Tuesday, June 15, 2010

LHP Review: On Mission and Ministry

Luecke, David S. Builder Ministry for the 21st Century. St. Louis: Concordia, 2010. 139 Pages. Paper. $19.99. http://www.cph.org/ (LHP)

Schulz, Klaus Detlev. Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission. St. Louis: Concordia,
2009. 339 Pages. Paper. $29.99. http://www.cph.org/  (LHP)
Two books. They couldn't be more different. In the big picture, they have the same goal: expanding the Church of Christ.  We'll take each in turn.

Luecke: I've read this book eight times now. No, I hadn't read Builder Ministry until it was recently published, but it has a LOT in common with his previous books. I read one before I went to seminary. It was the primary reason why our campus ministry center went to contemporary worship, women lectors, open communion, etc. I read another just after arriving at the seminary. It was on the "free" table. Now I know why. Another one or two showed up in official seminary syllabus reading lists. And another arrived in print before I graduated from seminary. I've read this author's work before. I understand well his perspective. I see where he would lead the LCMS and other churches. And I respectfully disagree.

If the author were content with the Shepherd model of ministry, he wouldn't have written this book. Yes, he acknowledges the need for both kinds of pastors early on in the book. Yes, I believe he is sincere. Yet, what he gives with one hand he takes away throughout the rest of the book. He intends to make the case the Builder ministry is superior at this time and in most contexts he's aware of. Why the false choice of either/or? Why not both together?

If there is an ideal audience for this book, wouldn't it be a busy pastor of a congregation with 700+ baptized members, many activities, a Christian school, and a near-continual feeling of being "overwhelmed"? (That would be me.) I disagree with the diagnosis and prescription.

Are there good points. Sure. He has a point that some churches are more "at home" in the USA because they don't baptize babies (and all that theologically and practically follows). I respond that Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Norman Nagel more eloquently make the point that we are given to make disciples by means of baptizing and my means of teaching (Matthew 28). We do both together. And that takes work. Do most LCMS congregations have woefully inadequate and antique sound systems? Yes. People in the pews know it. And sometimes there is enough support at Voters' Meetings (and in memorial fund accounts) to do something about it.

No, I cannot recommend Builder Ministry for the 21st Century. It seems like the next new fad in the LCMS version of Church Growth.

I find it easy to recommend Mission from the Cross. Yes, it costs $10 more. But it is going to be so worth it for you, the reader!

This is the book I wish I had for my seminary class on missions. This is the book I hope and pray is used for classes on missions at LCMS colleges, universities, seminaries, and pastors' studies around the world. It carries with it all of the good parts of all of the books I read back then, with little of the downside. It is solidly grounded in Lutheran theology and spirituality, plus the passion for the lost that was missing in so many other books.

The title comes from the scene of John 20:19-23 "where the risen Lord apppears before His disciples and commissions them with the task to offer forgivness or retain sins. Mission is built on a theologia crucis, that is, it affirms the cross as the pivotal point of reference from which flows and to which returns the preaching of the Gospel" (xi, emphasis original).

I once attended an LCMS conference (filled with fans of the previous author) who knew little, if nothing of the actual mission history of Lutheranism included here (43, et al). They knew the caricatures and jokes of one Wittenberg University faculty declaring that the Great Commission was fulfilled and joked about it with a Baptist presenter. This book has been needed for a long time to correct misunderstanding, misinformation, and mistaken identity.

Mission is deeper than just overseas mission or knocking on doors (cf. 47). Mission happens every time the Word is shared. Mission happens on Sunday mornings when the Lord gathers his sheep to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd. Mission happens at the bedside prayer and Bible reading, Bible Class, Sunday Schoo, VBS, and Confirmation class (54), the family kitchen table devotion, the funeral service, and the wedding celebration. Mission is complex. "Missional" is the new fad word that has yet to be filled with significant meaning.

Gospel Outreach and Human Care are both important. No false either/or choices! The LCMS still shows this in their offerings to District and Synod. The LWML knows this well. And Gospel Outreach can lead to Human Care opportunities and vice versa.

True mission acknowledges by word and deed that the Gospel predominates (cf. 119). Mission is the Lord's work first (87ff). And the Church breathes good works of human care, witness, fellowship, and then returns to worship to receive the Lord's gifts (236ff).

One will hear of theological controversy in this book on The Lutheran Theology of Mission. Controversy is nothing new. Old controversies are called historical theology. New and current controversies often distract us from what the Lord has given us to do. We need to remain vigilant, passionate, and faithful to keep the message straight and get the message out (Dr. Barry). We don't have to choose between doctrine and evangelism. The Lord expects both! I'm personally tired about "talk" about mission not backed up by action. Let's be a church body that leads, teaches, cares, and prays while walking together with Christ.

Klaus Detlev Schulz has done our church a great service in writing this book. Thank you to CPH for putting it in print. We pray it remains in print for years and decades to come.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.