Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Going Back to Egypt

And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" And they said to one another, "Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt."

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the people of Israel.

-Numbers 14:2-5

On Pentecost Sunday, I was reminded of just how far the Holy Spirit has dragged me from the deluded, Christian-ish religion of my own construction. For those of you who do not know my background, I came to Lutheranism only recently from a charismatic pentecostal church within the Southern Baptist Convention. For years, I helped to lead the praise music. I participated in the missions. I rejoiced over the church planting and the "creative evangelism". I studied at the feet of the "Promise Keepers" and the "Purpose Driven Church/Life".

...that is, until that humanly devised religion all came crashing down under the weight of the Law and the clear testimony of Holy Scripture.

All of that is still very fresh in my mind. I am a Lutheran that remembers the harsh labor that came with the slavery of Egypt. I remember toiling under the whip of the Law. I remember the heavy burden of humanly-constructed principles, duties, and methods. I wandered through a theological desert for much of my life as I thirsted for truth, but did not find it.

The LCMS, a jewel of American Christianity, has done its share of desert wandering as well. Since her creation, she has battled those who want to go back to Egypt. The supporters of Pietism, Revivalism, and Rationalism have all tried to turn this pilgrimage around and head back to the bondage of error. They do not enjoy the difficult road that Christ has called us to walk. They do not want to be lead by the cloud, the pillar of fire, and the snake on a pole. They want to do things their way by using the wisdom of the world. They want human task masters to tell them to engage in human works. Many times, the faith of the LCMS has faltered because of the advice of these people. Many times, God has permitted our Synod to wander in a desolate theological desert because of our unwillingness to embrace the promised land of the gospel.

Yet again, we are at the edge of the desert, but there are complaints. After all that we Lutherans have suffered as keepers of the apostolic faith, we have those who want to appoint new leaders and go back to Egypt.

Well I remember Egypt. I am worried that some of my Lutheran brothers are speaking Egyptian on their websites, at their conferences, in their churches, and through their missionnal programs. I vividly remember what it was like to work in Egypt. Now that I am free, I am alarmed at all the Egyptian being spoken by the people of Israel. I thought that I had left the ways of the SBC behind me. As I research many of the missional initiatives in the LCMS, I am amazed at how Baptist it all sounds. The problem is that members of the LCMS are borrowing methodologies from non-Lutheran church bodies.

What is the problem with that?

Any methodology is built upon a foundation of agreed upon truths and concepts. If the foundational concept is flawed, then the methodology will also be flawed. When you accept a methodology, you must accept the foundational principles on which that methodology is built. You may not agree with them (or even be aware of them), but the principles exist.

Keep that in mind as you think about the foundational principles of the churches that have spear-headed the modern missional movement. How did these churches, primarily those among the UMC and SBC, develop this missional methodology? Think of it as a theological pyramid that shows the progression of a group's theology. At the base are its core beliefs and understandings. Built on that is the group's practice. On the top of this structure is that belief's inevitable conclusion. In the case of modern generic protestantism, you find modern missional methodology. That methodology stands like a capstone on the foundation that elevates it. You cannot seperate the pyramid. You get everything or nothing.

I really want to reach lost people ...but I am asking for more than that. I want a higher standard. I want to create a church that is both "missional" in that it delivers the Gospel to the nations and "custodial" in that it cares for the faithful and preserves the one true faith. She cannot do both with the current missional pyramid because it was designed using a foreign dogma that neglects true doctrine and the spiritual health of the faithful.

I put three questions to my brothers and sisters in the LCMS:

1. If we adopt a foreign methodology, what foundational errors do we have to accept in order to support it?

2. What does the Lutheran theological pyramid look like?

3. How does that solid Lutheran foundation make our methodology different from everyone else?

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