The Christianity of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who led South Africa out of racial apartheid, was a Christian, whose faith shaped his activism.  So reports British journalist Michael Trimmer after the jump. [Read more…]

Church growth for confessional Lutherans

OK, I’ve been kind of hard on the church growth movement lately (e.g., here and here), but I acknowledge its good intentions and practical advice.  My CCLE colleague Paul J. Cain (not to be confused with Paul McCain), is a confessional Lutheran pastor in Wyoming who has published a little book entitled  5 Things You Can Do to Make Your Congregation a Caring Church.

He knows that God grows the Church by means of the Word and Sacraments.  But there are are some kingdom-of-the-lefthand aspects that can help encourage people to come to receive them.   He talks about common-sense things like parking and the state of the building, greeters and ushers.  But he cuts quickly to a far more important factor that can make a congregation attractive in a good sense (or, if this is not present, send both visitors and members screaming away).  Namely, the ethos of the congregation.  Do people here care about one another?  Does the congregation care about anyone besides one another, showing compassion to people in need and to others outside the church?  If not, how can that change?

The book is short, extremely practical, and illustrated with Pastor Cain’s personal experiences.  After the jump, the product description from Amazon and a link to buy it.

Discussion topic:  What are some things confessional Lutherans–or orthodox, traditionalist congregations of other church bodies–might do to “grow their churches” that would not compromise their doctrines or practice?

[Read more…]

Charismatic sacrament, charismatic liturgy

Charismatic Christians consider “praise and worship songs” to be, in effect, sacramental, bringing worshippers into the presence of God.  So observes Matthew Sigler, who supports this tradition.  Furthermore, he says, the music and other features of contemporary worship, as the Charismatics devised it, unfolds in a specific sequence according to a theological model.  That is (in my words), it is liturgical.  Problems come, he says, when non-Charismatic Christians lift this music and these worship practices outside of their original context, borrowing them while leaving behind the theology and “pneumatology” that goes with them.

So worship implies a theology, and theology is embodied in worship.  And you can’t just mix and match.  It’s illuminating to hear this from a Charismatic perspective.  And it is both illuminating and ironic to hear an advocate of  contemporary worship (because of his Charismatic theology) agree with us advocates of traditional liturgy (because of our Lutheran theology).  The link and an excerpt after the jump. [Read more…]

Do church growth tactics attract the unchurched?

The best argument for adopting the techniques of the Church Growth movement–contemporary worship, non-traditional styles, and culturally-relevant practices–is to reach the lost, the unbelievers, the unchurched.  Such “missional” concerns often trump all other considerations.  It’s hard to argue against the importance of evangelism and the Great Commission.

But the question remains, do the Church Growth techniques that have given us so many megachurches, in fact, attract non-Christians and others who do not normally go to church?

I stumbled across a study of those who attend megachurches–one that is actually pro-megachurch in many ways–that found that only 2% do not describe themselves as “committed followers of Jesus Christ,” and only 6% do not come from other congregations. [Read more…]

And now LINOS

In the political world, you will hear talk of RINOs, Republican In Name Only.  LCMS President Matt Harrison, an accomplished translator, posts his rendition of a letter by the Nazi-battling German theologian Hermann Sasse, who, in praising the Missouri Synod, gives us a useful concept:  Lutherans In Name Only (LINOS). [Read more…]

When Christianity comes across as dull

The redoubtable Anthony Sacramone tells about how he was influenced–indeed, evangelized–by  C. S. Lewis.

Mr. Sacramone had gone through through a Lutheran parochial school, learned the Catechism, was confirmed.  But, like many young people, he left all of that behind as soon as he could.  Christianity, he says, “seemed so small, constricting, even petty.”  He became an atheist, but in the course of researching a story idea, he stumbled upon Lewis, who “made Christianity bigger than anything I could imagine.”  Later, he came back to Lutheranism.

Read about this after the jump, and then I want to pose some questions.   Christianity has mind-blowing teachings–the infinite God becoming a man, then taking the evil of the world into Himself and resolving it by dying and rising again and offering free forgiveness and everlasting life–so how in the world is it possible to make them seem dull?   I mean, I can see why someone might not believe it, but how can Christianity be so poorly presented that it  seems “small, constricting, even petty”?  And yet somehow that’s the way it comes across to many people, especially young people brought up in the church.  This is surely a communication fail of the highest magnitude.  [Read more…]


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