by Mr. Vernon Kneprath
These words are taken from a sermon preached by a WELS pastor in recent weeks to his congregation. The words of this pastor sound familiar to me; and for good reason; they are familiar because they faithfully reflect the words of Scripture.
Compare the words above to the words from a WELS Devotional Essay and Discussion, “Outreach That Any Congregation Calling Itself ‘Evangelical Lutheran’ Will Do”, dated May 18, 2011:
… Evangelical Lutherans who are united in faith, trust one another. I trust my brothers in the WELS. Like me, they have been trained in the Word by the Word – all blessed by the Holy Spirit. They have been Called by God to serve in different communities as gospel-sharers to different cultures – ministering to a variety of Calling bodies. I can’t begin to know how they wrestle with the unique challenges in their congregations and communities. I trust they understand our Savior’s mission to preach and teach the gospel to those inside and outside their church’s walls. I trust they grapple with balancing their ministries and family lives like I do. I trust they, like me, work to nurture and reach out with the gospel – doing one without leaving the other undone. When I hear that a fellow pastor uses different worship styles than I do – I trust their use of Christian freedom and rejoice that they are sharing the gospel in a way they feel is best for their circumstances. When I hear that a fellow pastor is having a pumpkin-fest, a children’s carnival or some other unique gathering – I don’t think for a second that he believes pumpkins are creating faith or that his cleverness can make the gospel more powerful. I know exactly what he’s doing – he’s being shrewd in dealing with his community’s unbelievers so he can gather an audience. In time he will unleash the power of the gospel for the salvation of everyone who believes. I trust him. In the rare event that he gets a tad careless in his practices, I know he has a circuit pastor and a district president. I trust them too. And I trust that should these leaders offer loving cautions to a pastor/missionary that he would humbly take their cautions under advisement …
These words in this essay are unfamiliar to me, because I find no supporting Scriptural references. I see claims made to trust, but I find no evidence or basis upon which to place that trust.
- … is not blind.
… is not automatic.
… is the result of evidence seen and actions experienced.
… is earned.
The Bible is clear that we are to test what we hear from men against what God has said in his Word.
Does membership in the WELS exclude anyone from the warnings Jesus gave? Surely we still recognize that there are hypocrites in every visible church - even the WELS.
Is association with a visible church body the basis for a “blind” trust?
Should variations in practice within a visible church, whether it be with regard to worship or any other church activity, not be tested against Scripture?
What are the lessons from Scripture regarding trust? How trustworthy did Israel prove to be throughout the Old Testament, in remaining faithful to God and his promises? How trustworthy did many of the Jews prove to be in Jesus’ time? History, whether it be recorded in the Bible or in history books since then, give us many examples of the visible church straying from God, over and over again.
There is only one deserving of our complete trust, the One and the Almighty. We have all the evidence we need for the basis of that trust in Holy Scripture. But, like the Thessalonians, we need to use God's Word to test everything of and from men, rejecting the harmful and holding on to the good (paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:21).