With all my heart, I hate taking a negative tone or a negative outlook. However, any honest observer of the Lutheran scene must be concerned. My observations, and my concerns, naturally focus on the Missouri Synod, because that is the church where I was baptized, confirmed, and ordained. But let me state up front, for the benefit of anyone reading this and also as a reminder to myself, that I trust the Holy Spirit to work through God's Word. The only answer to the challenges before the LCMS is teaching. We must trust the message and the power of God.
Attempts to resolve the church's problems through synodical structure and rules, political maneuvers, business models, polls and publicity campaigns, force of personality, or even truckloads of money, will all fail. Forces from the right and left that rely on them have equally been snookered by a lie from the depths of hell.
The same is true at the level of each local congregation. I have personally known pastors who have shoved sweeping changes down the throats of unwilling congregations, all the while whining to their colleagues as if they were martyrs to the great cause (and you've never heard abuse until you've heard pastors getting together to dish on their parishioners). I have heard trained and ordained "stewards of the mysteries" spend days on end talking about nothing but fundraising techniques, administrative models, ecclesiastical real estate speculation, and the awe-filled conviction that God is at work (as evidenced by a huge, gorgeous church built on spec by LCEF). If only they realized that Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light and, as Luther pointed out, that "the devil can so clothe and adorn himself with Christ’s name and works, and can pose and act in such a way, that one could swear a thousand oaths that it is truly Christ Himself, although in reality it is the archenemy and the true Archantichrist" (LW vol. 24 p. 16).
On the laymen's side, however, I have also heard church elders and council members questioning whether we should be "out in the open" about doctrines, like the Real Presence or regenerative Baptism, that set us apart from garden-variety Christians. Should we not be more open and accepting? Should we not emphasize what we have in common, and perhaps reconsider the Lutheran "distinctives" that are not shared by all Christians everywhere? The answer to them is: we're talking about the teachings of our Lord.
And let's be honest (though not proud): it is not a "difference in interpretation" or a "difference in emphasis" that leads our fellow Christians to deny the clear teachings of God's Word. Whatever allegiance to the Bible they may claim to have, they show how little they believe it by the confession that they hold. And we show how seriously we take God's Word by continuing to teach, confess, and practice what it teaches. Consider whether we should do otherwise when the main currents of Protestantism flow toward acceptance of homosexuality, female pastors, the teaching of evolution, unmarried cohabitation, etc.? When the day comes when we stick-in-the-mud Lutherans are outnumbered by the main body of Protestantism on these issues, will we throw up our hands and say, "Can't beat'em - join'em"?
Change agents are at work in the Lutheran Church. They started with the damnable lie that Lutheranism has a theology but no methodology. Then they brainstormed up a methodology that owes more to the business models of 10 years ago and to the teachings of Methobapticostals than to Scripture or the Lutheran Symbols. And then they brainstormed up a new theology in which to clothe this abomination so that it would slide the more easily down the gullet of our pastors and laypeople.
When at the parish, district, or synod level these change agents want to get their foot in the door, they talk about "Christian freedom" and the "advisory" nature of synod. When they are firmly entrenched in power at each level, the same change agents declare that anyone who opposes them does not love Christ or burn with passion to find lost souls, and so they set about systematically silencing all dissent. They use "freedom of the Gospel" talk to fool the faithful, then they use the hammer of the Law to crush them into submission.
And the sad fact is that these "change agents" cannot be stopped by structural or political means. Why? Because they know the synodical bylaws book-chapter-and-verse, probably better than we know the Bible or the Catechism. And in their fanatical conviction that the mission of Christ's church depends on the new teaching they just dreamt up last week, they will take measures to ensure their success, measures from which any truly Godfearing Christian would stop short. Bottom line, if we fight this war at the Synod Convention, we will lose.
In the next three posts, I want to ask some dangerously tough questions that I hope will stimulate you, if you are a Lutheran and especially a Missouri Synod Lutheran, to think in a new way about the direction our church is headed. And I want to close by repeating that the only way to change the synod's course is to teach, teach, teach the living, active, and powerful Word of God.