That’s the Ethiopian treasurer’s response to Philip’s question as to whether he understands the Scripture that he is reading, and that is my response to the situation a Confessional Lutheran church finds itself in today.
First a disclaimer. This is not an article on Friendship Evangelism which is trying to sidle up close and personal with someone for the purpose of later sharing the Gospel with him. Every time I have tired this, and I have tried it, naively, sinfully, purposely, hopefully, unwittingly, it has blown up in my face. The friendship part went fine. (Hey, I’m a likeable guy.) But the moment the Law, even the Gospel, even spirituality in general came out the claws, fangs, and anger came out. Sometime it was, “I don’t want none of that blankity blankity blank” said with real rage. Other times it was a polite passing along the lines of the person shutting the door on the salesman as he tells him no thanks.
I am not interested in others seeing Jesus in the name of or under the guise of friendship. I’m concerned that a Confessional Lutheran church not be wrongly pigeonholed by outsiders. Let me give you some examples.
To the outsider our position of not having women pastors or even voters (!) appears to be at one with the Pentecostal fundamentalists who insist their women wear long dresses, have long hair, and be short on make-up and outward adorning.
To the outsider, our teaching that Godmade the heavens and the earth in six twenty-four hour days appears to be at one with the Jehovah Witnesses’ rejection of blood transfusions and medical care.
To the outsider, our closed Communion position appears to be at one with the extreme fundamentalist groups who think they are the only ones going to heaven.
Do not misunderstand. I do not want to change tone down, or apologize for what we believe, teach, and confess. I want to do with our church what we do with a new restaurant where we have had a satisfying meal. Recommend a friend visit it.
You do that with material food; you can do it with spiritual food. It’s necessary with food like ours that is not at all of this world, i.e. it’s not in accord with the spirit of the age as popular religion is and the emerging church goes out of its way to be. Your recommendation is a “it’s safe to eat” sign. It’s like saying to the person who has never had a foreign cuisine that it’s not what they think. It’s better.
It is true; if a person has regard for your taste in food he will have regard for the physical food you recommend. It’s also true that if what he knows about your life intrigues him, he will be attentive to your invite to the place your life flows from.
No, my concern is not about “numbers.” My concern is with the poor, benighted numbers who the devil, the world and their own flesh give every reason to “Walk on by” as Dionne Warwick sang. They think we’re some fundamentalist, Bible-thumbing, women-hating, hellfire and brimstone hate group. How can they understand otherwise except a guide should lead them?