For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. (ESV)
And most pertinently,
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 ESV)
Thus the Church kept the stories of the holy lives of the Saints and Martyrs.
As we discussed this Sunday morning in Sunday School, I met with a feeling of a little resistance. It was a feeling and could have been only that, but I sensed thoughts like, “Oh, Pastor’s going all Catholic on us again.” I tried to point out that knowing, honoring and imitating the stories of the “heroes of faith” is the practice of the Church since the beginning; we even have the Protestant Foxe’s Book of Martyrs: A History of the Lifes, Sufferings, and Triumphant Deaths of the Early Christian and the Protestant Martyrs (Hendrickson Christian Classics)”
We have a Lutheran version as well, found in the Feasts & Commemorations Calendar in the new Lutheran Service Book. Brief biographies can be found here and you can sign up for them to be emailed to you here.
It is not difficult to see the reason for such things: the Apostles call us to imitate them and “our leaders,” imitating their faith and life. How can we do this if we do not know who they are or what they did? Now our families and parishes all have stories of the saints who walked among them: Grandma Swanson who prayed for an hour every morning; Pastor Schmidt who worked tirelessly; the Founders of the Synod and so forth. But keeping our Justice League’s membership to such few localized examples impoverishes us to the “cloud of witnesses that surround us” (Heb 12:1). And what a cloud it is!
That many parishioners today know more about the life and works of Brittany Spears or Peyton Manning is argument enough that Satan has been at work. That protestants should not blink twice at knowing the biographies of their favorite athletes and entertainers but believe the stories and biographies of those who gave their life for Christ is somehow “Catholic” and “un-Biblical” is a tragedy worthy of our tears and repentance.
Last week I debated with myself about posting something “controversial” here again. Looking at my site meter, many of you graciously visited often back in October & November when we discussed the departure of Fr. John Fenton from the LCMS–and we had many other visitors as well. So I thought, in a purely worldly and sinful fashion, that if I were to post something that aroused the reader’s ire, perhaps I could gain more visitors. What can I say, I am a Church Growth-er at heart, it seems–or just prideful and seeking recognition. Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!
While posting something like that purely for sake of publicity would be wrong (and make me akin to James Cameron–see below), an interesting discussion has developed at Weedon’s Blog that is worth noting. It seems a new Yahoo! Group called Lutherans Looking East has been formed, whose purpose is to provide…
an open forum for current or former Lutherans who may be either looking or going East – or simply open-minded and curious about the second largest group of Christians in the world. Lutheran converts to Orthodoxy are available to provide Orthodox answers to honest questions about the Orthodox Church.
Charges of sheep-stealing and proselytizing were immediately charged–and those are serious charges.
Sheep-stealing is more straightforward of the two. One minister in this area sent fliers to all the local churches advertising a special “Cowboy Service” to be held at a stockyard on Thursday Nights. It was unclear from the advertisements whether this would be an on-going attraction or a one-night only affair. The draw was to come and see how the Cowboys on the cattle drives would worship around the chuck wagons, I suppose (Government Springs near downtown
Proselytizing is a bit trickier. In definition it doesn’t differ much from “religious conversion.” Some make distinctions this way: proselytism is enticing someone to your religious beliefs, actively seeking converts through advertising and “evangelism;” true conversion would entail a potential convert seeking truth elsewhere at his initiative instead of the church’s. Thus, knocking on doors and Ablaze programs might be proselytism, but taking telephone calls or emails from people who have heard about Lutheranism is not. Roman Catholics define proselytism as “forcing” conversion or by offering material inducements to those who convert which current members do not receive–a broader definition.
Our history as Lutherans would lead us to affirm the propriety, even need, of converting from one religion/church to another. If religious conversion were always bad, then there would be few, if any Lutherans. We do our own fair share of encouraging evangelism, advertising and “making our presence” known. If we have the truth, and others don’t, the Word of God compels us to proclaim it to any and all who might hear. Someone said something like this once back in 1521. And I know of no Lutherans who have ever been offered material gain for conversion (in fact, it is rare in my experience for Lutherans to give material need to our own who are needy–shame on us!).
So, is establishing a web-based dialogue for Lutherans who have heard about the Orthodox church and are interested or curious an act of proselytizing? Sheep stealing?
What do you think? Is it suspect because it is targeted to one specific religion (Lutherans), but something less targeted wouldn’t be suspect? Would it be appropriate for Lutherans to form a site targeted to the Orthodox? Catholic? Baptists?