Saturday, May 15, 2010

We Care About Mission Money

Whenever I receive an envelope in the mail with this return address and insignia, I know that I am being hit up for money. I know that this group has one and only one interest concerning me and my family, like the Federal Reserve’s Internal Revenue Service, they want my money.

The material enclosed always includes a letter that begins like this one:

The intent of the letter is to inform me how much the LC-MS cares about mission work and the spread of the Gospel so as to move my heart to give them money. Isn’t that lovely? The LC-MS wants me to know how much they care about the Gospel and about mission work and about missionaries and about the sharing of the Gospel on the home front and in the military. Perhaps I will refrain from the sarcastic reminders of the many ways in which the LC-MS has withdrawn support for this work and misused the people’s monies for other-than-Gospel purposes. Perhaps I’ll let those who are in the know reflect upon and react to those issues.

This month’s money request has this very carefully chosen and attractive cover on the envelope:

“GOING where God leads us...” is what it declares. The emphasis is on going. Let’s get going. All CAPS are used for going. “where God leads us...” is given a lesser emphasis. This is what concerns me to a much greater degree than the fact that I continue to receive assaults upon my conscience in attempts to obtain my money.

This seemingly insignificant variation in emphasis has very significant impact upon the practice of those who hold it. Thus the pursuit of my money. With the primary emphasis being on GOING, the practice that follows this emphasis is on works of men. Perhaps it is actually the other way around. The preponderance of the focus on the works of men drives the emphasis on GOING.

This is very likely the biggest false doctrine attached to missiology and evangelism. The mission is not comprised of the works of men. The Gospel is God’s work, work in which He includes men. This false doctrine, which reverses the works of God and men, changes everything. Thus the LC-MS World Mission organization is not even concerned about me and my spiritual well-being. They are not in the least concerned about whether or not my wife and I have survived the horrendous evils that the LC-MS has perpetrated against us, nor concerning the hundreds of other pastors who have been abused. Their only concern is to attempt to persuade me to give them money to GO.

Yet they have the audacity to claim as their motto: “GOING where God leads us...” The church body is divided to such a degree that some are hoping to regain 50-80 % unity in the future. Where is the evidence of the church body and its missiology being directed and led by God? Do the Scriptures ever give any indication whatsoever of the apostles considering seeking financial support from beyond those with whom they are in communion? Did the apostles ever indicate in any way that mission work could be effectively pursued apart from 100% unity in doctrine and practice?

When unity in doctrine and practice is the primary concern, what is the result? Is not unity the result? When unity exists, do the people not of their own accord give from their hearts for the work that the Holy Spirit urges?

Is this not the problem in the churches today? Borrowing from a very common cliche, the cart is being hitched in front of the horse. Under such conditions, the horse struggles even when whipped severely. Is it possible that the churches will someday remember that the mission begins with teaching, that is, Baptism, as the Lord of the Church declares in Matthew 28? The mission begins with proper catechization of the Baptized within the congregation. Proper catechization includes regular participation in the Eucharist, by which true unity is embraced and made real. How many churches today completely ignore this ultimate manifestation of unity and proclamation of the Lord’s death, that is, the pure Gospel? How many churches never even discern the body of Christ at this most rudimentary and essential and defining level? How then can they imagine themselves to be led by God in anything, when they openly defy what God has ordained for the life of His Church on earth?

Christ declares Himself to be the way, the truth, and the life. The way cannot be discerned or acknowledged apart from the truth. Morever, the life of the Church cannot in any way be divorced from or contrary to the way and the truth. Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.

When churches forget this as the foundation of the Church, when churches forget that only pure administration of the Gospel and Sacraments has the effect that God promises for the Church, how can they imagine that they have the ability to go forth by God’s leading? If they want to receive God’s leading, they really need to listen to what He says. Don’t they?

When they remember this, they won’t need to reach out for money and they won’t need to reach out with the Gospel. For the Gospel is a light and the true Church is the light that God sets up on the hill for all to see so that people will come to the light. Mission work begins with the local congregation. What sort of witness is it to send forth missionaries when even the local congregations do not show forth the light that is to be carried abroad?

Notice that St. Paul did not urge the Corinthians to support mission work. Why not? Because they were the mission that needed the Gospel. They were so divided that the apostle told them that their supper was not the Lord’s Supper. He warned them that they were partaking of the table of demons. Until the unity that the pure Gospel produces was manifest among them, they had no light to show to the world. Thus he called them to repent, to return to the complete unity in which they at first shared together. At the end of the admonishments he finally called upon them to unite with the Galatians, who were also plagued by disunity, in supporting the saints, that is, the Church that was distressed by persecution on account of faithfulness to the pure Gospel.

St. Paul spoke of mission work to congregations that were united in Christ. He even asked them for their financial support. Could it be that the one whom the Lord Jesus called as the apostle to the Gentiles actually knows the manner in which mission work should be pursued? Could it be that the Holy Spirit inspired men to record these things for us to hear so as to be led by God? Whom should be counted as correct, the Holy Spirit and those who were directly inspired by the Holy Spirit, or a bureaucratic organ of a church body created and directed by men? Which is truly the mission of the Church, collecting money for GOING, or standing fast in the unity of the true Faith?

No comments: