Don’t write off entrepreneurs in the church. I know some great churchy entrepreneurs such as Todd Wilken ( Issues, Etc. ), my partner in ministry here at Bethany, Jonathan Fisk ( Worldview Everlasting ), Bryan Wolfmueller ( radio , publishing, comedy, etc.), and even Matt Harrison who before he headed up Lutheran World Relief put together an ambitious urban renewal project sponsored by his parish (Zion, Fort Wayne), the LCMS and the city of Fort Wayne.
Furthermore I take personal offense to those who cast stones at entrepreneurs “cuz I is one.” I started a publishing company that was a bust (although there are still a few Blue Pomegranate books out there), one of the most read Lutheran blogs (you’re soaking in it now) and a successful church consulting firm for capital campaigns and parish goal-setting (Wittenberg Church Consultants).
From what I am reading of the 5/2 network, Bill Woolsey is a successful entrepreneur, albeit he is about ten years behind the culture and is doing a lot of mimicking. None the less he is bright, creative, a self-starter and can think out of the box. I applaud him for that. The problem is that he blew the doors off the Scriptural and Confessional box. That’s a no-no. The problem is not entrepreneurship. It is a faulty understanding of the marks and duties of the church and even worse, making entrepreneurship the mark and the duty of the church.
There are all sorts of pastors and some of them are entrepreneurs. That’s OK. There are also quiet, plodding pastors, out-going flashy pastors, type A goal-setting pastors, soft-spoken hand-holding pastors, and there are even duck hunting pastors like Big Poppe (Clint Poppe, Lincoln, NE).
All of these types of pastors can serve effectively. In our parish goal-setting consulting work we teach the six duties of the church by C. F. W. Walther: 1) let the Word of God dwell richly in your midst, 2) practice church discipline, 3) care for those members of the parish who are in need, 4) do things in good order, 5) seek out fellowship with other orthodox congregations, and 6) advance the kingdom.
Walther shows from Scripture how these duties are mandatory. How you carry them out is optional. You can fulfill them with an entrepreneurial flair, with plodding, laser-like “anality,” and maybe even with the patience of a duck hunter.
What Mr. Woolsey the Entrepreneur has done in error is to make entrepreneurship the standard by which all ministry is judged and even worse, God save us, he has made it the very essence of ministry itself.
The Church is blessed to have entrepreneurs but let’s never forget that the Church is not dependent on entrepreneurs. The Church could do just fine if it never had an entrepreneur in a single one of its pulpits in any generation. It is more in need of plodders and preservers than entrepreneurs. The Church is inherently conservative. It is our job as pastors to conserve the Word of God passed on from Jesus to the Apostles and to pass it on to the next generation.
I learned a valuable lesson when I was a child. Hardly a Sunday dinner didn’t go by when I was a kid in the 60’s and 70’s without my mom or dad saying “Well, Pastor Sohn is not the most exciting person in the world and he is not very good with remembering names but he does the one thing we need. He preaches the Word of God in truth and purity.”
I applaud Mr. Woolsey as an entrepreneur and give him points for creativity and style but I rebuke him for mistaking style for substance.
Now, for you lifelong Lutherans you may find this hard to believe, how a precious gift from God can cause such strain, but it is true that it does. My wife and I have unfortunately lost friendships over ‘the infant baptism’ talk. Furthermore, at one point in time I too was very indifferent towards the sacraments and rather antagonistic towards those that boldly cherished them. But you may ask, “Why the offense? What could possibly be so threatening about sprinkling water on a cute and helpless baby?”
In a previous article on titled, There Are Two Perspectives On Delayed And Legalistic Baptisms , I covered the basic confusion over the sacraments between many Lutherans and what I will call ‘Credobaptist’ Evangelicals. I stated,
Which way is the arrow aimed when it comes to the sacraments? What? In other words, are the sacraments something that we do toward God as a way of showing our obedience OR are the sacraments the way that God shows His commitment to us and gives grace to us? Are the sacraments things that we observe in response to hearing the Gospel (i.e. fruits of faith) OR are the sacraments ways that God responds to our sinfulness with the Gospel; are they a result of His compassion and pursuit of sinners? Do the sacraments belong in our discussions on man’s obedience OR do the sacraments belong in the discussion of God’s justifying grace? Who does the verb in the sacraments?
