Know doctrine, know mission. No doctrine? No mission!
Sadly, we still continue to hear, from time to time, comments and statements that would tend to create an unfortunate separation between doctrine and mission, between faithfulness and outreach, and between doctrine and practice. How can we help one another better understand and more fully comprehend these simple realities?
No doctrine? No mission. Know doctrine, know mission. lf you aren’t doctrinal, you aren’t missional and if you aren’t missional, you aren’t doctrinal.
This is precisely why our Lutheran Confessions often repeat the necessary and essential two-fold assertion: “We believe, teach and confess,” and, “we reject and condemn.” Some would have us only be about the first task, not the second. Others would have us spend most of our time on the second part of that phrase, not the first. It is both! It is always a blessed both/and, and never an either/or.
It is no coincidence, at all, that in nearly every single instance in the last twenty years or more where The LCMS has entered into church fellowship with an overseas church body, it has come as a result of intensive doctrinal teaching and outreach. This holds true in Asia, Africa, the Baltics, Russia, etc. In most cases, new mission fields have been opened, and partnerships formed with existing churches as a result of a very vibrant and hearty confessional Lutheran teaching activity in these countries.
Let’s have an end to the “Yes, but…” kind of rhetoric on either side of these kinds of comments. Here’s what one of our pastors had to say in response to those who were lamenting an emphasis on doctrine.
“It is true, brethren, as you well know, that in our day it is
common for people to say, “Emphasizing doctrine so much only harms and
hinders the kingdom of God, yes, even destroys it.” Many say, “Instead
of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned
with souls and with leading them to Christ.” But all who speak in this
way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As
foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about
sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a
good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first
and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should
rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good
crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must
above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.”
(C. F. W. Walther, “Our Common Task: The Saving of Souls” , Essays for the Church [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992], Vol. I)