Holding on to our heritage

Mark G. Schroeder

In my report to the synod convention in July, I outlined some of the values and principles that will, God-willing, guide our synod as it carries out its mission. The convention expressed its agreement. What your representatives at the convention affirmed should be of interest to all WELS members.

As the congregations of our synod face the challenges of an increasingly hostile culture, it is vital that we hold on to the heritage that has been passed down to us. This does not imply that we will remain focused on the past or consumed by nostalgia for a bygone era. Nor is it simply a matter of preserving the history of our synod. Rather, it means that for us to carry out our mission faithfully in the future, we need to rededicate ourselves to holding on to what is valuable and never letting it go, celebrating and cherishing our heritage as confessional Lutherans. Rather than diluting that heritage and reshaping our identity into something more generic and less distinct from other types of Christianity—or worse, abandoning it—we need to sharpen and clarify for ourselves and for others what makes our synod distinct and different. How will we do this?

Sola gratia (by grace alone), sola fide (by faith alone), sola Scriptura (by Scripture alone), and solo Christo (by Christ alone) will not be an empty slogan but will remain the focus and foundation of all we believe, teach, confess, and practice.

• We will train men not just as theologians, but as pastors—caring shepherds who will use their knowledge of God’s Word to lead and guide God’s people more deeply into the Scriptures, which teach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. We will train teachers as servants who recognize that their main role is to feed Jesus’ lambs with his precious Word.

• Our preaching and teaching will continue to be Christ-centered and grace-proclaiming rather than an attempt to entertain, to pander to emotions, or primarily to provide guidance on how to live a happy and fulfilled life.

• We will commit ourselves to thorough instruction of the young. We will do all we can in our families and schools to provide them with a foundation that cannot and will not be shaken.

• We will emphasize the centrality of the means of grace in our lives as we worship regularly and share in the Lord’s Supper often. We will bring our children joyfully to the font where the Spirit grants forgiveness, salvation, and new birth.

• We will treasure and teach our heritage of Lutheran worship. We dare not abandon something that has been a blessing for centuries for the generic, shallow, and emotionally-based worship of Christian churches around us.

• We will hold on to the teachings of Scripture no matter how the culture may change and no matter how strongly our beliefs may be challenged. We will never grow complacent in our knowledge of the Scriptures, but we will look continually to grow in our knowledge and depth of understanding.

• We will be zealous in sharing the treasure of our gospel heritage with as many people as possible, recognizing that the mission God has given us is not an obligation but a privilege.

• We will look together with eager anticipation to the return of our Savior, because we know that his final victory will be our victory.

All of this we can do if, and only if, we place ourselves, our families, our congregations, and our synod into God’s gracious care and depend on his blessing on our work together.

 

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Author: Mark G. Schroeder
Volume 102, Number 10
Issue: October 2015

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