Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Real Problem

The greatest allies of a failing bureaucracy are not the bureaucrats; they are the common people who believe that the bureaucracy could be used for good if only it was steered in the right direction. Bureaucracy isn't a big ship with a bad captain. It's an oil slick. It isn't a productive machine that is just going the wrong direction. It is the juggernaut that systematically destroys all productive ideas because it is in its very nature to do so. The man who tries to harness a wild bureaucracy for "good" is as foolish as the various heroes of story and legend who--in their hubris--thought that they should try to control the mighty cave beast rather than just slay it.

"Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work"
-Albert Einstein

"Bureaucracy expands to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy."
-Oscar Wilde

"Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism."
-Mary McCarthy

"You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing."
-Thomas Sowell

"Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies."
-Honre de Balzac

"Bureaucracies are inherently antidemocratic. Bureaucrats derive their power from their position in the structure, not from their relations with people they are supposed to serve. The people are not masters of the bureaucracy, but its clients."
-Alan Keys

Monday, July 26, 2010

Purpose Driven Toyota.

About the same time that the contemporary Christian church began to advance the idea of a Purpose Driven church, the business practices of the 1990s began promoting a new business paradigm. It's vision casting ideas were in all of the business and manufacturing books and the church basically copied those ideas word for word in their new church growth books.

If there was one shining example of business in those days, it was Toyota. Toyota had gone from mediocre to awesome so fast and their innovations were state of the art that no one company highlighted this new way of doing business better. If you sat in a business meeting or a manufacturing floor in the 90s, you heard about Toyota and how their successes had to be copied. If you read a business book or went to school for business, Toyota usually came up as an illustration of the latest business practices. Toyota was the Willow Creek of the business world... or should that be the other way around?

So, by proxy, the church was chasing after this kind of business model. The business ethic of thinkers like Toyota has as much to do with the Church Growth as anything else. It is no coincidence that the cracks in the mission of the new church are beginning to show as the recalls, lawsuits, and government investigations loom over the poster boy for purpose driven secular business.

Read this article about what went wrong with Toyota. It is a business critique of success over quality that is eerily similar to the church critique over the Purpose Driven movement. The similarity is no coincidence.

Now it is time for the church to follow the lessons of Toyota once again. When you skip quality and humble listening for bigger numbers in a spreadsheet, you fail.

Grand experiment over. Let's get back to work.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Hidden Horror of Gospel-less Ministry

It's horrible that some churches aren't preaching the gospel correctly to their people. What people rarely consider is the horrible truth that so many of them don't ever "fix" their ministry problems when tragedy hits.

When you don't give the gospel to people in the congregations, you don't have the mindset and experience that you need to deliver the gospel in times of crisis and critical illness. If you don't understand Law and Gospel from the pulpit or in the pew, you won't know what to say at the bedside. Even the best of us have trouble in emotionally difficult situations so, if you aren't immersed in the Gospel, you aren't going to dust that off and declare repentance and the forgiveness of sins when it really really counts.

For all the talk of relevance, helping, and healing people, if you don't have the gospel then you've got nothing in clutch time. All of your rhetoric and platitudes mean nothing in those crushing times when all human words fail. I've been there. I've stood by the beds as the trendy pastors mumble positive thinking and empty hope. I've been at the scenes of a violent death where counselors don't know what to say or they say things that make it all so much worse.

This is the hidden shame of Christ-less Christianity. Nothing they have to offer is eternal... and so it becomes an insulting joke when death looms.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

How Free is our Will?

Okay... so this is not about theological Free Will. This is about us and our free will in earthly terms when it comes with our powers of choice in dealing with ourselves and others. In that context I ask, "How free is our will?"

Even if you are one of those rare individuals who is humble and honest enough to admit that Total Depravity is the correct doctrine regarding our disposition towards God, there are still many otherwise intelligent people who frankly delude themselves into thinking that they are virtually immune to influences that affect their judgement.

So can the human mind be totally independent? Of course not and we wouldn't really want to achieve that. You want to be open minded. The key is not to be empty minded. The idea that we are independent moral agents which are incapable of being seduced by others is just not backed up by history or science. It is not as though people who fall under these influences are some how defective or weak. Everyone, in the right circumstances, can be pressured and manipulated. Half the time we manipulate ourselves!

