The Church as the Reformation Understood It — Herman Sasse

Great Quote from Herman Sasse on the Church:

But if one proceeds from God and not from man, not from human religion, nor even from the Christian religion, but from the Gospel, as do the Reformation confessions, it is possible to understand the church.  If one has understood what faith in the Evangelical sense is, worked by the Holy Spirit himself, and never “by my own reason or strength” [SC, Creed, 6];  that the Holy Spirit creates faith in the Word of God;  and that this is quite different from all human religions within the bounds of pure and practical reason, then it is possible to understand the church as the Reformation understood it.  This church is not built by us.  It is created by God himself.  And this is so as surely as God is God, as surely as Jesus Christ is Lord, as surely as God’s Word is the Word of the Creator and Consummator, the Judge and Redeemer, the greatest power on earth.

The concept of the church of Luther and Lutheranism originates from faith in this Word.  In this definition of the church, man, as individual or Volk, can never have a founding or co-founding role.  He is passive.  One does not decide to join the church;  he is rather called to the church.  We do not build the church (“Arise!  Let us build Zion!”);  we are only the stones used to build it, or at most the tools used to build it.  The church of the Word is the chur of the sola gratia [“by grace alone”].  It is the true catholic church because it alone is the curhc of God, not a Roman or German church, not Reich or national church, not Volks-church or free will church, or whatever other adjectives we place beside it.  These adjectives finally have no other intent…. than to smuggle man back into the definition of church.  All these names serve finally only to deny the unity, holiness, and catholicity of the church.

— Herman Sasse, “1933, The Lutheran Confessions and the Volk,” The Lonely Way:  Selected Essays and Letters, Vol. 1, tr. Matt Harrison, Kindle Edition, Loc. 2937-2953, Concordia Publishing House  (St. Louis, MO 2010)

Some Interesting Facts About Christianity in America


ImageStatistics are fun.  Numbers are interesting.  They do not lie.  They simply are.  The best are sports statistics — batting averages, earned run averages, goals against averages, goals, assists, home runs, runs batted in, points per game, rebounds, touchdowns, completion percentage, etc.  The list is endless.

I ran across some interesting statistics about the American religious scene from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.  They have any interesting page entitled “Fast Facts about American Religion” which you can find here.  The statistics do not include the Catholic church or the Orthodox church, only Protestant church bodies.  Some of the statistical facts that I found interesting are listed below.  They do have something to tell us about the church in America today.  What do you think that is?

  • 59% of all Protestant churchgoers worship in congregations that have an attendance of 7-99 people.  That is 9,000,000 people and 177,000 congregations.
  • 35% of congregations have an average attendance of 100-499 people.  That is 25,000,000 people and 105,000 congregations.
  • 4% of congregations have an average attendance of 500 to 999 people.  That is 9,000,000 people and 12,000 congregations.
  • 2.41% of congregations have an average attendance of 1,000 or more.  That is 7,210 congregations worship 12,700,000 people.
  • The median church in America has 75 regular participants in Sunday morning services.   That means half the churches are larger and half are smaller.
  • Of Churches making significant use of technology in the life of the church, 46% saw some growth in membership, while 32% saw some decline in membership.  16% of such congregations merely plateaued.
  • 90% of congregations make use of internet technologies.
  • Congregational use of websites is in decline, however, with 69% of congregations using websites in 2010, down from a peak of 77% in 2009.