For a person like me, a long pastorate is an important tool. I want to be an agent of change, an instrument for the renewal of Lutheran confession, identity, and practice. That kind of change takes time. A generation or so is optimal. Almost thirteen years just about did it and it has kept an identity in that congregation that was not there when I arrived. I am not meaning to credit me as much as the wonderful sense of Lutheran identity that inevitably results from getting to know who you are (both theologically and liturgically). Now it has been twenty years and the babies I held in my arms when I got here are in college, some are married, and they have grown up accustomed to the full Divine Service and to the teaching of the catechism. For them it is ground zero of their Christian faith. And with them, their parents and grandparents have become more unabashedly Lutheran. That is a good thing. I am NOT talking denominational pride here but confidence in their Lutheran confessions and answers and comfortable in their Lutheran clothing on Sunday morning. It ain't perfect but it is a sea change for many of the folks who were here and others who came since.
Real change takes time. In the parish and in the Synod. We cannot rush these things. I do not mean we can afford to be lazy or inefficient but I do mean that need to spend less time measuring our progress and more time working on it. If there is any real problem I have with some in Synod it is that they want to rush things. They seem to have no patience. If I have learned anything it is that time is in God's hands and we take what He gives us and use it faithfully. For me as a Pastor that means spending less time measuring and more time preaching and teaching and presiding. And, that is how it should be, don't you think?
What we do bears fruit years down the pike. Sometimes a generation passes before we see the fragile seed bear its fruit -- good or bad. Change in the parish is gradual -- deliberate and noticeable but gradual. Change in our church body is gradual -- it cannot be judged by a convention cycle or even one person's term of office. It will be measured over time. Change on the mission field is also gradual -- especially in the fruit born by educating indigenous clergy at our Seminaries so that a new generation of Lutherans unapologetic of their confession is raised up throughout the world. Preoccupation with instant analysis and momentary progress or regress are the enemies of churchmanship and faithful confession and truth. As I said in a previous post, we are measuring ourselves to death and cannot see the forest for the trees. Paul expresses the very same thought in 1 Corinthians 3. Real change takes time.