(by Pr. Rob Jarvis, Zion Lutheran Church, Morris, Minnesota)
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
A major accusation made against Lutherans who are concerned about doctrine and truth is that they are not concerned about outreach. The accusers, on the other hand, consider themselves experts on outreach. They see themselves as the keepers of the above passage. If only they thought about what it said. We would be charitable if we were to say they get it wrong half way into it. They don’t even get that far.
Stop and consider Christ’s words, His mission to the Church. “Go therefore and make disciples…” To put it simply, our church body, the LCMS, has forgotten the real mission. It starts with the wrong definition of a key word, “disciple.” Our English translations say “make disciples,” and we have taken this to mean “make evangelists.” Here’s a quick word study. A disciple is a student, a learner, not an evangelist. A student learns; an evangelist preaches. Our leadership has failed to encourage us to do what Jesus wanted–to be students and learn.
The result? Our church body has become extremely weak. We have ignored our Lord’s words. We have not been learning what we should. We know less of what we confess, and yet we are told to speak of it as often as possible. The irony of all this: we have been encouraged to tell less–more often.
We would like to introduce you to a new organization, The Confessional Lutherans for Christ’s Commission, the CLCC, which has been developed to help Lutherans understand the implications of Christ’s Commission.
Isaiah speaks about a promise of blessing to the Lord’s people. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes.” (Is 54:2) The enlarging of the tent is clearly to accommodate more people. Although “lengthening your cords” allows for growth, “strengthening your stakes” isn’t directly involved in the expansion. One thing we must remember: You can’t “lengthen your cords” until you “strengthen your stakes.” Without it, the tent will fall. CLCC aims to strengthen the stakes. If God should choose to lengthen the cords, praise Him for it.
CLCC is not a political organization. It simply seeks to help Lutherans know the faith. The Lutheran Church located in the U.S. has many wonderful confessional organizations that produce much excellent material. Lots of people use these resources, but we haven’t been very good about getting them into others’ hands. In other words, too often we seem to be “preaching to the choir.”
The CLCC aims to improve that distribution by getting laymen directly involved. What if we were to encourage laymen to look around themselves in their congregations and circuits? What if they were to take note of others who might take an interest in discovering what it is to be a Lutheran? As you know, that is a major problem in much of Lutheranism. Very few laymen know what it is to be Lutheran, and see little reason to know. They would happily sell their birthright for a little stew like Esau had done. Also as you know, with much of the laity, a layman telling another it’s important they know what they have as Lutherans can be more effective than a pastor saying it.
The CLCC would encourage people to reach out first–not to the unchurched–but to the people in their own congregation, circuit and region. Find those who want to be disciples. Find those who want to know the faith. Then they would help provide resources so these people can see what they already have. God willing then, these people won’t be able to help but tell others, reaching beyond themselves, to those who would also be what Jesus wanted–disciples.