Church Growth Promises Guaranteed Blessings To 10% Givers
LCMS Congregation Offers Money Back Guarantee to 10% Givers
As they say, the rubber hits the road where faith meets stewardship. The Church Growth frenzy has led to situation Gospel and non-profit corporation funding strategies joining forces to create the brave new church of the third millennium. This is what happens when District Boards of Directors and District Presidents refuse to limit the definition of the Gospel to three Creeds.
This is the new stewardship program at St. Peters Lutheran Church in Eastpointe, Michigan, a congregation of over 2000 baptized members.
Side 1 of Card
(Gods Guarantee for Lawful Givers - Old Testament -10%)
"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows." Malachi 3:10
(Gods Guarantee for the Liberal Giver - New Testament - Over 10%)
The reverse side of the card had the same information as follows, but changed the Bible passage and description of the giver.
"Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return." (Jesus, Luke 6:38)
Please Note: Your Part Comes First
1. You sign Gods Guarantee and give 10% of your income for a period of 90 days.
2. Each time you receive your paycheck you take the first 10% out for the Lord and bring it to St. Peters Lutheran Church.
Side 2 of Card
1. If, at the end of 90 days, you feel your decision was a mistake, or that it created a financial crisis, or you did not receive a blessing, we will give your money back promptly.
2. Thats all there is to it. Remember: you have signed a money-back guarantee - you have nothing to lose!
Signature of Pastor
On behalf of the Board of Directors
Gods Guarantee - My Choice
Recognizing Gods ownership and my stewardship and wanting the blessings promised, I hereby choose to accept Gods Guarantee challenge.
For 90 days I will give the first 10% of my income to the Lord through St. Peters Lutheran Church.
I already tithe______________________________
I will start tithing____________________________
After I read this, I called the pastor and asked him if this was on the level. He told me it was. I said, You cant buy blessings. He agreed. You cant put a time limit on Gods blessings. He agreed. Then, how can you pick 90 days? He said every day is a blessing.
I said some things we think are a blessing may be a curse and some things we think are a curse are actually a blessing from God, such as suffering, trials, and tribulation. He agreed.
I said the Old Testament ceremonial law has been abolished, including the Sabbath year, the Jubilee year, the sacrifice, etc. He agreed to everything but the 10% being abolished. "Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, [even] the law of commandments [contained] in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, [so] making peace;" (Eph. 2:15)
I said giving to support the church is supposed to be a sacrifice to God and not a way to get more from God. He agreed. I said we give because of faith in the Gospel, not because we want to get something from God. He agreed. I said your program is against the doctrine of justification and is false doctrine. He said I didnt know what I was talking about. It was not false doctrine and I was the only one who complained.
If only Ananias and Sapphira had known about the money back guarantee they could have simply told Peter they wanted their money back. They wouldnt have been killed by God for trying to gain public approval for what they promised to give to the church but didnt deliver.
All too often over the centuries it was precisely at the point of fund raising that the true doctrine is conveniently jettisoned.
90 Day Trial Memberships
A second LCMS congregation of over 1,500 baptized members has a new 90 day trial membership policy. I first learned of this policy when a couple, over age 65, visited my church. She told me her transfer from Florida has been refused at <blank> Lutheran Church here in the Detroit area. She had been a member for 22 years. She moved to Florida 9 years ago and returned. She attempted to rejoin her former congregation where she had served as chairwoman of the ladies society. She met with the pastor and was told there was a 90 day membership process. She asked if that was in the constitution. He said no, but it was going to be added next month. She asked if the voters would pass it. The pastor told her, no, the Board could make the changes in the constitution without the Voters.
The Pastor gave her the following letter which reads, in part:
"Dear Christian Friend:
If you are already a confirmed and active member of a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod our membership process involves: (1) establishing a regular pattern of worship attendance for approximately three months;...."
