Return to the Forgotten Era

The stories we tell about ourselves not only define our past, but also define our future.  We return to the Forgotten Era of the Missouri Synod to show that it was not a time of easy missions to ethnic enclaves, but a time of hard work and dedication despite serious obstacles.  Men like William Dallmann forged the future of the Missouri Synod through tireless work in a rapidly changing environment.  When we see the work it took to forge the Missouri Synod after the days of Walther, we will be driven to imitate their example and do the same in our current context.

Host: Rev. Willie Grills

Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz

Episode: 84

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Mission in America

As we close the first season of WFS, we talk about something near and dear to our hearts.  Carrying out Christ’s mission in the United States is urgent for the American church.  We talk about what our mission field is, why America needs the gospel, and what part we have in Jesus’ harvest work.

As mentioned in the third part, visit to learn more about mission work in western North Dakota.

Join us again soon for a new season of WFS!

Hosts: Rev. Willie Grills and Rev. Zelwyn Heide
Regular Guest: Rev. Adam Koontz
Episode: 42

Join our Facebook group Word Fitly Posting to discuss this episode or any other topic.
Follow us on Twitter: @wordfitly
Send us a message: [email protected]
Subscribe to the podcast: RSS Feed, iTunes, Spotify, or your favorite podcasting app.

Faithful in Mission, Part 5

So far we have discussed the message. What about the messenger? We have also spent a lot of time during this convention speaking about unity. What does that mean for the mission of the Church? The last passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 9:15-23. Talking about being “all things to all men” might seem counter intuitive with regard to unity, but consider the context of this passage. Corinth in general was deeply divided, and one of the points of division in the congregation was over the question of meat sacrificed to idols. Some, knowing that an idol is nothing at all, believed that they could partake of that meat without any issues. Others, weaker in conscience, believed it to be a sin, for they knew the Commandment: You shall have no other gods. However, the stronger despised the weak for that reason and went ahead anyway, destroying the work of God in the process. Paul calls for all Christians to bear with one another in love, abstaining even from that which was lawful in order to build up rather than tear down.

Therefore, Paul defends his office of apostle against those who spoke against him. Paul had every right to eat and drink, to take a wife, and to make his living by the Gospel. None of these things were forbidden to him. Yet he denies himself those rights for the sake of the Gospel. This is what he means in our passage for consideration. “But I have made no use of any of these rights, nor am I writing these things to secure any such provision. For I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of my ground for boasting. For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” Paul denies himself what he could have so that there would be nothing in the way of doing what God sent him to do. His language of “necessity” drives this point home. Just like the warning to the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 3, the watchman who does not warn the sinner will bear that sinner’s guilt upon his own head, but the watchman who speaks will deliver his own soul. Paul says, “For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” If done willingly, there is a reward. If not, there is still the matter of duty. Yet Paul undertakes it willingly so that nothing would stand in the way of the Gospel. He forsakes even what he could do for the sake of the proclamation.

His point, then, about being “all things to all men” is not about being pragmatic, as if he just tinkered with his message to make it more palatable to certain groups of people. Paul, though strong, gave up his strength to be like the weak so that the work of Christ would not be torn down. The stronger Christian is not called to lord it over the weaker. That is the way of disunity, the very problem at Corinth. The way of the Spirit is the unity of peace, bearing with one another and caring for one another just as Christ did not make use of His rights when He came down among us. Christ calls us to be self-denying and selfless in His service. Note that Paul did not pretend as if he was not married to certain groups of people, nor did he pretend that he made his living by tent-making to others. Paul gave them up entirely so that nothing would hinder the Gospel of Christ. It must be noted, of course, that Paul does not mean that the weaker brother should be left in his weakness. He must be built up in Christ so that he would be strong according to the grace of the Lord. Yet we must be so willing to follow after Jesus that we would give up even what is ours by right or by desire to be fishers of men. Jesus says in Luke 18:29-30: “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

Christians, the Lord has called us into the world to proclaim His Word. You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in them. Let us be faithful to that calling, being willing to forsake everything for His sake. Let us be united in that calling, proclaiming the Law and the Gospel to all. As Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:5: “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

