Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Member Prospects

In November of last year I was sorting old files and materials, refiling what is needed and disposing of the rest. In the process, I came upon something that literally made me sick to my stomach. It was a folder that was labeled, “New Member Prospects.”

When I saw this I realized something terrible. I realized how most Christians today view evangelism. This was not really a new discovery for me. What was new is the fullness of the realization that this view is one in which I have participated and one that I have promoted. While I can recall a longtime and latent uneasiness in my heart and spirit in this regard, it never hit me this strongly.

What sort of an attitude toward evangelism promotes the labeling of visitors and people in general as New Member Prospects? It certainly does not come from a proper understanding of the Gospel and of God’s love for the world in Christ Jesus.

From where does this mentality come? It comes from a false understanding of the Church and of the cause of the Church. The Church is produced not by anything that we do or promote, but by the power of God unto salvation, namely, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yet, for as long as I can remember, I was taught by my pastors and by church leaders to view the activity of the Church and of the sharing of the Gospel as opportunities to bring people into the Church and especially into the local congregation.

But is this what the Church is about? Is this the motivation behind evangelism, that is, the sharing of the Gospel?

Or is Evangelism simply the proclamation and application of the pure Gospel through the means that God has ordained within His Church on earth? Can it really be that simple? Is the Gospel really the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes? (Romans 1:16) Are the Sacraments really effective in the way that the Lord and His apostles promise? Is that really all that the Church is about, holding to and preaching the pure Gospel and administering the Sacraments rightly so that people receive forgiveness and life through them?

But what about reaching out to the world? What about gaining new members for the Church?

Who claims this as His work? Is it not the work of God, the Holy Spirit, as the one to whom this work is attributed in the Scriptures? Does the Holy Spirit really need for us to devise plans and programs to make Him more effective? Or is it enough that the Church abides in the Word as Christ commanded and to love one another as He has loved us so that we eagerly gather in His name to receive His gifts and to share together in His Holy Communion? If the local congregation truly believed this so as to live by it, would the world not see the love of God at work and be drawn to Him in His body, even without our bold and inventive programs and record keeping?

Is it any wonder that the Church is treated more like an organization or worse, like a business?

The Gospel is the cause of the Church’s existence. It is not a tool by which the membership roles are increased. It is not a tool for increasing the offerings so as to keep the doors open. It is the very life of the Church, whether the local congregation meets in a well furnished sanctuary or in an open field with no doors to keep open. Moreover, the Gospel is the preaching of Christ crucified, by whose sacrifice we are counted as righteous. Should we strive to be better Christians? Should we seek “new member prospects?”

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom 10:15)

Is this not what the Gospel really is? Is this not what the Church is about? Is this not how the Lord defines evangelism?


Ron said...

I agree that church should not be ran like a business, and that evangelism shouldn't be about increasing the roles at church. It is about preaching and teaching the Word, through which the Holy Spirit works.

However, "[Jesus] sent out his disciples two by two...So they went out and preached that people should repent." (Mark 6:6-12) I agree with much of what you say but then it sounds like you are advocating against sharing the Law and Gospel with others. Are you saying that the Holy Spirit will lead them to a church instead - and there is no need to share anything with them outside of church?

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Ron,

Thank you for your gentle, thoughtful, and polite challenge. If you were only seeking to make your point, your point would have been better served by quoting Mark 16:15. But then, you are not merely seeking to make your point, are you? I expect that you are genuinely seeking to know what God is saying to the Church through His holy Scriptures.

In Mk. 16:15 the Lord says, “Having gone into all the world, preach the Gospel to all the creation.” Here the sense is a deliberate journeying into the world, having gone by a command. But the Lord does not here say go to all the world, but into all the world. There is a difference. As the book of Acts progresses Luke records the apostles doing this very thing, especially the Lord’s specially ordained apostle to the Gentiles, St. Paul. Yet even St. Paul always goes first to the synagogues, and then, having been rejected there, he goes to the homes of those who are truly of Christ and the Church continues in these gatherings. In each instance people who observed this came to the Church and learned from the Church, both by the witness of the life of the congregation as well as by invitation of individual members of the body of Christ.

