Nope this isn’t about the 1998 left-leaning organization formed to oppose the impeachment of Clinton. It’s about my sister. She goes to a large Midwest LCMS church in the Midwest. I first went to Lutheran school here at age 6. I fled to church in my second year of seminary when I confronted my pastor with his false doctrine from the pulpit. He admitted it was false according to the Ft. Wayne faculty but not in his mind. Years into the ministry it was at this church I found a pastor unwilling to protest what was then called church growth theology but would have more aptly named a malignancy.
Fast forward 30 years, this church is doing away with things like the Lord’s Prayer or Bible readings on Sunday morning services as the spirit moves them. When my sister asks the pastor, he says the “river has moved on.” He tells the tale of bridge that was built over a river years ago, but the river’s channel changed courses and now the bridge spans nothing but a dry riverbed. The service she attends now is one on Monday evening with about 20 other folks who haven’t moved on.
It slays me – this is one of those expressions that almost stayed in the 70s but not totally – it slays me how the church growth malignancy never ceases to make up avant-garde ways to say the same thing. By his trendy saying, “the river has moved on” he is saying the tired old chestnut “we must meet people’s felt needs.” Bully for you. That is exactly what drug pushers do for junkies, prostitutes do for johns, and cults devotees. It’s also what St. Paul says the false teachers will do when people will no longer tolerate sound doctrine. They will scratch where people itch (2 Timothy 4:3).
In the fictional world Stephen King writes about in his Dark Tower series, the phrase is “the world has moved on.” And it has gone no place good. It has gone to a place of horrors and monsters that rival but do not surpass contemporary worship.
Predictably, once a church moves on with the world in worship they do so in Communion practice. This is from their website: Can I take the Lord’s Supper? We believe that the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are present in the bread and wine used in Holy Communion. If you are a member of sister church (LCMS) or you are in complete agreement with statement above, we welcome you to share in Holy Communion with us. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to talk with one of our pastors before the service. We offer both individual and common cup (http://www.bethlehemsaginaw.org/?view=mobile) 16 October 2018.
This is your standard Fox News Communion statement. They tell you what Communion is, and you decide whether you should commune. This is open Communion; it’s open to whomever agrees with a bare statement of the Real Presence. ELCA Lutherans who believe killing babies is a tragic but acceptable choice, who believe their pastors can be gay or worse still Episcopalian trained(!) are welcomed to attend here. This congregations has moved on to accommodate all who think they should come.
If you find yourself in a congregation that has moved on, by their own admission, to accommodate the world, that’s a signal for you to move on.
But wait; late braking news. This church moved back. Not from the malignancy called Contemporary Worship but the poison called Open Communion. Here is what they say as of November 16, 2019: About Communion If you hang around Bethlehem for any amount of time, you’ll notice that we celebrate communion regularly. That’s because we’re a member church of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), and we value communion. All members of LCMS churches are encouraged to join us in communion. For those of you who’d like to take communion but aren’t yet members of the LCMS, one of our pastors or elders would love to discuss with you what communion means to us. We invite all to come up to receive a blessing; just indicate that you are not communing by crossing your arms over your chest (https://www.bethlehemsaginaw.org/about 26 November 2019)
Okay, this isn’t all the way back. Yes, the pastor could allow someone to commune who confesses the Real Presence only. But it’s movement in the right direction.