Faithful in Mission, Part 4

Once one recognizes his sin, the Spirit proclaims the word of reconciliation. The fourth passage for consideration is Acts 8:26-40. Philip provides an excellent example. “Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, ‘Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.’ This is a desert place. And he rose and went.” Philip does not hesitate! Hearing the command of the Lord, he goes to the place where the Lord wants him to be. May we too be so quick to follow the will of our Master! Philip meets an important man from Ethiopia who was returning from Jerusalem. He probably feared God in some way, but his knowledge was obviously incomplete. Philip hears the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah and asks him whether he understands what he is saying. When he then brings Philip into his chariot to help him, Philip proclaims Christ. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” Note what Philip had done. Following the call of the Spirit, Philip proclaimed Jesus Christ from the Scriptures. No one other than Christ is our hope and our salvation. Because the Lord willed for this man to believe in Him, the eunuch then desired to be baptized. The Sacraments are also part of the mission of the Church and should not be separated from it. Those who believe in Christ are made a part of the body of Christ. Mission work is never divorced from the life of the whole.

Because the work of the Lord is intimately connected with the church body, there is always the temptation to engage in mission work as a way of making things run better. Our church is not as big as it used to be, so we should evangelize the neighborhood. It is a dangerous way of thinking, because it regards people not as souls in need of Christ but as the means to keeping things going. Yet notice what Philip does after baptizing the eunuch: “And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.” It was the will of the Lord that Philip continue on his way, but that did not color the message that Philip proclaimed. The Ethiopian needed to hear about Christ, and Christ caused His Church to grow, even if he was no longer connected to Philip. Philip even preached the Gospel the whole way from Azotus to Caesarea, not seeking personal gain or glory, but being faithful to the Lord’s mission. Those believers were connected to the local churches, of course, because it is the Lord’s will for us to lift up holy hands in every place. It seems the most natural for those who hear our message to be attached to our local congregations, but it may be the Lord’s will for them to go somewhere else instead. Pray for a bountiful harvest, but let God hammer out the details.

Faithful in Mission, Part 3

Thus, the mission itself and the importance of that mission are clear. We are called to proclaim the Word of God because we are in Christ, and the Lord has chosen to call His elect through our preaching. It is not our Word, but His. What, then, is the content of that message? Because Christ has come to call sinners to faith, one must first recognize his own sin. The third passage for consideration, therefore, is Romans 1:18-23. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Paul here states that God’s wrath is not something that is hidden. His wrath is not part of His special revelation, but it is evident to all men. However, men suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Everyone knows, whether he wants to admit it or not, that God exists, because they know the Law of God in their conscience. This is not a deistic concept of God, as if we have a vague notion of a creator deity who demands something from us. Paul says that they know God, because God has revealed Himself to them. “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” All people are without excuse, because even though they know God, they suppress this knowledge through sin. If they did not know God as He is, then they might have a defense before the judgment seat, claiming ignorance of Him and of His Law. Yet all are without excuse. All men must answer to God, because they have broken His Law. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” Idolatry, according to Paul, is not putting a face upon a vague notion of a god. It is not creating an image of a sense of divine power. It is deliberately giving what properly belongs to the only God to one of His creations. In their desire to suppress what they know to be true, they worship the creature rather than the creator and pile sin upon sin.

This is an important consideration, because the message which Christ has sent us to proclaim is not one that is entirely foreign to our hearers. If they truly did not know God at all, not even in their heart of hearts, then there could be no proclamation. They would not be guilty of breaking the Law, because then the Law would be something foreign. Men would be neutral with respect to God, something which is plainly not true, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We should not hesitate to proclaim the Law to the unbeliever, because it reveals what he refuses to admit: that he is a lawbreaker guilty before the only God whom he tries desperately to deny. There is also no relativism here, as if the Christian worldview was an alternative to the unbelieving one. This is not a case of I have mine and you have yours. Rather, there is one and only one reality, the Christian. The unbeliever knows God, as Paul says, because he must assume so in order to make sense of anything. Morality, for example, presupposes that God is good. Evil has no meaning apart from contrasting it with the Triune God. Science presupposes order, something which makes no sense apart from God. Of course, the unbeliever denies this vigorously, but in order to know anything at all, he begins with the very God he tries to suppress.

