While surfing the internet and Lutheran blogosphere, I have come across several statements from those defending the Synod's decision to discontinue Issues, Etc. and fire its host and producer. Many of these statements describe those who attack the Synod as those akin to hunting for witches, conspiracy theorists, etc. They say that we should put the best construction on this event as the 8th Commandment says. I say they're correct with the last sentence.
Here is what we have:
1. Synod fires Rev. Todd Wilken and Mr. Gary Scwartz on Holy Tuesday with no explanation, citing "business" and "stewardship (programmatic)" reasons.
2. Supporters and listeners of Issues, Etc. decry the action and take up collections, offer prayers for, and generally support the displaced men......the Synod does nothing.
3. The Synod shares more information, some individuals believe is not too accurate or is somewhat doctored......many in the Lutheran blogosphere accept Rev. Wilken's suggestion to focus on the Passion and Resurrection of Our Lord and eat and drink His body and blood on Easter Weekend...many of us do so.
4. Those in the Lutheran blogosphere ask for a real answer as to why these men were fired in an unChristian manner.....the Synod keeps its mouth shut and does nothing.
Therefore: Those who are supporting Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwartz are acting in a Christian manner towards their brothers who are suffering. These supporters are also indignant (though some unjust anger and words has been experienced and shared) at the response (or lack thereof) from the Synod and her leadership on this matter. Even the "Epistle of Straw" hints that action speak louder than words....what if there are not even words let alone actions?
Perhaps in the future of the LCMS, it will be found that Rev. Wilken and Mr. Schwartz simply did not speak enough faith into their situation. Perhaps it will be found that they have their shortcomings as well. Perhaps they should have shared the Gospel with others rather than focus on dogma and theology. Perhaps I'll sprout wings and fly with the pigs. The decision of the Synod cannot be interpreted as anything BUT a political move....there's your "best construction."
Why the move was most likely political:
1. It occurred the same day (March 18th) the SP spoke regarding the future direction of the Synod. The direction is to communicate the message of salvation...so that people get to church. Sorry, the church has traditionally confronted other religions and situations head on in her apologetic writings and preachment...but the church was not altered so that it appealed more to them. "Packing the pews" is important....whether most of the bodies are alive or corpses seem to be inconsequential. Sorry, that's a rant.
2. The individuals who were fired were quite vocal in their criticism of modern church growth methods and trends in main-line evangelicalism...some of which our leadership is partial to. Thus with all the debt I asked why, for example, Don Baker was not asked to leave (don't take this wrong, I love Don Baker and his show...it is merely to prove a point).
3. Any criticism of this decision or Ablaze!(tm) is met with criticism and questions regarding our focus and committment to missions. Return fire questions are of course, what Scriptural promise are we given for following modern church growth methods?
Problems with communicating via language people can understand:
1. Remember, it is the grace of God communicated through means that converts.
2. While communication must be understood, to focus on pure understanding is Protestant in nature and is designed to "convince" someone to join the church. Preaching should speak to people's problems in life so that it seems relevant....death and salvation from it doesn't seem that hard to get across to people who are not in the church.
3. When St. Paul used such a tactic in his preaching at the Areopagus, he convinced few converts...there is no church in Athens (as Fr. Weedon pointed out on IE when he covered that passage...or was it the Bible Study?). When St. Paul got to Corinth he said he would have NOTHING known among them except Christ and Him crucified.
4. Modern methods of speaking in the Ablaze!(tm) movement focus on "shortcomings" (sin is not left out, but it is undermentioned). Death is seemingly not connected with such "shortcomings." Thus Christ, while giving us eternal life (no explanation there) still seems to be a coach helping you to get the touchdown.
5. Affecting the style of worship is a slap in the face to those who have gone before us...such changes to the liturgy are only drastic when needed, other than that they are slow and organic. While my church in Peoria is careful with their selection of contemporary songs....not all are. Thus, some modern songs used in contemporary worship are just plain heretical. A video is circulating of a Houston, TX worship service...where the pastor wore a suit (so much an icon of Christ!...it shows where our focus is) and it seems as if no one reverenced the altar....yeah, that won't affect the parishioner's long-term theology my tush.
6. As Fr. Beane has said elsewhere....style says something about substance. Many people who are against the "Confessionals" (horrors!) seem to dislike the phrase, "lex orandi, lex credendi" even though it is blatantly obvious from general psychology (not marketing which sometimes misses the mark quite wide) and the history of the church.
Butt counting methods for "growth" (thus indicating that churches not undergoing growth are "dead" or "stagnant" - let alone that other nice word, "stable") tend to emphasize "sharing" rather than "sacrament." Of course, in small rural communities where there aren't many people around...God could just create more men from the dust so that the church can be seen as growing....noobs. They will eventually bankrupt the Synod in terms of her membership...those who have grown up in it or have been drawn to it by the beauty of her liturgy and the clarity of her sacramental message will feel alienated and leave. Similarly, those who are drawn by the huggy, touchy, feel goodness of church will eventually leave or look for something deeper, either because the feeling is gone (yay emotions!) or they think, "bored now." So either way, you lose your trees and you'll eventually lose your saplings....talk about a backfire! I fail to see how it is good marketing to offer what everyone else has....that's just dumb! Hmmm...I want to compete with the five other mexican restaurants on this road. Maybe I should offer the Chinese food I've been continuing to offer....nah! Of course, in typical marketing and business style...long term isn't even on the radar. We've set up for ourselves an impossible goal to accurately do.
Problems with the butt counting of Ablaze!(tm):
1. Saying to someone, "Jesus loves you" counts? - Seeker sensitive way
2. Do baptisms count...I've heard they don't? - Lutheran way
3. For those released back into the wild after they've been shared with...are they tagged or do you think since the target is 100,000,000 many will probably be recounted like people revote in Chicago (vote early, vote often).
4. What gets set on fire in a "blaze" typically burns out quick...how do you care for your new convert? What if they get tired of your church?
Sorry, while I see potential good from some aspects of Ablaze!(tm), particularly with "small group" Bible Study emphasis so that smaller relationships can build and grow, the rest is just awful. The clear expression of the Gospel should not be entangled in busines-ese, merged with seeker sensitive worship and Joel Osteen/Rick Warren messages that focus on purely me and my "shortcomings." The message of the Gospel is deliverance from sin, death, and Satan because God became man in Jesus, lived a sinless life, and died in my place, rising from the dead 3 days later so that I might have eternal life. Now if you've read this last sentence...let Ablaze!(tm) know so that they can add you to their counter. If you think about it long enough, accept Jesus as your personal saviour and prepare to live your best life now!