When the woman objected to this new membership process, she received the following letter which reads, in part:
"Dear Mrs. <blank>:
It has been brought to my attention that you are publicly criticizing <blank> Lutheran Church for the way she operates, while at the same time, claiming you desire to become a member of the family of <blank> Lutheran. This is inappropriate behavior that makes us hesitate as we consider whether or not we will recommend you for membership to the Board of Elders. Your behavior, from our view point, puts the entire issue on hold.
Your criticism is viewed as inappropriate because it indicates to us a heart that is closed to sacrifice and Gods molding. Our opinion is that the whole family is always more important than any individual. We also believe that those who think otherwise tend to be divisive to the body of Christ.
Titus 3:10-11 clearly teaches how to minister to a divisive individual. However, the Scriptures also teach us that the power to change peoples hearts is found in the Word of God. Our <blank> Class is specifically designed to unleash this power in the lives of people. For this reason your name will be placed on the invitation list for next years <blank> Class.
It is our recommendation that neither you nor the Board of Elders approach the issue of your membership in the family of <blank> Church until after you have completed this class."
When they both to join Redeemer, I asked them if they believed in the Small Catechism. They said yes. I asked them if they would attend church and help support the congregation. They said yes. I asked if they would follow the constitution and practice of this congregation. They said yes. I asked if they were members of the Masonic Lodge. They said no. I assured them both they would be accepted into membership at the next Voters meeting. What more do you pastors want?
I received a third letter from the LCMS congregation that had refused them which reads as follows, in part:
Mrs. <blank> in a phone conversation with our office yesterday, indicated that she now is a member of Redeemer.
As you probably know, she and her husband previously were visiting here. Though many thought of them as members of <blank> church they still had been on the rolls of Hope Lutheran, Plant City, Florida. Late last year we received the enclosed transfer.
However, since, among other things, three months of regular worship and an application process must be completed before we accept transfers, they never were accepted into membership at <blank> Lutheran Church.
I went to meet with the pastors of the congregation over this new membership policy. The conversation which lasted over an hour and a half got a little heated.
I accused the congregation of basing its membership practice more on works than on confession of faith. These people were already members of the LCMS. Why do they need a 90 day trial membership? No one ever heard of such a thing in the LCMS. Our fellowship is based on faith in doctrine, not good works. If lay people agree to our doctrine they can join. If they dont come back to worship they can always be removed. A man is innocent until proven guilty.
The letter told the couple "the whole family is always more important than the individual," but I say Christ says, leave the 99 and go after the one.
I asked, what did Christ say to the thief on the cross, "In 90 days thou shalt be with Me in paradise?" Or what did Peter say at Pentecost when the crowd asked what should we do? "Repent and be baptized every one of you for the remission of sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and then come back in 90 days for the baptism to see if you really meant it." What did Philip say to the Ethiopian who asked to be baptized? "Meet here at the water in 90 days and we will take care of that." What did Jesus say to the apostles? "Drop everything and follow Me in 90 days."
The pastor defended his practice. He asked me, how do you know how those people are going to behave in your church? They may cause problems. We have to see what they are like. We get all kinds of requests, off the street and over the phone, for transfers to this congregation. Are we supposed to just take them without seeing how they are going to react with the members?
I responded, "It is easier for an LCMS Lutheran to get into heaven than into this congregation." He said that is the way it is supposed to be.
He thought our membership practice at Redeemer was inadequate. We just take people at their word and leave ourselves open for all kinds of problems.
I reminded him about the parable of the wedding feast. Who was prequalified there, I asked? He responded that Christ told the rich young ruler to sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. I said that was a pastoral decision just for that man. He said his policy was a pastoral decision for the all the people who want to transfer to <blank> Lutheran Church. Much more was said but nothing was achieved.
Automatic Bank Withdrawal to Church
A third Lutheran Church with almost 2,500 baptized members has a new stewardship program. The members are encouraged to sign up for an automatic 10% deduction from their payroll and income checks to the church every month.
