Law based Evangelism and “Missional Righteousness”

In my recent post about Rev. Curtis’ papers bringing election into the evangelism discussion there were many lively comments.  I also noticed in Rev. Rossow’s recent post that some accusations were being thrown around that his congregation wasn’t doing enough outside of its own walls.  This has only given a good example of what happens when evangelism is based upon the Law, many people seek to justify themselves (and their congregations) by what I would call “missional righteousness” or proof that they are doing outreach, getting out there and giving their all (in order to appease the evangelism god which demands action).

This false righteousness is exactly what happens when sinners are commanded to do something by the Law.  If grace and the Gospel are not the motivation, then a false righteousness will result (a righteousness that is not based upon Gospel, but one based upon works).  According the Law-based evangelism efforts consciences are burdened heavily, and they need to be appeased by their intentions or efforts.  That is why the introduction of election was so important to the evangelism discussion.  It sets evangelism in the light of and motivated by the Gospel (Christians just simply are, it is a part of who they are in Christ, evangelism is not something they do).

Now, the problem with this is that those who previously have comforted themselves with “missional righteousness” will be upset that others can find comfort in something other than outreach efforts.  This upset-ness reveals itself in outright condemnation of the new Gospel based evangelism (liberated from Law by emphasis on grace and election), or fears that such freedom will be abused (as election may be used by the lazy).  Yes, sinners will abuse this freedom and that is sinful, but that doesn’t make the law-based evangelism efforts any more holy (as the law doesn’t produce holiness).  Also, the offense of the grace/Gospel/election based evangelism cuts right to the heart of our worship debate as well, since it places Divine Service rightly as something for the elect, not the unbeliever.   This really lays low the efforts of those who advocate law-based evangelism who also advocate Church Growth or Seeker Friendly principles to form their view and planning of Divine Services.  Who is Divine Service for?  The elect, who God Himself gathers together on Sunday (this includes all members and visitors, not just visitors with the members being second class citizens).

Again I can only say thank you to Rev. Curtis, and all those before him who helped bring our evangelism discussions into the light of the Gospel, liberating us to simply live out the lives of faith that Christ has given us, being Christians in the places where God puts us.

In studying Acts 2 it is remarkable how this all unfolds.  God causes people to gather where they could hear the Word preached.  The Apostles simply are giving testimony.  Peter preaches as he was given to do (and asked to do by the crowd) almost like 1 Pet 3:15.  The Church is then increased by the Lord.  The Church then takes care of the baptized (Acts 2:42-47) and just lives out their churchly life together.  Nowhere do we see the Church living under law and doing evangelism by compulsion.  Nowhere is anyone but the Lord given credit for adding to their number.  This is far cry from law-based evangelism.

 

 

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

Law based Evangelism and “Missional Righteousness” — 193 Comments

  1. Gene
    You speak well from experience and bring a lot to this conversation. The little bit you shared was great and it’d be great to hear the whole story.
    Pax
    John

    Gene White : My wife and I didn’t realize we had made a witness of our faith until we moved away from our neighbor (it was a 4 month rental). and The neighbor wanted “some of whatever we had” that worked in our lives, and told us so. So, of course the next thing was the invitation, come and see. They did and one was baptized and both confirmed as Lutherans.
    I have been hooked on outreach and witnessing ever since.
    Be open to conversation that can be turned to a Christian focus or topic.
    Many opportunities come, how many do we miss or pass off? That comment was not to make someone reading this feel guilty, but to show that there is work to do and it probably starts with being more knowledgeable about your faith and continuing to grow, and maturing as a Christian.

  2. Joshua Scheer,

    The Mormons are showing love to one another (and they are growing!). They are doing it better than us because a lot of times our people are taught to disregard their life together for the sake of getting out there and winning the lost.

    Oh my goodness, I laughed out loud when I read this! Hilarious!

    The reason we are not growing is because we are too focused on reaching out! It’s beautiful.

    I’m utterly not convinced by your view that being inward focused is actually harder than being outwardly focused. I find it mere rationalization.

    As a final example, look at a budget of a church. Churches can find any number of reasons to cut back on giving to the district—they have plenty of things to spend that money on right where they are. Is is really easier to convince congregations to give money to the district? According to your scenario, congregations should be fighting to keep from giving away all their money to the district! Funny.

    The Law will NEVER make us into evangelists.

    What you mean here is “The Law alone wil never make us into evangelists.” Because in the same way, the Gospel will never make us into evangelists. No, as has been said, we need Law and Gospel—we need to hear where we are fooling ourselves. (Like saying reaching out is the natural state for congregations)

    You are talking about using the law as a curb, which is the use God has upon the whole creation.

    I disagree. I’m talking about second and third use. We need to have our sin pointed out to us (second) and we need to see evangelism as a part of our vocation—third use.

    The demands of the job are the demands of your office as pastor. Those demands are not the ones given to others. The lawful evangelism package tends to bash people over their heads about getting “out there”, when in fact their gifts may be best used “in here”.

    I started out the conversation by saying that one either holds that laypeople have a vocation of evangelists or you don’t. I think that lay people have a vocation of evangelist, so I just disagree with what you are saying here.