While these confusions are very prevalent in conversations with Credobaptist Evangelicals and may cause conversational tension, there is something that is not mentioned in the previous paragraph, something that is much more offensive and something that repeatedly upsets the theology of Credobaptist Evangelicals. That something is infant baptism itself; it is the ‘infant’ part that causes tension. I believe that the reason for strain is due to infant baptism being the quintessential picture of divine monergism . Monergism, as you know, is completely contrary to any and all free will theologies, thus the reason why infant baptism is so difficult for many Credobaptist Evangelicals to accept.
The most common criticism that I have heard against infant baptism is that it doesn’t allow for the baby to make a ‘decision’ for Christ or a ‘profession of faith.’ (At this point we could devote our time to show how the tenets of the Enlightenment have tainted this view of faith, but that can be saved for another time.) Many will protest that it is unjust to baptize a baby before the child can profess faith in Jesus and/or make a decision, therefore, one must wait until the baby reaches an older age.
So, why would it be unjust to baptize a baby before they are able to make their decision? Generally speaking, it is unjust in credobaptist theology because infant baptism infringes upon, violates, and overthrows the doctrine of free will; it takes the child’s ‘choice’ in salvation away. To say that an baby is saved in infant baptism when no choice/decision/profession has been made comes across as extremely scandalous for theologies that embrace the doctrine of free will and it is very offensive towards the old Adam. The old Adam in all of us can’t stand monergism and he especially can’t stand the sacrament of infant baptism. The reason why, in infant baptism the old Adam has no room to play and exercise his supposed free will, but can only drown.
Advertently or inadvertently to guard the doctrine of free will, many Evangelical denominations and many Evangelical movements will postpone baptism until the child is able to make a choice. However, this rationale creates additional problems. How should one handle original sin and consider children when they sin between conception and their decision of faith? To counteract children’s sinful nature from conception until the time they make a decision of faith, an age of accountability status is developed, thus granting the child a period of grace. The age of accountability status embraces that children below a specific age who perish are not held responsible for their sins because they were incapable of understanding wrong from right and were unable to comprehend Jesus’ death on the cross. Furthermore, some Revivalistic and Pietistic traditions can also fall prey to this ideology. They will rightly baptize the child in the name of our Triune God, gifting the child faith and grace, but the baptism is only viewed as a grace that extends until the child can make a decision for Christ at a later point. At that point of decision, the decision then takes the place of the child’s baptism as the location of assurance. Both the Pietist’s view and the Evangelical’s view are ways that attempt to: protect free will theology and avoid the divine monergistic qualities of baptismal regeneration.
So is infant baptism really that radical? One needs to keep in mind that infant baptism is not some rogue theology that is inconsistent with the rest of the scriptures. Take for example the miracles of Jesus. Individuals were not ‘mostly’ blind, but powerlessly blind from birth (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘kind of’ paralytic, but hopelessly and entirely paralyzed (e.g., Matthew 9). Individuals were not ‘partly’ leprous, but helplessly full of leprosy (e.g., Matthew 8). Individuals were not ‘almost’ dead, but dead-dead (e.g., John 11). These individuals are just like an infant, helpless. Yet in these miracles we see the power of the Word, a performative speech from Jesus, that speaks these miracles into existence. Jesus proclaims, “Let it be done to you! Stand up and walk! Be Cleansed! Come out!” The individuals, like an infant, contributed nothing to their healing. Just as the world was spoke into existence in Genesis, Christ spoke these healing miracles into existence. Furthermore, God’s Word still speaks faith into existence today (e.g., Romans 10:17). The Word is performative; the Word works faith and this is even true with the Water-Word upon infants.
As Lutherans we believe, teach, and confess that infant baptism does not work regeneration apart from faith (e.g., Mark 16:15-16, Romans 4:20-25). With that said, we also believe, teach, and confess that faith is not a product of the man’s intellect, or a result of mankind’s will, or conjured up by a person’s arousing feelings. Faith is a gift, a gift worked by the Holy Spirit through the Word (e.g., Romans 10:17, Ephesians 2:8). Thus, Luther rightly taught that the Word is in and with the water making baptism’s efficacy entirely dependent on the Gospel promises, promises that are connected with the water (e.g. 1 Peter 3:21, Acts 2:38). Otherwise stated, because the Gospel is attached to baptism, baptism is an effective means through which the Holy Spirit works faith and gives grace to infants, apart from any works of righteousness that they do or may do (e.g., Titus 3:5).