The task of apologetics, therefore, is to “destroy strongholds,” to use the language of Paul in 2 Corinthians 10:4. I believe that there is a real danger in treating apologetics as merely preliminary to the Gospel. There is in fact no truly middle ground between belief and unbelief. Everything which the unbeliever sees is colored by his suppression of the truth. Even the resurrection all by itself can be distorted, as Christ Himself says in Luke 16:31: “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” A vigorous proclamation of God’s Word, therefore, is the most vigorous apologetic.

Faithful in Mission, Part 2

The Lord’s command, then, is clear. The second passage, Romans 10, further clarifies the importance of this mission. Throughout this section of Romans, Paul wrestles with the question of election. Why had the Jews, who were chosen by God, fallen away, while the Gentiles, who were separated from God, had come to know Him? Paul argues in Romans 10:12-13 that “there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'” Salvation, therefore, is not a matter of human will or according to the flesh. Those who believe do so because God has chosen them from before the foundation of the world. The doctrine of election informs our understanding of mission. God does not choose men because we have preached the Gospel to them, as if we act and then the Lord confirms it. The Lord will without fail bring His elect to Himself, apart from every human consideration.

Yet the Lord uses us for His own purposes. Paul writes in Romans 10:14-15: “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!'” Follow the progression of Paul’s thought. All who call on God will be saved. Only those who believe in Him will call on His name. They can only believe in the God they have heard or know. They can only hear the Word when it is proclaimed. One can only proclaim what he has been sent to proclaim. It is therefore the Lord’s will that brings His elect to Himself, and yet it is through men that His calling goes out into the world. The mission of the Church is therefore not useless or secondary when viewed in the light of election. Rather, the proclamation of the Gospel takes on a new urgency. The Lord calls His elect through the voice of the preacher.

Paul goes on in Romans 10 to answer the overarching question about Israel’s hardening. His ultimate point, toward the end of Romans 11, is that Israel was hardened so that the Gospel would go out into the world and that salvation is by faith and not by works. There is nothing within ourselves that makes us worthy of the mercy of God. However, Paul wishes to show in Romans 10 that, even though Israel had heard the Gospel, they continued to resist. Paul says, “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?’ So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’ But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says, ‘I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation; with a foolish nation I will make you angry.’ Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.’ But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.'” His words remind us that the Gospel we have been sent to proclaim is not our own. God works faith when and where He pleases. As Paul says in Romans 9:15: “I [the Lord] will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” The Gospel is not a magical formula that we can use to convert anyone we please. Some will hear and be hardened. Some will hear and bear abundant fruit.

Isaiah 55:10-11 emphasizes this point. The Word of the Lord accomplishes His purposes and succeeds in doing whatever He sends it to do. We should not imagine that God scatters His Word aimlessly, as if the sower in the parable in passages like Luke 8 was casting the Word with reckless abandon. God intends His Word to go exactly where He wants it to go and to do exactly what He wants it to do. Sometimes He sends it as a hard word, as when He sent many of the prophets. The Lord charges Ezekiel to speak His Word to His own people even though they would refuse to listen. Ezekiel 3:10-11 says: “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” Therefore, the Lord’s calling is to proclaim the Word in its fullness, both the hard word and the easy word. We cannot split up the proclamation.

Faithful in Mission, Part 1

This five-part series was originally presented at the North Dakota District Convention in January 2018.

