Thursday, October 23, 2014

A fresh new approach to church

New pastor brings new style to church

Lead Pastor Burnell Petersen leads fresh new worship style at local church
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COLUMBUS — A church is about to embark on a new journey as it welcomes new Lead Pastor Burnell H.R. Petersen.
The 35-year-old father of five said it was the Holy Spirit that called him to the Missouri-Synod Lutheran congregation accompanied by his wife, Concordia, to Columbus. “As radical as it sounds," the black-shirted pastor - bereft of hipster glasses, wispy beard, and shaved head - explained, ”I didn't scope out this place through marketing, surveys, or focus groups, but rather God called me here to preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments without regard to human manipulation."  
“The mission of Jesus Christ is what got me here: to reach unbelievers (not the unchurched, dechurched, underchurched, overchurched, or entertainment-deprived); but rather people who need Law and Gospel, but are being deprived of it in their tired old feckless baby-boomer churches, or maybe they’ve been hurt or are struggling in some way with being manipulated like a focus group,” Petersen said.
He went on to explain what sets his congregation apart from other churches in the community.
“We actually believe in this stuff.  We aren't giving people hipster gobbledygook and hackneyed warmed over phony religiosity, but the actual Gospel ” said the 2005 graduate of a certain Lutheran Seminary.  I like my motorcycle just fine, but I won't be riding it into the chancel."
He believes shallow postmodernism and silly innovations are often placed above the real reason someone attends church.
“If you asked someone off the street their idea of a church, they would think praise bands, a guy in jeans and an untucked shirt cracking jokes, just some of those older worn-out postmodern ideas of what church is, cookie cutter crap that just makes young people want to hurl," Petersen said. "Our congregation is not really any of those things. We don’t have praise bands, no middle aged pastor desperately trying to be relevant but just looking like a clown.  We understand or try to project in our culture that church is more than just trying to bait and switch people and downplaying Jesus, the cross, redemption, and the Gospel.  We don't throw our blessed Lord under the bus."
“It’s a challenge to minister as an actual believer instead of a poser, but if you simply carry out the Lord's instructions from Scripture, it's not really hard to understand that this isn't posing for selfies."
Petersen is excited about becoming part of the mission that the Holy Catholic Church has set out to accomplish since its opening in 30 AD.
“The neat thing about this body of Christ is we’re all broken, we’re all sinful and we all struggle. That grace and mercy that’s poured on us in Holy Baptism, we’re overjoyed by it.  And in spite of the crosses we bear as disciples, we can’t help but want to share it, by inviting people to the Divine Service,” he said.
There is no target age or demographic, Petersen said with the Church's culture-transcending hymnody and multisensory experience of the Western Mass in its fullness, along with the Law and Gospel he uses within his sermons, the congregation has no intended age, race, or status of wealth.
“It’s liturgical and dignified so that’s attractive to young families. It’s an authentic atmosphere on Sundays so parents feel comfortable bringing their kids here,” he said.
His congregation tends to be a little different than other churches as actually worshiping God through the miracle of the physical presence of Jesus in Word and sacrament is a normal scene - as opposed to projection screens, bad guitar music, skits, lattes, cup-holders, couches, dancing girls, and mind-numbing praise choruses,
Petersen is confident that by virtue of the Lord's incarnation and mission to seek and save the lost, Jesus will continue to interact physically and miraculously as the Holy Spirit grows the church according to the will of the Father, a reality he gladly invites.  He has no idea what the "numbers" will look like.
“It’s a really good problem to have,” he said.
Petersen describes himself as a "poor miserable sinner" who has been "called into the preaching office and set apart through Holy Ordination" with a preaching style that shuns gimmicks, current events, and modern media examples such as video clips and slideshows - focusing rather on Christ and His work on the cross for the salvation of sinners.  It's a radical idea, and one certain to raise eyebrows, but Petersen is convinced that this new way is superior to the old, traditional shuck-and-jive contemporary nonsense that turns people off with its shallowness.
“We have not abolished the Mass," said Petersen, in a shocking quotation of the Book of Concord, "Moreover, in our churches 'Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments, etc.'" 

