Take the Quiz!

keep-calm-and-lets-take-a-quizCurled up in my inbox a while back was an email from the District requesting that I complete the online Congregation Life Cycle Survey. By providing this “bio-feedback,” I’d be helping my congregation to check bearings and set new directions for sharing the love of God in Christ. Plus, this crucial information will provide a detailed snapshot of congregation life cycles across the district to be shared at the District Convention. It would be downright uncharitable if I didn’t fill this thing out. Being moved by the Spirit and a true sense of brotherly love, I thought I’d share a couple of my answers with you in case you get one from your District and you’re pressed for time. You can’t have all my answers though, after all, that would be cheating! Here you go:

Screen Shot 2014-12-20 at 10.24.00 AM

Which doctrine, then, or which word, ought a minister set before the church of God?
Neither his dreams, nor the visions of his heart, or whatever seemed good or right to him (Jer 23:16, 25); also not human traditions or ordinances (Is 29:13; Mt 15:9). But let him who teaches in the church teach the Word of God (1 Ptr 4:11), so that the heart of the ministry is and remains this, Is 59:21: “I have put My words in your mouth,” and as Augustine aptly says: “Let us not hear in the church: I say this, you say this, he says that; but: Thus says the Lord.”

Martin Chemnitz, Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion, ed. & trans. Luther Poellot, (St Louis: CPH, 1981) 39.


Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.51.13 PM

33 We believe that the true unity of the Church is not injured by dissimilar ceremonies instituted by humans, just as the dissimilar length of day and night does not injure the unity of the Church. However, it is pleasing to us that, for the sake of peace, universal ceremonies are kept. We also willingly keep the order of the Mass in the churches, the Lord’s Day, and other more famous festival days. With a very grateful mind we include the beneficial and ancient ordinances, especially since they contain a discipline. This discipline is beneficial for educating and training the people and those who are ignorant ‹the young people›.

Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Articles VII and VIII (The Church).


Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.54.30 PM



Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.56.19 PM

17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.  20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!    Revelation 22:17, 20 ESV


Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.56.54 PM

So that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. Through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Spirit is given. He works faith, when and where it pleases God, in those who hear the good news that God justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake. This happens not through our own merits, but for Christ’s sake.

Augsburg Confession Article V


Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 5.57.27 PM

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.  Isaiah 43:19 ESV

Book of Concord quotes from Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions; CPH 2006. Photo credit: Lawrence OP on flickr; Creative Commons license 2.0.

About Scott Diekmann

Scott is a lifelong LCMS layman. Some of his vocations include husband, dad, jet driver, runner, and collector of more books than he can read. Oh, and also chocolate lover. He’s been involved in apologetics for over a decade, is on the Board of Regents at Concordia Portland, and is a column writer for the sometimes operational Around the Word Journal. He’s also written for Higher Things Magazine, The Lutheran Clarion, and has been a guest on Issues Etc. as well as the KFUO program Concord Matters.


Take the Quiz! — 50 Comments

  1. Our congregation decided to ignore the survey. We refuse to give the impression that we agree with anything proposed by the District office. The NOW convention was mostly a train wreck, as usual.

  2. Scott,
    This is a real survey? By a district or Synod? Really? This is just a variation of any customer service survey. What’s next, secret shoppers? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  3. I am not sure you’re picking this up right and I am not sure how your district is presenting it.

    #1 is not about doctrine or word but doing. If your vision of the church is that we assemble, worship and receive, study and mature in faith unto life everlasting. That differs from one where we assemble, worship and receive, study and mature in faith, so that we can go out into the nearby community, serve and care for our neighbors, live a sanctified life (3rd use of Law) – work in the kingdom to harvest and make disciples of all nations unto life everlasting. Many churches do not go out the front door into the world as the church. Many Lutherans are shy about sanctification for fear of overvaluing works.

    #20 & #30 should always be answered as you have answered. But it may not always be so. Someone may find themselves in a place where there is poor attention paid to tradition or perhaps too much and some of the tradition may be peculiar to that little congregation, just that one body, and people may cling to it as if it was ordained by God.

    #31 – The future is not merely eschatalogical, it is here and now. We need to want to live our faith in peace, joy, and love from now until the end of time. We should hope more to see the lost rescued, than for an end to this world.

    #32 – If there is outreach to the lost, if disciples are being made, and the full mission of the church is being accomplished, then, yes, it is working. But if it’s all just about the shrinking congregation facing the altar on Sundays, then it is not. I’ve known too many congregations where members have an “I got my salvation” attitude. Again, if the church doesn’t leave and go into the world after worship, there is no point to worship. We receive the Gospel for the purpose of bringing it those who have not received it, not to simply claim our own reward. that outreach is in word and deed. The Holy spirit works through us to reach others and bring them to the gifts we receive in worship.

    #33 – Yes and no. The actual outreach of the church is absent in too many cases. Too many congregations rely on people coming in, may or may not be ready to welcome a stranger, are not engaged outside the four walls of the church. These are no “new” things in terms of mission and the church but they can be “new” things to a certain congregation. It may even be that people are not maturing in your church or fellowship is lacking or there is only Sunday worship, Sunday School and Bible Class with the Wednesdays of Advent and Lent thrown in.

    Don’t try if infer what a response implies and worry about being dragged into non-traditional or sketchy doctrinal situations. Assume the response to be an honest assessment of where a particular congregation finds itself in terms of being the Church.

  4. @HL #3

    “I am not sure you’re picking this up right and I am not sure how your district is presenting it.”

