October 22, 2017

Guest Post: Allen Krell on Evangelicals and Lutherans

Today’s post is from friend of iMonk, Allen Krell.

Note from CM: I enjoy getting comments from readers who have their own blogs. I often travel over to their sites to get a better feeling for who they are and what perspectives they have on a variety of issues, not just what we’re discussing here on IM.

Recently, I visited Allen Krell’s blog and was struck by a post he wrote discussing his experiences in a megachurch. The church operated by a particular model commonly called, “The Core and the Crowd.” Now a Lutheran, Allen reflects on that and a much different historic perspective on ministry.

Since my main interest and concern these past several years in the wilderness has been in the realm of ecclesiology, I’m always looking for ways to discuss how our communities are formed and what their values and operating principles are.  I hope Allen’s thoughts here will provide some good fodder for discussion for all of us.

Thanks, Allen.

Why Lutheran Churches Can’t Attract A Crowd (or How to grow a Lutheran church), by Allen Krell

First, a little background on my travels in the post-evangelical wilderness. I come from a strong Baptist background. In the 1990s, I became very interested in church growth methods, and studied all the typical contemporary church growth patterns. I became part of an elder team that led a church to bring in a pastor that was very experienced in the “crowd and core” church method. This pastor was very frank and honest about this method, and I learned a great deal about how it works. The church rapidly grew from 40-50 attenders to 700-1000 attenders in less than a year.

Although the church was a success, I became very disillusioned with what I was witnessing. Specifically, I realized the “How to be a better ___ in ___ easy steps” sermons were merely a rework of the law. In my disillusionment, I started down the historical path, reading my way backward through history.

After making a quick trip through a Calvinist church, and another quick trip through a house church, I decided to completely rethink my approach to looking for a church.

After studying history, I decided to find the closest church to my home that met two qualifications. First, it must somehow include the Nicene creed in its beliefs, and second it must regularly practice the sacraments of Baptism and Communion. The closest church to my house that met these qualifications was a downtown Lutheran church.

During the new members class, I learned of the Lutheran distinction of the “Theology of the Cross” and the “Theology of Glory”. I have found this distinction the simplest way to describe many of my frustrations with the evangelical world.

But, I have also had my frustrations. The evangelical in me wants to tell the Lutherans to proclaim this particular distinctiveness strongly and with passion. I believe that in their history they have the answer to today’s crisis in evangelical circles, but they seem to take their distinctiveness for granted.

My pastor is on sabbatical, spending 3 months visiting multiple churches in a quest to study worship. This past Sunday, he visited a classic  “Crowd and Core” church in Huntsville, Alabama. From my days before attending a Lutheran church, I am very familiar with this particular church. I studied its growth model, and was intimately involved in a very similar church in a nearby town. I had a first hand view of the challenges and the pitfalls of this particular church growth model.

This model is simple. The church consists of two groups of people, the “Crowd” and the “Core”. The goal is simple, do whatever it takes to draw a “Crowd”, then try to get at least a small percentage of the “Crowd” into the “Core” group. This model is entirely a numbers game.  The vast majority of the “Crowd” does not enter the “Core”, so the challenge is to get the “Crowd” as large as possible. The size of the “Crowd” is important because it must be large enough to bring enough into the “Core” to both make up for those leaving the church, and to provide the rapid growth necessary to keep the show for the “Crowd” funded.

To develop the “Crowd”, two simultaneous approaches are used. First, the show on Sunday morning  must be as professional as possible. The singers must all be young, attractive, and wear fashionable clothes. The announcer must sound professional. Lighting, sound, and cameras must all be professional. Timing must be accurate down to a few seconds. Everything is a choreographed performance.

Second, and probably more important than the show, is the content of the pastor’s sermon. In general, the way to attract a crowd is to do two things. First, the delivery must be story-driven rather than content-driven. The sermon must be a series of personal stories and illustrations.  It is important not to have substantial content. Second, the sermon must concern the concept of the “Theology of Glory”. All Lutherans know this theology as opposed to the “Theology of the Cross”. In the “Theology of Glory”, the Christian faith is more about what the individual does, and how God makes our life better here on Earth.

Typical “Theology of Glory” sermon titles are:

  • “How to battle Depression”
  • “How to have a happy marriage”
  • “How to manage money”
  • “How to be a better Father/Mother/Son”

In more fundamentalist churches that draw a crowd, the “Theology of Glory” takes a different path

  • “If our country doesn’t return to God and put prayer in schools, it will collapse”
  • “If you have sex before marriage, the rest of your life will terrible”
  • “If you live the right way, read the Bible every day, and do not spend time with the wrong people, God will reward with you with a happy marriage”

In modern prosperity churches, the sermon is always the same

  • “If you give xxx and do xxxx, God will prosper you and give you a happy life”

In one local church, the pastor ordained his son into the ministry, who then paraded his father, beautiful wife, and beautiful daughter before the crowd and said “If you follow God, you will have a happy and beautiful family like I have.”

It is ingrained into Lutherans pastors NOT to preach that way. They seem almost incapable of it.  I believe the difference in the “Theology of the Cross” and the “Theology of Glory” is so ingrained in them, most seem unwilling to copy the sermon portion of the crowd and core growth model.

I am so glad. I couldn’t take the crowd and core growth model.  In other blog entries, I have noted some of the problems, and at various times I will continue to blog on these issues. But the key point of this entry is that since the “Theology of Glory” is an anathema to true Lutherans, it is important for Lutherans to accept that the crowd and core model does not work for a Lutheran church.  It is a waste of time to try to emulate them.

Instead of emulating this growth model, I call on Lutherans to embrace their history and work on evangelism in a way that matches your rich history. Embrace the “Theology of the Cross.” Proclaim it in sermons, in Sunday School small groups, in mid-week small groups, and on Internet websites and blogs. Embrace it and proclaim it with all your heart, and do not flee from it.  Embrace it with passion, being confident and perhaps a bit arrogant about it. The “Theology of the Cross” is core to who you are, and is a desperately needed message in a world dominated by prosperity gospel.

But, you will not draw a crowd. You will gain one, two, three people at a time.  About as many that come in the front door may go out the back door just as quickly. But, don’t give up. The “Theology of the Cross” has persevered for 2000 years, and you are called to proclaim it to next generation.