    At the same time, congregation members do have a vocation of church member—so yes, we need to strengthen this and encourage it as well. But I hold to what I have said earlier: inward focus comes naturally. With challenges, yes, but still it is the natural state.

  3. @Mark Louderback #152

    Pr. Louderback,

    You write, “I think that lay people have a vocation of evangelist….” Could you clarify what you mean here? Ephesians 4:11-12 makes a distinction between those who are “the evangelists” from “the saints” being equipped. What you are writing seems to mean that all are evangelists in the sense of Ephesians 4:11 which doesn’t look to be the case.

    You also write about “fooling ourselves” into thinking such things as “Like saying reaching out is the natural state for congregations.” That statement is confusing for me, too. Love is not a gift of God? The scriptures tell us that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and since we definitely can’t love our neighbor in a way that is God pleasing (as opposed to the Mormons whose love is not God pleasing, and hence do not do a better job at loving) outside of the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, then how is it that “reaching out” is not the “natural state” of anyone, including a group of people, bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Do you mean by “natural state” to refer to our “old Adams?”

  4. Gene White :
    there is work to do and it probably starts with being more knowledgeable about your faith and continuing to grow, and maturing as a Christian.

    I wholeheartedly agree, but why is it that many congregations push evangelism training and at the same time have anemic adult education programs? Don’t you have to “know your product?” Sadly, even when good adult education IS available, too many people ignore it.

  5. @Jim Pierce #153

    Decided to rub the icy hot on your joints and not on the fingers? 🙂

    I use the term “evangelist” in a pretty generic way of saying “One who tells others of the Good News.” I don’t see it in terms of the pastoral office or something along those lines. People have a vocation to tell others about Christ; just like they have a vocation to pass on suspicious things to the government as a part of their vocation as a citizen.

    You also write about “fooling ourselves” into thinking such things as “Like saying reaching out is the natural state for congregations.” That statement is confusing for me, too. Love is not a gift of God? The scriptures tell us that “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19) and since we definitely can’t love our neighbor in a way that is God pleasing (as opposed to the Mormons whose love is not God pleasing, and hence do not do a better job at loving) outside of the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, then how is it that “reaching out” is not the “natural state” of anyone, including a group of people, bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit? Do you mean by “natural state” to refer to our “old Adams?”

    Once again, I am not dragging in a great deal of theological baggage into “natural state”. This is simply stating what we observe: even the pagans love one another.

    A gathering of like minded people easily form cliques and group together. I mean, surely you have been to a congregation that is friendly to one another and no one acknowledges you. That sorta thing.

    My point being: we need to raise up people’s eyes to see the lost and hurting that are around them; because sometimes they miss it.

  6. Mark Louderback :A gathering of like minded people easily form cliques and group together. I mean, surely you have been to a congregation that is friendly to one another and no one acknowledges you. That sorta thing.
    My point being: we need to raise up people’s eyes to see the lost and hurting that are around them; because sometimes they miss it.

    AMEN.

  7. June 16th, 2011 at 10:12 | #1
    Reply | Quote

    Gene
    You speak well from experience and bring a lot to this conversation. The little bit you shared was great and it’d be great to hear the whole story.
    Pax
    John

    The best way to hear the rest of the story is to attend or host the CLCC’s Evangelism, Outreach and Affirmation seminars as this is one of the personal stories I tell to help make a point. I have a couple others that I add as well.

    As far as the condition of the laity goes I see the lacking of an understanding of the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right, plus Vocation being key. These are both pretty much unique to Lutheran teachings, but we just haven’t widely taught them for too many years. I believe a lay person armed with that understanding will then realize the part of the Body of Christ that they are and how a Christian should be conducting themselves 24/7. The the outreach and witnessing will come “organically” or naturally, if you take my meaning.

  8. @Janet #154

    Janet, you are so right on that point. The general masses have been asleep in the pews so long they know not what it is to be a disciple and that they need to be maturing for a life-time, not just up to confirmation. I still hear from time to time, “While I went to Sunday School after confirmation, so what else is there and why is it important.? That group of people can only be reached via a sermon what Christ has intended for the members of the Royal Priesthood.

    Also, see my comment somewhere about the need for Lutheran Christians to understand the Kingdom of the Left and the Kingdom of the Right, as well as Vocations. Outreach and witnessing doesn’t mean the same thing without them.

  9. @Gene White #158
    We have one pastor who has been talking about the left and right hand kingdoms and about vocation, but then the senior pastor doesn’t see anything wrong with using non-Lutheran outreach materials. Lutheran materials seem to be last on the list of what to use. 🙁

  10. @Mark Louderback #152
    Is is really easier to convince congregations to give money to the district?

    Dear Sandburr Pebble,
    The topic was evangelism.
    Some of us hugely doubt that evangelism is related to “giving money to the district”.

    [District’s primary focus seems, in some instances, to be justifying a salary larger than most of their district pastors, for less useful work. Bringing in Baptist ministers, Pentecostal (women) preachers and non-denom book writers is not “evangelism” unless you define evangelism as pulling people away from their Lutheran faith.]