    Given that this issues forth from the NOW (which is the District that I likewise fall under the jurisdiction of), there can virtually be no other way to “pick this up” or “have it presented” beyond the parameters of assuming that anything that can be considered static and archaic must surely be cast aside in the way of evangelism/missions, etc. Sadly, this likewise falls under the ever-widening umbrella of counting heads in the pews rather than counting the cost of whatever heterodox means are utilized in order to “draw in the flock.”

    The survey, to these tired eyes, is all about begging the question. It used to be astounding just how often the terms “non-traditional” and “sketchy doctrine” would be found to be holding hands. Any more, though, regrettably, it’s almost to be expected.

    Surprising? Nope.

    Disappointing? Always.

  5. The LC-MS: Just one more version of American sectarian Christianity, each one earnestly seeking what works today. An emerging church.

    The LC-MS: The holy, catholic, apostolic church, walking together from eternity to eternity. A remnant church.

    The LC-MS: Undecided, treading water. Maybe a management survey will help.

  6. IF “… district is Synod in place/location,” then why are Dis’tricks allowed to do such nonsense that is clearly contradictory to our Confessions? AND, thereby, also against our Syn-odd-ick-all Constitution & Bylaws?

    If the local McDonald’s starts selling rotten meat, SOMEbody from Corporate HQ – if not Ronald himself! – shows up pronto and either immediately addresses the messes OR shuts down the branch location, no?

    LCMS, Inc. needs to control its “brand” better. :-p

  7. @Rev. Glenn Niemann #6

    Excellent questions. Synod has the authority to hold these DP’s accountable yet remains silent and does nothing. One can only assume that the Synod leadership supports such nonsense. After all “district is Synod in place/location.”

  8. @HL #3
    I actually wrote this post a while back, but it got lost in transit. I now have the advantage of hindsight, and can assure you HL, after having spent three days at the NOW District Convention, that I definitely picked it up right.

  9. @Rev. Glenn Niemann #6

    Yeah…unless someone’s managed to convince Ronald that fillers are better than beef. That the same form of product can have a different substance altogether (or, worse yet, a mix of incompatible/indigestible ingredients) and still maintain that product’s quality.

    Or that Ronald is capable of the fix all by himself. That those crying out that the McRib is only to be understood metaphorically (as opposed to an actual sandwich) will simply fold up their stained napkins and cease and desist rather than pridefully insist that the ersatz bbq sauce dribbling from their whiskers is nothing more than a figment of the spices in the cultural by-product in which they find their local McDonald’s.

    Man…I could eat. 🙂

  10. McRib sandwiches actually trend WELL in industry surveys; shoot – EYE *like* the McRib sandwiches (try it with 1/2 sauce instead!) … but none of these facts mean that the McRib is in ANY way _good_ for me or anyone else to “take, eat.” :-p

    Surveys & popularity ratings (aka. “pet peeves” and parking lots) are vestiges of the corporate, fallen world. As such, they ~may~ even be “synodical” …

    But they certainly are not of “Christ, The Head of the Body – The Church.” [COL 1:18]

  11. Yep, like most surveys, they have a purpose that drove their creation. Assuming that such a thing is motive neutral is naive at best, but more often dangerously ignorant.

  12. Did the quiz ask if your district’s Ecclesiastical Supervisors are properly overseeing the doctrine being taught by synod members from your district?

  13. NOW Life Cycle Survey

    Completing this survey helps your congregation
    Completing this survey provides “bio-feedback” on how your church body is doing. The feedback, available to your leadership in March 2015, will allow you to:

    1) Self-assess where you are in the congregation life cycle;
    2) Use the feedback as a community for crucial conversations together, resting on God’s love and His purpose for you in Christ;
    3) Clarify your own personal sense of your congregation’s place in the life-cycle.

    Completing this survey helps your sister congregations
    This survey – if every congregation’s leadership completes it – will be a detailed snapshot of congregation life cycles across the Northwest, and the “big picture” will be shared at the Northwest District Convention, June 2015.

    Completing this survey is part of a long-term plan to assist congregations in the Northwest District
    This survey is the beginning of Northwest District developing a long-term plan to assist congregations in navigating the stages of the life cycle. Following the release of the unique life cycle feedback to individual congregations in March, 2015, other resources will be available.
    How To Complete This Survey

    The survey should take between 7-15 minutes of your time.

    Who should complete this survey? Leaders — people participating at some level of leadership in your congregation who have an understanding of the unique life of your congregation.

    How many leaders should complete this survey? We suggest that at least 10 leaders complete the survey so that you have a good sample size, but 5 is the minimum number needed for valid results.

    Permission and Usage: By completing this survey you give permission for your submissions to be used in the Northwest District Congregation Life Cycle Survey. Information you provide will not be shared with other congregations, or individuals other than those affiliated in leadership with the Northwest District of the LCMS and the developer of the survey.

    A Note on What Makes This Survey Unique

    Congregation Life Cycles are more than time lines and attendance statistics. Life Cycles are also measured by attitudes and opinions. The following survey is designed to provide feedback on your perception of your congregation’s attitudes and opinions. There are no wrong answers, only your answers. Please be as candid as you can. Please respond carefully based on your experiences and perceptions about your congregation.

