“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 6 For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, 7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. 8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; 9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.” (2 Timothy 3:1-9)
Of all the things you can say and see about our church—we are on a mission!
Under the Great Commission of Matthew 28, our work is threefold: reach out to people, invite people to come in, and explain things to people. All the impetus and information is in the Word of God.
This mission is exercised on the inside within the congregation among professed believers and on the outside among professed unbelievers. The latter may have tried many religions, even many branches of Christianity, but may never have come close to the truth.
The epistles of St. Paul as well as the four Gospels often remind us that insiders can fall away from Christ. They may go through all the proper motions, but seem to have lost the vigor.
And the epistles are full of encouragement to retain the insiders, as well as to bring in new people. Pastors and elders are seen as primarily responsible for the first category (those inside)—stated positively as striving for “membership retention.” On the other hand, the lay-people are seen as primarily responsible for the second—the inclusion of
All of this is nothing new to you, dear reader. What seems to be new these days is that both tasks—retention and inclusion—are getting harder (especially the latter!). The apostle Paul has something to say about this in these opening verses of 2 Timothy 3.
Take a careful look—and find there about twenty types of people and problems that make things really tough.
It makes one wonder how Timothy kept on going to work. We know that he was somewhat timid, had health problems, and suffered afflictions. But he kept at it!
The Bright Side
If times were tough and terrible for outreach in St. Paul’s day—perilous, grievous, hard, violent, evil, dangerous, even vicious and stressful (to expand that one Greek word here in verse 1)—what do you think it is like now? Have you noticed? Take a look, and talk to someone on the outside! There are still people who follow vain babblers, fables, the latest religious fads, and people who have itching ears and try to turn believers away from Christ.
On the bright side—using regular, un-gimmicky, sound and sober, biblically winsome approaches to the outsider, it is still possible, under God, to bring souls in for indoctrination (a good word!), as well as to full communicant membership.
These new people can be taught from the Bible to understand and accept the full position of a synod like ours, including the hard sayings and stances we have, and also to accept the teachings of the Catechism together with liturgical, creedal Lutheran worship.
People invited to our churches may have many of the characteristics which St. Paul mentions in 2 Timothy 3:2-4. Some don’t follow through, and the loss rate may be high. And yet, just as it was with the work of Saints Paul and Timothy, the “gain rate” is still there, by God’s grace.
Otherwise, the CLC would not be here today!
It sure looks like the world is not getting any better. Hence our gospel work will not be getting easier. But we would all agree that it has to be done, and it can be done—for Jesus’ sake—inside and out.
Christian friend, go to it!