The emergent church meets the “Spirituality of the Cross”

I am very grateful to Dan, who had said that he was influenced by my book Spirituality of the Cross and, in answer to Paul McCain’s query, explained why. I am posting it here, even though it’s long, because you might have missed it. I offer it to you not because of the kind things he said about my book but because Dan gives some trenchant critiques, born of experience, to the emerging church and other cutting edge movements in American evangelicalism. It’s moving to hear his account of how he moved back into historic Christianity and how my book played a role in that (s.d.g.). It also demonstrates what I have long thought, that Lutheranism is the true emergent church, answering every one of its valid concerns and avoiding every one of its weaknesses. Here is what Dan says (and I urge you to follow up with his blog, linked below):

I’m comfortable posting here. There are a few prevalent ideas that are very popular in the house church crowd, and I have fallen prey to them for quite some time. In many ways I am still coming out of all this. I’m going to answer your question about Veith’s book in a very round-a-bout way, stay with me.

It is extremely couth to question authority and to doubt and challenge tradition in my generation. This comes as no surprise to most of you, but it is somehow embedded in my genes. In my personal observation (which may be very limited), it seems that most folks in my parents’ generation take the pastor’s word for it because they trust his authority. My generation doesn’t do that. You need to prove why I should trust you.

After reading Frank Viola’s “Pagan Christianity,” I had a lot of questions and plenty of ammo. I went to several local pastors (a few of them LCMS) and none of them could give me an intelligible response to the book. One pastor had read the book and was questioning his own tradition as a result – we were practically in the same boat. The book really set me on a path of rejecting the institutional church for a couple of years, and it caused me to really study church history and how our Christian practices came to be. Unfortunately, it set me on the wrong path, but my studies in church history set me straight (largely due to the fact that my wife is earning an M.A. in Theology, so good church history books are abundant in our house). While Viola and Barna make profound points about some church practices, their church history leaves a lot to be desired. Their “analysis” is a mishmash of outdated secondary sources, out-of-context quotations, unsupported hypotheses, and personal prejudices. Even worse, on those occasions where legitimate experts on the field are cited (i.e., Dom Gregory Dix, Paul F. Bradshaw, Alexander Schmeman) their views are taken so out of context as to have them seemingly ally with the authors when in fact their views are quite the opposite. But no pastors were able to tell me that. I had to do my own research. Sadly, I don’t think most folks who read this book will do the same, nor do many know how.

Despite having sorted through some of the faulty church history in “Pagan Christianity,” a lot of the ideology still stuck. Especially since it has been continually reinforced by books like “unChristian,” “Reimagining Church,” “Blue Like Jazz,” “Revolution,” “The Untold Story of the New Testament,” etc. In many ways, “Blue Like Jazz” got me started on this whole kick back when I attended Concordia Seward (prior to dropping out and leaving the church altogether). The book is still extremely popular in young adult circles, including in the LCMS.

Only within the last year or so have I begun to deconstruct the deconstruction, so to speak. I began by reading “Why We’re Not Emergent” and “Why We Love the Church,” both by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. Those books helped me realize that “so much that passes for spirituality these days is nothing more than middle class, 20-something coffee culture. If you like jazz, soul patches, earth tone furniture, and lattes, that’s cool. But this culture is no holier than the McNugget, Hi-C, Value City, football culture that most people live in. Why does incarnational ministry usually mean hanging out at Starbucks instead of McDonalds?” (Kevin DeYoung, http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2009/01/29/jesus-came-to-save-grimace-and).

But these books and all my research thus far still only brought me to a point where I essentially could respect the institutional church as a valid form of ministry, but I still thought it was the least effective approach and continued to hold most of my Viola/Barna-inspired prejudices.

The two prevailing areas of cognitive dissonance that I still retained at that point were:
1. The clergy/laity distinction
2. The sacred/secular dichotomy

These two areas are widely attacked by house church folks, and they make some pretty good arguments. Let me begin with the clergy/laity distinction. I blog frequently at prayeramedic.com, and you can actually watch my progression of thought on this issue. When first confronted with the idea that there is no hierarchy whatsoever in church leadership, and that church leaders have no authority over church members, I knew it was wrong. It went against Scripture. I immediately pointed this out: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/biblical-leadership/

You’ll see that I used Scripture to demonstrate that church leaders had genuine authority and that this was God-given. But then I read Viola’s book and continued to listen to the house church crowd. I then wrote this post: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/secular-job/

That’s a huge shift in a VERY short period of time. The subtle deception that I didn’t recognize at the time is co-mingling the two issues I listed above into being one and the same. In fact, I probably need to take down this blog post – but I’ll leave it up for now.

