Friday, November 02, 2007


Wow! The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, my former church body, continues to break my heart.

Once again the “Harvest News” has been delivered to my mailbox, featuring, of course, the latest and greatest LC-MS scheme, Ablaze!

The new pride of the LC-MS is represented by this logo:

Why does this break my heart?

From the Harvest News that was mailed to me I will quote the following excerpt from the front page:


“I believe,” said Rev. Dr. Robert Roegner, the executive director of LCMS world mission, before the 2007 Synod Convention, “that Ablaze! has put us on the doorstep to the most exciting days in the history of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.”

Butch Almstedt, the chairman of the Board for Mission Services, said it this way at the same event, “Ablaze! is about challenging our LCMS members—especially, but not exclusively the laity, to be passionate about witnessing to lost souls for Christ. It is about building more worshiping communities, more congregations, whereby the lost and saints can come and be edified by Word and Sacrament. It is about building up the roster of missionaries—ordained and non-ordained—who are sent by our Synod into mission fields at home and abroad. And, it is about helping our sister and partner churches outside the United States build up their ministries for outreach. Ablaze! is about fulfilling God’s Word to witness one’s faith and to disciple the nations, that many more may have life in Jesus Christ.”

Since 2004, thousands have stepped forward to join the movement. Thirty-two of 35 districts have registered as “Ablaze! partners”—those supporting the three main goals of Ablaze!: reaching 100 million with the Gospel; planting 2,000 new ministries in North America; and revitalizing the mission of 2,000 existing congregations. Also, 591 congregations have declared themselves to be “Ablaze! partners,” and approximately 1,000 congregations have downloaded the Ablaze! logo from the Web and told us that they are doing something around Ablaze! including worship services, Bible studies, concerts, and prayer vigils.


So what is the problem? Why is this disturbing and disappointing?

The problem is that the Word of God and the blessed Sacraments are being treated as something to be promoted rather than as the means by which God administers His grace and blessings. The Gospel is being treated like a product to be marketed, not as the power of God unto salvation by which God accomplishes all that is good and holy for those who stand helpless by their own efforts.

The foundation and focus of this Ablaze! movement is summarized by this banner from the Ablaze! web page.

It’s about people! And you may ask: “What is wrong with that?”

The Gospel is not about people and what people do and how to gather more people into the Church.

The Gospel is Jesus! The Gospel is not merely about Jesus. The Gospel IS Jesus. Jesus is what is missing from the picture and from the movement.

The entire Ablaze! program is based upon the works of men and the programs of an organization. Because of this, the entire issue of the Fall 2007, Vol. 7, No. 4 “Harvest News” is about the Ablaze! program and the Ablaze! movement.

This movement has migrated so far from the right understanding of the Church that Chairman Almstedt’s statement to the convention was, “It is about building more worshiping communities, more congregations, whereby the lost and saints can come and be edified by Word and Sacrament.”

How differently the seventh article of the Augsburg Confession describes the Church:

It is also taught among us that one holy Christian church will be and remain forever. This is the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel....

The Augsburg Confession keeps with the Scriptures in defining the Church as the assembly of all believers who gather to the pure Gospel and Sacraments. The LC-MS and the Ablaze! movement calls the Church the building of worshiping communities whereby both the lost (unbelievers) and the saints (believers) can come and be mutually edified.

How can the lost be part of the Church? How can the lost be edified apart from being converted by the Holy Spirit to become believers? How can the lost partake of the Sacraments for their edification when the Sacraments can be received to their benefit only by faith? How can the Word and the Sacraments be administered purely when this is the understanding that is being stated?

This is what breaks my heart!

The true faith by which the absolute and unfailing confidence of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is received, is being buried under a pile of hyperbolic emotionalism. People are being directed to a movement rather than to the means of grace. The result is that people are relying more and more upon themselves and their own energies and their own faith than upon the Lord Jesus. Jesus is talked about and promoted like some kind of celebrity athlete who should be imitated and promoted and to have money thrown at him.

This is not the Gospel. The Gospel is the gift of Jesus for the salvation of the world, given in the pure administration of the Word and the Sacraments. God has given Baptism for the regeneration of sinners, to make them members of His kingdom who live by grace through faith. In Baptism God comes and washes away the sinner in the flood and preserves the child of faith unto everlasting life in His holiness, also called sanctification. He also has provided the Holy Supper by which He feeds His newborn saints and keeps them strong through the communion with the unity of the body of Christ and in the continual forgiveness of the blood of their Savior.

What breaks my heart is that among the thousands of my former brethren in the LC-MS, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is being mingled with many things that at best distract from His saving merits, and at worst pull a veil over them. Dear people who are gathering with the expectation of receiving good things from God, are eating and drinking judgment upon themselves. They continue to say to themselves, “Look at what we are doing in the name of the Lord!” when the Lord would have them hear from Him, “Receive what I have done and continue to do for you!”

How can people receive God’s good gifts when they are so busy trying to be the givers themselves? How can people beg from God His mercy, when they think that they are the merciful? How can they give what they forget to obtain first for themselves?

At the last day all things shall be set Ablaze!, and all that will survive the fire is the work that Christ has done in us and for us. So what works should the Church be proclaiming and trusting? By whose works does the Church exist and flourish?


Anonymous said...

Brings passages such as

1 Kings 22:22-23
22 "The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.'

23 "Now therefore, behold, the LORD has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the LORD has proclaimed disaster against you."

Don't know if these two can be tied together but Luthers comments, I believe, are fitting well:
24. Therefore God gave them up, that is, some of them, not only to let them have their way but also to teach them a lesson that they should be torn away by them and led away like slaves, of their hearts, wise in a carnal way.

Luther's Works, Vol. 25 : Lectures on Romans.


Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Have you noticed how powerfully the Ablaze logo demonstrates the changed focus of the LC-MS? Ablaze always has an exclamation point. In the logo the cross is the exclamation point. The ablaze movement, the motives and efforts of the organization and of men to set the world ablaze is the theme, and the cross has become a mere exclamation point. In the LC-MS the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified is now officially that which accentuates the works of men.

Yes, MG, I am afraid that your quotes of the Scriptures and of Luther are right on the mark.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor 1:31)