Humorist Franklin Pierce Adams once quipped about an author that “a first edition of his work is a rarity but a second is rarer still.” With all due surprise we offer you a 2nd edition of The Motley Magpie. The response to the first was far greater than we expected and, for the most part, very complimentary. We received responses from around the world, from WELS, ELS and LC-MS pastors, professors, students and laity, even a mention in the Christian News! (Is that good or bad?) The article “The WELS is Dead” generated the most comment from WELS readers, as one might expect. The article it critiqued from Charís magazine, it seems, having caused quite a stir. The dedicatory article “The Mass is the Heart and Life of the Church” generated the most well thought out and, conversely, least thought out responses, some of the latter “filtered” back to us - the knee jerk WELS responses “you don’t have to have the Sacrament” and “you are denigrating the preached Word.” It always amazes me that when you speak of the virtues of the Supper, the automatic response is often “you don’t have to have it” as if some were making a law of it - a straw man who is easily knocked down. Who ever said you had to? When the Supper is offered, you don’t have to attend (freedom), but if it is not celebrated, you can’t, even if you desire to (legalism). I would like someone to give me a good reason not to have the Sacrament in every weekend Service after proper catechization. Any takers? It was also reported that a Wisconsin Synod professor said, “I agree with 95% of what they wrote.” If this is true and you are reading this, perhaps you might enlighten us about that 5%. As interesting as the responses we received were, were those we didn’t. Not a word from officialdom. Not that we expect anyone to respond to what they may feel are the crapulent ravings of madmen. Most of you who took issue with what was written will find your letters printed and answered in this issue. Keep them coming.
Because the response was so great, your editor found himself so swamped that the eagerly anticipated article “Bart Simpson on Church Growth Methodology” was bumped back an issue, due to lack of time and space – despite lengthening this issue by 4 pages. D’oh! My apologies. By the way, to insure you will receive a future copy, you will want to forward your generous subscription gift to us, as any freebies will end after this issue.
We welcome to our staff, Christine Marks, who recently retired from her position working at the Hayward (California) Superior Court. Christine is thus well equipped for her duties with us, having great experience and patience in dealing with the seamy underbelly of life.
Oh, the most interesting observation we received was in a phone call from a friend, a former WELS pastor, now LC-MS, who, when asked his opinion, after a long pause said, “It was the longest suicide note I’ve ever read.” Now, what did he mean by that? §
The Reverend John W. Berg is the editor in chief of The Motley Magpie. The above appeared in the March 2003 issue.
As I doubt whether he minds, the above friend who called after receiving the first installment of the Magpie was the scholar, and it turns out, prophet, Reverend Fr. Paul Alliet. Having been a part of the sect for a time, Fr. Alliet knew well that the Wisconsin Synod does not take kindly to critique and self analysis (ok, a poke in the eye) and thus his droll and witty observation that the Magpie was “the longest suicide note” he had ever read. My own former Wisconsin Synod district president, baffled by us printing this on target observation, seemed to think I was committing suicide by COP (get it? Conference of Presidents, COP. My joke, not his… or, wait, was it….)
Since we announced on several public forums that we are back in business (well, rehashing the same old hash with a dash of additional spice) we heard these equally delightful and telling, albeit less witty, observations on the Magpie’s droppings. The first, no surprise here, was from an often angry Wisconsin Synod poster slash defender on Luther Quest who announced,
I have read it and it's still a "rag". Never again will my eyes lay on it. (Jennifer Kluender, who proudly dubs herself “Semwife” on LQ. )
Semwife followed up with this welsian alert
short it seems they are trying make Catholics out of us. They call each other
"Father" instead of pastor, they wear collars instead of gowns, they
want to call the service a "mass".
Sorry, Jenn, we apologize for offending your eyes. (Was it perhaps the issue with the racy picture of the naked Magpie on the back? Shake your tail feather, baby!) Actually, you’re not quite right, Semwife. We were trying to make Lutherans out of you, and then we were going to try to make you Catholics. Oh, wait, I just read the Book of Concord, you’re right! We were! (‘cept we also call each other things we can’t print and we also wear cassocks, surplices, stoles, maniples, amices and chasubles, but not miters - them hats are expensive!)
The second evaluation was posted on the best Lutheran blog out there, “Cyberstones,” which are the always entertaining, always enlightening, always edifying, sometimes earthy musings of our favorite Lutheran, Rev. Fr. David Petersen. (If you wish to read Lutheran sermons, read his.) One poster on his sight, whom I don’t know, but someone to whom I seem strangely drawn, confessed on Petersen’s blog which was discussing the ‘Pie,
I loved this periodical. I used to laugh so hard while I read it that I'd almost soil myself.
