Best work on “Evangelism” in a long while – are you a functional Arminian?

Rev. Heath Curtis has rendered a great service to the Church.  He has published his papers and audio recordings from his presentation to a pastor’s conference in Indiana.

Here is the link to his Gottesdienst Online post:

http://gottesdienstonline.blogspot.com/2011/05/freed-from-shopkeepers-prison-in.html

 

I would suggest reading and re-reading his first paper first (the others are very good as well).  It really offers a sound Lutheran critique of what we are doing as Lutherans and how bad things have gotten in our Synod.  It appears that we have abandoned the doctrine of election in a lot of our practices (especially in regards to evangelism and missions).  This paper really left me with a lot to think about, and even some things to repent of.

For those of you out there who have been burdened by guilt trip after guilt trip for not “witnessing” enough or effectively enough, this paper will liberate you and preach a Gospel that your souls need to hear.  Read it and tell all the others who have been thrown under the law of “evangelism”.

For those of you who have toyed with different evangelism programs over the years, see how Pr. Curtis deconstructs them and shows how most of them have not come from sound Lutheran theology.

It is time to repent – repent of our lack of teaching on election, and repenting of not allowing our practices to flow out of the doctrine of election.

Who says that confessionals are not into evangelism – here in this paper, Pr. Curtis has for the first time in my young reading described real evangelism – all the others are merely law-based false models and efforts.

 

 

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Best work on “Evangelism” in a long while – are you a functional Arminian? — 125 Comments

  1. @James Morgan #86
    James, since no one else seems to have taken it up, I will. I’m not entirely sure what you’re asking, but to deal with that passage, at least a little bit (Gotta get back to my sermon for tomorrow….):

    I have a question as a recent LCMS Lutheran. How do we interpret the passages in Acts where the Apostle Paul, as in 13:46-47, says after the Jews reject the Gospel, “It was necessary that the Word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are going to the Gentiles . . .”?
    I am not disagreeing with the papers but simply asking for some help on how a passage like this fits into the overall thrust. Thanks.

    Okay. “First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles.” That’s the pattern in Acts. One *practical* aspect of this, as Pastor Curtis has brought out, is that the Jews, already having the Holy Scriptures (the Old Testament) were the *logical* place to start. Preach and teach in the place where people gather for the Scriptures–if Pastor Curtis’s contention about Jesus’ and the apostles’ pattern is correct (I have to study this for myself, still.) Notice then, in the context of this verse, you have v. 44–“On the next Sabbath almost the whole city came together to hear the word of God.” and v. 45 makes it clear that plenty of Gentiles were among “almost the whole city.” So, this incident at Antioch of Pisidia does seem to fit the “Curtis” pattern.

    Now, as to the rejection–that fits with what Lutherans have always said. When someone is damned, they are the 100% “efficient cause”. God did not predestine these Jews to rejection of the Gospel of Christ and so to damnation. They did it to themselves. “You judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life.”

    But notice v. 48–those who *do* believe were “as many as had been appointed to eternal life”.

    So this passage you brought up really serves rather well as an illustration of the proper understanding of our article on Election. “Why are some saved and not others?” it’s a good question. But the paradox is that you can only answer one side of it at a time. If you try to answer both sides with one answer, you’ve departed from Scripture, and you’ve departed from the Cross of Christ.

  2. When our sinful self becomes lazy and we don’t share the Gospel as much as we could, we have the “go into all the world” to remind us of the work God prepared for us to do. Yet when we obsess over not being successful enough, we have the assurance found in the doctrine of election. God will, can & does work through sinners. The passages pertaining to each keep us evenly balanced.

  3. Has confessional Lutheranism become a Crypto-Romanism of neo-solas?

    The Word is a means of grace only when preached.

    A sinner can be saved only in a Divine Service.

    The Bible can be taught only by a pastor.

    Christ’s gift of evangelists was only for the apostolic age.

    Pastors are the only evangelists.

    The Apostles were only pastors.

  4. @Johannes #96

    I see your concerns. However, when you check back with how the doctrine of election is presented in the Solid Declaration, you see that the means of grace are part of this presentation. Unlike in Calvinism, election or predestination is not something that “happens” without the effective means of grace (as Calvinists would have to admit that, given that predestination is their key doctrine, a person chosen to salvation would be saved even if they never heard the gospel: Karl Barth at least gets close to universalism on this path). In other words, it’s not, as the SD puts it, merely a military muster.

