Skip to content

Current Issues in Mission From a Lutheran Perspective

Martin Teigen

1988 Synod Convention Essay

May God bestow on us His grace,

With blessings rich provide us,

And may the brightness of His face

To life eternal guide us

That we His saving health may know,

His gracious will and pleasure,

And also to the heathen show

Christ’s riches without measure

And unto God convert them. (TLH 500, v. 1)1

With these words Luther shows that Psalm 67 is also a prayer of the Christian Church. It is the prayer of people who are built upon the foundation of the Apostles and the Prophets; it is the prayer of people who are committed to showing forth “Christ’s riches without measure.” We also, heirs of Luther, are concerned about showing forth those same riches which have no measure; we are concerned about mission. Having this concern, we wish to examine issues in mission on the basis of Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions so that our response to them might be a proper Christian and Lutheran one. We now look at three current issues in mission: 1) The Missionary Character of New Testament Christianity; 2) The Missionary Character of the Lutheran Church; and 3) The Goal of Mission.

I. The Missionary Character of New Testament Christianity

New Testament Christianity possesses a missionary character. In other words, mission is not something that the Christian Church does if she can, but rather, mission is something that she does because it is her very nature to do so. If she is not missionary, she is not Christian.

A. The missionary character of New Testament Christianity2 has as its basis the missionary character of Christ’s work.

In the Nicene Creed the church confesses her apostolic character: “I believe in one holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic Church.” “The word apostolic tells of the identity of the church of all times with the church of the beginning.”3 The Church of all times is apostolic because she has the doctrine of Christ which has been passed on to her through the Apostles.

That the church today is no other than the church of yesterday and the day of Pentecost; …that there is only one Gospel for all the centuries of history until the last day, just as there is only one Gospel for the people of all nations and all races; that the Gospel is given us in the witness of the apostles, and nowhere else, and that this witness cannot be supplanted by any other source of revelation; — such are the thoughts that are contained in the statement of the church’s apostolicity.4

This understanding of the term apostolic church is historically as well as Scripturally correct.5 Even so, the term” apostolic church” could be legitimately assigned broader meaning which would be quite significant in the discussion of the missionary character of New Testament Christianity.6 This is so because the word apostolic and mission deal with the same concept.7

The words mission or missionary as such do not appear in our English New Testament. These words come to us through the Latin mitto which the Vulgate used to translate the Greek apostello and its synonym pempo,8 words that mean send. A study of the way that the Apostle John uses these words in his Gospel is valuable for demonstrating the missionary (apostolic) character of New Testament Christianity.

The Evangelist John first uses the word “send” in the Prologue to his Gospel where he refers to John the Baptist as one who was sent (a)9 from God (1:6).10 The principal Sent One, in John’s Gospel, however, is the Word Himself, the Son of God. The Word was with God from the beginning and has access to the inner council of God because He is God Himself (1:1). This Word becomes flesh (1:14) and enters fully into the world of men: wholly one of them, except without sin, and still wholly God. Jesus reveals the mystery of God’s triune nature: He who believes in Him believes not in Him but in Him who sent (p) Him (12:44); he who sees Jesus sees Him who sent (p) Him (12:45), for He and the Father are one (10:30).11

In the world He who has been sent (a) by God, Jesus, speaks the words of God (3:34). The words which comes from His mouth are the words of the Father who has sent (p) Him (14:24); His doctrine is not His own, but His who sent (p) Him (7:16). The words He speaks are spirit and life (6:63). His work is life-giving, for Jesus has come from heaven in order to do the will of Him who sent (p) Him (6:38) so that everyone who believes in Him will be raised up to everlasting life on the last day (6:40).

The world is not responsive to the Sent One. Because they do not have the word of God in them, they do not believe in the one whom He sent (a) (5:38). They say that the one whom the Father sanctified and sent (a) into the world is a blasphemer (11:36). Therefore, they demonstrate that they do not honor the Father, for they have not honored the Son whom He has sent (p) (5:23).

The mighty, divine acts of Jesus demonstrate that God has sent (a) Him (11:42). When His people see that He is the one who has fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (6:68-69), they believe that the Father has sent (a) Him (17:8). Because God did not send (a) His Son into the world to condemn the world, but rather that the world through Him might be saved (3:17), the Son must be lifted up on the cross (3:14). By being lifted up on the cross He fulfills the Scripture and draws all people unto Himself (12:32).

Jesus is the true Apostle12 of God, the Sent One, the authoritative representative of God Himself, for He is the incarnate God. For this reason He cannot be destroyed, not even by death. He lays down His life only to take it up again (10:17).

When Jesus appears to His disciples on the evening of His resurrection, He says something seemingly incredible to them: “As the Father has sent (a) Me; I also send (p) you” (20:21).13 With these words He invests His disciples with the same authority that He has so that they are sent just as He was sent. “…the sending of Jesus by God meant that in the words, works, and person of Jesus men were veritably confronted not merely by a Jewish Rabbi but by God himself. It follows that in the apostolic mission of the church the world is veritably confronted not merely by a human institution but by Jesus the Son of God. …”14

Jesus had already told the disciples this. They know what their privileged position is and they know the significance of their calling: “He who receives whomever I send (p) receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent (p) Me” (13:20). Their apostleship, their status as sent ones, is of great significance for the world, for it is through them that the world comes to believe that the Father has sent (a) the Son (17:21). But, the lot of those who are sent (apostles) will be difficult; they should expect the same opposition that Jesus met, for he who is sent (a) is not greater than he who sent (p) him (13:16). Nevertheless, they are to go forward. They are also sent ones, the missionaries (apostles)15 of God, sent by Jesus who was the Sent One par excellence, the Missionary of God. These then go, bearing the full authority of the Godhead. They are sent, they have their mission to forgive sins. Where they go there is forgiveness; where they do not go there is no forgiveness.

Nothing that the Apostles receive from Christ is received for themselves. What they receive, with the exception of the prerogatives that are given exclusively to them, is for the church and is passed on to the church so that she is apostolic. To be apostolic means to be sent. To be an apostolic church, then, means also to be a sent church, a missionary church. To be a missionary church, a sent church, means to serve as the authorized and authoritative representative of Christ in the world, and, with the full assurance and power of this authority, to declare unto men the gracious forgiveness of all their sins. To be a missionary church means to be sent to the world by Christ just as Christ was sent for the world by the Father.