Thanks, the incontinent ‘Pie causes incontinence! (If it gets to that point again, you can write to my older brother and he’ll send some of his Depends.) §
The Reverend John W. Berg is the editor in chief of The Motley Magpie.
The Resuscitated Magpie inspired this letter.
Jerome Wolff, who signed himself a “WELS teacher,” writes:
Presuming this is the John W. Berg of the Motley Magpie group:
was reading some of your writing on line. It was very scholarly, and abrupt.
I am sorry for your lack of understanding with regard to micellaneous (sic) quotes made by men and the distinction of that which truly comes from scripture. It appears to me, a meer (sic) elementary school teacher, that you are searching for a hidden knowledge and that additionally you have some confusion on the concepts of the theology of glory v. the theology of the cross. I would suggest you look more simply toward scriptures instead of becoming entangled in defensive scholasticism (sic). I would further suggest a search for the theology of the cross, not that of glory or traditionalism. Thanks for your thoughts.
Remember the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man.
Dear Mr. Wolff,
You presume correctly, I am the infamous John W. Berg of the "Motley Magpie group." I like that," group," makes us sound like a big Wall Street conglomerate.
Your note mystifies me, Mr. Wolff, as you offer some rather odd, and I dare say, wildly off target generalizations without any substantiation. Lobbing a charge of "theology of glory" and "defensive scholasticism" and "confusion" without providing a word of illustration or substantiation is unworthy of anyone, even and especially a "meer (sic) elementary school teacher." (By the way, as the proud father of an elementary school teacher there is no such thing as a "mere" one.)
I appreciate your concern for my lack of understanding, a concern shared by many, and I apologize that my ignorance (and you'll get no argument from me on that charge) has caused you this sorrow, but once again you might better deliver me from my ignorance and you from your sorrow by providing some illustration of my cluelessness, as I still remain clueless and ignorant, a happy and a familiar state for me to be sure. But since blissful ignorance, however pleasant, is dangerous for those of us in the guild, I must say that to simply assert and not illustrate is rather pointless, is it not? That is, unless you just want to get this off your chest and, if so, fine, I will give your words all the appropriate time and consideration all such unsubstantiated charges should receive.
I am confused, however, for, to be sure, I and the other writers of the MM do make a very clear distinction between the truths of Holy Writ and the wit of man. In fact one of our articles, the article "The WELS is Dead," is quite to that point. Might I venture the guess that the ignorance is yours and thus the sorrow would be mine? I only suggest this as I know that we are clear on that point, if not on others, so if someone says we are not, even a WELS elementary school teacher, I must proceed, until shown otherwise, with that assumption.
The poor, miserable writers of the Motley Magpie struggle daily to be the theologians of the cross that none on this side of the heavenly Elbe can ever be. You'll get no argument from us that we are lacking here and the encouragement to always strive for this is always welcome. Could you, then, as a theologian of the cross, enlighten us as to where this want is seen in our articles as well as the other deficiencies you note? For one wonders how an article on the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, an article critiquing church growth in the WELS, an article on the Christological emphasis of this new journal and an article exposing the Reformed preaching paradigm in the WELS, in addition to two sermons which clearly preach Christ crucified, can be dubbed "theology of glory."
So please allow me one more question, if you will be so kind. Forgive me, but do you even know what that is? I have my suspicions. And might I be so bold as to suggest that you begin your "search for the theology of the cross" and I suggest you begin with Luther's treatment of that in AE 31 - and, in my opinion, if one has not read this treatment, it disqualifies him from commenting on the issue, or at least it ought to slow him down, even a WELS elementary school teacher of some two years experience (if the Magpie-exorcised WELS yearbook accounting of your '04 graduation date is accurate).
So, please, Mr. Wolff, enlighten us on what I will term, for the time being and until you show us, rather unscholarly and abrupt observations. (JWB)
Jerome Wolff kindly responded to the above post.
Thank you for your response Fr. (Friar?) Berg,
Certainly taking your time to speak with me is appreciated. Since I have so intriuged (sic) you with my first, and yes your are right in saying abrupt and unscholarly, response please allow me to ellaborate (sic) and further enquire that perhaps you may assist me in understanding and that I may clarify.
First of all, for my own personal sake it is best to move slowly. I am not an intellectual giant, just a simple christian (sic) who was surprised by your writing. I know and am very happy to hear that you appreciate school teachers, and your son. For my personal sake I will use the phrase, "meer school teacher."
