what is to be done?
The following is the second installment in a larger essay on the current LCMS and its future by Wallace Schulz. To read the introduction leading to this new addition, go online to www.connectthedotslcms.com. Reading online provides additional explanatory information not available in hard copy.
If everyone were to write their opinion or complaints about what is wrong with the Lutheran Church “Misery” Synod, “the writing of many books would be endless” (Ecclesiastes 12:12). The “Misery” Synod is surely short of money and members; but it has no shortage of whiners!
With each new patient, a doctor has to get past the scab, the pus, the open sores, and all the outer manifestations of his patient’s inner illness. The doctor needs to find the deep inner problem, the “root” cause of why the patient is hemorrhaging.
The patient is getting worse . . . mark 5:26
Similarly, anyone seeking to diagnose the LCMS’s problems of dramatic membership hemorrhaging needs to dig down to the root. The LCMS has had its share of diagnosing physicians. In recent years we have had Blue Ribbon Committees examine the patient, the “Misery” Synod; we have had all kinds of intravenous fluids from Fuller Seminary, etc., fluids foreign to the historic Scriptural position of the LCMS, run directly into the patient; we have purchased bags of “outreach methodology” blood from Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, and non-denominational patients, and transfused this foreign blood-type directly into the LCMS; yet, the patient is not getting better, but worse. The LCMS, the “old girl,” has endured much at the hands of church-growth physicians. The hemorrhaging woman in the Bible had spent “all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse” (Mark 5:26). The LCMS has not only spent all that she has, but is now deep in debt. All the while, the LCMS membership hemorrhaging continues at a rapid rate!
The LCMS membership decline in the last decade is not sobering, it is alarming! We used to say the LCMS has 2.7 million members. Now it has slipped to 2.4 million. The average church attendance on Sunday is around 37%. On any given Sunday we have around 800,000, or fewer, in LCMS pews. At the present rate WalMart, worldwide, will soon have more store clerks than we in the LCMS will have people in the pew.
Diagnosis of recent decades has missed the mark!
For the past 40 years we have said our problem primarily is a lack of outreach. Wrong! Like all churches, we not only could do a little better, we need to do much better in reaching out to the lost and bringing them in. This is the will of God (1 Timothy 2:4) Nevertheless, a greater crisis looms before us. It is the dirty little secret no one wants to discuss: Our primary problem is that we are losing members out the backdoor so fast that even an effective outreach program could never reverse the hemorrhage! Conservation and retention of members is not optional, but a clear command of God: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).
If anyone has difficulty understanding why our backdoor losses need to be addressed before we have a full-court press on outreach, stand in front of your bathroom sink or tub for a simple illustration. Open the drain. Turn on both hot and cold. With the drain open, does the amount of water in the tub increase or decrease? With the LCMS backdoor open, will our membership increase or decrease? From 1999 to 2007 the LCMS lost 245,091 members out the backdoor. Why is this issue not on the front burner, “blazing”??
Let’s “cut to the chase!”
So, let’s “cut to the chase” and address the most pressing issue before us: Why are we losing so many members? Why do so many LCMS youth disappear immediately after confirmation? Of all babies baptized into the LCMS, 50% are never confirmed in the Lutheran faith. Of those confirmed, 50% are no longer in the church when they are 21. In other words, of those born into the LCMS, only one out of four is in church by the age of 21. After turning 21, many more drop out.
Consider poor African countries where 50% of all newborn babies are destined to die of starvation? Why would anyone want to be born into such dismal conditions? Similarly, how would you like to be destined, spiritually, to be born and baptized in the LCMS? Using statistics readily available, your chance of surviving, spiritually, in the LCMS today would be dramatically less than the physical survival of babies born in some African countries!! Which is worse? “And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
Why are we losing members through the LCMS back door at a rate that is killing us? While it may not cover every area, the following recent email is the best “poster child” I can find to demonstrate: a) the LCMS backdoor-loss problem b) diagnose the illness, and c) prescribe the proper medicine to prevent continuing membership hemorrhage, and even eternal spiritual death of thousands through backdoor losses.
the lcms poster-child for diagnosis and cure!
In March 2010, via Facebook, my wife Kathy contacted a gentleman who, years ago, had been her catechism classmate. “Are you still in the Lutheran Church?” Kathy asked. Used with his permission, here is a major portion of Karl’s April 2010 email to Kathy:
PARAGRAPH # 1 Karl writes: “You are correct in your assumption that I am no longer a Lutheran but “still” active in the faith is probably not a correct statement. I left the faith for an extended period of time and when I began to return it was as a Presbyterian (my wife was Presbyterian and that was where she was comfortable). I spent a long time “earning” my salvation as a Presbyterian until I began to study the Bible with some other friends who also believed in the inerrancy of Scripture (I guess I learned at least one thing in two years of catechism). I finally began to learn and understand the truth of Scripture and that brought me to a point where I could no longer tolerate that the Presbyterians were stating a reasonably accurate theology, but the pastors they were ordaining were not following or believing their stated theology.”
