The State Of The Confessing Church In 2018 In The United States1
What is the state of the confessing church in our day?
A confessing church is one that holds Scripture to be authoritative divine revelation: the very Word of God. It is, further, a church that is ruled and normed by written confessions to which its pastors and members bind themselves. The LCMS, which confesses the Book of Concord, is such a church.
Those who practice a confessional faith today are considered little more than curious artifacts by culture, Christianity at large, and by more than a few Lutherans.
The culture has never been a friend of the faith we practice, nothing new there. But more significantly great swaths of Christianity which at one time were confessing churches no longer are, and this negatively affects us too.
Much if not most of Protestantism exists in perfect ignorance of its historic confessions. Even Protestant clergy I have interviewed are unaware of their traditional confessional documents. Writings such as: The 39 Articles, the Canons of the Synod of Dordt, the Westminster Confession and Catechisms, The Belgic Confession, Helvetic Confessions, Heidelberg Catechism and similar Protestant confessions.
It is my observation that there are very few confessing churches left today in the United States; and that most Protestant churches no longer deal in theology at all; but have replaced Scripture and doctrine with psychology, political-cultural agendas, or a message of self-affirmation. Judging by mega-church membership, and even smaller churches that use their format, it is a very appealing message.
Except for the remaining liturgical Lutheran churches the traditional Protestant service is dead. The church organ, hymns and clergy led Services are no more. All others according to my research are of the big screen variety who now deal in theology only incidentally.
What does this mean for traditional Lutherans? It means that many of our members have been influenced by this form of religion and have left us. While others campaign for their Lutheran congregation to follow suit.
It means, further, that not many people are likely to seek out churches like ours. Which in turn means that our churches are not likely to grow in number or influence. Which further means that our parishes will remain small and always struggle.
Yet none of this should trouble us nor should we be overcome by self-pity! If anything Lutherans who are older than 50 need to make some mental adjustments. Most Lutherans of that vintage remember a very different church in size, splendor and influence. But those days are gone and, short of a miraculous revival, are not likely to return – at least not in the west though African Lutheran churches are thriving!
If this is the case why continue, struggle or resist?
Here is why.
Because Lutheranism, classical Lutheranism that is, is our religion.
Because we firmly believe that it is a continuation of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of the ages.
Because we believe we are right and will do nothing else.
Because it satisfies our deepest needs..
Because it has seen our forefathers through life and death and is doing the same for us today.
Because it is mature, and not trendy or “lite”.
Because its doctrine is good, true and beautiful.
Because its liturgy is beautiful, true and good.
Because by it we have received “the gift of God” – “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
Because it richly supplies us with the remission of sins, life, salvation, confidence in God, strength, wisdom and unwavering consolation in all our troubles.
Because its prayers, hymns, creeds, confessions liturgies, lectionaries, ceremonies and celebrations have made our souls fat with joy and gladness in Christ our Savior.
Because we cannot live without it.
Because we want to pass it on to our children and our children’s children; and to all who long for life everlasting.
Because we believe that we have something unique and precious to offer the rest of Christianity. They can learn from us.
I don’t know what will become of our faith in future generations. But I do know, God being merciful, that I will continue to believe, teach and confess this faith until I am inducted into the heavenly choir, and stand at the heavenly altar with Christ my Lord.
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