B. The make-up of Christian revelation demonstrates the missionary character of New Testament Christianity.

The fundamental elements revealed in the New Testament Scriptures lead inescapably to the conclusion that New Testament Christianity possesses a missionary character. The anthropology of the New Testament sounds rather pessimistic to human ears when it describes man as completely sold to sin, an enemy of God, under the wrath of God and unable to save himself. The theology proper of the New Testament is monotheistic and offers man no recourse to other “gods” whose justice might not be as stringent as that of the Holy One of Israel. On the other hand, that same theology reveals a God who desires that all men be reconciled to Him. The soteriology of the New Testament points to a single means, Jesus Christ, by which the sinner can be reconciled to God. The New Testament teaching concerning the Means of Grace knows only of one Word by means of which reconciliation is communicated through a divinely instituted ministry.

All of this most clearly implies mission. Moreover, Paul, in Romans 10, employs this as his great argument for mission. Step by step he builds his argument on the fundamental truths of the Christian faith. Men cannot save themselves by their supposedly righteous acts (vv. 1-3); the righteousness that avails before God is the righteousness of Christ alone, a righteousness of faith (6-11); this holds true for all men, for there is only one God with whom they may deal (12); they can call on this One, then, only if someone is sent to them with the Word in order that they might hear it and believe (13–15, 17).

12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13) For “whoever calls upon the name of the LORD shall be saved.” 14) How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15) And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (a)

C. The missionary character of New Testament Christianity is demonstrated by its Means of Grace.

The Christian Word and Sacraments are means by which God sincerely offers His gracious forgiveness to sinners. While they are principally means of grace, they also reveal clearly the missionary character of New Testament Christianity. In one very important message where Paul talks about the coming judgment of all men, he also speaks of the universal reconciliation through the once and for all sacrifice of the holy Christ. All this, then, is related to what Paul terms “the ministry of reconciliation” (II Cor. 5:18) and “the word of reconciliation” (5:19). Reconciliation is through the Word spoken authoritatively by those whom Christ sends.

19) … God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20) Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

The Sacrament of the Altar, although instituted for Christians, also has its missionary function as St. Paul so clearly spells out in I Corinthians 11:26:

For as often as you eat of this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till he come.

The missionary function of Baptism is also made most clear when that Sacrament is specifically mentioned in the words of the Great Commission:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. (Mt. 28:19)

D. Excursus on Matthew 28:19–20

The Scripture passage just cited is probably the New Testament text most commonly associated with mission. While an extended treatment of the Great Commission is not possible here, there are a number of issues raised by that text that are directly related to the concerns of this section of the paper.

1. Even though the Great Commission was given to the original Apostles, it was directed to the whole church so that it can correctly be said that the church is apostolic (missionary) and will continue to be so until the end of the world.

A good deal of effort has gone into demonstrating that the Great Commission applies to the church of all ages. Some of the proofs offered to demonstrate that are the following: a) The essential character of men will not change, nor will the will of God toward men change; therefore, the church will always need to speak to the world about sin and about the Savior. In other words, the church will always be a missionary church. b) When Jesus gave the Great Commission, other believers, in addition to the Apostles were present; therefore, the Great Commission belongs to the whole Church. c) Christ’s promise to be present to the end of the age, found in juxtaposition to the Great Commission, indicates that the Great Commission is to be in effect in the post-Apostolic church too, until the end of the world. d) The task of making disciples of all nations is an enormous one, one that was not completed in the Apostolic age; therefore, the Great Commission is binding on the church until the end of time.16

In addition to these proofs, the short reference in Acts 20:28 is of particular importance in the discussion of the continuing validity of the Great Commission and the abiding missionary character of New Testament Christianity. The Apostle Paul says:

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

These words appear in Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders. Paul had spent three years in Ephesus. During that time all of Asia had heard the word of the Lord Jesus (Acts 20:31). The Apostle, having been informed that he would no longer see the Ephesians (20:25), takes leave of them. He tells the elders that they are to take care of the church. There seem to be no problems. It appears that the transition from the Apostolic age to the post-Apostolic age is made without undue difficulty. Under the direction of the Holy Spirit the apostolic function is passed on to the church with the understanding that the church will do what the Apostles were doing, without, of course, adding to or subtracting from the Apostolic doctrine.

It is noteworthy that the matter treated in Ephesus (Acts 20:28) is taken up later by Paul when he has contact with the Ephesians by letter. In that letter he affirms that the work of the church is not done only by the original apostles. God has given apostles and prophets to the church, but he has also given pastors and teachers. Under these the church is to do the very same thing that was commanded in the Great Commission: increase until the full number of the elect is gathered in; strengthen herself in the doctrine of Christ.

10) [Now Jesus is the One] who descended … [He] is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11) And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry,17 for the edifying of the body of Christ 13) till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

So, wherever Christians exercise the office of the keys, the pastors in the way appropriate to them and the laymen in the way appropriate to them, there the apostolic function is being fulfilled and the mission of the church is being carried out. It will continue to be carried out according to Christ’s will and with the promise of His continued presence until all the elect are gathered, that is, until the end of the age.

2. If Christianity possesses an inherent missionary character, then why did God deem it necessary to give missionary commands such as that found in Matthew 28:19–20?

The answer to this question is twofold. In the first place, the mission command is quite necessary due to the weakness of the flesh and the perversity of men. Because the Christian is not only saint but also sinner, he needs to be reminded of his proper work in the church, for it is very easy to pass over the things that are really important.

Of course, it is not the command that moves men to do the mission. The New Testament message, by its very nature, is designed to elicit mission. Those who hear the message of Christ in believing hearts engage in mission in some way or other. Peter and John’s response to those who had forbidden them to speak and teach of Jesus is well known: “We cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). The message of forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Christ evokes such confidence toward God that those who believe will also speak, or send someone to speak for them, in spite of the negative consequences that may ensue on account of having spoken. As the Apostle Paul says, “We believe and therefore speak” (II Cor. 4:13).

In the second place, the mission command is necessary to inform the Christian that he is acting responsibly and correctly when he is involved in mission. It would be disconcerting, at best, to work at the mission all one’s life, only to come to doubt at the end that one was doing something pleasing to God. So, while the command is not the primary motivation for mission, it is necessary and does serve to keep the church on the correct path, to direct her when she is uncertain about her work, and to be a warning against laziness.

