Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church

"The Light on the Hill"

FAQ

Denomination

  1. How many churches are currently affiliated and how many are located in the US?

    In the USA and Canada we have 116 congregations in our fellowship. We have approximately 1600 congregations in Chad and Cameroon, 16 congregations in Taiwan and 29 in Japan. (2007)

  2. Describe the Lutheran roots of your affiliation.

    The Church of the Lutheran Brethren dates back to 1900. During a period of spiritual renewal sweeping through the upper Midwest five independent Lutheran congregations joined together to form the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. One of the driving forces in this venture was a deep commitment to bring the gospel to unreached people with a particular focus on China. The first annual meeting, six months later, called the first missionary couple to go to China.   The organizational structure and confessional statement was very closely patterned after the Lutheran Free Church of Norway.

  3. What are the goals of your affiliation?

    Mission Statement:

    In response to God’s person and grace, we worship Him with everything we are in Christ, serve one another in Christian love and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with all people.  


    Vision Statement:

    We see God stirring in our church a fresh passion to reach beyond our own comfort to al people among whom God places us. We embrace God’s mission to bring the life changing Gospel to unreached people in Asia and Africa, and we sense God convicting us to more intentionally reach out to people who live in our midst in North America as well.

  4. What are the financial expectations of member churches?

    Members congregations are encouraged to be a regular part of the support team for the various synod missions such as world missions, educational missions etc. Congregations, through their delegates to the annual convention have opportunity to discuss the various missions and vote on the ministry plans and budgeting. Congregations are not assessed a certain percentage of their income or a certain amount per member.

  5. Does your affiliation ordain women?

    No

  6. Can a divorced pastor be on the roster and called to serve a congregation?

    This would depend upon the circumstances relating to the divorce.

  7. Can a gay or lesbian pastor be on the roster and called to serve a congregation?

    No  

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Beliefs

  1. What is your belief statement on the Bible?

    The Bible, including both Old and New Testaments as originally given, is the verbally and plenarily inspired Word of God and is free from error in the whole and in the part, and is therefore the final authoritative guide for faith and conduct. (Paragraph 1 from Statement of Faith)

  2. What is your belief statement on baptism?

    In the Sacrament of Baptism, God offers the benefits of Christ’s redemption to all people and graciously bestows the washing of regeneration and newness of life to all who believe. God calls the baptized person to live in daily repentance, that is, in sorrow for sin, in turning from sin, and in personal faith in the forgiveness of sin obtained by Christ. By grace we are daily given the power to overcome sinful desires and live a new life in Christ. Those who do not continue to live in God’s grace need to be brought again to repentance and faith through the Law and Gospel.   Because the sinfulness of human nature passes on from generation to generation and the promise of God’s grace includes little children, we baptize infants, who become members of Christ’s believing church through baptism. These children need to come to know that they are sinners with a sinful nature that opposes God. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, they need to confess their sinfulness and yield to God; and possess for themselves forgiveness of their sin through Jesus Christ, as they are led from the faith received in infant baptism into a clear conscious personal faith in Christ as their Lord and Savior and being assured of salvation, rely solely on the finished work of Christ, and the power of the Gospel to live as children of God.

  3. What is your belief statement on communion?

    In the Sacrament of Holy Communion, Christ gives to the communicants His body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine. He declares the forgiveness of sin to all believers, and strengthens their faith.

    To Learn More About Communion Go To The Following Link:

    http://www.mylightonthehill.org/A%20Brief%20Explanation%20of%20Our%20Communion%20Practice.pdf

  4. Briefly bullet point your beliefs and doctrines.

    • The Bible is the inspired Word of God – in the whole and in the part.
    • The Triune God
    • The human race is sinful and separated from God and needs salvation.
    • Jesus Christ, the Son of God came into the world to redeem the human race through His death and resurrection.
    • Salvation is only through Him.
    • The Holy Spirit convicts of sin and brings us to Jesus Christ.
    • We believe in heaven and also hell
    • We believe in the immanent bodily return of Jesus Christ.
    • God has given us the Law to reveal our sin and the Gospel to declare the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ.
  5. What are the key differences from other affiliations and synods?

