Thursday, October 14, 2010

Gottesdienst Spies Are Everywhere

Well, it doesn't really rise to that level of intrigue. A student anonymously sent me the outline used at CSL's new monthly (or maybe it's biquarterly) small group meetings which occur in lieu of chapel on a given Tuesday. Since it came to me anonymously, I'd appreciate it if any of our CSL readers could chime in below in the comments to verify that this is in fact what is being used. At any rate, it's not a "secret" document, or at least it shouldn't be: the LCMS at large is paying for this and has oversight of the seminaries, so folks have a right to know what's going on.

I had a chance to ask Prof. Gibbs about this doing away of chapel every once in a while when he was down at our SID pastors' conference. He said it arose from a campus-wide study of Life Together a couple of years ago. Thus I quipped that it was quasi quasi-monastic: an imitation of Bonhoeffer's imitation of the lighter side of monastic life.

Sigh. Wouldn't our future pastors be better served by learning the church's worship from Lutheran Service Book? Isn't this teaching them that corporate worship can just be replaced by small group study? Or perhaps that small group study really is the same thing as gathering corporately to hear Christ's called and sent minister preach the Word?

And those are just some of the problems you think of before you even read this. . .

S for Scripture

Read the Lesson. Note, highlight, or underline words or phrases from the text that catch your attention. When you are done, look for a verse or phrase that particularly caught your attention, and write it below:

O for Observation

What do you think God is saying in this verse? Paraphrase and write this scripture down in your own words below:

A for Application

Personalize what you have read, by asking yourself how it applies to your life right now. Perhaps it is admonition, forgiveness, deliverance, instruction, encouragement, revelation of a new promise, or corrections for a particular area of your life. Write how this scripture can apply to you below:

P for Prayer

This can be as simple as asking God to speak this Word to you, interceding for others
in the basis of this Word, or seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance to live out this Word in
faith. Prayer is a two way conversation, so both speak to God and listen to God’s voice through His Word! You may write the prayer(s) out here:


  1. Yeah, that sounds right.

    And for the record, Life Together was the focus of the convocations for the 2009-2010 school year.

  2. If anyone cares to comment on how this relates to brothers gathering on their own to pray the daily office in addition to corporate chapels, I'd welcome it.

  3. Question: How is group lectio divina better than private lectio divina?

    Answer: Bigger bathtub of ignorance to swim in, more inanity to contend with and plenty more ego to stroke with soap.

  4. One of the big concerns that came up during the reading of Life Together was for those students who weren't in chapel. I think it is fair to say that most of the students don't attend on a daily basis. Bonhoeffer's whole book essentially revolves around the means of grace, so it seems strange that one of the ways to get more people to come to chapel is to cancel chapel... where the means of grace are meant to be dispensed.

  5. Adrian beat me to the punch. This is not small group study. This is the four steps of lectio divina disguised as a hygiene product. Or: How to take the objective Word and turn it into a subjective experience.

    The study of Scripture should never be an exercise of: "Let's see what grabs my attention and assume that this means the Holy Spirit is talking to me." You can fixate on words or phrases for all sorts of reason. That doesn't make it the Holy Spirit. It could just as well be a bit of undigested beef. Nor should the study of scripture be to ask "How does this apply to my life RIGHT NOW."

    Here is the problem: Treating the text of Scripture as if it is containing messages for you personally, changes the way in which you deal with God's Word.

    If you treat the Scriptures as the eternal Word of truth which applies to all men in every time and place, you are duty bound to understand that what the Scripture says in every place, it says to everyone. Therefore you cannot have a personal understanding of any part of Scripture, but must subject yourself to the public and corporate confession of the Church catholic.

    But if you instead treat the Word of God as if it contains messages from the Holy Spirit just for you, there are two serious problems: First, you are forced to use the Scriptures as a scrying implement. You are peering into it and looking for meaning beyond the historico-grammatical which the Church has always confessed. Second, by making it a personal message, you give yourself license to interpret Scripture in a private and personal manner, and thereby implicitly confess that there is no one public and eternal meaning of God's Word. Or: what begins with finding personal messages that apply to you "right now" ends with "that's your interpretation, but it says something different to me."

    I find it interesting that CSL has joined together the most subjective form of Bible study (small groups studies), to the most subjective form of prayer (lectio divina). Congratulations to them for recognizing how well the two fit together.

  6. I share some of the concerns, but I recommend that anyone who has a concern or issue or problem do what Pr. Curtis has done, and actually contact a professor to share those things. I know that Dr. Saleska, for one, would welcome the call.