    1. The things we do as a church are done as a result of the driving vision of the senior or lead pastor.
    2. People come to prayer and seasonal services when available.
    3. The church has a successful ministry with a clear vision for a positive future.
    4. No specific vision or direction drives the ministries of our church.
    5. The ministries we do are not done as well as they used to be and our programs are in decline.
    6. People often quit doing the ministry tasks they initially agreed to do.
    7. The atmosphere in the church is one of enthusiasm, and people are passionate about living out their faith and the mission established by the founding members of the church.
    8. Our church uses our savings to pay our regular bills.
    9. Outreach is obvious and new people regularly come into the life and ministries of the church.
    10. Overall the church feels it is at its strongest point and has the resources to accomplish a great deal.
    11. People are passive and apathetic about the church.
    12. People like to talk about the good old days and it seems that our best days are behind us.
    13. Ministry positions often go unfilled because volunteers are hard to come by.
    14. Our church receives outside support to keep the doors open (for example; * rent from outside, *district support, *endowment or bequest).
    15. We just do ministry with very little organization in place to guide it.
    16. We seem to have a plan to encourage fellowship, develop care ministries, an to train new leaders.
    17. People are active and involved. Spiritual growth is obvious.
    18. Our mission as a church seems to be maintaining what we’ve got.
    19. We have tended to look for a way to blame our current condition on someone or something else.
    20. Our worship services are dominated by memories of the past.
    21. Our pastor used to be full time but has become bivocational.
    22. Congregational members often wonder “who are we?” as a church.
    23. The people of the church live consistent with what the church believes and teaches.
    24. Worship services are uplifting and enjoyed by all. They are highly rated by all who attend.
    25. We do very few new things if there is a chance they might fail.
    26. Church income is low.
    27. We are hesitant to take risks that might use all the resources we have.
    28. Our morale is low.
    29. We often talk about our need for a new building to house our growing ministries.
    30. Our worship services are done in a style that fits us and provides an inspirational high point.
    31. We are looking forward to the future.
    32. What we are doing as a church is working.
    33. We really need something new.
    34. Our nursing home list is long, and funerals are frequent.
    35. We are not looking forward to the future; there is little hope for us.
    36. People serve in areas where they have spiritual gifts and active interest.
    37. Church income is high.
    38. Everything is O.K. so we do not need to change or adapt.
    39. The number of people who leave our church is greater than the new ones who join.
    40. People no longer invite others to our worship services.
    41. We often talk about how to keep the doors open.
    42. We have healthy, inspirational worship, consistent outreach and we are making disciples.
    43. Attendance is higher than it has ever been.
    44. The folks who attend our church have all attended faithfully for some time.
    45. Overall, our church shows the beginning signs of aging.
    46. Our church is a preaching point; we do little else beyond weekly worship.
    47. Our church has several new believers but no discipleship plan for them.
    48. The things we are doing in ministry are working better than ever before.
    49. We have fewer children and teens than we used to have.
    50. We have more senior citizens than any other age group.
    51. People in the community know who we are as a church.
    52. We don’t get along well and our personal relationships are often strained.
    53. We often talk about the way things used to be.
    54. Our system of making decisions and keeping the church organized is working well.
    55. Some groups in the church suffer from low morale.

  14. Bio-feedback? How, is this, “a training technique by which a person learns to regulate, certain bodily functions…” Or, is it the meditational method? This was just in the NWD or did this go out elsewhere?
    Why does this remind me of TCN?

  15. @Amy #7

    Synod has the authority to hold these DP’s accountable yet remains silent and does nothing.

    You are overlooking the obvious. Districts hold Synod’s purse strings. LWML has a set amount of “mites” that must be forwarded to the National Board. Do Districts have a requirement?

    [If money was sent to Synod and disbursed to Districts, we might have fewer district bureaucrats.]
    Very early on in his tenure, Harrison made that suggestion (obliquely) by enclosing an offering envelope for Synod in the Lutheran Witness. That should have encouraged the confessionals at least.

    [I doubt the liberal members ever see “LW”… but since the editors now cannot identify as Lutheran or make a connection between their copy and the Christian church year, I don’t need it either!]

  16. What I would note, looking at your survey, is that they did clean out the Barna/ Evangelical/ Baptist angles toward growth in their questions. Believe me, I know that, been through it. The Ablaze model gives food for thought in that there is a start to any particular congregation and far too many are on a parabolic arc, whether we like it or not or whether we admit it or not. I am New Jersey and I have watched churches die in cities, the places where our forebears built their churches. The congregations vanished in white flight and aged out. they did not remain and evangelize and serve the new groups that moved in. Urban church planters are working these fields, now.

    Getting of that trajectory and into the circle is vital. Not every congregation is in that circle because between the confession & absolution and the benediction is a life of service and evangelism that has been lacking in many places.

    There are many gross errors in the growth models from spurious accountability to lax doctrine, but there are also valuable surveys which bolster what we have to say. For example, traditional worship is looked for and preferred by the unchurched, as is solid preaching in the Law and Gospel that we are offering. But if we are not out there, they don’t know what’s happening inside the church and they won’t care if we are not showing them something in our lives of service.

    This may not be your church, but it is many. Their parishioners are born in confession and die at benediction only to be resurrected each Sunday morning having spent the rest of the week in the tomb. That makes the church a grave where faith is not preserved, it’s embalmed. Objecting to the survey is having the conceit that nothing in your church is wrong, it is perfect, never needs to be questioned, examined, or defended, never needs to leave the sanctuary, where the Means (of Grace) have become the mission, that is against scripture. The mission is to the least, the last, and the lost. The Means are what we bring to them. We don’t expect them to just walk in and join in. In the future, whatever your neighborhood looks like, no matter who lives there, the locals should be in that church receiving what you are receiving, today.

  17. Scott #16,
    Ablaze?! Really?! Which is worse, Ablaze! or TCN, I can’t choose between those. Why? Why, would any District, use a Psychological term, misused, btw, to apply an internal customer/employee survey?
    Why, does Synod, St. Louis, allow this?!
    Do they have any clue, what that means, for stump dumb rumps, in a pew?!