Comments

  1. 50-1000 in a year! Holy crap, that’s astounding. Hey, I understand you’ve moved on from some of his methods, but heck, there’s gotta be at least something he did there I can learn from without theological compromise…

    • Well, you can learn that many of those congregations go from 1000 to 0 in just as short a time. It’s happened at least twice I know of in my hometown, each time leaving hundreds of wounded believers and “Eagle”-type agnostics in their wakes.

    • 15 years ago I would have agreed with you. After having been there, theological compromise always results.

    • Good points guys. Never mind then. Slow and steady wins the race!

  2. Suddenly I find myself with an immediate urge to go to Mapquest and find the nearest Lutheran church to my house. The “theology of the Cross” is the antidote to (at least) half of what is troubling the Pentecostal churches I spent 20 years in.

    • I actually do not believe Lutheran is for everyone. It turns out that my local church is staffed by a wonderful and grace filled pastor and staff. Just like any group, both of the two major bodies in the U.S. (ELCA and LCMS) both have their problems.

      What is important that you get to the point that the Sacraments and preaching on grace is more important to you than the ‘show’.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        Well, there is also the fine old joke about the Lutheran tradition of driving past three Lutheran churches to get to the one you belong to. This can be taken as a comment about stiff-necked Lutherans, and often justifiably so. But it also points out that Lutheran churches tend not to try to be all things to all people. Individual congregations have distinct characters.

        I am a Lutheran pastor’s kid. I remember as a kid a visitor once complimented on father after the service for preaching the Gospel. I didn’t understand this at the time, as that was what he was supposed to do. As an adult I realized what he meant. There are an awful lot of Lutheran churches with vague mushy preaching of niceness. I go into a daze during those sermons, coming out at the end with twenty minutes of my life gone.

        I have moved a fair amount in life. When in a new home I start with the closest Lutheran church. Sometimes it is a good fit, sometimes not. If not, then I work my way outward. It’s not as if we have geographical parishes.

  3. Preston says:

    Perhaps I haven’t been following IM close enough lately, but can someone blog a quick synopsis of the “theology of the Cross” ?

    • @Preston:

      en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theology_of_the_Cross

    • Adrienne says:

      The Theology of the Cross
      Toward the end of the disputation, Luther offered some theses which seem (in typical Luther fashion) nonsensical, or at least obscure:

      19. That person does not deserve to be called a theologian who looks upon the invisible things of God as though they were clearly perceptible in those things which have actually happened [Rom. 1:20].
      20. He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross.
      21. A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.
      22. That wisdom which sees the invisible things of God in works as perceived by man is completely puffed up, blinded, and hardened.

      These statements actually encapsulate the heart of Luther’s theology, and a good grasp of what he means by the obscure terms and phrases they contain sheds light not just on the doctrinal content of his theology, but also on the very way that he believed theologians should think. Indeed, he is taking Paul’s explosive argument from 1 Corinthians and developing it into a full theological agenda.

      At the heart of his argument is his notion that human beings should not speculate about who God is or how he acts in advance of actually seeing whom he has revealed himself to be. Thus, Luther sees God’s revelation of himself as axiomatic to all theology. Now, there probably is not a heretic in history who would not agree with that, because all theology presupposes the revelation of God, whether in nature, human reason, culture, or whatever.

      Luther, however, had a dramatically restrictive view of revelation. God revealed himself as merciful to humanity in the Incarnation, when he manifested himself in human flesh, and the supreme moment of that revelation was on the cross at Calvary. Indeed, Luther sometimes referred enigmatically to Christ crucified as “God’s backside”—the point at which God appeared to be the very contradiction of all that one might reasonably have anticipated him to be.

      The “theologians of glory,” therefore, are those who build their theology in the light of what they expect God to be like—and, surprise, surprise, they make God to look something like themselves. The “theologians of the cross,” however, are those who build their theology in the light of God’s own revelation of himself in Christ hanging on the cross.

      • Adrienne,

        Excellent summary. I would add that Lutherans relate to God primarily through the person and work of Jesus, in who He was and how He dealt with us. We don’t muck around much with the ‘naked God,’ God in His sovereignty and holiness, and stuff like predestination, which all consider God ‘outside of’ or apart from Christ incarnate.

  4. Adrienne says:

    Thank you for this excellent post. It mirrors my own recent experience. I left a mega-evangelical church after over 20 years and am attending a small, neighborhood Lutheran Church. The reason – The Theology of the Cross. Literally by God’s grace I found a book titled, “The Spirituality of the Cross” by Gene Edward Veith. It was like giving oxygen to a dying person. I devoured the book and read it over and over, highlighting and marking as I read. I was yearning for something and feeling so guilty about stepping away from attending a “Bible believing church”. But I was exhausted and just couldn’t do the Victorious Christian Living thing any more. At least not honestly. It has been an interesting journey and by the way – the people at this little Lutheran church are some of the warmest most welcoming people I have ever met. They aren’t running around the welcome area impressing God and others with their busy-ness. They are welcoming!! And the pastor graciously sat with me when I had questions and answered them for over an hour. You literally had to make an appointment at the mega-church to talk with one of the 13 (yes 13) pastors and then it would be weeks or months until you could see them. So thank you Allen for sharing your story.

  5. Aw, crikey (expurgated from first reaction) “Crowd and core” sounds to me like Inner and Outer Circle, or Esoteric Knowledge for the Initiated and Picture Knowledge for the Mass, or basically, Gnosticism.

    Christianity is not that.

    • The label sounds like gnosticism, but I don”t think so: I don’t see enough deep thinking for their to be a “deeper level”. Their IS a works mentality where the “core” is expected to pick up the slack for the slackers, and do what it takes to keep the show going. More like a “product” than anything else, I think.

      • Yeah it sounds like my company’s “sales funnel,” where you try to get as many leads as possible (crowd) knowing that as each lead gets closer to buying something, you lose some each step before finally making a sale (core), so you want that crowd to be as large as possible so you get more sales.

      • Yeah, but that’s even worse in a way – treating converts like tins of beans stacked on a supermarket shelf. The notion that you put on a show to attract in the rubes, then cream off the best 10/15/20% to keep the show on the road while you’re putting on the next spectacular – not very reminiscent of Pentecost, is it?

        What I’m objecting to is the expectation that there will be shedding of prospects and that’s okay! they weren’t what we were looking for anyways!

        • In the vein of “treating converts like tins of beans,” the cable channel TCM showed “Elmer Gantry” last night. The Sinclair Lewis book on which the movie is based is slightly better, but Gantry remains, in my opinion, the classic (and unimprovable) take on American evangelicalism. The book was written in ’27, and the movie was done in ’60, but the story’s got lots of everything that we’re still discussing in ’11.