In paragraph two (Beginning: I appreciate) of your letter there are three things to which I ought respond,
A) I appologize (sic) for saying lack of understanding, which I had no intent of be understood as "cluelessness." I should have phrased myself by saying not full understanding or incomplete, which I think may also be too harsh. Please forgive me, I will explain my point of confusion and I do appologize (sic) for any offense I have given.
B) "Guild," unless I am mistook, you are referring to the Motley Magpie, and this reference indicates that your are a group of "theologian writers." Am I correct?
C) "....pointless, is it not." you are correct that to have written such an Email without explanation is pointless and is not fair in offering you an opprotunity (sic) to explain your writing,
In paragraph three (Beginning: I am confused) I have three points that I would like to ask:
A) Holy Writ: I pressume (sic) you are obviously referring to the Holy Bible. The translation I use is the NIV. I lack the skill nesssecary (sic) to translate historical grammatical Greek and Hebrew, and my Latin and German are very weak. So any response I offer will have to be using this.
B) Wit if man: I find that the wit of man is a wonderful thing. Often though, it can lead to misunderstanding, particularily (sic) on matters of religion. Therefore, if anything I respond to was meant in a light or sarcastic tone and I misunderstood, just let me know.
C) The article, "The WELS is Dead" is the first article to which I may make response. As a precursor I want you to know that I agree with many, but not all things which were written in that article.
D) If the ignorance is to be mine, than I would appreciate the ability to be enlightened by scripture. And understanding that your time is precious I do appreciate your considerate response.
E) I agree that unless you are convinced that there is a problem with any of the things I mention it is your christian (sic) freedom to proceed as you have in the past.
Now to my first reason for the letter. In your article, "The WELS is Dead." I agree with many of your points. Particularily (sic) that the work of the Holy Spirit is not a quantifiable thing. I believe that much, but not all of the reason for the magnitude of mega church grow is because persistent errists (sic) therein would tell people whatever they would like to hear. Nonetheless in these errists (sic) circles, over which many drool and few understand I will not attempt to quantify the work the Holy Spirit does or does not do on the basis of their records of conversion and prosyletism (sic). There is a problem, even within WELS, of being pulled into the popularity of telling people what they want to hear and not being forward with scripture. One such mega growth problem I find as an example would be the Hope School of Milwaukee. Which commonly hires non confessional and errist (sic) teachers and brings them into the classroom. This is wrong. There is a great problem on this planet (bet you thought I would say in this country) with church growth movements that dodge the proper teaching of law and gospel and preach a theology of glory.
Yet were a confessional pastor, even a WELS pastor, to share the Word of the Lord in its truth, what would be the harm in reaching an audience of one, two or three thousand. As you correctly point out in first Corinthians it is the power of God which allows the seed of faith to grow. Certainly Andrew preached a sermon to an audience of one when he said, Come, See, We have found the Messiah! And so it was Peter who preached and the Holy Spirit who reached an audience of three thousand on Pentecost. Does the number make a difference? No, for it is the work of the Lord in His time to determine how he will reach others. Who is to say that the ministry to the group of one is any more or less important than to that of the many. This is an area where I think you have implied a charge against a larger ministry setting? Is that correct? I think you answer one side of an extreme in the growth issue very well, but I think you might be leaving the reader lacking in a fair explanation of another potential side of church growth is dangerous, for it would imply the opposite.
Were a confessional pastor, to take a Dale Carnegie (trademark) course, even a WELS pastor, what is the harm? I know that the syllabus for Carnegie promotes a focus on self. But there are, as a worshipper from the pew, a number of things I see which detract attention from the Word of God. One of these is the poor delivery of a sermon. Some pastors are focused so much on the text they never look up. Which can lead to a perfectly good sermone (sic) being poorly delivered. Some pastors can be so busy talking that they do not effectively listen to a person. These are two small examples of how such a course could help a fellow improve in ministerial service. My point here is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Some people, the apostle Paul, even Moses, needed help in speaking. They were not brilliant speakers, but they were the best kind of a speaker, they were faithful. I think that you suggest in your writing that ministers attending Dale Carnegie courses are more interested in personal appearance? Is that correct? Is that really a fair assumption for us to make? Certainly the Lord has given us many gifts which allow for personal growth within our ministry.
