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Messages - Gary Schnitkey

#1
A bit of background may help in understanding my comments. I was raised a Lutheran, and was encouraged to attend church by my parents, but being a Lutheran was not a high priority. I married a Methodist.  My wife and I have attended Lutheran churches every Sunday while raising two daughters, who now attend attend secular universities (Ohio State and University of Chicago).  I simply pray and will be overjoyed if they continue in any Christian church.  They don't attend Lutheran churches now and I doubt that they with attend Lutheran churches later in life.  They had no bad experiences at Lutheran churches and they have fond memories of pastors and church groups. My wife and I did not instill in them a need to be a Lutheran, and my daughters are not particularly fond of liturgical services (neither are my wife or I, so that may be why).

One of key for the future will be how churches reach people like my children.  My children are not "nones", and I would still consider them Christian, but they are not particularly fond of church organizations.  The continuing sex scandals are no help.  The evangelical-Trump linkages (supposed or not) also do not help.  Moreover, considerable thought has to be given to how to translate the Gospel into a language that this generation will understand.  I teach at a secular university (University of Illinois).  The students I teach are bright and thoughtful (overall good people, I have great trust in their abilities), but the Christian message is hard to translate to them.  The more militant "nones" will be even harder.

The other group you may wish to consider is my cohort (50s and 60s).  I am not going to stick in a congregation that I think is going to die during or at the end of my life.  I don't want to be the one turning out the lights in the church. Maybe that is selfish.  I want to be part of a church that reachs out and evangelize, and reaches younger people.  That congregation may fail to grow, and that is ok.

I would suggest that Lutheran denominations get pastors in their 30s and 40s together.  They are the future.  When together, have them think about how they are going to deal with the changes that are happening. Frankly, it would be fairly easy to predict the number of pastors you will have in the next decade or so, and matching those pastors to needs.   I don't think there are easy answers, but I believe that there is hope, and thought and prayer may result in a plan.

I think a lot of it is just carrying on.  Do what you do and be content where it leads.
#2
Your Turn / Re: Methodists in the thick of it
February 27, 2019, 09:29:02 AM
Quote from: Charles Austin on February 27, 2019, 09:12:57 AM
Someone writes:
The rampantly condescending approach of "why can't these unenlightened rubes understand how right we are?" seems to be coming off as the postmodern version of "little brown babies" a la Murder on the Orient Express.
I comment:
Tell me where you heard, in reports from the Methodist conference, language like this. Or are you assuming the worst from those favoring the changes?

This from an article (https://www.apnews.com/15f5b291512e4a39a6c93ad9eb1a3ee9):

"The Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill, a pastor from Portland, Maine, pledged defiance of the Traditional Plan, tweeting: "I will not participate in your bigotry, sin & violence."'

You could find statements from the other viewpoint as inflamitory.

My view is that this is the continued slow motion death of denominations in the United States.   Baby boomers have decided to fight it out and in the process destroy the institutions.  Younger coherts simply view the denominations as not worth the effort.

What form Christianity will take is an open question.  They will likely be smaller and of less cultural and political consequence, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

#3
Your Turn / Re: Sharp Numerical Decline In LCMS
February 21, 2019, 08:19:32 AM
Quote from: Charles Austin on February 21, 2019, 05:30:52 AM
In my work with alcoholics, I found hundreds and hundreds of people in AA who,
1) went to five, six or seven 1-hour meetings a week,
2) worked through prayer and meditation to get closer to God,
3) knew they could not live without the help of a "higher power,"
4)helped each other daily to stay close to the program,
5) often went out on "12-step calls" to attempt to rescue people in trouble,
6) regularly confessed, sought forgiveness and pledged to "make amends" to those they had harmed, and
7) tried to take the principles of the program into all areas of their life.
They did this because they knew that without God, each other, and the program their lives would be ruined and they would probably die an early and painful death.
BTW these people speak openly to each other and others about what they were like, what happened, and what they are like now.
We in the churches Often fail to convince people that they need the Gospel and each other in order to have a better life, free from the destruction and burdens of our character defects.
That is one reason we are not growing or keeping the members we already have.
People in AA are convinced there is nowhere else to go for what they need. Too many of our people aren't even sure they need anything.

