WMLTblog: Sasse: “Today the need of the hour for the Lutheran Church is to become a teaching church again.”

Found on Witness, Mercy, Life Together blog:


As Lutheran the­ologians we should follow the example of the Augsburg Confession in our theological thinking as in our teaching and preaching and never start from one common doctrine of the means of grace or the sacraments but deal with each of the means of grace by itself in its own particularity: Preaching, the Gospel, Baptism, confession and absolution, the Sacra­ment of the Altar. Only then will we be able to understand the fullness of God’s dealing with us, the different ways by which He comes to us, and the whole uniqueness of every single means of grace and so come to the proper use of each (consider the order of the articles of the Augs­burg Confession and the arrangement of confession between Baptism and the Lord’s Supper in the Small Catechism). Already with Baptism and the Lord’s Supper it only causes confusion if we always try to draw parallels between them and to assert that what is true of the one sac­rament must be said of the other. So it has been argued recently in the ecumenical movement even by Lutherans: Since the churches recognize one another’s Baptism, they must also have reciprocal recognition of the Lord’s Supper. As they put it, “altar fellowship” follows of necessity from “baptismal fellowship.” But Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as immeasurably great as each of these sacraments is and as much as they cohere (1 Corinthians 10:1ff.; cf. also the baptismal practice of the early church on Easter Eve and even the custom of the medieval church of giving infants the Lord’s Supper, at least in the form of consecrated wine, right after baptism), are simply not the same. What the Sacrament of the Altar is was told to us by the Lord HImself; what Baptism is we learn from His apostle. We know when the Lord’s Supper was instituted from the account of the institution. The institution of Baptism, according to the common notion of the early church, and also of Luther (“To Jordan came the Christ, our Lord”), took place as a result of the Lord’s letting Himself be baptized by John (“There He established a washing for us”) and is not identical with the command to baptize. Baptism was performed in the apostolic age “in the name of Jesus” (e.g., Acts 2:38; 10:48; 19:5; cf. the command to baptize of Matthew 28:19 according to Eusebius in the apparatus of Nestle; 1 Corinthians 1:13), later with the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The apostles often left the administration ofbaptism to others, and it is no devaluation of the sacrament for Paul to say that the Lord did not send him to baptize but to preach the Gospel. Baptism remains, with all the freedom and diversity of administration, the washing of regeneration, the full, complete sacrament, needing no completion in confirmation, as Anglican theology today says, not without effect on the Protestant churches.

We cannot go into the question here of what we would have to say today in our individual congregations about Baptism. It seems to me that the so urgently necessary instruction about the sacrament in Bible classes and sermons on the great texts of the New Testament that deal with Baptism should be taking place. Beyond that the fourth chief part of the Large Catechism should be treated in lectures and discussions. That applies especially to the question of infant baptism. We have to be aware of how ignorant the modern generation is, even in the Lutheran Church. We recognize far too seldom that religious and confirmation instruction and the Sunday school can in no way give what previous generations knew from home through Bible reading and what was learned from pious parents. Today the need of the hour for the Lutheran Church is to become a teaching church again. The success of Rome, of the sects, and of communism is based substantially on the fact that what they teach, they teach unflaggingly. And our congregations hunger more than we know for teaching. Why don’t we give them the bread that they want? How often we have given the impression at the administration of baptism in the congregation or with a small baptismal party that an opus operatus has been administered. Who of those present knows what a miracle has happened here under the insignificant veil of the external sacrament? Who is aware that here a decision is made between the life and death, salvation and damnation of a person because this sacrament reaches into eternity? Are our congregations aware that they must pray in all seriousness for the newly baptized? Luther maintained that so many of the baptized are lost because this intercession has been lacking  (WA 19, 537f.; BKS, “Taufbuchlein,” 536, 20ff.). If this intercession were taken seriously, would it not also mean the beginning of a renewal of the office of sponsor that has become so secularized? Do we really believe that the members of our congregations take so much with them from a few hurried hours of confirmation instruction, in which something is said at the end about the sacraments-though they should really determine the whole content of confirmation instruction-that they are able to live on it throughout their whole lives as people who daily return to their baptism?

Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors 42
Posted by Rev. Matt Harrison

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


WMLTblog: Sasse: “Today the need of the hour for the Lutheran Church is to become a teaching church again.” — 8 Comments

  1. If the LCMS is going to become a TEACHING church, then
    the pastors in the parish need to put more preparation
    time into their sermons and adult Bible classes.

    If the pastor is really going to be an excellent theologian,
    then he needs to do more in-depth study of Holy Scripture
    and the Lutheran Confessions.

    Our laity deserve the best efforts of our pastors and this
    involves a passion for teaching. Pastors who whole-heartedly
    enter the pulpit and the classroom with Biblical content and
    Christ-centered truth will help their parish.

  2. Gentlemen,

    I would agree with both of you. A few observations to make this a reality.

    1. We have to find a way to get the pastor in his office or study more. At least from my perspective, I am rarely in these two places. The demands and opportunties to be in the community with member’s and prospects is tolling.

    2. We have to begin to understand that continuing ed is a good thing. At the minimum, it inflames the passion for learning and studying on a daily/weekly basis.

    3. We have to get rid of the shortened programs (SMP and EIIT) leading to ordination. They do not give our pastors all the tools or more importantly the needed knowledge to teach in a world where more than ever, people are well educated and present very difficult questions. We need not good but great teachers with a high level of biblical compentacy.

  3. I have an amazing pastor, one of the best teachers/preachers I have known. We drive 40 minutes each Sunday to hear him preach and teach. I am so grateful for him and am not happy that he has received a call to Asia.