In many ways, I was right. The things I have been griping about in the church are extremely prevalent in mainstream evangelical churches. The pastor is more of a CEO than a spiritual leader and so much of what is being passed off as spirituality is empty emotions, false hope, deception, manipulation, etc. It didn’t help that my wife and I were extremely jaded by the church. I was serving as a young adult minister in a Pentecostal church where things got out of hand and my wife was asked to leave (but I was not). To make a long story short, we left then got mixed up in a United Pentecostal cult (denies Trinity, requires baptism in Jesus’ name only), we left there and got into some wacky charismaniac groups, then we found “mainstream” churches that might as well have called their sermons “motivational speaking” or “lessons in morality.” It was all so shallow and insincere, and so fake. It’s no wonder that the house church message was so appealing.

The postmodern mantra seems to be “authenticity,” “community,” “experiential,” “participatory,” etc. and that appeals to someone who has only seen fake, inauthentic expressions of faith that have more to do with making people feel good about themselves. I also was struggling with some major sin issues and so were many other folks I knew, but the church was not a place we felt free to confess these things. Nor was it a place where we felt welcome to be ourselves. To most folks Church is just a cultural thing, something they do, not something they are. The house church mantra cries out that the church is an organism, not an organization. This still appeals to me in many ways.

And we can learn a lot from house church folks. But their fatal flaw is dismissing the institutional church, altogether. Both are valid ministry models that can coexist – and each has its unique strengths and weaknesses.

Enter Veith’s book. I started looking for books on spirituality, and I found “Grace Upon Grace” by Kleinig. I started reading it and enjoyed it, but I found his writing style difficult to stick with for lengthy periods of time, kind of like reading Kierkegaard or ancient church literature. I then found “Spirituality of the Cross.” Remember that my main two issues were clergy/laity and sacred/secular.

Veith’s writing style was so easy to read and approachable that I read the book in only a few sittings (similar to Viola/Barna books). Veith really threw me off guard by building a comprehensive model of spirituality and avoiding intellectual quibbles. The answer to the sacred/secular problem is the doctrine of the two kingdoms, and the answer to clergy/laity is the doctrine of the vocation. People had told me this before, but only in theological terms. Veith explained these doctrines in an authentic way, explaining them in a way that actually made me consider how I should live in light of these truths – not just how I should think.

He immediately tore down the false approaches to God from Koberle: moral, intellectual and mystical. Even though I had heard Koberle’s ideas before, the way Veith explained it made me go “aha!” I got it. His talk about the presence and hiddenness of God was profound as well. I always viewed the Lutheran view of the Sacraments as being only slightly removed from Catholicism. I basically figured that Catholicism was so ingrained in Luther that he didn’t want to stray far in the means of grace doctrines. But Veith clearly explained the mystery and beauty of these means in a practical way.

I was so confused after all of my experience with charismatic churches and the general teachings of the prosperity gospel and positive confession that are so prevalent in American Christianity. Veith really helped draw the big picture for me, what spirituality really looks like. It isn’t so much about “doing big things for God,” as it is about yielding to God in the small things and recognizing how many big things God IS DOING that we neglect, like what He accomplishes through His means of grace and regular worship.

I felt as though I had been lied to and deceived by Christianity, as though I had fallen prey to a “bait and switch” tactic. But God had been working all along, I had simply been taught to seek Him according to my own will, not His.

Also Veith, citing C.S. Lewis, helped me realize that by spending all my time in limbo I was missing out on true community. The entire time I thought that the traditions and customs were the culprit, but I came to realize that sin and human depravity was the real issue. I had been imposing impossible ideals on the people of God, looking for a perfect church in many ways. I didn’t think this was the case, I would claim I wanted an authentic church, not a perfect church. Veith showed me that as a child of God, I often don’t even want the right things. What I need most is often not what I desire. There’s far more authenticity in bad coffee, hard pews, and people of all generations who aren’t very cool and often aren’t very intellectual than there is in coffee shops, smartly-dressed people, and haughty lounges with only folks from one generation who think they know everything. When you think about it, the emergent church is really only a white, suburban, 18-35 yr old movement. That is very limited and is not cross-generational and interracial (issues the emergent church often critique mainstream evangelicals for). Jesus died for all people of all nations, races, and languages – not just for a select group of haughty young adults.