    IF district offices will pare their staffs, as the IC says it has done, and forward the savings to our seminaries, schools (and RSO’s which really do evangelism) perhaps they will be in better odour.

  11. @Janet #159

    Thanks for the comment, Janet, yours is a too common situation it seems. One of the problems most pastors face is that there has been a lack of confessional evangelism/outreach materials to use, so they use non-Lutheran stuff. Of course it hasn’t helped that the official Synod/District effort has been based on decision theology since the early 70’s. Districts, until the last election, were also banned from using anything but Ablaze, even if they wanted to.

    That will be slowly changing, but nothing officially has been produced by Synod.

    BTW, it is interesting to note that decision theology is a re-invention of Pelegianism, which in its day was also called a heresy. My, how times change.

  12. @Gene White #161
    My pastor says that decision theology really isn’t too bad because what it REALLY involves is a decision made in response to God’s calling us. Example: if I am on the way to the grocery store [walking], I have no reason to turn around. BUT, if I hear someone behind me call m name, I do turn around, but only because someone called me, not because I decided to do so without cause. How do I answer that? In his example, God DOES make the first move.

  13. I love the rationalization like it “isn’t too bad” so therefore we can use it. I am not using the word you below in the personal sense.

    I would split a hair here (and go out on a limb too) that if you continued to walk, and the voice was Jesus, then you took a direct decision to reject Him. If you turned around it would be because you recognized His voice and the free gift offered because of faith planted by the Holy Spirit, not by a logical decision in your head. I don’t like the analogy used by your Pastor for that very reason, it is all based on human logic, not the Holy Spirit. That makes it sound all the more rational and that is what humans tend to look for. Thus, decision theology at least is named correctly. “I did it, not the Holy Spirit.”

    It is not because God makes the first move, so you compliment it. It is because you have stopped rejecting the Holy Spirit and accepted the free gift. That may not be the best analogy either, but I think it is a better one.

  14. @Mark Louderback #152
    Mark, if you look at numbers you will see that the most inward church there is, the Amish are actually doubling every twenty years. This is because they have 6.8 children per family and spend all of their churchly efforts on raising and retaining them in the church. I wonder what would happen if Lutherans were so “inward”? That is real church growth, the way that God ordained it.

    Money given to District is to support a lot of things, including at some level mission work, but it is not primarily “mission” money. I think a lot of people don’t view that as mission money.

    Your emphasis on the outward is reflected in how you don’t see your own members as part of the responsibility and even “mission” of your congregation. Isn’t that one of the key things about Mt 28, which everyone wants to use nowadays – that the force of the verse is not the “going” but the making disciples, which is done by baptizing and teaching (both very inward things). I contend that a pastor preaching to the flock that God has gathered is evangelism, it is mission, it is witness. A pastor teaching a bible study is also those things. But in the outreach minded world, members are just tools to get out there and do more work, because after all it is about “missional righteousness”. In the Church, members are gathered there by God, and they are given a pastor to take care of their souls. That is mission work. God working through Word and Sacrament to take care of those who are His, and adding to that as He gives the increase.

    Again I ask that you interact with the book of Acts with your “outward” mindset and see how “inward” the church was then (and should be now).

  15. @Janet #162

    A good place to look in that point is the Formula of Concord article on Free Will. Just reading the article in the Epitome, let alone the Solid Declaration, will resolve it for you. Take special note of statements about twoo things: beginning conversion; and finishing or completing conversion.

    Man begins, man completes – pelagianism. Man begins, God completes – semi-pelagianism, which holds sway in most of Roman Catholicism. God begins, man completes – synergism, decision conversion. God begins, God completes, (author and finisher of our faith), divine monergism.

    The event of God calling and a sinner turning often enough is a genuine conversion. But the teaching about the event saying that when God called, the sinner decided to heed the call misdescribes what happens in conversion and so becomes a harmful synergistic statement. God calls me, and the Holy Spirit turns me. I don’t turn.

  16. T. R. Halvorson :
    @Janet #162
    A good place to look in that point is the Formula of Concord article on Free Will. Just reading the article in the Epitome, let alone the Solid Declaration, will resolve it for you. Take special note of statements about twoo things: beginning conversion; and finishing or completing conversion.
    Man begins, man completes – pelagianism. Man begins, God completes – semi-pelagianism, which holds sway in most of Roman Catholicism. God begins, man completes – synergism, decision conversion. God begins, God completes, (author and finisher of our faith), divine monergism.
    The event of God calling and a sinner turning often enough is a genuine conversion. But the teaching about the event saying that when God called, the sinner decided to heed the call describes what happens in conversion and so becomes a harmful synergistic statement. God calls me, and the Holy Spirit turns me. I don’t turn.

    This is a very good explanation. I can’t wait to “try it out” on my pastor!

  17. Mark, if you look at numbers you will see that the most inward church there is, the Amish are actually doubling every twenty years. This is because they have 6.8 children per family and spend all of their churchly efforts on raising and retaining them in the church. I wonder what would happen if Lutherans were so “inward”?

    Um…we would be considered a cult. And besides, this sort of thing could only happen in a cult-like pocket of isolation. Lutherans, on the other hand, are connected to the internet, attend public schools and universities, have cell phones and increasing access to the entire planet. I just don’t think the sort of doctrinal brain-washing needed to achieve your “inward church” is possible anymore.

