Friday, August 26, 2005

Ablaze Is Not the Answer!

Ever since I heard about the Synodical mission emphasis of "Ablaze" a couple of years ago, I was against it. Many "pastors" have asked me, "how can you be against Ablaze? It is all about mission." I am not against mission, just so long as it is God's mission, not our man-made version of God's mission. I am against Ablaze because I don't believe that it coincides with the mission of God's Word. Everyone has a mission. All businesses have a mission. The devil also has a mission. Just because something has the outward appearance of being a mission doesn't mean that it is God-pleasing.

First of all, the name "Ablaze" conjures up Pentecostal themes. Could they not have picked a different name? If I didn't know any better, I would think that the current leadership is trying to take us away from traditional Lutheran theology and practice to a more tolerant, loving and compromising stance. Second, all that "Ablaze" seems to be is numbers and counting. "Boy, look how good we are! We have shared the Gospel with x number of people. We are doing God's mission. Why don't we just pat each other on the back." As if God needed us to do His mission. I happen to remember a certain census that David took in the Old Testament that made God very angry. I have to ask: what is the point? Third, Ablaze fits neatly with the theology of Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Church. In Warren's view, everyone should be a missionary. But I ask you: is everyone a missionary? We say in Lutheran circles that, "All are priests. Some are ministers/pastors." Would we not say the same thing about missionaries? "All are priests. Some are missionaries." The Bible seems to indicate that missionaries are a special group of pastors called by God to start up a new church, hand it over to another pastor and move on. Is everyone called to be a missionary? I must answer no! I do not believe that everyone is called to be a missionary. I do believe that everyone is called to live out their faith in their various vocations. We are all priests of God, "offering our bodies as spiritual sacrifices to God." If we are the body of God and if we extend the metaphor out, would not pastors and teachers be the mouth? Not everyone is the mouth in the body of Christ. We need all the other parts of the body to function.

So the bottom line is this: To count how many people you have shared the Gospel with does not jive with God's mission or His Word. It is arrogant. It gives the appearance of, "Look what I am doing for God." It is foolish. How can we put a number or judge statistically what God is doing? And it is wrong. It gives the impression that to be a "real" or a "committed" Christian, one has to share their faith with as many people as possible. As if living out one's faith in one's vocation is not good enough? I am not saying that we shouldn't share our faith. But, if we are to share our faith with someone so that God brings that person into His Church through what we said or did, it will happen whether or not we make a conscious effort to do so. Praying the Lord's Prayer and its meaning come to mind. "The kingdom of God comes even without our prayer. But, we pray in this petition that it might come among us also." It seems to me that "Ablaze" is about guilt and superficial appearances pure and simple. I welcome any responses.


At 1:40 PM, Blogger Richard said...

I am interested in your comment that not everyone is a missionary. I am involved in trying to plant a LCMS mission church in the community which I live. The mission executives in the district office tell us that this start must come from the people. This is the preferred way of planting congregations now, no longer is a Pastor called to go into an area and plant a church. This seems to me to go against what you are saying that missionaries are a special class of people. We are meeting in a Bible study on a weekly basis. I agree with your assesment on ablaze in reguard to the penticostal image and to much emphasis on number counting. The other evening at our weekly Bible study the possibility of ablaze funds being availible to us was mentioned. I must say I had a negative reaction.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 2:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, it seems that Pr Haugen hasn't visibly responded to these comments. I find his convictions refreshing. I wish him encouragement and all the best. I look forward to meeting his kindred spirit some day.

In the meanwhile, I would venture to guess that Pr Haugen's comment of "not everyone is a missionary" to be semantically difficult to explain.

The terms "minister" and "missionary" have been abused quite a lot in recent generations of American Evangelicalism [and Ablaze too] and have therefore become nearly nonfunctional terms. very sad.

When Pr Haugen refers to the epistle texts that some are "teachers," others "ministers," and so forth, a study of the Greek text for vocabulary comes to mind.

English translation of "minister" comes from several different NT Greek words. Some are atune to "military lieutenant officers," others to "deacons," others to "mysteries/sacraments," etc.

Some definitely refer to "proper calls" and "undershepherds" who are vested with stewardship of the mysteries [sacraments] as in 1 Cor 4.1. Therefore, without proper call, nobody else should mess with these.

In that vein, "missionary" has at least two different definitions. One involves a person with a proper call. In this case most certainly, not everyone is a missionary.

In the current day and age when most LCMS lay people are terribly ignorant or indifferent to the Scriptures and/or confessions, it is scary to hear that these same people are a "preferred way" of planting congregations.

Contrary to Pr Haugen, the term "Ablaze" does not immediately bring Pentecostals to mind for me.

For me, "Ablaze!" is primarily a Scriptural descriptor for hell.

Ablaze! funds seem uniquely available to those operations that are liberal with respect to "Wine, Women and Song." Any other missions like St Sauveur in Paris, France are cut-off because they are confessional operations.

At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hm. No signs of any new posts since my last 3:04pm contribution...
Here's a good paper that I've come across that deals with this question:

At 12:38 PM, Blogger Admin said...

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At 10:10 PM, Blogger Chris Bernard said...

Hello Pastor Haugen,

God's Peace to You!

Really appreciate you meeting with Michelle, Mom, and I the other night to discuss Baptism, Close Communion and other topics.

As a thought in regard to sharing God's Word with others. I'd like to throw out, for discussions sake, the issue of 1 Peter 3:15. "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."

The Holy Spirit will show us who and how, but we need to be prepared for sharing our faith.

We are saved ONLY by the grace of God through the person of Jesus. As it says "For Christ died for since once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God (1 Peter 18). Those are such wonderful words, don't you think.

Shouldn't we feel somewhat moved to share that peace and love with our neighbors out of Christian love.

I thank you for your efforts and ministry and have the highest respect for you and your "obsession" for the Word of God.

Thank you and God bless you and all the members of St. John Lutheran!

Chris Bernard

At 11:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Malachi 4:1 - For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze," says the LORD of hosts, "so that it will leave them neither root nor branch."

That's the scripture from where they chose the "Ablaze" name.

At 12:32 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

I think the biggest, scariest thing about Ablaze is the so-called "Critical Event". What exactly does it mean that we are to wait for, and encourage, this person to make a response to the gospel message? Sounds a lot like decision theology to me!


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