28 March 2008

Worth A Rerun?

Here's some thoughts I put together a few years back on the whole matter of what I term "missiolatry" - something I think is having a very adverse affect on our Synod:

Missiolatry is a problem. If our “god” is that to which we look for every good and from which we expect help in every time of need, it’s clear the “god” of too many “Christians” (especially those that go by the Lutheran moniker) in this day and age is missions! If you ask 9 out of 10 members of the Lutheran Church what the Church’s primary task is, they’ll answer without hesitating: “Make disciples!”

I think it far better to say that the primary task of the Church is to worship God. "This is the Christian faith, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity." (Athanasian Creed) Jesus said: "For the Father seeks such to worship Him." John 4.

What is the purpose for the Church's existence? It's purpose does not and cannot cease when time ceases. It's purpose is eternal. This is the way the very first book of Lutheran Dogmatics (Melanchthon's 1543 Loci Communes) puts it: "The human race has been so created and then so redeemed that we as the image and temple of God might celebrate the praises of God, for God wills to be known and worshipped."

The relationship of this to the task of the Church in this age is then clarified: Christ has sent His whole people into this world to speak the Word that rescues people from their false worship (their idolatry, which leads only to eternal death), and brings them with us into the worship of Him who alone is LIFE, the Blessed Trinity.

This helps prevent us from thinking about the Church in the shallow way of a "come on in so that you can go out and get some more" club. WHAT are we calling people into? WHAT are we calling them away from? We call them into the worship of the Blessed Trinity, which is faith, the receiving of the divine Life of God through the gifts He gives – and one of those gifts is the liberation from individualism and the gift of true communion with each other in His Body. We call them away from the worship of false gods, which is death. As long as the Church is in this world, she is to work tirelessly at this, but it is not her ultimate vocation. Her ultimate vocation is found in that which she does now which she will continue to do forever.

The Psalmist exhorts "Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him." Too many nowadays seem to describe the Church's life not in the "tasting and seeing." Just in the "inviting." But I am convinced that our evangelism efforts falter because our people are not tasting the goodness of the Lord! You see, if you enjoy something, you praise it to others.

Think about it. If you enjoy a movie, you say to others: "You have got to see this!" If you enjoy a restaurant, you say to others: "You have got to eat there!" If you enjoy a book, you say to others: "This is a must read!" We praise to others that which we natively enjoy. We can’t help ourselves!

So back to John 4. The woman tasted the living water (note that she left her bucket at the well!!!), and then goes to her countrymen and tells them: "Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did!" She drank from the living water, and so she invites others to taste and enjoy it with her.

The answer to solving the wimpy witness is never to beat people over the head with the so-called "Great Commission." It is to get them to drink deeply of the living water, and then they too will be crying out with the Spirit and the Church: "Come, and drink freely of the water of life!" (Rev. 22)

Lord, deliver us from the sin of missiolatry and help us to truly find our life in worshipping You and receiving Your gifts and grant us the grace so to enjoy Your bounty that we constantly summon others to the Feast of Life, through Christ our Lord. Amen.


Anonymous said...

"one thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to mediate in His temple."

mlorfeld said...

If only this post were written in German, then it would be a tad bit more Christo/Theo-centric. One reason why I'm reluctant to say the primary task of the Church is to worship God is that it easily falls into the Westminster mindset of doing stuff for "God" (much like the slave creature-emanations serve Moloch). Gottestdienst is the Church's primary task. It's to be on the receiving end of the Triune God's bountiful goodness to eat and to drink.

William Weedon said...

Ack, Mattau! Du weisst das ich immer auf Deutsch denke, nicht wahr?

mlorfeld said...

Das ist wahr. Ich lerne Deutsch (I know that last sentence is wrong... but it should be self explanatory as to why).

Past Elder said...

YES it's worth a re-run!

I think it hits the proverbial nail on the proverbial head.

The Great Commission isn't about being sent, end of story. The mission is to spread the confession. The confession isn't to be in mission, and when mission becomes the measure of confession, then confession is altered to produce better "mission" like any corporation trying to alter its marketing and the product itself to produce better numbers.

Holy Week illustrates that. Jesus drew great numbers when he was mistaken for what he isn't, but when the cross showed him for what he is they were gone.

When we tinker with our "product" to produce better numbers, we show ourselves to be into numbers, not into a product we have found wonderful and want to share with others.

And, as you point out, this "product" endures forever, long after the time of mission is over!

Anonymous said...

I agree. Someone, has said, "What you win them *with* is what you win them *to*."
We must be careful what "we do" to "attract" non-Christians.
What we win them with will be what they will worship.

Timothy May said...

Did you have a piece on missiolatry published in "The Bride of Christ"? If so pass that on when you do the rerun. :-)

William Weedon said...

Amen, Philip.