    That is hard to answer since it is such a broad question. With some the differences would be minor and primarily in governing structures. With others there would be doctrinal differences of significant dimension. I suggest you review our Statement of Faith. This is what we seriously hold. Also note our statement of core values.

  6. How is God's Law Used and Taught in SLBC?

    While some churches mainly use the Law as a curb or a guide to God’s Will in order to legislate and motivate proper behavior, this is not the main function or one could say “main focus” of the Law.  According to Martin Luther in the Smalcald Articles, “the chief office or force of the Law is to reveal original sin with all its fruit.  It shows us how very low our nature has fallen, how we have become utterly corrupted.”  In other words, the primary use of the Law is to convict and expose us of our sin (Romans 3:20b), this is its theological use.  According to Tim Ysteboe, in His commentary on the CLBA Statement of Faith, “The work of the Law is to put people into a position where they realize their need for grace.”  While using the Law for a curb and a guide are biblical, both of these uses are not the primary or main theological use of the Law. 

     

    In SLBC teachings the Law is taught with the emphasis being placed on its primary use of revealing and convicting the congregation of sin; the 2nd Use of the Law.  (See the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism, Question and Answer #21 for the description of the 2nd Use of the Law)

  7. What is SLBC's View of Repentance?

    In understanding repentance we need to examine how we first view sin.  Is sin primarily a series of actions (i.e. what I do) or is sin a condition of the heart (i.e. who I am)?  Both views are taught Biblically, but which one has the primary and foundational focus?  The Lutheran Reformers of the 16th century saw sin primarily as a condition of the heart.  Martin Luther in seeing sin as a condition of the heart defines repentance in the Smalcald Articles saying, “We are completely lost; there is nothing good in us from head to foot; and we must become absolutely new and different people.”  Seeing sin as a condition of the heart brings about a more full and complete understanding of repentance.  Rather than simply repenting for a sin here or a sin there, Luther says that this more full view of repentance “hurls everything together and says: everything in us is nothing but sin…”  We see this view of incomplete and complete repentance in the story of the Pharisee and Tax Collector written in Luke 18:9-14.

     

    Secondly we need to understand that repentance is not something that we do but is rather something that happens to us as we hear the Word.  It is a gift to us.  The CLBA Statement of Faith says that, “Through the Word of the Law God brings sinners to know their lost condition and to repent.”  God is the one that brings about repentance in the hearer as the Law reveals to the hearer their sin.  Furthermore, Tim Ysteboe in the Commentary on the CLBA Statement of Faith shares that properly speaking repentance is “nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin…”  Therefore, whenever a person is confronted with, agrees with and understands their sinful condition and sinful actions, repentance has properly happened. 

     

    If we only see sin as a series of bad behavior (i.e. actions) and repentance as a change in certain external deeds (i.e. going from bad to good), we do not capture the full extent of sin and repentance but only arrive at a watered down view of sin and what the reformers called ‘partial repentance.’  Seeing repentance primarily in the external realm (i.e. change in external actions) can be equated to putting a band-aid over top of a cancerous internal tumor and saying, “all better!”  This limited view of repentance only deals with the symptoms of sin but not the core of sin itself.  Using a biblical phrase from Jesus in Matthew 23:25-26, this limited focus of external repentance results in becoming a whitewashed tomb; it fosters a mess of works righteousnessand man-centered theology. 

     

    According to Martin Luther the life of a Christianis one of daily repentance.  He states, “In a Christian, this repentance continues until death.  For through one’s entire life, repentance contends with the sin remaining in the flesh. Paul testifies that he wars with the law in his members (Rom. 7:14-25) not byhis own powers, but by the gift of the Holy Spirit that follows the forgiveness of sins (Rom. 8:1-17).  This gift daily cleanses and sweeps out the remaining sins and works to make a person truly pure and holy.”

