The ‘Permanent Crisis’ of the Christian Ministry
‘The impossible task, a commission which goes on without limitations in space and time, became possible, like the task of the prophets, only through the ‘I am with you’ (Matt 28:20). So they [i.e. the Apostles ] obeyed the call, leaving it to him how he would see to it that the Great Commission was carried out, even after the last of the eyewitnesses of the Risen Christ would have died. They were ‘afflicted in ever way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in…our mortal flesh’, thus showing ‘that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us’ (2 Cor 4:7-11). This ministry, this office which preaches the Word of God and administers the Sacraments of Christ, goes on in the history of the church until the end of all history. We ministers of Christ are not apostles – none of us is an eyewitness of the incarnate and risen Son of God. Nor are we prophets. We should be careful to avoid the great mistake often made by us ministers of comparing ourselves with the great men of God in the Bible. The task of our office is to preach the Word of God which is given to us once and for all in the prophetic and apostolic writings of the Old and New Testament. It is this constant tension between a divine commission that must be carried out and the inability of man to carry it out that creates the permanent crisis of the ministry.’
From ‘The Crisis of the Christian Ministry’, in the Lutheran Theological Journal (Adelaide, SA) 2.1, May 1968, pp34-46.