In the sending that is recorded in Mark 6, we do well to include the fuller record in Matthew 10, where Jesus tells the twelve,

Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. . .”

The witness of the Church has always been the Lord’s call to be separated unto Him in His Holy Communion. If those professing to be the Church truly lived in the communion that God has established rather than seeking to establish a communion by their own efforts, the witness to the world would be uncompromisable, because it would be God’s witness rather than ours.

To the woman in Matthew 15:24 Jesus declares that He was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

This is the understanding that has been falsely catechized out of existence among us today. The Church is not of the world, but lives in the world. The Church is the Communion of God that He has separated unto Himself, to which the world is drawn. The Church is the body of Christ, made up of those who have been baptized into Him. This is where the Gospel lives through the living Word in the means of grace. The regeneration is worked by God in Christ, in His body.

This is why Jesus said that no one can come to Him unless the Father draws him. (John 6:24)

Now you said that it sounds like I am advocating against sharing the Law and Gospel with others. Yet where have I said anything like this?

Where has Jesus promised to be present? Where two or three are gathered in His name. He also has promised to live in the baptized believer by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit poured out through Baptism.

So if the only way to Jesus is by the Father’s leading, where will the Father lead a person? Will it not be to where Jesus is, meaning, to the gathering of the saints in the name of Jesus and to the individuals who manifest by their lives that Jesus is living in them? Do unbelievers not perceive the difference in the life of Christians in the workplace, on the highway, in their participation in government? If the Father has been working in a person through the trials of life, will such a person not ask their Christian co-workers and neighbors about the obvious differences that are observed? Moreover, will not the saints who see their neighbors in distress of any kind stop to offer assistance and to bind up their wounds? Will the saints not speak kindly to their neighbors and befriend them in every possible way so that having observed the caring nature of the Christian the neighbor feels safe in confiding his hurts and troubles, thereby opening the door for sharing of Law and Gospel as the Holy Spirit leads?

Do you see the contrast between viewing evangelism as an activity and viewing it as the communication of life? Those who are truly alive in Christ live by faith, and that life of faith shows like a neon sign in the dead of night. Those who truly live by faith communicate the life of faith by their lives and when asked, joyously and meekly give an explanation for the hope that is in them as Peter says in 1 Pet. 3:15.

It is impossible for one who is guarded by the peace of God that surpasses all understanding to keep this peace to himself. It is obvious to all who see it. Moreover the person who truly has the hope of life in him is always aware of the hurts and troubles of others, and is always looking for that blessed opportunity to share that hope with those who are open to hearing it.

But as the woman in Matt. 15:27 graciously acknowledges, these are the crumbs that spill from the masters’ tables. The Church feasts richly upon God’s means of grace, so richly that the crumbs cover those feasting and as they go out into the world the crumbs fall everywhere.

If only the congregations would be satisfied with living by faith rather than by works. Then all the world would see the works that flow from the faith that God works in His Church and in the lives of His saints. Then the saints would not leave the divine service still hungry, having been filled with the sawdust that many imagine is equal to the feast that God has prepared for His Church. Then the Church would truly be the place that the world sees as the gathering unto life to receive life.

Ron said...

Your response leaves me still somewhat confused! I don't see a parallel between Paul on Mars Hill and waiting until we befriend someone and them finally (maybe) asking us about Christ. Jesus goes to the woman at the well and brings out her sin and shows her living water. Are we not to do the same?

I truly am trying to understand this aspect of Lutheran belief, as I often find, the truth is much deeper than I at first thought. I have difficulty understanding your teaching on works (from your last paragraph) - a very similar topic. I also believe that true works flow from faith, otherwise they are as filthy rags. Likewise evangelism is brought by faith, and salvation is 100% the Lord's doing. Works are a necessary result, likewise so is evangelism. How can we stand by with compassion knowing that many will perish if they are not told? The Lord has chosen to come to humanity by words, and these we must speak to others.

