Monday, December 26, 2011

Why do we love bad news so?

I happened to read a blog about the evangelical love affair with bad statistics -- particular the ones about how terrible young evangelicals are with respect to their views and habits of sex.  You can read the whole thing here.  It occurred to me that there is much truth in this -- and not only for evangelicals.  Sure, it is true that Barna is the magnum oracle of bad stats and every time he opens his mouth evangelicals both cringe and relish the terrible picture his polls paint of their faith, their people, and their future.

I wonder if we Lutherans are so different.  It occurred to me also that while we have much to be concerned about, we as Lutherans have tended to largely forget Luther's admonition to put the best construction on everything.  Maybe I am guilty of that in this blog.  Well, that is not true -- I know I am guilty of this!

When Pres. Matthew Harrison issued his Advent call to repentance, I wonder if he did not have some of this in mind.  Now, to be sure, we have many cracks in our foundation that we need to address and these weaknesses will not go away by looking the other way, but I wonder if it is not true that we have learned to secretly delight in how bad things are.

Contemporary worship and music have a firmly entrenched place within the LCMS -- there is not denying it.  It is not Lutheran and, in some cases, barely qualifies as Christian.  It is as wrong for what it lacks as for what it has.  BUT. . . in thousands of parishes across the land, LCMSers gather around the Word and Table of the Lord, using mostly the services of LSB, singing the hymns in that book.  They hear Law and Gospel from competent but not always exciting preachers.  They tend to each other's needs and concerns as brothers and sisters in Christ.  They teach the children in Sunday school and gather as adults to be in the Word of God.

Stats say our people are graying and that we do not have as many children as we used to... but that reflects the culture and the state of the nation around us.  Before we begin to break down every presumed barrier that might prevent the stranger on the street corner without a hint of faith or background from feeling right at home in the pews, maybe we need to step back a bit and think about what we are doing.  Bringing new people into the life of the Church gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord is not impossible.  The Church has been doing this for a couple of thousand years admit persecution, with largely illiterate and often superstitious folks, as outposts of hope amid the world's darkness.  Our Church is not dying.  Where the Word and Sacraments are, there is the Church and there are the resources to keep the folks alive in the faith and to welcome new folks into the faith.  We have the resources.  We know the Church will go on.  The shape of Missouri may change but the Church will continue.  The Word and Sacraments will make it so as God has promised.

Everyone knows that finances are tight in Synod but by and large we multiply the resources of money that end up in the plates.  Lutherans tend to be frugal and it is my experience that we make the dollar go along way in the work of the Lord.  I am convinced that people in my own parish and parishes like mine do not appreciate how far each dollar goes as wise and careful folks work to make sure that the money is multiplied and not divided by the way we spend it.  On college campuses, in Lutheran schools, and in Lutheran parachurch organizations, we make sure that what the people of the Lord have entrusted to us goes a long way.  We need to celebrate this instead of constantly complaining about bloated bureaucracies and empty programs.  We paint the good with the bad -- that is not the eighth commandment!

We do have young people (teens and twenty-somethings) who fall under the spell of the world and whose attitudes and practices with respect to consumerism, sex, morals, truth, etc., are not what they should be.  BUT we also have faithful and pious young men and women who fight the battle of the flesh and who quietly keep the faith within the bounds of their human frailty.  I can name a few dozen off the top of my head and they are right here in my own parish.  I could name more if I spent some time.  I bet you could, too!  If you find yourself depressed about the state and future of young folks in our church body, head to Higher Things or Lutheran Summer Music, just a couple of examples, of places where those young people will inspire and encourage you!

If we care about the Church, it is our nature to focus on the wrongs that need to be righted instead of rejoicing in the good that is there all the time...  I know I am guilty of this.  I bet you are, too!  So, maybe we need to heed a bit more the good words of Luther and think the best before we assume the worst.  Sure, we may be wrong in thinking good where there is mostly bad but what a wonderful thing it is to rejoice in good news -- even when it comes in small quantities.  I don't believe much in resolutions for the New Year but it might be time for us to at least give equal weight to the good, dontcha think?  If you agree, put a "Ya, you betcha" in the comments.


Jeremy Loesch said...

Ya. You betcha.

I may be in the choir, but keep preaching!

Thanks Larry. Very excellent words.


Anonymous said...

Good news doesn't seem to make the news. It seems most times Lutherans are in the news, it's typically bad news - ELCA, scandal, etc. There are many faithful pastors and congregations in the LCMS. Thank God for them.

Lee said...

Ya, you betcha.

Anonymous said...

As Prof. Fred Danker would say,
"The church and the cosmos they

Anonymous said...

Pastor, you write the truth from Holy Scripture and our sacred confessions of truth. Continue on with your musings, as they are helpful. Blessed Christ Mass.

Anonymous said...

George Barna pontificates on trends
on the American church scene for
one reason: TO SELL HIS BOOKS.

In the 1990's his books were all
about pastoral leadership. Now he
is pushing his books on the
Christian's faith journey.

He was born in 1955, so he has about
one more decade to publish books for
the evangelicals.

Norman Teigen said...

Ya, sure, you betcha.