Scratch a Fund Raiser and You’ll Smell a Pietist

That’s probably too strident, stringent, harsh even.  But you Waltherians can blame Walther for getting me to think along such clamorous lines.  He says in Law and Gospel that there are only two groups that humanity can be separated into regenerate and unregenerate.  It was Pietism that gave us so many different classes that nobody was able to tell to which class he belonged (356). Besides I said scratch a fund raiser and you’ll smell not find a pietist. Not every time you smell something do you find it.

In the midst of working through Law and Gospel for a Bible class a pamphlet came in the mail form “Concordia High School, a Luther High School.” (I don’t know why they say it this way, but this is the way they said it.  Given our virtual exclusive use of the rather weird word “Concordia,” isn’t it bit like saying Chevrolet Car Sales, a General Motors Dealership?  I digress, and I shall digress further still. Did you know that St. Peter’s wife was said to be named “Concordia?”).

The pamphlet was titled “Concordia High School, Annual Giving Challenge.” On the bottom we read their motto, tagline, or might this be what people call a hashtag? “A Christian high school where you have FAITH IN EDUCATION.”  I think that’s kind of catchy, don’t you? I find it curious on the actual form to fill out to make a gift they felt the need to identify Concordia High School as a Lutheran one, but nowhere on the tri-fold brochure do they.

I’m still not at the Pietistic part.  On the form you fill out to make your gift they let you know what class you will be in according to how much you give. Up to $99 and you’re in the Friends class. $100 to $499 puts you in the Shepherds class. (Is this a not so subtle way to let pastors know what is the bottom floor is for them?) Well if I were giving I would go one dollar more and that would get me into the $500 to $999 class called Disciples (See they are Waltherians! Disciples are above shepherds, people above pastors!).  At $1000 to $2,499 we’re talking some serious cash and that puts you in the class called Crusaders (Really? Aren’t there enough tensions between Christians and Muslims without resurrecting crusaders?)  The next class is the Saints and you just know we got to be at the top of the heap now for the giving here is in the rarified air of $2,500 to $4,999.  Besides what class could be above Saints?  Turns out there is one.  The $5,000 + crowd is the Servant Leaders class.

Servant Leaders has been the holy grail of church bureaucracy for at least 25 years. This class is above saints, so much for the riches of the saints. It’s above disciples, so much for it being enough to be like your Teacher. Servant leaders are above shepherds, so much for laying down’s one’s life for sheep; hey money talks and you know what walks. This class I above friends, so much for what a Friend we have in Jesus; give me servant leadership or give me death.  O wait He did give me His death.

If we’re going to have classes at least let’s use biblical names for them.  You can start with the Widow’s Mite class, two pennies to say 10 dollars. The Judas class would be next, 11 dollars to 30 dollars. The Zacchaeus class would be those givers who give half of their possessions. The Herod class would be willing to give up half their kingdom but in the extreme would lop off someone’s head for the sake of the cause.

But don’t we have Christian freedom to come up with programs to raise money and call the classes what we will?  Sure, we do you’ll say, but I say it smells of pietism when there is an ascending of orders and those names are attached to dollar amounts given for a Christian cause.  Also something is being communicated when you have class names that ring biblical bells. You know the effect would not be the same if you used A through F. You know something is being communicated by purposely dividing Christians into classes.  Walther and us Waltherians say it’s Pietism.  And while this particular pietistic tree might bear much money, it might also bear two other fruits: pride and despair. Pride at being a Servant Leader and despair at not even making the Friends list.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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