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Recent LCMS stats

2012-2013

 

The LCMS at a Glance

Category

2012

2013

Members
     Baptized

2,310,235

2,231,258

     Confirmed

1,782,673

1,731,050

Congregations

6,196

6,153

Clergy

9,420

     Serving a parish

5,404

5,734

Missionaries (FT/PT)

829

150/590

Educators

16,758

     Preschool-12

16,019

     CUS (FT/PT)

759/2,101

     Seminary (FT/PT)

59/30

Chaplains/Pastoral Counselors

675

623

Campus Ministries

242

248

Schools

     Preschools

1,295

1,376

     Elementary

923

871

     High Schools

102

88

     Colleges

10

10

     Seminaries

2

2

Each year, I receive a little card from the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod entitled, “The LCMS at a Glance.”  I’ve compared the 2012 card with the 2013.

Following is a very brief breakdown of some of the categories, numbers, and some thoughts.

1) Members, Congregations: The numbers in the categories of both Baptized and Confirmed have decreased.  This could be for any number of reasons.  However, attendance and membership in Christian congregations (at least in America), generally, are decreasing.  Fewer people today recognize their need for the Gospel.  It seems as if faithfulness to the Word is not the determining factor for numerical growth or decline. Though faithful congregations and pastors might be suffering losses, heretical congregations and pastors may be experiencing gains.  Yet, our Lord does say, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).

2) Clergy: The number of total clergy for 2013 is ominously missing, though the number of clergy serving a parish has increased from 2012.  This is encouraging, yet I wonder how many clergy are serving in district and synodical offices.  What might be helpful is to categorize the number of part-time and full-time pastors, too, as a growing number of clergy in the LCMS are becoming part-time pastors due to congregational circumstances.

3) Missionaries: The number of total missionaries has also decreased somewhat in 2013 from 2012.  What is not noted here are the changes which have taken place in the LCMS regarding full-time missionaries.  Currently, certain full-time international missionaries are in need of raising their own funds, before serving in their positions overseas.  These missionaries have, in some cases, resigned their call of the congregation to which they were serving, and then received a call from the LCMS Board for Missions to serve as missionaries.  Such circumstances place a great burden on clergy who desire to serve as missionaries, as many (most/all) have families to support, and they have to raise enough money even to begin serving.  At the same time, however, they and their families need support, too.  Interestingly, the numbers of converts to Christianity are much higher overseas (i.e. Africa, China) than in the United States, even where great persecution of Christians exist.

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Faithful Pastors Preach Christ and His Word

 

Dr. C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the church body now know as The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, in an 1848 presidential address, addressed the synod in convention, which included these words concerning the relationship between pastor and congregation:

“Only such a preacher is a servant of men as does not serve Christ faithfully because of fear of men or because of desire to please men, departs from God’s Word in doctrine or practice, and preaches for the itching ears of his audience.  But where the pastor is given only the power of the Word, but its full power, where the congregation, as often as it hears Chris’s Word from the mouth of the preacher, receives it as the Word of God, there the proper relationship between pastor and congregation exists; he stands in their midst not as a hired mercenary but as an ambassador of the Most High God; not as a servant of men but as a servant of Christ, who in Christ’s stead teaches, admonishes, and reproves…The more a congregation sees that he who has the rule over them in the Lord desires nothing but that the congregation be subject to Christ and His Word; the more it sees that he does not desire to dominate them, yes, indeed, that he himself with a jealous eye guards the liberty of the congregation, the more willing the congregation will become to hear his salutary recommendations also in matters which God has not prescribed; it will follow him in these matters not as a taskmaster because it must, but as their father in Christ, because they wish to do it for their own advantage.”[1]

These words of Walther are nearly forgotten in many an LCMS congregation today, both by pastor and people.  Pastors lord over the people, and people lord over the pastor, contrary to the words of our Lord where He admonishes His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them.  Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.  And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