All in all, Veith challenged me to think critically about my presuppositions. He showed me that I was simply chasing after another fad, setting myself up for another disappointment and further disillusionment. All the while I was seeking authenticity, truth, community, experiences with God, and to be used by God. Veith made it clear that I have been misdiagnosing the issue altogether. The problem isn’t a lack of these things, the problem is sin. The answer is the cross. This is the only true spirituality. This is the only true contentment. I must seek Christ, all these other things flow only from that. When we put the cart before the horse we end up with another man-made institution, even if it meets in homes.

I still have unanswered questions (end times, women in ministry, etc.), but these are not as important as the central issues: Jesus Christ, sin and forgiveness, the cross. I had been struggling a lot with daily prayer prior to reading Veith’s book. After reading it I came to see that in many ways, tradition keeps me safe. Tradition is not always bad. I traditionally wash every morning, and that keeps me from smelling like a farm animal. I now use “Treasury of Daily Prayer” to get in the Word and pray daily, and it works for me. Before I would have never done this, claiming it would be “quenching the Spirit” and binding me in traditions. But you know what? For all my complaints, I wasn’t praying. Now I am. The simple format makes it harder for my flesh to get distracted. I’m a lot weaker than I used to think I was. I am far more dependent on Christ than I realized. This is humbling. This is almost humiliating. But I was wrong. I NEED Jesus. I NEED His grace. I NEED structure. I NEED accountability. I NEED fellowship. And the house church movement made me doubt and mistrust the very things that could have brought me freedom. All relationships are guarded and preserved by structure. Try telling your wife after you’ve had an affair, “Come on, I thought our marriage was about the relationship, not all these do’s and don’ts.” I’ve learned to embrace the structure, rather than fight it and “deconstruct” it.

So I am probably rambling now. The bottom line is that through reading Veith’s book, the Holy Spirit has taught me some important things (and He continues to do so). I have learned that Jesus Christ is the focal point of Christianity, not authenticity, community or anything else. This fact requires that we live differently, not simply pay lip service to this fact intellectually while practically pursuing other things. If Jesus Christ is at the center of our spirituality then a lot of things are different. I still agree with many of my gripes about mainstream churches, but the Lutheran faith offers something more stable than the changing winds of most of these groups (in most cases), it simply points me to Jesus.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Tom Hering

    I found “Pagan Christianity” appealing. But one thing occurred to me right away after I read it: someone has to lead a house church, and what’s to keep that person from becoming a cult figure, or a little dictator?

    A congregation submitting itself from the beginning to an orthodox confession – and devoting itself to a traditional liturgy – protects the congregation from leaders who want to teach their own views, and follow their own practices. (Been there, seen that, and it can be awfully oppressive.)

  • Tom Hering

    I found “Pagan Christianity” appealing. But one thing occurred to me right away after I read it: someone has to lead a house church, and what’s to keep that person from becoming a cult figure, or a little dictator?

    A congregation submitting itself from the beginning to an orthodox confession – and devoting itself to a traditional liturgy – protects the congregation from leaders who want to teach their own views, and follow their own practices. (Been there, seen that, and it can be awfully oppressive.)

  • David T.

    Fascinating. I’m not exactly sure why (maybe someone can explain it better), but when I read through this testimony of Dan I am also reminded of the great tradition of reciting, believing, and confessing the historical creeds which, when one thinks about it, counter the false trends within Christendom (including liberalism, the emergent church, the prosperity gospel, pietism, etc). These creeds, instead, appear to support the very basic assumptions of Veith’s book. The creeds ground us in the persons of the Triune God and their work in time and space, all of which are taught in the inspired and inerrant Word.

  • David T.

    Fascinating. I’m not exactly sure why (maybe someone can explain it better), but when I read through this testimony of Dan I am also reminded of the great tradition of reciting, believing, and confessing the historical creeds which, when one thinks about it, counter the false trends within Christendom (including liberalism, the emergent church, the prosperity gospel, pietism, etc). These creeds, instead, appear to support the very basic assumptions of Veith’s book. The creeds ground us in the persons of the Triune God and their work in time and space, all of which are taught in the inspired and inerrant Word.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    I will always be proud that Dan was one of my students.

  • http://chaz-lehmann.livejournal.com Rev. Charles Lehmann

    I will always be proud that Dan was one of my students.