This is important because about the worst way to approach any situation or idea is to go into it with a "that could never happen to me" attitude. The generations past called this hubris and it was considered the very definition of foolishness that doomed even the most noble of intentions.

The fact is that it looks like our subjective human experience is alot less reliable than we want to believe. Even worse than that, our grasp of objective truth is far from rock solid. In both cases, the people around us and the situations that we find ourselves in have a tremendous amount of influence on the very nature of our judgement. These problems of perception suggest that any attempt to understand truth must be done with a sober mind and a very critical eye (and often times that means a self-critical eye.)

I am going to include some links that highlight some research and stories that will give you an idea about what I am talking about. Please don't make these links the sum total of your research in these topics.

The concept of Groupthink is summarized in this wikipedia article.

Sometimes our own brain chemistry and mental health conspires against us. It makes us want to resolve things that don't initially make sense through any means possible. Read about cognitive dissonance here.

Sometimes we can experience very important emotional experiences that shape our lives, but these feelings may not be true or based in anything other than our own brains. After all these religious experiences can now be artificially created in lab conditions.

Sometimes we are alot weaker to peer pressure and authority than we want to admit. It affects our moral choices and claims to truth. Read about the Milgram Experiment and the Asch Conformity Experiments.

Even when you get past these influences, the very way we think is much weaker than it used to be in previous ages. Check out this list of logical fallacies and become familiar with what they are talking about. Then you can start to examine the faulty assumptions and flawed arguments in your own world view. Better than that, you can start to tell when people are trying to convince you of things that just don't cut the mustard logically.

This is just a very shallow summary of what I am talking about when it comes to being a truly independent thinker, but you get the idea. Why is this important? Because when you recognize just how badly the deck is stacked against you, there is no choice but to actively engage in a careful quest for the truth underneath the layers of delusion. When you recognize all of the subtle tendencies that all humans have working on them, you can more easily recognize when you are being pushed around by something other than logic, ethics, and plain reason. Will you able to start thinking independently with total success? Of course not, but you stand a better chance of being clear headed than if you wander through life unprepared and under the assumption that you understand everything that matters.

Does any of this interest you? Do you have any thoughts or questions?

Friday, July 23, 2010


Go read this post over at Confessional Gadfly.

Another Problem

Pastor Weedon made an excellent point about the gospel on his blog. It got me thinking of another really big problem that is really just a different manifestation of the exact same thing:

Another problem is when we get caught up in constantly worrying about how we are "doing church" or how we are "protecting the church" rather than just actually being the church.

...and, if you happen to think that we confessional Lutherans are in some way immune to this temptation as if to say that the danger of drifting away from being Christ-centered in favor of a focus on what men need to do is merely some external danger that only afflicts the less-enlightened people "out there", I would encourage you to engage in prayer and close self-examination in light of Holy Scripture with a spirit of humility and love.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Will Ted Know if He is Not Told?

This happened in Iraq.

I was in the small chapel for music practice. I played piano for the contemporary service and organ for the liturgical (See? I can play nice with other people when I want to. :P) As the praise band finished their practice, I started picking the hymns for the litrugical service. The drummer for the praise band (we'll call him "Sergeant Ted") walked by and glanced over my selections. As I continued to go through my binder, he scanned the lyrics.

"I have a question," Sergeant Ted said. He then asked me, "Why are all these hymns so macabre? I mean why does there have to be so much blood in them?"

I responded, "Because, Ted, the Bible says that 'without the shedding of blood there is no forgivness of sins.' Christ's bloody death on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins is the only thing that can save you from hell. It is what Christianity is all about."

He stood up as if I had just said something very odd and remarked, "That's wierd."


This is what Christless Christianity does to people. You can have regularly attending church members who help run the services as your worship leaders or musicians in the music program week after week for years and those people might still not even know why topics like blood and death would show up in a Christian song. This is more common than anyone wants to admit. Lord have mercy! If you want an evangelism opportunity, go find out where the Ted's in your church are hanging out and love them enough to share the gospel with them.

