychological manipulation. The system admittedly derives from the methods of American business. Thus the people are to be brought into the church, made to feel at home there, be led to make a decision, and then all together they are to carry on their building of the kingdom of God. What the Word of God is no longer trusted to do is achieved with the psychological techniques of such modern evangelization. There is of course talk of the Holy Spirit, but no one knows who He is any longer. It seems He can be measured and quantified. Such evangelism produces results. Thousands are won for church membership. On the other hand we may recall the failure of Biblical prophets and of our Lord Himself. When one considers the latter, one begins to understand the full earnestness of the "where and when it pleases God." (We Confess Anthology [CPH:1999] in the third subsection "We Confess the Church." "On the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit," 22-23) 

Time to pray TLH #260 again. Have a blessed vita passiva! BWK