     

    In SLBC teachings on sin the emphasis is in line with our Lutheran forefathers on seeing sin primarily as a condition of the heart; the root of all sin.  In SLBC teachings on repentance the emphasis is on seeing repentance in its fuller context of an attitude of contrition; sorrow for the very core of our sinful nature.

  8. Are There Consequences to Sin?

    Yes, No and Maybe…

     

    Yes. Because of sin: relationships are broken; the image of God in humanity has been corrupted; mankind has become self-centered; mankind is unable to properly trust, fear or love God; we are subject to the Devil and condemned to death; we are objects of God’s wrath. 

     

    No. Spiritually speaking or vertically speaking (i.e. vertical = relationship with God) because of Jesus we can say ‘no’ as believers.   Answer 191 of The Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism states, “By His death, Jesus willingly suffered the punishment of sin as my substitute.  Because of His death, I am no longer God’s enemy and can have fellowship with Him.” In other words, the eternal and vertical consequences to sin are placed upon Jesus and he bears the full consequences of sin on our behalf.  In Jesus there is no condemnation or consequences for us (Romans 8:1).

     

    Maybe…  Physically speaking or horizontally speaking (i.e. horizontal = relationship with neighbor and fellow mankind) there maybe many ramifications and consequences to sin even though there might not be any vertical/spiritual consequences.  Horizontal consequences such as: mistrust, loss of job, jail time, anger, fear, etc…

     

    Special note:  In Hebrews 12:5-ff we see that God disciplines the ones He loves. It is important to note that God does not ‘condemn’ those He loves and that His discipline is not out of a motive of ‘vengeance’ but out of a motive of ‘love.’  While hardships aid us in loving discipline, the most common way that God disciplines His children is through the Use of the Law.  Through the Law God quenches and kills the flesh (i.e.repentance) so as to drive us to Christ for forgiveness, dependence and hope.   Our sinful nature needs to be crucified not reformed. (See: Galatians 2:10; Galatians 5:24; Colossians 3:5-ff)

     

  9. Is God o.k. with our sins? Should we be o.k. with our sins?

    No, God is not o.k. with our sins and that is the reason why He sent Christ. God sent his Son into the world to save sinners (See 1 Timothy 1:15, John 3:16, Romans 5:8 )

     

    No, we should not be o.k. with our sins and that is the reason why we confess our sins to God.  We confess them unto Christ rather than pretending that we don’t sin. (See 1 John1:8-10)  We don’t try to overcome our sin with good actions or self-determination because that assumes that we can overcome sin by our own effort, this way of thinking goes the way of works-righteousness and placing ‘self’ into the role of the Savior.

     

  10. Don't you have to accept Christ to be born again... Isn't there a required action on our part?

    The Third Article of Luther’s Small Catechism states, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in the true faith, just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth,and preserves it in union with Jesus Christ in the one true faith….”

     

    In John 3:3-5 it says, “Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."  (4)  Nicodemus said to him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?"  (5)  Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

     


  11. SLBC Focuses a lot on Grace... can't we spend too much time and energy on grace?

    No. In the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism (Answer 224) it states, “The church must always hold and teach this doctrine of justification because it is the chief doctrine of the Christian religion; it distinguishes the Christian religion from false religion which teaches salvation by works; it gives enduring comfort to the repentant sinner; and it gives all glory to God.”  Furthermore, Tim Ysteboe in the book We Believe states, “We believe that the central doctrine of the Bible is justification by faith.  We might say, ‘if you don’t get this, you don’t get the Bible.’”  Finally the Augsburg Confession, which is a part of the CLBA Statement of Faith, states that the chief part of the Gospel is the doctrine of grace.  In other words, the church’s main focus should and can be the doctrine of Justification by Grace through Faith… everything flows into and out of this doctrine.  The person and work of Jesus is the whole counsel of God.

