25 November 2011

Loehe Nugget

"The Lutheran Church is so unconcerned about numbers that she looks around and asks: 'Who doesn't belong here?'" -  Three Books on the Church

That was a long time ago.  Sadly, the number fixation (and with it the itch for the approval of men) has gained a strong foothold.  But isn't it great that there was a time when the concern for sharing the same confession of the holy faith was so strong that Loehe could characterize us like that?  May the Lord give us the grace to regain that healthy perspective once again!


Pr Mark Henderson said...

Of course, as a pastor in a state church on a publicly funded salary with benefits, Loehe didn't have to worry about how he would put food on the table or pay his family's medical bills if the number of worshippers kept dwindling.

I know - his words are a paradoxical aphorism that's meant to challenge conventional church thinking; I'm just suggesting that such idealism tends to thrive in artificial environments, but withers when confronted with the cold, hard facts of life. That's what separates God's work from man's (not suggesting God didn't use Loehe, btw).

Which leads me to suggest that the early pastors who built the Missouri Synod up into a great church body in such unpromising circumstances - bringing the Gospel to tens of thousands of immigrants who in Germany would have remained lost to the church - deserve more thanks and study than they usually get (same goes for our early Australian missionary pastors, who made great sacrifices serving a poor church, but whom we've largely forgotten).

Sasse has some good observations on early Missouri's missionary spirit in his essay on the LCMS in the book edited by Kloha.

(Sorry if I've wandered off topic)

Dcn Latif Haki Gaba SSP said...

Pr Henderson:

The early Missouri missionary spirit, of which you speak, is in part precisely the story of men like Wilhelm Loehe. Neither Loehe's own contribution to the spread of the Gospel on several continents nor that of those who were here on the ground was work that was concerned with numbers. There was nothing artificial or merely theoretical about Loehe's theology; it must be understood precisely in the context of the missionary activity that he strove to foster.

Paul said...

Perhaps "Witness, Mercy and Life Together" can help heal the unfortunate and unnecessary Loehe/Walther divide in the LCMS. Anything that takes our focus away from Christ and our neighbor diminishes the effectiveness of our presence in the world. Only once in Acts do I read of the size of the congregation: 120. All in once place, at one time, in one accord.

Jim Huffman said...

Could someone explain to me how it is the church's job to ask, 'Who doesn't belong here?'

Perhaps I'm wrong, but this doesn't sound like it's talking about excommunication. Matthew 13.24-30 comes to mind.

Carl Vehse said...

Three Books on the Church

Translated by? Page?

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Dcn Latif,

I'm well aware of Loehe's connections with the early Missouri Synod, but I think Loehe's part in the early expansion of Missouri is overdrawn for various reasons. The spirit of Missouri was somewhat different from Loehe, and perhaps even more vital, which only makes the latter all the more interesting. This is why I referenced the Sasse essay. Also, I didn't suggest Pr Loehe's theology was artificial, but that his state church environment was.