Thursday, April 19, 2012

Dealing with the Lapsed...

I watched a video as Fr. Barron commented on the problem of lapsed Roman Catholics.  He suggested that the second largest Christian church in the US (perhaps the world) is the number of fallen away Roman Catholics.  Of course, the discussion went to the reasons people have given for falling away or just stopping going to Mass.  As he suggested, many are predictable and there is not much you can do about them.  Others are problems or issues that we can do something about.  It set me thinking about Lutheran lapsed -- perhaps a larger Lutheran church than those active!  Now there is a distinction (not to be proud of).

Doctrinal Reasons

I have trouble understanding Lutherans who leave for doctrinal reasons.  For goodness sake we have enough Lutheran denominations that you could surely find one of them that fits your own confessional identity.  You do not need to drop out.  You can embrace social justice, sexual freedom, doctrinal fuzziness, and liturgical variety in the ELCA.  You can flirt with evangelicalism or the more catholic Lutheran identity both within the LCMS and send you kids (if you have them) to a first class preschool or parochial school.  You can enjoy a semi-Amish isolation and a more low church Sunday morning identity while also flirting with fundamentalism in WELS.  You can explore the ELCA minus gays and lesbians in the NALC or LCMC (the latter with a bit more of a congregational and independent streak).  For the life of me I do not know why Lutherans leave Lutheranism for doctrinal reasons -- except, perhaps, those that would conflict with infant baptism, with a choice for decision theology, or those who swim the proverbial Tiber or Bosporus.  We have it all.  Poor Rome and Constantinople are rather monolithic and have little latitude here.  We Lutherans (I am being sarcastic here folks) have it all -- be all you wannbe with the Lutherans!

Social Reasons

Here again, I am mystified why Lutherans would leave Lutheranism for an arrogant Pastor or a cold congregation.  We have enough congregations and enough versions of Lutheranism that surely you can find one that fits your taste for personal relationships.  We have those parishes where they hunt you down until you sign on the dotted line and those who insist on having you remain anonymous even when you want to be known.  We have ethnic and family parishes inbred and close knit and those where share nothing in common.  We have pot luck Lutherans and some with food courts on the campus.  We have coffee cup Lutherans and those who prefer a Starbucks Iced Vanilla Latte and those into green tea (hot or cold).  We have Lutherans who extend a hand at the door by the welcome station with greeter tag in place and those who just stare at you when you enter and wonder why on earth you came to this church.  We have it all.  Again, I don't get those who leave Lutheranism for reasons of personal relationship -- we got choices of service times and styles of welcome to fit every need.  Don't give up on Lutheranism, test out the choices and find a Lutheranism that welcomes or ignores you with or without beverage.  Believe me, it is there!

Musical Preference

Along with worship style, we have musical choices up the ying yang.  Why would anyone leave Lutheranism because they did not like the music?  We have the Gregorian Chant Lutherans who believe hymns are a distraction and who insist the purest form of liturgical music is the chant, devoid of polyphonic intrusion.  Often they have the smoke to back up their choice and the medieval fiddlebacks to satisfy every dark age aficionado.  We have Lutheran chorale singers who believe that the organ and hymns dating from the early 1500s to the mid 1600s constitutes the best of Lutheran identity.  They sing loud and fast in competition with the ever increasing volume from the organ loft.  They love Bach and always stay to hear the postlude.  We have generic American hymns and spirituals to satisfy every home grown taste.  We have Lutherans who believe that if he didn't Luther should have written Amazing Grace, Sweet Hour of Prayer, and In the Garden.  They sway gently as the Hammond and piano blend their poignant tones to lead the people in the sacrament of sentimental song.  We have praise bands of every form and style from the high school musician strumming a little guitar and playing a little keyboard to the full orchestras that make Majesty or Shine, Jesus, Shine more majestic and shiny than you could ever think possible.  You can dance to the beat, the lyrics are easy to learn, and the music will change from year to year as we follow the pop gospel charts.

