Curled up in my inbox a while back was an email from the District requesting that I complete the online Congregation Life Cycle Survey. By providing this “bio-feedback,” I’d be helping my congregation to check bearings and set new directions for sharing the love of God in Christ. Plus, this crucial information will provide a detailed snapshot of congregation life cycles across the district to be shared at the District Convention. It would be downright uncharitable if I didn’t fill this thing out. Being moved by the Spirit and a true sense of brotherly love, I thought I’d share a couple of my answers with you in case you get one from your District and you’re pressed for time. You can’t have all my answers though, after all, that would be cheating! Here you go:
Which doctrine, then, or which word, ought a minister set before the church of God?
Neither his dreams, nor the visions of his heart, or whatever seemed good or right to him (Jer 23:16, 25); also not human traditions or ordinances (Is 29:13; Mt 15:9). But let him who teaches in the church teach the Word of God (1 Ptr 4:11), so that the heart of the ministry is and remains this, Is 59:21: “I have put My words in your mouth,” and as Augustine aptly says: “Let us not hear in the church: I say this, you say this, he says that; but: Thus says the Lord.”
Martin Chemnitz, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion, ed. & trans. Luther Poellot, (St Louis: CPH, 1981) 39.
33 We believe that the true unity of the Church is not injured by dissimilar ceremonies instituted by humans, just as the dissimilar length of day and night does not injure the unity of the Church. However, it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of peace, universal ceremonies are kept. We also willingly keep the order of the Mass in the churches, the Lord’s Day, and other more famous festival days. With a very grateful mind we include the beneficial and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline. This discipline is beneficial for educating and training the people and those who are ignorant ‹the young people›.
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles VII and VIII (The Church).
17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. 20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! Revelation 22:17, 20 ESV
So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.
Augsburg Confession Article V
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:19 ESV
Book of Concord quotes from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions; CPH 2006. Photo credit: Lawrence OP on flickr; Creative Commons license 2.0.