Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Confession and Mission Go Together

Confession and mission go together inseparably, and find their terminus in doxology. In the history of the church, the re-awakening of the impetus to confess the faith has always given birth to missionary endeavours. Cf Luther: "The noblest and greatest work and the most important service we can perform for God on earth is bringing other people, and especially those entrusted to us, to the knowledge of God by the holy Gospel" (Weimar Ed. 43:415).

Here is Hermann Sasse writing on the Lutheran church body which has best exemplified this connection between confession and mission in its life...
"With its roots in the agricultural region of the Midwest, where in some parts Lutheranism is almost more "of the people" than in many so-called "people's churches" (Volkskirche) of Europe, the Missouri Synod, like every true missionary church, has grown far beyond her historical origins. But she is a missionary church in a sense which cannot be said of any other Lutheran church. This is one of her most profound characteristics...Missouri is the church of home missions among Lutheran churches. Where other Lutheran churches, following the older Lutheran ethos, always have in view the Christian in his "state" (Stand), to which belongs not only his nationality and vocation but also his religious home, the Missouri Synod instead sees the individual soul, which is to be converted to Christ and incorporated into the church...

... The Lutheran Church does not exist merely to be the church of those who happen by accident of birth and upbringing to bear the stamp "Lutheran". Rather, it is her calling to proclaim the Gospel, as it was re-discovered during the Reformation and is witnessed to in the Lutheran confessions, to all the people she can possibly reach. This is being done by Missouri today in a particularly effective, impressive way in the world-wide, missionary radio program 'The Lutheran Hour'. In a similar way, the school system of the Missouri Synod gives evidence of this will to engage in missionary endeavours. A large percentage of the children who attend the excellent congregational schools of this church rather than the public schools come from non-Lutheran backgrounds. In this way each congregation is a centre of missionary activity and is indeed conscious of itself as such. This accounts for the steady growth of the Missouri Synod in all parts of America, as well as the fact that this church body more than any other Lutheran church is able to attract those of other confessions and the unchurched. These undeniable realities ought to move other Lutheran church bodies to study the Missouri Synod instead of getting agitated over the fact that Missouri is not asleep like they are!

From Confession and Theology in the Missouri Synod, Letters to Lutheran Pastors No. 20, (July 1951); [trans. mine]

Note: Sasse had a great interest in and passion for evangelism and missions which is not always evident in academic theologians. One of his lesser known papers is one he wrote for Australian pastors titled 'Problems of Evangelism in the Australian Context'.

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