  18. Somehow, the term “bio-feedback” brought to (my) mind “McRib” once again … but nothing at ALL about The Church.


  19. @Scott Diekmann #16

    It might be interesting to cross-graph the congregations that are adopting surveys of this type with how many have/plan to have their parishioners take the dreaded Hgauk Spiritual Gifts Inventory Quiz as well. :/

  20. “Again, if the church doesn’t leave and go into the world after worship, there is no point to worship.”

    I am hearing this same mantra, ad-nauseum, in my church. What on earth is really being said in this platitude? Last time I checked, not one member of my church LIVES in the church building, or stays holed-up in their house all day. We ALL go out into the world, every week after the church service. We all have relationships in the many venues in which God places us, and continue to meet and interact with new people — we would hardly be human if this were not so. Yet Sunday after Sunday, meeting after meeting, the members of my church are being railed-on about the church needing to “get out of the building” to witness to the world in word and deed. Here’s the secret news: many of those people who are being driven to share the Gospel and to serve others, by the application of guilt-inducing accusations, are and have been sharing the Gospel and serving in many ways throughout their lives. They have been doing so quietly, with neighbors, relatives and co-workers — oftentimes for decades on behalf of an individual. Many are also taking time to speak words of God’s grace in Christ to the guy sitting alone and despondent in the bar, or the woman on the plane. I hear these stories frequently in common conversation with people in my small church, in my Christian friend circle, and from my own husband. Yet I can tell you with great certainty that my church would not be perceived as being “missional” by outward appearances. Our numbers remain small, ebbing, growing a little, then ebbing again.

    Please tell me what we must look like in order to meet the missional standard. Must we LOOK more like the church in our witnessing efforts by going off every Wednesday in groups of two, with matching t-shirts, to do street evangelism? Is there an appropriate type and amount of social services we must provide? If this is “about doing” then the people with all of the get-going exhortations should surely have something specific in mind.

    I am not trying to be sarcastic. I really want to know, what does it look like when a church is appropriately fulfilling the call to serve neighbor, and share the Gospel? No one has been able to explain this tangibly to me. Serving and witnessing to neighbor without fanfare is apparently not good enough, or effective enough. And in fact, it isn’t, but, thankfully, there seem to be somebodies who do know what is good enough, if only they would explain it. I suppose if we would all be reporting back to our missional communities weekly we could avoid the appearance of an “I’ve got my salvation attitude [so who cares about the lost].” But then, how many “Joining Jesus on His Mission” stories do we need to rack-up in a month to avoid the “cone of shame”, to make us feel better about ourselves, like we are doing something?

    In my 23 years in the church, I have never heard any Christian express explicitly or implicitly that they don’t give a hoot about evangelism. I hear many people express frustration with their lack of boldness, or lament not seeing and grasping opportunities when they present themselves, or fear of hurting relationships by being perceived as pushy. I’ve heard and seen many tears for unbelieving loved ones, for the next-door neighbor who is dying of cancer yet refuses to hear and believe the Gospel, and on and on. Never, never, have I perceived an indifference to evangelism, or to serving a neighbor in need, within my church, or amongst Christian friends of other denominations. Failure to evangelize or to serve according to God’s standard? Yes! A total lack of caring, or desire, or awareness of the need to evangelize and serve? No.

    Please, let’s stop making huge assumptions about other Christians concerning how they live out their lives in faith, accusing them of living in a tomb during the week (because, of course, it’s always the other guy who is living in the tomb). On what basis can anyone make such broad accusations? And please stop parroting, yes, parroting, meaningless mantras about getting the church to move outside of the building, until you can explain specifically what is meant by this, and give Scriptural and evidential support that the Holy Spirit will cause His kingdom to increase because of those particular strategies. Otherwise, we’re just thrusting opinions on each other, and assuming results from our pet approaches.@HL #3

  21. @Tracy #21

    Ah, Tracy, you’re referring to the doctrine of vocation! Thank you! I have yet to see the doctrine of vocation taught by a district official. Without it, your horse may get out of the gate, but he’ll be running the wrong race. When you teach the doctrine of vocation properly, the reliance on district programs ebbs.

  22. @Tracy #21

    Pastor David Petersen spoke about evangelism and the Doctrine of Election extensively on Issues,etc. Tuesday, June 9, episode titled, ‘Looking Forward to Sunday Morning: Trinity 2…’ It is a fantastic Issues,etc. One really needs to listen to the whole hour but some great quotes are:

    ‘No one will go to hell because we didn’t tell them about Jesus’.

    ‘Our evangelism will not increase the number of people in heaven’.

    ‘Our failure to do evangelism will not increase the number of people in hell’.

    Great stuff and thanks for the reminder about the doctrine of vocation!

    In Christ,

  23. @Tracy #21
    Dear Tracy,
    My answer to you…Torah (what the first 5 books of the OT commanded and desired), the way we live with our Lord, outside of worship and the house where we celebrate and receive Word and Sacrament.

    We leave the Church and “do our best” to live with the Lord, to have “the fear of the Lord” in our daily walk in life.

    IN the end, you may not convince a soul, not your true problem, the Holy Spirit is in charge; yet you are doing what truly delights the Lord, “love your neighbor”. And the best love is to share the Gospel, when and if it ever occurs.

    I see your first comment differently, “go out”, then come back to worship to recharge, be forgiven, be fed; then go do it all again.

    Jesus boiled it down, love our neighbor as ourselves in life. And we do it in many ways. And we fall short of course (sin stinks), then come back to worship and receive again.

    Not much has really changed, we really are to be like Old Testament people, to walk with the Lord. They had to sacrifice at the temple, we have the final sacrifice in God’s Son Jesus.

