Saturday, August 15, 2009


Lutheran parishes and parishioners start down the American Evangelical worship road for a variety of reasons - I think most would agree that a desire to be relevant in the current culture is most widely stated as the starting point. The idea is that this culture in this time, unlike any before it, must have the whole of Christian worship turned toward its own expectations, musical styles, cultural symbols, etc. The liturgy, of course, is always being tweaked, grows, changes, etc. In the past, this had been a slow (and not always steady) process. But this generation of (American Boomer) Christians needed something more. The Church's liturgy was putting people off. They couldn't connect. The liturgy had become a stumbling block - a barrier to people hearing the Word.

That's the theory - or rather the explanation given by the American/Evangelical/Contemporary/Relevant Worship Movement within Lutheranism. Of course, behind that explanation often lies at least sympathy with (and often full on agreement with) the Arminian view of conversion. Thus the numbers game: if your church is not growing and the community around you is growing, you are, ipso facto, being unfaithful.

In fact, that is the best test to find out where a person is on the road from American-Evangelical worship to American-Evagelical theology (of course, that is where the road leads! What'd'ya think?): "What would you say about a church in a growing community that is itself stagnant in membership or shrinking? Is it a faithful church?" If a person says, "No, obviously unfaithful" you know they are approaching the end of the road. If a person says, "Faithful! They are obviously martyrs for the truth" then he is a sad victim of fighting on his oppenents ground (NB: I have never actually met with such a one - but I've been told more than once by interlocutors that they exist.) The correct answer, of course is, "Not enough information to make that call."

At any rate...all this came to mind as I was reading over what appears to be the latest evidence that the LCMS bureaucracy has followed the American Evangelical Worship road right into downtown Grahamsville: Pray2009. Pardon me, that's, "PRAY2009."

PRAY2009 LCMS Intercessors Gathering
We have no conception of what the Lord desires to birth through a group of consecrated Lutheran intercessors that will be obedient to gather and seek His face, celebrate His salvation, proclaim His glory, and lift the great name of Jesus. You really ...want to be in the number to see what the Lord is going to do as he meets us in St. Louis. Peace . . .

(No conception, indeed. And then "birth" later in the same sentence - a joke? After all, the Lord's going to "meet [us] in Saint Louiee". . . )

Now, you can debate the theology of prayer all you want. I'm sure it would be a profitable discussion. A pastor of any experience has surely had an encounter with a prayer answered beyond what he had dared to hope for - and such a response often chastises the Christian for his indolence in prayer. Prayer is a gift of God - and we should boldly and with all confidence ask our heavenly Father as true children would.

But is the PRAY2009 hullaboo what true children do in speaking to their true Father? I'm open to having the debate - but this much is undebatable: such things are incontrovertably foreign to Lutheran theology and practice. So where did this "consecrated intercessor" business come from? Sir, thou knowest. And how did Lutherans come into contact with such a theology of prayer? With people who practiced it? Again, sir, thou knowest.

With apologies to Bunyan, once young Lutheran starts walking down the Worshipful Road to Terrestrial Relevance he's going to encounter folks who don't exactly have the Small Catechism on the Lord's Prayer memorized. And it's going to rub off. And here we are.

But that's the bureaucracy - and reflects their experience in walking that road. They learned to worship from the "successful, growing" churches in American Evangelicalism. And they went to their conferences and learned more from them on church management, prayer, and everything else. And they followed the techniques, and sure enough, their churches grew. So they became successful. And they got elected.

But this is not the Synod as a whole by a long shot. Thanks be to God for hardscrabble, Midwestern farmers and hardnosed rustbelt union factory workers and truckdrivers - they can smell the Baptist in this a mile away. And these folks like beer. And they know what Biblical prayer is like: more like, O Lord, open my lips... than Father God, I just want to praise You...

Our verbal ticks, our "pattern of sound [or unsound] words," the accent of our prayers, if you will, confesses more about our theology that we might think. Say a prayer, and it won't take a Dr. Higgins to tell you where you grew up, what your influences are, maybe even how often your parish offers communion.

Not a matter of indifferent things, indeed.



  1. Perhaps we pay the price for not introducing into our parishes the Daily Office and the Litany and so providing a place for intercession.