As True Now as it Ever Was

"All this is the old devil and old serpent, who also converted Adam and Eve into enthusiasts, and led them from the outward Word of God to spiritualizing and self-conceit, and nevertheless he accomplished this through other outward words. Just as also our enthusiasts at the present day condemn the outward Word, and nevertheless they themselves are not silent, but they fill the world with their pratings and writings, as though, indeed, the Spirit could not come through the writings and spoken word of the apostles, but first through their writings and words he must come. Why then do not they also omit their own sermons and writings, until the Spirit Himself come to men, without their writings and before them, as they boast that He has come into them without the preaching of the Scriptures?"

-Blessed Martin Luther, Smalcald Articles (Article VIII:5-6)

Discernment Pop Quiz

Alright... get out your #2 pencils. Pop Quiz.

Question 1: Based on what is presented on the front cover, is there a problem with this book? Why or why not?

(This is one of my favorite practical application questions to spring on unsuspecting confirmands who wander too close... hehe...)

Note: Before someone accuses me of judging a book by its cover or suggests that I am taking this book title out of context, I will include part of the author's blurb about the book. In his own words:

"My goal in writing The Hole in Our Gospel was to confront people with the implications of the faith we profess. The Christian faith was never meant to be some tame anesthetizing tonic meant only to soothe our souls; no, it was intended to be a medicine so powerful that it could challenge the legion of social illnesses that plague the human race – poverty, alienation, hatred, corruption, apathy and injustice." [my emphasis added.]

I guess this is what happens when CEOs are allowed to write theological books. Did you notice that it won a "Christian Book of the Year" award from somewhere? Lord have mercy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do We Need an LCMS Mom?

Sometimes I think that the restructuring plan for the LCMS should have included a synodical mother. Not a cute cuddly mother to snuggle with us and cover our scrapes with Hello Kitty bandaids. I'm talking about a humorless, depression-era mother with a switch in one hand and a rolling pin in the other. A synodical mom that knows how to grab a petulant child by the ear and put things in perspective.

That way whenever anyone talked about how the LCMS needs to be cool or get with the times or complained about how unpopular confessional lutheranism is becoming to the larger culture or how what we are doing isn't fun enough she could stand up, put her hands on her hips and say:

"Oh yeah, well if the ELCA, PCUSA, SBC, and Emergent Village all jumped off a cliff, would you do that too?!? Just do what you're supposed to do and ignore what all the popular kids think. I didn't raise you to be like them. If you do that kind of trash where do you think you'll be in 20 years. As long as you are under my roof you will live by my rules. If you don't like it then go get a job and I'll pack your things. ...did you finish the yard work like I told you to do?"

Coming Back from the Brink

My internet presence on this blog and other places has been sparse over the last year and a half. Part of that had to do with my deployment to Iraq. I was... busy. Since returning from Iraq, I have had to go through alot of adjustment and recovery. The details of my situation are not really "blog" material. I will just say that it has been a time where even I have been at a loss for words.

I am starting to see what appears to be a return to my old self at long last. I'm starting to have opinions again that are close enough to constructive that I will risk sharing them with others. I have never had a really big following on this blog. I think that that's for the best when it comes to laymen bloggers like me who are still know-nothing-twenty-somethings with obnoxiously high levels of wit and frighteningly low levels of tact. All that said, I'll start it up again and see where it goes.

Expect to see my inflammatory, long-winded rhetoric with more frequency... both here and in the comment sections of other blogs whose moderators tolerate my musings with varying levels of patience.

To love truth is to care about it enough to defend it from those who would do it violence.

"A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
-United States Constitution, Amendment 2.

What does this mean?
Now, it is true that the word "arms" can mean weapons, but a more common meaning of the word is actually the two limbs that come off of a person's shoulders.

Here is what my concordance says: "Arms: (n) (pl) The appendages of a crinoid that extend upward and outward from the body."

Isn't that interesting? I went through my whole life and never even considered that. But it's true don't you think? After all, what militia or free state could be kept safe if no one had limbs or hands? Imagine a life without arms. Imagine a country where the citizens couldn't pick things up or carry things or build things with their hands. Arms are pretty important right? Now, historically, all the pointy-headed academics of the past superstitiously believed that this meant guns and ammo... stuff like that.