As we converse with our dear Evangelical brothers and sisters on this subject, may we not forget that there is a silver lining. As we discuss infant baptism and its ramifications on free will theology may we boldly confess,
I frankly confess that, for myself, even if it could be, I should not want ‘free-will’ to be given to me, nor anything to be left in my own hands to enable me to endeavor after salvation; not merely because in face of so many dangers, and adversities, and assaults of devils, I could not stand my ground and hold fast my ‘free-will’; because, even were there no dangers, adversities, or devils, I should still be forced to labor with no guarantee of success, and to beat my fists at the air. If I lived and worked to all eternity, my conscience would never reach comfortable certainty as to how much it must do to satisfy God. Whatever work I had done, there would still be a nagging doubt as to whether it pleased God, or whether He required something more. The experience of all who seek righteousness by works proves that; and I learned it well enough myself over a period of many years, to my own great hurt. But now that God has taken my salvation out of the control of my own will, and put it under the control of His, and promised to save me, not according to my working or running, but according to His own grace and mercy, I have the comfortable certainty that He is also great and powerful, so that no devils or opposition can break Him or pluck me from Him.” (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will)
So why do many Evangelicals find it difficult to accept infant baptism? It is difficult for many to accept because it is bad news for the old Adam and presents a difficulty for decision/free will theology. In infant baptism faith cannot be misconstrued into an act of the free will—faith does not make baptism but receives its. With infant baptism salvation is most clearly seen as a gift of God descending to a helpless baby, rather than the old Adam using baptism as a token of his obedience. Alas, it is now very understandable why conversations on this subject will result in confusion, tension, and unfortunate conflict.
Regardless of the possible blowback due to our Lutheran baptismal theology, may we graciously esteem our most excellent Baptism as our daily attire in which we walk constantly, that we may always be found in the faith, for infant baptism is not only the quintessential picture of divine monergism, but is divine monergism—rich life-giving water with the Word that works faith, delivers forgiveness of sins, rescues us from the jaws of death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation making us God’s own apart from any and all man-made contributions. In a very literally sense, via infant baptism, we do not wash ourselves but are washed by God. Praise be to God! May we and our Evangelical friends grow ever more appreciative of this great gift.
The post Why Do Many Evangelicals Find It Difficult To Accept Infant Baptism? appeared first on Worldview Everlasting .
Our previous article focused on the people associated with the FiveTwo Network and how they relate to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod (LCMS). This time we’ll focus on FiveTwo’s formative influences. The findings are disturbing for Confessional Lutheranism if the FiveTwo organization is allowed to continue hiving within the LCMS as a shadow synod.
FiveTwo’s “Sacramental Entrepreneurship” model is social entrepreneurship glossed with a light Lutheran varnish. Like all social entrepreneurism, it reduces to the fusion of business fads with do-goodism. Corporate strategy and marketing are the business disciplines that most inform social entrepreneurship. They are also the most impulsive and mystical field in any business school whose chief characteristic is change for the sake of change.
At its heart social entrepreneurship is a type of universalism whether it manifests in secular or “faith-based” forms. The secular offshoot is the contemporary social justice movement and all its agonies about race and class. Faith-based versions such as FiveTwo display, alarmingly, many of the traits of last century’s Social Gospel cult that J. Gresham Machen fought tooth and nail . Social Gospel adherents are adamant that Scripture enjoins us to make God’s Kingdom on earth, and have attached a soteriology to acts of mercy. The modernists have attached the language of return on investment and key performance indicators.
Let’s then call this movement what it most is: the Neo Social Gospel (NSG). If the Social Gospel is the formal principle of NSG, then Moral Therapeutic Deism is its material principle.
Although FiveTwo strives mightily to project innovation, relevance, creativity, and leadership, it is actually just the mutation of an ancient pathogen that is lethal to Christianity in the absence of Word and Sacrament rightly delivered.
There are literally dozens of precedents where the word “Entrepreneur” has been paired with something denoting faith or Christianity. For example, “ Gospel Entrepreneur ” is very common, as is “ Faith Entrepreneur “. Interestingly, there is a “ Spiritual Entrepreneur ” with a link to FiveTwo. This begs the question: should we expect to see Charismatic Entrepreneurs and Word Faith Entrepreneurs at #Wiki15?