It should also be noted here that the various forms in which the Great Commission was given serve as a protective measure for the church. The Great Commission is recorded in at least three different places. The Evangelist John focuses in on the moral dimension of the mission and records that the church is to be engaged in mission wherever there are sinners: “I send you … if you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven …” (Jn. 20:21). Matthew emphasizes the sociological dimension of the mission and notes that it is not only among one’s own kind but among different kinds of people, panta ta ethne (Mt. 28:19),18 that the church is to do mission. Luke draws attention to the spatial dimension of the mission: Jerusalem, very near; Judea, near; Samaria, far; the end of the earth, very far (Acts 1:8). Those who say that the only legitimate mission of the church is directed to those who have not yet heard the Gospel must be directed to John and the moral dimension of mission; those who contend that the church’s mission is not global must be directed to Luke and the spatial dimension of mission; those who contend that the mission is only for those of suitable “cultural” development must be directed to Matthew and the sociological dimension of mission.

The Christian Church has a missionary character. It is her nature to be involved in mission. The church’s mission is to fulfill the apostolic function, and, as the authoritative representative of God and of His Christ, declare the gracious forgiveness of sins to men. When the church speaks of her “mission” she is speaking precisely about that; when she speaks of her “missions” she is speaking about the same thing but, according to common usage, with a broader scope in mind. The church is always engaged in mission. “Mission is nothing but the church of God in motion — the actualization of a universal, catholic19 church. … The catholic church and mission — these two no one can separate without killing both, and that is impossible.”20

II. The Missionary Character of the Lutheran Church

There are a number of critics who contend that the Lutheran Church has not been faithful to the missionary character of New Testament Christianity. The Lutheran Church is not a missionary church, they assert. This charge has come from the Roman Catholics21 on one hand, and from the Lutheran Pietists on the other.22 The accusation coming from the Pietistic camp has had widest publication, so that one will be dealt with here.

Martin Luther would probably have been quite happy to shake off the secular power’s influence in the government of the church. Nevertheless, even after the Reformation, the state continued to play a role in the government of the church as it had done in the past. This had no adverse consequences for mission until the interests of the church became more closely identified with the interests of the state.23 As a result of this confusion, doubt arose concerning the Lutheran Church and mission, and with that doubt the missionary energy of early Lutheranism was hampered.24

When Gustav Warneck (1934–1910), the “father of mission science,”25 began studying Protestant missions, he laid the blame for the problem at the door of the Reformers: “We miss in the Reformers not only missionary action, but even the idea of missions, in the sense in which we understand them today.”26 While the Reformers in general are blamed, Luther is singled out for criticism. Some of the more specific allegations against him are as follows: 1) Luther did not look upon the non-Christian world (other nations) as a sphere of labor for himself or his followers; 2) according to Luther, Christianity had already fulfilled its universal calling to be the religion of the world; 3) at best Luther thinks of an occasional or incidental preaching among non-Christians.27

The unfortunate thing about these charges is that they have been taken up as the authoritative, last word about Luther’s view of missions and have been given broad circulation.28 An example of what many read about early Protestant missions is found in the work of Robert Hall Glover and J. Herbert Kane. For them the Reformers…

… seem to have had no serious sense of responsibility for direct missionary efforts in behalf of heathen or Muslim. Despite their clear concepts and statements of the fundamental doctrines of evangelical faith, they showed a remarkable ignorance of the scope of the divine plan and of Christian duty in relation to the Gospel. Great mission fields lay round about them, especially in North Africa and western Asia, while large communities of Jews were scattered among them. Yet for these they did nothing and apparently cared nothing.29

It is unfortunate that Warneck’s judgment has been uncritically accepted by so many, even though Luther scholars have shown that his view was one-sided.30 Even at the time that he wrote, Warneck’s conclusions were opposed by others. However, since only his work was translated into English, English readers have only been able to hear his opinion and not that of those who opposed him, men who believed that Luther did indeed have a theology of mission.31

Luther’s Theology of Mission

Mission occupies a very important place in Luther’s theology, and therefore in the theology of the Lutheran Church.32 One place to begin looking for a theology of mission in Luther is in his writings on the Sacrament of the Altar.

In 1528 Luther wrote a lengthy work titled Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper.33 One of the things that was of concern to him in that Great Confession was the relation between the forgiveness of sins and the Sacrament. In his discussion of that matter he mentions two terms: the merit of Christ and the distribution of merit. By “the merit of Christ” Luther means the life, death and resurrection of Christ by which he has won the forgiveness of sins for the whole world. By “the distribution of merit” he means the way by which that forgiveness is brought to the sinner.

… the merit of Christ and the distribution of merit are two different things. … Christ has once for all merited and won for us the forgiveness of sins on the cross; but this forgiveness he distributes wherever he is, at all times and in all places, as Luke writes in chapter 24[:46f.], “Thus it is written, that Christ had to suffer and on the third day rise (in this consists his merit), and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name (here the distribution of his merit comes in).” (LW 37:192)

In these lines appear a number of items that are worthy of attention here: 1) The redemptive work of Christ is complete; 2) That redemptive work must now be brought to the world, something that happens through Word and Sacrament.34 3) When the merit of Christ is distributed, Christ is present and is actually the one who distributes it. 4) Luther relates the important concept of “distribution of merit” to one of the texts of the Great Commission, Luke 24:46ff., and thus draws the whole matter into mission.

Luther’s concept of “the merit of Christ” and “the distribution of merit” is a significant part of his theology.35 This becomes all the more obvious when one sees that Luther includes the matter in his Large Catechism where the essentials of Christian teaching are expounded for the benefit of the common Christian. There Luther repeats what he wrote in his Great Confession:

Neither you nor I could ever know anything of Christ, or believe in him and take him as our Lord, unless these were first offered to us and bestowed on our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit. The work is finished and completed, Christ has acquired and won the treasure for us by his sufferings, death, and resurrection, etc. But if the work remained hidden and no one knew of it, it would have been all in vain, all lost. In order that this treasure might not be buried but put to use and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to be published and proclaimed, in which he has given the Holy Spirit to offer and apply to us this treasure of salvation. (LC II, 38) [emphasis added]36

A few paragraphs later on in his Large Catechism treatment of the Third Article Luther returns to the concept of “the merit of Christ” and “the distribution of merit.” This time, however, he draws in more elements that clearly point to the missionary character of his thinking. He points to the church as the agency that distributes the merit of Christ through Word and Sacrament; he points to the church as the agency that gathers into herself that which has not yet been gathered; he points to the Holy Ghost as the one who does the gathering even though He uses the agency of the church.