The rule or authority of the pastor is none other than the Word of God itself.  In this way the pastor is to serve the congregation—preaching and teaching the very Word of Christ in all its truth and purity.  Where a pastor neglects doing so, he is doing nothing but neglecting His calling by God through the congregation.  The pastor is not to add to or subtract from the Word.[2]  Nor is he a people pleaser, compromising for the sake of peace.  If he is to stand and remain a faithful preacher, he must “abide in Christ.”[3]

All pastors who do not do this do not serve the Lord Jesus Christ, but another.[4]  These are false preachers and teachers, who teach what men want to hear or how men want to hear it.  But to be a servant of God, the pastor preaches according to Holy Scripture—nothing more and nothing less.  This is what God gives pastors to do.  Therefore, the congregation is to help and support them in doing so, even encouraging them with the Word and by praying for them in their solemn servitude.

Whereas the responsibility of the pastor is to be a faithful servant of God and a faithful servant to God’s people, “rightly dividing the Word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) the responsibility of the congregation is to hear the pastor and honor him as one whom God has sent, for so God has.  Not doing so, that is, refusing to hear the pastor, is as not hearing God, just as Jesus says to His disciples, “He who hears you hears me” (Luke 10:16).

Far from this being a novel invention or “lifting up the pastor” to a godly like status, this is the way of God and His blessed Word for the sake of His beloved people.  Remember, the authority of the pastor is not that of himself, all that he says, or all that he does.  The authority of the pastor is that of the Word.  Where he speaks beyond the Word, there ears can truly be shut.  But as he proclaims and speaks the Word, there the ears are to be nothing but open—because it is not the pastor’s words, but God’s.

Thus does Holy Scripture in many places speak of the relationship, even the duty (and vocation) of pastors to their congregation and congregation to their pastor(s).  The following words are found under “The Table of Duties” in The Small Catechism of sainted Dr. Martin Luther:

To Bishops, Pastors, and Preachers

The overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. 1 Tim. 3:2-4

He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 1 Tim. 3:6

He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. Titus 1:9

What the Hearers Owe Their Pastors

The Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel. 1 Cor. 9:14

Anyone who receives instruction in the Word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Gal. 6:6-7

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages.” 1 Tim. 5:17-18.

We ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 1 Thess. 5:12-13

Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17

As you can see, neither pastor or hearer is free to forsake the Word or invent new ways of serving God.  Rather, it is in doing what God has commanded, having faith in Christ, that we rightly please God and rightly serve Him.  For Lutheran pastors and Lutheran congregations, the Word is front and center.  The church is not centered on either pastor or people.  It is centered on Christ.  And where Christ is truly the center, both pastor and people rightly recognize their place and give glory, thanks, and praise to God.  Pastors diligently serve God’s people; and God’s people readily hear the preached Word, and give thanks for it.


[1] Carl S. Meyer (ed.), Moving Frontiers: Readings in the History of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964), 175-176.

[2] “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.  Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:5-6).

[3] “If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples.  And you will know the truth and the truth will free you.” (John 8:31-32)

[4] Deuteronomy 18:20;  Isaiah 5:20; Jeremiah 23:1; Matthew 7:15-23; 15:9; Romans 16:17-18; Colossians 2:6-9, 18-23; 1 Timothy 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 3:13-17; 4:1-4; Hebrews 13:9; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1-6

 

 

God and Lying

In a recent, “Answers to Your Questions” section of the Time of Grace Magazine (Spring 2012, p6-7), Pastor Jeske of Time of Grace addresses the question, “Does God condone lies?”

Inclusive of Jeske’s response was a reference to the Israelite midwives who saved the baby boys he had ordered to be murdered (see Exodus 1:15-21).  Jeske states that the Jewish midwives had “lied about why they hadn’t been able to kill” the boys (Exodus 1:18-20).

However, the text doesn’t explicitly indicate that the women had lied at all.  Here’s what the text actually says, along with Pharaoh’s question following his command to kill the male born babies”

“So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, ‘Why have you done this thing, and saved the male children alive?’  And the midwives said to Pharaoh, ‘Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are lively and give birth before the midwives come to them’” (Exodus 1:18-19, NKJ).

The presumption that the midwives were lying in their answer to Pharaoh has no immediate merit from the text.  And the text itself does not indicate that they had in fact lied.  Therefore, the reference to the lying of the midwives in the Exodus text has little to do with the question of lying.