PARAGRAPH #2 Karl continues: “That finally caused us to leave the Presbyterian Church and to begin our search for a new church that taught Scripture (and taught it accurately).
We had stayed for as long as we did because my wife was not where I was from a belief and faith standpoint, so our leaving caused a major rift between us (it didn’t help that the pastor began a campaign to drive a wedge between us by spearheading a big effort using the women to try to draw her back). God finally resolved that issue for us after I gave up trying to fight that battle and gave it to Him to handle.”
PARAGRAPH # 3 Karl adds: “We visited a number of churches including the local Missouri Synod Lutheran church. The Missouri Synod Lutheran Church we visited just didn’t seem to have any joy in their worship but they were still on our short list because of their belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. I was surprised because they were serving communion that week and the usher insisted that we partake (I do remember some of the church rules) but I think it was a God thing because He knew we needed it. We finally visited our current church (non-denominational praise type church) the week they were beginning a study of Amos. We also ran into our Bible believing friends from our old church who just happened to be visiting the same day. We came back each week because we wanted to finish the study and we have been there ever since.”
PARAGRAPH # 4 Karl says: “I greatly miss the hymns (although I get my weekly ‘fix’ at BSF) and the liturgy, but I do enjoy the accurate teaching and being part of a Christ centered church that has joy in worship and in serving our Savior.”
PARAGRAPH # 5 Finally, Karl says: “There may be things in the magazine [GOOD NEWS] that I don’t agree with but they are not non-disputable salvation things. These things are fun to discuss and debate but they are not salvation issues so why bother when our time and energy can be better spent in prayer, worship, and service to the Lord. I have seen the unity among believers that Christ desires for us challenged because of denominational beliefs that are not salvation issues. These differences in disputable denominational beliefs will not be known until we can ask our Lord and Savior in person, so I choose not to let them interfere with my unity with other believers.”
Karl’s letter to Kathy is extremely revealing! Let’s also be honest: there is probably not one family in the LCMS who cannot identify with Karl’s “spiritual pilgrimage.” Karl was born, baptized, and confirmed, in the LCMS. However, over the years, Karl drifted over to a Protestant church, a church with a distinctively different doctrine. Who in the LCMS does not have a family member, relative, or acquaintance who has either simply dropped out of the LCMS or, like Karl, “drifted” to another denomination where worship is more “exciting,” “joy-filled,” “meaningful,” or whatever? “For this reason we must pay closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1).
You may or may not like what Karl has written. But, you have to give him an A+ for candor. Give Karl a second A+ for his ability to articulate where he is at in his “spiritual journey.” Here is my conviction: In a few words Karl’s email ISOLATES THE ISSUES INVOLVED IN THE LCMS MEMBERSHIP-HEMORRHAGE PROBLEM. In medical diagnostics “CT” scans are used to find a tiny cancerous “hot-spots” and then to magnify these spots in order to treat the cancerous area. Karl’s email to Kathy functions as a CT scan by locating and magnifying the root cause of the LCMS membership hemorrhage. Read Karl’s letter carefully and you will see the LCMS’s chief malady magnified.
The above Proverbs 22:6 does not talk about “training” children for employment, or “preparing them” for their job in life. Click here to see how this verse is speaking specifically to catechetical training and religious instruction. Properly understood, the above passage from Proverbs promises that, if Karl had been correctly catechized, even though he might have fallen away, he would have returned to the Lutheran church. Why? Because God’s revealed diagnosis of Karl’s real problem, and His prescription to control Karl’s spiritual illness deep within him, is available only in a genuine Lutheran church. This divine diagnosis and cure is unavailable in any other Protestant church.
The following are my observations and conclusions to prove this critical assertion, based on Karl’s email. Karl’s lack of awareness that the Lutheran Church teaches and practices unique, life-saving revelations from God permitted him to drift to churches that diagnose sin not as the Bible and the Lutheran Confessions teach sin, as a deep, incurable, and deadly disease. Protestant churches, like the one Karl apparently attends, urge their people to primarily fight outer sins such as drinking, smoking, lack of love, selfishness, etc. Beginning with their confession of sin, LCMS Lutherans say, “We are by nature sinful.” This is to say, we Lutherans weekly confess we need help not only for our outer manifestation/action of sin, but for our more serious, deep sinful nature which causes this sin. Furthermore, while we do “mention” our sinful nature in our liturgy, but we do not catechize our children early enough and thoroughly enough on this revealed doctrine from God. Therefore, I will argue that Karl was programmed to “drift” away from the LCMS because of our weak teaching of Original Sin at a young age and our unbalanced teaching of the nature and character of the Word of God, what God’s Word is, and how God works to cleanse us from the power of Sin.