    But you know all that…

  24. Thank you Pastor Prentice 🙂 Just for clarity, the first comment I think you might be referring to, “Again, if the church doesn’t leave and go into the world after worship, there is no point to worship.” is a quote I copied from comment #3, and not my own comment — sorry for not attributing properly. I whole heartedly agree with your response, “‘go out,’ then come back to worship to recharge, be forgiven, be fed; then go do it all again.” Thanks again 🙂@Pastor Prentice #24

  25. @HL #3

    Hi HL,
    With all due respect, are you a Pastor? If you are, then you know that when the Law and Gospel, rightly divided, are preached every Sunday God’s Word will have its way with the elect in the pews. It appears from what you wrote that you have over-emphasized ‘going and telling others about Jesus’ to the diminishment of the Gospel – what Jesus has done for us by His life, death and resurrection. I won’t repeat what Tracy in comment #25 wrote but I suggest you reread it.

    In Christ,

  26. I have yet to see the doctrine of vocation taught by a district official.

    Rev. Dean Rothchild, Assistant to the President of Iowa District East, teaches the doctrine of Christian vocation in his evangelism workshop “Confessing Christ Jesus.” Unfortunately, with so many districts promoting such foolishness as FiveTwo(tm), CoWo mission startups, ad nauseam, IDE appears to be the exception rather than the rule.

    ‘No one will go to hell because we didn’t tell them about Jesus’.

    ‘Our evangelism will not increase the number of people in heaven’.

    ‘Our failure to do evangelism will not increase the number of people in hell’.

    Worth repeating. Over and over, until it finally sinks in.

    Tom W.

  27. @DCO Tom #28
    Hi DCO Tom. When I say I haven’t seen a district official teach the doctrine of vocation, I’m only referring to the Northwest District. I’m thrilled that IDE teaches vocation. Having had the pleasure of hearing IDE District President Brian Saunders speak, I’m also not surprised vocation is being taught.

  28. I am a layman. Today, I just saw your comment, so far, and will read the others in depth. I did catch some bullets on election which border on the Reformed side:

    ‘No one will go to hell because we didn’t tell them about Jesus’.

    ‘Our evangelism will not increase the number of people in heaven’.

    ‘Our failure to do evangelism will not increase the number of people in hell’

    We do have Paul:

    “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23)

    If there is nothing and no one to “win”, why evangelize? If the aim of the church is to facilitate God’s service to those in the pews, nothing more, and those not in the pews cannot be affected by what we do, then Pastor Petersen is correct. But that does not explain what we hear in Scripture. Moreover, even in our vocation (something that is taught, quite well), what are we doing? It is not to our benefit that we, as justified and saved sinners, do good to our neighbor. Nor is to our eternal neighbor’s benefit unless what we do is winning him for Christ.

    The fact is, we are God’s workers in this world. what is being overlooked is that, while we are not populating heaven or hell, the population of heaven is being accomplished by God, through us. In evangelism, God is at work. It is not “our” evangelism, it is His. Petersen’s statements (and I will say I have not listened to the whole hour) are a message to sit down and not think about the lost or grieve over them because they are either permanently lost or temporarily and that’s not our concern. We just figure that someone else is the voice of the Shepherd (John 10:11-18), if we sit still and don’t have to say anything or do anything in particular.

    But consider the legalism that is out there. People act in good ways toward others from non-Christian motivations. Someone may see no difference from your vocation and the kindly humanist down the road. What makes what you do a witness? Is there something peculiarly Christian in your behavior that your neighbor sees? Vocation is only a witness where it’s fruit is overtly Christian.

  29. @HL #31

    Hi HL,
    I just quoted a few of the statements by Pastor Petersen. It’s important to hear the whole interview-one hour. He was expounding on Luke 14 – The Great Banquet parable. He also talked about how evangelism is necessary in this teaching of Jesus. Evangelism in the context of the doctrine of election is a joy and privilege. Evangelism as a law is terrible. The laity have been harangued by the mantra of ‘go and tell…’ like Tracy said. It has been preached as law, yes, third use of the law, but it is a law. What does the law do? It always accuses.

    In Christ,

  30. @HL #31
    HL, vocation includes your call as a child, a citizen, probably an employee. It also includes your call as a Christian. That means you tell your neighbor about Christ at an appropriate time in the normal course of life. It precludes Law-driven district programs that take you out of your vocation. The Gospel, properly preached, and the Sacraments, properly administered, lead us to spontaneously share our joy in Christ. Programs run the risk of turning you into a Pharisee or a despairing Christian, wondering if you’ve done enough. Read Luther on Vocation by Gustaf Wingren. Vocation and evangelism walk together.

  31. https://steadfastlutherans.org/2015/06/great-stuff-four-things-lutherans-believe-about-the-law-that-are-false-and-true-2/#comments

    I think you read this. There is a 3rd use of Law and accusation is not to be feared by a Christian. we have repentance and absolution for comfort. (SA III, III)

    And I think you read this:
    “GO therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    Comments on this by Erwin Kolb:

    “As you know, there are four verbs in the basic commission: “go.” “make disciples,” “baptizing,” “teaching.” And which is the imperative? “Make disciples.” The others are participles which indicate the means needed to carry out the command, by “going,” “baptising,” and by “teaching.” The emphasis is not on the participles, but on the imperative.”

    “To summarize, the Church is sent on a mission equipped with means to accomplish the goal. The goal is to make disciples of all nations. The means to accomplish that goal is the preaching oft he Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, what Walther called “the infallible marks of the church.” A resolution of our Anaheim Convention in 1975 (1-02A) stated it like this: “Evangelism has as its goal the conversion of the whole world.”3
    To use Suelflow’s language, we need to “preserve” the Gospel in order to “proclaim” it. Or in our terms, we need to keep our mission clearly in mind and to use t he means to accomplish the goal. The means are not to be used as ends in themselves.”

