It is clear that there is an idea floating around Christendom which attempts to suggest that every man is a minister/missionary. Unless I am missing something it is also clear that there is not a shred of biblical evidence to support such an idea, in fact the Word speaks in quite the opposite direction focusing on the fact that each person is called to a certain vocation in this life (See table of duties in Luther's Small Catechism). To be sure there are those who are called to the office of preaching and teaching as well as mission work (Ephesians 4:11-14) here in the United States and out in the other countries of the world, but the notion that we should bind the consciences of the laity with the false teaching that they are responsible for the fulfilling of the “Great Commission” (another phantom that does not show up in the scriptures) is damaging to both the office of the holy ministry and to the peace of those who should be reminded of Christ crucified for them each week by those who are actually called to deliver them the Gospel. It is also very apparent that this idea has found its way into the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as can be seen by the VBS theme for 2013; “Tell It on the Mountain Where Jesus Christ is Lord.”
Days 1-4 seem appropriate: Day 1 On Mount Sinai: God is with His People; Day 2 On Mount Carmel: God Shows He is the One True God; Day 3: On the Mount of Transfiguration: Jesus Is God's Son; On Golgotha: Jesus Saves Us All. It is not until we arrive at Day 5 that we see things start to crumble; On a Mountain: Jesus Says, “Go to All!”. On the itinerary for Day 5 we have the “Take-Home Point”: Jesus Christ is Lord, good start. Bible Memory Verse next: Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “You will be my witnesses...to the end of the earth” which if taken in the direction that the VBS package suggests you take it makes the Scripture say something that it is not intending to say. Bible Stories: Learn that Jesus tells us to share His news of salvation with the world. Does he really? Rotation 1:Application: Learn that Jesus wants us to witness to the whole world through the power of the Holy Spirit. Does he really? Rotation 2: Bible Challenge: Learn the Bible Memory Verse song and how God uses Sinners like us to be His witnesses to Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Again, does he really? Rotation 3: Crafts: This is where the kids get to make Go & Tell Scratch Art. Then comes a break, Snack time, but oh wait they are Spreadin' the Good News Snack. And finally Games:Tell the World, Go and Tell, Climb A Mountain.
As you can see after Day 4 on Golgotha, where the focus of the entire VBS should be focused, we leave the cross where our sins were put to death and then have the Law hurled on us as we walk out the doors. “Yes kids, who have potentially never heard the Gospel ever, here is a nice bit of Law for you to chew and and assume this encapsulates the most important aspect of Christianity.” What was that thing that C.F.W. Walther said: “You are not rightly distinguishing Law and Gospel in the Word of God if you first preach the Gospel and then the Law” (Law and Gospel, Readers addition, p. 3). Does it sound as though the author is a bit overreaching? I mean after all the kids are only 4-6 maybe 7 years old. Is a bit of false doctrine really going to affect them that badly? I mean are they really going to hear and comprehend God's Word anyway? Can the Holy Spirit work through the proper teaching of God's Word on someone so young? Aren't we just here to have a little fun? False doctrine is false doctrine no matter what the age of the individual is who is receiving it.
That having been said it is probably time to unveil the reason why I think this is false. Taking the Bible Memory Verse alone will establish this. Acts 1:7-8: “He said to them (the 11,) 'It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” We can see right off the bat that Jesus is speaking directly to the Apostles concerning the command he was giving them, not the entirety of the Christian Church and especially not to those who should be being catechized, namely the children. Christ says that they will be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. The VBS book conveniently leaves this part out, maybe due to the fact that a kid would say “Well we weren't witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria so maybe Christ isn't telling us to do this,” and you can just imagine what the response would be. Christ also adds that the Apostles will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Does this seem perplexing? Well it shouldn't because the Apostles are in fact that witness because they recorded what they saw in the Holy Scriptures, which is the Apostolic witness, of the things that Christ did while he was on this earth and the implications of those actions for the whole world. This establishes the fact that we are in fact not Christ's witnesses. Let's forget about the fact that the authors of the 2013 VBS packet fail to recognize the difference in terms between those who witness and those who confess because even if they had used the correct term, which is confess, they would have conveyed the same false meaning on Day 5.