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Ron,

I very much appreciate the passion that you have for this subject.

You say, “Your response leaves me still somewhat confused!”

Your use of an exclamation point is powerful. Moreover, the fact that you do not give a clear indication of the direction of your frustration leaves open the continuation of discussion. By this it seems that your frustration is not unidirectional. It seems that you are frustrated both with my presentation of what seems foreign to you and also with the fact that something about what I am saying rings true, even though you are not certain that the point is true. Yet you remain willing to hear the matter further.

At the end of your comment you present two parts of what makes this a confusing issue for all of us. You present our inability to acknowledge fully that our works of faith and our sharing of the Gospel are works that God produces in us and secondly that we are unable to trust that God will actually reach the world through us through the appointed means. I will elaborate.

First, back to your challenge regarding St. Paul in Acts 17. You mention his sharing of the Gospel at the Areopagus or Mar’s Hill, but you do not consider how he came to be at the Areopagus. Why? Because emotions tend to rule over us when they are not kept in check. Our “compassion” for the lost can become a stumbling block to us when OUR compassion is what motivates us rather than God’s Will being the directing force for us. I personally find this struggle to be very intense as I consider those who are dying both without and within the Church.

In Acts 17 Luke clearly shows us that St. Paul and his companions shared the Gospel as they traveled. In each area they (St. Paul in particular) sought out a synagogue of the Jews and went in to them and reasoned with them from the Scriptures. As is the case today in the churches, the reception of the Gospel was mixed. Some were persuaded and followed while others drove them out. First in Thessalonika, then in Berea, and then in Athens. Each time St. Paul went first to the synagogue. In Athens, while he was waiting for Silas and Timothy, he went to the synagogue and in between times he went to the marketplace, a community gathering place. As is the way with those who are living in the Gospel, he spoke of the Gospel with those who happened to be there. While he was sharing (most likely with those whom he had encountered at the synagogue), certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him (literally: threw together at him). Then they took him to the Areopagus asking him to explain his “new doctrine.”

So we see that as St. Paul normally practiced, he went to the synagogue, where he would encounter those who were of Christ. There he preached that the Christ had come and proclaimed to them the fulfillment of all of God’s promises in Christ. There, in the Christian synagogue, both Christians and pseudo-Christians worshiped. The true Christians were manifested by their reception of the Gospel from the apostle and by their continuing to follow Christ’s apostle’s doctrine. The pseudo-Christians argued and became angry at the apostle’s intolerant presentation of the truth. In the Athenian synagogue, those who were interested continued their conversations with the apostle in the local coffee shop (marketplace). Their conversations were overheard by the philosophers, who love to debate anything and everything, mostly from the love of debate, but a few from a desire to know the truth. These philosophers, these interlopers, took hold of him and brought him to their place of worship, where their altars were built. St. Paul did not choose to go to Mar’s Hill, but was coaxed and led there by those who overheard him speaking in the coffee shop.

This kind of spilling over to those outside of the Church is what is observed throughout the book of Acts. In 17:32 Luke informs us that after St. Paul explained his doctrine, and especially the resurrection of the dead, some mocked him while others said that they would hear him again. But in verse 34 Luke says that some joined him and believed.

But St. Paul did not devise a plan to go to Mar’s Hill. They observed him in his preaching and brought him to their own people. They approached him!

Now, by this, I do not mean to say that it is wrong to commission pastors/evangelists to go to areas where the Church has not yet been established as missionaries. I am not saying in any way that a person CANNOT make the first move toward someone who is outside the Church. What I AM saying is that this is not the definition of evangelism.