    In this sense I, in my long post above, have tried to underscore what Pr. Curtis said: the doctrine of election is there for us to strengthen those knees that have grown weak when it comes to simply and faithfully applying the word of God to sinners in law and gospel as something that seems to be ineffective and needs to be pepped up with energetic music, charismatic speakers, video presentations, etc.

    So, the texts that speak about making disciples by teaching what Christ commanded the apostles and baptizing are confirmed and corroborated nicely for our own good by those texts teaching the doctrine of election, e.g., 2 Thess. 2:13-14, referenced above.

    At the same time, as SD points out, the doctrine of election must not be taught in such a way so as to contradict the doctrine of justification by faith in Christ alone, that is, it cannot be taught so that hopelessness, impenitence, or indifference result.

    Of course, before we speak the word to a given person we DON’T ask ourselves: is that one of the elect, that is, will they believe what I say? We just speak the work as opportunity is provided by the Lord.

    However, Pr. Curtis’ point is well taken: how do we see the ones we speak to — as those who might be elected by God to be saved by the pure proclamation of the word in law and gospel, or as those whose “free will” we have to influence so that they agree to the “deal” offered by God in Christ?

    Here the doctrine of election can be very powerful and encouraging for freely, boldly, and unapologetically speaking what God has given us to speak!

    It also shows us what our job / responsibility is (as J. I. Packer pointed out): not winning converts by whatever means our ingenuity can imagine, but merely speaking the word through which God has from eternity chose to do what only he can do: change a person’s heart from within by the work of the Spirit.

    That’s good stuff, I believe!

  5. I hope I’m not getting to the discussion too late. Question about good works. How does an unbelieving sinner discern a good work from a work of the flesh?
    I know a baptized believer, from a good church, that rejected Christ of the Bible to become a Mormon. When I asked her how she reconciled Satan and Jesus as brothers, in light of the faith she once had, she said, “THey are good people. They do good things. They help more people than other churches. ”
    Indeed Matt5:15 about good works, but the notes in the handy new LSB say this: Begin quote: Jesus urged His disciples to do good works for the people of this world to see. Luth: “What (Jesus) calls ‘good works’ here is the exercise, expression, and confession of the teaching about Christ and faith….shining is the real job of believing or teaching, by which we also help others to believe” (AE 21:65, see FC EpIV 18), glory to your Father. Good works are meant to lead others to glorify our heavenly Father, not to bring praise tothe one who does them. Leading people to worship the true God is the whole purpose of doing good deeds. End quote

  6. Do JWs and Mormons have good reputations with outsiders from their aggressive “evangelism”?

    THat would depend upon whom you ask. I know lots of people that are annoyed by all people of faith….do you have any secular humanist friends? They detest Christians of any sort—simply for believing that Jesus is the only way.

    Ask people that have become JW’s or LDS from missionaries and they view missionaries very highly.

  7. Purple Koolaid :
    I hope I’m not getting to the discussion too late. Question about good works. How does an unbelieving sinner discern a good work from a work of the flesh?

    They don’t have such discernment. As stated in the Epitome,

    “2] 1. Concerning this subject, our doctrine, faith, and confession is, that in spiritual things the understanding and reason of man are [altogether] blind, and by their own powers understand nothing, as it is written 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them when he is examined concerning spiritual things.

    3] 2. Likewise we believe, teach, and confess that the unregenerate will of man is not only turned away from God, but also has become an enemy of God, so that it only has an inclination and desire for that which is evil and contrary to God, as it is written Gen. 8:21: The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Also Rom. 8:7: The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be. Yea, as little as a dead body can quicken itself to bodily, earthly life, so little can man, who by sin is spiritually dead, raise himself to spiritual life, as it is written Eph. 2:5: Even when we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ; 2 Cor. 3:5: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything good as of ourselves, but that we are sufficient is of God.
    Epitome of the Formula of Concord II, 2,3

