Saturday, February 12, 2011

Evangelism through the lens of confessional Lutheranism...

I wanted to share the following post from Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller from his blog, The World Wide Wolfmueller:


It a common misconception that “Lutherans don’t do Evangelism”. This is not true. What is true is that when Lutheran go about the business of evangelism, they often abandon their Lutheran doctrine. These theses are an attempt to begin with our Lutheran theology and paint a picture of what Evangelism is and is not. Your feed back is welcome. -Pastor Wolfmueller

1.The Scriptures rightly understood give all glory to God and all comfort to terrified consciences. False doctrine does the opposite, either taking glory from God or comfort from the conscience, or both.

2.Natural man is blind, dead, and an enemy of God (Anthropology, Original Sin), and therefore cannot cooperate with God in conversion. It must be stated plainly that the will of man plays no part in conversion. Therefore all attempts to induce an emotional response for God (and other such revival shenanigans) will be carefully avoided. Never would an unbeliever be told that he must “accept Jesus” or “receive Him” or “open his heart” or “pray a prayer.” Such things are impossible. Any discussion of evangelism that speaks or implies man’s cooperation takes glory from God and robs consciences of comfort.

3.Moreover, natural man is hostile to God (Original Sin again). Therefore the Lutheran church expects persecution of the Lord’s Word and His people.

4.God alone redeems, justifies and converts sinful man (Monergism). Because conversion is God’s work, we should pay attention to how He does it (rather than making stuff up).

5.The Holy Spirit creates faith (Sanctification in the broad sense, the Third Article of the Creed). The Lutheran Church therefore lives in the confidence of faith, knowing that the coming of the Lord’s kingdom depends not on her own efforts, but on the free work of the Holy Spirit. The evangelism efforts of the Lord’s church begin with prayer to God who desires all to be saved, and trusts that He hears and answers this prayer.

6.And more, the Holy Spirit creates faith “when and where it pleases Him”, not when it pleases us. This means, among other things, that it is impossible to judge mission faithfulness through numbers.

7.The Holy Spirit uses means to convert man (what we often call “the means of grace”, but what our confessions call “the means of the Spirit”). The means of the Spirit is the word of God, through which He shows our sin (Law) and promises forgiveness (Gospel). There are no other means of the Spirit, there are therefore no other means of evangelism.

8.Correspondingly, repentance embraces two parts: contrition and faith. Both contrition and faith are the works of the Holy Spirit, meaning that man is passive in this work of the Holy Spirit. (“Repent” is a command kept only by the work of the Holy Spirit.) The distinction between law and Gospel is at the heart of everything the church does, says, etc. We can judge mission faithfulness on the Gospel rightly preached and the sacrament rightly administered. Any wrongly divided law and Gospel is not properly the work of Evangelism.

9.Furthermore, the proper distinction between law and Gospel is a personal and individual distinction. As Luther taught us, the Law is for the proud and puffed-up, the Gospel for the despairing. This means that evangelism cannot be programmatic or scripted, but that the conversation between the church and the unbeliever will include listening and an attempt to discern the condition of the person to apply the proper word of God at the proper time.

10.Even furthermore, this means that “Evangelism Training” will be nothing more than continued study and meditation on the proper distinction between law and Gospel.

11.The Word of God, being the means of the Holy Spirit in creating faith in the heart of sinful man, is effective. It is a false and dangerous tendency to treat the Word of God as mere information that only has benefit when accepted and acted upon (as is the case with American Evangelicalism). The Gospel is the authoritative declaration of sins forgiven (Absolution). In fact, the central act of Evangelism is not asking the unbeliever to come to Jesus, but rather, in the name of Jesus, forgiving their sins. Evangelism is the Church speaking the Absolution to the World.

12.Through the Sacraments, as through the Word, the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith. The Lutheran Church therefore recognizes the central role of baptism in the evangelism of the world. It is impossible to talk about evangelism Biblically without speaking about the Lord’s gift of baptism.

13.The means of grace are resistible. Therefore the Church expects rejection. Furthermore, the Lutheran church resists the temptation to look for “more efficient means” of evangelism, as if we could find something less resistible than the divinely appointed means.

14.A Christian is still a sinner in need of the Lord’s mercy. Therefore the church, knowing her own sin and the superabundant grace of God, gladly welcomes sinners into her midst to hear of the Lord’s love and mercy. A church/congregation without this hospitality has lost her first love.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Good Reminder...