… Creation is past and redemption is accomplished, but the Holy Spirit carries on his work unceasingly until the last day. For this purpose he has appointed a community on earth, through which he speaks and does all his work. For he has not yet gathered together all his Christian people, nor has he completed the granting of forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in him who daily brings us into this community through the Word, and imparts, increases, and strengthens faith through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins. (LC II, 61, 62) [emphasis added]

For Luther the matter of the distribution of Christ’s merit and the extension of the church is not just a matter of drawing a cold conclusion from Christian doctrine. No, it is a very present and urgent matter that is to be attended to also in prayer.

… Now, we pray for both of these, that it [the kingdom] may come to those who are not yet in it, and that it may come by daily growth here and in etemal life hereafter to us who have attained it. All this is simply to say: “Dear Father, we pray Thee, give us thy Word, that the Gospel may be sincerely preached throughout the world and that it may be received by faith and may work and live in us. (LC III, 53, 54)

Other aspects of Luther’s theology of mission, stated elsewhere, are quite in keeping with these basic ideas:

1. All men are under the curse, but God wishes to bless all men. So, the blessing has to go out to the whole world. Not all will receive the blessing because not all will believe. Nevertheless, the blessing has gone out over Jew and Gentile and keeps on going out.37

2. Christ reigns through Word and Sacrament against the devil and men. Therefore, the Gospel and Baptism must pass through the entire world, as Mark says, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (WA 31 I, 232, 25).

3. All the heathen are to praise God. They must believe in Him if they are to praise him. If they are to believe, preachers must be sent who can proclaim the Word to them (WA 31, I, 228, 33).

4. There are never enough Christians; there should always be more. Therefore, we should always go farther and preach Christ where he has not been preached before and where he has not been known before (W A 16:216, 12).

5. It is the best work of all that the heathen have been led out of idolatry to the knowledge of God (W A 47, 466, 5).

Luther’s theology of mission is a theology that looks upon mission in a very broad sense. Mission is putting into practice the ministry of Word and Sacrament. That ministry is carried out where Christians already exist, for there also sinners are continually being called into the church and maintained in it. But that ministry of Word and Sacrament is not limited in time nor in space, for it is a ministry that will last until the end of time and will extend to all parts of the world.

Luther’s theology of mission does not eliminate the layman from participation in the mission.38 While the Christians are to call ministers who serve in their stead, the Christians also remain priests before God and always have the power of the keys, which means that they are also able to proclaim the forgiveness of sins39 in the way appropriate to them in their calling.

Luther and the Great Commission

Even though there are many places where Luther speaks in favor of mission, some critics still contend that he was not a man of mission. This claim is based on the fact that Luther was of the conviction that no one since the time of the Apostles has had the apostolic command to go into all the world to preach the Gospel to every creature.40 However, a brief look at the Reformer’s understanding of the apostolate will show that he was not speaking against mission.41

For Luther an Apostle was a person ordained by God without means and called with the [special, apostolic] gifts of the Holy Spirit.42 Therefore, not all those who serve Christ are apostles.43 On the other hand, Luther can say that the merit of Christ is distributed by none other than the Lord Himself.44 Therefore, there is really no difference between the function of the Apostles and the function of those who preach the Word in the post-Apostolic age, for the Word and Sacrament preached and administered by the original Apostles and by the post-Apostolic preachers are Christ’s and are actually preached and administered by Him.45

Luther’s often quoted statement about the Great Commission must be seen in that light. In his view, no one, after the Apostles, has the commission to be an independent, “globetrotting” missionary who may go and preach wherever he wishes. The Apostles fulfilled the Great Commission as far as they were permitted. Now the Church–which has the true apostolic succession because she is the people of God who have the promise and believe it46–continues to fulfill the Commission. She does that not through men called directly by God, but through men called by God through the believers. The Great Commission is still in force, and the proclamation of the Gospel is …

… as if one threw a stone into the water; the stone causes ripples, circles, and streams round about it; and the ripples always roll them farther and farther; one drives the other until they come to the shore.. Although the water becomes calm in the center, the ripples do not rest but keep on flowing. It also goes this way with the preaching of the Gospel. It was begun through the apostles and continues, and is carried farther through the preachers here and there in the world, is driven out and persecuted; yet it is made known farther and farther to those who have never heard it before. … (WA 10 III, 140, 2)47

In light of all this it is impossible to hold that Luther had no concern about mission or missions.48 Luther had a definite, positive theology of mission, one that he put into practice in a number of ways:

1. His writings had the missionary purpose of bringing the Gospel to light.

2. His Bible translation was just the beginning of the task of bringing the Scriptures to many people who had never had them in their native language.

3. His Catechisms were mission tools and continue to serve as such.

4. His prayer books and sermon books were effective mission tools for communicating the Gospel outside of Wittenberg, the cradle of the Reformation.

5. One-third of the nearly 16,000 students enrolled at the University of Wittenberg between 1520 and 1560, some 5,000, went out to other lands to preach the Gospel.

6. Even though some of Luther’s later writings demonstrated skepticism concerning the possibility of converting many Jews, Luther had earlier given advice on how to lead a Jew to Christ and had anticipated writing a more detailed booklet on the subject.

7. In his writings Luther never omitted thoughts on missionary activities among the Muslims.

8. Luther’s hymns were a vital missionary tool. Not only did his hymns promote mission, but they fulfilled an even more important task of proclaiming and teaching the Gospel and thus preparing for its further extension.49

Just as Martin Luther had a great concern about mission,50 so the Lutheran Church has a definite missionary character. What remains for the Church of the Augsburg Confession is to continue faithful to its missionary character by faithfully serving with its ministry of Word and Sacrament, at home or abroad, among those who have already heard or among those who have never heard the Gospel of forgiveness.

III. The Goal of Mission

Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17–35) provides a valuable testimony concerning the goals of the great Apostle’s work. That address is of special interest for three reasons: 1) It is Paul’s public assessment of his work; 2) it was made in the presence of those with whom he had worked quite intensely over a period of time; 3) it was made at the end of Paul’s career as a journeying missionary.