Listen to Karl, very carefully!
If Karl’s letter is to help us in the LCMS understand why we have such a large backdoor loss, we must listen to him very carefully! In his first paragraph. Karl writes about leaving the LCMS “for an extended period of time.” His initial steps of his “return” to the faith came through his Presbyterian wife. Not totally satisfied with “earning” his salvation as a Presbyterian, Karl “began to study the Bible with some other friends.” Considering his LCMS background, why does Karl say he was comfortable studying the Bible with “other friends?” Karl states the reason clearly: Because “They also believe in inerrancy.” Again, watch very carefully here. Forget what you personally believe about the topic of inerrancy. To understand this essay, observe carefully what Karl says he believes. Karl appears convinced he is now building on what he believes to be—or was taught to be—the salvageable foundation stone of the LCMS: inerrancy! For him, this mean inerrancy is that teaching of Lutherans by which the Lutheran church stands or falls. Or, Karl might say inerrancy is the litmus test of Lutheranism. Now comes what I would characterize as the first faint smell of the “smoking gun” which leads to the membership hemorrhaging problem in the LCMS. Note how, after saying he believes in the “inerrancy” of Scripture, Karl adds, in parentheses “(I guess I learned at least one thing in two years of catechism).” My argument is this: Through our unbalanced teaching, which I will explain, we in the LCMS have pre-programmed many of our people, especially our vulnerable youth, to feel free and even comfortable to drop out of the LCMS and move to other denominations. Retaining what he believed to be the foundation stone understanding of God’s Word, inerrancy, Karl felt comfortable to seek churches having the same “inerrancy” foundation, but churches having more joy!
Let’s be honest: It may certainly be true that, in his “catechization,” someone did thoroughly indoctrinate Karl to believe in the “inerrancy” of God’s Word as the foundation of the Lutheran faith. However, the word, “inerrancy” as it is commonly understood, occurs neither in Luther’s Small nor Large Catechism. Some may argue that, while “inerrancy” may not be in either Luther’s Small Catechism or his Large Catechism, it is certainly implied there. The use of the word “inerrancy” took root in Fundamentalism in 1909. For all practical purposes, 20 years later, the 1932 LCMS convention, by adopting the “Brief Statement,” declared “inerrancy” to be an official doctrine of the LCMS. In itself this convention vote and declaration is interesting, since Luther warns that doctrine should never be a matter of voting. Luther states: “If we admit the validity of this argument—that is, if articles of faith depend on majorities—what article of faith is there that we can confess and retain?” (Luther: Letters of Spiritual Counsel. Ed. & trans. by Theodore G. Tappert. Library of Christian Classics, Vol. XVIII. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955, p. 158.) For more background information on inerrancy as understood and misunderstood in Fundamentalism, Protestantism, and the LCMS, click here. At this moment, my appeal is this: In this particular discussion, let’s focus, not on the past LCMS controversies regarding “inerrancy,” nor on what we might believe about inerrancy, but on how Karl says his early instruction that emphasized inerrancy helped determine where he is now. He is clearly indicating that he believes the LCMS embraces the “pan-Protestant” understanding of inerrancy, and that this belief made his transition to another Protestant church convenient.
LET’S DO A “WHAT IF”
Let’s see what would have happened “if” in his catechetical instruction, Karl would have also been “thoroughly” instructed not only in inerrancy, but also in the most key characteristic, quality, or nature of God’s living Word: the “EFFICACY” of God’s Word. Before we do this, we need to say a word about “efficacy.” If you look at most Lutheran doctrine books, you will see Gods Word being described as “efficacious.” If you ask some pastors and most laymen to explain the “efficacy” of God’s Word, they will quickly glaze over! Nevertheless, we as Lutherans have saddled ourselves with this uncommon Word. We therefore need to define “efficacy.” On its April 29, 2010 front page, the Wall Street Journal discussed the Gulf BP oil spill. They said the drilling equipment included an emergency turn-off valve. However, they said, “The efficacy of the device is unclear.” If you keep your eyes open, you will actually begin to see “EFFICACY” being used fairly frequently in secular publications, but you do have to watch closely. When used in teaching Scripture-based Lutheran doctrine, the “efficacy” of God’s Word means that God’s Word carries out what It says or commands. For more information on efficacy, click here.
