Friday, January 30, 2009

Sacrificing pure doctrine?

In another forum, I recently saw it said regarding changes made in congregations by the pastor, "sometimes we have to sacrifice our pure doctine (in letter) to embrace and live it [in] spirit."

Now, I have known guys entering their first call to the parish, who have made the mistake of hastily moving liturgical furniture or forcing changes on a congregation with negative results for the church as a whole. I myself did ask my congregation to modify a celebrant's chair when I arrived, but it was because I couldn't fit my 330 lb. frame between its arms, so I don't think that is part of this category, and nobody seemed to be offended.

However, it doesn't seem to me that a pastor should avoid guiding his congregation toward change. It seems it would be inadvisable to ever "sacrifice" pure doctrine, especially in light of the many admonitions in the pastoral epistles against doing so. It seems a dangerous framework to place pure doctrine and life in the Spirit in opposition to one another. However, there is certainly something to be said for wisdom and patience when promoting change.

Live where the people live. Get to know them, their church, their culture. Understand why they have the practice they currently have. Learn the history. Go to people's homes. Meet them for coffee. Ask them questions. Show them respect. Spend time brushing up on the topics that they care deeply about. Inspire them. Show them they can trust you as a man and as a pastor. Teach them the Word. Know the difference between a practice which detracts from Jesus versus one that is just eccentric. Talk to them about what you see, "not lording it over them," but as a fellow Christian. Then, the desired changes will come by consensus rather than conflict.

It's not a sacrifice of doctrine, but a sacrifice of the arrogance and selfish pride that expects people to change just because the pastor said so, even though they haven't a clue about why he objects. If we neglect to lead our people toward purer understanding and a practice which clearly reflects pure doctrine, we have failed to do our full duty as pastors. On the other hand, if we recklessly drive them like cattle rather than carefully shepherding them, we will learn that sheep too can stampede!

"Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is within you, but do so with gentleness and respect." (1 Peter 3:15) It's not spirit or doctrine, it's spirit and doctrine; not mission versus purity, but a mission which prolaims purely and a purity which inspires mission. Our task as pastors is not to tilt the scales toward one or the other, but to lead and be an example to our people in fully embracing both.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lutheran Study Bible

The first sneak pre-preview is out! Lutherans will finally have a study bible with LUTHERAN notes instead of warmed-over Zondervan! Praise the Lord!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lutheran Reformission

What, then, is a Lutheran Reformission? Why would a Lutheran want to adopt this term?

First, Lutherans are the originators and true heirs of the Reformation. I had been searching and contemplating for over 2 years on a new blog title, and early in 2008 this word, "Reformission," came on to my radar. From the first time I heard it, I knew it was the perfect term for what I had envisioned. Add to that my new task of being chairman of Iowa District West's Personal Missions Committee, and it becomes even more appropriate to use this title.

Even though there have been notable lapses, Lutherans, especially of the Missouri Synod variety, have long been known for doctrinal faithfulness. We have also done a fairly commendable job at sending professional missionaries for the task of foreign missions, as evidenced by the fact that there are now significantly more Lutherans today in Africa than in North America. However, whether deserved or not, we have had a notoriously poor reputation for the task of personal missions--that is, engaging in evangelism ourselves among our friends, family, and neighbors. (Future posts will address this idea in greater detail.)

In today's Missouri Synod, there has sometimes been the perception that doctrinal faithfulness and an enthusiasm for mission are conflicting priorities. Although this dichotomy is not officially enshrined in Lutheran doctrine or Missouri Synod positions, it has been a practical reality more often than we would like to admit. We have too often been under the impression that we must choose between ignoring (if not outright compromising) doctrine for the sake of missional effectiveness or turning our focus inward to purify doctrine at the expense of engaging in mission.

A "Lutheran Reformission" is appropriate because it embraces both doctrinal faithfulness and a passion for missions, resulting in missional doctrine and doctrinal mission.

Even though the term itself has roots outside our denominational fellowship, the concept is applicable regardless of the specifics of confession. Doctrine and Mission work together in the life of the Church.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Reformission History

What is the origin of this word, "Reformission"? Where did it come from?

You will not find it defined in any dictionary. The word is a conflation of "Reformation" and "Mission." It is inteded to refer to both the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century as well as the continual reform (that is repentance from our errors) of the present-day Church, and to connect these with the task of a Mission which is local and personal. The earliest usage of the word that I have been able to find in my research has been by Mark Driscoll in his books Radical Reformission" (2004) and Confessions of a Reformission Rev. (2006).

Because of his early involvement with figures such as Dan Kimball and Brian McLaren, and because of his church, Mars Hill, holds a similar method of cultural engagement, some have considered Driscoll part of the "Emerging Church" movement. If one were to consider him part of this movement, however, it must be understood that the "Emerging Church" is not a well-defined movement, but a term broadly used to cover a variety of expressions. Some, using the term "Emergent" have tended toward a modern repackaging classic liberal Christianity. Others, who Driscoll refers to as "Emerging Reformers," have combined a strong doctrinal emphasis (most often Calvinist) with an aptitude for cultural engagement. It is this second expression of the "Emerging" movement which has tended to embrace the term "Reformission".

In Radical Reformission, Driscoll defines "Reformission" as "a radical call to reform the church's traditionally flawed view of missions as something carried out only in foreign lands and to focus instead on the urgent need in our own neighborhoods, which are filled with diverse cultures of Americans who desperately need the gospel of Jesus and life in his church." He goes on to explain reformission in terms of faithfulness to the Gospel, commitment to the Church, and engagement of the Culture.

In light of this history, I would define "Reformission" as an expression of Christianity which is doctrinally faithful, fervently missional, and culturally aware.