One key vector in this specific genre of faith-entrepreneur pairing goes back to 1996 when Mike Slaughter published Spiritual Entrepreneurs: 6 Principles for Risking Renewal . It is worth excerpting Slaughter’s bio in full because it is echoed so closely in the nomenclature that FiveTwo and others like it use (emphasis my own):
Mike Slaughter, lead pastor at Ginghamsburg Church, is in his fourth decade as the chief dreamer of Ginghamsburg Church and the spiritual entrepreneur of ministry marketplace innovations . His life-long passion to reach the lost and set the oppressed free has now made him a tireless and leading advocate for the children, women and men of Darfur, Sudan, named by the U.N. as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. Mike’s call to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted will challenge attendees to wrestle with God and their God-destinies .
This is the language of the synergist. Word and sacrament ministry in a formal setting is deemed deficient. It is we who must pursue the lost, rather than the Holy Spirit, preferably by setting up shop where unbelievers have built a church out of their own passions and imaginations. Above all, we must “do community”. This is the religion of deeds-not-creeds – the business of feeding men so long as it’s not the bread and water of Life.
Slaughter is a pioneer, but he’s not the motive force behind NSG. That dubious distinction is claimed by the papal office that effectively oversees the NSG enterprise – Leadership Network. That organization is responsible for legitimizing the “ministry marketplace” espoused by Slaughter, and the notion that ministry needs corporatist champions. Ironically, ministry marketplaces are associated with idolatry in the Bible, and Jesus was violently opposed to people making merchandise of church . Indeed, wherever you turn in the Leadership Network ecosystem money is front and center.
Leadership Network even has its own blasphemous creed , entitled “We Believe in the Church”, presumably to displace those dusty old Ecumenical Creeds. Here is the opening of Leadership Network’s creed:
We believe in kingdom innovation.
We believe in kingdom innovators.
And we want to see both multiplied and shared.
The content, sentiment and intent of this creed is replicated and multiplied in FiveTwo and every NSG enterprise. It is language absent from Scripture, but our Old Adam loves the idea that God is pleased with our efforts, and that helping someone is the same as saving them to eternal life.
This is not the occasion to unpack Leadership Network, but please educate yourself about its origins and outgrowth via the genuinely insightful work of Chris Rosebrough (@PirateChristian) on the organization’s ideology . Ed Stetzer has also published an unintentionally revealing article about the movement and its “investment” mentality.
Leadership Network has been very successful in penetrating non-denominational evangelical and Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches. We characterize that as First Wave NSG, which took about 30 years to reach full maturity. Second Wave NSG has commenced, and it has an ecumenical strategy.
A hybridized, self-learning and adaptive systematic theology is now well formed (see the Wordle below for the key buzzwords) and starting to infect a broader spectrum of churches. The most appropriate term to use would be Chameleon Theology. It’s first line of attack is always orthopraxy because once you evacuate that, orthodoxy falls easily.
It is no surprise that NSG Chameleon Theology should appear in a Confessional Lutheran setting. We have already seen it making inroads with Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism and, even, Islam.
In an attempt to better understand the players in this second wave, we completed an analysis of Amazon Kindle book sales, starting with Bill Woolsey’s Seven Steps to Start . We believe Kindle sales are most likely to reflect the NSG target market which skews to the apprentices needed for replication and multiplication.
Identifying the first six “also purchased” books, and repeating the process for each first ranked book, we were able to generate a scored ranking of the most influential people and books in this theosophical echo chamber within house of mirrors. The infographic below shows the degrees of influence, orientation and focus, and association with Leadership Network. The Second Wave is confirmed by the absence of books by Rick Warren, Bill Hybels and Ed Stetzer. The young turks are moving on.
Mike Breen is currently at the apex of the influence network, and his work reflects the most distinct traits of NSG – to make the obvious obscure, usually by abusing alliteration, and to apply law only. For example, Breen has a rather pretentious blog about the death of the American church if “our enemy” gets his way through:
- A culture of CELEBRITY (affirmation)
- A culture of CONSUMERISM (appetite)
- A culture of COMPETITION (ambition)
And a Social Gospel closer to beat the sheep with:
“We are now into the second decade of the 21st century and we find ourselves still, for the most part, refusing to sacrifice what we want for what God is asking of us and his Church. Will we have the courage to sacrifice as Christ sacrificed? Will we do the things that cost us so that his Kingdom may advance?”
Three points, obfuscation, alliteration, and a stern word of law. Very NSG. There is nothing very American about those items, and certainly nothing that needs a treatise, or the incorrect application of Law and absence of Gospel. Celebrity, excessive consumerism and excessive competition are simply breaches of the Ten Commandments. Why not just say so?