God Himself describes the efficacy of His Word. “He spoke and it was done” (Psalm 33:9). God “calls into being that which does not exist” (Romans 4:17). If God said “car,” a car would instantly appear. No one needs to manufacture or bring a car.
WHERE THE DIFFERENCE BECOMES MORE CLEAR
Now, let’s compare the huge difference that results when, in catechization, one emphasizes inerrancy at the expense of efficacy.
To clearly see the importance of the efficacy of God’s Word and how it plays out in one’s everyday life, one must first understand another Bible teaching where Lutherans and all other Protestants differ in a huge way. On the basis of Scripture, Lutherans maintain that, in spiritual matters, no one has a free will. For some brief Lutheran comments on free will, click here. On the other hand, Protestants emphasize that man has and must exercise his free will in spiritual matters. Protestants regularly quote John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” However, when using this passage for evangelism and missions, Protestants who quote John 1:12 omit verse 13, which declares as heretical their teaching of free will in spiritual matters, John 1:13 says: “. . . who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
As a result of their wrong teaching on man’s will, Protestants, Fundamentalists, and non-denoms primarily see God’s Word as information given to them. They then use their free will to carry out God’s command in spiritual matters, including conversion, being born again, etc. For Fundamentalists and Protestants, in spiritual matters, the “hearer” or the “receptor” carries out God’s law, or directive. On the other hand, Lutherans teach that God’s Word “accomplishes,” or carries out what It commands: “I am watching over My Word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12; see also Psalm 103:20; 147:15; Lamentations 2:17; Ezekiel 12:25, 28). This is to say, when God created the world, He spoke His efficacious Words and, even though there was no large earth-moving company to obey God’s command, ”He spoke and it was done” (Psalm 33:9); “God calls into being that which does not exists” (Romans 4:17). For a simple “garage door” illustration of the difference between how Protestants and Lutherans understand God’s Word, click here.
THE DIFFERENCE CORRECT TEACHING OF GOD’S WORD WOULD HAVE MADE IN KARL’S LIFE
Had Karl, as a child in the LCMS, been thoroughly catechized (Proverbs 22:6) on Scripture-based teachings regarding the “efficacy” of the Word, he would not have made reference in paragraph 5 to Christ’s Sacraments as “non-salvation issues.” Why? Because Jesus Himself instituted Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion. The Sacraments are not optional teaching created by Lutherans or Catholics. Jesus not only instituted the Sacraments, He commands them for salvation (John 3:5). To read Luther’s explanation of how God’s Word in Christ’s sacraments give these sacraments miraculous power, click here. Thus, if Jesus instituted the miracle-producing Sacraments, why would He, of all people, be pleased when other people call the Sacraments non-salvation issues? Although Karl does not say he is referring to Christ’s Sacraments, I’ve been an active evangelist for 48 years and I know the “code words” Protestants use when they refer to Christ’s Scriptural teachings, especially the Sacraments. Of course, as Karl well knows, these teachings of Christ’s are doctrines you have to give up, or doctrines about which you have to shut up in the presence of the Protestants and all non-denoms. If you don’t, they will immediately inform you, as did the previously-mentioned letter from Moody Broadcasting. To see how Baptists condemn the saving power of Baptism, click here. Scripture-based and Christ-centered Lutherans teach Christ’s Sacraments as special blessings from Christ’s very lips which you receive only through the efficacy of His living Word. So, the move Karl made from Lutheranism to a non-denominational church has much, much greater Scriptural significance than he admits, or perhaps realizes.
KEEPING THE FOCUS: WHAT IS KARL SAYING?
Now comes the tragedy and the unavoidable questions: Who failed here? If Karl was thoroughly instructed in “inerrancy” at the expense of “efficacy,” which he seems to claim, he was absolutely destined, even pre-programmed to be vulnerable to leaving the LCMS. I would welcome any arguments to the contrary. In other words, the current massive LCMS membership hemorrhage is one of our own making, due not primarily to our methodology of outreach, but due to our failure to teach a spiritual and balanced understanding of the Word of God. Through unbalance teaching—catechization—Karl did not just leave the Lutheran church, he was PROGRAMMED to leave. If this is true, this is a horrific indictment on LCMS spiritual leaders, beginning with myself. Current unbalanced LCMS teaching pre-programs people, such as Karl and hundreds of thousands of others, to make a move to another church comfortably and with a clear conscience. To see why Lutheran confirmation students, taught thoroughly about inerrancy at the expense of efficacy, begin dropping out of church at a rapid rate, beginning with the first Sunday after their confirmation, click here.
The risk of overreaction: understanding the issue clearly!
