God Loved the World

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Bishop and Christian*, March 2018

Dr. Carl Fickenscher, in an essay that was presented to the 2001 Convention of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, wrote,

A few years ago, in one of the more famous case studies in marketing research, an ad agency for Curtis Mathis Televisions made an interesting discovery. Curtis Mathis was at that time offering a full line of TVs, from small black-and-white portables to huge color consoles. Their researchers found that their market share and profitability were very strong with the big, jazzy models while all their other products were mediocre or worse. So even though it would cost them total sales, they recommended dropping everything else and pushing one kind of TV. Their advertising slogan became (maybe you remember) “Curtis Mathis: the most expensive name in television and darn well worth it.” Their profits soared.

Now, we in the Missouri Synod are not going for snob appeal, and we’re certainly not expensive. But we do have something on which we are very strong, and we should be aware of it and feature it. It’s our doctrine. In order to do evangelism with full commitment and enthusiasm, our own members need to know that they, we, have something very unique to share with the world, something that saves souls for eternity: pure doctrine. Not everything else we’ve got is so good—at least not uniquely so. Even if we did admit everybody to our altars, we might or might not be the friendliest church in town. Even if our pastor is visible at every community worship event, he might not out-hustle the nonedenominational minister down the street. But we have what we believe, teach, and confess only the true Evangelical Lutheran Church has: “all things Christ commanded.” If our folks think their job is to market “friendly,” “great programs,” “inspiring worship,” then their motivation is purely human. If they realize that they are sharing the pure Word of God, a Word which alone can save souls, a Word the friendly church around the corner doesn’t have purely, then their motivation is from God Himself. (“Church Fellowship and Telling the Good News,” Closed Communion? [St. Louis: Concordia, 2017], 254)

I pray that this Lent is for you a time of renewal and a reminder of the great treasure we have been given in order to share with the world, and that this might lead us to a renewed and energetic witness both to those who do not believe Christ, as well as to Christians of other traditions.

And I pray that that renewal will lead us to an ever more joyous celebration of our Lord’s Resurrection, as we look forward in renewed hope to the fulfillment of all His promises in our own resurrection and the restoration of all creation.

Pr. Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”

Bishop and Christian*, February 2018

For very many people in our current society, joining something—anything—is a foreign concept. People simply do not join groups, clubs, or organizations as often as they used to. If they are going to join, they want to know what sorts of benefits they will get in return. And they want to know if they will be forced to take on burdens and responsibilities, and whether those will be worth the cost of joining.

What is true for organizations in general is also true for churches, and perhaps even more so. Whereas the benefits of joining this or that club or group may be obvious, the benefits of joining churches are not as apparent. And when people do not see the point of actual membership, they are, of course, unlikely to become a member.

This lack of interest in joining churches is what makes Peter Speckhard’s little book called Connected to Christ: Why Membership Matters so important. In just over 100 (5×7) pages, Pr. Speckhard (a nephew of our own Mim Schwich!) makes the case for, as the title states, why membership matters. It is a very succinct book, but I was surprised at how in-depth it is for its length.

Pr. Speckhard lays out why membership in a local congregation is required because the Body of Christ is physical and located in time and space, as well as throughout history and eternity. But he also points out the benefits and responsibilities of members of the Christian Church, which are carried out in the local congregation.

Connected to Christ is not only the best explanation and defense of membership in a local congregation, it’s the only one I know of written by a Lutheran. If you’ve ever wondered why membership matters, or struggled with the question of why you are a member here (or anywhere else), I would encourage you to pick up and read this short book. You can find it at cph.org or amazon.com.

Pastor Winterstein

*St. Augustine (354-430 AD), Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, said, “For you I am a bishop [overseer]; with you I am a Christian.”