I think there is much truth in this.  There is another version of AA called Celebrate Recovery that focuses the "higher power" on Jesus Christ.

There are many reasons for the numerical decline of many (most?) Christian denominations.  I suspect that a major reason has to do with the "parish" nature of denominations.  The former strengths of denominations are the local congregations located in communities with bonding among individuals.  People felt ties to other people. Those congregations and buildings are now located in areas where there are no longer communities in the old sense.  Hence the old strength of being part of a community no longer exists.  As a result, congregations age not adding new members because that community is dying and only includes older members.

The decline is a structural thing.  It's not likely something that a pastor in one congregation severing an "older" community can do much about.

That is not to say there is no hope.  But the decline has to do with broad, poorly-understood, changes in society
#4
Your Turn / Re: The Numerical Decline Of The LCMS
July 09, 2018, 10:04:23 AM
The implications of this statistical study are different than you want to draw.  The population of "European descendants" in the United States has not been declining dramatically, but remained relatively constant.  It has shifted around the country some but still is basically constant.  The results imply two things.

First, Lutheran families need to have more than two kids to have a stable Lutheran denomination.  Say the retention rate is 2/3 meaning that a Lutheran denomination retains 2 out of 3 people it confirms.  Then the average family needs to have 3 kids to keep a stable number in the denomination.  Since we have roughly two children per family in the U.S., the Lutheran denominations will loss numbers.  The lower than 1.0 retention rate is a problem that has likely increased over time.  Otherwise, the losses in recent years would not be increasing.

Second, there has been no statistically noticeable intake of people without Lutheran backgrounds into Lutheran denominations.  Sure, there is one or two every now and then.  Sometimes these are former Catholics coming to a Lutheran denomination.  Sometimes something else.  Despite what you may want to believe, there is not a run of former Evangelicals coming to Lutheran denominations.  Nothing has offset the general trends of Lutherans not retaining enough Lutheran children to maintain a stable base. When looking at the non-Lutheran population, Lutherans simply have shown no ability to evangelize.

Without demonstrating an ability to evangelize, why would you expect a predominately "European descendent" denomination (as pretty much all Lutheran denominations are) be able to reach out to recently arrived immigrants to the United States?  We have shown no ability to evangelize among European descendants with more similar backgrounds to Lutherans, why would that get easier by reaching across cultural divides?  Don't get me wrong.  I think it would be good if Christians were not so segregated, but I doubt that a denomination can solve this issue.  In my opinion, the segregation  issue will be addressed outside of current denomination boundaries.

The suggestions made by Benke of making people more aware of the formal liturgy seem like doubling down on what has not worked in the past.  That is, explaining a formal service to a group that is likely to have less knowledge does not seem much of a strategy, particularly given the abuses of clergy in the past in the more formal liturgical services (e.g., sexual issues in the Catholic church).  I simply doubt that many people will be drawn to a formal liturgy.  Churches with formal liturgies may grow, but it will note be the liturgy that draws people there. That observation is consistent with the fact that type of worship did not matter in retention rates.

So, Lutherans have a problem evangelizing, partly due to theology.  That has not been solved.
#5
Your Turn / Re: LCMS kerfuffle
January 16, 2018, 07:45:47 AM
I see where Jurchen apologized, so all is well again in LCMS.  Heresy has been dealt with.

As near as I can tell, the LCMS holds that a person should believe in the six-day creation because the Bible says so and one should have faith in the Bible.  A perfectly good answer.  I do note that many Christian thinkers would not interpret the creation account in the same way as LCMS does.  Nor does it square with much of the evidence that exists on the earth's age.