Of importance in addressing the question of lying, however, is the reference that “the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the male children alive” (Exodus 1:17).  Because they feared God, the midwives did not murder those whom Pharaoh ordered to murder.  They were willing to risk “their own lives to save those babies” (7).

In fearing God as they had, the midwives would not have needed to lie to Pharaoh.  And because they feared God, God blessed them (“dealt well with them,” Exodus 1:20), and not because they saved the lives of the baby boys, as Jeske seems to suggest (see below).

Also inclusive of Jeske’s response to the question about whether God condones lies was a reference to the same Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was involved in a plan to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The questioner noted that Bonhoeffer had lied to the SS about knowing the location of certain Jews, though he had known.  The questioner also noted that “Bonhoeffer later remarked that it would have been immoral and evil for him to have told the ‘truth’ in that situation.”  The questioner then puts forth the question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” (6)

In response to this question, Jeske begins rightly by giving references to Holy Scripture (i.e. Exodus 20:16; Colossians 3:9; Proverbs 12:22).  He gives examples of even David and Abraham who had lied.

Jeske, then, however, gives the irrelevant example of the midwives (see above) and references Bonhoeffer, praising both.  “I commend the midwives and Bonhoeffer.  They were confronted with moral dilemmas and chose to save lives rather than collaborate in murder.”  Jeske continues and writes, “I’m sure their lies were understood and overlooked by God because their actions brought about a greater good” (7).

I won’t argue that a moral dilemma had not confronted both the midwives and Bonhoeffer.  They had “choices” to make.  As God-fearers, the midwives did as they were given to do, to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).  Also, Bonhoeffer did well in saving those Jews.

Jeske suggests that God understands and overlooks lies on the basis of the greater good that results on account of those lies.  Where are the Bible passages to support such a view?  They are in fact non-existent.

Answering the question about lying on the basis of any “greater benefits” that may follow weakens God’s command against lying and deceiving.   What Jeske is doing is replacing God’s law with human opinion.  Instead of speaking truthfully about God’s prohibition of lying, Jeske is opening the door for human explanations and excuses to support the act of lying as dependent on the circumstance, contrary to God’s Word.  By doing this, Jeske also closes the door to the sweet Gospel, which is reserved for those who have no excuses for their sin, but who only seek the mercy of our gracious God.

In this article, Jeske minimizes sin.  And in minimizing sin, Jeske minimizes the need for forgiveness.  In saying that God understands and overlooks the sin of lying, Jeske almost suggests that God accepts lying, dependent on the results.  Yet the Word of the Lord indicates that God does not accept lying at all.  Lying is sin.  Rather than make explanations or excuses for the sin of lying or any sin, repentance is in order.

Rather than say what is not truthful about how God sees sin, Christians are to confess Christ.  This means speaking the truth about what God says concerning the Law and sin.  It also means speaking the truth about what God says concerning God’s unmerited Grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

Because Jeske fails to clearly articulate the Law in answering the question about lying, so he also fails to even speak at all about the forgiveness of sins, the very forgiveness needed by all.

“Under certain circumstances, does God condone lies?” The Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.”  Lies are sin.  One could also ask a related question, “Under certain circumstances, does God condone sin?”  Again, the Biblical answer is a sound, “NO.”

As much as we might want to be out from under the unconditional law of God, which allows for no explanations or excuses, we cannot.  As long as we continue attempting explanations and excuses for our behaviors and actions, even if we should be seeking the “greater good,” we are avoiding the weight of God’s law and His Holy Word.  And in such a state, we don’t have God’s forgiveness, for we only demonstrate an unrepentant heart.

A repentant heart, on the other hand, is one that accepts God’s Holy Law full force, and, having nowhere at all to turn, seeks only God’s mercy in Christ Jesus.  And there, in Christ, the repentant sinner walks by faith, wholly certain of having peace with God.

God does not condone lies, even under certain circumstances.  But God does indeed forgive sin, on account of Jesus Christ.