In my view people may give to the church as they choose. However, too many churches are taking on the appearance of corporations. Looking like a government agency or public utility hardly promotes the separation of church and state. My primary objection is a question of priorities. Encouraging automatic giving sounds like the church may be more interested in automatic funds than a plan for automatic attendance of every members soul.
What I find astounding is that so many LCMS Lutherans are going along with 90 day money back guarantees, 90 day trial memberships, and automatic deductions from their bank accounts.
When allegiance to the three Creeds declines, as it is in Michigan and many other Districts, attention to money and works must necessarily fill the void. We have come a long way from the catacombs to the Church Growth Movement.
New Stewardship Program for Redeemer
We are going to initiate a new stewardship program here at Redeemer and beat the competition. Members will be encouraged to give 20% and if they dont get the blessing of their choice in 60 days they get double their money back. Those who pay by cash up front will receive a new Aronco Vegematic with that special attachment for waffle fries that you love. Oh, what coleslaw! We will also include the new miracle vegetable stripper, juicer, and a Ginsu Knife. The pastor will be taking a missionary journey to the south seas in 59 days. Aloha.
LCMS Pastors Teach Good Works Deserve Guaranteed Blessings
There was general support from the five other pastors present at the Circuit meeting for the "90 day money back guarantee if you dont get a blessing" stewardship program at St. Peters Lutheran Church in Eastpointe, Michigan. We alternate; one month we meet as the Circuit, the other with the Bi-Circuit.
At this writing, reports are that the new "money back guarantee stewardship program" for St. Peters, a congregation of over 2000, is quite successful. The Pastor reports that none of the members have complained. Thus we can deal with the issue honestly. Which do we love more, correct doctrine or money?
The pastors present at the Circuit meeting thought the 90 money back guarantee may have some problems, but they all generally defended the principle that people should expect to receive a blessing from God for giving 10% of their income to the church.
They would not say what the blessing was when I asked its content. They also said I had no right to deny a blessing was given. I assume this blessing is less than a beatitude but others may not agree.
One of the brother pastors at the Circuit quoted from Pieper in defense of the general principle that believers should expect a reward for their good works as follows:1
"Scripture teaches that good works of Christians receive a reward (1Cor.3:8), yea, a very great reward (Mat. 5:12 and Luke 6:23:35). The false connotations which have been connected with this word "reward" must not deter us from using it. We shall unhesitatingly teach, both publicly and privately, that God rewards the good works of Christians here in time and, particularly, in eternity ( 1Tim. 4:8; Luke 14:14). "The world hath not the grace," says Luther, to appreciate and reward the good works of Christians, e.g. their preaching of the Gospel in the world, their prayers, their intercessions. The world hates and persecutes Christians just because of their very best works. But our gracious God makes up for that. He is so pleased without good works that He rewards us richly for doing them."
However, the brother did not continue the quotation to the next paragraph, which showed how incredibly mistaken he was in using that paragraph to defend the general principle of guaranteed blessings when donating 10%. Pieper continues:
"But this reward, so Scripture further instructs us, must be regarded strictly as a reward of grace. The kingdom of Christ is the Kingdom of Grace, and he who hands God a bill for his good works places himself outside the Kingdom of Grace. This double truth, namely, that God rewards good works, but that no man may demand this reward as his right, as earned by him, is brought out clearly in Matt. 19:27-20:16. Peter raised the question concerning reward in Christs kingdom. Reminding the Lord of the fact that the disciples, unlike the young man who would not forsake his goods, had forsaken everything and followed the Lord, he asks: "What shall we have therefore?" In response the Lord says two things: 1) All works done for Him, Christ ("for My names sake," v. 29) shall be recompensed with a great reward ("they shall receive an hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life," v. 29); 2) But a claim of merit because of the works done would make the first become the last; a child of grace would thus become a child of wrath, who will receive the just dues of the work-righteous, eternal condemnation. Gal. 3:10: As many as are of the works of the Law are under the curse."