  18. Mark,

    On the conflict between outward and inward focus, you and I probably agree on the need for outward focus because of verses saying send, go, seek, call, and saying we are ambassadors, that we have the ministry of reconciliation, etc., etc. But we must also have an inward focus to edify the body and build it up in love. Eph 4:12, 16. Without this our ambassadorhip rings hollow. I think this is along the line of what Pr Scheer was trying to bring across when he mentioned failing with an outreach that is not backed up by an inward focus of building up the body in love.

    Can we agree that we need both an outward and an inward focus?

  19. Helen,

    Dear Sandburr Pebble,
    The topic was evangelism.
    Some of us hugely doubt that evangelism is related to “giving money to the district”.

    Sandburr Pebble! I love it!

    You had to have seen the kind words I had on another thread:

    Mark, I think of you not as a “liberal” but as a grain of sand under the eyelid, a burr under the saddle, a pebble in my running shoe.

    This is like the best week ever…

    To answer your question: I’m not equating the two (spending and evangelism) but surely you can see the connection on outward and inward, which is what Pr Scheer and I are jousting on.

    My own district is a fine example of a lean staff and passing on funds to the Synod—so I’m proud of the Mid-South. Perhaps if more districts imitated us, our Synod would be in better shape.

  20. Pr Scheer,

    Mark, if you look at numbers you will see that the most inward church there is, the Amish are actually doubling every twenty years. This is because they have 6.8 children per family and spend all of their churchly efforts on raising and retaining them in the church. I wonder what would happen if Lutherans were so “inward”? That is real church growth, the way that God ordained it.

    Uh…where is that in Scripture? Can you point me to that passage that speaks about what God has ordained as growth?

    The Son of Man came to seek. Not to encourage large families.

    I don’t have anything against large families. But I am not enamored of the idea of having large families INSTEAD of sharing the Gospel with others.

    Obviously both can be done.

    The reason the Amish have success is because they are small. There are not that many of them. So they can isolate themselves.

    But what is most humorous is that surely they are the poster child of a legalistic environment: and yet you point to them as an example of inward love? Really?

    Money given to District is to support a lot of things, including at some level mission work, but it is not primarily “mission” money. I think a lot of people don’t view that as mission money.

    This is like pulling teeth….ok, pick a Mission opportunity. Is it easier to encourage a church to give to that opportunity or to give for something that benefits the congregation? Or is the natural state of congregations giving away as much money as possible and keeping only a bit for themselves?

    Are the budgets of most congregations (and I include my own) focused on themselves or on work outside of the congregation?

    Your emphasis on the outward is reflected in how you don’t see your own members as part of the responsibility and even “mission” of your congregation.

    See, what annoys me is that there is nothing that I have actually said that backs up this comment. You just want to pigeonhole me and slot me into a straw man so that you can make arguments like this. But you are wrong.

    The natural state of post pastors is inwardly focused. I teach confirmation, Sunday School and I baptize children and commune adults. I do marriage counseling and follow-up on missing members.

    Most of what I do is care for the congregation—it is not reaching out to the community. I’m sure that most pastors are the very same way.

    Isn’t that one of the key things about Mt 28, which everyone wants to use nowadays – that the force of the verse is not the “going” but the making disciples, which is done by baptizing and teaching (both very inward things).

    People ramble on about the “force” of the passage—I find it silly. Jesus tells us to make disciples. He tells us to go. And He tells us to baptize and teach.

    None of these are necessarily inward or outward activities: you can teach nonmembers just as you teach members. You can baptize adults outside of the faith and children of members.

    The point of the matter is that the congregation needs to be doing both. But all forces wil naturally push it to inwardly focused activities. Which is why it needs to be doubly intentional about outward work.

    In the Church, members are gathered there by God, and they are given a pastor to take care of their souls. That is mission work.

    Yeah….so why exactly does Jesus tell the parable of the lost coin? Why does Jesus go to Zacheus’ house? Why does Jesus hang out with tax collectors and prostitutes?

    More importantly: why is it that we don’t have to do this and yet can pat ourselves on the back for doing “evangelism”?

    I don’t buy it.

    Again I ask that you interact with the book of Acts with your “outward” mindset and see how “inward” the church was then (and should be now).

    The book of Acts shows a church that is very outwardly focused. I know that lately there has been a nice attempt to re-read it as a gathering of the elect—but I think rather we see the very same work that Christ did. Proclaiming Law & Gospel so that people might repent and turn from their sins.

  21. TRH,

    Yes, I feel as though congregations need to have a certain inward focus. And yes, I think that some of the stuff written tends to go overboard in talking about the church reaching out.

    But as I have said, the issue is that congregations are naturally set up for inward focus. It is what they do.

    Just ask yourself, “If I made a new friend tomorrow, how much time could I spend with them?” Most of us have as many friends as we can have—plus our families. So, if we had a visitors come in the church tomorrow, could you be a friend to them? In many congregations, the answer is “No”.

    So, the inward focus is problematic not for being inward—but it becomes closed off. It turns into a clique. People don’t want any more people coming.