The literal interpretation of the six-day creation account presents a conundrum, which I will illustrate with me personally.  I do have faith.  I believe that Jesus Christ died, was raised from the dead, and will come again, all of which is confessed in the creeds of the Christian church and was taught in my confirmation class in a LCMS congregation. Much of that is supernatural and miraculous but I note that there is evidence for my faith.  Jesus is known to have lived.  Moreover, Jesus' resurrection from the dead is a perfectly good explanation of early church growth.  While some may disagree, there is no evidence that proves that Jesus did not exist.  If there was such proof, I would not be a Christian.  I do not put faith in things that are patently false.  And I don't have faith in the young earth belief.  There is reasonably good evidence that the earth is old from a variety of scientific fields.  I do believe that the creation accounts in the Bible are true, but at a level that we don't understand.

So, if the LCMS wants to interpret the creation as a six days, 24-hour event, go for it.  But it is on LCMS to explain how the six-day creation story squares with the evidence of the old earth.  Take your shot.  Jurchen tried to rationalize the two and had to apologize for his work.  Now its LCMS theologians  turn.  Don't tell me to have faith.  I got faith.  I just don't have faith in LCMS theologians.  Make an apologetic on why LCMSers are right and others are wrong.  As you take your shot, don't rely on a belief that their is much ambiguity in the evidence against an old earth.  Take it as a given that the earth is "old".

Many years ago when I was a professor at Ohio State I had discussions on evolution with a  biologist who was a Christian from a more fundamentalist church which held to the six-day creation.  That scientist believed in his heart of hearts in evolution and an old earth. He was troubled in his attempts to square Christianity with his scientific endeavors.  He thought about leaving his profession.  I told him being a Christian did not require him to not believe in evolution and that he should stick with his field.  In my opinion, it's a good thing to have a Christian in that field (BTW: there are more than you may think).  My guess is that what I told that person is not consistent with LCMS thought.  So, can a Christian be an evolutionary biologist, astronomer, or geologist, particularly when their work requires an old earth framework?  If you believe in a young earth, than those Christians who work in those fields are perpetuating a heresy.  Or are they not?
#6
Your Turn / Re: LCMS kerfuffle
January 02, 2018, 08:17:01 AM
Let me take another track here.  When your LCMS-scientific-minded individuals are questioning LCMS creation theology, those individuals are telling you the LCMS theology is wrong.  A very literal translation of the Bible leads to treatments of the age of the earth that don't match today's scientific understanding.  That mis-match occurs in many science fields particularly in the age of the earth:  astronomy with light travel and beginnings of the world, geology with formation of geological structures (i.e., oil formations) and movements of continents, climatology with climatic changes (i.e., ice ages), and biology with evolution.

To deal with this, the LCMS-scientific-minded individual can take several tracks.  The first is to subscribe to other non-standard explanations.  Some have gone to intelligent design and creation studies, both of which have issues.  In the end, LCMS-scientific-minded individuals could reach the conclusion that those alternative explanations are more problematic than they are worth.

A second way is to try to square scientific understanding and theology.  This, in my opinion, is what Jurchen tried to did in his article. His efforts were very mild and he tried to keep with LCMS-theology.  For his efforts, he got condemned.  Thank you to "The Brothers of John the Steadfast". 

The third way for LCMS-scientific-minded individuals to deal with this is to ignore LCMS creation theology in their daily work but stick with LCMS theology in other matters.  This present issues and erodes the LCMS theology.  If the LCMS is wrong about creation, they are likely wrong about other matters.  If LCMS is wrong about creation, why would you trust LCMS on other matters?  Why aren't they wrong, for example, about sexuality? 

A fourth way is to leave the LCMS.  There are other denominations that have other interpretations of creation.

In some senses, the LCMS are restricting their membership.  Several decades ago, LCMS decided they did to want more liberal theology.  Now they are deciding whether they want "scientifically-minded" individuals.  Good luck with that.
#7
Your Turn / Re: LCMS kerfuffle
January 01, 2018, 02:53:20 PM
Three observations on the recent LCMS kurfuffle.

First, many (if not the vast majority) in natural science fields are reasonably convinced of the earth being much older than 6,000 years.  Given that LCMS largely supports a young earth view, those individuals have mostly unattractive alternatives relative to this teaching including 1) ignoring LCMS teaching or 2) leaving the LCMS.  In the end, the later may be the best  option given that the LCMS demands agreement on all matters doctrine. I would remind LCMS pastors that this includes most that are in the natural science fields.

