St. Paul's Lutheran Church

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Image of Nones and Generation Z

Yes, it's worth it!

Our culture is collapsing.  Anyone can see this if they just open their eyes.  Day by day, the number grows. These are the lost, the disconnected, the unaffiliated…the Nones.

This sharply increasing number of individuals called the “Nones” is a vast group of multi-generational westerners who claim no religious faith or affiliation, no clear system of beliefs, no attendance in any church (many don’t even know what a church is or what it looks like inside) and have no connection to Christ beyond social media or a passing internet meme.

But, we who are of the belonging ones, the faithful few, the committed and connected, we keep fighting and bickering over style at the expense of substance; we keep one foot firmly stuck in the 60’s and 70’s and continue to beat the dead horse called the “Church Growth Movement.” We continue to insist that some degree biblical or theological compromise is acceptable as long as it leads to more members and fills the pews.  We keep slipping more and more into the theological nightmare called Liberalism and we prop up the idols of “inclusivity” and “Come as You Are” and “He Gets Us,” and we become more and more willfully ignorant of the Word of God for the sake of tolerance and not wanting to offend.

Yes, we can keep on keepin’ on, refuse to repent, refuse to bend knee to the Lord, and continue to see a decline in the American church as more and more are unchurched and dechurched, when we should take a step back and consider the data.  We must open our eyes to the reality of the situation, stop the fighting, the “worship wars,” the liturgical demagoguing over “contemporary” or “traditional,” over “low” or “high” church.  Those battles were from a time that ushered in the Sexual Revolution, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Wave Feminism, Gay Rights, Roe v. Wade, the call to remove the Bible and prayer from public schools and institutions, which has continued to push for the dismantling of the nuclear family and is now pushing to distort or completely remove biological gender/sex from all conversation.  They are the generations who have taught our children, from day one, that there is no God, no objective truth, no true religion, no eternal hope, but that man is but a useless creature, an accident among a whole collection of other accidents, and man’s value isn’t intrinsic but institutional.

We can keep slipping into this nightmare more and more, or we can stop, turn around, and look to our Lord and His Word of truth.  But to do this we must repentantly abandon any cultural influence or ideologies which stand in the way of the truth.  We must abandon the idols of theological liberalism, Liberation Theology, Gospel Reductionism and the great deception called Higher Criticism.  We must turn away from endless compromise for the sake of numbers and filled churches.  We must stop judging success or failure by the number of members or the size of budgets.  We must stop thinking bigger is better when it comes to the Christian church.  We must, instead, trust that God keeps His promises and out of thankfulness and, with a fearful love of God, abide in His Word at all costs.

Today, our western world is full of Nones because their identity, purpose, hope, and moral grounding has been stripped from them and replaced with an amoral, hopeless, purposeless existence, and the Nones are seeking identity in something more than what was brainwashed into them.  But why would they consider a church family as a place of identity when all the family does is bicker over music style or communion practice or what the guy in front wears, or says things like, “We all teach the same things,” when church bodies clearly do not?  They want a firm foundation; they want solitude; they want consistency and hope because they know that such does not exist in their failed relationships, their endless string of jobs, their millions spent on failed college educations.  They want real.

Man on dock looking into foggy nothing.

Sadly, yes.  A small but growing number of Nones, the unchurched and dechurched, are looking to Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy for their identity.  They are engaging with the priests and bishops of these ancient sects simply because they are ancient, consistent, and transcendent.  They offer a sense of awe and mystery, but along with the awe and mystery these souls are also being fed poor theology.

The Nones are sick and tired and very much uninterested in the shallow, stage-like, performance-focused, market driven worship of American Evangelicalism.  They see it as hypocritical, and they don’t sense the holiness of God where rock bands and smoke machines fill a stage as a preacher dressed in jeans and a tie-dye shirt comes out shouting and offering moralistic therapy talks to the masses, standing before multi-million dollar LED screen drops.  Jesus gets lost in the gimmicks.  The transcendence and holiness of God gets buried behind drum enclosures and guitar amps.  The message gets drowned out by performance and chorography, and they find it all so…familiar.  What these poor souls are trying to escape — the world and all its consumerism and marketing and ads — they find no escape in the Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, CGM churches of today.  Oh, the Boomers love it and Gen-X loves it because we are all about consumerism and staunch individualism.  American individualism is our idol, and consumerism is our household god…but Millennials…?

