Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Goal and Centerpiece of Evangelism is Life Together in the Eucharist
Hmmmmmm... Could this be a church planting conversation in your neck of the LCMS... Don't be so quick to say "no way." There are no attempts being made either (hate to use this phrase, but it was turned on the presenter) to brand our Lutheran identity so that the unchurched folks who are being targeted know who Lutherans are. Doctrine (not sure whose doctrine) is more important than Lutheran. Word and Sacrament are being used (sort of) in new and dramatic ways, using new language, at the discretion of the planter.
1) Mission has a church, not the church has a mission;
2) Church must restructure itself to reflect discipleship in a radical minimal commitment to Love God, Love People (in your fusion groups), serve community.
3) The community is the witness -- many people have heard the Good News, but most have not seen Jesus.
People are to be accepted into the church without question, so that they feel connected. Belonging is the first principle. Believing and changes in Behavior come next. After all, Jesus met with some pretty nasty characters, prostitutes, tax collectors, etc. God loves everyone just as they are, no matter what. That is who these plants go after -- the bikers, tattooed, alcoholics, drug addicts -- people that would never grace our church doors.
Traditional church focuses on Behave, Believe, then Belong -- that is behave a certain way to enter the building, believe what and the way we believe, then you will belong. Such things as doctrine (confession) and worship (liturgy and Eucharist) are insignificant since the most important concern is to get the Gospel to the unchurched, to share the love of Christ with people.
The problem with this is that the most powerful expression of Christ's love for us resides in the Eucharist and in Confession and Absolution... the love we have for others flows from the means of grace and the love that is borne of the Holy Spirit's work flows right back to the means of grace.
I wish just once someone involved in evangelism and church planting within Lutheranism (District and Synod) would say so clearly what the Roman Catholic Bishop said above -- that the goal of evangelism and its fruit are the incorporation of people in the Eucharistic life of the Church. Period. No, ifs, ands or buts... This is why was plant congregations and this is the goal of the love of Christ we display before the world -- God's call that takes fruit in our life together at the Word and Table of the Lord (through the incorporation of baptism)...
Any other goals or purposes, no matter how pious they may sound, are at odds with Scripture, our Confession, and the command of Christ to go, baptize, and teach. Period. It seems we are so busy with the methods and models, we may have forgotten this as Lutherans. We have become so enamored with statistics and numbers that we forget the greatest success of the Gospel is the person called through the voice of the Word, cleansed in the waters of Baptism, sustained by the regular reception of grace through confession and absolution, and met together in the communion/participation in Christ's body and blood.