The Life of God in Your Church
A wonderful piece from a Missouri Synod district president, Rev. Herbert Mueller of the Southern Illinois District.
The Life of God in Your
“Jesus Gives Life at 100+ Mission
Outposts!” That was our theme for the district convention last February.
This also will be our litmus test in the visitation of all the parishes
of the district we have begun. In three stages, first to the pastor to
encourage him (Fall 2006), then to the pastor and congregational
leadership (2007) and finally to the voters assemblies (2008), the
district president, a vice president or the circuit counselor will be
Why visitation? Both the Special
Convention in 2004 and the Regular Convention in 2006 mandated
visitation around the themes of mission, worship and communion practice.
But central to each of these is the life of Christ for us. In worship
and communion we receive the life Jesus gives. Our mission as a
congregation, as a “mission outpost,” is to give this life away, to
bring others into the life of Christ.
The life of Jesus does not come from a
new program, but through repentance and faith. The life of God is not
the result of moral instruction and moral living, but of God’s gift of a
new relationship with Him in Jesus Christ.
The beating heart of your congregation
is the life of Jesus Christ – His life lived for us and offered up for
us on the cross. His life triumphant in His resurrection. His life
freely given in His body and blood, in the forgiveness of sins, in the
washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.
You are alive because you are in
Christ. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you and to all who
believe. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you through your
congregation, your pastor’s work and your fellow members’ witness to
Jesus. You are alive in Christ because He has made you alive in His
When we say that “Jesus Gives Life at
100+ Mission Outposts,” we look for each parish to become more and more
the body of Christ. We have received in Christ our true Head. “Now you
are [together!] the body of Christ, and individually members of it” (1
Corinthians 12:27). If Christ is the Head, and we the body, then we are
sent into the world as members of the body to extend His ministry of
love and service to the world.
The life of Jesus given for us implies
that we take worship seriously. If Christ is our Head and we His body,
we nourish ourselves at the font, the lectern, the pulpit, the altar,
wherever the Word of God is found. Here Christ gives Himself to us that
we may give away the life of Jesus by serving others and drawing them
into the life we have received.
The new life Jesus gives implies that
we are always ready to teach the Word of God, “ready always to give an
answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hope that is in us” (1
Peter 3:15). Led by the Spirit, we search the Word of God together to
discover and to grow in the will of God for our life together. No one is
too young or too old to be taught, but everyone is drawn into the Word.
The life of Jesus connects us to one
another in love. We are not alone, but we receive His life – together!
We are “thankful for your partnership in the Gospel, from the first day
until now…” (Philippians 1:5). We stand together in a new relationship
to God in Christ. We seek to strengthen one another in the faith by our
words and our actions, helping each other enjoy the good gifts of God.
The life of God in Jesus means that we
take prayer and worship seriously. We teach families to pray together.
We provide many opportunities for worship and prayer and study of the
Word. We provide holy absolution and Holy Communion as often as they are
Jesus gives life also in order to send
us into the world, for the sake of the hungry, the needy, the lost,
those who do not yet know Him. Jesus gives life so that we also present
ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” in Him. We
are a community of servants sent into the world in our various vocations
to serve God by serving others. (Various thoughts in this article drawn
from A.C. Piepkorn, The Church, pp. 116-118).
Our theme shows us how Jesus enlivens
His Church – through Word and Sacrament, at locations (wherever God’s
people gather in His name), and from which we are sent into the world to
give His life away.
Herbert C. Mueller, President
Illinois District – LCMS