The words: "The last shall be first and the first last" have been grossly misinterpreted, particularly in recent years. Luther understood them correctly. He says: "Christ simply desires to show in this parable that in the kingdom of heaven, that is, in Christendom on earth, God judges and operates in a strange manner: He makes the first the last and the last the first; He humbles those who are something, so that they learn to rely on nothing but the bare mercy and compassion of God, and, conversely, He will not have those who are nothing despair but have them also rely on Gods goodness, just as well as the first. First, then, He casts down the presumption of those who strive to gain heaven with works, as did the Jews, who claimed to be nearest and dearest to God, just as our spiritual orders also did. These are all working for wages . . . and they despise those who have done nothing at all. They murmur against the householder because he takes account of their great trouble and labor no more than of the idleness and loose life of the others; they consider such a treatment unjust, they blaspheme the Gospel and become obdurate in their behavior. So they lose the favor and grace of God; they must take their temporal reward, go their way with their penny, and be damned. They did not work because of the eternal favor of God, but in order to be paid. The others, however, confessing that they have merited neither the penny nor the favor, are given more than they thought had been promised them. These remain in grace and are saved, beyond having enough here in time too. For all depends on the good will of the householder."
If anyone claims any merit on the basis of having performed good works, he is excluded from the Kingdom of God - a fact which anyone at all acquainted with the teaching of Christianity will admit at once."
The brother then read a couple of quotations from a book on the life of Martin Chemnitz, editor of the Book of Concord. The quotations showed that Chemnitz avoided direct confrontation with his opponents, and over a lifetime won many over to sign the Book of Concord.
My response is that Christ and Luther were much more combative in their attacks against their adversaries. However, their goals were different. Chemnitz was trying to bring brothers together in one confession of the truth. John the Baptist, Christ, Paul, and Luther focused on winning souls from the world with the Gospel and identifying and challenging sin.
Once again the quotations on the life of Chemnitz were misapplied. All LCMS pastors have already signed and agreed to the Book of Concord. Should we now assume that LCMS pastors need understanding, time, and patience to be convinced of the doctrinal problems with a 90 day money back guarantee stewardship program? What a horror for their members who must wait for their pastors to correctly teach the Gospel. Chemnitz would not have allowed any pastor to sign the Book of Concord who was so confused on law and Gospel. Such pastors should be removed from the ministry.
On conflict, Luther writes:
"Now I have never insisted that anyone consider me modest or holy, but only that everyone recognize what the gospel is. If they do this, I give anyone freedom to attack my life to his hearts content. My boast is that I have injured no ones life or reputation, but only sharply reproached, as godless and sacrilegious, those assertions, inventions, and doctrines which are against the Word of God. I do not apologize for this, for I have good precedents. John the Baptist [Luke3:7] and Christ after him [Matt.23:33] called the Pharisees the "offspring of vipers." So excessive and outrageous was this abuse of such learned, holy, powerful, and honored men that they said in reply that He had a demon [John 7:20]. If in this instance Latomus had been judge, I wonder what the verdict would have been! Elsewhere Christ calls them "blind" [Matt.23:16], "crooked," "liars," "sons of the devil" [John 8:44,55]. Good God, even Paul lacked evangelical modesty when he anathematized the teachers of the Galatians [Gal.1:8] who were, I suppose, great men. Others he calls "dogs" [Phil.3:2] "empty talkers" [Tit.1:10], "deceivers" [Col 2:4,8]. Further, he accused to his face the magician Elymas with being a "son of the devil, full of all deceit and villainy" [Act 13:10].
There was also a quotation from the Book of Concord by a brother on good works. His point was that the Confessions do support the concept of expecting a blessing from God for doing a good work.
At the Circuit meeting we discussed inane casuistry. What was a blessing? What is the nature of Gods temporal blessings for non-Christians. What about Mormons, who practice civic righteousness and give 10% or more to worthy causes even though they wont go to heaven if they believe that Christ is not God? Can we identify blessings received in this life as a result of our giving 10%? (There was actually defense for this idea.) Perhaps some of the pastors should spend more time with the Lutheran Confessions and less time with Promise Keepers. When asked by Vice President Luther Werth, 90% of the pastors at the South and East Michigan District Pastors Conference felt Promise Keepers were beneficial to their congregations.