I can now hear alarm bells going off all over the LCMS. LCMS fire engines are gunning their engines. LCMS doctrinal SWAT teams are being mobilized. Laypeople and pastors are racing to their blogs and newspapers. “We do not want this man [Schulz’s ideas] to reign over us” (Luke 19:14). This heresy must be stopped! Now, before you launch your pushback on this extremely volatile subject—which is so critical to the current and future LCMS—let me say this clearly. Quintilian (c.35–c.100) said: “Speak not so that people understand, but so that you are not misunderstood.” Therefore, to make sure no one misunderstands what I am saying, I am going to use a series of short sentences:
I don’t believe the Bible has errors.
I don’t teach that the Bible has errors.
I have never written that the Bible has errors.
In fact, I don’t even dream that the Bible has errors!
focusing on the issue—what Karl’s email teaches us about backdoor losses
What I am saying (restating) is this. Inerrancy is a word first widely popularized by Fundamentalists, beginning in 1909. In 1932, inerrancy was declared, by the LCMS in convention, to be what all LCMS member must also believe. To teach inerrancy, as it is popularly understood, but not clearly and effectively instructing growing children and youth also in the efficacy of the Word (Proverbs 22:6)—something Jesus emphasized—then, this imbalance programs our people, like Karl and others, to drift away from the LCMS, and to drift comfortably and with a clear conscience to other churches. Again, “For this reason we must pay close attention to what we have hear [from Jesus and the prophets regarding efficacy] so that we do not drift away from it” (Hebrews 2:1). If you still desire additional information as to the importance of distinguishing the Protestant-Fundamentalist understanding of God’s Word from the Lutheran understanding, click here. If you desire still another very compelling illustration which shows how Lutheran pastors and teachers become a clear target of the devil when they champion the teaching of inerrancy but mention efficacy only in passing, click here.
protecting the vulnerable
So, if the above diagnosis is correct, or at least in the ballpark, how do you protect all future “Karls” in the LCMS from getting “sucked in” by Protestantism’s demeaning of Jesus’ living Words and blasphemy of His miracle-producing Sacraments? Our failure to teach the doctrine of the Word as God Himself has revealed it has contributed greatly to Karl’s and others’ seeing the Lutheran Church offering no more, but even less, then other inerrancy churches. For further explanation as to why it is so important that Christian pastors and teachers teach clearly the power/efficacy of God’s Word—the same way God Himself speaks of His efficacious and life-giving Word, click here.
This brings us to the current LCMS challenge: If backdoor losses are to be reversed, then all infants, children, youth, and adults need to be thoroughly trained in the efficacy of the Word (Proverbs 22:6). Their education needs to be so thorough that, as they get older, they don’t drift (Hebrews 12:1), but stay put in the LCMS, where Christ’s Word and miracle-producing Sacraments both can be found!
Is it possible to close the backdoor? Yes! Thorough teaching, indoctrination, catechization can be accomplished. How? This is most effectively accomplished when, already at infancy, God’s efficacious Word is taught alongside, and simultaneously with, God’s other key teaching: our totally corrupt condition, our flesh: Original Sin. These two key Biblical teachings, man’s incurable spiritual affliction, Original Sin, and God’s healing Word, if taught simultaneously, clearly, winsomely, and thoroughly, already to infants, this will stop and turn around the current LCMS membership hemorrhage. The Lutheran Confessions urge the early training of children; click here. For effective catechization, for effectively carrying out Proverbs 22:6, the two basic Bible teachings of man’s corruption and God’s efficacious and healing Word are like two rails of a railroad track down which Proverbs 22:6 rolls. Luther taught this revelation of God and the Lutheran church exploded with outreach and mission. Luther’s writings explaining the Bible, plus his 3,000 letters and 3,000 sermons, also constantly include many Bible verses where God expresses the efficacy of His living Word. To see what happened when Luther and fellow professors in Wittenberg taught the whole counsel of God, including the efficacy of God’s Word, click here.
OUR DEADLY ILLNESS: HOW CAN WE TEACH GOD’S REVELATION TO INFANTS?
I start with a simple story. For 17 years, the late Rev. Ted Raedeke served as LCMS Executive secretary for Evangelism. His great-grandson was born with, or quickly developed, deadly diabetes. His pancreatic function is zero. Without the regular secretion of pancreatic insulin, life quickly stops. This infant now needs—which he gets— an insulin “fix” every four hours to fend off the deadly effects of diabetes and to keep him alive.
At four years old, this child obviously does not completely grasp his condition. But, his parents make him increasingly aware of his absolute need for his insulin “fix” so that the pancreatic problem does not gain “dominion” over him, harm him, or even destroy him.
