Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Epic Church

All of a sudden there's this big controversy about the LCMS mission congregation called "Epic Church" in, I believe, the Detroit area. They're one of those contemporary-worship people-traps, meeting in a school cafeteria and now achieving synod-wide notoriety for their Lenten series on sex.

Here are the sermon titles in this series, titled Pure Sex and currently promoted by the church's slick website:

February 25: The Greatest Sex You'll Ever Have
March 4 : The Bedroom: Battleground or Playground
March 11: Real Desperate Housewives
March 18: Porn: What's the Big Deal?
March 25: Sex Ed: Teaching Children about Sex
April 1: Affair Proofing Your Marriage

I'm torn whether to provide a link - torn between "must be seen to be believed" and "for pity's sake don't encourage them" - so I'll let you do the hard work of typing www dot epicwired dot com into your browser, if you really have to see this.

Today's Detroit News carries an article about this, in which the following statements are made in support of this Pure Sex nonsense.

"We live in a sex-saturated society, and everyone else is talking about it, and God is the one who created it," said [Pastor Tim] Kade, 40, of Rochester Hills. "We're just trying to provide a safe environment where people can find the hope, the health and the healing that they need in this area of their life," he said...

Founded just 18 months ago, Epic Church doesn't shy away from today's media -- including music, performances, internet and video -- to draw worshippers who have previously turned away from church. Sunday morning service is held in Hart Middle School's cafeteria, and draws up to 200 worshippers, most in their 20s to 30s.

The Web site and sermon titles were designed to get people's attention, Kade said. And they did...

"He's trying to do an important thing," said [English District
President David] Stechholz. "He wants to bring about a thorough discussion on sexual intimacy from God's point of view."

Kade assured area leaders that God's word -- specifically condoning sex only within the bonds of marriage -- would be central to his message. But condemnation would be left out, he added.

"Churches, all they want to do is condemn people," said Kade. "Oftentimes, people realize they're just not making the best choices in their life."

The objections to the Pure Sex program, or at least those noted by the press, include this statement ingeniously crafted to trigger an "Oh, you silly fuddy-duddy" response:

"Instead of using scripture, he's using fads," said Gene Koessel, 70, a
retired Lutheran pastor from Roseville, about Kade. "What's next?"

Other concerns included "the Web site images and the sexual permissiveness they arguably convey" (Stechholz admits that Epic Church might have put a toe over the good-taste line) and "the propriety of sermons on sex during Lent, the season of penitence and self-denial for Christians" (which is guaranteed to sound lame and lore-bound beside Epic Church's apparently successful bid to reach people through innovative means).

Kade and Stechholz had an answer to every one of these objections, answers superbly crafted to make sure that even most conscientious Lutheran Christians will keep their mouth shut and their minds open.

Has everyone lost their marbles? Am I the only person who sees the real problem here? The real problem with this "Pure Sex" rubbish isn't what the fuddy-duddy retired pastor complained about, or what all those irate callers phoned the District Office to complain about. The real problem is evident from the very answers that Stechholz and especially Kade give.

There is a crucial ingredient missing from Kade's theology, and the theology underlying the message of "Pure Sex." And that crucial ingredient is the concept of SIN. What makes the series' timing particularly hideous is not that this salacious indulgence is taking place during a traditional season of penitence and self-denial, but that the message lacks any language for calling sinners to repentance. And if Sin is missing from the message, then surely forgiveness is missing also. And that means there's no Gospel.

There isn't anything Christian about this. I don't know what Kade, Stechholz, and the English District think they're doing, but they are not proclaiming the Christian faith. This is not a mission; this is not a church; this is not evangelism; this is not ministry. "God's Word" is "central" but "condemnation" is "left out." In other words, they know how to quote Bible verses, but they are not teaching God's message. The devil did somethng rather like this in Matthew 4:6.

How they can claim to be discussing this subject "from God's point of view," when they are not calling sinners to repentance and forgiveness, is above my pay grade. They can quote Bible verses all day long, but their message is not in harmony with the total message of God's Word - sins condemned and sinners forgiven on account of Jesus' death and resurrection. They are not speaking from God's point of view; rather they are breathing the fumes of hell out upon Christians and unchurched people alike.

Listen people, if we're going to get upset about this, let's do it for the right reasons. This is not just bad taste or bad timing. It is not just an offense against the aesthetics of liturgical, church-year-oriented worship. Even the fact that this church is pandering in the cheapest way to the lowest-common-denominator isn't the real issue. The real issue is that English District mission dollars are supporting a "ministry," even now applying for voting membership in the LCMS, which knows nothing of repentance, forgiveness, or Christ. And the most damnable aspect of it is that Epic Church will be held up as a model for other Lutheran churches to imitate.

Get behind us, Satan!

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