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The Book of Concord: Key to Lutheran Vitality – A Pastor’s Testimony

May 29th, 2010
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I found this fascinating and powerful post by Pastor Joseph Eggleston, sharing how the Lutheran Confessions have become such a vital part of his ministry. He is a pastor in a congregation of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s, Southeastern District. Here is what he had to say:

“The Book of Concord should be in every Lutheran home. If a person isn’t familiar with this book, he’ll think, ‘That old book is just for pastors. I don’t have to preach. After working all day, I can’t sit down and study in the evening. If I read my morning and evening devotions, that’s enough.’ No, that is not enough! The Lord doesn’t want us to remain children, blown to and fro by every wind of doctrine; instead of that, He wants us to grow in knowledge so that we can teach others.” - Dr. C.F.W. Walther

As happens about once a year, Concordia Publishing House has the new reader’s edition of the Book of Concord on sale. The hardback is a great value $20 (regularly $31). It contains readable, yet accurate translations of the Lutheran Confessions, including the three ecumenical creeds, The Augsburg Confession, the Apology (defense) of the Augsburg Confession, Luther’s Small and Large Catechisms, the Formula of Concord, and other symbolical writings that we hold as true exposition of Scripture, and our guide to right teaching of the Christian faith.

When I arrived at Peace In Christ, I found basically what I expected regarding our Lutheran Confessions: scarcity. Many had never heard of them (either the Book of Concord or the specific writings), and even fewer owned a copy. This did not surprise me in the least! In fact, I myself barely paid any attention to the Confessions in my first few years at the St. Louis seminary. We had two classes on the Confessions, and that was it. I approached them much like many adults do the Small Catechism, years after they are confirmed: I read that once, and I still even remember some of it! For years, I think we pastors have been trained to see the Confessions as a good reference book, but not much for regular use. That is certainly how I felt.

It was not till Concordia Publishing House, released Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions: A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord that I realized how central the Confessions were to my faith, my schooling, and the call to ministry I was setting out upon. It started when I won a copy as a door prize at a seminary social event. I decided to give it to my dad, but I had little interest in owning one, since I already had the “academic” version the seminary required (which I rarely took off my shelf). All this changed when I began flipping through the pages of the new reader’s edition, filled not just with the confessional writings, but with histories, summaries, timelines, and footnotes. I marveled at the pictures, portraits, woodcuts, and Christian symbols throughout, making for a very rich reading experience for even the novice who might be encountering the Lutheran faith for the first time!

I now own two copies of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions – one for my study, and one for home. I’m glad to say that I use them often. Re-embracing our confessional writings goes hand-in-hand with our renewal process, since any renwal that takes place needs to be grounded in our Lutheran faith and our identity as a church of the Reformation. I believe that our vitality as a church will rise or fall to the extent that we distinguish ourselves as the church of the Lutheran Confessions. I apply this both to Peace In Christ, and to the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. May God grant us this type of renewal, to His glory.

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