Evangelism is the communication or giving of Life. As John declares in John 1:4 “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” This life is given to and through the life of the Church, in and through the means of grace administered in accord with the pure Word. Christ is the vine into which we are ingrafted. And this ingrafting is not something that we can do for ourselves or for anyone else. As St. Paul declares, Rom 11:24, “After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” All that we can do is to remain in the cultivated olive tree through the means of grace. Our pastors can and must administer the means of grace in absolute purity so that we do not become intoxicated and wither and become toxic to the tree so that the Lord must cut us off. But He is the one who joins us to Christ through Baptism. He is the one who draws us to Himself in His body.

Perhaps an illustration would be of some benefit. In a human body, the head determines the body’s activities. The heart pumps blood throughout. The hands and feet serve the body. The feet carry the body where the head determines and the hands reach out to grasp what the head directs them to grasp. Yet the hands and feet do not extend beyond the extension of the arms and legs. Moreover, the hands and feet can grab something from outside the body and force it into the body, but cannot make it part of the body. Unless the part that is being brought into the body is of the same blood type and in other ways compatible, it will neither become part of the body nor be received by the body. Moreover, permanent damage can be caused to both the body and the foreign part.

This is why Jesus says, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” Those who are of Jesus, even though they do not yet know it, when they hear His voice, through the preaching of the Church which is carried in the lives of the members, they recognize their good Shepherd and respond in faith.

The Church is truly about evangelism, “good news doctrine”. Pure doctrine is the life of the Church. Pure doctrine is the preaching of nothing other than Christ crucified. From this perspective every Christian is an evangelist, the doctrine of the Church alive and breathing.

Yet in three places the Scriptures specifically speak of evangelists. In Ephesians 4, St. Paul lists evangelists as one of Christ’s gifts to the Church .

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)

Notice that these are stated as gifts for the edifying of the body of Christ. Four specific offices are mentioned, ending with the office of pastors/teachers. The first office is for the laying of the foundation. The second office is the proclamation of this doctrine upon which the Church is built up. The third is the office of evangelist, those who travel as missionaries and carry the Gospel to new areas, calling together the sheep of the other folds and establishing new congregations. Then is the office of pastor and teacher, who continues this work in the local congregation. Each of these offices are really the same office, manifested in the most general manifestation to the Church and progressing to more and more specific manifestations, with the final manifestation in the local congregation where the life of the Church is applied to each family and member.

Now Luke records in Acts 21:8 that Phillip, who lived in Caesarea, in whose house Paul’s company stayed, is identified as “the evangelist”, one of the seven deacons. Again in 2 Timothy 4:5 St. Paul tells Timothy to do the work of an evangelist in conjunction with enduring afflictions and fulfilling his ministry. So Phillip was one who preached the Gospel in a more outward manner, while Timothy was one who preached the Gospel as a local pastor, with the full duties of the pastoral office entrusted to him.

Now concerning Phillip, in Acts 8 we learn that he was caught up and carried away by the Spirit so that the eunuch saw him no more, but was found at Azotus. From there he went through the cities of Judea, preaching the Gospel, ending in Caesarea. In Acts 8 we learn how it is that Phillip came to be in Samaria to encounter the eunuch. He, like most of the rest of the saints in Jerusalem, were scattered by the persecution. Yet wherever they were scattered, they preached the Word. It was the Spirit who told Phillip to run up to the eunuch and the Spirit who carried him to Azotus.

This is what I am trying to emphasize. Evangelism is not AN activity of the Church but THE activity, the very life of the Church. It is the life of the Church which is observed in the life of the members. As the saints live and breathe the Gospel, it spills over to the world. As it spills over, some respond and are incorporated into the body through Baptism and kept in the life through the means of grace.