The symoblism (sic) of the frock and collar of the past are good symbols. Historially (sic) they are meant to detract from the preacher and point toward scripture. Of course the preistly (sic) garb of the Old Testament was likewise a way to remind the people of the relationship and covenant the Israelites had made with God. Today however many people look at priestly garb as more as detracting from the message. One such reason for this is because some feel that there is a false level of piety associated with the dress. My point here is that if we can understand these things should we rule out a preacher in blue jeans and a sweater? Do not misunderstand, I wear nice clothes on Sunday as a way to show respect to the Lord; as I am sure you do as well. My only point here is that we should not throw a person or persons into the "erristic" (sic) church growth (or any other) catergory (sic) because of their garb. Garb in my (sic) opinoin can demonstrate respect, and symbolism, but is today largely a matter of tradition, and scriptually (sic) speaking is a matter of indifference. Do you agree?
Finally with regard to the theology of glory v. the theology of cross. In which I wrote rudely and for that I apologize (sic). My concerns here, is that you have lumped those who would have a large audience, would attempt televangelism (of which I am not too fond), those who dress differently, and those who take classes in personal relationships into the area of church growth, or even errist (sic). Do you not agree that such people could believe in the theology of the cross? I know it is difficult to believe, but the theology of glory does not exclusively exist in garb, size of congregation, and delivery of sermon.
I do have an appreciation of the training which pastors, particularily (sic) WELS pastors, must go through in order to prepare for public ministry. Additionally I would say that no earthly church has been without its fair share of confessionalists, errists (sic) and reformists. Nonetheless the WELS is just a tool of service to the Lord and His Word, and it is but an earthly organization. Remember the members of the WELS are sinners like us, who are capable of sin and error. We should certainly encourage and correct one another. Likewise we should not be surprised when we or anyone err, but go back to scripture and there find God's truth. I guess in summation my offense and sorrow is that I believe your arguments have gone too far. Perhaps I have been too serious and should have taken some areas of your writing as wit. Nonetheless I appreciate your thoughts and perhaps I have offered some better explanation as to my concerns. My intent is not to cause offense, simply to let you know that I was stirred by your writing in this article. While I agree with most of it, I at this time do not agree with all of it. Please share your thoughts with me. I would be delighted to read more if you have the time.
8MM Thank you for your response and kind apologies which I accept. First of all to your lettered points.
B. Guild. That is a reference to those whose enterprise is doing theology.
A. Holy “Writ,” just another word for Holy “Scriptures,” from the most common term in the new testament, literally, the “writings,” or in older language, Writ.
An aside, always don’t trust the NIV. It is what is called a dynamic equivalence translation. It often takes thoughts and translates them into a parallel concept in English. Although that can be helpful, it should be limited to commentaries. It is the translator also taking on the role of interpreter, and in this case the interpreter is Reformed. Let the text speak for itself. The New King James is better in that it translates more word to word. An example of this can be found in 1 Timothy 5:17 which the NIV translates “the elders who direct the affairs of the church.” The text simply says, “the elders who rule well.” This faulty translation is used by those who think this speaks about what are called “elders” in churches today (such as church council members) and put them into the Office of the Holy Ministry. This is used then to support their view that anyone doing stuff in the church (“the affairs of the church”) is in the Office of the Holy Ministry. The text, however, simply says, the “presbyteroi” which in this context simply means “older men” who rule well are worthy of double honor, especially those in the office. Reformed bias is often put into the NIV and many in the WELS bite. The former president of the WELS seminary used this passage in this manner to prove this teaching, erroneously.
B. I think this might account for some of your reaction. We were/are writing for the theological crowd, those familiar with these things. Some of the things we write are in a bit of a theological shorthand, and that holds true with the humor. We are using some of that to parody the position of those who defend this silliness. Those to whom we are writing, that is, the target audience, should know these things and should know better. This journal was not targeted to the untrained and if it were, it would have been written differently.
To your other points. You ask “what would be the harm in reaching an audience of one, two or three thousand.” And “who is to say that the ministry to the group of one is any more or less important than to that of the many. This is an area where I think you have implied a charge against a larger ministry setting.”