But it is just far too narrow to assume that the founders meant only arms in a militaristic sense. So, after a much more authentic study of the original words using the full sense of the language, we find that people have the right to keep their limbs so that they are equipped to serve the militia and the state with them. It's not about paranoia and getting weapons together to oppose the government. It's about keeping your body intact so that you can obediently serve those in authority over you and toil for the good of the state and its military complex.

In return for that that service, the state in this amendment promises not to cut your limbs off at the shoulders. Now what happens if you don't serve the state? Well, I hate to say it, but arms are for the militia and the security of the state. If you aren't contributing to the security of the state, I guess you don't need arms now do you...

"No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime,"-United States Constitution, Amendment 5.

What does this mean?
Well, there you have it folks, this country was never supposed to convict criminals. After all, the founding of this great nation was not so much about representative government and the rule of law. It was about freedom. Freedom to do whatever you want. That's why the states all agreed that "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime," After all, who are we to judge what other people do?!? It's more important to preserve freedom for all people no matter what the cost is. And yet our prisons are full of people who have been held to answer for crimes in direct violation of this amendment to our United States Constitution. This is not what the founders intended at all!

Why are we letting people get imprisoned and even put to death when our own Constitution forbids it? We should let them all go and just forgive them.

So the Bill of Rights teaches that we should be slaves to a state that is impowered to mutilate our bodies if we don't comply and that no one should ever be charged of a capital crime.


If you were offended by this twisting of the text or you found this to be just stupid logic, then you and I agree that context and proper textual interpretation are critical to the preservation of truth. You wouldn't want to live in a state where the Constitution is twisted this way. If the government started to talk this way, you'd get pretty mad and afraid. If there was a national movement to let all the criminals out of jail and abolish the criminal justice system based on the 5th Amendment, wouldn't you say something? If the President started saying that people who didn't serve the government were going to have their arms chopped off in accordance with the 2nd Amendment, wouldn't you protest? Wouldn't you stand up for the truth?

People who pervert the truth this way are dangerous quite frankly. They don't care about the truth. They don't care about you. They are charlatans. They are wolves in sheep's clothing. Con-men. Most of the time, their lies and half-truths are alot slicker than these examples. They are just using something that you value (like the Constitution or the Bible) to justify thier own personal agendas. The sad thing is that the state only has control over the affairs of this world. Why would you want to let the church do this to Holy Scripture when the consequences are so much worse!?! It's not just people's lives... we are talking about things of eternal significance.

It's not nit-picking to demand that everyone carefully use a text properly and not twist it to fit their own personal agendas. If you love truth then you have no choice but to defend truth when it gets trampled on by some idiot who wants to make a text say things that it doesn't. If you love something, you don't let people steal it and co-opt it for their own purposes.

If you are a totalitarian with genocidal tendencies, be proud of who you are. Own your crazy beliefs and speak plainly. Be a man and stand on your own two feet. But don't pretend the Constitution supports your views. Don't twist the words of the founders to prop up your lunacy. Don't approach a situation sideways and manipulate the facts just so you can win. Don't try to steal the credibility of the Constitution to use for your own purposes. Don't act like you love liberty and that liberty means subjegating people and cutting their arms off.

By the same token, if you are some ideolgoical fanatic, be proud of who you are. Stand on your own two feet and see how many followers you can attract on your own merit. But don't pretend that your views are Biblical. Don't twist God's Word to prop up your lunacy. Don't try to steal the credibility of the Christian faith when you aren't even close to teaching Christianity. Don't act like you love Christianity and that Christianity means whatever foolishness it is that you managed to came up with.

Can't everyone see that these kinds of people must be opposed by a civil and rigorous defense in the public square using plain reason, intelegence, evidence, and the clear facts?

It is one thing if some kook is rambling off like this in the street and no one listens to him. You can ignore that. But when respected teachers and leaders start teaching masses of people and children this kind of horrible doctrine, and when those people start to believe that it is true and live their lives accordingly, those who know the truth must stand up and point out the error. What other choice is there? Let truth die and let tyranny prevail in the name of some misguided attempt to let sleeping dogs lie? It's one thing to let a sleeping dog lie. Leave that dog alone. But when the dog wakes up and starts mauling an old lady, you have no choice but to act.