Can the fact that a 4-year old has an increasing awareness of his need tell us anything? Absolutely. Why? Catholic theologians, and especially Jesuits, understand the power of early and thorough education (catechization), even education of a child as young as four years old. On November 10, 1984. the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted the then-famous Roman Catholic priest, Andrew Greeley, as saying, “Give us a child in the first six years of life, and we will fill its head so full of attractive images and stories that he’ll never want to leave the Church, no matter how many stupid things we do.”
SECULAR EXPERTS AGREE: CHILDREN LEARN VERY EARLY!
You may not be enamored with Catholic teaching or Catholic educational theory and opinions. However, secular studies also repeatedly show that, what children learn/see at an early age will, to a great degree, remain with them and guide them throughout the rest of their life.
Then, just as a little four-year-old demonstrates his beginning realization—albeit in a very small way—that he needs his insulin fix every few hours, they can also understand how children can begin to understand the serious nature of their illness, the deadly power of Original Sin. And, as they get older, they also see their need for God’s healing medicine for their deep spiritual illness of Original Sin, and God’s efficacious healing Word. “He sent His Word and healed them” (Psalm 107:20). As Christian parents, pastors, and teachers “Train up a child in the way he should go,” we do not rely on our techniques. Rather, the Holy Spirit—God whom Jesus promises, will lead infants, children, and adults into His Truth, “He [the Spirit] will convict the world of sin” (John 16:8). God’s Spirit is able to lead every age group to understand His revelation. “The Spirit of Truth . . . will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). These same little children will be spiritually enabled/enlightened to see that their only medicine, their only spiritual insulin, their only salvation is Jesus’ sin-defeating, life-giving, efficacious Word which comes to them only in Christ-centered sermons, Sunday school, Baptism, Absolution, and Holy Communion. This is God’s direct and clear promise in Proverbs 22:6.
IS PART OF CHRIST’S PRESCRIPTION ENOUGH?
But some might say, “If it is the efficacious, living Word of God that curbs the power of the deadly disease of Sin within us, as described in Romans 6:6–23; and, if God’s efficacious Word comes to us through hearing the preached Word and Bible study, then wouldn’t the living Word in sermons and Bible study be adequate?” For the answer, click here.
NOW COMES THE HEAVY LIFTING
As they say, “Talk is cheap!” So also is daily diagnosis of LCMS miseries, miseries reported daily on endless blogs. Next is the “heavy lifting.”
IF THE LCMS IS TO BE REFORMED AND THE BACKDOOR OF MEMBERSHIP LOSS CLOSED, WE NEED TO SEE JESUS’ EXAMPLE AND HEED HIS ADVICE
Institutions, culture, and the church are changed and constantly reformed and renewed through teaching. For His church, Jesus set the example of teaching, “He opened His mouth and began to teach them” (Matthew 5:2), “He began teaching them many things” (Mark 6:34), “Everyday He was teaching at the temple” (Luke 19:47), “He sat down to teach them” (John 8:2), “You call Me ‘Teacher’ . . . and rightly so, for that is what I am” (John 13:13).
Not only did Jesus command in His great commission to preach and baptize, He now commands us to “teach them all I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20).
If Jesus says that our basic problem is a deep incurable disease in our heart and soul; and, if Jesus says that He has given us a full prescription through His Word and Sacraments to treat and control this horrific disease that undermines and destroys faith; . . . THEN COMES THE BIG QUESTION: Do we now have in the LCMS, or have we ever had, a basic and comprehensive Scriptural cradle-to-grave curriculum, a curriculum which God promises, if we use His living Word, He will close the back door of LCMS membership hemorrhage? This is what we now desperately need. Why? Because if we thoroughly “train up a child in the way he should go” God says, “even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). If you want to see why Lutheran confirmation students, taught thoroughly about inerrancy at the expense of efficacy, begin dropping out at a rapid rate on the first Sunday after confirmation, click here.
Many who read this essay will automatically point to CPH and say: “I’ve looked over what CPH publishes. CPH does not offer a cradle-to-grave curriculum that repeatedly stresses, in winsome ways, our deadly disease of Sin and Christ’s medicine. I am also unaware if CPH has ever published a comprehensive cradle-to-grave curriculum, a compelling curriculum which pastors and teachers will eagerly buy and use, materials where these priority doctrines of Christ, the apostles, and the Lutheran confessors are repeatedly, compellingly, and convincingly set forth. We at GOOD NEWS have produced a special issue for teaching, in a basic way, God’s own revealed doctrine of Original Sin, the deadly disease, and its antidote: Christ’s healing full prescription, His living Word and miraculous Sacraments. If you desire to examine, or use, a complimentary copy of this issue, #34, click here. No doubt there will be other pastors who may be able to do a better job in preparing such a study, an effort we would highly comment.