Paul’s goal in mission was to preach the kingdom of God (25), a goal that for him meant to testify to Jews and Greeks concerning repentance toward God and faith toward the Lord Jesus Christ (21). It was not readily apparent that the kingdom of God was advancing as a result of Paul’s work, for what accompanied him was tribulation as well as penury (33–35). The means for advancing the kingdom of God was the Word of God’s grace, for it was through that Word that his hearers could receive an inheritance among the sanctified (32). While he began teaching those things that were most immediately helpful to the eternal well-being of his hearers (20), Paul did not consider his preaching complete until he had preached the whole counsel of God (27).

It was of concern to Paul that the divinely instituted office of the ministry be filled in order that the church of God be cared for(28). The public ministry was established in those places where Paul worked, but he was never under the illusion that the preaching of the Gospel would establish a permanent, visible organization that would exist in a particular place until the end of time. The Apostle knew that the devil would make an effort to destroy the congregations that he had founded. Evil forces from within and from without would attack the flock (29–30). In all of this the Word of God’s grace would be the only aid to which the faithful overseers of the flock would have recourse. The same Word of God’s grace by which the church had been built up in the first place would be the only thing that could preserve her (30).

After this brief overview of Paul’s mission goals it is now in order to review two contemporary ideas concerning the goal of mission.

a. The Kingdom of God

For many today the key concept in missiology is the kingdom of God.51 But the fact is that not all who pray the Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer share the same understanding of the concept “kingdom of God.” The World Council of Churches, for example, at its 1980 meeting in Melbourne, Australia “understood kingdom to refer to the rule or reign of God, and therefore to be related to the mission task of proclaiming and embodying God’s rule in the entire creation” [emphasis added].52 After defining “the kingdom of God” in that sense, the Council saw itself justified in making a rather wide variety of issues its goal in mission.

In their witness to the kingdom of God in words and deeds the churches must dare to be present at the bleeding points of humanity and thus near those who suffer evil, even taking the risk of being counted among the wicked. … Without losing sight of the ultimate hope of the kingdom of God or giving up their own critical attitude, the churches must dare be present in the midst of human struggles. [emphasis added]53

Those who ask for a clarification of the phrases “the bleeding points of humanity” and “human struggles” can discover that these include such matters as economic exploitation, nuclear proliferation, the abuse of human rights, etc.54 Those who ask how it is possible for the World Council to include in its goal for mission matters that have not been included in the most classical definitions of mission55 will have to look at the way in which the Council understands the phrase “kingdom of God.”

According to the Conciliar documents and their interpreters, the Council’s view of the kingdom and its progress in the world is the following: The term “kingdom of God” is to be understood in contrast to the “demonic” kingdom or the kingdom of the devil.56 The “demonic powers” of Ephesians 6:1257 are to be understood as all kinds of evil and injustice in the world, such as poor labor conditions and the abuse of workers’ rights. When the demonic powers are forced to retreat, that is, when poor labor conditions are improved and when workers’ rights are restored, there is, by definition, an advance made by the kingdom of God. Those who are concerned, therefore, about advancing the kingdom of God should be “present at the bleeding points of humanity” and “must dare be present in the midst of human struggles.”

The logic of this position is quite straightforward. Nevertheless, the argument and its conclusion are flawed because the term “kingdom of God” is, from a Confessional Lutheran viewpoint, improperly defined. The flaws in the Conciliar view concerning the “kingdom of God” become apparent when the Confessional Lutheran view of the kingdom is reviewed.

According to the Lutheran view, God rules men by means of two powers,58 which are sometimes called kingdoms or realms. Both powers are blessings of God on earth.59 The first kingdom is the power of the church or the power of the keys.60 This kingdom, which Luther and the Confessions call the kingdom of God,61 deals with men by remitting or retaining their sins,62 and uses the Word and Sacrament to carry out that function. The kingdom of God grants not bodily but eternal things.63

The second kingdom, the kingdom of the world, has to do with the order of things in this present age.64 This kingdom is concerned with the maintenance and defense of bodily things;65 force and reason are used to achieve its ends.66 While the devil can wreak all kinds of havoc in the kingdom of the world and does appear to be its master, the kingdom of the world remains God’s instrument to preserve the bodies of men.67

The errors made by the World Council of Churches and its interpreters in respect to the understanding of the kingdom of God are the following: 1) Complete justice is not done to the term “kingdom of God” when it is simply set in opposition to “kingdom of the devil.”68 While it is true that there is a definite opposition between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the devil,69 that truth does not exhaust the Biblical and Confessional concept of “the kingdom of God.” Any discussion of the concept of the “kingdom of God” should take into consideration the difference between “kingdom of God (church)” and “kingdom of God (world),” something that the World Council doesn’t seem to be willing to do. 2) The concerns of the kingdom of God (church) are eternal, not temporal; the concerns of the kingdom of God (world) are temporal, not eternal. When the two concerns are not kept separate, confusion results, as has resulted in the emphases and policies of the World Council. 3) The means employed by the kingdom of God (church) are different from those employed by the kingdom of God (world). The church is to use the Gospel; the world is to use reason and force. The Council does not make this distinction. 4) Since the character of the kingdom of God (church) is spiritual and invisible, its progress is observable only in relation to the marks of the church, the Word and Sacraments. The World Council, on the other hand, looks for progress in the kingdom at those places where social, economic and political conditions are improved.

Those who hold to the view currently espoused by the World Council of Churches make the church a “sign” of the kingdom of God.70 This is just another way of claiming that the church is not the goal of mission, but rather that the existence of the church is an indication [“sign”] that the kingdom of God is coming in the form of a more just and equitable society. Here is one of several places where the World Council and its brand of Liberation Theology finds common ground with the Liberation Theology of the Roman Catholic Church. As the “father” of Liberation Theology, the Peruvian priest, Gustavo Gutierrez writes:

Since the Church is not an end in itself, it finds its meaning in its capacity to signify the reality in function of which it exists. Outside of this reality the Church is nothing; because of it the Church is always provisional; and it is toward the fulfillment of this reality that the Church is oriented: this reality is the Kingdom of God which has already begun in history. The break with an unjust social order and the search for new ecclesial structures … have their basis in this ecclesiological perspective. [emphasis added]71