In all of the New Testament Epistles, how often do we hear admonishments to go out and witness to the world? On the other hand, how often are we told to hold fast to the means of grace in the Church? Christians don’t need to hear sermons about how to make themselves into good witnesses. To Peter, in John 21, Jesus did not tell Peter to preach to the world, but said, “Feed My lambs . . . tend My sheep . . . feed My sheep.” Then, in obedience to his Lord Peter writes,

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. (1 Pet 3:15-16)

Jesus says, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matt 5:14-16)

As the Church continues in Christ through the means of grace, the world sees. They see the love of God at work. They see how God’s love rules our lives. They see how we do all things as unto the Lord. They see how the peace of God guards us in Christ Jesus. They see how this love is displayed even toward our enemies so that rather than cursing them, we bless them and pray for them. Then they ask us what in the world is wrong with us and we point to Christ crucified. Then they either mock us or they say, “Oh my God! I see. Tell me more. How can I share in what has been given to you?”

This is why I say that evangelism is the communication of life. As a Christian lives by faith, the life of justification is communicated. The light does shine through us and people do draw near to the light. But in order for the light to shine through us, it first has to be in us, through the means by which it is given. If the means of grace are compromised, how can they be effective in us? As Jesus says, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matt 5:13)

The Ten Words or Commandments set forth the witness of the Church and of those who are of the Church.

1. Theology = God knowledge. Christians know God for who He says that He is and do not try to know God by their own knowledge.

2. Christians know God and call upon His name. They do not misuse His name by attaching it to things that He has not declared or given. They do not proclaim things to be of God and in connection with His name unless He has declared them to be so connected.

3. Christians gather unto the Lord in His holiness, setting all else aside, they live in Him in the unity of the true faith through the pure means of grace.

4. Christians live under the authority of God and submit to those who have been placed over them by God.

5-10. In every aspect of life, God’s love rules and directs the lives of those who know His love. They respect others and love them even as they love themselves. Christians trust God’s grace to be sufficient for all things and live accordingly.

When this is what people see in the lives of those who profess to be the Church, people do notice and they perceive the specialness of this life. This shows in every aspect of the life of the saints.

And yes, the saints will look with compassion upon everyone, beginning with the household of faith. They will love one another as Christ loves us. They will greet one another with a holy kiss. And those who are not of the household of faith will be treated with love and compassion as well. This will include sharing the Gospel in words when permitted, and in actions always. It especially will be demonstrated by maintaining the unity of the faith, standing apart from the world and the ways of the world.

I don’t know whether I have answered you to your satisfaction. I hope that at least I have not increased your frustration and confusion.

Ron the ranch hand said...


I haven't yet had time to read your entire response, but I wanted to respond to your first few paragraphs now. I apologize for my inability to properly express my thoughts, but this is a difficult subject for me to understand. You are not quite correct in that my frustration is indeed unidirectional, but toward myself. :-) I have a good brother (also a Lutheran - I believe you two would be like peas in a pod and get along famously) who speaks as you do and I am often in lengthy discussions with him on these issues as he talks like you do.

I believe I recently had a 'breakthrough' on the issue of communion. How could we receive forgiveness through communion if Jesus died once for our sins - past, present, and future? Well I asked my pastor, my friend, etc. to no avail. I finally found an Issues, Etc. podcast on communion and got the answer that made sense to me. It is like a present wrapped, bought and paid for. It still has to be given to us, and that is what happens in communion. Wow!

I feel that is the type of 'breakthrough' I am hoping for on the issue of evangelism and on works. I believe that on a certain level I understand - and agree with you. It is ALL God's doing. What perplexes me is that past that I just don't see where you (or my friend) is coming from! However let me finish your response and hopefully that will shed some light on the issue. I look forward to it!

May God's light shine down upon you...

Ron the ranch hand said...


Resuming my last post and response. I am thankful to the Lord for your patience and understanding...

Regarding your paragraph on St. Paul at Mars Hill, and our compassion vs. God's Will as a motivating factor. I appreciate (and find it enlightening) that you struggle with this. How do we separate God's Will from our 'compassion'? God only talks to us through his Word, correct? If he tells us to go forth and spread the Word - well you get my point. Which makes me realize I don't get yours!