We shouldn't have to argue over these kinds of things. In a perfect world, we wouldn't have to point out where liars and fools are leading people astray. I certainly don't want to fight about truth... it is exhausting and not much fun... but I can't stand by and let truth get destroyed. I've seen what it costs. I can't watch people get conned and do nothing. Good men must rally together and mount a compitent defense if good is to prevail at all.

"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle." -Edmund Burke

To love truth is to care about it enough to defend it from those who would do it violence. To love people is to care enough about them that you are willing to point out when they are getting taken for a ride. To love the flock is to care about it enough that you are willing to risk hurting some feelings in order to beat back the wolves that have invaded the fold. Loving something requires that you must defend it... and sometimes it must be a defense that costs a great deal. Some things must be defended at the cost of superficial unity, people's feelings, political correctness, your time, your comfort, and--where neccessary--even life itself.

I love Christ. I love Christianity. I love the church. And I love all of you. Those aren't just empty words. They are backed up by action. These things are worth defending at all times and at all costs. As a Soldier, I am in the vocation of defense in physical warfare. As a Christian, I am also called to do the same but on a spiritual battlefield. Defense is not about killing what you hate. It is about protecting what you love.

There was a popular slogan during this nation's founding: "This We'll Defend." It is commonly depicted in the form of a speech bubble coming from a serpent which was the symbol of the "Don't Tread on Me" flags and drawings. Both the serpent and the motto can be found on the official seal of the Department of the Army to this very day and "This We'll Defend" remains the official motto of the Drill Sergeant Academy. Every drill sergeant in the army wears a badge on his or her chest that says "This We'll Defend". Why? Because if you love something, you believe that it is worth defending from those who would take and kill or twist it. That's true of liberty. That's true of your fellow man. That's true of Christianity.

Do you love the Bible? It is under attack from people who claim to be on our own side. Don't just gloss over that terrible fact! Help us defend it from the multitude of fools and traitors who are misleading people to the fires of hell in the name of Christianity.

Stand up and defend your love. Imposters in the church are ripping it apart as we speak. We must mount a compitent defense if the truth of Christianity is to prevail among us. The church has its own motto that was born out of the Lutheran Reformation. Like "This We'll Defend", it is a statement of love and stalwart defense in the face of those who would rob us of the divine freedom and truth found only in the gospel: "Here I Stand."

We are called to respectfully give a defense for the Gospel [1 Pet 3:13-22]. Every single one of us must study hard, pray for descernment, and look to the Holy Spirit to guide us in this sacred defense of the truth: That Christ died on the cross to save sinners from hell by grace alone through faith alone and that He was raised from the dead in accordance with the Scriptures. We must present this message faithfully and with gentleness, but we must also consistantly and forcefully contend for the faith.

Would that every Christian saw that it was their duty to preserve the truth and clear meaning of Scripture to the same degree that most Americans want to preserve the clear reading of our Constitution. The former is an eternal, divine revelation that is the only rescue for fallen humanity. The latter is just an agreement among the people of this nation to preserve temporary human freedoms that are ultimately of no eternal significance.

+Soli Deo Gloria+

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Winning the Lost.... Through Propoganda?

Let us all have the honesty to call the marketing of the church what it is: propaganda. Maybe it is propaganda dressed in good intentions, but it is manipulation none the less.

And when you feel like you have to market the church, what are you subconsciously admitting? Be honest. You don't believe that God will do his work unless it is through you. Deep down, you don't believe that the Word of God possesses the innate ability to change hearts and minds so it requires an external human agency to convince people of its veracity and worth. Why else would you go away from a defense of the faith (apologetics) and move into a marketing of the church and its brand (propaganda)?

I see no difference between the approaches of the marketeers of the modern church and propagandists. Their presuppositions, pragmatic approaches, rationalizations, and methods appear to be more similar than dissimilar. An obsession on packaging and emotional manipulation reveals that the presenter believes it is his job to convince opinions and change minds rather than just plainly state the truth.

Make no mistake. The church is not the propaganda office of the Kingdom of God. There is no biblical mandate for us to sell or build the church. We are called to "proclaim repentance and the forgiveness of sins" which is totally different than "winning people for Jesus" or "growing the church". That is God's job.

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly - it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”
-Joseph Goebbels