Sorry, but this makes me wonder, did you read the same article I wrote? You inferred something I did not imply, not even close, because I said the very opposite of what you inferred. I wrote that numbers mean nothing, that is the providence of the Holy Spirit. I did not write that “large” numbers are somehow bad or "small" good, but that large numbers prove zip. I serve a congregation of 120, formerly one of 1000. My message was the same, “repent and believe.” The whole article, but most specifically the section entitled “Yes, but” says that clearly. You wildly missed the point both of Eblerle’s article and mine (I am assuming you read his article in the Charis journal). When someone says, as Eberle and his crowd do, that numbers are a gauge of whether one is doing their job or not and when they said “hey, look over there, let’s do what they are doing” and offer “solutions” outside of the Gospel, they are adding to the Gospel. If you read Bruce Eberle’s response to my article and my response to his letter, you will see that I noted again that numbers tell us nothing. I devastated his Scriptural arguments and he defended none, he wasn’t able to. However, he uses his “numbers” argument to conclude that since “conservative” churches grow, the WELS should grow. Beyond “growth” not being our providence, what he, and too many in the WELS fail to note is that the “conservatism” of Protestantism is not Lutheran. Growth is not necessarily an indicator of something good, it may actually be an indicator of something bad. Sadly, there is often no difference between the WELS and generic Protestantism, for many a WELS church is “Protestant with a dash of Sacraments.” A quote or two from my article might have been useful in substantiating your point, which you will not find (to save you the work.)
Again, the point I made is that numbers are no gauge of “success” (oh, puke) as God determines that, never has been, never will be, see AC V. God desires faithfulness, not results or "success" as the world views that, or as businessman Eberle views it, large numbers. In examining the book of Acts to which Eberle appealed as his proof that God cares about numbers, we see that numbers are not recorded “numerous times” as he noted, and even the large number of Pentecost conversions was not that large, IF you operate according to church growth/Eberle measures. As I noted, in a city that most likely swelled to 2 million people at this Pentecost festival, according to the “bean counters” 3,000 is not that much. Again these folk say you must look at the numbers, Christ demands faithfulness and, in fact, wonders when he returns “will he find faith.” The very point of my article was to show that these standards and their corresponding methods are contrary to the “foolishness of preaching.”
You took note of my reference to "Dale Carnegie." Once I again I think you read a whole lot into this without taking into consideration the context. You note that “some people, the apostle Paul, even Moses, needed help in speaking.” That is not quite right. Moses attempted to use his lack of speaking ability to deter the call of God. God would have none of it, and he did not send him to “take classes in personal improvement” he sent him to Pharaoh armed only with His word. Paul says that God operated through his word, regardless of him or any limitations which he could polish up with a course or two in “how to win friends and influence people.” Paul was a cracked vessel. He says as I quoted in my article, “my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom….”
You see this is what this crowd says will “grow” the church. That is the theology of glory, for the theology of the cross is the preaching that reduces us to nothing, to weakness, to foolishness. The Gospel turns everything around. No Dale Carnegie course can compensate for properly preaching the law and the Gospel, this assumes the preacher is doing just that, preaching it. That is precisely the kind of human wisdom that people feel needs to be added in order to “punch up” the Gospel, or as I have heard "sell" the Gospel. That is sheer ignorance.
I noted later in my article about the message we are to deliver as preachers lest some misunderstand that I am defending poor preaching
Are we to envision a day in this vision of the church when a pastor is greeted in his vestry by his vestry asking for his resignation because his sermons, although sound, have not produced the requisite results and thereby he is deemed “ineffective” - the ecclesial version of firing the manager? This does not excuse poor, shallow, unprepared preaching that does not plumb the Christological depths of the Scriptures and the mysteries. Plant and water well we must, but the blessed Apostle absolves us of the responsibility of the increase.
I am not sure what you mean by noting that “the Lord has given us many gifts which allow for personal growth within our ministry.” I would say that it is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ. The only growth a preacher needs is in properly preaching law and Gospel. Dale Carnegie can’t give that. And that the WELS needs in spades. If you want to be the star at your faculty cocktail parties, fine, go to Dale. I think you would need to substantiate your claim from Scripture for this comment, and I think you will search with be fruitless.
You go on a bit about dress. Once again I think you read way to much into the comment, I assume, I made in writing “A Lutheran pastor, mic in hand strolling about the chancel in evangelical drag (blue jeans and sweater), encouraging a stronger ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ (Task force objective #10) is hardly corrective or helpful.” Look at what I just wrote and the context of that paragraph and to what I was responding. This sort of stuff is that which we are told is that which will draw people in. No it won’t, not in the faith, maybe in your church. A sweater and blue jeans will not help, and to think it will, is to be ashamed of the Gospel. If these are the sorts of things being used to bring people in, we are being ashamed of the Gospel and supplanting the Gospel with something else. What those who say “it doesn’t matter what you wear as long as….” are saying, is that some (presumably like the Magpies) are saying that you have to do things a certain way. That is called setting up a straw man. No one ever said such. However, the Gospel and the Lutheran understanding of the Holy Ministry, and how the Church in her history has viewed that has led the church to certain customs, customs which are intended to point to Christ and to support the Gospel. The main point in that comment was to show how silly it is to ape the Baptists, as the blue jean and sweater crowd do and as also illustrated in the odd statement from the WELS task force which used Baptist language (“personal relationship with Jesus”). By the way, God does not say “grow the Church” he said to his apostles and their successors, “teach the nations.”