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls us to faithfulness, and being faithful includes being faithful to His calling. Jesus commands His Church to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to the whole world. This, all by itself, should be enough for us to take up the task in our own generation. However, there are many competing definitions of what it means to carry out this mission. My goal is to consider what the Bible has to say about the mission of the Church with a view to putting it into practice. I am not proposing a program. Rather, belief translates into practice. It is not enough to say that we want to carry out the Lord’s mission without actually doing anything. John Charles Ryle, an Anglican bishop who lived in the nineteenth century, sums up this danger nicely when he comments on Matthew 10:16-23 that: “The extreme into which most men are liable to fall in the present day, is that of silence, cowardice, and letting others alone. Our so-called prudence is apt to degenerate into a compromising line of conduct, or downright unfaithfulness.” Ryle recognizes that we can go too far in the other direction as well, letting zeal get out of hand, but consider what he says. Are we being faithful to the Lord’s calling, or do we hope that someone else will do the work of a missionary in our place? Therefore, if we desire to keep the Lord’s command, what are we called to do? What does the Holy Spirit have to say to us about the mission of the Church? In order to discern the mind of the Spirit regarding this matter, I will examine a number of passages.

The first question we must ask is “Why?” Why do we go into the world to proclaim the Gospel? The most natural place to begin is also the most common: Matthew 28:18-20. “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'” Because this passage is so well known, I want to make only a couple of observations. First, Jesus begins with a declaration of His authority, especially now that He has been glorified. This is not accidental. The Church goes to proclaim the Gospel on the authority of Christ. We are not the masters of this mission, but the servants tasked with doing our Master’s will. Our mission, therefore, does not begin with us, but with God. The Father sent His Son into the world, and the Son now sends us. To be in the body of Christ is to be sent just as He was sent. We are therefore unified in our mission to the world because we are one in Christ. Second, Christ commands the Church to make disciples of all nations. We commonly divide the mission of the Church into foreign missions and national or domestic missions. Each present their own unique set of challenges. However, such a division sometimes has an unintended side effect, because there is a tendency to emphasize foreign missions over those at home. It is easier to be concerned for the neighbor who lives far off than to be concerned for the neighbor next door. However, “all nations” includes our own parish and neighborhood. Mission work does not begin twenty miles from home. One does not need the title of “missionary” to do what the Lord calls us to do, and sometimes that can be as close as next door or even closer still. I am not disparaging foreign missions, of course. The Gospel must be preached to the whole creation. Yet let us not forget that our coworker or even our family member is a soul for whom Christ died, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us to talk about Jesus with someone we know well.

Book Review: St. Patrick of Ireland

St. Patrick of Ireland by Philip Freeman.  New York:  Simon and Schuster Paperbacks, 2005.

St. Patrick looms vaguely in our cultural consciousness, mostly because his commemoration became secularized.  He has become an icon of Irish nationalism, even though he himself was not Irish, and many myths attached themselves to his work, making it difficult to separate fact from fiction.  Patrick, however, provides an example of missionary fervor worthy of imitation in our day, especially when considering his hardships, the dangers he faced, and the life he left behind in order to be a worthy servant of Christ.

Philip Freeman sketches an easy to read picture of Patrick’s life, especially since Patrick himself left only two writings that have survived to the present day.  Most of Freeman’s book details the background necessary to understand Patrick’s work.  Freeman directs interested readers to further resources on early Britain and Ireland at the end, though his own treatment is wholly sufficient for even the most casual reader, and he includes a translation of Patrick’s two letters as well.  Freeman occasionally colors his presentation in ways I cannot endorse, but even his personal foibles do not detract from an otherwise informative book.

Patrick was born in a wealthy Roman and Christian family in late fourth century Britain.  He struggled with faith in his youth, committing some unnamed sin which would haunt him for the rest of his life.  While he was still young, however, slavers caught Patrick and carried him away to Ireland, where he labored as a slave for six years.  This enslavement had two effects:  it deprived him of a formal education, which meant that his command of the Latin language remained halting throughout his life; but it also drove him to rely on the Lord.  In the fires of tribulation, God shaped Patrick into a servant who would suffer much on behalf of His name.

