Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Reaching People

On the home page of a congregational web site that I visited this evening the following was stated:

In case the text is hard to read here it is again:

Reaching People.... Changing Lives

We are here to serve our community with God's Word, and to make a difference in people's lives for eternity!

I am not supplying a link to the web page as I do not wish to make the congregation itself the focus, but rather to address the “mission statement.”

If we examine this mission statement we can perceive the misunderstandings that are prevailing in churches today, misunderstandings that are turning Christianity upside down and inside out.

The first phrase of this statement is very revealing. When reading the Scriptures, whom are we commanded to serve? Are we ever commanded to serve the community? Are we not commanded: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve”? (Matthew 4:10)

Regarding serving the Word of the Lord to people, to whom are we commanded to do this and in what setting? Is this not to the Church, the communion of the saints, that the Word is to be served, and thus we speak of the divine service of Word and Sacrament?

It certainly is true that we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves, and thus we will be of service to our neighbors. But whom are we serving in doing this? Who is our master that is being served? Who therefore is the one to whom we look for the definition of such service to neighbor?

The second phrase is also revealing. In what way do the Scriptures say that the Church and the churches and the saints who are of the churches to make a difference in people’s lives? Do the Scriptures speak of the Church as being sent to the world to “reach out” to the world? Or do the Scriptures speak of the Church as a light set on a hill to which the people of the world will draw near? Moreover, what light enlightens the Church so as to make it a light to the world? What are the means by which people are served?

Regarding the Church’s world view, is the Church commanded by Christ to reach out to the world or to avoid the world?

Regarding those who do not repent but seek to mingle worldly elements with the life of the Church, how does the Lord Jesus say that such people are to be regarded by the Church? (Hint: Matthew 18:17 ; Romans 16:17)

In Matthew 18 the Lord Jesus teaches that the purpose of the office of the keys is to lead sinners to repentance. The purpose of the Church is the administration of the means of grace, which are the means of forgiveness and life. The Church is not about what we do but about what God does for us and for all who observe what God is doing for us and amongst us so that they come to be converted to be recipients of His grace, too. This can only happen when the Church stands apart as those who have called out of the world.

Sadly the churches have forgotten this and have actually ceased being the Church, the called out. Today the churches imagine that they are the ones who are to call out, rather than being the called out. They imagine that being witnesses is equal to being those who have the power to call people to faith. Then they imagine that they also have the authority to determine how the calling out is to be done.

When this shift occurs in the focus of the churches and the members they themselves become the focus of their witness. Their works and their efforts and their love is what rules the hearts and minds of the congregation.

The message of the Gospel is the proclamation of the works and efforts and love of God in Christ. It is the proclamation of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, proclaimed in words and deeds, more accurately, in God’s words and deeds, that is, in the words of Christ expounded purely and in the right administration of the Sacraments.

Looking back to the “mission statement”, whose mission statement is this? Are the words of Christ even mentioned? Are the Sacraments that He ordained mentioned? Is this not upside down and inside out from what Christ says of His Church and of the meaning of being His witnesses?

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