  • Peter Leavitt

    It is inspiring to hear from an honest person in search of faith and gratifying that Dan saw his way through to an orthodox Lutheran church with its assortment of fallen human members. His account of the “spirituality” search of the cool young people is reminiscent of the Gnosticism of some early Christians that some still find appealing. The desire for special inside knowledge that separates one from the crowd is deeply rooted.

    The best modern apologetic for Christianity that I know of is David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies.

  • Peter Leavitt

    It is inspiring to hear from an honest person in search of faith and gratifying that Dan saw his way through to an orthodox Lutheran church with its assortment of fallen human members. His account of the “spirituality” search of the cool young people is reminiscent of the Gnosticism of some early Christians that some still find appealing. The desire for special inside knowledge that separates one from the crowd is deeply rooted.

    The best modern apologetic for Christianity that I know of is David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s always nice to see someone’s journey arrive at the point at which you were already standing (at least, to some degree), and to be reminded of why you like it where you are. Not that this is merely a story of someone who finally realized people like me were right, of course. Still, we cradle Lutherans don’t get to tell stories like this, so it’s nice to read other people’s stories.

    Would that everybody in Lutheran churches (even in just the confessional ones) had such an appreciation for Lutheran explanations of Biblical teaching! Too often, those of us who’ve been here too long forget that we have it so good (as it were) and go off in search of the ideas Dan rejected, among others. And if we don’t do our best to run away from the beauty of Lutheran theology, then at least we can be accused of doing our best to keep it a secret (Veith’s book notwithstanding). How often do we make Lutheranism look like something less than it is, something less than what Dan found? We make it look like just another kind of American (!) Protestantism, or right-wing culture, or a moral framework, or whatever. Pity. Because what we actually confess is so much bigger than that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    It’s always nice to see someone’s journey arrive at the point at which you were already standing (at least, to some degree), and to be reminded of why you like it where you are. Not that this is merely a story of someone who finally realized people like me were right, of course. Still, we cradle Lutherans don’t get to tell stories like this, so it’s nice to read other people’s stories.

    Would that everybody in Lutheran churches (even in just the confessional ones) had such an appreciation for Lutheran explanations of Biblical teaching! Too often, those of us who’ve been here too long forget that we have it so good (as it were) and go off in search of the ideas Dan rejected, among others. And if we don’t do our best to run away from the beauty of Lutheran theology, then at least we can be accused of doing our best to keep it a secret (Veith’s book notwithstanding). How often do we make Lutheranism look like something less than it is, something less than what Dan found? We make it look like just another kind of American (!) Protestantism, or right-wing culture, or a moral framework, or whatever. Pity. Because what we actually confess is so much bigger than that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Several people have commented in the past few days about the dangers of untrained people leading churches that have no binding confession. And I’m reminded of nothing so much as the quote about “a nation of laws, not men,” and why that’s a good idea for running a country. Because men change. And fail. So it is with churches. If we have a theological standard that is independent of any man and grounded firmly in the Bible, then no matter what men come and go, we will be okay. Of course, it’s incumbent on the members to know that standard themselves, so they can measure their leaders (and themselves) by it, and correct things if they start to go astray.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Several people have commented in the past few days about the dangers of untrained people leading churches that have no binding confession. And I’m reminded of nothing so much as the quote about “a nation of laws, not men,” and why that’s a good idea for running a country. Because men change. And fail. So it is with churches. If we have a theological standard that is independent of any man and grounded firmly in the Bible, then no matter what men come and go, we will be okay. Of course, it’s incumbent on the members to know that standard themselves, so they can measure their leaders (and themselves) by it, and correct things if they start to go astray.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Wow, thanks. I didn’t realize my comment would have such an impact, praise be to God.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Wow, thanks. I didn’t realize my comment would have such an impact, praise be to God.

  • kerner

    No, Dan, Thank you.

    and tODD, good comments, and well said.

  • kerner

    No, Dan, Thank you.

    and tODD, good comments, and well said.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, on these religious issues we are apparently agreed, for which I am grateful.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Todd, on these religious issues we are apparently agreed, for which I am grateful.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    When the theologians say, “The best practical theology is systematic theology”, I’ll think about Dan’s remarks (along with Dr. Veith’s book as well of course).

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    When the theologians say, “The best practical theology is systematic theology”, I’ll think about Dan’s remarks (along with Dr. Veith’s book as well of course).

  • fws

    todd@ 6

    And I’m reminded of nothing so much as the quote about “a nation of laws, not men,”

    yup. Our leaders swear to defend the constitution, not the country. That is odd eh?