    Even though this situation is confusing and distressing, his faithfulness under the Word will lead me to trust his judgement and say “Amen” to what he decides — even though I may still strongly question the “call” system of the Synod. He is a very good man and fine exegete.

    But it does not take much travel around the country to hear pastors who simply cannot or will not teach. How can seminaries produce and approve of men who simply cannot teach? Have you heard some of the homilies around the country? How does this fit into 1 Timothy 3:2, which seems to make the ability to teach a fundamental qualification for the ministry?

    I know that I might sound like I am attacking the OHM. I’m not. I am just asking an honest question. In fact, googling ‘Office of Holy Ministry’ will lead one to a now inactive blog that I started years ago when I tried to think of how to support pastors. Again, I love my pastor, and as an Evangelical refugee, I am so very grateful for good pastors.

    I am also still very confused by the “call” process of the Synod (how it ‘fits” with the teaching of the Confessions) and the generally bizarre political things that I see coming out of districts and other bureaucratic positions . I am still honestly trying to figure of this system. As the “pastor” of my own little church, my family, I will drive more than 40 minutes to a faithful pastor who can teach and preach. So much is at stake.


  4. It is easy to say that the church ought to be a teaching church. The more difficult questions are 1) who are the students? 2) who are the teachers? 3) what is the lesson? 3) how should it teaching happen?

    The church is all of us. We all are students. We all also have responsibilities as teachers because the larger classroom is the world. In that classroom, we are called to live out the Gospel, bearing witness to God’s love, in Christ, for all of humanity.

  5. Ron, The Augustana Minsiterium is a pastoral association formed to preserve and promote Lutheran pastors and a distinctively Lutheran Ministry of Word and Sacrament to Lutheran congregations. It exists to defend, encourage, and admonish its members; to uphold the Office of the Holy Ministry, to foster missionary activity; and to promote the raising up of qualified men into this holy office.

    The Augusantana Confraternity is a brotherhood—an association of those sharing a common confession and purpose. Members of The Augustana Confraternity share the confession of faith and above-stated purpose of The Augustana Ministerium, and seek to help the Ministerium fulfill the commitment stated above. As Confraternity members rejoice in the forgiveness of sins and the eternal life that is theirs on account of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus their Savior, they:
    • devote themselves to the teaching of Holy Scripture and to the elucidation of that teaching in the Confessional writings of the Lutheran Church, particularly the Small Catechism;
    • support their pastors in maintaining confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice, and respectfully bring to their pastors’ attention any perceived departure therefrom;
    • having voiced their agreement with The Augustana Ministerium’s Constitution, Bylaws, and Statement on the Ministry, undertake to support the work of The Augustana Ministerium with their prayers, and with their ‘time, treasure, and talent’ to the extent that they are able.

    Confraternity members’ $40 annual dues help finance the Ministerium’s operational budget. These funds cover expenses for the annual Theological Conference, as well as postage and printing costs for the Confraternity’s quarterly newsletter, etc. Individual Confraternity members receive free admittance to the Theological Conference and Plenary. Couples or households holding membership receive one free admittance and a substantial cost reduction for all other members of their household.

    Confraternity members, through the quarterly newsletter, as well as through electronic communications, will be kept apprised of the activities and needs of the Ministerium. They shall also have access to resources on the Ministerium website and the opportunity to suggest other resources they would like the Ministerium to provide. They will also be able to consult with pastors of The Augustana Ministerium as may be appropriate in spiritual matters germane to the work of the Ministerium (e.g., recommendation of names to congregations seeking to call a pastor).

    Register now for the Seventh Annual Conference, “Fellowship As the Body of Christ.”

    Presenters and topics include:

    Rev. Robin Fish Jr.
    (Former Pastor and organist, LC-MS)
    “Fellowship and the Office of the Holy Ministry: Suffering and Honor in the Body of Christ”

    Rev. Bruce Ley
    (Pastor, Holy Cross Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of Albany, OR; BoD-Association of Confessing Evangelical Lutheran Congregations)
    “When Fellowship Isn’t Fellowship:
    What Are Pastors and Congregations to Do?
    An Alphabet Soup from ACELC [intraSynod] to TAM [intraLutheran]and beyond [ACLC/ELDoNA fellowship agreement].”

    Rev. Brian Saunders
    (President, LC-MS Iowa East District)
    “Communion Casuistry”

    Rev. Gregory Schultz (Pastor, LC-MS, Eastern District)
    “Authority and Discipline:
    Their Roles in Fellowship As the Body of Christ.”

    Rev. Terry Small
    (Pastor, Saint John Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod of Homestead, IA)
    “Closed Communion: Where are the Boundaries”

  6. A Lesson in Teaching: Lex Doctrina Lex Disciplina

    How do you teach your toddler when you come home to find he is in the middle of scribbling all over your kitchen walls with his new box of Crayolas?

    A) You sit down at the kitchen table and teach him all about the diffusion of white light into the various colors of the spectrum; the manufacture of crayons and how and why they are so difficult to remove from your walls; the time and expense of painting and wallpapering the walls he has now turned into his coloring book; the alternatives of using a coloring book; etc, all while he continues destroying your kitchen and moves into the dining room with his artistry.

    B) You snag the Crayolas out of his grubby little hands to stop the damage he is doing and give him a smack on the hand or butt so he knows what he has done is wrong. Then, you make sure he knows you still love him, but he can’t have his Crayolas back until you have had time to examine and absolve him.

    C) You snag a beer out of the fridge and rejoice that at least he isn’t smoking crack.

  7. let’s see it and called it for what it is-sinful tolerance on all levels-dare we make a list? Confessional? Rather than debate towards truth and Godly application,let’s call the question-the new/old theological expertise?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.