According to the quotation from Pieper, the pastors who lead their members to seek blessings or rewards for their good works are leading their members to hell. Of course, there are those very important statistics on attendance and giving that some pastors want to protect more than the Gospel. They act as if God winks at a few gimmicks to help out His church.
The secretary, a number of members, and the pastor from St. Peters all told me that the 90 day guarantee stewardship program was not a joke but a real fund raising effort for the church.
There is so much information in the Bible, the Confessions, and Luther on why the Old Testament law is abolished and no longer applies to Christians, I will spare the reader voluminous quotations on this subject at this time. Any appeal that members should give 10% of their income because of Malachi 3:10, "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows," is only based on the now abolished Old Ceremonial Testament law.
Such legalism is clearly abolished by Christ in the Gospels, Romans, and Galatians, and was also the purpose of the Reformation. Gods curse is now on all such legalism. "The lawful giver" in the guarantee pledge is the cursed giver, according to Galatians 3:10.
The appeal to Luke 6:37-38 as the "liberal giver" who gives more than 10% is far more insidious and dangerous to souls. The following verses are supposed to be the basis of Gods guarantee if Christians give more than 10%. "Judge not, and you will not be judged: condemn not, and you will not be condemned: forgive, and you will be forgiven: Give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For whatever measure you deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return." (Jesus, Luke 6:38)
There are four statements in these verses on judging, condemning, forgiving, and giving. The Lutheran Confessions comment on these verses as follows: "If you do not forgive, do not think that God forgives you, But if you forgive, you have the comfort and assurance that you are forgiven in heaven. Not on account of your forgiving, for God does it altogether freely out of pure grace, because he promised it, as the Gospel teaches. But he has set up this condition for our strengthening and assurance as a sign along with the promise which is in agreement with this petition, Luke 6:37, "Forgive, and you will be forgiven."3
"He [Christ] does not say that when we forgive, this merits the forgiveness of sins ex opere operato, but he requires a new life, which is certainly necessary."4 "They [these verses including Luke 6:37] do not add that sins are forgiven without faith or that these works are themselves a propitiation."5
Our forgiving others does not cause forgiveness and our giving does not cause Gods blessings or rewards of any kind. A guarantee that promises a blessing or your money back is a deal with the devil. Bartering with God for blessings is really bartering with the devil for your soul.
It is true that believers and unbelievers do "works which belong to the maintenance of outward discipline" and "even God will reward them with temporal blessings in this world." However, these works are "spattered with sins."6 "All our good works are nothing but sin....A good work, even though well performed, is a venial sin according to Gods merciful judgment, and a mortal sin according to his strict judgment."7
Telling people to do works that receive a blessing does not prevent their eternal damnation. Are these the kind of works we want to encourage in our churches? Is this the way we want to collect funds from our members?
"Faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good."8 However, we must not make false promises, manipulate, "extort from a person against his will," or "coerce" so that people give money "against their will" or by a "pretense."9
Also, good works are not free for the believer to do or not to do and still retain faith.10 Christians desire to do good works from the heart without seeking personal reward. The only guarantee from God is made at the cross of Christ.
The money back guarantee deceives the members into believing that God cooperates with them. It gives false hope. God blesses and forgives them through faith alone, regardless of how much they give or do. How can they give more to get more?
The money back guarantee makes a public show of giving and works that are condemned in the Bible (Mat.6:1, 6:2, 6:5, 6:16.). Rather God says "That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. (Mat 6:4) We must not encourage people to work for blessings when they already have every blessing of God through faith in Christ.
All the pastors of the Circuit must unequivocally condemn this money back guarantee as false doctrine. They must affirm that Christians only look for a blessing or reward from God through faith in Christ alone. Even though God will reward our good works in heaven, we cannot know which works He will reward or when He will reward them.