Second, the only heresy that Jurchen committed in his article was possibly allowing the  treatment of each of the six days in creation as much longer than a "normal" day.  I presume Jurchen was doing this to account for the evidence of a much older earth than 6,000 or so years.  For this, some in the LCMS want to condemn his article.

Third, there is a reason why the LCMS is viewed as a bunch of Pharisees.  I suppose there are confessional and doctrinal advantages to being a  Pharisee.  It does maintain the strength of confessions.  I note, though, that Jesus had strong condemnations for Pharisees.

My suggestion would be for leadership of the LCMS to take a strong stand against organizations like "The Brothers of John the Steadfast", the organization hosting the resolutions.  If it does not stand against these organizations, the LCMS will always be a pharisaical body.
#8
I find an underlying assumption of the NYT article fascinating.  The first sentence of the article is:

"America's pastors – the men and women a majority of Americans look to for help in finding meaning and purpose in their lives – are even more politically divided than the rest of us ..."

I find the clause "the men and women a majority of Americans look to for help in finding meaning and purpose in their lives" an interesting and novel way of saying what pastors do.  I don't know if lay persons would agree or resonate with this definition.  If asked, I would say pastors teach about God and lead in the worship of God.  Obviously, understanding and knowing God will impact a person's understanding of life.  But that as the main purpose of pastors seems a stretch to me. 

The article then implicitly makes a linkage between "meaning and purpose of life" and party affiliation.  If an article begins with a definition about purpose of life and then switches to party affiliation, the linkage is made.  So I guess the point is that the meaning and purpose of life is tied to party affiliation.  Democrats have a different meaning of life than Republicans?  Frankly, I doubt that to be the case, but I don't know.  If it is, it is a sad commentary on U.S. affairs.

I think it interesting that a (the?) leading paper in the U.S. can't refer to god in an article about religion.  If my opinion, you probably can't get the article right (or communicated correctly) without having some reference to and understanding of people's belief in god.

BTW:  I don't find it particularly encouraging the Lutheran pastors of different denominations are so skewed in one direction or the other as far as party affiliation.
#9
Quote from: Dave Benke on March 27, 2017, 09:40:14 AM
Quote from: Gary Schnitkey on March 27, 2017, 08:10:06 AM
Quote from: Dave Benke on March 25, 2017, 01:56:24 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on March 25, 2017, 10:52:00 AM
Quote from: Gary Schnitkey on March 25, 2017, 10:39:32 AM
In the past, Timothy Keller has been criticized for having too lenient views on homosexuality.  Take Robert Gangon as an example. Gangon is a professor brought in by Lutheran Core (I think) to ELCA conventions before the sexuality vote to defend the traditional view on homosexuality.  Gangon criticized Keller's discussion at a Veritas Forum where Keller was asked to talk about homosexuality (http://www.robgagnon.net/TimKellerHomosexuality.htm). 

Keller likely is one of the few conservative members of a Protestant tradition that has the potential to be respected by the mainline portion of that tradition.  That did not happen so it seems impossible at this point. Which leads to the major point: there is no way to bridge the mainline and conservative traditions at this point. As a result, there is no reason for mainline and conservative parts of Protestant traditions to attempt to talk or build relations with one another.  Wounds are too fresh and deep.  The best strategy for the two traditions would be to just give it a break, separate, and largely ignore each other.  Maybe in a generation or two productive discussions between the two traditions can occur.


I've had my mind changed on a couple issues in this forum.  Most recently regarding my understanding of the word "condemn" in the UAC.  So it's definitely possible :)
When the snark and vitriol are kept to a minimum, there's a lot of good ideas, information, and support shared among the posters - including those from other denominations as well as non-Christians like myself.  Dividing the forums also risks each group just becoming an echo chamber https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_chamber_(media)
I do acknowledge just how insanely difficult it can be for a mind to change.  And I do see it getting messy quite more than I'd like.  But there's a lot of good people and posters here who seem to be able to survive it and help each other out.