    And we Lutherans do best when we remember it is our radical Jesus permeated beliefs that are only what make us Lutheran. We can recognize the likes of Eugene Peterson and such as often teaching us what it means to be lutheran and to acknowledge that in many ways they are better lutherans than we are even if they happen to wear the label presbyterian.

    To be Lutheran is simply to always push to make everything only and all about Jesus. Law, gospel, worship, faith, life, creation, who God is, how to know him, and how he regards us. everything.

    Dan, you are a living example of what this relentless pursuit can look like. and there are others for whom this pursuit looks again different from you.

    When it all gets to be about Jesus, then individuals are free to be who they truly are. unique. unremarkable. unselfconscious. in service to others. Just like Jesus in the incarnation, who had to always be pointed out in a crowd, now in the form of Christ-in-us in our baptism. This Christ in us is alone our sanctification. what it looks like and all it means.

  • fws

    todd@ 6

    And I’m reminded of nothing so much as the quote about “a nation of laws, not men,”

    yup. Our leaders swear to defend the constitution, not the country. That is odd eh?

    And we Lutherans do best when we remember it is our radical Jesus permeated beliefs that are only what make us Lutheran. We can recognize the likes of Eugene Peterson and such as often teaching us what it means to be lutheran and to acknowledge that in many ways they are better lutherans than we are even if they happen to wear the label presbyterian.

    To be Lutheran is simply to always push to make everything only and all about Jesus. Law, gospel, worship, faith, life, creation, who God is, how to know him, and how he regards us. everything.

    Dan, you are a living example of what this relentless pursuit can look like. and there are others for whom this pursuit looks again different from you.

    When it all gets to be about Jesus, then individuals are free to be who they truly are. unique. unremarkable. unselfconscious. in service to others. Just like Jesus in the incarnation, who had to always be pointed out in a crowd, now in the form of Christ-in-us in our baptism. This Christ in us is alone our sanctification. what it looks like and all it means.

  • fws

    Dan I took a peep at your blog. it is all about serving others. How was that different before you started praying the way you do now? care to share a little more?

  • fws

    Dan I took a peep at your blog. it is all about serving others. How was that different before you started praying the way you do now? care to share a little more?

  • fws

    saddler @10

    “the best practical theology is systematic theology.”

    from what I read from veith and dan , this is true. but then the hub and spokes and material and other focus need to all be only and all about Jesus eh?

    And that doesn´t seem practical because it a real sense it is not. We need to acknowledge that as a fact. True God Pleasing visible and practical righteousness is about self discipline and love for neighbor. This is what our neighbors praise us for. This is right in a real sense isn´t it? And we should be diligent in seeking to be righteous this way because our neighbor needs it and we can be confident that this does please God.

    The Righteousness of faith does nothing for and so means nothing to our neighbor. That Righteousness is important only to God. And even if it “only” gives us comfort and our conscience a rest, it means everything to those who are in Christ.

    The best systematic theology is the one that is about the Blessed Incarnation to it´s core.

  • fws

    saddler @10

    “the best practical theology is systematic theology.”

    from what I read from veith and dan , this is true. but then the hub and spokes and material and other focus need to all be only and all about Jesus eh?

    And that doesn´t seem practical because it a real sense it is not. We need to acknowledge that as a fact. True God Pleasing visible and practical righteousness is about self discipline and love for neighbor. This is what our neighbors praise us for. This is right in a real sense isn´t it? And we should be diligent in seeking to be righteous this way because our neighbor needs it and we can be confident that this does please God.

    The Righteousness of faith does nothing for and so means nothing to our neighbor. That Righteousness is important only to God. And even if it “only” gives us comfort and our conscience a rest, it means everything to those who are in Christ.

    The best systematic theology is the one that is about the Blessed Incarnation to it´s core.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    Frank,

    It is a given that the ‘theology’ is all about Christ.

    Dan contrasted the free form, (allow the Spirit to work however He may) with a more regimented (litugical?) approach. That is a routine that tends to take the vagaries of the human nature out of the equation. This exercise naturally becomes more Christ centered rather than “What is my heart saying to me right now…?”.

    As an artisan/craftsman I think often of the phrase: Creativity cannot thrive in chaos. Perhaps we could say that a dependence on Christ alone cannot thrive in the chaos of the free-form method that Dan has apparently experimented with.

    Thus, the best practical theology is systematic theology where we are transported from our self-centered cravings to the realm of Christ alone.