We do not encourage people to do good works so that they will get a reward or blessing from God. We all have the full sufficiency of our reward in the Cross of Christ alone right now. Good works flow from faith, not earthly gain.
The 5 pastors who defend the 90 day guarantee must immediately repent for not fully supporting the Gospel of Christ, including justification by faith alone. The infection of Church Growth has warped their understanding of the Gospel. They must not only vigorously speak the truth but also attack false doctrine and false teachers. This is their ordination vow.
The following are some of Luthers thoughts on good works and stewardship.
"God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all, as it is stated in Rom. 11:32."
"As a matter of fact, the more Christian a man is, the more evils, sufferings, and deaths he must endure,..."12
"That stewardship, however, has now been developed into so great a display of power and so terrible a tyranny...just as if laymen were not also Christians. Through this perversion the knowledge of Christian grace, faith, liberty, and of Christ himself has altogether perished, and its place has been taken by an unbearable bondage of human works and laws until we have become...servants of the vilest men on earth who abuse our misfortune to serve only their base and shameless will."13
"This is a truly Christian life. Here faith is truly active through love (Gal. 5:6), that is, it finds expression in works of the freest service, cheerfully and lovingly done, with which a man willingly serves another without hope of reward; and for himself he is satisfied with the fullness and wealth of His faith."14
"But if peace comes only through faith, it cannot be achieved through works, prayers, or anything else."15
"There is no danger if I confess before God that even a good work is sin, and then seek his grace which I can never pursue too much."16
"Do not make God unjust so that he would not acquit a good work without sin."17
"I ask whether the sophists dare to grant that there is any man who can say of a single good work of his that it is without sin, even in the sense in which they speak of sin."18
"When will there then be peace in our hearts? What shall we do
in the meantime? Shall we pray for the forgiveness of sin in a good work, or shall we
boast of it before God? It is dangerous not to ask for forgiveness if there is sin. On the
other hand, it is dangerous to ask for forgiveness where there is, or one supposes there
is, no guilt; for one would lie in praying for [forgiveness] for that [work] for which one
does not feel the necessity of praying, and would not be fair to the good deed in
confessing that it has need of pardon. Should a man be suspended in doubt so that he ought
to pray-not only work-with uncertainty? We thank you, O our teachers, for you leave us no
certainty, and do not even make us certain whether all things are uncertain....
God therefore draws us into himself, and transforms us, and places us as if in hiding "until the wrath passes away" [Isa.26:20]. It is thus [Rom 5:,1] "We are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Congregation Reaps Financial Windfall By Guaranteeing Blessings to 10% Givers
It is amazing how quickly an LCMS congregation with a reputation of teaching justification by faith alone can be so quickly hamstrung when "justification" collides with blessings promised through giving money. After years of deficits, the new money-back-guarantee-if-you-dont-get-a-blessing-on-your-tithe stewardship program at St. Peters Lutheran Church in Eastpointe, Michigan, is bringing in a weekly surge of cash.
The program began at the end of January. This is a quote from their bulletin on March 15, 1998: "Praise and Thanksgiving! We worshipped God last weekend with an attendance of 566....Our offerings totaled $26,690.82 with $19,627.12 for budgetary needs, including $817.00 for Lent and $7063.00 for special purposes."
Pastors who teach guaranteed blessings from God based on what we give dont belong in the ministry. But, this is Michigan, the home of "the 102," where Church Growth leadership principles have replaced the doctrine of church and ministry.
The hallmark of the Reformation, justification by faith without any works or merit, is so quickly lost. The flesh and reason desperately want to hear and cooperate with what they long to do: gain some favor with God by human effort.
Talks on Justification Break Down Between Cascione, Circuit Counselor, and St. Peters Pastor
The Circuit Counselor, the pastor from St. Peters and I met on Monday morning, March 16, 1998 at 8:00 a.m. During the meeting I was warned not to speak or write about our meeting or the pastor from St. Peters Lutheran Church would walk out of the meeting. I refused any such agreement. A pastors doctrine is supposed to be public, not a matter of confidentiality. Pastors take their vows in public and have no private or confidential teaching on justification and works.