After six years, he managed to escape and returned to Britain to be reunited with his family.  However, Patrick knew that he could not stay.  Contrary to all expectations, he knew that he had to return to the place of his slavery in order to be a servant of God.  Leaving behind his family’s wealth and the security of Britain, Patrick became a priest and returned to Ireland around the year 432.  There, amid the squabbling of the clan kings of Ireland and the opposition of the native druids, Patrick labored for many years.  He was not the first Christian on the island, but few before or after him affected that land so profoundly.

Late in his life, a nominally Christian British chieftain named Coroticus captured and enslaved some of Patrick’s flock, some of whom had just been baptized at Easter.  Deeply grieved, Patrick boldly wrote a letter to Coroticus, rebuking him harshly for his unchristian action (calling he and his men “citizens of hell”) and calling on him to repent.  This letter is one of the two which has survived.  Patrick’s concern for his people resonates throughout the letter, as well as his fearlessness in the face of adversity.

His action, however, enraged the British church.  Who was Patrick, this rustic bishop of backwards Ireland, to encroach upon matters outside his authority?  He should have left the matter to Coroticus’ own bishop, in their minds.  They therefore called Patrick to stand judgment, and his famous Confession, the other work which has survived, served as his legal defense.  In it, he described his own life and the work he had done in Ireland.  Patrick is not apologetic for what he has done; rather, he defends his ministry through his broken Latin.  His own words sum it up best:  “I would write these words of my defense again and again if I could.  I declare in truth and with joy in my heart–before God and his holy angels–that I have never had any motive in my work except preaching the good news and its promises.  That is the only reason I returned here to Ireland–a place I barely escaped from alive.”

Patrick, therefore, serves as a fantastic example for our own day.  Instead of fleeing Ireland forever, which he might have reasonably done after being a slave there, he returned with the aim of proclaiming the Gospel.  Instead of looking for fame and renown, he labored long among the Irish despite opposition from pagan and sometimes fellow Christians alike.  Instead of fearing men and harm to his own body or position, he feared the living God, proclaiming what is right as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed.

Witnessing Like Boniface

The voice of the living God, given to us in the Scriptures, builds up the Church from age to age.  In no other source do we find the living Word.  Yet this does not mean that other writings are useless.  The lives of the saints give us concrete examples of how the Word of the Lord has borne fruit in every time.

Boniface gives us one such example.  Born in the late 600s in Anglo-Saxon England, the Lord called him to labor as a missionary in Germania, including parts of what is today Germany and the Netherlands.  His work lasted for decades until he was finally martyred on June 5, 754.  While he is known for his extensive correspondence and for being made the Archbishop of Mainz in 745, one event in his life stands out above the others.

Somewhere in what is now Hesse, Germany, a great oak tree stood.  This tree, called “Donar’s Oak,” was a symbol of the pagan practices of the area.  This sacred tree formed a sort of “natural sanctuary” for the pagans, a living temple or perhaps a copy of the world-tree of Germanic mythology.  As long as the tree still stood, it seemed to be a confirmation of the strength of the pagan gods.

Boniface was not the first Christian to labor in the area, however.  There were many Christians who lived there, but many were being seduced by the strength of this pagan cult.  In order to strengthen the faith of these wavering Christians and to give a bold testimony of the superiority of Christ, Boniface picked up an ax and prepared to cut down the tree.  What happened next is a matter of debate, however.  The biographies of Boniface all attribute to him a miracle.  Boniface had barely begun to chop down the tree when the whole mighty oak fell over and burst into four pieces.  Did a miracle occur?  Maybe, for the Lord is certainly capable of using miracles to strengthen the witness of the Church, as He does throughout the book of Acts.  Maybe not, because early medieval biographies like this attribute all sorts of miracles to the saints, some of which even the people of that day regarded as outlandish.  What is certain is that the tree was cut down.  Christ’s servant had done what no pagan had dared to do.  He then used the wood of the tree as part of a new oratory, a small church dedicated to prayer.