        • Radagast says:

          I guess its OK if your just moving christians from one pot to another….

    • Jesus did a form of “crowd and core”, where the crowd was attracted by the theology of glory (miracles, free food), but were ultimately put off by His theology of the Cross (eat my flesh, drink my blood).
      Thus the Core were those remaining, who said “Lord to whom else will we go? You alone have the words of life.”
      The Core was not made up of those who had their act together – – the Core were those who saw no viable alternative for the hunger in thier souls.

      • JoanieD says:

        “The Core was not made up of those who had their act together – – the Core were those who saw no viable alternative for the hunger in thier souls.”

        Great way to put it, Steve!

  6. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    Allen,

    I’m writing this little note of response before I’m halfway thru reading your post just to say how really repugnant this “crowd & core” thing is…… I’ve seen that in one of the two churches (both southern baptist btw) and I find this discusting beyond words. Will stop here and go back and finish reading the post and respond further after that……. and people wonder why I have so little for the sbc churches these days – sheesh!

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      I don’t disagree, but I am having trouble putting my finger on the problem. Any organization effectively has a core and a crowd. A croquet club will have the people who are deeply involved: attend all the business meetings, arrive early to set up the wickets, and so forth. It will have an outer circle of more casual members who come to play croquet but who aren’t putting in extra effort. And it will have an even further outer circle of people who might show up for big events. It needs both the core and the crowd: with no crowd you just have four guys knocking balls around; with no core you don’t even have that, as no one is organizing games.

      So why does this feel wrong in a church context? I’m not sure.

      • Richard-

        What’s wrong is that the people who Jesus loved and hung out with. Those who screwed up their life, made mistakes, etc.. ared the ones who the core model is harshest to. The core model rewards Pharises and punished the broken. The core model attracts those who have all their shit together while driving away and poundign those with messy lives. The core model is social darwinism at its uglyist…..attracting the ubber spiritual and allowing them to play church while driving away the broken because forgivness is a farce. Its ugly….

        • Eagle gets it 🙂

          • Richard Hershberger says:

            …where I seem to be slow today. As I understand it, the crowd are people who show up on Sunday, enjoy the show, perhaps toss a couple of dollars in the plate (or whatever the megachurch equivalent is), and walk out afterwards until the following Sunday. The core are people who join one or more small groups, show up on Wednesday as well, and volunteer for any of the innumerable jobs in the church. The problem, as I understand it, is that the core tend to be overworked until they burn out, while the crowd is more or less ignored: they are not a flock to be shepherded, but a handy recruitment pool to replace burned-out core members. Am I misunderstanding the discussion? (I cheerfully acknowledge the possibility!)

          • The view from my little island on the outside now looking at what I was involved in is clear. Though I had problems I don’t know if I would see it this clearly had I still been a part of the “Christian Industrial Mega Church Revolution” beast. The small church is approaching its death bed and the mega church core model is coming to town!!! Maybe its me but I see parallels between the end of an agrian based society and the birth of industrialism. A fundgelical Christian industrailsim though… 🙂

      • There is no problem with crowd and core in and of itself. Only in how it is applied. Jesus Himself had a crowd and core. He had the crowds that followed (and later turned on Him), the next closer ring was the disciples (at least 72 plus a number of core women), then the 12 apostles, then the inner three (Peter, James, and John). Crowd and core is a fact of life both in church and in our personal lives. But like anything else it, I’m sure it can be abused if an organizations aim is just to use people.

        • Dan, I agree that crowd and core applies to any group of people. The problem with using it as a church growth model is that the rule is that the crowd becomes the number one priority over all else. Without the crowd, there is no money to fuel the beast.

          • And the crowd is treated as disposable; as though when hauling in the nets, you are going to be throwing the majority of the catch back overboard.

            Not quite the whole “I will make you fishers of men” notion?

    • This is how I look at the core of the evangelical chruch.

      1. Those who have “successful” marriages.
      2. Those who have kids.
      3. Those who have done missions adn have missionary experience.
      4. Those who are successful in a job that tithe heavily to the church.
      5. Those who work in Christian ministry and “do it as a full time job.”
      6. Those who are moral who don’t have any difficulty.

      if you don’t tfall into those areas…you are basically screwed and won’t last long in that envirnment.

      • yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. for many, many years I felt like an outsider because I was one of maybe two of my inner circle friends who had not done semi-to long term mission work in another country. one of my friends has spent four years in an undisclosed country and anytime we talked she was coming to check in on my spiritual temperature. one lovely time she said “I love you so when I rebuke you now don’t get upset.” However, I also find that I purposefully avoid being the core at these core and crowd models. I often am “weirded out by the cult of personality and also the uber happy, happy, faces talking about how dynamic everything is in their lives. I know that these people are broken too but they have to keep up the facade. Could you imagine the shame of actually being honest when you are in the inner core? I prefer to be the crowd. that is why I am running from the mega, seeker driven, hip hop contemporary churches RAPIDLY.

        • sarahmorgan says:

          your story reminded me how someone once tried to appoint herself as my accountability partner (this is after I had been slandered by a disgruntled member of the ministry I was in, and the church’s leadership swallowed the slander hook, line, and sinker)…the problem with the “core” of a church based on “core/crowd” is that the core is exceedingly arrogant, thinking it has been specifically blessed and appointed by God to act like God the judge to anyone it deems not in line. :-p

      • Wow, I think this extends larger than just big churches with a “core/crowd” model. This IS church in America big and small. Lucky is he who finds a contradiction to this.

        • I agree. I grew up in a small church where the common saying was something like, “10% of the people do 90% of the work and 90% of the people do 10% of the work.” There’s also that one about the pillars and the caterpillars.

          I think the difference in the core and crowd method seems to be the drive to get the 90% to be BIGGER at nearly any cost.

          • I know, I find that saying really demeaning. The immediate presumption it presents is that church is about “doing work” and boy there’s lots of it to do so everyone get involved. If we don’t all pull our weight, it’s gonna go under or something. Not so sure that’s in touch with the meaning of church.

      • I read that President Lyndon Johnson had his meetings with his staff/cabinet (men only) swimming nude in the White House pool, as when the clothes came off, so did the pretentiousness. Portly, balding, and wrinkled doesn’t lend itself to putting on airs.

  7. Allen, great post and topic; I was hoping you could flesh out this comment a little:

    It is important not to have substantial content.

    What is it about “substantial content” that just won’t work in the core and crowd model ? Any tangent thoughts on this ?? Thanks.