I agree with this wholeheartedly.  Take Forum Letter or The Lutheran Forum.  The contributors come from many Lutheran circles.  The ideas, concepts and thoughts advanced are available for all.  Same with this online forum.  Balkanization to two (or more?) separate corners would in my opinion be failure.

Dave Benke

But you have failed, or at least the leadership.  In my lifetime, the LCMS and ELCA have had major events  leading to splits in membership.  Membership in the ELCA and LCMS is half of what it was at its height, or something to that effect.  There has been a drain of intellectuals away from Lutheranism. Is there any Lutheran attempting to do what Timothy Keller does by reaching out to lay and non-Christian audiences, translating the Gospel in today's situations?

I am a lay person working at the University of Illinois. I work n a secular place. Sometimes I wish the leadership of Christianity would go away.  It is embarrassing sometimes. What passes for Christian leadership and activities  is just an extension of the culture wars. The PTS dust up is a typical move. Maybe the mainline leadership of PTS was trying to reach across the aisle.  I don't know what their motives were but let's assume they were good.  If they were good, then that leadership failed. They misjudged their faculty and students.  They created an incidence when they did not need to. 

These incidences make Christianity look like secular organizations.

You make a good point.  Both major Lutheran denominations are headed on the downward spiral with an elderly and aging constituency, and have hurt themselves through extensive internal battling leading to fissures and most recently a major break in the ELCA.  I'm trying to translate that into how we communicate with one another here and how we communicate through what we say here to the world outside Lutheranism. 

What I take from our conversations here is that Lutherans across the denominational lines of demarcation on alpb
a) like to talk about theology, and have distinctive talk modes that relatively speaking mirror their denominations
b) enjoy the back and forth on the issues of the day in society, even when the conversation gets direct
c) agree that there will be less and less Lutherans in the US, and have no antidote
d) for the most part are committed to the Ordo, the fundamental order of worship through Word and Sacrament, as the way the faith community meets God weekly
e) are not experienced in or for the most part interested in the kinds of efforts at church planting that someone like Tim Keller has carried out, and for the most part reject more Protestant outreach methodology as shallow and/or non-Lutheran, ie not us.

I met with someone this past week who would love to come to New York City and be that engager of the world a la Tim Keller.  Toward the end of my time as District President/Bishop several young and energized pastors came or desired to come specifically to New York City to be mission developers.  Those of us who have done it for a long time, including me, have been surprised and heartened by this desire.  There's a lot more to say on the topic, but aiming the message and the money at those outside the fold is the (enormous) task.

Dave Benke

Several points:

A). I don't see much difference in the conversations here relative to current topics than from secular organizations, particularly when it comes to elections and the like.

B) My belief is that the ELCA and LCMS are moving further apart rather than closer together.  NALC is in there somewhere and may survive. Seminaries train new pastors. My further guess is that the ELCA and LCMS seminaries don't have much contact with one another and that there would be little reason for contact.  There is probably not much cross over that would be productive for either group.  It is more likely that an ELCA seminary would find engaging with a seminary from another mainline denomination. Similarly, a LCMS would have more productive times with a seminary from a more conservative orientation.

C). My further guess is that members of the ALPB forum are older and probably remember a time when the denominations had more in common.  That is not to say that there are not "younger" members lurking here, but a higher proportion are older.  ALPB forum members may be trying to bring together something that is not going to come together.

D). What does Keller do that is not "Lutheran"?  He writes books.  He preaches.  He lectures.  His sermons are different in that they don't follow the church calendar.  They tend to be longer than a typical Lutheran pastor's sermons.  In my opinion, Keller's strength is that he relates the Gospel well to his audience, an audinence that has changed and is very different from earlier generations.