Miraculous or not, there are two important examples that we can draw from this account.  One is the strength of Christ.  The pagans were caught in a cycle of fear.  As long as their gods were happy, no misfortune would come upon them, and so things like this sacred tree provided a way of keeping them happy.  Victory proved that their gods still favored them, and so the strength of their gods meant a lot to them.  Boniface proved by cutting down the oak that Christ was stronger still.  This might seem odd to us today, since we don’t usually think of Christ in these terms.  Waiting to see whether Christ will lead our armies to victory seems almost foolish to us.  Yet Christ is in fact stronger than anything which the world brings.  “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:35)?  Boniface reminds us that there is no reason to be caught in a cycle of fear, for Christ reigns triumphant.  As missionaries, too, we should remember that the peace which Christ brings, shown forth in our lives, is often a powerful means of witnessing for Christ.

The other example is the fearlessness of Boniface.  Regardless of how much actual danger he was in, it still took tremendous courage to cut down that tree.  Being a witness for Christ is not always a comfortable or easy thing.  It may very well mean taking tremendous risks or even suffering at the hands of unbelievers, just as Boniface himself would be martyred years later.  Yet in the midst of all of it comes the clear promise that “he who hears you hears Me” (Luke 10:16).  “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:27-28).  “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).  Boldness, Christians, boldness for the kingdom!  You have nothing to lose, because you have everything in Christ.

Emanuel Greenwald (1811-1885)

St. Paul calls us to imitate him, because spiritual fathers worthy of the name are worthy to be emulated in what they say and do.  Nor is this limited to the apostles, because in every age the Lord richly provides His Church with saints that we should honor and imitate.  Frequently, however, such saints fall into obscurity, blazing as lights within their own generation, but largely forgotten in the next.  Yet the Lord never forgets them, and on the last day their crowns will shine like the sun.

When the days were getting colder in the year 1831, a young man riding on a horse arrived into New Philadelphia, Ohio.  All he carried with him were his meager belongings, a few books, and some letters authorizing him as one sent to labor in Christ’s vineyard.  He had no idea where the Lord would send him, only that he was to travel westward until the Lord called him to stop.  His name was Emanuel Greenwald.

Greenwald had a letter of introduction to a man named Michael Doll who lived in New Philadelphia and was warmly received.  That same evening, at the request of Mr. Doll and the people of New Philadelphia, who had been without a pastor for several years, Greenwald held a service, preaching on John 15:9.  Though he imagined that he would go on further west the following morning, the Lord had other plans for him.  October 27, 1831 thus marked the beginning of a ministry lasting for twenty years.

Being largely alone in that part of the American frontier, Greenwald nonetheless labored mightily.  At one time in the course of that long ministry, he served no less than fourteen preaching stations.  As his biographer Haupt tells us:  “East of New Philadelphia he established a congregation eighteen miles distant; northeast, another at fourteen miles; north, another twelve miles from town; west, twenty-one miles; southwest, twenty-seven miles; south, twenty-three miles; southeast, ten miles, with intermediate places, six, eight, five, seven miles; making, in all, at one time, fourteen preaching places, at which, as often as possible, Sundays and weekdays, in every month in the year, services were held.”  Thus in an area hundreds of square miles in size, riding long on horseback preparing his messages, Greenwald fulfilled his ministry.

Greenwald would go on in the course of his life to serve three other congregations in Columbus, Ohio, Easton, Pennsylvania, and finally in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He would become a prolific writer, especially devotionally and for children.  He would serve as editor of several periodicals and as president of his synod.  That is beyond the scope of this short article.  Yet one other anecdote told by Gerberding provides a terrific insight into Greenwald’s character:  “Dr. Greenwald once went to synod, and on his arrival was asked to join a pleasure party before synod would open.  He excused himself and said that he must hunt up a servant girl, lately removed from his parish.”

Far more could be said of this remarkable man.  Yet consider the example he provides.  May our zeal match his, especially in a time when travel is far easier and the tools we have make the labor far lighter!  May we be so willing to serve the Lord wherever he places us, and not merely the places where we think we would serve best!  The Lord raised up Emanuel Greenwald to accomplish His purposes.  Let us not forget his labor, even as we give thanks to the Lord from whom all such blessings flow.