What’s More Important: Doctrine or Missions? Rev. Matt Harrison Gets it Right, by Rev. Andy Simcak

(Rev. Simcak writes this regular column on behalf of the Texas Confessional Lutherans. His other posts can be seen by clicking here or viewing the “Related Posts” in the right column.)

This has become in our church body a serious problem, which doesn’t seem to want to disappear. In fact, it is continuing to be a very divisive issue.

There are those in synod who espouse the comment made by our synodical president, Dr. Gerald Kieschnick:

“People, this is NOT a game. Our incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women from whom Christ died must stop!”

Others support the comment made by the first president of synod, Dr. C.F.W. Walther:

“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.”

Who is correct? Is there a middle ground?

The Reverend Matthew C. Harrison, the Executive Director of the LCMS World Relief and Human Care, in a paper presented at the Walther Conference at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis on November 14, 2008, addressed this vexing problem in a scripturally based manner:

“In 1872 at the founding of the Synodical Conference, Walther preached that the goal and purpose of the Conference must be the “winning of souls.” And how is this goal achieved? Walther’s answer: “Pure doctrine.” And not merely pure doctrine in one point, but pure doctrine in all points. For, asks Walther, how can we rob souls of the consolation of doctrine which God Himself has revealed in scripture and desires all Christians to know? Walther knows of no disconnect between doctrine and mission. There is no sliding scale of doctrinal rigidity versus missional flexibility. Doctrine IS mission. Mission IS doctrine. All theology is practical. All practice is theological. To be doctrinal is to be missional. To be missional is to be doctrinal. The Missouri Synod at her best is doctrinally missional and missionally doctrinal.”

There should be no problem between doctrine and missions!

There should be no controversy making one more important than the other!

There should be no time to discuss or waste in addressing this issue!

Why? The holy, inspired, inerrant Word of God has settled the importance of doctrine and missions through the words of our Lord and Savior in Matthew 28:19-20:

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching to obey everything I have commanded you.”

The Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ settles the matter once and for all people and all times:

It is NOT missions or doctrine!

It is NOT missions being more important than doctrine!

It is NOT doctrine being more important than missions!


Rev. Harrison has done the church a big favor by reminding us on the basis of Scripture that Christians are to make disciples of all nations AND teach them to obey everything He has commanded us. Not only ONE or the OTHER, but BOTH…AND!

We thank Rev. Harrison for stating it so well in his presentation that we are to be “doctrinally missional and missionally doctrinal.”

Rev. Andrew Simcak, Jr.,
President, Texas Confessional Lutherans

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


What’s More Important: Doctrine or Missions? Rev. Matt Harrison Gets it Right, by Rev. Andy Simcak — 7 Comments

  1. Agreed. The comparison of Kieschnick with Walther is telling.

    More importantly, a comparison of president Kieschnick’s commandment with that of St. Paul is night and day.

    People, this is NOT a game. Our incessant internal purification at the expense of the eternal destiny of the souls of men and women for whom Christ died must stop!

    St. Paul:
    Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. 1 Timothy 4:16

    Night and day.

  2. It just plain doesn’t make sense for the Church to share the Word of the Lord in any way other than its purest form. How can we advocate watering down the Law and Gospel or allowing heresy in exchange for numbers or so called growth? That’s like watering down or pouring some coffee into a priceless bottle of wine to make it go further. Instead of making it go further its not even worth giving to the dog.

  3. Great post. I point this out to all my Evangelical friends. How do you go and make disciples? By teaching Christ’s commands and baptizing. So one has to take a position as to what Christ’s commands are.

  4. In response to Pastor Wilken’s comment; instead of night and day, you could also say “darkness and light”

  5. If we, the LCMS, fails to proclaim the “pure” doctrine then who will? It appears to me that we are the last hope for sinners who need a hospital with pure medicine. All others seem to provide spiritual shopping malls for spiritual pleasures. People do not need synthetic spiritual food, they need exactly what Jesus has provided, pure Body. pure Blood, pure Doctrine.

  6. David Lee,

    Good point.

    Purity and purification are considered a good thing in Scripture.

    Would any responsible synodical president pit moral purity and missions against one another?


    So, why does our present synodical president pit doctrinal purity and missions against one another?


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