E).  My general impression is that church planting has been de-emphased in Lutheran denominations over time.  Lutherans sort of missed out on the demographic move of people to suburbs and did not plant enough churchs in growing areas to counter declines in non-growth areas. Not planting churches, combined with secularzation trends in culture, have lead to decreases in church membership. Maybe they can catch the move back to cities  (Lutherans may have a further disadvantage in that liturgical services predominate in Lutheran denominations.  I am not sure a liturgical service is the best for evangelism of in-churched individuals.  That statement does not advocate for moving away from a liturgical service.)
#10
Quote from: Dave Benke on March 25, 2017, 01:56:24 PM
Quote from: SomeoneWrites on March 25, 2017, 10:52:00 AM
Quote from: Gary Schnitkey on March 25, 2017, 10:39:32 AM
In the past, Timothy Keller has been criticized for having too lenient views on homosexuality.  Take Robert Gangon as an example. Gangon is a professor brought in by Lutheran Core (I think) to ELCA conventions before the sexuality vote to defend the traditional view on homosexuality.  Gangon criticized Keller's discussion at a Veritas Forum where Keller was asked to talk about homosexuality (http://www.robgagnon.net/TimKellerHomosexuality.htm). 

Keller likely is one of the few conservative members of a Protestant tradition that has the potential to be respected by the mainline portion of that tradition.  That did not happen so it seems impossible at this point. Which leads to the major point: there is no way to bridge the mainline and conservative traditions at this point. As a result, there is no reason for mainline and conservative parts of Protestant traditions to attempt to talk or build relations with one another.  Wounds are too fresh and deep.  The best strategy for the two traditions would be to just give it a break, separate, and largely ignore each other.  Maybe in a generation or two productive discussions between the two traditions can occur.


I've had my mind changed on a couple issues in this forum.  Most recently regarding my understanding of the word "condemn" in the UAC.  So it's definitely possible :)
When the snark and vitriol are kept to a minimum, there's a lot of good ideas, information, and support shared among the posters - including those from other denominations as well as non-Christians like myself.  Dividing the forums also risks each group just becoming an echo chamber https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_chamber_(media)
I do acknowledge just how insanely difficult it can be for a mind to change.  And I do see it getting messy quite more than I'd like.  But there's a lot of good people and posters here who seem to be able to survive it and help each other out.

I agree with this wholeheartedly.  Take Forum Letter or The Lutheran Forum.  The contributors come from many Lutheran circles.  The ideas, concepts and thoughts advanced are available for all.  Same with this online forum.  Balkanization to two (or more?) separate corners would in my opinion be failure.

Dave Benke

But you have failed, or at least the leadership.  In my lifetime, the LCMS and ELCA have had major events  leading to splits in membership.  Membership in the ELCA and LCMS is half of what it was at its height, or something to that effect.  There has been a drain of intellectuals away from Lutheranism. Is there any Lutheran attempting to do what Timothy Keller does by reaching out to lay and non-Christian audiences, translating the Gospel in today's situations?

I am a lay person working at the University of Illinois. I work n a secular place. Sometimes I wish the leadership of Christianity would go away.  It is embarrassing sometimes. What passes for Christian leadership and activities  is just an extension of the culture wars. The PTS dust up is a typical move. Maybe the mainline leadership of PTS was trying to reach across the aisle.  I don't know what their motives were but let's assume they were good.  If they were good, then that leadership failed. They misjudged their faculty and students.  They created an incidence when they did not need to. 

These incidences make Christianity look like secular organizations. 
#11
In the past, Timothy Keller has been criticized for having too lenient views on homosexuality.  Take Robert Gangon as an example. Gangon is a professor brought in by Lutheran Core (I think) to ELCA conventions before the sexuality vote to defend the traditional view on homosexuality.  Gangon criticized Keller's discussion at a Veritas Forum where Keller was asked to talk about homosexuality (http://www.robgagnon.net/TimKellerHomosexuality.htm). 

Keller likely is one of the few conservative members of a Protestant tradition that has the potential to be respected by the mainline portion of that tradition.  That did not happen so it seems impossible at this point. Which leads to the major point: there is no way to bridge the mainline and conservative traditions at this point. As a result, there is no reason for mainline and conservative parts of Protestant traditions to attempt to talk or build relations with one another.  Wounds are too fresh and deep.  The best strategy for the two traditions would be to just give it a break, separate, and largely ignore each other.  Maybe in a generation or two productive discussions between the two traditions can occur.