So what to do? If you believe this comprehensive curriculum is not available, don’t just sit there and complain. Instead, follow the example of some Lutheran pastors at the turn of the last century, about 1900. At that time the pastors found the supply of Luther’s Works in English were inadequate for their needs. So, a small group of Lutheran pastors, who resided near each other in Pennsylvania—along with their demanding parish work—decided to translate significant sections of Luther’s Works. The long-used six-volume Hohlman edition of Luther’s Works resulted!
A PERSONAL NOTE
For those who read this essay, I am sure some will say: “Schulz needs to get a life! He needs to become involved in the real world where you bring Jesus to people, and not just argue about the inerrancy or efficacy of God’s Word!”
I believe I am in the real world. In addition to publishing GOOD NEWS in many languages and distributing it around the globe, God has drawn me into a pastoral ministry with people afflicted with cancer, some with very aggressive types. For a compelling cancer story and its relationship to full treatment, click here. In addition, my wife Kathy visits the jail and prison to minister to the less fortunate. I help out there also, as time permits. We are not arm chair theologians! We believe and practice 2 Corinthians 1:3–4.
I have engaged the inerrancy/efficacy debate a) first, because this is the terminology Lutheran theologians normally use to discuss this subject; b) I do not think of this discussion as if it were the end-all or cure-all, but simply because I believe Karl’s email reflects where thousands of people in the LCMS are at. And, many LCMS members have simply left as a result of unclear or unbalanced, less-than-Biblical preaching and teaching, especially regarding the miraculous power of God’s Word in Christ’s Sacraments. the Spirit taught Martin Luther to see that the read Christian life begins with understanding the difference between SIN and sins. SIN is the deep deadly cancer within all of us. “Sins” are what the deeper deadly cancer of SIN produces. To see Luther’s experience in how this critical understanding impacted his life and teachings, click here.
Don’t be surprised! Backdoor losses may be loudly deplored at the upcoming LCMS convention. But that will most likely be the extent of our addressing the problem. Like God says of some Old Testament prophets: “Then words will only have wind, and no more.” Why? Because, unlike the early church, the Lutheran Reformers, and the early LCMS, we in the current LCMS are no longer Biblically and theologically oriented in our practice. We “talk Lutheran,” but we “practice” Protestantism.
WE ARE AT THE CROSSROADS!
While I am not a Catholic priest and do not embrace Catholic doctrine, I believe we in the LCMS are very much where Pope Benedict says the Roman Catholic Church was when he became Pope. As soon as he was he elected, Pope Benedict appointed Archbishop Ivan Dias of Bombay to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of People, that part of the Vatican which “oversees the church’s mission work.” After Pope Benedict was elevated, there were cries to evangelize the world for Catholicism. Through Archbishop Dias, the Pope said: “Not so fast!” The Vatican then issued this highly significant statement: “The church can only engage the world and other Christians if she [the Roman Catholic Church] is first confident of her own identity, if she knows what she believes!” This is also what I, Wallace Schulz, have attempted to argue in this section of this essay. The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod will make no forward progress in evangelism and missions, or even stop its horrible hemorrhaging in membership, unless it first knows what it believes, and what she wants to thoroughly teach: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Conversely, once LCMS top leaders have the spiritual courage and intestinal fortitude to lead the entire LCMS in repentance for its previously unclear and unbalanced teaching, then the Word and Spirit will compel and propel people to evangelize, to support missions with new vigor; and to support the LCMS seminaries; and to support the entire Synod with a new zeal. As compared to Scripture, I have little use for secular expressions, yet, in this case, it is true: “A rising tide lifts all ships!”
Finally, if there are those who feel what I have written is in error, I request, and urge, a public rebuke and Biblical explanation. There is no need to write me for permission. This paper is public. Please make your correction public.
Dear Father in heaven, plant deeply into the hearts of all of us in the LCMS, especially our spiritual leaders, Your command and promise to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Then, let us not be like those You speak about in Your Word, those who hear Your Words but do not act upon them: they will be like a foolish man who built his Synod on sand (Matthew 7:26). Lord, we have heard Your command and promise. Now, by Thy Word and Spirit, lead us to act in repentance and faith. Enable us to close the back door of our hemorrhaging membership through right teaching from Your living Word. In Jesus’ name, we pray with confidence. Amen.
FLASH: MAD AS HELL!
After the second installment of this paper was posted (“What Is To Be Done?”), and after the first few readers read this section, some have become, to put it mildly, “Mad As Hell!” Why? Here is just one of these responses. A lifelong Lutheran and medical doctor says that she and her husband felt they had done all they could to make sure their children were well catechized in the LCMS. However, after reading this paper, they now believe their children were not thoroughly catechized on the nature of Sin—explaining that Sin is essentially a deep, inner, deadly, incurable disease, and not only an outer, wrong act. Furthermore, she feels her children were never clearly taught that the Lutheran Church is the only church which provides Jesus’ full prescription and full treatment for this deadly and incurable disease: Jesus’ Word and Sacraments, driven by the efficacy of the Word.
