Are You Missional Enough?
Heard on Issues, Etc. during the February 20 segment on catechesis, confession, and absolution, featuring Rev. Peter Bender, Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church and Director of the Concordia Catechetical Academy in Sussex, Wisconsin. You can listen to the whole segment here.
Pastor Todd Wilken: Why do you think it is that so many pastors and lay people are completely confused about the responsibilities of a pastor?
Pastor Bender: …That’s a good question. It’s a very important question, and it goes back to the devil’s old trick from the beginning: Did God really say? He wants to tempt us to believe that there’s some other source of life, salvation, goodness, pleasure, success, you name it, other than the Word of God. You will not hear the preaching and teaching of God’s Word anywhere else but in the Church, and unfortunately, you oftentimes don’t hear it there either. But that’s what the devil is trying to attack, and so he tries to dupe us in any way we can, even if thrusting us back on our own ingenuity, to programs that we might initiate in the church that have very little to do with an exposition of the Scripture, teaching the faith, or busy with lots of activities all in the name of missions and evangelism, but little of it has to do with the Word of God, the call to repentance, and then the proclamation of the free grace of God in Jesus. And so I think that’s what it is. We’re always being attacked and we often succumb to the devil’s lies and deceit in this regard.
Pastor Wilken: In that vein, I recently read something, and this was within our circles, the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. There was a criticism being raised, actually from within kind of the mid-level management, the district level leadership of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod against the ordination vows. The criticism was, Pastor Bender, “Well the vows are inadequate because they don’t mention evangelism or mission.” How do you respond?
Pastor Bender: Well I’m glad you brought that up, because it needs to be addressed head on. When Jesus is speaking in Matthew 28, “Teach them to observe all things,” He’s talking missions. When in Luke 24 He says “It was necessary according to the Scriptures that the Christ suffer, die, and rise again,” and of course, that’s necessary for our salvation. But then he adds “and, that the preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins should be conducted in Jesus’ name,” that’s also necessary. He’s talking about missions. There’s no other way to call people to repentance and faith in Christ, to nurture them in that faith, to sustain them in that faith, apart from the preaching and teaching of God’s Word. So, if you don’t, if a mission executive or if a pastor, or if anyone else that would level such a criticism would say that instructing both young and old in the chief articles of the Christian faith, preaching the Word of God in its truth and purity has nothing to do with missions or evangelism, then they completely misunderstand the point of teaching. …The purpose of preaching, and the unique catechesis that is central to the Office of the Ministry, to evangelization and mission work, is this call to repentance and faith. It’s the kind of thing that we see Jesus doing all the time in the Gospels….
A little further along in the interview:
Pastor Bender: We as pastors are called to dare to trust that Word. To dare to preach it and teach it and let God take care of the rest. Pastors are prone to think “No, that’s not enough. I’ve got to do something more.” There’s no greater power on earth than the authority that Christ has given to His ministers to exercise in the preaching and teaching of the Word of God, the call to repentance, and the forgiving of sin.
…If you look at the mandates of Jesus to the twelve, His apostolic ministers, who are then passed on to the Office of the Ministry that follows them, you have that emphasis. Matthew 28: Go make disciples, baptizing and teaching. Mark 16: Preach the Gospel to every creature. You’ve got Luke 24: The preaching of repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name. You’ve got John 20: Forgive the sins of repentant sinners. You’ve got the words of St. Paul: I charge you in the presence of God who will judge the living and the dead, preach the Word. Be prepared in season and out of season. You’ve got in the table of duties where Paul speaks to Titus about pastors: They must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. And if you look at Jesus’ ministry, it was chiefly about teaching and preaching the precious Gospel of His love and forgiveness for the world. And St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians “I delivered to you that which I also received.” We receive that Word and then we pass it on. That’s why teaching of the Word of God and teaching of the Gospel, the proclamation of the forgiveness of sins is at the heart and center of the Office of the Ministry.