A good reminder from Rev. Eric Brown at Confessional Gadfly: Blizzard Post:

I know I haven't posted much lately (I did make this blog post over at 4 and 20 Blackbirds because. . . well, it's been snowy and things have been slow.  But let me tell you what I've been pondering. Activity and Passivity. I'm not going to write too much because a lot of these ideas are going to come out in this Sunday's sermons.

We can want to be so active - we can want to define who we are by what we do.  That's fine for life in the world - that's fine when it comes to our loving our neighbor. But when dealing with God, we are to be passive - we are to be still. We aren't to be the doers - we are to be those who hear what Christ has done. We aren't to be the talkers, we are to hear the Words of Christ. We aren't to do do do, we receive our Lord's Body and Blood because He has done it all.

So, if you too are snowed in, and you see the piles of things that could be done... relax. Read a bit of Scripture - listen to the Word of God. Relax, be refreshed by Christ, and delight in Him.

- Rev. Eric Brown of the Confessional Gadfly blog

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reverse Progress

I want to share an excerpt from a book I'm reading by Dr. John Kleinig, Grace Upon Grace:  Spirituality for Today.

The self-sacrificial death of Christ shapes our spiritual life and gives our lives their paradoxical character.  So Christ's sacrifice reverses and revises all common notions of spiritual progress.

We all, quite understandably, long for some evidence of spiritual development and improvement, for some clear proof that we are on the right track as disciples of Christ.  Nothing is more discouraging than failure, the sense that we are bogged down and are getting nowhere in our spiritual journey.  The image that appeals to me most is the picture of my life as a spiritual journey from darkness to the light (Prov. 4:18) as I go from strength to strength (Psalm 84:7) and from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Yet this progressive understanding of the spiritual life is not backed up by my experience and by the teaching of the New Testament.  There is progress in the spiritual life, but it is a kind of reverse or paradoxical progress, our baptismal progress out of our old selves and into Christ.

You may remember that the Lord God appeared to His people at Mount Sinai.  That encounter was His great theophany.  His foundational appearance to the children of Israel.  Yet it happened in a strange way.  His glory, His visible gracious presence, was veiled in a cloud that was dark by day and bright at night.  He concealed Himself in that deep dark cloud so that He could reveal Himself safely while speaking.  So, from a human point of view, the closer they came to Him, the deeper they came into the darkness.  Thus in Exodus 20:21 we read that "the people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was."

The journey of Moses into God's presence is an apt symbol for the odd progress in our spiritual life:  the progress takes us through the darkness, rather than from the darkness, into the light of God.  As we mature in faith, we move away from pride in ourselves and our own achievements to a gradual awareness of our spiritual failure and Christ's work in us as we entrust ourselves to Him.  We move away from the conviction that we are self-sufficient to the repeated experience of spiritual bankruptcy.  We move on from delusions of our spiritual importance to a growing sense of our utter insignificance and the glory of God.  We move on from delight in our own power to the painful recognition of our spiritual weakness.  We are brought from our self-righteousness to the increasing consciousness that we are sinful.  In each of these painful realizations, we recognize the glory of God.  Christ fills our emptiness and justifies us by grace.  In short, the power of Christ is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

In our human lives, growing up involves the gradual shift from dependence to independence.  But the reverse is true for us as we grow spiritually.  On our journey we become more and more dependent on Christ for everything in every situation.  We do not then proceed from childhood to adulthood; we move forward into spiritual childhood as we grow in faith and become people of prayer.  Hence Jesus tells us to become as little children to receive our full royal inheritance as sons and daughters of God (Matthew 18:3).  As we mature in faith we learn to borrow all we need and all that we are from Christ.  Only as beggars do we have access to the Father's presence and His grace.  Only as we receive grace upon grace from His fullness (John 1:16) can we praise Him in the heavenly choir (Ephesians 1:3-14).

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church - Now on Video

Found on the New Reformation Press website.

I have listened to this audio a few times...  it has been a breath of fresh air while in the midst of the evangelical circus here in America... This takes a few minutes, but is well worth your time.

Dr. Rod Rosenbladt on "The Gospel For Those Broken By The Church" from Faith Lutheran Church on Vimeo.