     

    SLBC teachings emphasize the Gospel of Grace because it is the chief doctrine and cornerstone of the church.  Furthermore, it is the power of God. (See 1 Corinthians 1:18 )

     

  12. Does an overemphasis of grace lead to a license to sin?

    No, it does not.  In Galatians 2:17 Paul says, “If,while we seek to be justified in Christ, it becomes evident that we ourselvesare sinners, does that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not!” In this verse the Apostle Paul shows us that it is not a fair conclusion to link the license to sin lifestyle to the freeing message of the Gospel of grace. To put it in another way, the proper effect of the Gospel of Jesus (i.e.justification by grace through faith alone) does not grant a license to sin nor lead us to lawlessness. The Gospel is not and cannot be held responsible for the license to sin mentality. For if this mentality of lawlessness would come about by the preaching and teaching of the Gospel, then that would make Jesus Christ a promoter, supporter and distributor of sin and rebellion!  In other words, Paul is declaring in this passage, “God Forbid this rationalization!”  Furthermore, we can also know by Galatians 2:17 that if lawlessness and a license to sin exist, that these perverted freedoms can be traced back to something else other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, namely our sinful nature that takes advantage and twists the Gospel of Grace.

     

  13. With the great degree of struggle among people today, shouldn't sermons and teachings focus more on the Fruit of the Spirit... the practical parts of living out the Christian life?

    Actually we should and can focus more on Jesus.  The reason being, the fruit of the Spirit is simply that, ‘fruit.’ According to the Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism answer 232, “Sanctification is the gracious work ofthe Holy Spirit by which He daily renews me more and more in the image of God through the Word and Sacraments.”  And also answer 235, “The fruits of a living faith are good works produced by the Holy Spirit…”  Why would we focus on the Fruit of the Spirit when we aren’t the one’s producing it in the first place?  We don’t produce spiritual fruit we simply ‘bear’ the fruit.  Rather than looking to the result of fruit, we look to the source of the fruit…  Jesus the author and ‘perfector’ of our faith (see Hebrews 12:2).  We look to Christ and His Word knowing thatt he ‘grace’ of God trains us to renounce ungodliness, to live self-controlled upright godly lives (see Titus 2:11-12).  In the words of a youth, “when we look to our own spiritual fruit we simply end up eating it!”

     

    In SLBC teachings the emphasis is on Jesus the source and perfector of all spiritual fruit.  The focus is on the Word so that the Holy Spirit might continue to produce spiritual fruit in the church that will last.  Simply put if we want spiritual fruit we get to focus on the fountain head of all spiritual fruit… that being Christ!

  14. In this day and age, shouldn't there be a heavy focus on 'thou shalt nots & thous shalls' in sermons and teachings?

    The answer to this question depends on the desired outcome or motive. 

     

    Yes, the church should focus more on ‘thou shalt nots and thou shalls’ in order that the church might learn God’s Will and understand the difference between righteousness and sin.  Furthermore, in studying God’s perfect will the actions of the church are put into contrast to perfection and as a result sin is revealed and brought to light.  As a result, this drives the church to contrition (i.e. repentance) and its continual need for Christ’s forgiveness and grace.  This is good!

     

    On the other hand…

     

    No, the church should not focus more on ‘thou shalt nots and thou shalls’ in order that believers may ‘acquire’ and be ‘motivated’ to live a victorious Christian life.  The reason being, the Law does not properly motivate or make a believer more holy in thought, word and deed.  The Law reveals righteousness but does not grant righteousness.  Rather, that is the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word (see Q&A 208 in the Explanation to Luther’s Small Catechism).  Furthermore, Tim Ysteboe in the book We Believe states, “Sometimes people believe that they are saved by grace, but that they remain saved and grow in sanctification by works.  Paul’s epistle to the Galatians is an essay to the contrary.” 

