Do you have a church?

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A few remarks by people in bible class afterward were interesting feedback. This seem seemed to strike harder than I would have expected. Not that the notes that struck were not there, just that I would have expected a slightly different reaction.

Protestantism and Lutheranism in particular are very polar – either this or that. When you are talking about discipleship or responding to the call of Christ, that isn’t always helpful. Modern protestants have become very able to reduce the gospel to one dimension – believe the right thing. Faith Alone. The dramatic flattening of the gospel in many churches isn’t all Paul’s fault, because Paul is never that one dimensional, but Matthew and the gospels help. The call comes to different people in different ways. The gospel is that it is from God’s guidance and never more than we can handle. That simple faith in the right things – for me encapsulated in the creeds – is the general call given to all humanity. Repent, the Kingdom is here!

But the life of Faith may contain individual calls that go beyond that. They are part of the individuals call to follow. They are part of separating out the disciple of the Kingdom from the admirer.

That title questions – Do you have a church? – is from a story used in the sermon. It is important to ask. Do you have a community of people responding and guided by the call of Jesus, or a club of Jesus admirers?

[Another deeper point not touched on in the sermon directly, but broached in bible class and always floating in Matthew is: are the disciples the embryo church or are they the apostles? When you hear the call to be fisher’s of people, is that given to the entire church, or to the ministers? Same in Matthew 28:18-20. Is the great commission to the church as a whole, or those who normally baptize and teach? It is not as clean as we’d like it. Although I’m sure that many would not like this, how you answer that question is probably a bigger difference today between Rome and Protestants than justification. And that also has an impact on Do you have a church? Rome traditionally said Protestants didn’t. Now we are just imperfectly in communion. Is there a church structure – an ecclesiology – that acknowledges the ambiguity?]

4 thoughts on “Do you have a church?

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    Why do these questions suggest either/or answers? Weren’t the Apostles (i.e. the 12) and other disciples the embryo church? And wasn’t the Great Commission given to the whole church but with that command first given to it’s foundation, the Apostles? In either case, I don’t see the separation and I don’t see any ambiguity.

    1. I like your sentence there…’given to the whole church , but with that command first given to it’s foundation, the Apostles’. That is very creed like.

      My ambiguity comes from the application question: do the great commission and the fishers of men calls apply to the entire church or to the heirs of the apostles? If all I had was the Gospel of Matthew I think I end up more toward a Roman polity and placing a much greater emphasis on physical apostolic succession. (Compared to the almost none besides an admission that the leader of a Billion Christians deserves a serious hearing.) Reading Matthew alone the going, teaching and baptizing is the job of the apostles alone. The general people of the church, other than the witness of their new life in Christ, do not have a spread-the-gospel calling. The apostolic succession has that responsibility.

      But we don’t have Matthew alone. Matthew only records the sending of the 12 (Matt 10). Only the 11 are at the Great Commission. Luke also records the sending of the 70/72 (Luke 10). (Apostle is sent-one in Greek. It wouldn’t be a technical term for Peter and the boys for a while.) Luke records the unnamed two at Emmaus (Luke 24), the ascension and commission (Acts 1) with a list of the 11 and mention of the women and about 120 others who gathered, and then Pentecost with all the believers (Acts 2) receiving the Holy Spirit which was the sign to begin the commission given in Acts 1. Theologically, Luke puts the commission on the church.

      In the American church, speaking of primarily of the evangelical groups, “save someone” or being a fisher of men is almost a law – that is the goal of every believer and you are almost 2nd class if you can’t. That seems to be the modern equivalent of the 14th century pilgrimage or relic. I think you have to answer and maintain a both/and. Mission is a necessary element of the church and individual believers, but it is also given to those who hold the office.

  2. Good dialog! This website needs a forum section where regular folks can post, banter and rant.

    Anyway, whether or not the Apostles had a special calling apart from the disciples I don’t think has any bearing on where the burden of the Great Commission was placed. I still stand by my creed-like statement above. Based on the same scripture you cited, I believe the Great Commission has been given to the entire Church when it was given to the 11 or 12. ALL of us pew potatoes have a responsibility to share the gospel with those we rub shoulders with, and it is time we begin to act like it! That being said, I don’t give up without a fight. I still place more importance and significance on the Apostolic office than most seasoned Lutherans.

  3. On a simplified note, when I read the great commission, I am excited to be on the receiving end of baptism. And the making disciples part convicts me to share the truth with others, but it seems that if Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them….” that’s how you do it. You make disciples by baptizing them, right? So maybe Jesus was talking directly to the disciples, yet knowing that His words had value for every one of us. Apostles/church leaders make disciples by baptizing others, and the rest of us make disciples by encouraging others to be baptized. ?
    (I know my thoughts aren’t satisfactory from a purely doctrinal point of view. Just thinking while typing, I guess).

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