    GregR

    • The best of the “Crowd and core” speakers tell a series of stories. This seems to be the best way to identify with the most people.

      I actually do not have a strong problem with this (Jesus used parables), but usually the stories are more about his family or some idealized family.

      • Do yuu think the phrase “what you win them with is what you win them to…” fits into your post ? If you keep things at a gospel-lite level, where is the call to all of what the WORD teaches, or even a need to understand the WORD in all its complexity (as best we can).

        Some would say that the “stories could hook them for the gospel later…” but I’m thinking that if “your best life now….” is your draw, good luck getting someone to die to sin and self LATER….

        • “What you win them with is what you win them to.” Very pithy way of putting it. Thanks for that.

        • Greg – Thanks, you’ve touched the heart of the matter right there. I don’t think it has as much to do with the size of the church or the name on the building as it does with “Does this church preach the cross of Christ?”

    • Am I horribly cynical to think “no substantial content” means “A six-week series on ‘How to Improve Your Happiness’ with extracts from the Book of Jeremiah (where we all laugh at what an old grumpy-pants he was)” will keep the ‘crowd’ coming back for six weeks and get six weeks’ worth of donations in the collection plate, whereas a sermon on how “We are all wretched sinners who need to fall on our needs and plead for God’s mercy” will scare them away as being too judgemental?

      And I’m not excepting us RCs either; homilies I’ve heard recently have been all soft fluffiness more or less.

  8. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    Should have been “one of the two churches I’ve served in” – sorry for the bad typing – that just flew all over me…. more to come.

  9. Allen: Thanks so much for writing and sharing this. I am like several others on this site whose story is so similiar to yours and now find myself (with my wife) attending a small downtown lutheran church. I hope CM and Jeff keep in contact with you and have you share more in the future. I have a son at U of Alabama….roll Tide!

  10. The Guy from Knoxville says:

    Greg r – one thing I get on “substantial content” is that when you present that kind of content or information to the average mega attender you’ve generally lost them since most come for the Sunday show and don’t want to be offended or presented with anything that might bring light to their own failings. Substantial = death to a mega. No crowds, no funds for the show etc….. you get the idea. I mean think about it – if Joel Osteen suddenly saw the light and got up one Sunday morning and preached Christ and the gospel uncompromised with a cross theology approach (substantial content!) what do you suppose the crowd would be like the next Sunday? I dare say 1/2 or more would not come back the next Sunday and suddenly the show is over and there would not be enough to maintain the huge arena facility – the whole thing collapses and they disappear or downsize greatly to a smaller organization and facility etc….. again, you get the idea. A little further – why do you think that so many churches (all denoms to some degree) go this route? It’s about the crowds, the prestige, the (dare I say it?) the dollars, the facilities, bragging rights among the highly and overly motivated ego driven pastors and on and on it goes.

    I can’t stomach the current trends in the sbc and am horrified to see this showing up in other denominations that should have learned and know better! If we loose churches like the Lutheran churches or similar then what are we left with??? If it’s the megas I’m already finished – I all but refuse to go to a mega baptist or similar anymore – I’ll stay home first before I get in that mess again…… I’m just over it as most here know – I’ve not kept my issues, thoughts and opinions on this at all to myself…. this has to stop somewhere.

    • A little further – why do you think that so many churches (all denoms to some degree) go this route? It’s about the crowds, the prestige, the (dare I say it?) the dollars, the facilities, bragging rights among the highly and overly motivated ego driven pastors and on and on it goes.
      this point is why Michael Spencer’s post on The Real Prosperity Gospel was sneaky brilliant. It’s easy to call out Joel O. and even brag that we are the defenders of the real deal. Much harder to take a long look inward and see where the theology of glory has made huge inroads in OUR circus tent….. pushing the theology of the cross to the margins, or off the page, or onto page 15.

      A big big problem, IMO, is the dollars and the budget. Once you have a budget to uphold and defend ( and I type this as one who has very good friends on church staff), then you immediately have a tension. Are we going to “grow this thing” and raise the needed capital, or do we preach what we preach and let GOD sort out the results, and the Sunday offering as well ??

      • It’s hard to tell people they need to suffer. It sounds too much like wishing misfortune on them, and who wants to do that? We all of us want to hear something encouraging. It’s easy when we’re not suffering ourselves to say that does good, but when we’re in pain, it doesn’t help to hear someone else say “This is all to your good”. It also sounds judgemental, and nobody wants to set themselves up as holier-than-thou.

        So denominations go the easier way of emphasising the good and leaving aside the tough questions. Here’s a snippet from today’s sermon by the Pope, who is celebrating the 60th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood today, where he’s addressing the new archbishops:

        “The true content of the Law, its summa, is love for God and for one’s neighbour. But this twofold love is not simply saccharine. It bears within itself the precious cargo of patience, humility, and growth in the conforming of our will to God’s will, to the will of Jesus Christ, our friend. Only in this way, as the whole of our being takes on the qualities of truth and righteousness, is love also true, only thus is it ripe fruit. Its inner demand – faithfulness to Christ and to his Church – seeks a fulfilment that always includes suffering. This is the way that true joy grows. At a deep level, the essence of love, the essence of genuine fruit, coincides with the idea of setting out, going towards: it means self-abandonment, self-giving, it bears within itself the sign of the cross. Gregory the Great once said in this regard: if you are striving for God, take care not to go to him by yourselves alone – a saying that we priests need to keep before us every day.”

        Who is going to have the courage to stand up and tell people “Your journey in Christ will involve suffering. Only then will you bear real fruit”? It’s awfully hard and leaves you open for all kinds of accusations.

        Also, I think sometimes there is a genuine fear of breaking the bruised reed by hammering away at sin and suffering, so that preaching comes to rely on forgiveness and grace – which is correct – but then forgets itself and goes on to promise joy and happiness if only you do x, y, and z, follow this plan, live this way – and we can’t guarantee that. It’s impossible.

        • Thanks, Martha for the sermon quote. I seem to recall Solzhenitsyn saying something to the effect that America is crying out from a lack of courage. I would agree, and ‘the man in the mirror’ is the usual suspect here. Pastors/preachers need to be willing to be called (unjustly) a LOT of names, and preach to WORD as it is written, not as we wished it were written. Only a true shepherd will do that.

        • Radagast says:

          I don’t wish suffering on anybody and I will always avoid it as I can. But in hindsight through suffering I’ve done most of my growing, both spiritually and in maturity and hopefully in wisdom (unless I keep making the same mistakes that led to the suffering – then I think that’s called a fool?).