When the church becomes simply a “sign” of the kingdom, the two kingdoms are mingled and a great lack of clarity concerning the mission of the church arises. The only way to avoid this lack of clarity is to maintain the distinction between the two kingdoms and the distinctive role that the Christian has in each one. The Christian is a member of both kingdoms. In so far as he is a Christian he is in the kingdom of God (church); in so far as he is a person living in this present age he is in the kingdom of God (world).72 He has, therefore, concerns, obligations if you will, in both kingdoms. Since his desire is to do good to all men, especially those who are of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10), he will not close his eye to social, economic and political inequities and abuses.73 On the other hand, the Christian will always remember that the mission of the church is to absolve people of their sins through Word and Sacrament so that men thereby may be gathered into Christ’s eternal kingdom, the church, and be maintained in it.

b. World evangelization

One of the recent contributions made by those Protestants who call themselves Evangelicals has been that of engaging the World Council of Churches in a debate concerning the mission of the church. In the opinion of some, the Evangelicals were able to force the World Council to modify somewhat, although very little, its conception of mission.74

Like the World Council, the Evangelicals can speak about the kingdom of God as the goal of mission.75 For them, however, the kingdom of God is not related to social action in the same way that it is for the Council. The kingdom of God, in the view of the Evangelicals, is closely related to the church and evangelism.76

A key concept in the Evangelicals’ vocabulary is “world evangelization.”77 In itself the term could be taken to refer to that commendable labor by which every generation of Christians dedicates itself to the task of taking the Gospel to those who have not heard it before. It will have to be acknowledged, however, that the phrase “world evangelization” carries with it other theological freight.

Among the many missiologists who use the term “world evangelization” is Donald A. McGavran, the “father” of the specialized discipline of “Church Growth.”78 For McGavran the world-wide reign of Jesus Christ will be brought in only through world evangelization. By world evangelization he does not just mean the communication of the Gospel, but rather the conversion of large segments of the world’s population.

…if God’s rule is to be worldwide, if all knees in all the tens of thousands of ethne are to bow, and if universal mercy, justice, and peace are to prevail, then it is essential that not merely a few individuals here and there but whole peoples … be composed of Bible-believing, Bible-obeying, Spirit-filled Christians.79

In McGavran’s view, when large segments of humanity become Christians, righteous societies are established and the kingdom of God is ushered in.

If the Church of Jesus Christ wants to help bring in the rule of God, of which a Christian social order is part, it must accept as axiomatic that a redeemed society is built of redeemed persons … a much larger proportion of humanity must become practicing Christians before God’s rule of righteousness, mercy, peace, and justice will prevail worldwide.80

Here McGavran demonstrates that his millenialistic81 expectations for the world are similar in nature to the secular hopes of the World Council of Churches. He differs in that he believes that a just and righteous social order would be a by-product of church growth that must take place through evangelism, But, even though some of his fellow millennialists82 question the Biblical character of his expectations, McGavran has high hopes that through world evangelization something very close to the kingdom of God will be ushered in.

The Great Commission is a command. It is the biblical motive for Christian mission. In all six continents, as Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, obey this command, we shall see communities transformed, countries rejuvenated, urban areas becoming cities of God, and whole nations marching upward to Zion. The world will be transformed into a place much closer to that which God will bring in on the great day when His will will “be done on earth as it is in heaven.”83

If the term implies that a millennial reign of Christ will be brought in through the worldwide acceptance of the Gospel, then world evangelization is not a valid goal of mission. If the term means that the just and righteous worldwide reign of God is brought about by the universal presence of evangelized people, then world evangelization involves another confusion of the Lutheran concept of the two kingdoms.84

The Church Growth Movement as a whole has many flaws, as has been carefully documented elsewhere.85 Its principal problem, however, has to be its theology of growth. Its concept of growth is dependent on an Arminian presupposition of free will86 that attributes to all men the power to make a beginning of turning toward God, and on a seemingly post-millenialistic assumption87 that toward the end of the age more and more people will accept the Gospel, thus transforming the world into a more just and upright place in which to live. Even though not all its adherents agree with the theology of Church Growth, its aims and methods find a ready market in religious North America where there is tendency to look at church growth as a means of survival for the church, a way of broadening her programs, or an instrument for somehow increasing her leverage in the world.

c. The Apostolic Church

Now, where does the Lutheran Church stand in respect to the goal of mission? Lutherans are found in both of the camps mentioned above: 1) Most Lutherans are members of the Lutheran World Federation which is associated with the World Council of Churches and which shares many of the Council’s views on mission.88 2) Other Lutherans are quite interested in the Church Growth Movement and are trying to incorporate Church Growth concepts into their view of mission. 3) Other Lutherans, probably the majority of those formerly associated with the Synodical Conference, as well as some others throughout the world, wish to distance themselves from both of the above mentioned alternatives and at the same time continue active in mission.

As they examine their mission goals, those who claim to be heirs to the Lutheran heritage will have to keep before them Luther’s theology of the cross. Accordingly it will have to be recognized that the mission of the church is always carried out under the cross. That does not mean that there is constant human suffering, but rather that the church of God in this world is hidden. In this world God does not come to man in open triumph.89 God is hidden to the world and is revealed only in His Word. Therefore, the church will not be seen as the only hope of the downtrodden, even though she is that, nor will the church be seen in her triumphant march toward Zion, even though she is making that march which will end in the church triumphant. The church will always be seen as weak and poor, powerless and useless, even though she alone possesses that which is necessary to build up men and give them the richest inheritance.90

In light of all this, then, what is the goal that the Lutheran Church should set for herself? The Lutheran Church sets no goal for herself other than that which has already been set for her, namely, to be apostolic. She makes no claim to apostolicity through the laying on of hands, and she cannot be apostolic simply by calling herself that. Her apostolic character is found elsewhere. 1) The Lutheran Church is apostolic because she holds to the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament as the only rule and norm of her teaching and makes that doctrine her own through her Confessions.91 2) The Lutheran Church is apostolic because it takes seriously the apostolic function. She believes that all “legitimate ministers of the Gospel are true successors of the apostles”92 because “the authority of the ministry depends on the Word of God.”93 That means that the apostolic doctrine is to be confessed and proclaimed to the whole world just as the Lutherans did at Augsburg in 1530,94 and as they have also done and continue to do in many other ways and places.

