The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) President Mark Schroeder delivered a wonderful address to their convention last summer. He seamlessly interwove doctrine and practice. Right doctrine in this address is not some sort of boundary or some set of right words added to a program to make it work. For Schroeder true biblical doctrine is in, with and under all that the redeemed say and do.
Here is an excerpt from the address which asserts that our work is not a matter of slick programs with God’s word sprinkled on top but our work is simply a matter of proclaiming God’s word sans programs.
The book of Acts tells us repeatedly that, as God’s people proclaimed the gospel, “the Word of the Lord grew.” As the Holy Spirit worked, the Word grew in the hearts of people. It grew to fill the empire. It grew to span the centuries…
What we do conclude from that? First, we are reminded wherein the success of our mission lies. If we were left to our own strength, our own wisdom, our own resources, the task would be daunting. We would surely either be compelled to retreat from that task or be doomed to failure. But the strength of our mission and our witness does not depend on us, on our own cleverness, our own will power, or on our abilities. Its effectiveness is not to be found in slick programs or in effective marketing strategies. The strength and success of our mission is found in one place: in the power and faithfulness and love of a God, whose Spirit works through the preaching of his Word and the administration of his sacraments. (p. 3)
A while back I complained that President Kieschnick’s address to the district onventions was the opposite approach. Instead of a unified presentation of doctrine and life he spent the first fifteen minutes rattling off confessional truisms to try and convince the synod that he is orthodox. “Me thinks thou dost protest too much.” More to the point, a good synodical president does not need to prove his orthodoxy; he simply is orthodox in word and deed. This is what we mean by churchliness and this is an outstanding trait of Matt Harrison who is the clear confessional alternative to President Kieschnick for president of the LCMS.
Unlike the leadership of the LCMS, President Schroeder judges synodical success by the measure of faithfulness and not the measure of numbers. Here is another excerpt from President Schroeder’s address:
As our synod carries out its mission of sharing the gospel with the lost and caring for the souls of the found, we dare never forget that our success will not be measured in terms of numbers or statistics. Ours is a theology not of gloryâ€”striving for mere outward achievement or measurable accomplishments for their own sake. Our success will be measured only by our faithfulnessâ€”to God, to his effective and powerful Word, and to the work he has called us to do.
Rather than a theology of glory, ours is a theology of the cross. Our theology centers on a message that came to us wholly and completely because of the love of Christ. It proclaims a message that calls sinners to repentance, directs them to the cross, and that assures them that in Christ and his love all of their sins find full forgiveness.
Admittedly, the theology of the cross is not attractive in our postmodern, self-gratifying world. Unlike the theology of glory, the theology of the cross makes no promises of instant relief for the ills of life in a sinful world. It does not beckon people with the lure of financial or personal or professional success. It does not seek validation of its success in terms of numbers. It does not offer a practical “how to” manual to achieve temporal happiness or to mine the depths of human potential. The message of the cross cannot be packaged to be palatable and cannot be soft-pedaled to be acceptable. It is a message that this world does not understand and does not desire.
In fact, our messageâ€”if we are faithful to itâ€”will always be regarded as utter foolishness, just as Paul reminds us, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing.” (1 Cor 1:18) (pp. 3-4)
This address sounds like the addresses of the synodical president’s of old. You can get a taste for those traditional and faithful presidential addresses in Rev. Harrision’s new book, which of course demonstrates that Rev. Harrison is at home with this Biblical approach to leading a synod and further qualifies him for the LCMS presidency.
We recommend you read the entirety of President Schroeder’s address. You can do so by clicking here.