Monday, June 29, 2009

The Essential Function of the Church

Quoting from Dr. Ron M. Garwood's essay "The Nature of the Church With Reference To Its Structure," presented to the Wyoming District Convention this year:

So, there are many things going on in the visible church, some which should not be going on, and other things are good and positive and a blessing to many. But the essential function of the church is preaching and teaching the Word of God and administering the sacraments. The Word and sacraments are what create the church, sustain the church, and grow and extend the church. In fact, Richard Klann wrote in the Abiding Word, “that the function of the Christian Church does not extend beyond the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments.”

Now in observing the visible church in the world today, it is obvious that the visible church struggles with and against this understanding of the function of the church. Even in our Lutheran Church we claim that we believe that it is the Word of God and the sacraments that create and sustain the church, but then we act as if we don’t really believe this as we introduce other teachings, programs, and features by which we maintain the church is created and grown. Dr. Eugene Klug, commenting on this inclination, and quoting Luther, writes:

This notion, that it is not only God but also man with his energies and innovations that avail for the church’s progress and continuance, is…an ongoing plague upon the church. “Everything that God does they must improve.” Such leaders sound every so pious and their programs ever so heavenly minded; but their actions belie their words,…This self-willed piety and officiousness, Luther states, “may be seen in all heretics from the beginning of the world.” Whether you look at “Arius and Pelagius, or now in our time the Anabaptists and anti-sacramentarians, and all fanatics and rebels, the story is always the same: “They are not satisfied with what God has done and instituted, they cannot let things be as they were ordained to be.” The tragic story in the church is that “conceit keeps the dance going.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. However, it is not simply a conceit issue. We just don't trust God's promises, and trusting his promises, or THE PROMISE, is the essence of faith. "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" Luke 18:8