  8. Jim Pierce says:
    They don’t have such discernment. As stated in the Epitome,
    “2] 1. Concerning this subject, our doctrine, faith, and confession is, that in spiritual things the understanding and reason of man are [altogether] blind, and by their own powers understand nothing, as it is written 1 Cor. 2:14: The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; neither can he know them when he is examined concerning spiritual things.
    3] 2. Likewise we believe, teach, and confess that the unregenerate will of man is not only turned away from God, but also has become an enemy of God, so that it only has an inclination and desire for that which is evil and contrary to God, as it is written Gen. 8:21: The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Also Rom. 8:7: The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither, indeed, can be. Yea, as little as a dead body can quicken itself to bodily, earthly life, so little can man, who by sin is spiritually dead, raise himself to spiritual life, as it is written Eph. 2:5: Even when we were dead in sins, He hath quickened us together with Christ; 2 Cor. 3:5: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything good as of ourselves, but that we are sufficient is of God.
    Epitome of the Formula of Concord II, 2,3

    Purple Koolaid: Ok, so are you validating my point?? If a good work is sharing the gospel, as in the study notes of the Lutheran study Bible, then I get it. But if I good work is opening a food bank(which Mormons, Muslims, atheists and all matter of unbelievers do), then I disagree that good works is what we should be doing to share the gospel.

  9. @Purple Koolaid #105
    The only thing that makes a work “good” in God’s eyes is faith in Christ. The faith which grabs onto Christ and His righteousness allows our works tainted with sin (all of them are) to be viewed by God as good.

    Good in the world’s eyes has a variety of standards.

  10. Purple Koolaid :
    Purple Koolaid: Ok, so are you validating my point?? If a good work is sharing the gospel, as in the study notes of the Lutheran study Bible, then I get it. But if I good work is opening a food bank(which Mormons, Muslims, atheists and all matter of unbelievers do), then I disagree that good works is what we should be doing to share the gospel.

    I agree with what Pr. Scheer writes. Atheists can feed the hungry, but that action being done outside of faith in Christ is not a good work in God’s eyes.

    I have give some thought to your comment “…I disagree that good works is what we should be doing to share the gospel” and I agree with you in part. If we are talking about the public proclamation of the Gospel, then that work is given to the pastor to do as part of his vocation. However, we laymen are not left off the hook. God has given us vocations, too. The works that we do as we go along in the world working day to day is for the purpose of serving our neighbor. God has shown us mercy and grace through His Son Jesus Christ. Because He loves us and has shown us such immense mercy, we are set free to show everyone around us this immense love and mercy that is freely poured out on us. Unlike the unbeliever who is motivated by threats of the law, or by earning moral brownie points, to do service for others, the Christian is motivated by the love of God, by the forgiveness of sins freely given to him, to serve others. God gives us all these wonderful gifts not so we can keep them, but to give them away to others. This service to others is connected to our confession and doctrine about Christ. This isn’t the social gospel of “deeds and not creeds.” Rather this is deeds being exercised and expressed from our confession of the teaching about Christ and our faith as the LSB points out in its comments. If you haven’t read The Spirituality of the Cross by Gene Veith, I highly recommend it. It is an excellent book that deals with the topic of good works and vocation from the scriptures and our Lutheran confession in a format easily accessible to us laymen.

  11. T. R. Halvorson :Has confessional Lutheranism become a Crypto-Romanism of neo-solas?
    The Word is a means of grace only when preached.
    A sinner can be saved only in a Divine Service.
    The Bible can be taught only by a pastor.
    Christ’s gift of evangelists was only for the apostolic age.
    Pastors are the only evangelists.
    The Apostles were only pastors.

    Very insightful and succinct observation. I could not agree more! One could make a case that you have slightly overstated things, but your observations are acutely accurate.

    Thanks!

    Johannes

  12. Rev. Robert Mayes :@John, an Unlikely Pastor #73
    John, brother in Christ:
    I get very nervous when I hear of groups advocating “contageous” evangelism. First, it’s not very Lutheran. While there is some things that can be learned from the social aspects of such ideas, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit working through the Word, and not the gimmicks of men, that leads to true conversion. With the emphasis on “doing new methods to gain converts”, it is highly similar to the false teaching of justification of the 19th century revivals.
    Second, if a church is truly contagious, then it’s sick and needs healing. Words have meanings. Contagion means a deathly sickness is spreading from one host to the next. Is that a good way that we should describe the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit? I would strongly disagree. (The same thing applies to churches that are “ablaze”, which suggests that firemen need to come and put the fire out; churches that are “infectious”, which again suggests the church is deathly sick, and other such descriptions.)
    Third, consider that in the human body, things that grow rapidly are not always good. Cancer cells grow rapidly, but can be fatal. If a church grows rapidly by using false theology (say, Mormonism), it doesn’t make it right or beneficial, nor is it evidence that the Holy Spirit is truly working in it. Purity in preaching and right administration of Sacraments is the mark of the Spirit’s presence, not the numbers or lack of numbers in a congregation.
    Thanks for the discussion, John.
    Your brother in Christ,Rev. Robert MayesBeemer, NE

