Monday, August 23, 2010

Wretched TV is awesome...check this out

What the church is not,...

Yesterday, we analyzed the bare bones needed to be a church. At the end of the day all we need is the Gospel purely proclaimed (God's work fully, and not ours) and the Sacraments administered correctly (forgiveness of sins and Christ living in You). This is gleaned from the Augsburg Confession and also Acts 2:42-47.

"The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacrament." Augsburg Confession, Article VII.

This starts a portion of what the church is not. With this definition the church is not:

1) Potlucks
2) Buildings
3) Comfort of the pews
4) Friendliness of the people
5) Look of the pastor (thank God)
6) Signage
7) Placement of building

I will go further into some of these details. Now I know that many will come after me like gangbusters and say, "But pastor, all of those things can help the Gospel." I am not making a "strategic plan" or evaluating sociology yet. Now we are getting to the basics. I believe we all have some repenting to do because we can talk all day about improving the potlucks or buildings and never mention how we can proclaim and administer more.

Tomorrow, I will discuss what the first and foremost goal of the church should be in the community.

Lord have mercy

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What is the church? Back to basics?

Today, I had the honor to preside over the distribution of Christ's body and blood, preach Christ and Him crucified from the pulpit, and announce the forgiveness of sins to sinners. In this building we were able to receive His gifts and have fellowship as sinners/saints. It was church at its best.

To begin a discussion about ecclesiology (church stuff), we have to begin with the very basics. Although my goal is to dig very deep into contemporary church issues, I will begin with the bare bones of what the Scriptures/Confessions tell us of the church.

"The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacrament." Augsburg Confession, Article VII.

There it is. Plain and simple. In order to be considered the church, there needs to be the Gospel and the Sacraments. Now, it is good to remember what Melancthon and the Reformers were trying to fight against in the 16th century. They were battling the Catholic church which defined the church by the political order all the way up to the Pope. The Reformers were boiling it all down to the basics to eliminate the Pope, bishops, or councils to define the church. They were not fully addressing the complexities of a "denominational" world or thinking of how unity should look when there are more than Catholics and Orthodox around.

So what do we need? The Gospel-Jesus crucified for our sins and the Sacraments (Lord's Supper & Baptism). This brings many questions: So what about a non-communion service? What about churches that do not believe those Sacraments do anything? What about doctrines such as homosexual ordination or the ordination of women? How many doctrines are needed for unity of the visible church?

These are questions we will address, but for now, think and reflect on what is ABSOLUTELY needed for the church to be the church? We start with "Gospel & Sacrament"and we will dig deeper as we go. My prayer is that your church has both of these things and not on everything else.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What is the church?

During my four years of ministry I have noticed one major issue for the American church in the 21st Century: Defining the church. Most congregations are best defined by the number of programs they do. Despite attempts to streamline ministries according to a "mission statement", most congregations are made up of at least ten groups all working separately of one another. On top of that when an idea arrives, the congregation ADDS to the list as opposed to praying and effectively eliminating programs that are no longer needed.

The problem centers on a theology of the church. What is the church? Who are to be the leaders? What is the role of pastor to church worker to the priesthood? What are the core beliefs of a Lutheran Christian church? What things are adiaphora? How does a congregation work within the community to be witnesses? All of these things have never truly been answered in an effective theological framework for our world. On top of that, we have tried to define worship for decades (ever been to a conference on worship), but very little has been done to define the church by which worship is occurring!

These next few weeks, I will be presenting a working framework on the church. This will not be fully comprehensive and I am looking for input from those who read (if there are any of you). Overall, I want all of us to struggle about what the church truly is, not what we grew up with or what has always been done. But to come up with a solid, confessional theology of the church!

Lord have mercy

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How can we do more?

The church has just finished worship. They have received forgiveness, the sacrament, send by God's blessing and now it is time for announcements. The congregational president stands up to do his presidential duties: announcing what else needs to be done. Not only has VBS just ended, but now Sunday School begins. Then there must be more fund raising for the roof project, nominations for board positions, and a "dish to pass" for the next potluck. As each announcement flows from his mouth, you can see the people becoming less excited and a look of fatigue come across their face. "Can't we take a break?" the people lament, "We are so tired."

This is a typical scenario in the local American congregation. The saints of each church are worn out, at least the ones that take their baptismal faith serious. On top of receiving the gifts in worship and Bible study, we endlessly start new programs for all ages, fundraise just like the boy scouts, and clean up the building for hours all in the name of saving people. Often the work is tedious and very little of it is Biblical, Gospel motivated work. At the end of each year, we are tired.

Jesus gives us very basic instructions on how to be the church. He tells us to "come unto Him all who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest" for a reason. The life of the church should not be this hard. The Scriptures give us a simple formula for church: 1) Gospel preached, 2) Sacraments administered, 3) Serve our neighbor. Hmmm...sound at all familiar to you? Not likely.

May we scale down what we do for busy work in our churches and look to Him for rest. At the same time instead of the fund raising, programs, and meetings, let's get out and serve, serve, and serve. Maybe then people will begin to see fruits and not get tired so quickly.

Lord have mercy