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

LCMS Reacts to Contraceptive Mandate

LCMS_Reacts_Contraceptive_Mandate_Accomodation[1].pdf

About C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the LCMS…

Just recently, our Bible class at church had watched the DVD Walther, published by Concordia Seminary, and had discussion of the same.  The DVD is a general introduction of Lutherans from Saxony Germany who, in the early to mid-19th century, followed Rev. Martin Stephanto America in order to establish a Lutheran community.  Rev. Stephan became bishop of the group, yet was later exiled to Illinois on charges of mismanagement of funds and questions of morality.

The group, now without a leader, began to question, among other things, 1) whether what they did was right in the sight of God, 2) whether the congregations they were members of were in fact Christian, and 3) whether the pastors who were shepherding them were truly pastors.

These are not at all insignificant questions.  The Saxon Lutherans came to America having followed their religious leader, who was now no longer in office.  They left their home congregations in Germany, though the Gospel had not been silenced.  The pastors, too, had abandoned their calls.  Were they right in staying?  And from where does one obtain a clear conscience on such important matters as the Christian church and her pastors?

Following Stephan’s exile, these questions came to the fore.  Some of Lutherans answered the question of the church and her pastors by seeking to establish their own congregations.  Others resolved to return to Germany.  Still others, like Walther, determined to stay, repenting of their sins and seeking to be faithful to the Holy Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

Walther, one of the pastors, through the study of the Bible, Martin Luther’s writings, and The Lutheran Confessions (The Book of Concord), came to understand that the Christian Church consists not of perfect people or pastors, but of sinners who believe in Christ for their salvation.  The visible Christian Church  consists of both believers and nonbelievers, having as its marks the Word of God preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments (Holy Baptism and The Sacrament of the Altar) administered according to their institution.  Where these marks are, there is the Christian Church, that is, there believers in Christ will be.  The hidden Church is that “Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints” as confessed in the Apostles’ Creed.

The Church is not built on its people, on its pastors, on a building, on relationships, or on human activity.  It is built and founded on Christ and His Holy Word.  This was Rev. Walther’s confidence and became the confidence of that which is now known as the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS).

The LCMS was founded in 1847, with C.F.W. Walther as its first president.  The immigrants had rough beginnings, yet God blessed their efforts.  Walther and the early Synod struggled to remain faithful in the midst of manifold pressures and temptations to compromise the faith.  As heirs of America’s Luther, the LCMS today continues this struggle to remain faithful.

Initially, the LCMS consisted of only a handful of pastors and congregations, from Missouri, Ohio, Indiana, and other states.  These pastors and congregations gathered together in confessional unity, believing and teaching the same things.  The formation of the LCMS grew out of the desire to be faithful to the Lord’s Word with confessional integrity and to unite with others who were like minded for the purpose of witnessing the truth of God’s Word and establishing schools for the education of pastors and teachers.  Though today these same purposes seem to be questioned by many within the LCMS, the training of pastors and teachers remains a significant consideration for the LCMS.

I have found the DVD Walther quite helpful for a better understanding of the beginnings of the LCMS.  The questions and struggles that the Saxon Lutherans faced in Germany in the 19th century before they emigrated, and the questions and struggles that they faced after they came to America, are similar to those of our time: rationalism, the Gospel, the Church, the Office of the Ministry, the necessity of the true doctrine, etc.  They may have lived in different times, but we too have comparable strife.  Also as they, we too have what God, in His inestimable mercy, has given us for the preservation of our souls—His Holy Word.  Upon this we stand.  And upon this, we have life—in Christ!

Are all Lutherans the same?

 

 

No.  Not all Lutherans are the same for not all Lutherans teach or practice according to what God says in His Holy Word, the Bible.

The three largest Lutheran Church bodies in North America are the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA, www.elca.org), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS, www.lcms.org), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Synod (WELS, www.wels.net).  Visit their respective Question/Answer pages and you will find a great deal of difference between ELCA and the other two.