In your paragraph beginning “finally,” you assert that I
have lumped those who have a large audience, would attempt televangelism, those who dress differently, and those who take classes in personal relationships into the area of church growth or even errist (sic).
Quite a leap in logic, for I do not even address the issue of a large audience as being bad (but only that it is no measure), I do not even mention the issue of “televangelism” (that really mystifies me) and I flatly say that dressing down, or smiling winningly do not Christians make, the Gospel does. To think all that does, is indeed one of the errors of the church growth crowd. You do not substantiate any of this from my article and I hesitate to venture a guess, but I am guessing you have a burr under your saddle in this regard and rushed in without carefully considered what was written. Just a guess.
You ask “do you not agree that such people could believe in the theology of the cross?” Don’t know, but my experience is that those, like Eberle, who commend the ways of church growth and American Protestantism, don’t know what the theology of the cross is and do not operate with it. In fact this is a wide spread problem in the WELS itself. There is little Gospel preaching, at least from what I have seen. You, presumably defending those whom I critique, write “I know it is difficult to believe, but the theology of glory does not exclusively exist in garb, size of congregation, and delivery of sermon.” You totally miss the point of what I actually wrote. It IS a theology of glory to say that garb, size and slick delivery will get the job done. Although I did not talk about this in my article, one of the WELS mission methods in starting a congregation is to hold no services for a year, just “Bible Classes” and then when a group is large enough you have a huge coming out par-tey, er, uh, service. You see, people will be more impressed by numbers, that is, if you invite a visitor to a service attended by a handful they will not be impressed, better to invite them to a home Bible study when you just have a handful. I know this as I was once called to do exactly that. (I declined).
You conclude that my arguments “have gone too far.” I can’t agree at all, in fact I don't think I went far enough. First of all, you did not correctly represent my arguments. You set up a straw man. You did not show me from my actual text that I made the conclusion about which you write. I could concede that I did not make my arguments or that I was unclear, that is, if you could actually show where I did so. Your conclusions of what I wrote are actually refuted by the very words I wrote.
What Eberle and his crowd want to do is to give their AMC Pacer a brand new paint job when the engine is shot and it wasn’t much of a car in the first place. That is foolish, that IS a theology of glory. For Dale Carnegie is as far away from a real preacher of the Gospel as there can be. One is bemused to think of John the Baptizer sitting in on a lesson at the local Holiday Inn on how to "win friends and influence people." The real theology of the cross reduces man to nothing, it destroys him, so that it might save him. This is not done by winsomeness or funny stories (the bane of WELS preaching). The real problem within the WELS is not in packaging the message better, as I so foolishly have heard it put, but getting the message right. When you do that, all the other things, such as how we dress and conduct ourselves in the service, fall into place.
When, as you so often hear in the WELS, it said, as a WELS circuit past, Paul Mueller said at a WELS conference, “we must not change the message, but we must change the methods” then you know that they do not believe it is the Gospel which works. For if, according to them, “it is not working” (read: “growing”) then “it” must change. What must change? They say, methods, but, horrors, not the message. The unmistakable conclusion is that these “methods” are that which grow the church. What is forgotten is that the Gospel is a message delivered in preaching and in the Sacraments. The “how” of that is the right preaching of it and the right administration of them. In my opinion the WELS is infected beyond repair, but that is only from a human standpoint, for it is the Spirit who changes hearts. This problem is seen in the WELS on both sides. On one side you have the cutting edge church growthers who say “our methods” will grow the church, and on the other side you have the conservatives, represented very much in the Northern Conference of the Michigan district(editor note, the district of this teacher) who think that their “conservatism” will stay the church, conserving that which wasn't that much to begin with, which “conservatism” is nothing other that shallow "People’s Bible" lessons with a dash of Sacraments at best. The Magpie says that the “Mass (that is, the Lord’s Supper) is the Heart and the Life of the Church” to which the baptized are preached. Take your pick. Pax, Fr. (Father) John W. Berg.
P.S. Jerome, it’s called spell chek (sic, and wink). §