Monday, July 2, 2012
Getting out so others may get in...
You must get out of the building!We don’t know of any monasteries that people are knocking the doors down to get into. If you want your church to grow, get into the community. They aren’t coming to you! As Teddy Roosevelt once said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care!” And they won’t know how much you care, unless you actually go and meet some of them! Hard to do that, if you are waiting inside your church for people to come and find you. Harder still if you are hiding from the world! In fact, our experience shows that churches that do 6 outreach activities/events per year almost always become revitalized. Why? Because these activities demonstrate to the community and the congregation that the church doesn’t exist just for itself. Maybe it’s time to remodel your church, so the doors swing OUT into the community! We know that Jesus is the only Door into the Church, but until you have lots of doors that are swinging open into the community, you will see very few people coming inside your building looking for Jesus.
I found the first sentence interesting. I am not sure to whom this advice was being directed -- Pastor or lay -- but I found the presumption carrying a certain amount of bias. Unless I am sorely mistaken, none of our congregations has a dormitory to house our folks. Everyone, including the Pastor, is in the community. I hardly think the issue is getting out of the building. Judging from the mad rush to the door in my parish, the folks here do not have a problem getting out of the building. Many wish they could get out a little sooner on Sunday morning. Okay, I know, that is not quite the point. But it is.
Our people, therefore, the Church, are always out of the building. It would seem to me that the problem is not getting out of the building but, to use the words of a Gospel reading a week or so ago, scattering the seed. We are already out of the building. We are in workplaces, shopping areas, professional centers, neighborhoods, parks, etc... We are not there occasionally. We are there all the time. What are we doing there? That is the issue.
For too many years we have been told to share our faith. Our faith is not what our Lord calls us to share. Our faith cannot be replicated either by action, reason, or argument. We are not here to convince people by our faith to believe as we believe. What we are called to share is the Word of God. We are here to scatter the seed of the Word -- in words and in actions. It seems to me the problems in our church body stem less from people not getting out there than from a severe lack of confidence in the Word of God to do what God promises it will do.
We share about everything but the Word. We host all sorts of self-interest groups. We cater to a variety of tastes in music and worship. We have Bible studies for those who want to listen and those who want to talk, for those who seek THE truth and those who are looking for MY truth. We organize groups for people by age, interest, marital status, hobby, and need. We have parking and handicap accessibility. We have buildings that look like the mall and come complete with all the amenities. What we lack is the courage and conviction to speak clearly and with confidence the Word of the Lord. Jesus promises that where that Word is scattered, the Lord will bring forth the plant, the fruit, and gather the harvest (at the proper time). But we have turned the scattering into a business proposition in which we market what we were called to preach and we preach everything people want to hear but that which the Lord has given us to say.
It would seem to me that the biggest problem we have in growing the Church is that we are too focused on the things we do and not focused enough on what God does. We say over and over again the Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish His purpose. Then we adapt worship to fit personal taste and make our preaching and teaching fit the prevailing norms of communication technology. We cast visions like seasoned fly fishermen and we professional missionals minding the business goals and keeping up the current stats. But I am not so sure we actually speak clearly and faithfully the Word of the Lord -- or if we do, whether that is central to what we do and who we are.
If there is a common malady affecting congregations, it is not getting out into the community but getting the Word out into the community. All in all it does no matter how well known we are if we have nothing to say to those folks who know us. It is not our caring that will save them or our winsome welcome but the Word spoken with courage, confidence, and conviction. We do not need to see the results to know that God is at work when the words and deeds of His people proceed from and return to the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Finally one clarification. It is not what we do that revitalizes us as individual Christians or as the Church. It is and always remains what the Lord does, working through Word and Sacrament. I suppose it is possible, but I believe highly unlikely, that a congregation of baptized people, boldly confessing the faith, regularly gathered around the Word and Table of the Lord, and convinced that God works through this Word, will die... nor will they fail to produce the good fruit of the Kingdom that lasts... Just sayin...
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"There is no shortage of people diagnosing what is wrong with Missouri or Lutheranism in general. I have ventured my own opinions from time to time. Someone sent this on to me (from the Transforming Churches Network, I believe). If offers a number of criticisms and some remedies for the slow growth and decline in the majority of our congregations."
Absurd. Everyone knows and few are willing to say it.
Not one year of U.S. women born since 1945 has averaged even replacement level fertility. You can't bury your assets in a hole and expect a return on investment.
It is ridiculous. Church leaders want growth exclusively from outside our churches, and members want it especially from outside our homes. Oh yeah we want more Christians in our churches, we just don't want them in our own homes. Why is an adult convert so much superior to the one God sends to a Christian couple? Why is the holy grail foreign missions and not catechizing our own kids?
We have this rampant taboo against criticizing the wholesale rejection of the people God sends us, and this incessant clamoring for those who reject God's word.
Foreign and domestic missions are fine and good. We should do them. But the elephant in the room is the utter defiance and callous rejection of our own children. It is always easier to look at someone else and think they need to repent. It is harder to look at ourselves and say, "I need to repent for rejecting God and his blessings of children."
If we have one child, we can share the Word of God with him. If we have ten, then with our ten. Of course we should share with our neighbors, but let's not forget our own kids! That is the big, big failure. If we can't be bothered to share it with our own children, then we aren't going to be able to do it with strangers or even friends.