It's an idea so radical and fresh that it's a wonder this has not been tried before.

For more information about what authentic worship does not look like, visit any number of LCMS congregations.

8 comments:

  1. I'm honestly struggling as a baptized, confirmed, lifetime LCMS member how we differentiate between worship styles as scriptural vs. non-scriptural. I attend a liturgical church, but am not sure if the century that a song was written or whether a pastor wears a robe, a suit, or blue jeans abrogates the Gospel message. If we have an issue with the message of a particular church or pastor, let’s focus on that.

    I get the intention of the piece here; but at the same time I'm concerned that our message as Lutherans is perhaps not best spent on targeting different worship styles from our own. Now, if we want to discuss the truth of the teachings of other churches, i.e. sacraments, the reality of Christ's presence in the Eucharist, etc. that is another matter. The Lutheran church that I knew as a child relentlessly drove into me the basis of scripture for our discussions. The discussions today seem to focus on much outside of that. A big screen, music choice, or dress of the pastor seem to me as misguided targets. I'm far more concerned with doctrinal issues, and I mean specifics rather than generalizations, as a differentiator between the Lutheran church and issues that we may take with issue with. Truth - or lack thereof – that we find in other denominations is based on scripture alone.

    If another church has a degree of success in filling its pews via modern technology, perhaps it’s a point of consideration for an LCMS who may be struggling to fill its walls. Meaning, can a Lutheran church use a big screen TV and preach the Gospel in truth? Are these two things incompatible? If they are incongruent, so be it. I’m not sure, however, that I find this in scripture. If we do not base our contentions with other denominations on solid scriptural teaching, we are left with weak arguments, whether we admit that to ourselves or not. And the bigger danger is that those who are outside the walls of truth will see that our arguments are not solidly based on scripture, and will run for the proverbial hills. Somehow we’ve got to stop chasing people away from the church with well-intended, but misguided polemics. If this piece had focused solely on the pastor’s dedication to the historical liturgical worship of the Lutheran church and desire to minister the Word and Sacrament to the local community, I’d have appreciated it more. Unfortunately, I walked away questioning the validity of some of its polemic against fashion and technology and how this fits into the plain meaning of scripture that Dr. Luther taught.

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  2. Do you believe that through partaking the Sacrament of Holy Communion (i.e.with use of the common cup) death's disease can be transmitted? If so, please explain how the true blood of our Lord Jesus Christ becomes taunted with death when it is received in the "cup of life". My faith and theology cannot accept this. Science may scoff at the early church practice as archaic and foolish, but the Sacrament, when received by the humble saint who believes in its promise for healing, can only produces life.

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  3. Andy,

    These links might be helpful to you.

    http://sothl.com/2014/03/22/understanding-new-covenant-worship-as-the-fulfillment-of-the-old/
    u
    http://sothl.com/2014/10/24/the-promise-of-entering-gods-rest-vs-the-fear-of-god/

    Pr. Rich Futrell

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  4. Thanks, Pastor. I find those two links more productive for discussing Lutheran worship, in contrast to attacking our brothers and sisters that we may or may not agree with. I mean no disrespect whatsoever to the initial poster, and prove myself a hypocrite as I catch myself daily being critical as opposed to speaking truth in love. I had not initially realized, moreover, that the post was a reaction to an LCMS pastor – a parody of a similar article being posted in a Columbus newspaper website. Somehow, it seems at least, that we’ve become a “nasty” church in the last decades if I compare what I see and read now to what I did as a child. Thousands and thousands of pages of polemics online, directed from LCMS members at other LCMS members, evidence this. The world outside of the LCMS sees this. Perhaps it’s part of the reason our churches have fewer and fewer people in them every Sunday, if we are honest with ourselves. Just my two cents.