  7. This is nothing more than a regression to the old "Everyone say what the verse means to THEM." instead of asking "What does this mean?" This has bad theology written all over it.

  8. "And Judas went out & hung himself."

    How does this apply to my life right now? ;)

  9. Looks like SOAP was a method developed by Wayne Cordeiro, a pentacostal, campus crusade guy. That would fit the theology of SOAP...

    If they must abandon chapel for small group study, how about the ITCP method Luther suggested that Pr. Harrison talks about in the book on joy. The Holy Spirit instructs through the objective Word; there is nothing to discover behind, under, or between the lines of the objective Word except the devil's lies.

    Therefore if you want to be certain what God in heaven thinks of you, and whether He is gracious to you, you must not seclude yourself, retire into some nook, and brood about it or seek the answer in your works or in your contemplation—all this you must banish from your heart, and you must give ear solely to the words of this Christ; for everything is revealed in Him (Luther, AE 24:257).

  10. Rev. Fr. Curtis,

    This is the proposed structure we were asked to use. However, I do not use it. I am a leader of a small group. Most fourth year guys were assigned a group, but that is not the point.

    I laid out arguments on my blog; 1) Why are we breaking into small groups, even if it is once a month, when the point of moving the chapel times and Eucharist were to garner more attendance as a community? 2) Why are students, who apparently need more education and formation because we are at the Seminary, being treated as fully formed teachers and leaders? 3) Why has "chapel" become the object of questions like, "What is Chapel anyway?" 4)Why is Spiritual formation treated as a matter of free-will?

  11. Sem. Beltz,

    Good words!

    (But keep your head low and get ordained, OK?)


  12. So George asks "What does Judas' hanging have to do with my life right now?"

    Well, Judas hung himself, because he was guilty and felt that there was nothing further he could do. He did not think that God could act to bring himself out of the situation.

    Or maybe, it was because he did not think that he could approach anyone else—he felt he could not be forgiven for what he had done; not necessarily by God, but by his friends?

    So...are there things in your life that you are now thinking " God cannot handle this; I must take matter into my own hands?"

    Or, situations where you think "My colleagues will not deal with me in a Christian manner; therefore I will not speak with them about this."

    Does that sound reasonable?

    I read the words that you guys write on this, and I think "Really?" I mean, is it really so bad to study the Word like this? To know that this is not hypothetical reading, but has actual application to our lives?

    Don't you guys read the Bible as such in your private lives?

    Heath: you and I both know that Jeff Gibbs is one of the most reasoned, pastoral, intelligent, guys at Sem. I mean, doesn't that give you pause to say "Let's give it a try?"

  13. I did not and will not publicly characterize Prof. Gibbs' statements to me about how he felt about the wisdom or profitability of the new program. I only reported what he said to me about the origins thereof.

    If you or any others would like to hear his opinions on its goodness or badness, you'll have to call him yourself.


  14. Actually, mql (Mark), no, I don't read the Bible like that. That is, I don't just read one verse pulled out of context like so much of lectio divina does. That's why I was making a joke, because this is what lectio divina which is essentially what this SOAP method can so easily turn into.

    I learned to read a text in its context, to determine the meaning of a text based on its context & who it was first spoken to, & then judiciously finding a Law/Gospel application to people today. And you know where I learned that method? In class! Not in a replacement for chapel.

    And the small groups I participated in were called Happy Hour which took place each week after Evening Prayer & Compline.

  15. I should further say that it's not necessarily the method of SOAP that is troubling. Theoretically it could be used in a proper way, although the way some things in it are phrased could lead to misunderstanding.

    But I would think these students have been or are being trained in hermeneutics and exegetics so that they could use this method without falling into a "what does this verse mean to me" as opposed to "what does this verse actually say" mentality.

    The main thing that troubles me is the replacement of chapel with these small groups.

  16. Fr. George,

    That's an understatement. Just what on earth does "asking God to speak this Word to you" mean?


  17. Pr. Curtis, well, I'd like to know that too. :)

    Plus, I was trying to be charitable towards SOAP.

  18. Fr. George,

    That's the difference between me and you - you would "like to know" what it means while I am afraid to know and only ask rhetorically :)


  19. "What do you think God is saying in this verse?"

    I can tell you, with nearly seven years of relevant experience behind me, that in an adult Bible study this type of question would not pass LCMS doctrinal review.

    Robert at

  20. Fr. Robert,

    Ha! Too true: and good for those reviewers.



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