See part I here and part II here.
I think I have a good idea about why you feel you can’t submit. Perhaps you think something like this: “I do not know what your feelings are here, but I know I love the lost. Like Paul, I want to save as many as possible. I want to insist that while God does all the work, I to, without being ashamed, can say, ‘that I might save some’, ‘that I may save myself and my hearers’, etc.” I understand. Maybe you also think: “I want to say that I can feel some rightful pride in doing what God has called me to do, that is, like Ezekiel, be like the watchman who warns the world of the wrath to come.” I agree. Sometimes, I must admit, it seems like some of those more traditionally liturgical folks would deny even this speech! Therefore, here is what I submit: have your small groups, your conventicles, your prayers services, your praise services, your “seeker services” (even as those unconverted who seek do not seek the true God – even as they may find what they are not looking for as He blasts into their world!) – all with the goal of not only praising Christ and getting to know Him better – but to seek and save the lost as He did (in the sense of imitating His pre-Passion ministry).
I, for one, would not condemn this. To take one example, gathering like the Apostles did – seemingly outside of a public worship context in order to pray – is not necessarily pietism but can indeed be piety (and yet, I will refuse to feel guilty that I should participate in these, as there are even other avenues for corporate prayer…)! I will warn you however – if you do this, history tells us that you may be in for more than you bargained for. Sociologically, people might start to feel the small groups are more real and authentic than their family relationships. But even more importantly, you may lose the love of the traditional services (like those the LSB retains). You may not see them as valuable or relevant in any sense. You may even lose some fear of God, who, like Aslan, is not safe and tame, but good. And like many Lutherans who have fallen, you may forget that God comes to us through others first and foremost in humble and simple things like words, water, bread and wine. You may, like those who started the [highly successful and influential] Evangelical Free Churches, for example, eventually decide that dropping Lutheran not only on the sign but in your heart is a good idea.
Then again, perhaps if these dangers are acknowledged upfront, the danger can be minimized – and good things for everyone can come out of this! Perhaps a prayer like this could be used to start off such a outside-of-public-worship service:
“Sovereign Lord – we desire to speak your word with boldness, as did the Apostles in the book of Acts. We desire to pray for this and all things not just when we feel the need, but every day. Fill us with your Holy Spirit. Ignite our hearts with a passion for you, one another and the lost you came to save through your Son. Lord, even as we attend here to read your word and to pray, we beg you that we would not look down on those who feel called to connect with you , your people, and the lost in different ways. And we also beg you that we would never forget the simple gifts you give us. Bind us to our pastors, our confessions, and the most precious Sacraments. May our hearts not grow far from these sacraments, but may we desire to partake of them with increasing frequency – that we may know you most intimately. May all Christians continue to gather together around the Word and Sacraments that create the unity that we have in your Son. Heal, strengthen, and energize all of us through your good gifts, that we may desire to run the way of your commandments, preaching your word far and wide.”
Please think and pray on these things. I think that it would be tragic for us to divide among the lines of those who think that our Gospel proclamation should be driven in part (or perhaps in whole!) by the doctrine of predestination (these folks might point out that lots of Calvinists seem to do evangelism, as counter-intuitive as that may seem!), for example, or that it should be driven by a Spirit-driven zeal for the lost. May our proclamation – our confessing/evangelizing, be driven by a united desire to lift up Christ crucified for a dying world to see. What greater honor is there for us than to proclaim the praises of our King who has suffered and died for His the sins of the whole world – and will come again to make all things new?
So come let us worship and bow down together – and proclaim His Name to the ends of the earth!
If you consider me weak then, won’t you join me? – and any that may be even weaker than me? Or at least hear me and discuss (i.e. engage)?