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On “Connecting People to Christ” – a mission statement

27October2011

Throughout 2011, a group of committed individuals at my new congregation have been working on articulating the core values of Peace Lutheran Church.  After putting them into a draft form on paper, the congregation has been given time the past three months to read through them, dissect them, discuss them, and so forth.  Included in the Core Values booklet is the mission statement of the congregation – “Peace Lutheran Church… Connecting People to Christ”.  At one of the recent meetings, someone raised an objection to the mission statement.

The objection was not about verb tenses or which preposition (to Christ?  with Christ?) would be most appropriate, but the objection raised was to the idea that we human beings play any part in connecting people to Christ.  What came forth was an interesting discussion about how to word the statement to answer the objection.  At the end of the discussion, it was seemingly decided to keep the statement as-is.  I thought little more about it until our congregational council meeting last night when the objection was raised again.

As a decision was being reached on an item of business, I pointed out to the council that we need to address things in light of the mission God has given us – does this (whatever the “this” happens to be) fit with our mission of connecting people to Christ?  If it does, great, then we can move forward.  If not, then we can simply say, “No” to the item of business, and move on to the next thing.  At that point, the objection was again raised about the statement that we connect people to Christ.  Instead, the argument went, it is the Holy Spirit who connects people to Christ.

Of course, neither answer is wrong.  It is the Holy Spirit who “has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith” because “by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him” (Luther’s Small Catechism, Explanation of the 3rd Article of the Apostles’ Cred).  So how does the Holy Spirit call me?  I am called through the Gospel – which is the Word proclaimed.

“It must be firmly maintained that God gives no one His Spirit or grace apart from the external Word which goes before.  We say this to protect ourselves from the enthusiasts, that is, the “spirits” who boast that they have the Spirit apart from and before contact with the Word . . . both those who believe in believe prior to baptism and those who become believers in baptism have everything through the external Word that comes first”  (Smalcald Articles, III, VIII).  Again from the same section of the Smalcald Articles:  “…we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us human beings, except by means of his external Word and sacrament. Everything that boasts of being from the Spirit apart from such a Word and sacrament is of the devil”.

In a sense, not only does this support mission statements like “connecting people to Christ”, but it is a call for evangelism by Lutherans.  The external Word is proclaimed and the sacraments are administered by people.  The Holy Spirit works through, never apart from us to connect people to Christ.  This is not to limit the power of God; God could certainly choose to work apart from the external Word and sacraments.  God has chosen to work through means – Word and Sacrament – and those means are made available to us, for us, and through us, so that all might come to know the life giving power in Christ Jesus.

KMF@CCD

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