          • I suspect it is not so much about “wishing” suffering on anyone as it is calling us to suffering. We are called to share in the sufferings of Jesus.

            I also suspect that learning what this means is not a matter of only of reading or thinking but of living and praying.

      • The Guy from Knoxville says:

        greg r – actually Joel O was just for illstration purposes……. I think he’s been the whipping boy long enough – point I was making is how quick many megas would suddenly find themselves much smaller and, in some cases, completely gone if one preached the gospel uncompromised amongst other things. Additionally add the church year component with it’s focused scriptural themes throughout the year that is common to all churches following that and you probably end up with the same result as well.

        You could apply my thoughts to other megas around the country, for the most part, and come out the same – probably could have used another situation other than Joel O but that’s the first to come to mind.

        • Additionally add the church year component with it’s focused scriptural themes throughout the year that is common to all churches following that ………

          LORD JESUS, give me a big steaming plate of THIS…… I guess I should look for this and go after it. I live in a big enough city (Kansas City); changing churches is ________.

          GregR

    • Your comments here seem to be contradicted by yesterday’s post. Mark Driscoll is nothing else if not content driven that present people with “their failings”. And not just Driscoll but the whole lot of YRR pastor, Acts 29, Sovereign Grace, 9Marks, and Master’s College types. These guys build very large mega churches with deeply substantial content (we may not agree with the content, but clearly it contradicts your point).

      • This is an excellent point. Driscoll et. al. POUND a theology of the cross, pure Reformed, Jonathan Edwards-style material, and does quite well. I think something else has to be at work there.

      • Agreed, from the times I’ve gone to our local Matt Chandler.

      • Pastor Brendan-

        All those places have issues which should give one pause. Acts 29 has issues and the reformed theology I would suggest is toxic. Soveign Grace has it issues also. Some time when you are free googe “Survivors of Sovereign Grace” and see what comes up. One or two people I can see…but when you see a blog with hundreds of comments of people describing authoriterian church structure, discipline that leaves people broken, and most horriffic a church structure that protects sexual molestors and punishes the victims.

        • I was in no way defending the Reformed camp. I was merely pointing out how that camp (to which I do not belong) is clear proof that confrontational preaching is not a death sentence for mega churches.

          • Damaris says:

            Interesting, Pastor Brendan. I wonder if confrontational preaching is even more tolerable in a mega church where people can remain anonymous. I can imagine nodding wisely at a sermon emphasizing sin and suffering when I’m one of a thousand people but getting a bit more uncomfortable if I’m one of a hundred and the preacher has a close pastoral relationship with me.

            I guess confrontational preaching can be responded to in one of three ways:
            1) I’m leaving this judgmental and hate-filled church; or
            2) Preach it! I know just the people you’re talking about and they drive me crazy, too! or
            3) Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.

            And I guess the response depends mostly on God’s grace and the heart of the recipient but is also affected by the tack of the preacher. A preacher who aimed for or allowed Response 2 could draw quite a crowd of Pharisees, for example.

          • Yea but #3 isn’t always the best either. If its all law and no grace, the sinner never receives the forgiveness she so desperately needs.

      • I think one of the factors that attracts people is the perception of strong leadership and clear answers. There are few gray areas and little nuanced discussion outside certain very narrow bounds. That makes a lot of people feel secure.

        In addtiion, and I think related, in my own experience I have noticed in some of these groups a substantial focus on who are the real (or at least the better) Christians and who are the false, or perhaps weak, ones. Insiders and outsiders; us and them. And for those who see themselves as the real, the insiders, this gives more of a sense of belonging. I have no idea how widespread this is, but I have definitely noticed it.

      • I would put Driscoll in another category instead of “Crowd and core” church growth model. He succeeds for other reasons, but I haven’t experienced that type of church in my area so I am not as familiar with it.

        • The more I think on it, Driscoll and some of the other reformed guys need a whole other blog entry and discussion. internetmonk has had postings on them before, so I won’t push it here.

        • I think that’s fair. There are very different cultures that surround big churches. “Crowd and core” is one and “accessible fundamentalism” perhaps another.

        • Isn’t Driscoll’s radical Christianity yet another variety of Theology of Glory?

  11. Richard Hershberger says:

    Years ago I was on council at a Lutheran church where we were all given copies of a book on church growth. I don’t recall if it was specifically directed to Lutheran churches. My main recollection was that its advice amounted to stop being distinctive and go for a watered-down generic Christianity. My reaction was that if I wanted to attend a watered-down generic church I already had ample choices. It seemed silly to add to that number while subtracting from the number of distinctive churches, simply for the sake of getting more people in through out particular doors rather than some other set of doors.

    My experience in my current church, which embraces its distinctiveness (one could even say eccentricity) is just as Allen Krell says. We have a steady trickle of new members who walk in and immediately know they are home.

    • “I wanted to attend a watered-down generic church I already had ample choices.”

      Amen. This is my number one frustration with Lutheran churches. But being Lutheran in a nation of Christ-less, watered-down, moralistic evangelicals is a lot like being the weird-looking kid in Junior High. Being distinctive will get your butt kicked. It takes a lot of courage.

  12. I wandered into a Lutheran church 5 years ago after many previous experiences in other churchs. I’ve been convicted of my sin and given the great news of the cross every week. What I found most interesting is how offensive the theology of the cross was to my mature Christian family members ( free evangelical & Assemblies of God). After many heated discussions, they realized what I was getting at. This has brought us closer as a family and as elders in there own church are challenging their pastors to bring the gospel proclamation every week rather than the “counsel of God” as cloak for more law.

    • “I’ve been convicted of my sin and given the great news of the cross every week.”

      Amen. Lutherans have a great response to the “altar call” every Sunday! Everyone goes forward to receive Jesus.

  13. I’m curious about whether anyone who has more experience with Lutherans can interpret an encounter I had with a Lutheran (ELCA) church recently.

    The church (not Lutheran) I attend does have theological substance, but it also doesn’t observe the church year. I’m at a stage of life where I see more and more wisdom in liturgy and church year (a development in me that is not yet shared by various important family members). When Lent came around this year, I took a look at the website of the closest Lutheran church (I’m also not enthused about driving long distances to church) to see if maybe they had something going on surrounding Lent that I could be a part of, as a way of dipping my toe in the water of the Lutherans without causing family upheaval because I want to go someplace different than usual on Sunday. This Lutheran church is suburban and from the size of the buildings and range of activities listed on the web site, I would guess has 200 – 400 attend on any given Sunday … so maybe a bit bigger than many Lutheran churches.

