How do you feel about the future of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod? A survey of LCMS people and pastors would produce a wide variety of answers to that question. They would range from excitement to apathy, optimism to pessimism, anticipation to frustration. The answers would reflect a deep love for our church, commingled with a concern about its ability to survive.
Ultimately, a church body is only as strong and healthy as the congregations and organizations that comprise it. Congregational strength can be measured in numerous ways, typically baptized or confirmed membership and average worship or Bible class attendance. Other barometers are financial, often expressed in dollars given to district, national or international mission causes.
Organizations are extensions of a church body’s identity and culture. Healthy universities, seminaries, auxiliaries, corporations and mission societies are the face of the church to a cadre of constituents who may have little if any other connection with it. Dedication and financial support to such organizations come from men and women with loyalty and sacrificial commitment.
Another indicator of health is renewal of historic mission zeal, manifested in fresh and vibrant ways. Christian people and pastors participate in local mission and service projects, food or clothing banks, ministry to the homeless or refugees, etc. Others develop a passionate interest in global mission, leading or participating in international mission, medical, dental or vision clinics, always including a component of Gospel witness and God’s forgiving grace.
Ultimately, the strength of a church body is directly proportionate to the depth of faith and holistic health of the people it serves. A congregation that focuses on the power of the Gospel in the hearts and lives of its people and provides rich, vibrant, biblically based, Christ centered, Spirit led worship opportunities, spiritual growth, discipleship and mission experiences will, under God’s grace and blessing, become a strong, healthy and vital church.
A national church body can play a vital role in the development of strong, healthy congregations and organizations. Conversely, it can also contribute to their decline.
These matters are on the minds of many, especially these days prior to the 65th Regular Convention of the LCMS, which convenes the day after tomorrow in St. Louis. Decisions made by voting delegates who represent clusters of congregations across the country will have an influence on the health and vitality of the Synod’s congregations and organizations.
Informed, evangelical decisions made by convention delegates next week could provide encouragement, support and hope to congregations and their members. Uninformed, fear motivated, suspicion driven and control seeking decisions would produce the opposite result, contributing to the apathy, frustration and disdain that in all too many cases currently exist.
Pray that God would grant convention delegates the ability to focus on the essence of our Synod’s existence: In grateful response to God’s grace and empowered by the Holy Spirit through Word and Sacraments, the mission of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is vigorously to make known the love of Christ by word and deed within our churches, communities, and world. (LCMS Mission Statement)
The ability of leaders and delegates to do so is one important step in the future of the LCMS. I hope and pray that the church of the future will be one that brings the powerful, life changing message of Christ’s love to my grandchildren and their grandchildren, helping them discover that life in Christ brings value, meaning, purpose and eternal blessing.