We debated the beatitudes and the nature of blessings. The pastor from St. Peters told me I didnt understand the use of the words "blessing" or "guarantee" on the pledge card. When I began to write something he hollered to the Circuit Counselor that I was taking notes. I felt like I was being turned in to the teacher and heading for the principals office. The pastor from St. Peters appeared to be nervous about anyone knowing what he believed. I said these arent notes, but just a statement I would like you to sign. "There are no guaranteed blessings from God for anything that we do."
The pastor from St. Peters asked me if the statement was to be understood in general or specifically. I said, "In every way possible." The pastor from St. Peters refused to sign. I said, if you cant sign this statement you dont belong in the ministry.
There, I went and did it. I spoiled everything. I hurt the pastors feelings and now hell never confess the truth and it is all my fault. He blew up, told me to charge him with false doctrine, and walked out of the meeting. My rude, uncompromising, harsh, brutal manner is making LCMS pastors refuse to confess the doctrine of justification and publicly confess three and only three Creeds. The principles of Church Growth and leadership are making pastors regard doctrine as more of a question of attitude than truth.
In his usual gentle manner, the Circuit Counselor pointed out that pastors might not want to agree with the doctrine of justification just because of who is complaining. We have come a long way from the days when the apostles were imprisoned for speaking the truth.
Why Make An Issue Over Justification By Faith Alone In 1998?
Are my motives pure? Absolutely not. The Bible says let him who is without sin cast the first stone. It also says first take the beam out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brothers eye. However, my problem is that I believe in the existence of objective, unalterable and immovable truth, regardless of motive. The Bible is true whether I believe it or not. In other words, the doctrine is pure even if my motives are not. If the Bible is objective, unalterable and immovable truth, then failure to make dogmatic assertions and judgments based on that truth is the rejection of unalterable and immovable truth.
Here we have the nub of my problem. Im more interested in unalterable and immovable truth than in people, attitudes, and feelings. Hence, without the preeminence of and agreement on unalterable and immovable truth, the Synod is built on sand and it will shrink.
In a district where the President and the Board of Directors will not limit their confession of the Gospel to three and only three Creeds, one cant help but find creative new flexible formulations for the doctrine of justification. Not having any position, office, or public appointment to protect, Im completely free to speak about Scripture, justification, and the Creeds, no matter how many LCMS pastors are offended.
Church Growth Takes Preeminence Over Justification by Faith Alone
Thus far, the Circuit is in a state of confusion. The pastors who want to agree with the pastor from St. Peters cant be too vocal, but neither are others comfortable publicly condemning his stewardship program. This is a difficult question here in Michigan. Are there guaranteed blessings from God for what we do, or not?
The practicalities espoused by Maxwell, Luecke, Barna, Schaller, the Leadership Network, George, Klass, Willow Creek, etc., have replaced C.F.W. Walther. Show me the Church Growth/Leadership program that says LCMS congregations grow best by teaching pure doctrine. We have long since passed the day when we believe that pure doctrine is the most effective way to build a church. Times have changed. Churches are marketing people who have higher expectations than those crowds who gathered at the Jordan and at Pentecost. The pursuit of pure doctrine has shifted to the body count and the bank account.
If I file charges under the new Dispute Resolution Process, I will have to be quiet about the entire matter while the pastor of St. Peters keeps convincing 2,000 people that works righteousness is LCMS doctrine. In Michigan, the land of "the 102" fanatics, the odds of the pastor from St. Peters being accused of false doctrine are slim to none at all. Five of the Circuit members at the meeting I attended all refused to condemn the stewardship program. Their views ranged from allowing the man to have his harmless "gimmick" to "we cant be sure what is meant by a "blessing" to "God blesses the heathen for civic righteousness." Michigan District "leadership" means doing what works to get the job done for the good of the church.