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #91
    Thanks for the comments,
    You are right about many things:
    1) numbers don’t matter at all to God: preaching the Word and the sacraments do matter
    2) our analogies: biological or otherwise can always be broken down (as you argue well)

    Now I’d urge you to think about your church beyond Sunday morning for moment.

    On Monday the church that I serve is at work in schools, hospitals, in tractor cabs, on the product floor, in offices, and in many more places than I can count. The church that I serve is bringing the Light of Christ with them. I can’t instruct them to carry the light or make them feel guilty. No–they carry the light because of God’s work in their lives.

    Jesus himself spoke of “the light” saying, “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your God works and give glory to your father in heaven. ” I’ve always considered this light Jesus spoke of as an analogy for the joy of Christians who know their Savior. Remember that it was Christ who said, “I am the light of the world who ever follows me will have the light of life.” The light chooses us and might very well choose to shine through us.

    As a pastor I celebrate the light of Christ and I also celebrate those who bring it into the world. The invisible church, the one that’s made up of the believers who have been redeemed by Christ’s blood, carry that light–that joy with them.

    In a world of darkness the Light of Christ is so needed. Some will run from the Light to hide their deeds. But others will come and embrace the Light turning away from their sins. It’s such a joy to see God at work in people’s lives so clearly that others can see the joy and the light of Christ in them.

    Pax
    John

  13. Jim Pierce :I think the purpose of bringing the doctrine of divine election to the table in discussion of evangelism is to hopefully humble us and remind us that it is Christ who frees us in faith to speak the Gospel in truth and purity.

    Jim,
    I think you’ve summed up this conversation very well.
    Pax
    John

  14. I did not read many of the above comments nor have I read all his papers, however, I truly appreciate the distinction between “heart for the lost” and “heart for the elect of God” (p19 of his first paper):

    In other words – have a heart for the elect of God, not a “heart for the lost.” Which is such anoddly unthinking phrase. If the Arminians and the Functionally Arminian actually meant what Jesusmeant by “the lost” they would indeed be getting it right. But when they say, “I have a heart for thelost” they mean that they want to cater to unbelievers to make them believers. To love goats that theymight turn into sheep, if you will. But what does Jesus say? He has a heart for the “lost sheep of Israel.”They are the sheep. They are God’s elect. They are just lost. What is going to lead them home? Notgoatly things but sheeply things!

  15. The doctrine of the atonement and the doctrine of justification are the best doctrines to use to discuss outreach with the Gospel, not the doctrine of Election.

    Unpack those two doctrines fully and you have all the ammunition you need for a dynamite (Romans 1) evangelism/outreach/witness [call it whatever you want] program.

    See what I did there?

    : )

    I see way too many Lutherans over-reacting to bad practice and bad doctrine by asserting equally bad practice and bad doctrine, such as:

    Only pastors have the duty to spread the good news.
    Laity are only to speak when spoken to when it comes to the Gospel.

    etc.

  16. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #116
    I believe that including election in the discussion on evangelism is very valuable, and yes it is a reaction (but not a bad one) to the ongoing bad theology and practice which flows from it that has been so common among us. Correction is always reactive, and sometimes it is over-reactive, I am thinking of the analogy of a drunken German peasant riding a horse tipping from one side to another. For one, I know of many people who have been afflicted with guilt for not witnessing enough (or producing results) who needed to hear exactly what Pr. Curtis taught. The correction for them was liberating (not in the licentious way).

    I am not sure where we started to divide up the body of doctrine and play one article against another, but it makes for bad theology. Pr. Curtis has brought election back into focus (in reaction to it becoming nearly forgotten) as an article that is found prominently in that body of doctrine. For that I am very thankful.

