Mission from the Cross: The Lutheran Theology Of Mission, by Klaus Detlev Schulz, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009. 339 pages.
Dr. Klaus Detlev Schulz joined the Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana, faculty in the fall of 1998. He currently serves as Professor and Chairman of the Department of Pastoral Ministry and Missions. He is also the supervisor of the Ph.D. in Missiology Program and Dean of the Graduate School. From 1994–1998, Dr. Schulz was a missionary in Serowe, Botswana, for the Lutheran Church Mission of the S.E.L.K. (Independent Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Germany).
In his Preface, Schulz plainly and clearly gives the purpose and the scope of the book. He says, “This book intends to provide a particular informed outlook on mission by calling pastors, theologians, students and all Christians back to basics, to our theological heritage understood particularly in light of the theology of the cross. It intends to further the missionary calling of the Church by engaging Scripture, the theological literature of worldwide Lutheranism, and contemporary discussion on the topic” (x). He urges the spreading of the Gospel. His book carries out this theme throughout the book.
Schulz’s book considers three areas of mission. In the first section of his book he describes Christianity in 2005. He paints a picture of the home and world mission fields. He points out that once upon a time the West was a stronghold of Christianity, but that has changed. Lutheranism in Africa grew the most while Lutheran denominations in North America saw a decrease. He says, “The decline and shift of Christianity is occurring in all Western countries” (3). The ratio of non-Christians to Christians will increase as time goes on (4). Schulz quotes statistics that clearly declare that mission work in the world is unfinished.
Schulz rightly connects God, His Word, and the Church in winning souls for the kingdom. He says, “God voluntarily binds Himself to His Word and works through it as the Church administers it to the world. God’s mission leads the Church’s mission and remains bound to it” (14). “Mission is embedded in the eternal relationship of love that God has with this world…God plans and wills salvation for all (I Timothy 2:3-4), and He ensures that this salvation is brought to those in need” (37-38). Schulz summarizes what the mission of God really is when he writes: “God wishes to free people from their guilt and have them receive a new life. This means that mission represents the task of calling every individual to turn away from sin and toward God, that is, the Church” (38).
In this first section, Schulz spends a considerable amount of time looking at the mission of God through the eyes of Martin Luther and the Reformation. In the chapter “Final Observations on Luther,” Schulz offers this about sola gratia: “Despite the awesome distance between God and the world, God, in His sovereignty and by grace, took the initiative to forgive, justify, and save human beings. Thus justification expresses and brings about God’s truest salvific intentions” (57).
The final chapter in this first section deals with justification—the organizing principle of mission. With a solid confession of faith, Schulz declares, “Justification talks of a God who, through the death of His Son, Jesus, on the cross, has lowered Himself to mankind and has chosen to save us from eternal damnation through the forgiveness of sins that we receive as a gift through faith. This doctrine brings out the good news, the Gospel that pervades Scripture from beginning to end. Justification moves through all texts like a red thread, and, even where it is not apparent, the reader should still keep it in mind. All statements in the Bible about God, man, the Church, eternal life, and so forth are tied together by the central doctrine of justification: it gives meaning to the entire Word of God and lends itself toward unraveling difficult texts in Scripture” (69). Later in this chapter the author states that in making justification central to theology, it also becomes the critical yardstick of all theology and the mission of the Church. (79)
In the second section of his book, Schulz bases the mission of God on the Trinity. He writes: “God’s mission must be seen in terms of what He does according to the personal acts of creation, redemption, and sanctification” (92). Again and again throughout his book, he stresses that the salvation of mankind is only through the Gospel. “Salvation cannot be brought about by human efforts but only through the preaching of the Gospel” (104)…”Faith alone, and not merit, saves” (107). Schulz stands firmly on salvation through Jesus Christ alone. He speaks of God’s boundless love for mankind in creation and the salvation of all people (113). Schulz succinctly points out mankind’s sinfulness is a reason for mission work (124). The Holy Spirit is vitally important to the life of the believer, the Church, and mission work (134-144). The author affirms mission by saying, “Mission is thus the activity by which God puts His salvific intentions into practice. That is, God intentionally uses His Word and Sacraments as signs and testimonies of His will toward man” (153). Schulz quotes statistics that clearly declare that mission work in the world is unfinished. He says “that Christianity comprises only 34 percent of the world’s population” (157).
In the third section of his book Schulz addresses the Church and the Church’s task. The Church’s charge from the Lord is to proclaim “the Gospel to an audience that has not yet come into contact with the Biblical message of salvation” (161). The message of the Church is the Second Article of Apostles’ Creed that “serves as the backbone to all preaching; it must reach the hearer through a clear and unchanged delivery system of proclamation and witness” (162). The proclamation of the Gospel by the missionary “is a faithful testimony to what Scripture teaches about Christ; it is a doctrinal commitment to Him” (166). The proclamation of the Gospel is to be in the language of those hearing the message. (173-177) The heartbeat of this section is that the Church take the saving Gospel to the nations, use Baptism which is the “missionary Sacrament”, plant churches, and bind believers in their common faith with the Lord’s Supper. In the little chapter of “Mission as Ethics” Schulz quotes Han-Werner Gensichen who lists five helpful points that would encourage a missionary mind-set in the Church. Those five helpful points are not just for world or even home missions, but for every congregation. It is worth every congregation to make these points a part of their ministries. (235) Schulz covers the office of the missionary and its history from the early church to the present (261-282). In the final chapter of his book, the author considers personal witnessing and commitment. He encourages personal witness because personal witnessing affirms the visible church (298).
Klaus Schulz treated missio Dei extensively. He is firmly grounded on God’s Word and clearly pointed out the urgency of proclaiming the Gospel to sinful mankind. Justification, as taught in Holy Scripture, is the backbone of his book. Throughout his book he rightly quoted Scripture, Luther, the Confessions, and other theologians. He points out the false teachings and thoughts of others and refutes those false teachings with God’s Word. Having been born and raised in a foreign missionary’s home, his emphasis is on foreign missions, but what he writes is applicable to home missions and established congregations. His list of Bible references and bibliography is extensive. At the end of his book he gives a brief timeline of the spread of Lutheran mission work throughout the world.
Schulz summarizes his work with words of encouragement to his readers. This encouragement will be taken to heart by every Christian church, congregation, missionary, pastor, and individual. He concludes: “Christians should be informed about the Church’s belief and confession as they assume a place in the Lord’s mission. This study seeks to contribute to the discussion. It has navigated and explored the theology, nature, context, and task of mission, and in the process I have regularly pointed to the connection between belief and practice. Not everything has been said, but I hope the argument for a stabilizing structure may be heard. True, mission is an open-ended endeavor: countries open and close their doors for the Gospel, time and context brings up new challenges, and the Church must constantly readjust. But the Church serves the world with the same Gospel that the Church has been entrusted to teach, and she will do so till Christ’s return” (299).
Mission From the Cross: The Lutheran Theology of Mission is a book that every Lutheran pastor and missionary should read. Schulz uses scholarly theological terminology that could be a challenge for a lay person, but there is a lay edition of “Mission from the Cross” that can be purchased from Concordia Publishing House.
There are countless souls in the world and in our own backyards that need to hear Law and Gospel, sin and grace. It is a daunting task. It is a task that Christians will carry out until the glorious return of our risen and living Savior who promised that He will be with us always.