    “One of the results of a confusion of means and goal can be the identification of a function of the church, such as teaching, worship,fellowship, or nurture, with the goal. These become ends in themselves, and the mission and goal are clouded. In an article
    entitled “Evangelism” in Circle (December, 1973) Oscar J. Ice quotes a pastor as saying, “My sole pastoral mission is to care for those already within the church.” Pastoral care may be “a mission,” or a function which uses the special gifts given to a pastor,
    but the overarching goal is still to “makedisciples.” Every pastor, every member of the church has a responsibility to that goal. The functions of education or worship that the church carries out must be related to that goal. Another result of confusing means and goal is reflected in the statement, “Our job is to sow the seed. We do not worry about the
    results. We leave the harvest to God.” It is true that our job is to sow the seed and that God produces the results, but we need to be very concerned about the harvest. When Jesus saw the crowds in his day he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers few;
    pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matt. 9:37-38). We are the laborers, the reapers.” (The State of Evangelism in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, CTQ, October 1979) I keep this .pdf on my desktop. It’s great reading.

    If you keep hearing “go” ad nauseam, that is the eternal Word of God telling you to “go”, not the peculiarities or leanings of your pastor.

  32. @HL #34

    I believe the so called ‘Great Commission’ Matthew 28;19ff has become the material principle of the Bible in the LCMS in certain quarters rather than John 3:16 – that God so loved the world, He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have eternal life. The golden red thread that runs through scripture from Genesis to Revelation is God’s action toward us in His Son Jesus, not our action toward Him. We tell others joyfully about Jesus in our vocation – everyday life when the opportunity presents itself. I also believe that the loving work a Christian mother does when getting up to attend her child in the middle of the night is a good work in God’s eyes apart from her ‘telling her child about Jesus’. You cannot emphasize one good work over another in a Christian’s life. I believe the emphasis placed on Matt. 28 by some is misguided.

    In Christ,

  33. “Going out” is not a program and it is part of one’s vocation as a Christian. How one does it, what opportunities God creates, is not up to us, that is true. However, restricting one’s vocation to only that activities of daily life presumes that we are in perfect obedience to God in not stepping outside those boundaries.

    Like it or not, we ignore our callings. This is not about wondering whether we’ve done well enough – we have not and never will. But it is about whether we have done, at all, and whether we want to do more. Striving is not self-condemnation or Pharisaism (1 Tim 4:6-10) and it is not striving or toil to stay in one’s comfort zone.

    Not everyone is going to be a door-to-door evangelist, but many who should be are sitting idle. We are called to pray but not all praying as much as we ought. We are called to be in the world, but many hide their faith out of fear. Offering people ways to go out and serve, finding places where people in the congregation fit into outreach, encouraging, and letting them know how well they are doing is building up the Church. It takes more than just being what you have been, a good employee/boss, father/ mother, friend, neighbor – all those bits of civil righteousness are expected of and achieved by non-Christians.

    We have the privilege of going the extra mile, giving more without fear, extending ourselves beyond because we are not alone and we are justified and transformed (2 Cor 3:18). Life in the Lord is led with passion for Christ and passion is not idle or confined to a narrow vocation and limited time and place. “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness, not health, but healing, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. All does not yet gleam in glory, but all is being purified.” (Martin Luther, Defense of All the Articles)

  34. It seems to me that all of this perfectly encapsulates the tension that we all experience as we live in the “already/not yet.” Naturally, there is concern for those who pay no heed to their own eternal peril; likewise, there is also an acknowledgment that we are by varying degrees proclaimers of the Word and sowers of It’s seeds.

    That said, it’s not our job to count those seeds, or worry about whether or not we are articulate and/or winsome enough. Not everyone is a wordsmith, and quite frankly, wringing our hands over our chosen verbiage’s (or program, movement, etc.) perceived inability to move those hearts for which we are concerned is missing the point by the proverbial country mile. Assuming that we’re all equally fitted to baptize and teach falls into the same trap that utilizes as it’s bait the sweet-meat of “everyone a minister.”

    Walther’s infallible marks of the Church remain the very best evangelism I know. Would that we invite all we know to sit at those blessed feet who weekly bring us such good news, whether comfortably ensconced in friendship or otherwise. 🙂

  35. HL, I agree with encouraging. Lutherans should not shy away from the third use of the Law. Your vocation of Christian encompasses other vocations. I can be a way more effective evangelist speaking to the other pilot that I am sitting with in the cockpit than in the evangelism meeting, though I sometimes do that too.

  36. @HL #36

    Hi, from New Jersey. (I live in Hunterdon County) Not sure of your congregation, since we have both non-geographics here, but I am a layperson in the New Jersey District.

    From what little I understand of Greek but also listening to scholars who know the language better, the primary verb is ‘make disciples’. How? By teaching and baptizing. When? As your are going, so that means all the time. Where? In your vocation, as it takes you into the word and you interact with family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, community, etc. Why? Because we are Christians, it is who we are. 3rd use of the Law, loving our neighbor, Thy [Lord’s] Will be done.

    I have seen many confuse Law and Gospel, by rejecting 3rd use, claiming Christ ends the Law (He reached the ‘end’ by fulfilling/completing it).

    My/our? DP Stienbronn often talks about knowing the Stories. In that regard he is totally right. As disciples, we should be attending Bibles studies, receive the nourishment of the Sacraments, hear the Gospel proclaimed to us. Then, as we are out in the world, we will always be ready to give witness of Christ, as opportunities present themselves, maybe even if they don’t.