While she acknowledges her apostolic character, the Lutheran Church also recognized that the fulfillment of her mission depends on the will of the Triune God. Her mission is His mission, for He has created it and He directs it. She desires to work tirelessly like Paul who in his labor always recognized that it was God who gave the increase (I Cor. 3:7). She desires to work as if everything depended on her, yet she is aware that God calls His elect when and where He wills.95

Without doubt God also knows and has determined for each person the time and hour of his call and conversion. … The same applies when we observe that God gives his Word at one place and not at another; that he removes it from one place but lets it remain at another. (FC XI, 56, 57)

This, however, does not give her cause to be lazy, sit back and neglect her apostolic function. For while she does not know what God has set in store for every occasion, she does know that He has given her the Word which she is to use to call unceasingly to all men:

… But since [God] has not revealed … to us [the time and hour in which a person will be called and converted], we must obey his command and operate constantly with the Word, while we leave the time and hour to God. (FC XI, 56)

With that in view, she makes provision for the work that has been graciously given to her: She plans carefully, thankful for the opportunities set before her, certain of the fact that her work in mission is in accord with God’s will:

… we must by all means cling rigidly and firmly to the fact that as the proclamation of repentance extends over all men (Luke 24:47), so also does the promise of the Gospel Therefore Christ has commanded to preach “repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name among all nations.” For God “loved the world” and gave to it his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). … It is Christ’s command that all in common to whom repentance is preached should also have this promise of the Gospel proclaimed to them (Luke 24:47; Mark 16:15). … And we should not regard this call of God which takes place through the preaching of the Word as a deception. … For the Word through which we are called is a ministry of the Spirit — “which gives the Spirit” (II Cor. 3:8) and a “power of God” to save (Rom. 1:16). (FC XI, 27–29)

May that truth guide and temper all our thoughts and plans, while it at the same time guards us against all complacency about the work set before us in mission.

Soli Deo Gloria


  1. Abbreviations for hymnals cited in this paper are the following: TLH-the Lutheran Hymnal, LW-Lutheran Worship
  2. In the present discussion only material from the New Testament will be examined. The Old Testament material is treated in many other places, such as Edgar Hoenecke’s “The Mission Mandate In Isaiah and Other Old Testament Books.” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol. 79, No.4, Winter 1983, 263ff.

    Material from the Lutheran Confessions will be dealt with in other parts of this paper.

  3. Herman Sasse. We Confess Jesus Christ, trans. Norman Nagel. Concordia, St. Louis, 1984, 94.
  4. Sasse, 95.
  5. Ephesians 2:20; John 17:20; II Peter 3:15–16.
  6. Berard L. Marthaler, The Creed, Twenty Third Publications. Mystic, CT, 1987, 317.
  7. The relationship between apostolic and mission is not only a linguistic one as will be seen as the present thesis is developed.
  8. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. I, ed. Gerhard Kittel, translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Erdmans, Grand Rapids, 404.
  9. In this portion of the paper an (a) or (p) after an italicized form of the verb “send” indicates which word, apostello or pempo, appears in the Greek text.
  10. Biblical citations in this paper are taken from the Holy Bible: The New King James Version. Thomas Nelson, Nashville, 1979.
  11. The Holy Spirit is also sent (p) by the Father and by the Son (John 14:25,15:26, 16:7).
  12. Hebrews 3:1.
  13. The Triune God is mentioned in three of the four formulations of the Great Commission: Matthew 28:20; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:4-8.
  14. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John: An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text, Second edition. Westminster, Philadelphia, 1978, 569.
  15. Mark 3:14.
  16. Walter A. Maier, A Short Explanation of Matthew 28:16-20. Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, no date, 19ff.
  17. eis ergon diakonias.
  18. David P. Scaer, Life, New Life and Baptism. Concordia Theological Seminary Press, Ft. Wayne, no date, 15.
  19. The word “Catholic” means “universal” or “throughout the world.” It is worthy of note that the early Christian confessors understood clearly that the Christian Church was to extend to all parts of the world. The difference between the local character of the pagan religions and the universal character of the Christian faith did not escape the notice of the Church Fathers as is clear from their employment of the word “catholic” in the Ecumenical Creeds.
  20. Wilhelm Loehe, Three Books About the Church, translated and edited by James L. Schaaf. Fortress, Philadelphia, 1969, 59.
  21. James A. Scherer, Gospel, Church and Kingdom’ Comparative Studies in World Mission Theology, Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1987, 68.
  22. Scherer, 54.
  23. Werner Elert, The Strocture of Lutheranism: The Theology and Philosophy of Life of Lutheranism Especially in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, trans. Walter A. Hansen. Concordia, St. Louis, 1962, 401.
  24. Elert, 399.
  25. Scherer, 54.
  26. Gustav Warneck, Outline of a History of Protestant Missions from the Reformation to the Present Time. Fleming H. Revell, New York, 1906, 9.
  27. Warneck, 10ff.
  28. Mission historian Kenneth Scott Latourette incorporates part of Warneck’s view in his History of the Expansion of Christianity, Vol. III. Harper and Brothers, New York, 1939, 25. Justo L. Gonzalez, from whose hand comes much good material on church history for the Spanish speaking world. passes on Warneck’s judgement, although with modifications, in his Historia de las Misiones. La Aurora, Buenos Aires, 1970, 185.
  29. Robert Hall Glover, The Progress of World-Wide Missions, revised and enlarged by J. Herbert Kane. Harper and Brothers, New York, 1960, 40.

    The same view is held in Kane’s A Concise History of the Christian World Mission. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1978, p. 73.