    At first, it looked encouraging. They had a guide for Lent on their web site, with an emphasis on a different aspect of Lent or Holy Week each week. But then as I started reading … it was all “Prayer type X is a useful type of prayer because it produces these benefits in your life” and ‘Lenten observance type Y is a useful observance because it produces these pleasant emotions in you.” It was all very much focused on what engaging in various Lenten/Holy Week observances about would do for me as an individual, mostly at the level of producing good emotions.

    I heaved a sigh, concluded that mega-church/evangelical thinking had infected even the mainline Lutherans, clicked off the web site, went back to my Book of Common Prayer/Celebrating Common Prayer, and never pursued it any further.

    Did I misinterpret what was going on with the Lent guide? Or is there a swath of Lutheran churches that have been infected with mega-church thinking, despite Theology of the Cross? Or ???

    • Of course … while I was typing the above comment, several other people added comments that weren’t as glowingly positive about some Lutheran congregations as the comments that were there when I started typing … so it looks like I just didn’t read other people’s comments.

      • Richard Hershberger says:

        I’ll take a stab at this. By way of background, I am a lifelong Lutheran, and a Lutheran pastor’s kid. Some of the positive comments in this thread reflect Lutheranism at its best. (We also sing lots of Bach: not to everyone’s taste, but a big plus in my book!)

        The classic failing of modern American Lutheranism is, shared with many mainline churches, a tendency to banal white bread niceness. Don’t get me wrong: being nice is fine thing in moderation. But a sermon which amounts to twenty minutes saying “be nice” is twenty minutes of my life I want back. I think a substantial number of the people flocking away from the mainlines several decades ago was due to people deciding this wasn’t reason enough to get up early on a Sunday morning, and I can’t really blame them.

        A more recent phenomenon is an attempt to emulate Evangelical churches, mistaking numbers for successful discipleship. In some cases the copying is conscious and explicit. The theory is to copy Evangelical forms while keeping Lutheran substance. In my observation these attempts have failed, though which side of the equation is the failure point varies. More common is a piecemeal borrowing of Evangelical cultural elements. It is not uncommon, for example, to find a Lutheran church with praise music. Usually, though not always, this is offered as an alternative to a more traditional liturgical service and usually, though again not always, it retains more liturgical elements (e.g. celebration of the eucharist) than you would find in some places. Another example is in the Lutheran church nearest me, which has a ban on alcohol at church functions: a sad lapse from Biblical Christianity made to accommodate the expectations of the world!

        So what is going on with these suggested Lenten observances? It could be either phenomenon, or some of both. It seems to fall in the intersection of the two. The word “Lutheran” on the sign in front is not a guarantee of quality. I would encourage you to look further afield.

  14. The “theology of glory” that I saw in fundegelicalism was absolutely ugly. I had no idea how ugly it would get. Faith was a formula…and you take whatever you are dealing with and plug it into that formula. As a guy we were encouraged to have accountability partners to help with lust. This was strongly pushed and I embraced it. The intended result was purity. What came in its place while pursuing a “theology of glory” was deception and dishonesty and a pistol whipping. If I screwed up I confessed it and took a beating, criticism, etc.. with the determination to “try harder”. My accountability partner took his situation underground. When I asked he told me of glowing rosy, stories. Seldom did I hear of difficulty. We had this arrangement for years. It took me a while to catch on but I realized that there were inconsistencies in his story. One of the final conversations I had with him it all came out. Hiding lust, telling me what he felt he had to say. The “glory” was to force onself to be “pure” which in my case led to a lot of pain, and led my accountability partner to be very decitful.

    As I type this I can think of how this “theology of glory” also played out in how one should pick a career (backfired in my case…), tithe, date, have quiet time, etc… These were designed to bring more “glory” and transform people. What I would suggest happens is that they kill faith, plays to one’s narciccistic nature, seek pride, grow one’s ego, etc…

    • Radagast says:

      I know it can’t be this way everywhere – and it seems like it is mostly in the Baptist/penticostal/non-denom camp but all this focus and energy on growing the congregation and behaving a certain way exhausts me just hearing about it.

      My church is slowly dying – partly because of demographics, parishoners are getting old as the surrounding community is getting old. There has been some talk of seeking out and gathering in, but we have come to the conclusion that all that really means for us is that we would be stealing from one pot of parishoners to feed another. Sometimes you have to let things go if the community as a whole is being served by other churches in the area with the same faith tradition. In a way that’s freeing.

      Accountability partners- I once went to the stadium thing – (PromiseKeepers? seems to have fizzled out) where they called all to be accountable (and called even more to do an alter call) – they preached this once groups were to be formed after the show (I did enjoy it by the way). Since I already had a spiritual director and confession I did not see a need for me – in a way I saw it as someone (especially those who like power) to take advantage – and no one is really trained. On the flip side though I could also see it as a way for folks to form a close bond – but I also know not everyone is wired to be that open.

  15. Funny how all of you were so very wrong about Church for the past 20-30 years, and now you say you have it right.

    • Nope…not for this agnostic 😯

      • Eagle – Are you truly an agnostic?

        Just a little about my own journey; at one point I was so wounded that I lifted my salute finger to the sky and told God to kill me. When that didn’t work I told Him I didn’t even know if I believed him anymore. In my heart of hearts I really did believe but I was so pissed off that I wanted to lash out and hurt Him any way I could because I was so hurt.

        • Dan-

          I’m pretty pissed and was hurt by evangelicalism. I don’t deny that aspect. However I’m also in my mid 30’s and burned out by religion and faith. I’ve been involved in 3 faith systems and have backed off from anything now. I do know the Bible fairly well after reading it and being in Bible studies for almost 10 years. However I also notice problems in Christinaity and faith. I have deep doubts that have created uncertainity of what I believe. For example I have a hard time understanding why a loving God would knowingly allow a child to be molested. I can’t understand why Christians proclaim this same God to be good. The fact that God allows evil like to happen is appalling and I think God (if he exists…) loses all moral credibility. For me its even more sickening to know that God knows its going to happen and does nothing. Nothing!! If you ignored a child and allowed him to be harmed long term and didn’t report it to the authorities where you live you could also face legal challenges. Why Christians let God off the hook on that issue astounds me. There are a host of other issues that bother me as well. I submitted them actually as questions to Chaplin Mike.