    There needs to be a balance: but once again, the normal state of the congregation is to be focused on me. What do I want? What am I looking for in a church? What will make me happy? That is what churches can find themselves catering to.

    As opposed to saying “What can we do to impact the community in which we live?”

    So yes: there needs to be both. But show me a congregation that does not have Sunday School; or any other teaching classes. Shoot, small groups are inward, aren’t they?

    And, in addition, if you read the missional books out now—like AND, and Simple Church, and all those other evil, non-Lutheran books, you will see that same emphasis.

    My problem is, I see right now in our Synod the following issues:

    #1: Lay people don’t have to worry about evangelism. They don’t evangelize. They should properly worry about living out lives in their vocation.

    I say: “evangelist” is a vocation of laypeople like “father” is.

    #2: Since evangelism is any proclamation of the Gospel, the sermon is evangelism. Reciting the Creed is evangelism.

    I say: Lost sheep.

    #3: Since God saves, we don’t have to worry about evangelism.

    I say: God saves. Out of love we share Christ. And we do it the best we can. But God doesn’t damn people. So, unless we want to have a calvinist position, we have to acknowledge this.

    That and more. Yes, we are inwardly focused and nothing is wrong with that—but we are outwardly focused as well and nothing is wrong with that. Both are good.

  22. @Mark Louderback #170
    Jesus tells us to make disciples. He tells us to go. And He tells us to baptize and teach…

    Actually, revfish was on this last “Greek Tuesday” and he said (as I have been told before) there is not a command to “GO” (the Greek reads, “as you are going” “disciple” all nations, baptizing and teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and I am with you always.

    [More and more solid Lutheran catechesis in the last 40 years might have saved us a lot of grief. We’ve remembered to “baptize” and forgotten to “teach all things I have commanded you”. So when our people, even our Pastors, want to tell others, they look to Kennedy evangelism, or willowcreek, or the latest unbeliever (e.g., Rob Bell) who’s written a successful book, for advice, instead of remembering their Small Catechism (which they were told, in public school, they “were not capable of memorizing” though their fathers did it before them!)

  23. @Mark Louderback #171

    Mark, this could be the beginning at a beautiful friendship. I want confessionalism, and I want evangelism. Let’s hope, and may I say, work for both.

    Recently I met someone who has been through the mill, as we say here. Partly a matter of himself sinning and partly a matter of someone doing him dirt. The world is not tidy. We are not presented with nice academic or laboratory situations. A little law, a little gospel, and a BIG referral to the Pastor. The guy actually went and confessed to the pastor, so he, certainly not the pastor, tells me. My pastor gave him a beautiful, Oxford leather edition of the Catechism. How optimistic I feel for this man. Hope with feet on the ground is what this wayward, former Presbyterian for whom Christ died needs. Pastor gave him just that.

  24. @Mark Louderback #170
    “Uh…where is that in Scripture? Can you point me to that passage that speaks about what God has ordained as growth?”

    Genesis 1 for instance (were the fruit of man and woman ever meant to be outside of the church?)

    Dt 6 (commands parents to instill the faith in their children)

    The NT Epistles admonish parents to teach their children.

    The growth of the church in Acts includes “households”.

    The example of Timothy being raised by Grandma and Mom in the faith

    God blesses parents with children, provides for their house and home, gives them instruction to teach the faith to the kids, sounds like a God-ordained way of growth to me.

    Surely, the outsider, foreigner and so forth can be included.

    By citing the Amish I do not endorse their false Gospel, but that they still take the family unit seriously (both God’s blessing upon marriage [kids] and also the blessing of providing for their instruction in the faith). In fact, most of their legalistic rules were made to protect the sanctity of the home from outside influence (admirable goal, but wrong means to do so).

    I don’t think the success of the Amish is because they are small (otherwise all small denominations would be successful). I think their emphasis on home and religious education makes them successful in that realm (too bad they embrace a false Gospel).

    You say that the natural state of pastors is inward. I say that is our call. I am not called to serve non-members. Do I seek to bring in new members? yes. But my main focus is the care of those who are already in the flock of the congregation which I serve. I think we can agree on that at least.

    The parable of the Lost sheep, lost coin is not about us – it is about Jesus.

    I will admit, I think that we are both reacting to each other, and this is probably not an either/or but a both/and situation.

  25. Pr. Louderback @ #171,

    “My problem is, I see right now in our Synod the following issues:

    #1: Lay people don’t have to worry about evangelism. They don’t evangelize. They should properly worry about living out lives in their vocation.”

    I will assume by “worry” you mean taking action rather than useless hand-wringing. Walther has some useful advice on how to motivate Christians to take action as previously mentioned.

    “I say: “evangelist” is a vocation of laypeople like “father” is.”

    Then by all means preach and teach about vocation. It’s a Gospel thing. Nobody will object. Really!

    “#2: Since evangelism is any proclamation of the Gospel, the sermon is evangelism. Reciting the Creed is evangelism.

    I say: Lost sheep. ”

    False dichotomy. The evangelism you are disparaging delivers the Gospel (the proper motivation for Christians) to those who will be the instruments of delivery of the Gospel (via their vocations) to the “lost sheep”. But you can only buy into that idea if you trust the Gospel to bring that motivation. Otherwise you are left with Law. Walther has something to say about that as well.