  • http://www.caryschwarz.com saddler

    Frank,

    It is a given that the ‘theology’ is all about Christ.

    Dan contrasted the free form, (allow the Spirit to work however He may) with a more regimented (litugical?) approach. That is a routine that tends to take the vagaries of the human nature out of the equation. This exercise naturally becomes more Christ centered rather than “What is my heart saying to me right now…?”.

    As an artisan/craftsman I think often of the phrase: Creativity cannot thrive in chaos. Perhaps we could say that a dependence on Christ alone cannot thrive in the chaos of the free-form method that Dan has apparently experimented with.

    Thus, the best practical theology is systematic theology where we are transported from our self-centered cravings to the realm of Christ alone.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Hey fws, I’m not 100% sure I am following you. My blog has always been a service in regards to its content, I am merely sharing my thoughts and ideas and I hope that people find them informative.

    I actually stopped blogging for awhile because I felt that I wasn’t in the Word and prayer enough to bother sharing my thoughts. I find it very difficult to write meaningful content if I am not reading scripture and good, thought-provoking literature (not necessarily faith-based in nature).

    I don’t know if my content has changed much over the years, but my thoughts, beliefs and positions certainly have. But even still, there has been some steady themes throughout. I did change the sub-heading three times, however. It began as “Equipping His Remnant,” and it mostly was meant for close friends and regional readers at that time. It then became: “prayeramedic is an ongoing dialog about organic expressions of our vintage faith in Christ.” That was my more emerging/house churchy phase. Now it is simply: “prayeramedic: Preserving the Gospel.”

    Since I’ve been praying more, I think the content has become more balanced and more helpful. I used to only critique. It was mostly all Law. Now I try to balance it more, and share Law and Gospel (although I’m not always successful). If I critique, I try to also give suggestions, not simply damn the whole thing like I used to. I hope that answers your question.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Hey fws, I’m not 100% sure I am following you. My blog has always been a service in regards to its content, I am merely sharing my thoughts and ideas and I hope that people find them informative.

    I actually stopped blogging for awhile because I felt that I wasn’t in the Word and prayer enough to bother sharing my thoughts. I find it very difficult to write meaningful content if I am not reading scripture and good, thought-provoking literature (not necessarily faith-based in nature).

    I don’t know if my content has changed much over the years, but my thoughts, beliefs and positions certainly have. But even still, there has been some steady themes throughout. I did change the sub-heading three times, however. It began as “Equipping His Remnant,” and it mostly was meant for close friends and regional readers at that time. It then became: “prayeramedic is an ongoing dialog about organic expressions of our vintage faith in Christ.” That was my more emerging/house churchy phase. Now it is simply: “prayeramedic: Preserving the Gospel.”

    Since I’ve been praying more, I think the content has become more balanced and more helpful. I used to only critique. It was mostly all Law. Now I try to balance it more, and share Law and Gospel (although I’m not always successful). If I critique, I try to also give suggestions, not simply damn the whole thing like I used to. I hope that answers your question.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    P.S. I’ve burned a lot of bridges by only critiquing. It’s not really a fair fight when you throw out all institutional forms of ministry and offer no real recourse other than house churches. That approach really fails to think through a lot of variables.

    A recent Issues, Etc. interview about the vocation of minister really highlighted this for me. The pastor being interviewed pointed out that in the business world, the customer is always right. However in church, the customer is always wrong. He doesn’t desire the right things to begin with. So we can’t approach things in a business-oriented way, we must remember that in order for a minister to properly do his job, he simply must “administer” God’s Word and Sacraments. It’s not so much about spiritual leadership as it is selfless service. Selfless service isn’t easy, it’s hard to remain transparent to God’s operation through the Holy Spirit working in His Word and Sacraments. We like to get in the way.