Part of my frustration stems from the fact that I say that I understand - and believe - that all works, salvation, etc. originate from God. Yet you seem to repeat these fundamental concepts as if I didn't say them (or don't understand them). I wonder if we are missing in our understanding of each other when we talk about how God accomplishes his Work? For instance I would say the compassion to witness originates from God, whereas I understand you are saying that this compassion is our will (and I agree it COULD be). I believe you are also saying that Gods will is for us to teach and preach the Word and administer the sacraments. In areas where the church is established this will have a 'spillover' effect and this is how God will primarily reach the lost in these areas. I would agree and also say that God's will is for us to teach and preach the Word and administer the sacraments (church is for believers) and I can see some 'spillover', but also reaching out - going to the marketplace as St. Paul did. This as a result of compassion brought to all believers through the Holy Spirit.


I finally read through your entire letter (quite a good read I must say) and I think it helps. I am still not sure if I agree with your assessment that Paul's subsequent conversations in the marketplace were simply 'spillover' from preaching in the synagogues, and that he was coerced into going to Mars Hill. I didn't know that the synagogues where already Christian in nature. I thought Paul was going to Jewish places of worship to spread the word (especially on his first trip). Indeed, rereading Acts 17 seems to indicate that the synagogue was indeed Jewish and that he went to the marketplace in order to talk to people: "Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there." So it would seem that he sought out opportunities to witness. It certainly isn't my intention to argue with you point for point, I am simply trying to understand. I also realize that your education on this far surpasses mine...

I like your comment that "Evangelism is not AN activity of the Church but THE activity, the very life of the Church." and your point of the focus of the epistles. I will certainly think on these. I thank you again for your time and patience!

Ron the ranch hand said...

P.S. Now its after midnight. Thanks for keeping me up past my bedtime! :-)

Not Alone +++ PAS said...

Dear Ron,

I just noticed your most recent responses. While I don’t think that I can take credit for the fact that this discussion captivates you so that you stay up past your bedtime, if you blame me I guess I will simply smile and say “Thank you.”

You say:
I haven't yet had time to read your entire response, but I wanted to respond to your first few paragraphs now. I apologize for my inability to properly express my thoughts, but this is a difficult subject for me to understand.

Just so that you know, it is my practice never to respond without first reading a person’s note entirely. Then, I generally read it at least once more, if not several times. I find that it is not possible to understand a person’s meaning without first hearing the entire context. I also find that reading it several times helps me to hear from the total context and to help to reduce what I may have read in from my own perspective. Might be worth considering.

You are right in describing this as a difficult topic. The right understanding of any aspect of the faith is difficult, even more than difficult, IMPOSSIBLE. But as the Lord Jesus reminds us, with God, all things are possible. It is the Holy Spirit alone who rightly interprets the prophesy of Scripture. It is through wrestling with Him that we receive the blessing of a dislocated hip so that we must limp along in the continual and painful awareness of our hopeless condition. Then, instead of running with our own ideas, we limp along, clinging to the Scriptures and look to the Holy Spirit to carry us along to the knowledge of true theology (God knowledge).

Moreover, you are right to recognize the difficulty even of expressing ourselves well. We struggle to understand our own thoughts. Then, when we think that we understand ourselves and attempt to share what we think that we understand with others, we find that we still are limping along. Please make special note of the We in my sentences.

You mentioned a ‘breakthrough’ on the issue of communion. You will find that the more you understand this issue, the more that you will want to understand. This is why St. Paul refers to it as “the mystery” musterion, which comes from the verb “to shut the mouth”. He speaks of this mystery a number of times, but in Ephesians 5:32 he ties it directly to the communion of Christ and His body/bride.

