I am a soldier in the worship wars. Though I've only been a pastor for a few years, I have already lobbed countless bombs at those who seek to pervert our confession of faith. Though I am but a lowly grunt, I have fired innumerable rounds at those who attempt to inject our fonts and pulpits and altars with the poison of Calvin and Zwingli.
And as I look at my fellow soldiers, as I survey the men burrowed in the Confessional trenches with me, I must admit that the deadliest wounds and the deepest scars we bear are not the result of the enemy's attacks. They are nothing more than self-inflicted carnage, the result of our collective frustration and exhaustion, the fruit of giving into our anger and pride and hatred and becoming exactly what the enemy has portrayed us to be in their vilest propaganda.
And it's time for this to stop. It's time for a strategy change. It's time to fight the worship wars by putting down our guns and picking up our megaphones. It's time to fight the worship wars by leaving the Pseudo-Lutherans with no one left to deceive.
In our nation, in 21st century America, there is no culture of Lutheranism. The world around us does not know who we are and what we believe. While your average American is highly ignorant of the basic teachings of the numerous religious groups in the world, his ignorance of Lutheranism is far greater than his ignorance of most other Christian-ish groups. Here is a table to illustrate my point:
A phony Romanist can't trick the world into believing that the Catholic Church has women priests because the world knows better. A false Evangelical can't convince people that his community cherishes the Word and Sacraments because everything else those people have ever seen tells them that the real marks of his church are Starbucks and soul patches. But, with a slate as blank as ours, a Pseudo-Lutheran can get away with pretty much anything.
And he will get away with pretty much anything until we teach the world who we are, until we teach our children and friends and neighbors to know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like. And if we want to fill in that blank Lutheran slate, we won't do it by expending all our energy firing shots at the rebels. We won't do it by out-politicking the opposition at the synodical convention. We won't do it by mocking our enemies in secret rooms, in between puffs of cigars and sips of fine scotch. And we won't do it by sniping at the other side from a nest woven together with confessional message boards and blog posts.
No. If we want to stop the false teachers in our midst from digging their fingers into the toilets of Willow Creek and passing off their findings as compatible with the Book of Concord, then we must teach the people around us to recognize the lie of evangelical form and Lutheran substance. And in order to teach them to recognize that lie, then, when it comes to those who sell it, we must out-confess them, out-proclaim them, out-evangelize them, out-outreach them. We must simply out-work them, both inside and outside of our congregations.
So when they sing vague, meaningless, mantra-driven,spiritualistic blech, we sing the best of our hymns and we sing them right in the face of the word. We pour those hymns out in concert halls, in youtube videos, at our dinner tables and anywhere else we can fit them until the world knows what Lutheran music sounds like and knows that Lutheran music doesn't sound like a horrible, husky voiced U2 sound alike.
When they teach purpose-driven poppycock, we teach Law and Gospel and we teach this to any set of ears we can find in this world. We teach it, with the aid of the internet, to people starving for the Gospel halfway across the country and on the other side of the world. We teach it in conversations with our friends. We teach it to our neighbors when a couple of Mormons come knocking on their door and we insert ourselves into the discussion in order to show them that our Gospel is so awesome it just swallowed Joseph Smith's gospel in one bite and crapped it out the other end.
When they teach their youth to talk like hipster-evangelicals, we teach our youth to talk like Lutherans. We brand the Catechism into their memories. We give them the vocabulary of the Scriptures. And we train them to know their theology so well that the pastors of the other churches in town secretly hope their youth group members don't bring any of their Lutheran friends to the next Bible study, lest another 14 year old respond to their denial of baptismal regeneration by tearing them apart in a fury of theological evisceration so bloody it would make Quentin Tarantino nauseous.
And when they embark on gimmicky outreach programs riddled with a theology of glory and a denial of original sin, we respond by reaching out further with our hands filled with big, fat chunks of Lutheran bread. So when they build sleek websites that boast of their faithfulness to God, we build equally sleek websites that make it very clear to people in half a second that Lutherans aren't interested in marketing themselves but in confessing Christ and His forgiveness. When they build coffee shops for seekers where one can learn how to have a proactive faith walk, we build shelters for the needy where sinners can say to themselves, man, when those Lutherans feed me and clothe me and care for me and pray with me and talk with me, they don't tell me about how my suffering will be gone if I just believe more or trust more or obey more. Instead, they tell me about Jesus and His love for me in the midst of my suffering, even as they're trying to take my suffering away.
So this is what we do. When the Pseudo-Lutherans speak, we speak louder to our friends and neighbors. When they yell, we shout to the public. When they shout, we scream to the world. And we don't stop screaming until God gives us what we need-a culture of Lutheranism, a world where people who have never even set foot in one of our churches know what a Lutheran looks like and sounds like, and a world where people understand that the only reason a Lutheran doesn't preach or teach or worship or act like a Lutheran is because he's not a Lutheran.
So we can either spend the rest of our lives firing on an enemy we'll never hit, or we can let him shoot himself in the foot by letting the world call into question his doctrine and practice. We can either keep piercing ourselves with our own ricocheted bullets, or we can teach the world to walk away from that enemy when he tries to sell them a Lutheranism that isn't real.
I've already torn my flesh apart enough doing the former. It's time to try the latter.