Who said that all of mankind was supposed to run around spreading the Gospel? Are we all called to be “witnesses” as Day 5 suggests? And if so how often have you fulfilled this Law? If you haven't you are guilty of sin and should repent. And let me say that even the most adamant of people who suggest that we are all supposed to be spreading the Gospel are probably not doing as good of job at it as they might think. I think Paul gives us a nice picture of how the Gospel is spread. In Romans chapter 10 verse 14 and following he writes, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” It seems from this set of verses Paul recognizes that preachers are called and sent, and I think, actually no I know that the LCMS has some article in some book that says that someone shouldn't preach without a divine call. Is this to say that no one can talk about Christ unless they are called the Office of the Holy Ministry? No, but it is saying that preaching the Gospel and spreading the good news is not a command that applies to all people, but is rather a gift to the Church that is received by those who hear.
In 1Corinthians chapter 3 verse 5 and following Paul writes: “What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You are God's field, God's building.” “We” namely Paul and Apollos and those who are called to the office of the ministry are God's fellow workers in preaching the Gospel. And what are those who receive this preaching? A field and a building. How does a field grow? And how is a building built? Does the field grow itself by dancing about tossing seeds everywhere? No, it is cultivated and watered and grows by those means. Likewise does a building erect because the stones hopped one on top of the other? No, it is built up by the hands of the builder. Our church grows (or sometimes does not) when the Word of God is preached and the sacraments are administered by those who are called to do this work.
The next question might be, “Well why is it so bad to tell little children that they are supposed to be out there telling people about Jesus?” If you have your VBS packet handy turn to page 60 and follow along with the poem “The Great Commission”: “Climb atop this mount with Me,” the risen Lord did say.(He did?) “You shall be my witnesses, this fine and glorious day. My Spirit will be with you as you step out in My name. Tell the world I died and rose, for them I took the blame. Sin and death are beaten, for I have set you free. Go and teach, and baptize, for all have life through Me. Boys and girls, we have a job, and Jesus is our boss; Let's show and tell His story, so none are ever lost.” What was that other thing C.F.W. Walther said: “The most common way people mingle Law and Gospel—and one that is also the easiest to detect because it is so crude—is prevalent among Papists, Socinians, and Rationalists. These people turn Christ into a kind of new Moses or Lawgiver (or boss.) This transforms the Gospel into a doctrine of meritorious works. Furthermore, some people—like the Papists—condemn and anathematize those who teach that the Gospel is the message of the free grace of God in Christ.”(Law and Gospel, Readers addition, p. 2). What a perfect thing to send the kids out with. “Jesus is the boss of you. Now I know your general reaction to those who are the boss of you is to disrespect them, but Jesus is the big boss so you better listen to him real good.” I notice that Walther says this way of confusing Law and Gospel is “so crude,” and the the “easiest to detect” and it absolutely is because it takes the aspect of Christianity, which sets it apart from all other religions, and has Christ walk hand-in-hand with religions that demand works from people on their ascent to God. So my question is, who doctrinally reviewed this? If this mingling of Law and Gospel is so easy to detect and so crude, as the “stodgy” Walther suggests, then why didn't a Pastor catch this, or some editor at CPH? Perhaps it is due to the fact that some of us in the Missouri Synod are in love with this “evangelical” stuff and we want to push it on even the littlest among our ranks. I don't know and that was not putting the best construct on the situation, but quite frankly I am sick of seeing and hearing this kind of stuff. Let us not crush a child's faith in the Lord Jesus Christ by burdening them with a Law that is not founded on God's Word. And furthermore, if it is not too much to ask of you CPH, please don't publish stuff like this which forces Christ to take a back seat to our sinful flesh that is always seeking the glory road of works.
Instead of this command to “Go tell it on the mountain,” we should be teaching our children from the mountaintop of parent-hood and the pulpit that Christ died for their sins. We should be constantly pointing them to the crucifixion of Christ instead of to the road of self-glorification through works of the Law. But who's law is this exactly?
I'll end with a quote from the Solid Declaration of the Formula of Concord article VI: “This doctrine of the Law is needed by believers in order that they may not make up a holiness and devotion of their own. Using God's Spirit as an excuse, they must not set up a self chosen worship, without God's Word and command. For it is written: “You shall not do according to...whatever is right in [your] own eyes,” but “be careful to obey all these words that I command you,” “you shall not add to it or take from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:8, 28, 32). This notion of every man a minister/missionary is in fact a made up “holiness and devotion” because it suggests that this is the mightiest work that can be done for God. Ironically God has never commanded it in this way.
In the name of the Father ,and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.