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?

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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...]

Conservative Lutherans start dialogue with Catholics

Roman Catholics and the Lutheran World Federation made a splash a few years ago when they came to some agreements about Justification by Faith.  But the much-hyped talk of the two parties getting together has floundered, since many of the liberal Lutherans of the LWF have jumped off the deep end, as far as Catholics are concerned, when it comes to issues of sexuality. Another limiting factor is women’s ordination, practiced by most LWF church bodies, but ruled out by Roman Catholics.

But now, the world organization of conservative Lutherans, the International Lutheran Council (ILC)–whose churches do not ordain women and continue to uphold traditional teachings about sexual morality–is starting talks with Rome.  The goal is surely not union, nor papered-over agreements on justification and other important doctrines, but we’ll see what comes of it.  (Any ideas of what might be some legitimate areas of agreement and co-operation?)

Mathew Block (yes, one “t” is correct), the communications director of the Lutheran Church-Canada, tells about it, including who is involved (including someone from the LCMS)  after the jump. [Read more...]

My take on the Lutheran/Calvinist discussion

Some thoughts on the discussion about Lutherans and Calvinists that was provoked by thoughts from Peter Leithhart and D. G. Hart.  (To get up to date with the latest contributions, see also what Anthony Sacramone had to say about it, as well as Dr. Hart’s rejoinder.)

I am one Lutheran who is not a Calvinist basher.  Having grown up in mainline liberal Protestantism and then hanging out in grad school with collegiate evangelicals, I heard about God’s grace for the first time from a friend who was a Calvinist.  It had never occurred to me and I had never been taught that God accomplishes everything for my salvation.  I found that very liberating.  I read Calvin’s Institutes and was greatly instructed.  I credit Calvin for leading me to Luther, whose theology seemed to me to have everything I appreciated in Calvinism while avoiding some of its problems.   In Lutheranism, I would find  dimensions of grace that I never dreamed of before.  But, frankly, if there had been a Calvinist church in the small Oklahoma town where I got my first teaching job, I might have gone in that direction.  Instead, there was a congregation of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, which opened up to me dimensions of grace that I had never dreamed of before, including a deeply sacramental kind of spirituality.  Which brings up my first point:  [Read more...]

Why is Calvinism so influential and not Lutheranism?

There are lots more Lutherans than Calvinists.  And Calvinism has all of those scary doctrines like double predestination and the limited atonement, whereas Lutheranism is, well, happier, with its emphasis on the certainty of grace, Christian freedom, and its affirmation of the secular realm as God’s hidden kingdom.  And yet it’s Calvinism that has been so influential in English and American Christianity and the culture as a whole.  So marvels D. G. Hart, himself a confessional Calvinist and a perceptive scholar of American Christianity.  Read his ruminations after the jump, and then offer your own theories about why this is.

UPDATE:  Anthony Sacramone, former Calvinist who is now a Lutheran, has a very helpful response.

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Reformational Catholicism

Calvinist theologian Peter Leithhart is calling for “The End of Protestantism.”  It should be replaced, he says, by “Reformational Catholicism,” which he goes on to describe.  Much of what he is calling for sounds like Lutheranism.  Is it?  His essay and questions from me after the jump. [Read more...]


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