Exactly. If you are unable to bear biological children, why not consider adoption and/or foster care? There is no reason why the LCMS is not growing, except our being pushed into the mold of the world that thinks any more than two (2) children is something God would never ask of us. and yes, we are in a crisis of faith in God's Word, which has something to say about the blessing of children as well.
WE do not grow the church. Even if every woman married (kinda important) and bore 20 children, it would not guarantee the growth of the Church.
It is our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ who grows the Church. If He is the Head and we the members of His body, we don't move or act without His doing it.
Our penchant for moving, working, doing without the Head's direction is our problem. He moves in Kairos time, we are unfortunately bound in Kronos time. In our short lives, if we don't see the type growth our sinful minds think is right, we have to help poor Jesus grow His Church.
Fr. Peters is right. It is in the things Jesus has left us to do, commanded us to do, that His Kingdom is built. Word, Sacrament - the Great Commission - preaching repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Him are HIS means. We must learn this no matter what His Church looks like it is or isn't doing.
It ain't easy.
"WE do not grow the church. Even if every woman married (kinda important) and bore 20 children, it would not guarantee the growth of the Church."
Despite what I wrote in my 9:41 comment, I do agree with this. That however, does not mean that there is not a need to preach repentance to those in the church who overuse birth control. Preaching repentance of that sexual sin is just as important as preaching repentance for other types of sexual sins. That is God's Word and right now there is a bit of a famine of preaching it.
There is at this point a general unwillingness to call women to repentance of their sins. Single motherhood by divorce or premarital sex is sin in the general case. Few women are divorced due to abuse or single mothers due to rape. These women are not just victims of men's sins. Corrupt culture may have liberated women from decency but God has not.
I did not intend to deny the efficacy of Baptism, or of being raised in the Faith. Nor did I intend to imply the Church cannot grow by the bearing of children raised in the Faith..
Mea culpa, I know first hand what it means to be childless by my own design. There are two responsible adults in marriage, however, and there are men out there who don't want children either, even though married.
We are all sinful to the core. Even the good works we do need repentance and forgiveness.
My intent was to say that focusing on any one thing as antidote for what we perceive as a failing Church is sin.
The repentance and forgiveness we must beg for is our trying to 'fix' a Church that both is and is not broken. Broken because She is full of sinners. Not broken, because She is the Bride of Christ, full of those clothed in His Righteousness. She will be presented to Him with no spot or blemish at the Marriage Feast.
>> There are two responsible adults in marriage, however, and there are men out there who don't want children either, even though married.
Men who are guilty of rejecting God's gift of children need to repent.
One of the problems in scattering the word, or sowing the seeds, as it may, is that too often people do not practice what they preach.
"One of the problems in scattering the word, or sowing the seeds, as it may, is that too often people do not practice what they preach."
Well then they must not be preaching that humans are fallen and cannot save themselves through obedience to the law. In other words, they aren't preaching the forgiveness of sins. They are preaching a false gospel. So, na ja, kein Wunder.
I agree with the second post upstream. Lutherans are having fewer babies. Young people everywhere are racking up 20, 30, or 40+ thousand dollars in student loan debt. Some college grads are forced to return to school and take out additional student loans to change careers. Most college grads are having trouble getting their careers started.
The decade-long delay to adulthood means young people are getting married in their mid 30s and 40s. As "older" new parents, they have fewer babies. They also worry about saving for college for their one or two children. Some Lutheran couples also have fewer babies in order to afford LCMS grade school for their children.
Perhaps LCMS clergy should set the example by having at least five children. Tuition at LCMS grade schools should be affordable for all. The Concordias should charge dirt cheap tuition for active LCMS students. Make the costs of educating a child negligible, and LCMS couples could have large families.
There are seven billion people in the world, and the fields are white for harvest. We are sent out to the world to proclaim the Word wherever we are, our Christian vocation (as a professor of mine once said, "We don't have a mission, we ARE mission"). Many are lost because, as Pastor notes, we will often talk to others about everything BUT the Gospel-not because we don't have x-number of "mission projects" per year in our parishes. This is what I read to be the point of this blog entry. How in the WORLD did this disintegrate into a discussion of the "evils" of birth control?! Is this a Vatican blog?!
You know, 100 years from now (okay, 115) every single one of the 7 billion people now living will be dead. Who will be here? Their children. If you think people who don't even spend time sharing their faith with their own children are going to knock themselves out for strangers around the world, I think you are mistaken.
>Is this a Vatican blog?!
Luther and Calvin said birth control was an abomination. No son of the Reformation endorsed birth control until the Anglicans in 1930, leading the way as they so often do. Perhaps this is not a Vatican blog but simply is not a modernist liberal blog.
Wow, Luther AND Calvin (never mind those cursed Anglicans-what COULD we expect from THEM?!)! Ergo, never and under ANY circumstance should birth control be considered responsible, but always and only an abomination... Well, that settles THAT then! Mission=birth control. Who's going to inform LWML?
that settles THAT then! Mission=birth control. Who's going to inform LWML?
What does this mean?
The problem with "sharing faith" is that people are already familiar with the Church. Everyone knows who Jesus is. How do you present your denomination as something a lapsed Christian should need.
I find the evangelicals and the non-denominationals way too pushy and "in your face" for my taste.
How does one's taste relate to one's need for repentance and contrition?
The problem with "sharing faith" is that people are already familiar with the Church. Everyone knows who Jesus is.
So not true.
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