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)

Luther on Procreation and the Word

“What, then, is the reason for this remarkable procreation? The hen lays an egg; this she keeps warm while a living body comes into being in the egg, which the mother later on hatches. The philosophers advance the reason that these events take place through the working of the sun and her belly. I grant this. But the theologians say, far more reliably, that these events take place through the working of the Word, because it is said here: “He blessed them and said: ‘Increase and multiply.’ ” This Word is present in the very body of the hen and in all living creatures; the heat with which the hen keeps her eggs warm is the result of the divine Word, because if it were without the Word, the heat would be useless and without effect.” Luther’s Works, Vol. 1, Lectures on Genesis, Ch. 1:22. via the Logos Bible Android app.

Why Plant Churches? For Market Share or to Proclaim the Gospel?

For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:16.

 In short, enthusiasm clings to Adam and his descendants from the beginning to the end of the world. It is a poison implanted and inoculated in man by the old dragon, and it is the source, strength, and power of all heresy, including that of the papacy and Mohammedanism.  Accordingly, we should and must constantly maintain that God will not deal with us except through his external Word and sacrament. Whatever is attributed to the Spirit apart from such Word and sacrament is of the devil.  Smalcald Articles, III, VIII, par 9-10.

(This article was originally published on January 28, 2012.  It has been updated and cleaned up a bit)

Earlier this week a church planting team from our LCMS District came to our congregation to talk about entering into a partnership with our congregation in Nashville, Tennessee.  Situated smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt, home to the Christian music industry, our congregation is centrally located along what many have termed “church row.”  We are one of the smaller churches along this stretch of road in Nashville, but we are growing.  Nashville and Davidson County boast a population of approximately 620,000 people, 600,000 12 years earlier.  In 2000, there were approximately 591 congregations with 297,312 members.  When the statistics are adjusted for children, the figure jumps to just over 400,000 (Source: Association of Religious Data Archives).  In 2007, the estimated population was 620,000.  The number of churches climbed to 853 and church membership saw a slight increase to 304,238 (Source:  Social Explorer using ARDA numbers).  You can throw a rock and hit a large, mega, or brand new church in Nashville and its surrounding counties.  I may be a little color blind when it comes to distinguishing the colors on the demographic map, but the numbers show pretty close to 50% of the adult population claims membership in a church in Davidson County, the geographic home of the Music City, and more than 60% when children are factored into the equation.  So why plant churches when 262 new churches yielded only a slight increase in claimed membership over a 7 year period in Nashville?   The answer may surprise you. Continue reading “Why Plant Churches? For Market Share or to Proclaim the Gospel?”