You share the nice little example from Issues of the present needing to be given. While this is a good point to start, the mystery is much more marvelous. Through Baptism, God causes the person to be regenerated as a saint in His kingdom. This newly born saint wakes up to find himself alienated from the world and caught up in a war that the world and its prince are waging against Christ and His Church. By means of the first three commandments, the Lord insures that His little Christians are aware of the place of safety that He has provided for them. As they gather into the safety of the Holy Communion, there they receive the continual feeding of the Bread of Life, applied again and again in connection with Baptism through the preaching of the holy absolution, and offered continually in the Holy Supper of the body of the Communion and the blood of the forgiveness and life. As long as the saint/sinner lives in this world of sin and death, he is in continual need of this renewal. While the gift of life is received once and for all through Baptism, this new life cannot be allowed to starve. Neither can the daily wounds encountered in the war that the world, the devil, and flesh wage against the poor little saint be left untreated.

This is what the Holy Communion is about and this is the definition of Evangelism, the communication of Life.

You also ask, “How do we separate God’s Will from our ‘compassion’?

We don’t. God does. How? Through the means of grace, which direct us away from us and our thoughts, words, deeds, emotions, and wills and to God and His thoughts, words, deeds, emotions, and will.

Then, also, God directs us to a life of worship/prayer. Through this God works to make His will our will. (See Luther’s Small Catechism explanations of the Second and Third Petitions.)

As we worship/pray, God turns our hearts from ourselves to Him (repentance) so that we reach the Fifth Petition in the Lord’s Prayer and are right back to Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

This is the Life and Witness of the Church. This is Evangelism.

You also say:
Part of my frustration stems from the fact that I say that I understand - and believe - that all works, salvation, etc. originate from God. Yet you seem to repeat these fundamental concepts as if I didn't say them (or don't understand them).

I have heard this accusation a few times before. Yet I cannot back away from the issue. If you truly understood as you say, you would not be expressing confusion in the matter.

This problem is a universal problem. No one truly understands and believes that everything originates from God. That is why we continue to resist Him. That is why we continue to need the means of grace. God is continually working to bring us to repentance. God is continually working to crucify the Old Adam and to raise up the New Adam in us. We hear the truth preached to us in the Divine Service and in the Sacraments. Then, even as we are still swallowing, we turn aside to our own understanding. This is why we must be brought back continually. There is never a time before the parousia (second coming) when the command “do this into My remembrance” becomes unnecessary.

This is especially necessary for every pastor and every head of every household. It is easy for us to become puffed up in our thinking so that we think that we understand sufficiently to be beyond the need for instruction. Luther warns against this in his prefaces to the Catechisms.

You also say:
For instance I would say the compassion to witness originates from God, whereas I understand you are saying that this compassion is our will (and I agree it COULD be).

Here is what I said:
First, back to your challenge regarding St. Paul in Acts 17. You mention his sharing of the Gospel at the Areopagus or Mar’s Hill, but you do not consider how he came to be at the Areopagus. Why? Because emotions tend to rule over us when they are not kept in check. Our “compassion” for the lost can become a stumbling block to us when OUR compassion is what motivates us rather than God’s Will being the directing force for us. I personally find this struggle to be very intense as I consider those who are dying both without and within the Church.

Notice that I plainly said that our compassion CAN become a stumbling block WHEN it is OUR compassion that motivates us.

Perhaps if you read this a couple of hundred times it will make more sense. Nevertheless, I will expound. Please don’t receive that as a demeaning statement. What I am saying is that we all need to hear it over and over and over.

Regarding OUR compassion, we must always be leery. Our compassion flows from our hearts. Our hearts are polluted and corrupt. By nature, our hearts are dead and can produce nothing but death. Our compassion stinks of death. It always carries our own rotten perspectives and our own selfish motives. We cannot in this lifetime separate our emotions from our sinful nature. If something comes from us, we need to be wary.

Even in this discussion we see the proof. All of my best efforts are worthless. No matter how hard I try, I cannot make someone else understand. Even so, my very best efforts are not perfect. All of my preaching and teaching and witnessing fall short. I can’t trust myself, so how can anyone else trust me?

No. All that I can do is to point people to the body of Christ and say, ”This is where you will find Jesus and the Life and Righteousness that you hunger to receive.” All that I can do is to direct people to rely upon the pure administration of the means of grace. Anything else stinks of death and sin.

