(Editor’s Note: The latest Steadfast Quarterly has been mailed out to all our members and as in previous issues is getting high marks. This issue is a special double issue that highlights the evangelistic work of confessional churches, pastors and laity. To get this insightful, timely, edifying and full color publication mailed to your home click the “Join Now” button on the top of this page and for $25 a year you can become a member of the Brothers of John the Steadfast. To see the past issues of the Quarterly click here or look for it and other features on “The Organization” page of the site. Following is one of the articles from the Quarterly that we wanted to make available to our online readers to read or comment on. Is there another article in the Quarterly that you feel should be posted here for wider readership or the opportunity to comment on it? Email us if so.)
Missiolatryâ€”turning mission into a god–is a problem. If our “god” is that to which we look for every good and from which we expect help in every time of need, it’s clear the “god” of too many “Christians” (especially those that go by the Lutheran moniker) in this day and age is missions! If you ask 9 out of 10 members of the Lutheran Church what the Church’s primary task is, they’ll answer without hesitating: “Make disciples!”
I think it far better to say that the primary task of the Church is to worship God. “This is the Christian faith, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity” (Athanasian Creed). Jesus said: “For the Father seeks such to worship Him” (John 4).
What is the purpose for the Church’s existence? Its purpose does not and cannot cease when time ceases. Its purpose is eternal. This is the way the very first book of Lutheran Dogmatics (Melanchthon’s 1543 Loci Communes) puts it: “The human race has been so created and then so redeemed that we as the image and temple of God might celebrate the praises of God, for God wills to be known and worshipped.”
The relationship of this to the task of the Church in this age is then clarified: Christ has sent His whole people into this world to speak the Word that rescues people from their false worship (their idolatry, which leads only to eternal death), and brings them with us into the worship of Him who alone is life, the Blessed Trinity.
This helps prevent us from thinking about the Church in the shallow way of a “come on in so that you can go out and get some more” club. What are we calling people into? What are we calling them away from? We call them into the worship of the Blessed Trinity, which is faith, the receiving of the divine Life of God through the gifts He gives–and one of those gifts is the liberation from individualism and the gift of true communion with each other in His Body. We call them away from the worship of false gods, which is death. As long as the Church is in this world, she is to work tirelessly at this, but it is not her ultimate vocation. Her ultimate vocation is found in that which she does now which she will continue to do forever.
The Psalmist exhorts “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” Too many nowadays seem to describe the Church’s life not in the “tasting and seeing” but rather in just the “inviting.” But I am convinced that our evangelism efforts falter because our people are not tasting the goodness of the Lord! You see, if you enjoy something, you praise it to others.
Think about it. If you enjoy a movie, you say to others, “You have got to see this!” If you enjoy a restaurant, you say to others, “You have got to eat there!” If you enjoy a book, you say to others, “This is a must read!” We praise to others that which we natively enjoy. We can’t help ourselves!
So, back to John 4. The woman tastes the living water (note that she left her bucket at the well!!!), and then goes to her countrymen and tells them: “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!” She drank from the living water, and so she invites others to taste and enjoy it with her.
The answer to solving the wimpy witness is never to beat people over the head with the so-called “Great Commission.” It is to get them to drink deeply of the living water, and then they too will be crying out with the Spirit and the Church: “Come, and drink freely of the water of life!” (Rev. 22)
Lord, deliver us from the sin of missiolatry and help us to truly find our life in worshipping You and receiving Your gifts and grant us the grace so to enjoy Your bounty that we constantly summon others to the Feast of Life, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Father Weedon is pastor at St. Paul’s, Hamel, Illinois. He blogs at www.weedon.blogspot.com. This article was first featured on his blog in March of 2008.