    The problem with too many programs is they are Law, marketing, works heavy. And the worst is by design or by presentation, they tend to be a mighty club beating on the elect. So much for Christ taking on our burdens, giving us rest. The world already persecutes us, we sure do not need the Church doing the same. SO many of the programs are just crap.

    As for my experience with TCN, I can appreciate the analysis. What I cannot tolerate is their prescriptions. Early on the automatics (policy governance, and worse: CoWo), are horrid. But beyond that, they demand complete buy in to THEIR cures or you get no help. And the reverend presenter requires the sermon. After experiencing that Law heavy/Law only sermon, if I were the pastor (or to become one) I would totally forbid the TCN rep into the pulpit. SO in the end, not sure what the point is in having them come, and I’m sure TCN would be upset about the initial work but getting a ‘thank but no thanks’.

    This catches a summary of my experienced thoughts. I have gotten to the point of somewhat tuning out ‘the next big/best thing’. Same story, different day. But there is still that tension within me, a healthy one I hope. I do care about the lost. But I get tired of wasting time and energy chasing a program that mostly will not move the ball. I can not move the ball sitting on my duff, and that takes no effort. I tis a shame I am not like a member of my congregation. She has invited friends to church. Might not stick with everybody, but over the past few years we have three active families who joined. And all she did was mimic Jesus; “Come, follow me [to church]”.

  37. Hi, Jason. I live in Sussex County and attend in Passaic County. TCN is not something I want involvement with but I do deal in outreach and working with people on vocation and gifts – people don’t know just how much they possess.

    Our little church has recently welcomed over a dozen new members and we have another new member class starting up. Everything that has happened has come from being in the community, our church becoming known as a place where people can call and get help – anything from prayer, to food, to assistance. They know this because we are out helping their neighbors, meeting new people. Everything we do is not strings attached with an offer of prayer and an invitation. I would say most of the time, it isn’t the people we actually help but the people who see what we do that give us a chance to share.

    There is follow up with anyone who signs up for Sunday School, VBS, food pantry. Hospital and nursing home visits from the pastor and deacons. But, unless there is a focused effort to be out and doing things and a lot of encouragement for people to get past their shyness, it doesn’t happen. Every time you get someone to talk to someone else for the first time, it lights a fire. That first time is all it ever takes. Sharing builds faith, the church is built up in fellowship, and we share in friendship. This is not a passive process that goes on within the confines of daily life, it takes extra work.

    When I was younger, I had a teacher with a gift for evangelism. I have not seen anything like it, since. He could open doors, start talking, and people would end up in church. I have no expectations of seeing that, again. So, I know what you mean about your friend. Jesus is never the next best thing, he’s it. the methods in the books are too often not compatible with our doctrine, the truth. But there are nuggets. You don’t have to buy the program to sift through the findings for what’s good. the Holy Spirit is working, even through these flawed ideas. God takes the bad things and twists them to His use.

  38. @Jason #39
    Dear Jason,
    The only thing I will interject is about the comment on “confusion of Law and Gospel.” Yes, we Lutherans do “at times” have a tough time using language that speaks of “commanding one another.” It smacks against Romanist thinking and “works that save.” You know, we are “of the Reformation” and cringe at the errors that have been removed.

    Yes, Jesus did not negate the Law, He shed His blood as the ultimate and final sacrifice under the Law…our faith is in Him.

  39. I don’t believe there is any misapprehension concerning the Great Commission. It sits, as a command and defines the mission of the church, to make disciples. The things that God does for us, apart from justification, are done through us. We do not baptize or commune ourselves, we do not absolve ourselves, we do not worship alone. Food on our tables, acts of mercy, we can go on and on. All these things come from God through us to each other.

    The Gospel, the material principle, goes into the world carried by our feet, shown by our hands, and spoken, as called for. It is not a Christian act to attend a child in the night. It is certainly a good and lawful act and God views it as such. But when a mother teaches the child a prayer, says a prayer over a pre-verbal child, brings the child into church, brings the child up in faith along with showing the common decency, love, and patience demanded by law, then the mother is doing good works by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is those acts of faith which cannot be done by those outside the faith (see explanation to third article of the Creed) which sustain and grow the child’s faith. Those things done in, by, and for faith are good works.

  40. @HL #42

    A minor nit, friend. All things done in faith, from the mundane to the particularly churchly, are good works. And all things done apart from faith are not good works, from the mundane to the churchly, because apart from faith it is impossible to please to God.

    The mother who rises up in faith to attend her child in the night is doing as good a work as the one who in faith heads off to Africa for evangelism– the works are made righteous by grace through faith for Christ’s sake. Apart from faith, there is no grace to sanctify any work, no matter how churchly or righteous it may seem outwardly.

    Blessings to you.

  41. @Brad #43
    Dear HL,
    A minor nit too for you. Good works are just what they are, good works. A non-believer does good works, just like me; and for both of us, these good works we do, are good. Yes, in our case, the Lord delights in our heart that heeds His command to “do good”.

    Now the works themselves, no salvific value; BUT, (time to reread James in one sitting); faith we have without deeds (and works) is dead. I guess we then become a poser, a Pharisee who does not truly “fear the Lord.”

  42. @HL #42

    Dear HL,
    You said, ‘It is not a Christian act to attend a child in the night’. I said in #35 ‘When a Christian mother…’

    Those good works by a Christian mom are as good in God’s eyes as the evangelist going off to Africa in his vocation of evangelist. When one starts to differentiate and say that some good works done by Christians are better than others, it is very close to what happened in the Middle Ages concerning the monasteries and nunneries. Luther clearly pointed out that those churchly vocations of priest/nun were not better than the vocation of milkmaid.