How can I know that I am directing people to the pure administration of the means of grace and how can they know for themselves that they are being directed to the pure administration of the means of grace? St. Paul answers this in 1 Corinthians 2:2. The question must always be asked, Does this direct me to rely solely upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified, or does it in any way whatsoever lead me to rely upon myself or anything else?”

The more that a person asks this question, the more narrowly theology becomes defined and the more narrowly fellowship becomes defined. Along with this narrowing of definition comes an emboldened confidence in the Truth. For with this, theology and fellowship become defined so narrowly that they point to only one gate and one path. When theology and fellowship are defined this narrowly, no room for wriggling remains, and when no wriggling occurs, all doubt disappears. The Scriptures call this Faith. This is the objective of Evangelism.

And guess who makes it happen?

Finally, regarding the Christian nature of the synagogues, it is important to remember that the promise of the Christ and the restoration to the Holy Communion has ALWAYS been the nature or foundation of the true Church. The Jewish synagogues preached this. The Jewish synagogues were Christian synagogues. Even the New Testament Church was not known by the name Christian until outsiders applied this to those in Antioch. (Acts 11:26) Synagogue means the same as congregation. And Jewish means of the tribe of Judah, of whom the Christ was promised. So, to be a Jewish synagogue properly means to be of the gathering to whom Christ is promised. If that is not a definition of the Christian Church, what is?

Evangelism was instituted when the Lord declared to the serpent that its head (Satan) would be bruised by the one who would born of the woman to have His heel bruised by the serpent. Notice that the woman and the man were not told this directly, but in pronouncing the serpent’s demise the Gospel spilled over to the woman and her husband. Then, in connection with this spillover, the Lord assures the woman that she will still be ruled over by the man and that through childbearing she shall be saved. In connection with this, the Lord turns to the man and declares that for Man’s sake the ground has been cursed, and in hearing this in connection with the spillover from what was said to the serpent and to the woman, the man hears that this curse upon the ground is the Lord’s means of calling Man to repent and believe the Gospel. His response was to turn to his wife and give her a new name, the name of Life.

Then we see that the response of the world (Cain) has always been one of seeking to please God by one’s own efforts. When this does not work, the response is envy and hatred toward the true Church (Abel). Yet the Lord continues to raise up new sons (believers/saints) of the Church (Eve), through whom the Life at work in their lives spills over to the world so that some are moved to desire this Life for themselves and ask for a defense of the hope that they observe in the lives of the saints.

Now, as I said before, this does not rule out nor forbid the saints to make deliberate efforts to reach out to their neighbors with the Gospel. What this does say is that Evangelism is not defined as such individual reaching out with the Gospel. This is just one tiny overflow of the life of the Church. It is not the Church’s focus, though this most certainly is included in her daily life. The Church’s purpose is not to reach the world with the Gospel. The Church’s purpose is to communicate the Gospel for the saints who live in the world, through whom the Gospel reaches the world.

As I read this it looms larger and larger before me. Even as I wrote it, it grew bigger before me.

It is not the Church nor even the saints who are members of the Church who reach the world with the Gospel. Rather, it is the Gospel at work in the Church and at work in the saints that reaches the world with the Life of the Church. In other words, it is Christ (the Gospel) who goes forth into the world through the lives of His saints. He is the saving one. We are merely vessels, and frail clay pots at that. It is only by the power of God for salvation (the Gospel) that the Light and Life of men reaches the world. The reason that this is effective is not because we are motivated to carry it to others, but because it is living in us, carrying us through each and every day. The Gospel is God’s work that He works in and through us. At the Last Day He will credit His work to us and say “Well Done.” What else can He say, since it is HE who has done it?

I could write another small book on how this relates to the sanctifying of the Sabbath Day. But I suppose I really should wait to see how badly I have botched the communication of what I have already written. :)