          • It might be because we don’t truly understand who God is. We shove him in this tiny box whose walls are the attributes we force upon him (Omniscience, etc..). Then when we see horrific evil, and cannot explain it, we just have to almost ignore it and say, “God allows this to happen for a reason.”

            We talk about spiritual warfare, but I don’t think we believe in it. At least in America, our idea of spiritual warfare is just the question of whether or not we are strong enough to resist temptation to do bad stuff. But in a WAR, a spiritual WAR, you’re going to experience heavy losses (including horrible things that happen to innocent people) and God just doesn’t bail us out sometimes.

            I don’t know why, but I do know that Evangelicalism doesn’t have the answer.

          • Those are good questions with no easy answers. I appreciate the honesty of them and the courage it takes to face them head on. The issue of pain has always been the most difficult for the pilgrim heart. I don’t have any answers that wrap up nicely in a box w/ a bow but I have a lot of thoughts on the issue.

            This would be easier to discuss over a cup of coffee, but I’ll try it hear. My thoughts go something like this…

            -God gave this world to us therefore He doesn’t make the world the way it is, we do.
            -So then why does He allow us to screw it up so bad?
            -We have real choice. That isn’t possible without the ability to screw up real bad.
            -But why does He wait so long to judge the really bad people who hurt others?
            -He is merciful. He waits longer to judge than we think He should because He is merciful and wants people to turn to Him. I should be thankful for this since, if I am honest, I have to admit that I am as bad as anyone and deserve to be fried along with them.
            -But why, knowing all this in advance, did He make this whole crappy place to begin with? There is way more pain here than anything else. Wouldn’t it have been better to just leave us and this whole hell-hole unmade?
            -Someday it will all be worth it. What is coming is so good that it will make is us forget the pain of this place.

            Obviously, those are the (very) abbreviated version of my thoughts but you get the gist. My biggest challenge is holding on to the hope that it will all be worth it. I often lose that hope, fall into despair, and rail against God for ever bringing me into existence. He patiently waits till I am done and then encourages me to get up and keep moving forward.

          • MStephens says:

            Two answers. At one point Jesus said, “It must needs be that offenses must come, but wo unto them by whom they come.” There’s a day of reckoning.

            Second, Christ didn’t just suffer for the sins of the offenders, He also suffered the pains of the victims so that He could know how to heal them. If His mercy is only for the sinners and not for the sufferers, then He’s not a deliverer for all the broken.

    • Tony, I wonder if you’ve been reading IM for long. The very reason we have these discussions is because none of us “have it right”! Many of us are still in the wilderness when it comes to “church” and are trying to help each other by having conversations about what we’re seeing on the ecclesiological landscape.

      • +1

      • +2

        Most Lutherans will tell you that they don’t “have it right”. There seems to be a much greater dependence upon Jesus. There are a few arrogant Lutheran theologians out there, who put their confidence in having the right beliefs, but the most that I know are more than willing to admit their sinfulness, brokenness, and need for Jesus.

      • Doesn’t +1 mean “Yeah, that’s right!!” Hmmm…

    • I don’t hear anyone saying “I have it right..’ I do hear some folks saying “I have it better than…..” and then giving reasons why they think that is so. These are two very different statements.

      Your point is well taken if you are leaning toward a caution toward the attitude of the pharisee in front of the tax collector: “I’m so glad that I am NOT like that guy…..” Hopefully in having this discussion, we realize we are ALL “that guy” and we cry out for HIS grace/enablement to be made into someone better.

      GregR

      • As a long time IM reader, I very much feel that this blog is taking on the role of the Pharisee as opposed to the publican. It seems we keep say, “look how screwed up evangelicalism is and keeps getting. So glad we know that sacramentalism is clearly way better.”

        For me it’s not even the point (which I think IM has it right), its the attitude in the comments that so oft putting.

        • This is “the other side of the rail” that everyone must be on the watch for; one rail is “I dare not say anything negative, i need to be a Phil. 4:8 christian and be positive” and the other rail is what you’ve pointed out “I”m better than so-and-so because” . Your comment gets at motive, which is hard to judge: is a failing pointed out because we genuinely want things to get better and the Kingdom of God move forward, or do want to self-congratulate ourselves , and make ourselves wise in our own eyes ??

          Personally, I don’t care for either rail, and I know I need a lot of help to be both discerning and humble. As Chap Mike has mentioned a few times: IMONK is NOT real life; it takes real people and real community to keep us between the rails.

          GregR

          • iMonk is not real life… yeah, good reminder. Thanx

          • The Guy from Knoxville says:

            greg r – I agree completely with that……. believe me I’ve tended to ride the rail far too much – especially the “I dare not say anything negative……” one. Much of that has come from the fact that for so many years that’s the way I was brought up and taught and only in recent years, looking back, have I began to see much of this for what it is and there’s not much to be encouraged about plus alot of this ends up being years of pent up junk be vented. I agree on what CM said – this is not real life….. real life is, as you stated, between the rails however, many (if not all) of us ride the rails from time to time and some longer/more than others and I’m mindful of that yet when I read these posts this week I see all this mess in the churches I’ve been in and I suppose I wish or would like to think I could have done more to stop this nonsense that ‘s going on……. but, I didn’t or at least not as much as I could and there are some regrets mixed in the responses as well but I think (hopefully) the end of my pent up frustrations is near an end and there will be more positive rather than negative.

          • @Knoxville: I’m so in tune with your response. I grew up (spiritually) in a “thou shalt not disagree with Daddy/national apostle-dude” type church. Then I found I-Monk and let myself get too cranky here and there. I’m still looking for balance, and GOD is helping me daily. I think a passionate discussion can happen that is helpful without it being ‘spiritual survivor island’.

            As to things changing (from the past, that is), I have my regrets also. It’s hard to know when something absolutely MUST be said, but let GOD be GOD, and hopefully we’ll hear HIS prompting. And of course the prompting to shut up also (one mouth….two ears…and all that).

            GregR

        • That is what bugged me so much about yesterday’s posts and I’ve been thinking about that very same parable.

          I once heard a man teach on Luke 18 and he closed his class by praying “Thank you God that we aren’t like the Pharisee.” No Joke. I cringed inside and thought, “Did you understand that passage at all?” The Pharisee and the sinner are virtually the same, except that the sinner realizes his condition. But realizing his condition does not make him superior to the Pharisee, it just opens the door for God’s grace. We all screw up and we need to give others the same grace we so desperately want and need.