Pastors Without Calls "Leading" Congregations
The pastor of St. Peters has no call to the congregation. He is under contract from the Board of Directors of St. Peters Lutheran Church which supports him. The pastor of St. Peters is one of the specially trained group called I.I.P.s, Intentional Interim Pastors, supplied by the Michigan District Office. The previous two pastors of St. Peters were both removed from office at the same time after being coerced by the District Offfice into signing a statement that they would resign their calls when the congregation adopted the new constitution supplied by the same District Office. Under the reorganization, the congregation gave the power of day to day operations, finance, property rights, and programs to a newly created Board of Directors which issues reports on their activities to the Voters twice a year. The I.I.P. is to act as a transition pastor for the new pastors who will be more suited to working with the new corporate structure of the congregation.
The Board of Directors of St. Peters is as ignorant, undiscerning, and as unqualified a group of Lutherans on doctrinal matters as one may find in to many LCMS congregations. The Lutheran teachers in their 16 classroom, eight grade school, pastoral assistant, and staff are all going along with the stewardship program, or at least they are silent. The Synod forgot to tell them to leave any LCMS congregation that compromises justification by faith alone. Pragmatically speaking, when congregations and districts adopt Church Growth programs there are bound to be some occasional doctrinal aberrations, but these can be addressed in due time once the statistics are right.
Church Growth Leads To Idolatry
Leading people to believe in guaranteed blessings from God for something that they do is teaching idolatry and the destruction of souls. At the moment, the pastor of St. Peters has too much support from the Circuit to expect them to condemn the money-back-guarantee-if-you-dont-get-a-blessing stewardship program. They live by the philosophy that if you dont criticize my stewardship program I dont criticize yours. The Circuit Counselor is a gentleman and says he agrees with me. He also knows the situation in which he finds himself. Making too public and hasty a stand against a very successful stewardship program will also bring him into conflict with the I.I.P. program and the newly restructured Michigan District Board of Directors. He would be spitting in the wind.
Will They Believe In Justification Again?
With an established reputation of putting a congregation back on its feet, the I.I.P. at St. Peters will be reassigned to another Michigan District church. What if an orthodox pastor were to follow the current pastor of St. Peters Lutheran Church? If he tries to reestablish the preeminence of justification by faith alone there is a strong possibility he will create a financial crisis in the congregation. His teaching may not be directly blamed, but other issues related to his office will inevitably become the excuse for the decline of congregational giving. They will probably blame his personality. He will have to take it slow and be patient lest he be perceived as being too dogmatic on justification by faith alone. In the eyes of the congregation and the Circuit, the proof is already in the bank account. Luther is dead, but Pope Leo Xs St. Peters Cathedral in Rome is still standing. The ELCA has already publicly stated in convention in the summer of 97 that the difference between Luther and the Pope on justification was semantics.
"By grace are ye saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." Eph. 2:8,9 (Also see Romans chapters 3-5, and Galatians Chapters 2-3.)
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1. Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO 1950, Vol. III, page 52.
2. Martin Luther, Luthers Works, Muhlenberg Press, Philadelphia, PA 1958. Vol. 32 Pages 141-142.
3. The Book of Concord, translated by Theodore G. Tappert, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, PA 1959 page 433, par. 95-96.
4. Ibid., page 144 par 255.
5. Ibid., page 144 par 259.
6. Ibid., page 552 par. 8.
7. Martin Luther, op. cit., pages 86-87.
8. The Book of Concord, op. cit., page 553 par. 10.
9. Ibid., page 554 par. 17.
10. Ibid., page 554 par. 20.
11. Martin Luther, op. cit., Vol. 31 page 349.
12. Ibid., page 354.
13. Ibid., page 356.
14. Ibid., page 365.
15. Martin Luther, op. cit., Vol. 32 page 54.
16. Ibid., page 94.
17. Ibid., page 191.
18. Ibid., page 234.
19. Ibid., page 235.
April 30, 1999
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