     

    Trying to live out a fruitful Christian life by the motivation of ‘thou shalt nots and thou shalls’ rather than the Holy Spirit through the Word will ultimately lead to one of two polar opposite results: self-righteousnessor despair.  One living by ‘thou shalt nots and thou shalls’ goes the way of self-righteousness when they deceive themselves into believing that they can actually accomplish the demands of God by their own strength and abilities. On the other side of the coin, one goes the way of despair and hopelessness when they look at the ‘thou shalt nots and thou shalls’ and realize the enormity of its demands.  Either way, self-righteousness and despair lead us away from the accomplished work of Jesus on His Cross for us.

     

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The Local Church

  1. Describe the governance structure of your local church.

    The local congregation is autonomous. The Synodical administration exists to serve the congregations in helping congregations fulfill the great commission.   In the congregation we have the Board of Elders. This board works most closely with the pastor in the planning and direction of the ministries of the congregation assisting the pastor in the shepherding of the congregation. Elders are men of spiritual maturity who serve in this office as a calling and are ordained as elders.   Congregations will also have a Board of Trustees or a Finance and Facilities Committee who are responsible for the fiscal and physical dimensions of the congregation. Some congregations will have deacons and deaconesses who assist in the caring ministries of the congregation. Other boards may exist to handle other aspects of ministry such as Christian Education and Youth.

  2. Does the congregation have full oversight in the call of a pastor?

    Yes. The Synodical Office of President as well as District Presidents will work with congregations in finding candidates and assist as needed. The local congregation elects a call committee that reviews possible candidates and the congregation votes on the extension of a call.

  3. In what offices or capacities can a woman serve?

    We do not ordain women so therefore they may not serve in the pastor or elder offices.  In most of our congregations they are free to serve in all other positions.

  4. What are your views on contemporary services?

    Within our denomination we have a variety of worship formats. Some are fully contemporary while some are fully traditional. Most are a blend. Whatever the form our concern is that our worship services are channels for meaningful worship of our Lord and proclamation of the saving gospel message.

  5. What unites SLBC? What is the main focus of the SLBC Worship Service?

    In the CLBA Statement of Faith underneath the Augsburg Confession we read, "The Church is the congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered. For the true unity of the Church it is enough to agree about the doctrine of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments. It is not necessary that human traditions, that is, rites or ceremonies instituted by men, should be the same everywhere. As Paul says, ‘One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.’” In other words, what makes a worship service and what unifies the church are simply the Gospel/Word and the Sacraments.

  6. What Are the SLBC Worship Services Like?

    SLBC Worship services follow the traditional 'Fourfold Pattern of Worship.'  Click Here to Learn More.  Within the Fourfold Pattern of Worship there is a blend of traditional music and contemporary music.  However, the main focus of the SLBC Worship service is not the music but God's delivery of His Word to us.  As sinners we come to worship not to give our best to God but to receive God's best... Christ and Him Crucified.  God speaks to us in His Word each and every Sunday and we come to receive the Gospel and hear about the assuring forgiveness of sins in Christ. 

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Christian Education

  1. Does your affiliation have a college, seminary or Bible School-if so, what is the name and location?

    Our seminary, Lutheran Brethren Seminary, is located in Fergus Falls, MN  (http://www.lbs.edu)

  2. Is there training for servants/disciples?

    The Seminary offers a one year program that gives a Certificate in Theological Studies.   Short Courses are also offered from time to time in off campus locations. Some opportunities are available through distance learning. Specifics can be learned through contacting the seminary directly.