Empty church seats.

The Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox churches don’t have constant bickering over hymns, music, liturgy, traditions, Closed Communion, or other such matters among their clergy or laity.  Their theology may be very subpar to Confessional Lutheran theology, but the Roman Catholic churches are united in doctrine and practice and the Eastern Orthodox churches are united.  The clergy celebrate the Mass with reverence and instill a sense of awe because they’re not all caught up in worrying if the song or hymn is liked or disliked, or the chanting is a “turn off,” or if people will get offended for not being allowed to commune.

They CELEBRATE their liturgies and thier respective histories, they don’t hide their identities behind a fear that it might make a person angry or disgruntled, and they don’t try to fit in with the world or embrace the ways of the world.

And Confessional Lutheranism should be the same way!  We have a great and rich history dating back over 500 years.  We have a rich and robust hymnody with hymns dating back to the Early Church.  We have a robust and reverent liturgy which is historic, even centuries old.  Confessional Lutherans have all the good stuff, the stuff that the Nones are longing for, AND we have sound doctrine, something sorely lacking in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, not to mention American Evangelicalism.

But we also have the infighting.  We also have whole groups of clergy among the LCMS, WELS, ELS who refuse to be faithful to their call and vows.  Men who say, before God and man, that they will practice Closed Communion and will not sway from the Scripture or the Confessions, but not a day later, break rank and fall into the American Evangelical cesspool and say things like, “I’ll answer to God later, but I will not turn anyone away from the Lord’s Supper.”  They bring in horrible, sorely untheological, and poor tasting music from Bethel and Hillsong, embracing the liturgical style of the Vineyard Church movement, teaching from such books as “The Purpose-Driven Life,” “I Am,” “The Pathway to Success,” and similar.  

For the sake of keeping people happy and bringing people in, they throw out orthodoxy…they throw out Jesus…in the name of Jesus.

Confessional Lutheranism is worth the fight!

In the Scripture, it is often in the darkest moments of history where the Lord’s power is made known, and the truth prevails over evil.  It was on the darkest day of the world, the day our Lord was crucified, that evil and sin and Satan was conquered and the mercy and forgiveness of God was open to all.  It was just over 500 years ago when a monk and professor named Martin Luther was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic church and dangerously close to being murdered by mercenaries (how the church dealt with those who wouldn’t fall in line).

Fight the Good Fight guy in armor

Confessional Lutheran churches love and appreciate our historic Christian faith.  We never threw out the liturgies, the reverence, or the sense of awe and mystery.  In fact, Confessional Lutheranism did not “begin” in the 16th century, but it continued the tradition of proclaiming the Apostolic Word and Creeds which the Church had always proclaimed.  We never stopped preaching the pure Law and Gospel of our Lord.  We never stopped administering the Sacraments of the Scripture in accordance with Christ’s command.

Confessional Lutheranism does not embrace modernism, rationalism, ecumenism, or liberalism.  We truly embrace the Scripture alone and we believe with everything that we are that the Bible is God’s infallible Word, every single letter.

But to retain our confessional distinctiveness, we must continue to fight, and we must trust that the Lord fights for us.  So, if you are tired of gimmicky, market-driven, consumerist-based American Evangelicalism, and if you are tired of church bodies that compromise the Word of God for the sake of the culture and the world, and if you want sound, faithful doctrine expressed in a reverent, transcendent liturgy and faithful hymns, visit us this Sunday.  You have nothing to lose but one hour, but so much in this one hour to gain.

But do not visit any old Lutheran church, be sure it is a Confessional Lutheran church like St. Paul’s in Milaca, MN or another such church which you can search for by visiting the Lutheran Liturgy website or the Locator page on the LCMS website.