Fr. May, I *think* this was published in the Bride, but I can't remember.

Anonymous said...

Well said. It is surprising how deepling 'missions above all else' runs in our church and others. So much so that if you dare to say 'Divine service comes first' people look at you like you're against the gospel, or that you don't want unbelievers to be converted. I try to explain it this way; that just as you don't want children to occur before marriage, you don't want mission and evangelism to come before worship. A man and woman committed to each other in love and trust is critical to the development of a well adjusted healthy child. So too the place where young ones of the church are nutured is in worship, as they are one with the Lord, are fed and nourished by Him.
It is troubling to see para church mission organizations who have no connection to any church at all. For instance, if you have a pan-denominational group witnessing to the Latter Day Saints, where will those people go should they leave the LDS? Where will those converts be taught and grow if the mission organization is composed of Baptists, Methodists, Reforned Church, Lutherans and Catholics?
Mission above worship welcomes synergism into the church without ever having to redact a single word of our confessions.
Rev. Allen Bergstrazer

Anonymous said...

Well put, Pr. Weedon.

The Bride of Christ is more than just a baby-machine!

Rev. Tom Fast

Anonymous said...

Bill, this strikes me as something approaching a CONFESSIONAL ARTICLE. This in the sense of the Blessed Kurt Marquart's repeated suggestion that we need a new, expanded Confession. You, dear brother, hit the contemporary nail on the head! "Missiolatry" indeed! This draws a clear line all the way back to when the "church growth" principles first started to infect way back to the 70s!

William Weedon said...

Thanks, folks, for the comments. I think it goes to the heart of what ails us. Another way I put it some time back was like this:

Confusing the how with the what
I'm speaking of mission, specifically the mission of Christ's Church. Ask people what the mission of the Church is and the typical answer is: "to spread the Gospel." But that is incorrect. That's HOW the Church accomplishes her mission. It is not the mission itself. WHAT is the mission? Nothing less than rescuing sinners from idolatry (which is trying to squeeze life out of the dead stuff of this world) and bringing them into the worship of the one true God, the blessed Trinity. THAT is the mission of the Church. If we remember not to confuse the how with the what the entire mission takes on a much sharper focus.

"For the Father seeks such to worship Him!"

"We bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God!"

"Let the peoples praise You, O God, let all the peoples praise You!"

"So that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory!"

"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire."

Cindy R. said...

Pastor Weedon,

Thank you for this fine post on missiolatry. It's very instructive. I also appreciated your comment on the mission of the church. Here's the mission statement of a congregation I am considering joining. Could you give me your assessment of it?

"St. Paul Lutheran Church exists to celebrate our freedom from sin, death, and hell through Christ; to nurture our church family with God's Word for lives of service to Him; and to joyfully share this good news of our salvation with the world around us. (Matthew 28:18-20)"

William Weedon said...


I confess I am not totally enamored of it. I would have looked for first and foremost the receiving of God's gifts in through preaching, baptizing, catechizing, absolving and communing - thus not so much (first) celebrating as RECEIVING God's pardon and His life to be our life. But look at that messy sentence I just wrote and you'll see why I am NOT a good writer of mission statements. :)

I guess if I had to give it a better go it would be something like this:

This congregation exists to receive God's gifts in preaching, teaching, baptism, absolution, and the Holy Eucharist so that enlivened by them we may give praise to Him, render service to our neighbor, and spread the good news of Christ Crucified into all the world.

Is that better? I'm just awful at these things.

Cindy R. said...

That's very helpful, actually. I see what you mean. Best to keep the focus on what God does rather than on what we do.

Adam Pastor said...


Seeing that "the primary task of the Church is to worship God;"
should we not worship the SAME GOD, that Jesus worshiped??

(John 4:21-24) Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. 24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Jesus never endorsed worshiping the ONE GOD in trinity!!!
Rather, his GOD-given creed is found in Deut 6.4ff.
Jesus endorsed this creed in
(Mark 12:28-32) ... asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? 29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: ... 32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

"There is none other but He!"
Obviously then, neither Jesus nor the scribe were trinitarian!

So, those of the Christian faith, ought to worship the SAME GOD, that our Lord and Saviour, worshiped!
Namely, the ONE GOD, the Father.
[1 Cor 8.4,6]

Therefore, on the subject of the trinity,
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

mlorfeld said...

If we bow before the name of Christ... and He is not God, then we are idolators... but in fact at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. Paul equates Jesus with YHWH, ergo, Paul was Trinitarian... because Jesus Christ was Trinitarian.

Adam Pastor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
William Weedon said...

The author of this blog confesses that Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, enfleshed of the Holy Virgin, and thus God and Man in one person but two natures. I will not permit postings from those who deny this (they're free to; but it's not open for discussion on this blog, it is the presupposition of this blog).