    The house church folks like to point out (correctly) that we are all full-time ministers, but denounce any vocation of ministry (i.e. the pastoral office). But we never really see this model in use where everyone is equal and no one speaks out and leads in any capacity. That is chaos. We see that Paul clearly had authority in the New Testament and he wasn’t afraid to talk about it or use it. We see that people were appointed into positions of authority within the church. This was done for a reason. There’s a reason they picked deacons to serve food so that the leaders could focus more exclusively on “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is a needed vocation, and the New Testament even points out that it is an honorable one. See all of these scriptures here: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/biblical-leadership/

    Anyways, when you remove that authority like the house church folks do, it can devolve into heresy pretty quickly, since no one has the authority to exercise church discipline (“You’re judging me, what gives you any authority over me? I can live with my girlfriend if I want to! We’re not ‘living in sin!’) My observation is that a leader emerges within the house church group fairly quickly. Usually it’s the person who hosts or who began the meetings. Otherwise someone gets recognized for their knowledge or wisdom. Either way, they end up picking pastors but just call them something else. Unfortunately, they are against any formal training so these leaders never learn church history (we only need the Bible), and thus they are doomed to repeat it. It’s no wonder a lot of house churches are now resurrecting old heresies.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    P.S. I’ve burned a lot of bridges by only critiquing. It’s not really a fair fight when you throw out all institutional forms of ministry and offer no real recourse other than house churches. That approach really fails to think through a lot of variables.

    A recent Issues, Etc. interview about the vocation of minister really highlighted this for me. The pastor being interviewed pointed out that in the business world, the customer is always right. However in church, the customer is always wrong. He doesn’t desire the right things to begin with. So we can’t approach things in a business-oriented way, we must remember that in order for a minister to properly do his job, he simply must “administer” God’s Word and Sacraments. It’s not so much about spiritual leadership as it is selfless service. Selfless service isn’t easy, it’s hard to remain transparent to God’s operation through the Holy Spirit working in His Word and Sacraments. We like to get in the way.

    The house church folks like to point out (correctly) that we are all full-time ministers, but denounce any vocation of ministry (i.e. the pastoral office). But we never really see this model in use where everyone is equal and no one speaks out and leads in any capacity. That is chaos. We see that Paul clearly had authority in the New Testament and he wasn’t afraid to talk about it or use it. We see that people were appointed into positions of authority within the church. This was done for a reason. There’s a reason they picked deacons to serve food so that the leaders could focus more exclusively on “prayer and the ministry of the word.” This is a needed vocation, and the New Testament even points out that it is an honorable one. See all of these scriptures here: http://prayeramedic.com/2008/10/biblical-leadership/

    Anyways, when you remove that authority like the house church folks do, it can devolve into heresy pretty quickly, since no one has the authority to exercise church discipline (“You’re judging me, what gives you any authority over me? I can live with my girlfriend if I want to! We’re not ‘living in sin!’) My observation is that a leader emerges within the house church group fairly quickly. Usually it’s the person who hosts or who began the meetings. Otherwise someone gets recognized for their knowledge or wisdom. Either way, they end up picking pastors but just call them something else. Unfortunately, they are against any formal training so these leaders never learn church history (we only need the Bible), and thus they are doomed to repeat it. It’s no wonder a lot of house churches are now resurrecting old heresies.

  • John Tape

    Dan,
    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your honesty. But I am unclear on one point. Are you saying it is wrong or misguided for a congregation to own and operate a coffee shop that reaches out to the white, suburban, 18-35 yr olds? One coffee house operated by an LCMS church is Crave in St. Louis. http://www.cravestl.org/
    I don’t understand why that would necessarily be a bad thing. I am asking because our congregation is seriously considering this. Thanks for your help.

  • John Tape

    Dan,
    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your honesty. But I am unclear on one point. Are you saying it is wrong or misguided for a congregation to own and operate a coffee shop that reaches out to the white, suburban, 18-35 yr olds? One coffee house operated by an LCMS church is Crave in St. Louis. http://www.cravestl.org/
    I don’t understand why that would necessarily be a bad thing. I am asking because our congregation is seriously considering this. Thanks for your help.

  • A.D.P.

    Somewhat off topic (but the earlier posts on the book are buried), I received my copy in the mail today. Needless, to say, I appreciate the depth of the book a lot more now than when I was ten! In fact, I’d really like to be able to share the book with someone else, but I’m debating the best way to do that- hang onto it so I can lend it out if need be, or drop it off at the Bible/Christian book drive my church is doing for this organization: http://cribooks.homestead.com/bareyourbookshelf.html

  • A.D.P.

    Somewhat off topic (but the earlier posts on the book are buried), I received my copy in the mail today. Needless, to say, I appreciate the depth of the book a lot more now than when I was ten! In fact, I’d really like to be able to share the book with someone else, but I’m debating the best way to do that- hang onto it so I can lend it out if need be, or drop it off at the Bible/Christian book drive my church is doing for this organization: http://cribooks.homestead.com/bareyourbookshelf.html

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Hi Mr. Tape. Crave’s website appears to be down right now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a coffee shop to reach the 18-35 white, suburban demographic. Nor do I think it would be wrong to target any other demographic. If that is the primary demographic your congregation is in position to reach, go for it. My concern is when we get caught up in discussion about the emerging church so much that we exclude other demographic populations, including a majority of your congregation. There are many things that can be done to make the coffee shop a place where virtually any demographic within your congregation would feel comfortable. The facility can be used for small group bible studies, for instance.