Is this LCMS medical doctor correct? To a great degree, yes! However, in his Small Catechism, Luther states: “As the head of the house should teach it in a simple way to his household.” This is to say, “catechization” of children is primarily the responsibility of the head of the household, in most cases the father. That being said, if congregations call pastors who give a public oath at their installation—on the basis of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions—that they will teach the Scriptures clearly and thoroughly, then parents have every right to expect thorough catechization of their loved ones, which includes a “thorough” instruction in the Scripture-based teaching of the deadly and incurable disease of Sin now living deep within us, a teaching Jesus, the apostles, and prophets taught.
This same doctor now has at least one of her children who has drifted from the LCMS to another denomination, something that has caused communication problems within the family. This doctor, and potentially thousands of other LCMS Lutheran parents, may be part of a growing theological “tea party” movement in the LCMS, a movement to address serious theological issues LCMS that leaders don’t seem to regard as serious. Although I did not go through it with a fine-tooth comb, the catalog of LCMS convention resolutions to be considered at the LCMS Houston convention in July seems to indicate that not one resolution is addressed to backdoor losses in any significant way.
Unless top elected LCMS spiritual leaders begin to acknowledge, and then move to address this most basic and fundamental weakness in Scriptural teaching—described in the above essay, using Karl’s email as a poster-child—then the formation of such a “tea party” will be inevitable.
There are many laypeople who love their Synod dearly. They are tired of non-theological diagnoses of problems, followed by non-Biblical and Protestant cures.
Consider this: If top LCMS spiritual leaders were to learn that a local medical doctor had misdiagnosed their loved one and, in addition, had prescribed the wrong cure, these same members of the LCMS Presidium, including all District Presidents, would be “Mad As Hell,” and call for an immediate investigation of the medical community. They would ask: “Where were these medical doctors trained? We would like to see the medical school curriculum published. Who is overseeing the doctors when they graduate to make sure that they are diagnosing and prescribing medicine correctly?”
If this “Mad As Hell” reaction” to a medical problem could be expected from top LCMS spiritual leaders, including all District Presidents, why should we not be surprised that we will soon see an open LCMS “tea party” movement arise (totally apart from current secret political movements), calling the leadership of the LCMS to account for a “theology and practice malady” that has been eating away like a cancer at our church body? After seminary students receive the proper knowledge of the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions, are they also assisted in expressing these teachings in clear terminology, as urged by the Lutheran Confessions, using street-understood terms as “illness” and “disease” for Original Sin, and “medicine” and “antidote” for Jesus’ Word and Sacraments?
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot! It’s time to stop going to LCMS district and national conventions to do little more than move the deck chairs around. If no clear theological change comes soon, as happened in the Reformation, non-political laypeople will arise and form theological tea-party movements, and I will be one of those who will encourage them! Although I have not gone through all LCMS convention overtures to be considered at the upcoming LCMS convention, as of yet, I have found no overtures that would deal with backdoor losses or retention in any significant way. This stunning indifference to this problem, which may certainly be the greatest issue we now face, is no different than when TV viewers are stunned as they hear stories of parents who, when their teenagers leave home or suddenly disappear, they simply couldn't care less. They don't even have enough concern to notify the local police. “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20). Pastors: “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). The LCMS needs pastors and teachers well-trained in the Scriptures so that, through them, God's promise can be a reality to all LCMS members: “Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will feed you on knowledge and understanding” (Jeremiah 3:15).
Question: Is what I, Wallace Schulz, have written outside the pale of the Lutheran Church and its history of theological tea party movements and the continuous Reformation? Consider the following: “Underneath the diversity of themes put forward by the reformers lay a new standard of authority, the Word of God. Needless to say, it had been the basis for theology all along, but the Word had always been conveyed by church and tradition. Now the reformers raised the Word to absolute prominence. What counted was Scripture alone. Concomitantly, the reformers made the dramatic assertion that it would be understood by all, by peasant and artisan no less than by scholar and theologian. The exposition of the Christian faith thus became the province of all people, much to the exasperation of the Catholic leaders, who complained that ‘even women and bakers’ debated points of theology” (Hillerbrand, Hans. “The Age of the Reformation,” in The Christian World: A Social and Cultural History of Christianity, ed. Geoffrey Barraclough. London: Thames & Hudson, 1981, p. 190. ISBN 0-500-28398-2.