  3. What Curriculum is being used for Confirmation and how is confirmation taught in SLBC?

    The SLBC Confirmation curriculum consists of the following books and resources:

     

                -TheExplanation to Luther’s Small Catechism

                -Luther’sSmall Catechism

                -Zondervan’sHandbook to the Bible

                -ConcordiaSelf-Study Bible and/or The Lutheran Study Bible

                -ResourceBinder produced by Pastor Matt

     

    The methodology of teaching for Confirmation has shifted from a ‘teaching based model’ to a ‘learning based model.’  The focus has gone from ‘teaching’ the Catechism to creating ‘learners’ of the Catechism.  Memorization takes place as the students are equipped to be life-long learners of the Catechism.  This teaching methodology is taken from a book taught at the Lutheran Brethren Seminary titled, “Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything At Church and How to Fix It” by Thom and Joni Schultz. 

     

    Please refer to the SLBC Resource Page to see the full 3-year confirmation curriculum and syllabus.

  4. Some of the teachings in SLBC have a different perspective than I am used to, is the teaching new, is it New Age?

    No, it is actually old.  Most of the books, sermon notes and teachings are not only rooted in Scripture but also in the 16th Century Confessional Lutheran Reformation.  For example, all the sermon notes from the Galatian’s series were taken directly from Martin Luther’s Notes on Galatians.  The commentaries that Pastor Matt uses in teaching and preaching are from Authors such as: 

                           

     R.C.H.Lenski            Conservative American Lutheran from the 1930’s

     C.F.W. Walther         Conservative American Lutheran from 1800’s

     Martin Luther             Father of Lutheranism from the 1500’s

     Keil and Delitzsch     Conservative German Lutherans from the 1800’s

     C.O.Rosenius           Conservative Swedish Lutheran from the 1800’s

     

    Furthermore, the central teachings of the New Age Movement rely heavily upon Eastern spirituality mixed with self-help, motivational psychology, physics and other teachings that point a person inward to themselves or to the universe for solutions and hope.  The use of the Law in SLBC does the exact opposite.  The Law is meant to reveal that ‘self’ and the ‘world’ are not the solution but the very problem.  In fact the Law is preached and taught so that we might consider ‘self’ and the ‘world’ as the very problem.  This drives the church away from ‘self’ and ‘manmade solutions’ towards an ‘external’ solution… that being Christ.  The solution is not within our hearts… the heart is the problem.  The solution is outside of us… in Christ and His Word.   

     

    Note:  Please refer to the document in the appendix titled, “How Do We View Christianity.”  Pastor Matt and the Elder Board are committed to preaching and teaching within the context of ‘Plan B.’  Plan B is in harmony with the CLBA Statement of Faith, Lutheran Confessions and the Scriptures.

     

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Missions

  1. Describe synodical mission efforts in terms of monetary and goods.

    The World Mission budget is approximately $1,000,000.00 annually. This supports ministries Taiwan, Japan, Cameroon and Chad. Each of these fields has their own seminary program for training national pastors. In the African churches we have ongoing translation projects that are now mostly driven by the national church and we partner with them in mission to the Muslim peoples of the region.   North American Mission seeks to plant new congregations and assist in revitalization of struggling congregations in the US and Canada. The annual budget is approximately $300,000.

  2. Describe direct mission efforts abroad in terms of missionary workers.

    In our Asian churches we focus on evangelism efforts and utilize an ongoing number of short term workers who serve as English teachers. We also have one family serving in a restricted access region.   In Chad and Cameroon we have one couple who serves in the Chadian Seminary. Other missionaries serve in evangelism and translation projects particularly focusing on Muslim people groups. Each year our churches are invited to participate in a relief offering that is used for famine relief or related needs. In the past we had a major health program which is now fully carried on by nationals. We have also had agricultural ministries as well.   We have now provided five full Bible translations and a dozen or more New Testaments.

  3. What is the Vision of the SLBC Leadership?

    The leadership has a vision to "Extend Grace to the Next Generation."


    A concise vision statement as well as teaching material has been posted to the SLBC Resource Page for further explanation. 


    The 2010 September/October Issue of Faith and Fellowship Magazine also covers, reinforces and further expounds on the Vision Statement of the SLBC Leadership.  Click Here to be redirected to Faith and Fellowship Magazine online.

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