    “#3: Since God saves, we don’t have to worry about evangelism.

    I say: God saves. Out of love we share Christ. And we do it the best we can. But God doesn’t damn people. So, unless we want to have a calvinist position, we have to acknowledge this.”

    So we are back to this again. If this crass treatment of evangelism is so rampant why is evidence of it so hard to find? Where are these supposed hordes of LCMS crypto-Calvinists? You have knocked down your man of straw and are beating him with a dead horse (which you probably killed with the Law). Nobody around here disagrees with your statement that “Out of love we share Christ”. It is the natural result of Gospel motivation. I get the impression that you just don’t think it can actually happen.

  26. Rev. Joshua Scheer #174

    “I don’t think the success of the Amish is because they are small (otherwise all small denominations would be successful). I think their emphasis on home and religious education makes them successful in that realm (too bad they embrace a false Gospel).”
    ______________________________________________________________________

    Okay….. so the Amish are “successful” because they embrace a legalistic emphasis on family and religious education… And yet in this discussion we are discouraged from even mentioning the law because that is inappropriate for the so-called “success” of the church. Hmmmm…….

    Maybe it’s just me but that really makes no sense whatsoever and raises more questions for me than it answers such as:
    What do you mean by “success”? How does that compare to what we might describe as “success” in the Lutheran Church? Why is an emphasis on the law among the Amish to be commended but discouraged among the Lutherans? And, finally, how can any church body be considered in any way, shape or form, successful if they have a false Gospel?

    Methinks it might be best to drop that analogy before it causes the ship to sink.

  27. @Steve #177
    My apologies Steve, the analogy was not meant to do as you say, but I definitely see how it comes to other ears. Nowhere do I want to commend a church with a false gospel (no gospel at all, only law) as successful in terms of faithfulness. I do commend their inward focus and wish we as Lutherans had held the line when the first ideas about children being anything but a blessing came to be. The success I was mentioning was numerical success, which is what I believe to be a good refutation of those number-hungry church growth folks who say that we are not outward enough and because of that are shrinking. By the numbers (if that was all that mattered) we would be better off encouraging large families and supporting them in their catechesis of the kids.

    Again, I apologize for confusion, I was using a reactive argument, not intending to endorse the erring theology of the Amish, nor their legalism.

  28. Joshua Scheer,

    Genesis 1 for instance (were the fruit of man and woman ever meant to be outside of the church?)

    There was no “Church”—they walked with God. “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.” doesn’t come until after the fall.

    Dt 6 (commands parents to instill the faith in their children)

    That does not equate with “That is real church growth, the way that God ordained it.” Not at all.

    The NT Epistles admonish parents to teach their children.

    That too does not equate with “That is real church growth, the way that God ordained it.” Not in the least.

    The growth of the church in Acts includes “households”.

    Chuckle. Yes of the Philippian jailer…who had faith shared with him…

    The example of Timothy being raised by Grandma and Mom in the faith

    I guess at this point, it seems obvious that you and I simply had a misunderstanding. I’m saying that no where in Scripture does God say “The real way to grow a church is to have children, as opposed to reaching out with the Word.” What is it that you are saying?

    By citing the Amish I do not endorse their false Gospel,

    Geesh, don’t you think they are Christian?

    but that they still take the family unit seriously (both God’s blessing upon marriage [kids] and also the blessing of providing for their instruction in the faith).

    Yes…but I mean, the Amish practice shunning—so, how seriously is that taking the family unit really?

    I am not called to serve non-members.

    Yes…Who is my member…Who is my neighbor….I’ve got important work to do, so I can pass by the man dying on the side of the road—besides, the Good Samaritan is really Jesus, so, the parable doesn’t even apply to me…

    You have a call to the lost.

    The parable of the Lost sheep, lost coin is not about us – it is about Jesus.

    “Jesus came to seek the Lost; those who follow Jesus don’t.”

    I disagree.

    I will admit, I think that we are both reacting to each other, and this is probably not an either/or but a both/and situation.

    Backing down a moment, I think you are right. I have said that pastors do plenty of things for members—and yes, that is indeed our call.

    But we have a call to serve ALL people—not just our members. We have a call to proclaim the Gospel to ALL people—not just our members. We have a call to make disciples of all nations.

    Pastors should do this and should lead the congregation to do the same.

  29. Helen,

    Actually, revfish was on this last “Greek Tuesday” and he said (as I have been told before) there is not a command to “GO” (the Greek reads, “as you are going” “disciple” all nations, baptizing and teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you and I am with you always.

    Well, the participle acts as a command. I mean, there is a reason why it is translated “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (ESV)

    If it is “as you are going” then God intends for us to go, does He not? It is a command.

  30. TRH,

    Mark, this could be the beginning at a beautiful friendship.

    I’ve long had a man-crush on your picture…

    I want confessionalism, and I want evangelism. Let’s hope, and may I say, work for both.