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  5. "If we do not base our contentions with other denominations on solid scriptural teaching, we are left with weak arguments, whether we admit that to ourselves or not." -- Andy

    This is simply not the case, as an apologetical reading of Irenaeus "Against Heresies" and Eusebius" Ecclesiastical Histories" will demonstrate. The Gnostics and the Enthusiasts were quite capable of a mellifluous-sounding quote of Scripture in the "competition" with our ancient brethren, even as Satan has a facility with such behavior. The bulk of the Baptists are sola Scriptura types, and they'll gladly fling their interpretations of John 6 at Andy et al., in addition to the absence of any clear-cut example of a baby's baptism, in Holy Writ. One big and deciding difference between the catholic faithful and the heretical sects, according to Irenaeus, was not the number of proof passages pronounced, but orthodox hermeneutics (centered on the Eucharist, and the reality of Christ's Presence in such celebration), and orthodox practices. The bishops of the orthodox could be shown to be orthodox, through rigorous examination and a traceable ordination lineage ... of which tradition the truly confessing Lutheran Church shares ... whether we admit it to ourselves or not, to borrow a phrase. Solid practices of the faith are grounded in the past as well as the embattled present, as the Lutheran community recognized without hesitation or shame in the sixteenth century.

    In Article XV.1 of the AC's Apology, the point is made that ecclesiastical rites are to be KEPT, where the ceremonies do not invite sin, and are beneficial for both the church's peace and GOOD ORDER. The rites are not to be perceived as being meritorious in themselves, of course; this would be a sin. But the traditional ordos DO serve a role. The Lutheran fathers contend, that ceremonies are purposed in part to educate the laity as to the tenets and mysteries of the Christian faith. They do so indeed, in their structure as well as their content. The traditional forms are soaked in, and extensively quote God's Word, especially the verses of the Psalter. In their composition, the traditional forms and liturgies unswervingly relate our Lord's earthly life, from the manger to the cross; and even includes a "lifted up," cross and Ascension drenched Benediction, to meaningfully send us off ministering to the dying world.

    An attention-grabbing, centrally placed "praise band" or "big-screen" hiding the Altar of God's Presence teaches the laity as well, as do all trappings of ritual, however transcendent or baleful. The most obviously apparent teaching, of such progressively clumsy contraptions, is that we fallen humans can happily choose to re-veil the Holy of Holies yet again, if our narcissistic ("Take care of and entertain me, for I deserve it") emotions so demand it. That is offensive to the Peace of God (i.e., Christ), which passes our understanding (amply proved by the action, I say) and to Godly good order.

    The contemporizing trends are NOT Lutheran in spirit, derived as they are from enthusiastic spirits, and certainly not as Lutheran is defined in our Symbols ... where the ancient Church is explicitly taken as model.

    To summarize, an assertion once famously used against the papists viz., "We can claim that the public liturgy in the church is more dignified among us than among our opponents. If anyone would look at it in the right way, we keep the ancient canons [i.e., prescribed rituals] better than the opponents. (AC Ap XV.39, Kolb-Wengert, p. 229); now may be equally ... if not better ... applied to the antics of some so-called "Lutherans," in this our troubled age.

    The arguments of the Lutheran Confessions are not "weak." Ignored? Undoubtedly.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor

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  6. "Somehow, it seems at least, that we’ve become a “nasty” church in the last decades if I compare what I see and read now to what I did as a child. Thousands and thousands of pages of polemics online, directed from LCMS members at other LCMS members, evidence this. The world outside of the LCMS sees this. Perhaps it’s part of the reason our churches have fewer and fewer people in them every Sunday, if we are honest with ourselves. Just my two cents."