ELCA fundamentally has a different understanding of the Gospel, Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, and the Sacraments than do the others.  If the definitions or explanations given by ELCA sound similar, it is only because they use similar words, but with entirely different meanings (meanings and usage which are foreign to Holy Scripture).  In practice, these differences clearly show themselves (i.e. the ordination of unrepentant homosexuals and of women, contrary to the Lord’s mandate; the toleration and acceptance of behavior contrary to God’s will; fellowship with “Christian” church bodies that teach doctrines contrary to God’s Word [open communion];  worship nonChristians [i.e. Jews, muslims, etc.], and not least of all, preaching which is devoid of the vicarious satisfaction of Christ, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life through faith in Jesus [the preaching that unrepentant (nonbelieving) sinners are saved is ever increasing].

By far, the doctrine and practices of the ELCA are quite distinct from LCMS and WELS.  However, between the latter two, noticeable differences do exist.

LCMS permits women to vote in congregational assemblies.  WELS does not.  LCMS permits its young people (and even encourages in some cases) to join boy/girl scouts.  WELS encourages it young people to participate in a WELS group somewhat similar to the scouts.  LCMS has military chaplains.  WELS has civilian chaplains, but no military chaplains.  Also, LCMS and the WELS have a different teaching of The Office of the Ministry and its relation to the priesthood of all believers (however, in practice, differences are not so readily recognizable due to the fact that the LCMS seminaries and colleges in the Concordia University system of the LCMS do not consistently teach similarly, nor are pastors and laypeople always so clear on the distinctives).

LCMS and WELS both accept the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) to be God’s Word (and without error) and the only “rule and norm for faith and life.”  Both also subscribe unconditionally to the Lutheran Confessions.  The ELCA does not accept either the Bible or the Lutherans Confessions as the LCMS and WELS do (if the ELCA does in word, then certainly not in practice).

Both LCMS and WELS also clearly teach Christ and Him crucified as the only means of salvation (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:5).  The ELCA is not clear on the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ and fails to distinguish between what is sin before God and what is not.

There will be exceptions to the above comparisons.  ELCA pastors and congregations who seek to be more faithful to the Bible than their church body as a whole do exist.  In the same way, LCMS and WELS pastors and congregations exist who do not teach and practice according Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions (i.e. using worship practices and innovations that are foreign to biblical doctrine).

Simply because someone says that they are a member of an ELCA, LCMS, WELS, or other Lutheran Congregation does not immediately mean that they are genuinely Lutheran.  Nor does the word Lutheran attached to the name of a church body immediately indicate that the church body is genuinely Lutheran.  Only by discerning according to Holy Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions is one able to make such a judgment.

A question of compromise…

According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, the noun compromise can mean: 1) a settlement in which each side gives up some demands or makes concessions,  2)    a) an adjustment of opposing principles, systems, etc. by modifying some aspects of each b) the result of such an adjustment, 3)    something midway between two other things in quality, effect, etc., or 4)    a) exposure, as of one’s reputation, to danger, suspicion, or disrepute b) a weakening, as of one’s principles.

The verb, to compromise, can mean: 1)   to settle or adjust by concessions on both sides, 2)    to lay open to danger, suspicion, or disrepute, 3)    to weaken or give up (one’s principles, ideals, etc.) as for reasons of expediency, 4)    Med. to weaken or otherwise impair !drugs that compromised his immune system.”

Temptation to compromise the faith is always present, for the Christian and for the Church.  As long as one is in the flesh, the struggle will rage.

The time for compromise, to give in to the state when it would compel organizations to neglect, or forsake, their principles, especially on such a matter as the adoption of children by homosexual “couples,” is not now or ever (A question of compromise OneNewsNow.com).   Not only would a “modification” mean a loss of credibility for the LCFS (and by extension, the LCMS), it would open wider the door for further policy changes.  In addition, such action would give approval to behavior which God calls sinful.

Should the LCMS continue “business as usual” if the LCFS changes its policy in favor of the state and idly “stand by,” not only will the LCFS be compromising, so will the LCMS.  Her confession will be weakened in the sight of the world, as well as among her own pastors and congregations.

Any concession by the church or a churchly organization approving of sin, or giving the impression that sinful behavior is acceptable, misrepresents Christ, profanes God’s Name, and falls under God’s judgment (Romans 1:32).

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