Evangelizing, Ministering, and Reaching Out

Our Lord ordained His apostles giving them this command based on His authority, “Go into all the world and disciple all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you, and behold, I am with you all all the days until the completion of the age.” (Matt. 28:19, 20, my translation)

This is not a so-called “Great Commission” or even a directive for every member of the Church. This is the Apostolic Commission, a decree to be fulfilled by and in the sent ones, the apostles.  And, to be sure, they have and are accomplishing it through the Church by their writings and their witness. For wherever the Church is, there is the preaching of the apostles.  Our Lord’s commission is a specific call given to a specific group, to which none of us belong since none of us are apostles.

That being said, St. Paul (an apostle) said to Timothy, “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (2 Tim. 2:2).  Here St. Paul tells us what ordination is: the entrusting of the apostolic office to one who will teach it.  That which St. Timothy entrusted to others, he himself was entrusted with (1 Tim. 20) by the laying on of hands and prophecy (1 Tim. 4:14).  So the apostles, in keeping the command of Jesus to disciple all the nations, entrusted men with the gospel that the preaching and teaching would continue when they were no longer physically able to do it.  This has become known as the Apostolic Office or the Office of the Holy Ministry (apostolic succession…ah…).  Those ordained into this office, entrusted with the gospel, are to continue teaching what the apostles taught.  Without this teaching there is no confidence in the promise of our Lord, “Behold, I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”  Therefore, the Christians gather together to “devote themselves to the apostles’ teaching.” (Acts 2:42).  Where do they gather? To the one who has been entrusted with the gospel (which is the apostles’ teaching) by the laying on of hands and prophecy, commanded to pay careful attention to the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers (Acts 20:28).

I have been placed as an overseer in Hoisington, KS; placed here as a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1).  Having received the prophecy and the laying on of hands, I have been entrusted with the gospel and the teaching of the apostles, that those the Lord calls to Himself in this place will have that which He promised (Eph. 4:12), and that they may be confident that the Lord is among them.  (May God our Father grant me His Spirit that I may fulfill my office according to His will.)

So to whom have I been sent?   To those who call themselves members of Concordia Lutheran Church? Or to all who live where I live?

I think the latter.  No, not everyone in Hoisington called me here, but then, neither did all the members of Concordia.  Only those who took the time to come to the call meetings and be involved, and even they were instruments of our Lord to do His bidding.  I don’t know everyone where I live, but then, neither do I know everyone who thinks they belong to Concordia.  Yes, there are other pastors in Hoisington, and they have the same vocation as I do, regardless of denomination affiliation.  We deal in thoughts of congregations because that’s how our administration has taught us to think.  But the apostle Paul didn’t think that way when he sent Titus to Crete.  Neither did Timothy entrust faithful men with the gospel, thinking, I’m sending or placing this man here at such-and-such a church.  Rather, he and Titus established overseers in towns, where people lived.  Some of those people believed, were baptized, and continued in the faith. Some didn’t.  A congregation is not attached to a constitution or bylaws or even charter members or to a building.  A congregation is attached to the apostolic office; so we confess that we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

This doesn’t mean that if there is no resident pastor then there is no Church, but it does mean that if there is no available minister, ordained and entrusted with the gospel, then there is no minister. Can there still be Christians?  Of course.  But to whom will they go to receive the apostolic blessing and the promise and sign that Jesus is indeed with them?  We ought not “spiritualize” this.  For then we are not really spiritualizing it, which would be to make it of the Spirit, but are divorcing it from the incarnation of our Lord and from His sacramental union with His people, which is the true spiritualization of it.

So wherever you are, pastor, you are the one whose vocation it is to reach out.  Yes, you (gulp) evangelize.  That is, you take the gospel to the people where you live. Not just the ones that call themselves your members, but to everyone because like it or not (believe it or not) you’re in the apostolic office.  You go to homes; both those who you know and those you don’t.  You pray for the sick and anoint them with the oil of the Lord (James 5:13ff), and forgive their sins.  And when others come to you for healing and exorcisms, you rebuke the sickness and the unclean spirits, telling the troubled that their faith has made them well.  You baptize and teach.  You rebuke the self-righteous and preach Christ and Him crucified.  In the pulpit on Sunday? Yes.  In homes on Monday? Yes.  You are a minister of reconciliation, entrusted with the gospel and placed where you are that the Lord would fulfill His promise that He calls His elect from the four corners of creation.  You’ve been given the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:28-31), let us strive to be good stewards of His varied gifts, to the glory of God the Father.

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One Response

  1. Excellent exhortation! Thank you for your work and devotion.

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