  30. Scherer, 54.
  31. Bunkowske, 77.
  32. Hans-Lutz Poetsch, Basics in Evangelism, trans. H. P. Hamann. Lutheran Publishing House, Adelaide, 1985, 40-47.
  33. Luther’s Works, Vol. 37, Helmut Lehman general editor. Fortress, Philadelphia, 1958, 153. Subsequent references to the American Edition of Luther’s Works will be cited with the letters LW followed by the volume and page number.
  34. LW 37:193.
  35. See, for example, LW 40:213.
  36. Citations from the Lutheran Confessions are made with reference to The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. and edited by Theodore G. Tappert. Fortress Press, Philadelphia. 1959.
  37. D Martin Luthers Werk: Critische Gesammt-ausgabe, band 24, Herman Bachhus nachfolger. Weimar 1908, 392. 6. Subsequent references to the Weimar edition of Luther’s Works will be made with the letters WA followed by the number of volume, page and paragraph.
  38. Elert, 389.
  39. LW 40:27.
  40. LW 13:64.
  41. In his comment about the Great Commission Luther was speaking about the divine call and not about the worldwide scope of missions (Eugene Bunkowske, “Luther, the Missionary,” God’s Mission in Action, ed. Eugene W. Bunkowske and Michael A. Nicol. Great Commission Resource Library, Ft. Wayne, 1986, 63. (This essay also appears in A Lively Legacy, ed. Kurt Marquart. Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, 1985.)
  42. WA T III, 3880. See also LW 54:287.
  43. LW 25:141.
  44. LW 37:192.
  45. LW 24:66.
  46. LW 4:33.
  47. Translation from E1ert, 392-3, 387
  48. It should be noted here that Luther’s hymns also reveal his missionary concern. Luther wrote approximately 36 hymns. Of those, one is completely dedicated to mission (TLH 500), while others contain very clear references to the mission task (TLH 224 and 137; LW 223). TLH 259 is an adaptation of a longer hymn and is very appropriately related to mission. At least fourteen percent of Luther’s hymns deal specifically with mission.
  49. The points mentioned here are essentially from Bunkowske, 67-72.
  50. The following selections point out Luther’s mission concern: Bunkowske, op. cit.

    Thomas Coates, “Were The Reformers Mission Minded?” Concordia Theological Monthly, XL (October 19691, 600-11. (This article is a summary of Karl Holl, “Luther und die Mission,” Gesammelte Aufsaetze zur Kirchengeschichte, Vol. III, J.C.B. Mohr, Tuebingen, 1928, 234-243.)

    Werner Elert, op. cit., 385-402.

    John Warwick Montgomery, “Luther and the Missionary Challenge,” In Defense of Martin Luther. Northwestern, Milwaukee, 1970, 160-169.

    Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, Vol. 1. Concordia, St. Louis, 1959, 957.

    James A. Scherer, op. cit., 51-66.

    Ernst Wendland, “Luther on Missions,” Luther Lives, ed. Edward C. Fredrich. Northwestern, Milwaukee, 1983, 55-68.

  51. Scherer, 131.
  52. Gordon S. Huffman, Jr., “Biblical Motifs in Modern Mission Theology,” Bible and Mission: Biblical Foundations and Working Models for Congregational Ministry. Augsburg, 1986, 103.
  53. International Review of Missions, Vol. LXIX, Nos. 276-277, Oct. 1980–Jan. 1981, 398.
  54. Op. cit. 401.
  55. Carl E. Braaten, The Apostolic Imperative: Nature and Aim of the Church’s Mission and Ministry. Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1985: 63.
  56. Scherer, 57 and 141.
  57. Mission and Evangelism: An Ecumenical Affirmation, compiled by Jean Stromberg. World Council of Churches, Geneva, 1983, passim.
  58. 57AC 28:1.
  59. AC 28:4.
  60. AC 28:1, 5.
  61. LW 45:88.
  62. AC 28:5.
  63. AC 28:8.
  64. AC 28:11; WA 49,143,7.
  65. AC 28:11.
  66. AC 28:11; LW 46:239.
  67. LC III, 80.
  68. Johannes Aagaard, “Missionary Theology,” The Lutheran Church-Past and Present, ed. Vilmos Vajta. Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1977, 210.
  69. LC III, 54. It is also important to note that when the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (VII and VIII, 17) speaks of the opposition between the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of the devil. it is speaking of the opposition between the church and the devil.
  70. IRM LXIX, 411. See also Huffman, 103.
  71. A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics and Salvation, trans. and edited by Sister Caridad Inda and John Eagleson. Orbis, Maryknoll, 261.
  72. LW 45:90.
  73. No effort is being made here to deal with the complex matter of Christian social ethics. One example of how Christians engaged in foreign missions can work in both kingdoms without compromising their role in either is seen in the way that the Norwegian missionaries in Alaska at the opening of the present century dealt with the matter.
  74. Donald A. McGavran, Momentous Decisions in Missions Today. Baker, Grand Rapids, 1984, 6 & 17.
  75. The Lausanne Covenant, 1. See also McGavran, 26-30.
  76. The Lausanne Covenant, 3.
  77. Ibid, passim. The term “world evangelization” is generally associated with John R. Mott who spoke of that issue in a 1910 address titled “The Evangelization of the World in this Generation” (Classics of Christian Missions, ed. Francis M. DuBose. Broadman Press, Nashville, 1979, 317ff). His address was a rousing exhortation to get on with the task of world evangelization, but it contained no plan as to how that was to be done.
  78. “Church Growth” is used generically to refer to the extension of the church. McGavran and his associates at one time preferred to use the term “Church Growth” to refer to the specialized discipline studied at the Institute for Church Growth located at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. Other groups, since the founding of the Institute for Church Growth, have used the term to refer to their particular theories and methods that are to bring about, church growth. In the present portion of the paper Church Growth, with initial capital letters, refers to the mission theology of Donald McGavran and his associates.
  79. McGavran, 27.
  80. McGavran, 27.
  81. See AC XVII where millennialism is condemned.
  82. J. Robertson McQuilkin. Measuring the Church Growth Movement Moody, Chicago, 1973, 72.
  83. McGavran, 30.
  84. Sasse sees the slogan “world evangelization in this generation” as an example of the “theology of glory” (op. cit., 52).
  85. Steve O. Scheiderer, The Church Growth Movement: A Lutheran Analysis-A Research Report Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Sacred Theology Master Degree. Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, 1985.
  86. McGavran, 45 & 47.
  87. McQuiIken, 68.
  88. Scherer, 81-83, and Aagaard, 206.
  89. Sasse, 49.
  90. Walter von Loewenich, Luther’s Theology of the Cross, trans. Herbert J. A. Bouman. Augsburg, Minneapolis, 1976, 126f.
  91. While Luther and the Lutheran Confessions do not dedicate a great deal of time to a discussion of the apostolicity of the church (Sasse, 89.), it is, nonetheless, clear that both assume that the link between the Apostles and the post-Apostolic church is essentially a doctrinal link (FC, Part I: Epitome, Rule and Norm, 1–7).
  92. Johann Gerhard as quoted in Elert, 400.
  93. Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 10.
  94. On the missionary character of the Augsburg Confession see Hans-Lutz Poetsch, “Confession and Evangelism.” Evangelium/Gospel 1980, No. 1, 5.
  95. AC 5.
Visit Us
Follow Me