  17. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #116
    Laity are only to speak when spoken to when it comes to the Gospel.

    Don’t get carried away, PTM!
    What’s being said is that Small Groups are likely to be groups which wander off into non-Lutheran theology. Laity (and pastors) who go that way are asking for trouble.

    Supervised small groups of people who study Lutheran materials ought to be what you are supporting! [They support CPH.] What’s the problem?

    Yes, I think small groups of people who identify themselves as associated with the church should be willing to let the Pastor know what they are doing in the way of “study”. If they are shacking up with “The Shack” and calling it Christian, he’s going to have to sort out some problems, sooner or later.

    If, of course, it’s the neighborhood “Bible study fellowship” a Lutheran Pastor won’t be consulted.
    You can bet the local Baptist preacher knows, though. (The Lutheran Pastor will have to work a lot harder on the meaning of the Sacraments with people who go there.)

    Out here in the trenches we know what problems Small Groups generate. A clique goes to BSF and spouts Baptist theology in the Sunday Adult class. There is either an argument with the (educated) Lutherans or, if they are outnumbered, it turns into a babtis adult class, and the Lutherans stay home, especially if the pastor doesn’t lean back with them!

  18. What’s the problem, really? The Holy Spirit teaches us about election so that we see that a) God is merciful to us through Christ, and b) to teach us not to take pride in any decision or works. Election is always an election into Grace. Even the reformed confessional standards make this clear.

  19. Didn’t Pastor Scaer write about this? The Doctrine of Election: A Lutheran Note?

    “Martin Luther himself catches the authentic Lutheran spirit which sees the Doctrine of Election from a personal, individualistic, and almost existential spirit.
    ‘But God beheld my wretched state
    Before the world’s foundation
    And, mindful of His mercies great,
    He planned my soul’s salvation.
    A Father’s heart He turned to me,
    Sought my Redemption fervently;
    He gave His dearest treasure.’ ”

    That’s evangelism folks, it’s what we are to say, not just do, for doings sake. No bells, no whistles, no lofty programs or materials, no Jack Bauer type advances, it is just that simple, isn’t it?
    Laity or not, that is what we all say to those who are lost & apart from Christ, isn’t it?

  20. I just heard from a layperson how a consultant, referred to his congregation by their LCMS District and tied to a certain organization within synod and advertised on their website, namely, “The 72 – Partners on the Road”), gave a presentation to the congregation on what they could do for evangelism (i.e., “outreach training”). Along with starting with the assumption that the congregation was already spiritually mature (ala Calvinist “once in the faith always in the faith” along with “moving beyond maintenance to mission” mentality), he made 3 key points:

    1–We are in the business of Kingdom building
    2–We facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit
    3–Our job is to create disciples for Christ

    I kid you not. An LCMS consultant from an LCMS outreach organization referred by an LCMS District speaking to an unwitting LCMS congregation. In other words, a curious blend of Arminian, Calvinist, and Pentecostal elements all under the guise of the LCMS. (Granted, throw a shot of Oliver Feucht’s “Everyone a minister” in there too). Such are the end times…

  21. @Dutch #120
    Dutch, we just sang that hymn yesterday, and the same thought struck me. Luther’s talking about Election here. 🙂 I understand this hymn better, now. The salvific/Gospel side of the hymn is from the “eternal” side of things–is speaking from a “cosmic” perspective.
    I’ve been preaching much more directly on stuff that I haven’t been sure how to preach other than as “incidental” things in the context of other “major themes”, like the Royal Priesthood, and how that fits in with Election and each Priest’s “living sacrifice” and “proclaiming the excellencies,” and being “always ready to give a defense/answer”. Paul at Athens was the perfect example of 1st Peter 3:15. And I specifically took away the excuse that “well, Paul was an apostle! Of course *he* should do something like that!” The Church and each member (not as country club member, but as bodily Member) confesses Christ, wherever they are, by living *and* by speaking, as the opportunities arise (or I should say, as the Spirit gives the opportunities).

    Anonymous 121, thanks for that bit. I’m looking for more input on that “72” stuff, to be able to analyze and evaluate it for the sake of helping my own district consider whether it’s worth presenting to our congregations as an option. We have an outreach exec who is a pretty dang good guy, is trying to make sure the evangelism and mission work we do in our district is really *Lutheran*.

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