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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Learning from History

History is a great teacher. What better authority do we have for understanding history—than the one true God who begins the Book of Genesis in the Bible, with a recorded history that starts from the very beginning of created time? Confessional Lutherans, likewise, approach history by tracing their beginnings back to the foundations of the Christian church—when it all began. There in the founding documents, the Lutheran Confessions, our Lutheran forefathers began their testimony with the Ecumenical creeds of the Christian church. One therefore would and should expect true Lutheran churches to follow in the footsteps of the biblically based Lutheran saints that have gone before them—resting on the foundation of God’s inspired Word.
The church that I serve (Agnus Dei Lutheran Church) is a new church, yet it grows out of this well trod history. They have used history rightly—having learned from the mistakes and successes of Lutherans past. The innovation that one sees in the more popular Christian churches is refreshingly and thankfully absent there. There are no fads of worship and practice that come and go. What one sees and experiences instead—is the slow, meticulous, and steady spiritual growth that comes out of the rich soil of God's Living Word. The children especially benefit from a Lutheran philosophy of education that builds upon repetition and Word-based tradition.
As a pastor, I would not expect a church like this to grow very big. And that is okay. Just as God can work through one large church or many little churches, that is His choice. Now, for many people, even those very knowledgeable about churches that may be counterintuitive. That is, however, one way in which God grows His church. He uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise (1 Cor. 1:27) and this little church may just be one more example that. He chose for example, the smallest tribe of Benjamin, from which to call His Son Jesus Christ (Micah 5:2). He chose the great enemy of the Christian church Saul of Tarsus to be one of the great missionaries of his church.
I do not know why God chooses big things at some times and small things at others. But I do know based upon a clear reading of the Holy Scriptures and my personal experience of seeing God's will come to pass in this world (Matthew 6:10), that He is the one calling the shots and therefore He will use whatever is at His disposal—and all in His good timing. And if all of a sudden people start discovering this hidden gem of Christendom, that will be good—and God will get credit for that increase too.
We live in great times here in America. There are all kinds of opportunities or people to grow in the faith, fall from the faith, and be introduced to the faith. When, where, how, that all comes to pass is God's call. Our challenge as a group of faithful Lutheran Christians gathered around Word and sacrament is simply to be faithful, tell the truth, explain it well, and let God get credit for whatever increase He chooses to bring about in His creation (1 Cor. 3:7).
-Rev. James R Shaw

1 comment:

  1. I remember speaking to the Dean of the Chapel when I was at Valparaiso University after a particularly poorly attended event a fellowship group I was with had sponsored. He smiled and asked me if I had read John 21 lately. "Not that I remember," I said. He said, "It is at the Last Supper when Jesus is talking. He tells Peter, 'Feed my sheep.' He didn't say anything about counting them."

    Some people base their ministry success on volume or some other outward measurement. I think those metric are useful, but I have never forgotten his words. Our task is to feed whatever sheep we come across. Not paint crosses on our doors to keep track of them all. The numbers can be useful, but I think we misjudge a lot of ministries by counting their sheep.


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