FiveTwo is incompatible with Confessional Lutheranism, and it has no place within the LCMS. The LCMS must ask Pr. Woolsey to repent of this sinful distraction, and receive the forgiveness Christ won for him in His life, death, resurrection and ascension. Failing that, there are plenty of denominations and organizations were FiveTwo would be an excellent fit and very welcome.
I’d like to die in my sleep. I’d like to be in my eighties or even my nineties. I’d like to have roast beef with potatoes and gravy for dinner that night. Maybe even a glass of my favorite beer or a Scotch before bed. I’d like to be able to do my nightly prayers and go sleep soundly thinking of my savior. I’d like to peacefully fall asleep and await the resurrection of my flesh. This seems like a good way to die. Others have different ideas on how they’d like to die. Maybe you’re an avid motorcyclist and would like to be on the road in your last moments on earth. Maybe you’d like to die with your family around to comfort you. Or have your pastor there to recite with you the Creed, the Lord’s Prayer and comfort you with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Though most of us have really good lives on earth – and compared to others I know I have it easy – when God calls us home to be with Him our sinful flesh still fights to have it our way.
Currently there is much debate going on over assisted suicide with the case of Brittany Maynard. I won’t attempt to address that specifically since a much better response was given by Maggie Karner in The Federalist and also on Issues Etc . Throughout our lives there are moments when we all succumb to the world, sin and the devil. Whether it’s the sin of pride and selfishness (in thinking we can be God by controlling inevitable death) or the sinful brokenness of our mind and body (while dealing with mental illness which can cause suicide), both are derived from the brokenness of our bodies inherited by Adam and Eve.
Control over the Uncontrollable.
Let’s face it, there are plenty of things in the world to kill us, and most aren’t too pleasant. Cancer, heart disease, car accidents, natural disasters, murder, and (Insert current disease in the news). The list goes on and on. I think it’s a safe bet that most people would like an easy and painless death. No one wants to suffer or be in pain. Many of us even want things done our way after our death. I want my funeral to be all singing and confessing Jesus Christ rather than a celebration of me. In my death I want my family to be comforted with the Gospel and know that Jesus Christ has redeemed me and them. I’d like my family to be able to bury me. And it bothers me to think I might not get these things I want. Sinful men, like me, always want control. While a lot of these things can be controlled – to a point – the manner in which we meet God should be controlled by him.
You Shall Have No Other Gods.
I have a tendency to always consider my life under the 1 st commandment more than any other, to always link my sins back to breaking of that 1 st commandment. Perhaps that’s why God made it the 1 st of the ten. Generally speaking, I always put myself first before others and before God. My desire for a painless death or a particular funeral isn’t in itself sinful. However, I am not really trusting in God as I should. I am not trusting that through whatever pain and suffering I may have in this life, He will see me through it. I am, therefore, making this life and my temporal body into my God. It’s very difficult in this body of sin to accept that fact that I am not in control over the manner in which I die. But the wages of sin is death.
That fall into sin by Adam and Eve has thrown us all into temporal pain and suffering. Death was not meant for us but is now part of what will finally bring us home to our eternal place with our God. Yet even in death we are confessing something, and death by our own hands confesses that we want to be God. But we must remember that while the manner of our deaths will all differ, God is always with us regardless of how we are dying. Surrounded by family or alone on the side of the road, God is with us. Peacefully in our sleep or suffering in pain, God is with us. He doesn’t take the day off or call in sick. The proof of His faithfulness is in the cross of Jesus Christ. God has overcome the world, including our sin and our death.
Therefore in Christ, we need not worry about our death. As Christians, when we die we die into Jesus’s death. Jesus Christ died every death, felt every pain and bore every sin of the world. Pain and suffering in the world will come, but in the end Jesus Christ has taken away our eternal death and the damnation we rightly deserve because of our sin. To the world death is never a good thing. The death of Jesus Christ for us was a death which is our greatest confession of faith, our only confession. His death confesses something big. It confesses victory. It confesses the forgiveness of sins. It confesses the love of God in Jesus Christ by putting all the pain and death of the world on His Son. While I struggle with my sin to want this or that in my life and death, I pray that God would continue to strengthen me with His Word and Sacraments that He would continue to point me back to my baptism into Christ and Christ’s death for me. Regardless of how God chooses to call us home, let Him call us all into his eternal kingdom confessing the death of Christ for our salvation. Regardless of the manner in which I will die – I will die in Christ.