    The fact of the matter is, false doctrine brings no comfort. Which is why we want to tell people about Christ—it is why specifically we as Lutherans want to tell all people—Christian and non-Christian alike—because our message is THE message of hope and peace. Undiluted.

    This is a wondrous thing to share; and we should be eager to do it; because people are hurting.

    So, your story rings true. And it is a great story to hear. Because your pastor could share that message of the Gospel—and no-where else could that man hear it. It is not what his heart tells him, or what the world thinks—only in the church do we have it.

    Yeah: let’s share it. Let’s do it. Let’s get the message straight and let’s get it out.

  31. @T. R. Halvorson #176

    Sorry I nearly missed your response. I live in Seattle and this city always comes up high on lists of areas in the nation that is “unChurched.” I recall reading in our local newspaper that the Seattle metropolitan area was knocked out of the #1 spot for being the most pagan area. I believe one of the cities in New England took first place.

    This all misses my point however, which is that we have the promise of God’s that His word will not return empty. Christ promises the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church and that He will not lose a single one of His sheep. So the Church grows continually as God wills despite what we think we are doing, or not doing.

    I also have a difficult time with the idea that the Church must always show numerical growth in order to somehow be “successful.” What Scriptures command the Church to grow numerically? Or what Scriptures declare that numerical growth is the only evidence that God is reaching the lost? I think we get so caught up in measuring immediate results that we throw ourselves into a panic and forget that it is Christ who is Lord of the harvest. We make the same mistake as Elijah did when we think the situation is beyond dismal (1 Kings 19:14-18). God seems to measure growth with a different sort of ruler than our own.

  32. Jim Pierce, will I see you at Trinity Lutheran in Olympia next Saturday at the seminar? Hope so. It is not on Evangelism, but rather on Lutheran history, which is something I would think to be of great interest to a fairly new Lutheran. Check the clcc website for details.

  33. Regarding the “Inward” or “Outward” discussion from the posts above this, I think Walther showed wisdom when he wrote about a Synod’s duty, which should be our duty in the LCMS.

    “Another major duty of a Synod that wants to be and remain an Evangelical Lutheran Synod is that it not seek its own glory, but only the glory of God, being intent not so much on its own growth, but rather on the growth of Christ’s kingdom and the salvation of souls. You see, dear brethren, we are assembled here not for our own sake. We are in the faith, and by this faith we hope to be saved! But there are still many millions who have no faith! This is why we are here— so that we might bring salvation to as many people as we possibly can, so that the sad situation in Christendom and the corruption of the poor, blind heathen might be remedied. Only for this reason does our gracious God allow Christians to live on earth, that they might bring others to the saving faith. Otherwise God would immediately take a Christian to heaven as soon as he is converted.” (Walther, Essays for the Church, (CPH: 1992) II:262)

  34. @helen #172

    Helen, I am jumping off from your contribution about the translation of the word “go,” but otherwise this posting is not a response to or rebuttal of anything you have said.

    If Lenski may be believed, it is not even “as you go” but it is “having gone” followed by “disciple all the nations.” In that case, Jesus seems to have been speaking not about before you go, or even while you go, but after you have gone.

    Lenski then says of the import of “having gone”:

    Hitherto men were welcomed when they came to Israel, God’s people; now the people of God are to go to men everywhere. Yet Jesus does not command, “Go!” the participle merely auxiliary to the main verb, “Having gone, disciple!” To go to the nations is the self-evident and natural way to proceed in making them disciples.

    R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew’s Gospel, p. 1172 (Augsburg, Minneapolis 1943).

    Waiting for people to come to Israel was Moses’ way. Going to people is Jesus’ way.

    Albrecht and Albrecht comment similarly:

    Regardless of who was present, the account makes clear that the Great Commission applies to others besides the Eleven (“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”). Just as Jesus’ commands concerning the ministry of the keys (16:19; 18:15-20); John 20:22, 23) and the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26) apply to all Christians and not just to the apostles, so Jesus’ Great Commission applies to all believers of all time. … The command that Jesus gives to the Eleven is not primarily “Go!” but “make disciples.” Jesus’ assumption, however, is that what he tells them to do will not happen unless they go to the people.”

    G. Jerome Albrecht and Michael J. Albrecht, Matthew (The People’s Commentary Series), p. 441-42 (Concordia, St. Louis, 1996).

    They then go on to emphasize giving to missions, parents in the home, baptism, and disciple making within the church.

    Smith expands on that emphasis:

    The commission has been understood primarily in terms of a summons to missionary and evangelistic activity. But caution is needed here. The saying lacks the usual early Christian words for sending, apostleship, or mission. Also missing are the customary words for gospel, preaching, proclaiming, repentance, and forgiveness (contrast 10:7). Lacking also is any explicit reference to charismatic activity: exorcision, healing, raising the dead (contrast 10:8), or prophesy (7:22). Furthermore, the word usually translated into English as go functions in the original as an auxiliary. That means that it does not describe a separate action alongside of making disciples but rather underscores the urgency of making disciples. Jesus issues orders, and they may be translated: “Be busy constantly making disciples of all nations.” Discipleship is the heart of the matter. And the charge to make disciples is aimed at telling the church not only what to do about people outside but especially what to do with the people inside the new community. This is a command about the integrity of the church. Matthew reminds readers that Jesus wills not a numerically large community, nor an efficient and well-organized community, not a learned community, not even a community intoxicated with the gifts of the Spirit. Perhaps the vision of Jesus includes some or all of these, but his gaze is fixed steadfastly on discipleship.