  2. I concur, neighbor.

    Been watching a lot of Agathe Christie mysteries lately - those little villages where Morning and Evening prayer was a living thing. . .

    We have room for repentance, this is most certainly true. And how will the kindly old ladies in the quilting club solve the vicar's poisoning if nobody gathers for Evening Prayer looking guilty. . .


  3. If you love Agatha for this, have you had joy of Nine Tailors by Sayers? Anglican church life at its best - and the guilt shows at the FUNERAL liturgy. :)

  4. I personally observed and participated in such intercessory events in my charismatic days (early 90s). The intercessory prayer movement complimented the prophetic movement that still exists in charismatic groups. That movement's leaders spoke about war in the heavenly realms and how through intercessory prayer the church could cast down certain demonic strongholds that kept people from conversion. They taught that God was raising up an army of prophetic intercessors. If you are interested in the source of these teachings and their current promotion then check out Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer in KC or Rick Joyner's ministries.

    I have no idea where the LCMS leaders got their ideas for such an event, but it does sound awfully similar to what I experienced. I would also suspect that the "gifts of the Spirit" will be less evident at the LCMS gathering.

  5. The congregation of one of the leaders participates in "theophostic" prayer ministry. This movement is ecumenical in scope.

    A google search will give you a better explanation than I can provide.


  6. These are not Lutherans on the road to American-Evangelical theology. They're not Lutherans at all; they are Charismatics.

    Here's another interesting quote:

    "A gathering of LCMS intercessors. The world has been waiting for this time of revelation and unveiling. Hallelu-Jah!"

    This is how Charismatics express the view that there is to be a new work of the Holy Spirit in the final years before Christ's return. More specifically, this expresses the view that this new work is really on the verge of happening, or is happening right now. And incidentally, embodied in this language is the assumption, clear to any Charismatic, that the Holy Spirit has departed from churches where such "revelations" and "unveilings" do not take place.

    And here is one of the prayer requests they've posted:

    "Young people in our nation. That the Spirit of God would touch, renew and refresh them and give the church strategy in this season to reach them."

    This is how Charismatics express the doctrine of enthusiasm (they don't call it that) and pray for its action in people's lives.

    What is striking to me about this is the language they are using. I don't see how a person could acquire this kind of language growing up in a Lutheran church. It suggests to me the possibility that they are "converts" who didn't really convert, if you know what I mean.

  7. Kaleb,
    As a "convert," I would argue that most are too zealous in their Lutheranism. Many of our pastors and people have been drinking the kool-aid of the various punch bowls of American evangelicalism, which teaches such language and promotes it as "true" faith. I agree the language is not Lutheran at all, but I would suggest they have converted from Lutheranism to something else.

  8. I am also a "convert."

    Of course it's possible that your interpretation is correct.... In that case, they would about have to be participating in Charismatic church functions on an ongoing basis, to acquire this language. I wish I were surprised by this, but after last year's Texas youth fiasco, I'm not.

  9. I'd like to give this thread a bump. I emailed the Reported Aug 4 and they passed me on to an organizer of PRAY2009, Victor Belton. Don't know who he is other than that.

    Got a reply, email last evening. Pastor Bira is a co-organizer with Victor Belton. "We have no intention of being involved in 'Theophostic Prayer' during the course of PRAY2009." "I was not even familiar with the concept until you raised this issue." This seems strange because the church website for Pastor Bira promotes this type of prayer.

    Mr. Belton said he researched the Synods position on theophostic prayer and because 1)the CTCR has no ruling about this and 2) someone asked a FAQ abut it with no "sweeping condomnation". Therefore the "usual and reasonable channels have not been used to justify your concern regarding the errant nature of Theophostic Prayer."

    Then I was invited to attend, and told that it would have been more in keeping with the Lord's teaching to have contacted Pastor Bira personally rather that my original email to the Reporter asking why they were promoting this activity.

    Hope this sheds some light. Would encourage further response.

    Matt H.

  10. Hey, Matt. I'm kind of surprised by Pastor Belton's response. I suspect he didn't realize what he was getting into. I don't think, though, that Matthew 18 applies when asking why the LCMS is promoting an event with clear links to "Theophostic Prayer."That's not a question for the pastor of the sponsoring congregation; that's a question Synod itself should answer.


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