    So no, I am not saying it is wrong to do this. Simply be sure to pray about the decision and seek God’s will, my opinion does not overturn His will. My complaint is merely how much attention seems to be given to one demographic, to the exclusion of many other precious people for whom Christ has died. I just all too often see churches on the edge of an African-American or Hispanic community plant a coffee shop further away in the white section of town, rather than opening their eyes to the demographic that has been placed right in front of them. I wrote a post entitled “Jonah-itis and Church Segregation,” (http://prayeramedic.com/2009/01/jonah-itis-and-church-segregation), in which I said:

    “[You] don’t have to drive to another neighborhood to reach out to people of a different culture — you just need to not flee when they move into yours.”

    Just some thoughts…. I hope I answered your question.

  • http://prayeramedic.com Dan

    Hi Mr. Tape. Crave’s website appears to be down right now. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a coffee shop to reach the 18-35 white, suburban demographic. Nor do I think it would be wrong to target any other demographic. If that is the primary demographic your congregation is in position to reach, go for it. My concern is when we get caught up in discussion about the emerging church so much that we exclude other demographic populations, including a majority of your congregation. There are many things that can be done to make the coffee shop a place where virtually any demographic within your congregation would feel comfortable. The facility can be used for small group bible studies, for instance.

    So no, I am not saying it is wrong to do this. Simply be sure to pray about the decision and seek God’s will, my opinion does not overturn His will. My complaint is merely how much attention seems to be given to one demographic, to the exclusion of many other precious people for whom Christ has died. I just all too often see churches on the edge of an African-American or Hispanic community plant a coffee shop further away in the white section of town, rather than opening their eyes to the demographic that has been placed right in front of them. I wrote a post entitled “Jonah-itis and Church Segregation,” (http://prayeramedic.com/2009/01/jonah-itis-and-church-segregation), in which I said:

    “[You] don’t have to drive to another neighborhood to reach out to people of a different culture — you just need to not flee when they move into yours.”

    Just some thoughts…. I hope I answered your question.

  • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    Mr. Veith…

    Your daughter, Joanna, generously sent me a copy of your book, as I had approached her with some theological issues I was trying to wrestle out. Though your bookcame in with the post in the morning, I dutifully homeschooled all day … but the moment we wrapped things up for the day, I hungrily devoured your whole book, all in one sitting.

    May I now, after the feast, whisper my thanks?

    For me too, your book answered many gnawing questions. Most critically, the issue of the Real Presence of Christ in communion — that which our non-denominational church does not believe. And for me, it changes everything. Your clear exegesis of Scripture was deeply compelling … and I have asked my husband if he might also read your book?

    I posted a very brief review and a thankful nod to your book in my quiet corner of the blogosphere today… and while others may wonder why I was reading a book on Lutheranism, I can only say:

    God used you to feed me.

    My heartfelt, humble gratitude…
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  • http://www.aholyexperience.com Ann Voskamp@Holy Experience

    Mr. Veith…

    Your daughter, Joanna, generously sent me a copy of your book, as I had approached her with some theological issues I was trying to wrestle out. Though your bookcame in with the post in the morning, I dutifully homeschooled all day … but the moment we wrapped things up for the day, I hungrily devoured your whole book, all in one sitting.

    May I now, after the feast, whisper my thanks?

    For me too, your book answered many gnawing questions. Most critically, the issue of the Real Presence of Christ in communion — that which our non-denominational church does not believe. And for me, it changes everything. Your clear exegesis of Scripture was deeply compelling … and I have asked my husband if he might also read your book?

    I posted a very brief review and a thankful nod to your book in my quiet corner of the blogosphere today… and while others may wonder why I was reading a book on Lutheranism, I can only say:

    God used you to feed me.

    My heartfelt, humble gratitude…
    All’s grace,
    Ann

  • JRM

    here’s a really good Q and A page about Pagan Christianity: http://www.ptmin.org/answers.htm

  • JRM

    here’s a really good Q and A page about Pagan Christianity: http://www.ptmin.org/answers.htm


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