    Robert H. Smith, Matthew (Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament), p. 338 (Augsburg, Minneapolis 1989).

    Gotta love that word “steadfastly”, no? That combines with discipleship when distinguished from evangelism works nicely for BJS.

    So, there are three points that stand out to me, just insofar as this text and the commentaries on it go, leaving aside for the moment what other texts teach:

    1. The stance of many of the BJS that essentially we do not evangelize, we disciple, and we do that almost exclusively within the home and church, gets support from these commentators.

    2. That happens, however, after “having gone,” and presupposes that we will have gone. Going is not a command here precisely because it is a foregone conclusion, which, far from taking away from the idea that we should go, adds to it in a most emphatic way.

    3. The argument that going is to be seen as auxiliary in this text because the customary and usual words of gospel, preaching, proclaiming, repentance, and forgiveness relating to evangelism are missing serves to show that such words ARE customary and usual, so we cannot act as though they are not customary and usual and still use this argument. Evangelism is customary and usual, which helps to interpret this text because it omits customary and usual words that reference or are part of evangelism.

    Confessionalism, and evangelism. Not confessionalism versus evangelism or evangelism versus confessionalism.

    Just because the Arminians do evangelism wrongly is no reason for us to fail to do it at all or hardly at all. It is not enough to avoid their errors by replacing them with our own. The answer to wrong evangelism is not no evangelism but right evangelism.

    Also it will not do to use election to support endurance in evangelism as in 2 Tim 2:10 and Titus 1:1 without using it to support evangelism. The use to support evangelism should not be turned around into a use to avoid evangelism. Are we using it to support or avoid?

    In other words, we confessionals must accept the consequences of our own confessional premises.

    I am forming a hypothesis that the word “evangelism” is loaded by conflicts from prior decades in which I was not involved, so I have been oblivious to the load. As I discover more about the load, I gain sympathy for aversion to the very word. For example, today I read “These on Evangelism” by Pr. Robin Fish, 9-1-1994; and “Evangelism and Church Growth with Special Reference to the Church Growth Movement,” a report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations, LC-MS, September 1987, Part II. I agree with the aim of those writings. And, let the CGM people be honest, when they say the word “evangelism,” they are using it with the load that the confessionals wish to avoid. So it is a current and future problem that is being pushed by errorists. But, shall we let them spoil a biblical word and a biblical work simply because of their erroneous use of it? What other doctrine do we abandon simply because others have introduced into it or have overshadowed it with error?

  35. @Mark Louderback #171
    “I say: “evangelist” is a vocation of laypeople like “father” is.”

    Evangelist was the vocation of four men. They did a very good job.

  36. June 20th, 2011 at 22:43 | #187

    “Regardless of who was present, the account makes clear that the Great Commission applies to others besides the Eleven (“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age”).”

    As a layman, I have most of the time been taught that the Great Commission, or more correctly Christ’s Commission, was in fact directed to the Apostles. It is a command to do this as part of the clergy’s vocation in the church, as it is seen today. Thus, the clergy are the evangelists, full stop. To go beyond that, as you suggest, and broaden it to include the laity gets you right into “everyone is a minister” thinking. Yes, there is even some of that in LCMS, as I witnessed it at an installation of a pastor last year.

    So, if not evangelists, then what role does the laity have? According to Dr. K. D. Schulz it is simply this, they have a task to love and to witness to their neighbors concerning what Christ has done in their lives, etc. All within their vocations to be sure. So, again, if the clergy has the task to evangelize within their vocation, that basically makes it mutually exclusive for the laity because our vocation is not being clergy. I hope that clarifies the situation. Both parties have important roles, they are just different from each other.

  37. @Gene White #189

    as you suggest

    It was a quotation from Albrecht and Albrecht, published by CPH, that was in agreement with two other Lutheran commentaries. Doen’t make it right, but it also doesn’t make it my suggestion. What is a layman to do?

  38. @T. R. Halvorson #190

    I agree, it doesn’t make it right, and it does create confusion all around. The doctrine of vocations is what makes all of this sensible to me. I like things when it is one or the other and the twain shall never mix. It also makes things simpler to explain, as vocations turn out to be like definable “boxes” that automatically exclude other things.

  39. A friend received this daily prayer from their LUTHERAN pastor:

    Ephesians 2:10

    Prayer: Dear Jesus, I want to use my days to make an impact for you and your love on this planet. What is it that you have prepared in advance for me to do? What is it that I can start today that will touch souls with your word? How can I help your cause, your church, and your mission to save every last soul on this planet? I need your help in keeping my priorities straight. I need your help in understanding my spiritual gifts. I need your help in overcoming my fears. So, please guide me. Give me strength, ideas and opportunities to grow your influence over souls. I also thank you that you have given me grace that changed my life. Knowing you is everything to me. AMEN

    What do you think YAY or NAY? Is the prayer taking the passage out of context?

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