Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wilhelm Loehe and Evangelism

Quoting Professor John Pless from an appearance on Issues, Etc., discussing the great 19th century German theologian and missionary Wilhelm Loehe.

I think what would astound Loehe most about contemporary evangelism and missionary practices is how often what passes for evangelism and mission work today is severed from the very center of the Church’s life. Loehe wrote a little publication in the late 1840's, translated into English, entitled Three Books About the Church, and there he makes the comment that missions is the one Church of God in motion, and for Loehe the Church of God in motion did not mean that the Church was caught up in kind of frenzied activity, just running from place to place or always looking for a new technique, a new program, or even a new movement. Instead for Loehe the mission of the Church flowed from God’s coming to us in Jesus Christ. The man of Calvary who was crucified and raised for our justification, and then raised from the dead, he sends his apostles in all the world to preach the Gospel of forgiveness of sins. And wherever that Gospel of forgiveness is being proclaimed in sermon and in Sacrament, there God is himself in mission, gathering unto himself a people. And for Loehe, missions therefore had a divine simplicity to use his own language. A singleness of purpose as the Church through her pastors proclaims to all the world this Jesus who was crucified and raised, and in his resurrection he is gathering a new people for himself. For Loehe it was that simple. Not a collection of methods or techniques or programs, but really that which is essential to the Church’s life: preaching and Sacrament.

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