        • Sigh…You’re right. And I sigh (or rather, I type the word “sigh”) because I know that I’m guilty. And I hope you don’t get put off by comments, mine included, that veer into arrogance. Because that’s exactly when a “wow, you’re an arrogant prick” post is needed. (But maybe with more tact and nuance than “wow, you’re an arrogant prick.”) And usually, at least a few of the commenters are able to deliver that sort of post when it’s needed.

  16. Somewhat related, my Evangelical friends used to ding me for joining the Catholic Church, as it had crucifixes instead of crosses. The said, “it’s because WE serve a Risen Lord, unlike the Catholic Church.” Doh!

    But Catholic churches have the crucifix–not because Christ isn’t risen–but because the Cross is so intrinsic to our lives (suffering, hurt, pain caused by sin). Hence Paul speaking of knowing Christ and Him crucified. When you are hurting for whatever reason, seeing an image of Jesus on the Cross can be a source of tremendous consolation.

    • Maybe both groups need to do a massive CROSS/CRUCIFIX swap. Protestants get to go further in growing through hard times and Catholics get to rejoice in a Christ WHO has “risen indeed”. There: a WIN-WIN.

  17. Lisa Dye says:

    Thanks, Allen for writing about this. I’m always amazed at how much I learn here at IM.

    One serious gap in my plunge (I was 14 and the only Christian in my family) into faith in Christ is lack of theological formation or instruction. I think I was past the age when much of that would have occurred in Sunday School and the churches I attended in the wake of my conversion minored in it or missed it altogether. I often don’t have language to articulate what I observe. This article helps me, muddling along though I am, to see the spiritual transition I have been experiencing for a while.

  18. I think that Issues, Etc. on Pirate Christian Radio describes the best way to diagnose if you’ve heard a Christian sermon or not:

    1. How often is Jesus mentioned? Just keep a running count (many “christian” preachers fail to mention Christ).
    2. Is Jesus the subject of the verbs? Is Jesus the one who acts, or is it the Christian who needs to act?
    3. What are the verbs? What has Jesus done and what is He doing?
    4. Is Sin our problem? Or is it not doing enough, or having a better attitude, or just being misinformed.

    This diagnostic has kept me awake through several sermons and caused me to verbally assault several televisions and radios.

  19. My idea of a Christian sermon:

    The law (what we should, ought, or must be doing – and or the crushing burdens of life, etc.) so that nobody is left standing (including the preacher)…and then the gospel for the forgiveness of sins and the promise of new life.

    No how-to’s, or specific marching orders on what to do.

    Although general encouragement (you are now FREE to go and live – and be a good neighbor) is ok.

  20. For my Lutheran friends, find Kevin DeYoung’s blog entry for June 23rd on thegospelcoalition.org website. He has a blog entry “What’s Up With Lutherans?” that relates to the comments in today’s blog.

  21. *sigh*

    This is a good article, but there were already 97 comments before I even read it. I feel like it’s too late to even think about contributing to the conversation.

    This is why we need IM Forums! yeah!

  22. Anyone mentioned CS Lewis’ “The Inner Ring” yet? A great essay that has to do with the “crowd and core” theme.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And with Gnosticism (core = Those With Speshul Sekrit Spiritual Knowledge) and Clericalism (core = Priest/Monk/Nun/Pastor/Missionary/CCM Singer). All others (crowd) left out.

  23. One more Mike says:

    Very late to the conversation; have been dealing with aging parent issues. I wonder how the Megachurch my parents attend will deal with the issues my elderly parents are faced with? But I digress….

    I have been attending a small ELCA congregation near my house. It’s been very refreshing. When I’m there I’m in a sacred place, and the confession, Lord’s prayer, Bach hymns and most importantly an open table will keep me coming back. I don’t know if I’ll “become” Lutheran, but right now this is a place where I feel holy.

  24. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “If you have sex before marriage, the rest of your life will terrible”

    I saved myself for marriage. No sex before marriage. Largely because of that, I never was able to marry. Want to trade your “terrible” rest of your life for my lonely one?

    In one local church, the pastor ordained his son into the ministry, who then paraded his father, beautiful wife, and beautiful daughter before the crowd and said “If you follow God, you will have a happy and beautiful family like I have.”

    See above. With a twist of the knife. I rest my case.

  25. >> I realized the “How to be a better ___ in ___ easy steps” sermons were merely a rework of the law.

    I don’t understand the thought process here. I wish it was elaborated on. For one thing, the Law were the commandments of God (!) to the Jewish people (!!) according to which they should live unless they wanted to be annihilated by their enemies and dragged off into foreign lands (!!!). How, exactly, is this (or any) gentile church growth method at all like that?

    >> I started down the historical path, reading my way backward through history. . . . After studying history, I decided . . .

    I also don’t have any conception what is meant here by “history” or “historical.” When I say I want to start down the historical path or study history, the very last connection I would ever have is one which tells me my church has to follow a certain creed or follow a particular priestly ordinance. To me, coming out with basically nothing more than some requirement for a faith community is exactly the kind of response one would get who is focused on trying to fulfill “works of the law,” not anything having to do with history. But then again, it could be that I just don’t understand what the author is trying to communicate (which is very probable).

    >> I have found this distinction the simplest way to describe many of my frustrations with the evangelical world. But, I have also had my frustrations.

    I can’t be the only one who doesn’t understand this at all.

    >> I believe that in their history they have the answer to today’s crisis in evangelical circles

    It sure would be nice if the author shared with us what the crisis in evangelical circles is and what the answer in the Lutheran history is to it. These things seem important.

    >> The “Theology of the Cross” is core to who you are, and is a desperately needed message in a world dominated by prosperity gospel.

    Okay, so I admit to not getting anything that was said before… But at least now I understand a little (I think). 1. There’s a model of church growth used primarily by evangelicals. 2. There’s something called the Theology of the Cross that Lutherans know about (whatever that is…I sure wish it would have been shared with the rest of us). 3. Somehow (?) this can help everyone (or just evangelicals?).

    >> The evangelical in me wants to tell the Lutherans to proclaim this particular distinctiveness strongly and with passion

    So BECAUSE the author’s evangelical, he wants to tell the Lutherans to stick to what makes them distinctive… and yet finds fault with what makes makes evangelicals distinctive (apparently their focus on the Theology of Grace). ??? Am I the only one who thinks that doesn’t make sense at all?

    What, exactly, did any of this have to do with the Nicene Creed, the sacraments of baptism and communion, historical study, or reworking of the Law?