    It's an interesting hypothesis; but the concern, if legitimate, did not stop the Lutherans of the 16th century from composing the Formula of Concord, which was an effort of Lutherans largely directed against the practices and teachings of other Lutherans who otherwise claimed to hold solidly to the truths of the Augsburg Confession. I suspect the world was very much aware of the dirty linen, exposed on the clothesline. Given the firepower of the adversary ... the Thirty Years War misery was only a few decades distant from the Book of Concord's 1580, remember ... it would have been very tempting to clam up, and make like the Lutherans were singing together in "perfect harmony," like a Coke commercial called upon the world to do (while sipping but one, specific brand of syrupy carbonated fizz, of course. Hint: It wasn't to be Pepsi.).

    I cannot deduce how old you are, Andy, and I don't know if you, as a child, were avidly following the writings of a certain faculty of a certain seminary in the 1970's.

    However, if an educated laity had not been rancorous, daring to upset world peace and its perceptions of what should be, the LCMS ... battle-fatigued, as the world may see it ... would be singing quite a different tune these days. Just my 0.0001 pseudo-copper mish-mash, adjusting for inflation.

    Believe me, the outside psycho-neurotic world has nothing on the Church, when it comes to conflict. The world may figure-point at Lutherans all it wants, but yes, the Church Militant is made up of fallen human beings who are sanctified solely because of Christ's merits, death and Resurrection ... not because they use a better deodorant, or because corporate Missouri is heaven on earth. Besides, we can direct the world to sola Scriptura, to assure it that the life in the Church is not an easy place to dwell, necessarily, given that Christ Himself says there are tares lurking about inside His visible Church, present to threaten and choke the wheat.

    But it's okay, sometimes even necessary, to call a spade a spade. St. Peter called out people as being murderers, on Pentecost ... and the Holy Spirit added 3000 to the nascent Church. Peter identified Ananias and Sapphira, members of the Church, as out-and-out liars, and subsequently ... in light of certain lethal events ... "a great fear came upon all the church and upon as many as heard these things (Acts 5:11; AV)." Yet we read that "multitudes" (v.14) were added to the Lord, following the Petrine admonition and the Holy Ghost's will and force.

    We should take care avoid offending the little ones; that is a Scriptural mandate to which merits obedience. But we should also attempt recognize, call out and defend against the "hirelings," who seek to plunder the little ones as well. The Holy Ghost will gather His elect together, however botched our actions might appear to the unwashed unregenerated.

    Your (unworthy) servant,
    Herr Doktor

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  7. Burnell H.C. Petersen

    What is this...a Gottesdienst trinity?

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  8. I simply did not find the mockery in the initial post an example of how to disagree with our Christian brothers and sisters in the spirit of love. Pastor Futrell’s post provided me with an example of one way to perhaps do it better and spark a discussion on the scriptural basis for Lutheran worship. No stones thrown, no self-indulging big words or references to thinkers or documents that 99%+ of the Lutheran laity know little or nothing about. God’s Word vs. depressing Lutheran internal polemics.

    I’ll not post again, as I’ve already deviated from my work, but I continued to be saddened with the state of the LCMS. I continue to ponder how and if we will ever cast off our arrogance and take humble instruction from God’s Word rather than flaunt our tail feathers at the world and show off our self-ascribed assurance of orthodoxy. Our church needs a kick in the ass from Dr. Luther. We all know we’re talking about the rise of Evangelical churches here. I simply think that clear biblical doctrine is a better way to address unorthodox teachings in these churches, and in LCMS ones who may well-intentionally replicate some of their practices. Baptism. The Eucharist. Assurance of salvation in God’s Word. The definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and the importance of family. There are much more pressing problems in the world and in theology today, and there is much more value that the LCMS can add to the discussion, than blue jeans and an appropriate cut-off year for a songwriter’s inclusion in the hymnal. Big words and clever prose don’t change the fact that we’re talking about fashion, music choice, and picture screen positioning here. No really, let’s not inflate the meat and potatoes of it with grandiosity. Jesus’ words in Matthew 15 are telling for me. If the hearts of those with the hip fashion are in err, I stand corrected. My last post on the subject.

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