To illustrate, what is the point of ELCA and LCMS pastors in this forum to state their views on a variety of contentious issues.  You will not change the other sides mind.  It is more for debating points that they are stated. Wouldn't it be better to have an ELCA Forum Online and a LCMS Forum Online?  You might have more fruitful discussion.
#12
Your Turn / Re: Pros (and Cons) of Preaching Series
June 03, 2016, 08:47:57 AM
I see issues associated with following readings of the liturgical callender that can be divided into two sets of reasons. First, for preaching on Sundays, it does not encourage depth.  It hits important passages, what can be viewed as high points, but it leave much out.  Also, a book of the Bible is just that a book.  Therefore, it should be taken as a whole.

Second, the daily liturgical readings do not work for all people as a way of reading the Bible on a daily basis.  Reading three or four readings from different portions of the Bible is a scattered approach.  It may work for some people.  It will not for others.  It depends on a persons learning style.  For me, I take a book of the Bible in my personal reading and work through it over a longer period, meditating and studying it more in depth.  Currently, I am spending six months on Luke.  That is not a recommendation for everyone.  It works for me.  You as pastors, need to figure out how a person learns before making a recommendation on how to study the Bible. You probably need three or four different approaches to suggest.  Those approaches will be hit or miss depending on the person.  Some experimentation from the person studying the Bible will be needed to find an approach that works for him or her.

For preaching, I would find it of much value if a pastor built a sermon series around a book of the Bible.  Take a Gospel and systematically preach through it over a year, verse by verse.  DO NOT SKIP ANYTHING.  Have Bible study during the week that deal with the aspects of the book.  Provide a syllabus of outside readings so that an individual can read it and look at it. 
#13
Your Turn / Re: Niebuhr Is Dead
May 08, 2016, 08:50:00 AM
Quote from: Dave Benke on May 08, 2016, 07:55:33 AM
The dialog about what this means can be heard on the eight podcasts from There Goes the Neighborhood, produced by WNYC and aired on NPR over the last couple of months.  To me all of it is a discernment toward engagement in God's realm of the left on behalf of civic righteousness - not at the level of ultimates in the Realm of Grace, but at the penultimate level with urgency.

Dave Benke

Responding to urgent needs is a good thing.  However, Carl Trueman's thoughts about an anti-culture that began this thread is fundamentally wrong.  There is a culture that is supreme today and it is the culture of self.  It impacts all things and all political, economic, and social sides. The culture of self has replaced a culture that believed in a higher standard usually based on the Judeo-Christian ethic.  A call to urgent need may aid in elevating the need in the short-run, but in today's culture that urgent need will be met if the individuals meeting that need are self-gratified (e.g., they feel good because they have met a need).

In today's environment, Christians need to help those in need, but likely should not expect changes in society.  Forgetting why we do it because Christians have a King who said all are men are created in their image should not be forgotten.  Nor should it be kept quiet.
#14
For a more balanced view of payday loans, please look at this Freakonomics entry on April 6,2016 dealing with pay day loans:

http://freakonomics.com/podcast/payday-loans/

I would also suggest that your South Dakota ELCA bishop and lawyer simply may have different views on pay day loan policy than you do.  It might be that the lawyer does believe in the merits of the client's case.

Finally, I would suggest you stop proposing legislation that will end the pay day industry.  If it's so exploitive, there is a role for you minister types.  Get in the pay day loan business.  Get your money from the ELCA or Missouri Synod benevolence funds and offers loans at your limit of 36% (or wherever you feel it is not expletive).    You should still be able to make a profit so your charity will be self supporting after the initial grant is given.
#15
Not to be a downer to all you traditional worshiping types, but there are many traditional alternatives and millennials are staying away from them in droves as well, as most of you would know if you looked out at your congregations on a Sunday morning.

Here is a Catholic take on why millennials are not there: http://ncronline.org/blogs/parish-diary/attempt-answer-question-where-are-young-adults

My personal take is that millennials staying away has next to nothing to do with worship style, and more to do with a host of factors related to the presense of God.  The denominations of  today are much like when Eli was high priest at Shiloh.
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