    In Christ,

  43. @Pastor Prentice #44

    Pr. Prentice,

    So that we don’t confuse HL (or anyone else reading), we should be clear that formally, unbelievers do not do good works. They may have what our Confessions refer to as civic righteousness (doing things which are generally well regarded in society) but apart from faith, there is no such thing as a truly good work. Only by faith do we receive the grace which makes any of our works good– and that for Christ’s sake alone.

    This is very important in any discussion of the doctrine of vocation. Confusion on this point led to the medieval Roman error that it was better to go off and do churchly works (join a monastery, do pilgrimages and penances, head off on crusades, etc.,) than to do one’s duty to one’s family. Luther was instrumental in setting this error straight, noting that the service we do for our given neighbors (wife, husband, child, etc.,) is washed through our baptism so as to be holy and good works. However, without faith in Christ, all the churchly works are not good, be they ever so pious or well regarded in society. Add to this the difference between what God gives to us through His Law (cf. the Ten Commandments) and the law we give to ourselves (things we make up to serve God and our neighbor) and the chasm grows exponentially.

    Much of what plagues congregations and churches in our context, is a misunderstanding of what is actually a good work– which is just a misunderstanding of what Scripture teaches relative to the doctrine of vocation. These surveys are a manifestation of that misunderstanding, because they forget the fundamental goodness of the lives of the parishioners lived out in faith, tending to their God given duties. Rather than focus on this, they prompt the parishioners to seek other works and paradigms to “save” their neighbors or their congregation, with the result often being a sacrifice of the God given duties to family for endless programs, initiatives, and small group meetings/outreaches to “reach the lost.” It is as they have forgotten that our first and most urgent mission field is found under our own roof.

    This issue with the doctrine of vocation is hinged to the even more fundamental doctrine of justification. Misunderstanding the one will lead to misunderstanding the other.

    Blessings to you–

  44. @HL #34

    There is another verb in the so-called Great Commission–it is the word “obey” as in “teaching them to obey.” The Greek is “tereo” which can and ought to be translated “cling” or “treasure” or “guard,” rather than “obey.” Or as our pastor says, “Teaching them to cling as if their life depended on it….” This puts an entirely different light on it, and altho still directive, it takes away the strictly law-oriented approach of “obey” and effectively gives it a gospel-shaded meaning. This is what the psalmist means when he says, “Your word have I treasured in my heart” Psalm 119:11.

  45. @Wyldeirishman #37

    Great post, Scott, and as another of the long suffering confessionals in the NOW District I can only add my continued prayer to be delivered from those in leadership who are clearly of a different faith than mine. There I said it publicly. It must end and my prayer is that it will before my lifetime comes to an end.

    Much was said in the comments concerning evangelism/outreach and also Vocation and I can’t miss this opportunity to say both of these topics are covered quite well in CLCC seminars. These seminars can be arranged merely by your congregation offering to host them. CLCC was organized just for this purpose; to bring such training, and other topics, to the laity. Check out their Website at http://www.theclcc.org.

  46. I am a 60-year old layman and, like Donnell and Connell of Lutheran Satire fame, I don’t have a fancy education with books and learnin’ from a seminary. I recently added the Book of Concord to my bucket list after my daughter purchased it for me at the Collinsville conference last week. I felt a little bit like a groupie as I asked Chris Rosebrough, Will Weedon, Jonathan Fisk, and Todd Wilken to sign the inside cover for me. They signed and were very gracious to me. What else was I expecting?
    Okay, on task. What am I to do? Our church is working with TCN as we “speak” and there have been salient and compelling Biblical points made in favor of this type of outreach, mostly in the form of community connections to let the town know that we exist and we’re here to serve. I justify it in my own mind by comparing what we’re doing to the outlandish visionary leaders and celebrity “pastors” of the shameless megachurches. We, on the other hand, continue each Sunday with a liturgical and confessional Divine Service but come under fire (from within and without) for not being more seeker-sensitive and for putting off some who don’t appreciate all the Latin finery in the bulletin. I have seen people join a Lutheran church only to attempt to remake it in their own image. Go figure. So in response to popular demand and to stimulate growth, we added CoWo one or two Sundays a month, but not as a replacement for the Divine Service, thanks be to God.
    So I’m conflicted. While I don’t fear heresy is behind every bush (because our Pastor is faithful and concerned about the unsaved), I do understand the “slippery slope” concept of losing discipline and dumbing down church so as to not intimidate the uninitiated and emphasizing mission over against shepherding the flock. Someone wise said a long time ago that anything worthwhile isn’t easy and takes effort. As I see it, this discussion is to explain the controversy as either a cynical, “follow-the-money” church survival effort or an honest disagreement of what Scripture commands. Best construction is advised at this point, notwithstanding the men at District. Even the interpretation of Matthew 28: 19ff is seen to confessionals as being met in the regular administration of Word and Sacraments and not so much in community connections. A question for CoWo church growth advocates to consider is, “Must we admit that we’ve been doing church wrong for the past, oh I don’t know, say two millennia or has postmodern demographics forced the Church to resort to ‘more effective’ measures rather than relying on the Holy Spirit to arrange for those to whom we are privileged to be a witness?” My questions seem rhetorical but they’re really not. For example, how do we see Matthew 7:24? What does He mean by “do my words” when applied to the Great Commission? Those satisfied with the ministry of Word and Sacrament claim that we are doing His words and have been putting them into practice, “Take eat, this is my body. Take drink, this is my blood.” Those not satisfied with the status quo think vocation is not adequate to reach enough people with the Gospel. After all, the fields are ripe for harvest, if only we could provide the manpower. Both groups, confessional and missional, hear, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the same scriptures.

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.