(Editor’s Note: Pastor Simcak touches on a theme that will get much attention on this site in the weeks to come. Defining “missions” and understanding its place in the church is a fundamental part of the LCMS Task Force’s justification for their proposals for structural change and so needs to be clearly understood by all LCMS members.)
It is extremely distressing to know that in our synod division and controversy exist and continue to escalate about the relative importance of missions and pure doctrine, their relationship to each other, and which one should be more important and emphasized. The undersigned cannot recall in his many years in the parish ministry that such intense tension ever existed as it now does!
There are many indications that this tension continues to flourish in our midst and has become very divisive.
While there has always existed in one degree or another tension in our church body between the relationship of missions and pure doctrine to each other, this tension has been increasing in our midst and is now threatening to fracture our walking together as a synod, a fracture that will hasten the demise of the synod as a confessional Lutheran church body!
Stoking the fires of this tension were statements made by Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, synod’s president:
- “We have not the luxury of time and energy spent on incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died, but who know not His name and have not accepted His saving grace.”
- The church “cannot afford to waste time on incessant internal purification at the expense of the lost in the world.”
- “My concern is that we spend so much time in incessant internal purification that we do so at the expense of the eternal destiny of people who are dying every minute.”
- “People, this is not a game. Our incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of souls of men and women for whom Christ died must stop!”
While such comments emphatically and rightly emphasize the dire urgency of doing mission work, as Scripture so clearly commands, it appears to minimize any emphasis on pure doctrine! Evidently “incessant internal purification” is restricting God’s work!
The Scriptures very clearly command God’s people to keep all of His Word pure (1 Timothy 6, 3-4; John 8, 31; 2 Timothy 1, 13-14; Jude 3). And they also very clearly command us to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28, 19-20; Acts 1,8). There is no doubt that millions are perishing in their sins because they do not believe that Jesus Christ is the only Savior Who alone can rescue them from their sins and that salvation for time and eternity is only possible because of what Jesus Christ accomplished for us through His suffering, death, and resurrection. It’s a false and dangerous emphasis, not pleasing to our Lord, and shattering beyond repair our synod as a confessional Lutheran church body, to pit missions and pure doctrine against each other and/or to believe that one is more important than the other and/or to emphasize one at the expense of the other.
There exists the real danger that God’s Word may and can be compromised in the quest to attain specific numerical gains in congregational, district, national and foreign mission fields.
The sainted Dr. A. L. Barry, a former synodical president, stated it very well: “Missouri, keep the message straight! Missouri, get the message out!” God wants it to be both pure doctrine and missions! Not EITHER-OR, but BOTH-AND!
Consider the following two statements by Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first President of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod:
Yet now I seem to hear all our enemies say sneeringly: “Reine Lehre, pure doctrine, orthodoxy – that’s it and that’s about all you glory in. Vainglory!” But, my brethren, let them mock us if they will; by such mockery they reveal of what manner of spirit they are. Surely theirs is a different spirit from David’s, who, after beseeching God not to take the Word of Truth from his mouth, adds: “For I have hoped in Thy judgments.” These judgments, these pronouncements of God, in other words, this pure doctrine of the divine Word, that was the only hope of his soul. And so has it ever been with all the true children and servants of God. For what is “reine Lehre”? Pure doctrine is the pure Word of God, the pure bread of life eternal, the pure seed of the children of the Kingdom, a pure fountain of faith and love, a pure well of divine comfort, in a word, it is the clean, sure, and straight way to Christ and into heaven. Truly pure doctrine, then, is more precious than silver and gold, sweeter than honey and the honeycomb, stronger than sin, death, devil, and hell, more than heaven and earth. And pure doctrine is never an idle or dead thing; from it, and from it alone, flows spiritual, Christian divine life. . . .Wherever there is purity of doctrine, there will be found miracles of divine grace.”
Many say, ‘Instead of disputing over doctrine so much, we should rather be concerned with souls and with leading them to Christ.’ But all who speak in this way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first and foremost with the doctrine and to demand of them that they should rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good crop must above all be concerned about good seed, so the church must above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.
Let it be the prayer and goal of every blood bought, redeemed child of God to both “contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints” and to “go and tell,” proclaiming the saving Gospel into all the world to every creature! Not EITHER-OR, but BOTH-AND!
Rev. Andrew Simcak, Jr.
Texas Confessional Lutherans
First quote from Walther above, found in “Ebenezer. Reviews of the Work of the Missouri Synod dring Three Quarters of a Century” by W.H.T. Dau.
Second quote found in Essays for the Church [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992], Vol. I)