Pastoral Issues

I think you know what I am going to say here.  We Lutherans have got them all.  We have polo and khaki Pastors, Hawaiian shirt (even clericals) Pastors, loud sports jackets and tie Pastors, tasteful GQ type Pastors, all black suit and shirt Pastors, even cassock Pastors -- all sans clericals or with clericals (rabat, full, tab, colored shirt, etc.).  We have smiling Pastors and frowning ones.  We have those who love people and those who loathe people.  We have jokers and those with no sense of humor at all.  We have nerds and jocks and geeks and ordinary folk styles of Pastors.  We have those who pray and those who play, those who chant and those who should never be allowed to sing, those with hair and those without (not to mention the comb overs), those with facial hair of all kinds and styles and those without (except for the younguns and their permanent five o'clock shadows).  We have counselors who listen and advisors who direct and others you would never tell a secret or confess or unload your burdens.  We have them all.  So why leave Lutheranism for a Pastoral issue.  Find one that fits you.  You can be Lutheran and have the Pastor you  want -- just shop a bit.

So there you have it.  There is no reason to give up being Lutheran.  Your problem is just that you have not found the right version for you.  Perhaps the folks in IT could tinker with the find a church or find a church worker buttons on the web site and add in the appropriate flavor issues (trans Lutheran of course) and then you could be Lutheran forever no matter if you preferences change or the circumstances require a shift.  So there is the lament of Lutheranism turned into a strength -- even a solution -- for the problem of back door losses.  Instead of leaving, shuffle the deck and see what comes up -- it may fit you better!


Anonymous said...


1) The temptations of the Devil
He has been very successful in his
attempts to get us to fall away from
Christ and the church.
2) Our sinful flesh
We can find any excuse to skip Sunday
morning worship like more sleep, etc.
3) The allurement of the world
The world can lead us away from the
church through new philosophies.

Janis Williams said...

Anonymus, glad you have found a pastor who is not a joker.

I would add one more reason peoole leave Lutheranism, Fr. Peters. They never listened.

Joni Mitchell said it well, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone?" (or till you're gone...)

Anonymous said...

Despite all your "solutions" Pastor Peters, there remains a problem. Individual people only live in a single place, and all of those "solutions" are never on offer in that single place. Thus, if any of those problems is a significant factor, and that "solution" is not available in that town, then there is effectively no solution. Few people can manage to relocate to where they find a suitable parish.

Pastor Peters said...

I guess it was not obvious that my suggestion you can find anything you want in Lutheranism was not all that positive. But its one saving face is that if you don't like what you see in front of you, look around...

jb said...

That was hilarious - the best piece of satire I have read in ages.

Very well done.

Anonymous said...

I cannot speak for others, but I can tell you why I left the Lutherans Missouri Synod, and have only recently joined ELCA. My husband was unfaithful, and we decided we needed counseling. The ministers (all THREE of them) had no time for us! They had plenty of time to hunt us down to request more money, time after time. When family members, including my husband and myself, were hospitalized for critical conditions, the ministers had no time to visit the hospital (although the Catholic priest, the Methodist minister, two other ministers, and the non-denominational minister dropped by to pray with us). My husband and I eventually divorced, and I received a notice from the church that I had been removed from the congregation! I requested an audience with the minister, which I received, and he did not explain to me WHY I was being removed, nor would he reinstate me. They kept my husband, an adulterer. The only reason I could see was that HE made more money that I did, and apparently MONEY was of the utmost importance to the church, since it was brought up every Sunday. This experience made me very anti-Lutheran for many years. I have finally joined another Lutheran church, where I am treated with kindness, the minister not only has time for me but greets me by name, and our Sunday services are enlightening, not pleas for money.

Anonymous said...

Late to the party in commenting...but sometimes what we want (comfort, clever, classy, easy) is not what we need. Where I go to church, I can count on hearing Christ on the cross every week and that I cannot save myself from sin. Somedays that news is easier to take than others. But, I'm a dumb sheep and need to hear it reguarly.