Author Topic: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018  (Read 39196 times)

Dave Likeness

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Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« on: November 23, 2019, 03:24:54 PM »
Sharp Decline In LCMS From 2010 to 2018 In Membership is demonstrated by these figures:

2010 Baptized membership was 2,310, 235 and in 2018 it was 1,911,187
This is an 8 year loss of 399,048 members.

1970 Baptized membership was 2,788,536 and in 2010 it was 2,310,235
This is a 40 year loss of 478,301 members.

My point is that a sharp decline has been observed in the past 8 years for the LCMS.
This cannot be completely attributed to a high death rate in our parishes or the low
birth rate in our parishes.  Perhaps the high rate of parishes with no full-time pastor
and those congregations who have no intention of calling a pastor........has encouraged
some of those LCMS members to go somewhere else.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2019, 03:30:31 PM »
Just a thought, is the increased rate of decline over the last 8 years something that is unique to the LCMS and so we need to look at LCMS factors, or is it common to many US churches and so it may be common factors?
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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2019, 03:37:37 PM »
Just a thought, is the increased rate of decline over the last 8 years something that is unique to the LCMS and so we need to look at LCMS factors, or is it common to many US churches and so it may be common factors?

I'll go on record as one who believes that your latter assertion is more accurate.

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2019, 04:12:32 PM »
By the by, the question of whether it is unique to the LCMS or common to many churches is not by way of excuse. Rather it is to help in diagnosis.
Pr. Daniel Fienen
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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2019, 04:28:32 PM »
By the by, the question of whether it is unique to the LCMS or common to many churches is not by way of excuse. Rather it is to help in diagnosis.

Yes.  Of course.  You have posed a great question and I'm not sure where to go with it except to see if others have any thoughts on the matter.  No, it is not endemic to the LCMS.  Actually the LCMS has a better grasp of the NT kerygma and its way of publicly furthering it.  I witness this at the LCMS congregation I attend here in San Antonio. 

It is good to narrow down the sharpness so as to get an accurate diagnosis before reaching for solutions. 

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2019, 04:29:20 PM »
Just a thought, is the increased rate of decline over the last 8 years something that is unique to the LCMS and so we need to look at LCMS factors, or is it common to many US churches and so it may be common factors?

The rate (percentage loss) of decline is 17% over both periods.

I had expected an acceleration but was surprised to find that the rates were essentially the same.
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Kevin Vogts

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2019, 04:29:54 PM »
I think in fact it can be largely attributed to high death rates and low birth rates.  The baby boom was very good to Protestantism and the LCMS, a boom reflected across many denominations including our Synod.  All through my life I was generally in the largest class on record, the biggest Boy Scout troop they ever had, etc.  Because I was toward the end of the baby boom (1960), nearly every school building I attended, dorm I lived in, etc. was brand new.  Now?  There's a huge building boom around here at least in nursing homes and assisted living.  That's why the US had the lowest population growth on in 80 years in 2018 at .62% (www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/12/21/us-population-growth-hits-80-year-low-capping-off-a-year-of-demographic-stagnation/).  And that is the overall population, with the historic demographic makeup of the LCMS in negative territory.

I've got a bit of anecdotal good news.  My daughter's new boyfriend was raised in another Protestant denomination, in fact his father works at their national headquarters.  I haven't gotten the whole story yet, but in high school he was the only one in his family to switch to LCMS.  He is very committed and it is so inspiring to see his love and appreciation for things that I just take for granted.  For example, I unexpectedly was at his apartment so he didn't do this to impress me and all over his bedroom walls he has printed out posters he made with the Six Chief Parts, to help him memorize them!

Even better is a friend of his I recently met, another guy in his early 20's but who grew up with no church at all.  He also in high school was the only one in his family to start attending an LCMS church.  They became friends when they both moved to this area and starting attending the same LCMS congregation.  This guy's a truck driver and I don't know if he went to college, but he too is very committed, very informed, really in just a few years approaching the level of what one could call a lay theologian. 

Turns out at the LCMS congregation they attend there's a large group of such young men, many of whom became Christians and/or LCMS as adults, who listen to Issues, Etc. and all sorts of LCMS podcasts, watch YouTube videos by LCMS pastors, and absolutely devour every latest book from CPH.  I'm familiar with the congregation and pastor and though he's a fine man don't think that's the genesis of it. They had different paths of discovering the LCMS and for various reasons moved to this area and ended up somewhat randomly at that congregation.  I realize it is just anecdotal but I spent some time with them recently helping my daughter's boyfriend move, and it really hit me: this is the future of the LCMS.

By the way, my daughter, bless her heart, broke off with several young men because they were indifferent toward Christianity.  She was set up with this guy by a cousin because they are both professional bassonists and the cousin thought they'd have something in common, though she didn't know anything else about him.  The religion issue came up on about their third date.  He hesitantly said, "Well, I was raised in [ ________ ].  In fact my grandfather was a minister and my Dad works at their national headquarters.  But when I was in high school, I was the only one in my family to switch to another denomination, a small group you've probably never heard of."  "What is it?" asked my daughter.  "Well," he said, "it's called The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."  "My Dad's a Missouri Synod pastor!" my daughter exclaimed.  :)
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 04:58:50 PM by Kevin Vogts »
Rev. Kevin Vogts, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church
Paola, Kansas
www.trinitylcms.org

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2019, 04:44:19 PM »
I think in fact it can be largely attributed to high death rates and low birth rates.  The baby boom was very good to Protestantism and the LCMS, a boom reflected across many denominations including our Synod.  All through my life I was generally in the largest class on record, the biggest Boy Scout troop they ever had, etc.  Because I was toward the end of the baby boom (1960), nearly every school building I attended, dorm I lived in, etc. was brand new.  Now?  There's a huge building boom around here at least in nursing homes and assisted living.  That's why the US had the lowest population growth on in 80 years in 2018 at .62% (www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/12/21/us-population-growth-hits-80-year-low-capping-off-a-year-of-demographic-stagnation/).  And that is the overall population, with the historic demographic makeup of the LCMS in negative territory.

I've got a bit of anecdotal good news.  My daughter's new boyfriend was raised in another Protestant denomination, in fact his father works at their national headquarters.  I haven't gotten the whole story yet, but in high school he was the only one in his family to switch to LCMS.  He is very committed and it is so inspiring to see his love and appreciation for things that I just take for granted.  For example, I unexpectedly was at his apartment so he didn't do this to impress me and all over his bedroom walls he has printed out posters with the Six Chief Parts, to help him memorize them!

Even better is a friend of his I recently met, another guy in his early 20's but who grew up with no church at all.  He also in high school was the only one in his family to start attending an LCMS church.  They became friends when they both moved to this area and starting attending the same LCMS congregation.  This guy's a truck driver and I don't know if he went to college, but he too is very committed, very informed, really in just a few years approaching the level of what one could call a lay theologian. 

Turns out at the LCMS congregation they attend there's a large group of such young men, many of whom became Christians and/or LCMS as adults, who listen to Issues, Etc. and all sorts of LCMS podcasts, watch YouTube videos by LCMS pastors, and absolutely devour every latest book from CPH.  I'm familiar with the congregation and pastor and though he's a fine man don't think that's the genesis of it. They had different paths of discovering the LCMS and for various reasons moved to this area and ended up somewhat randomly at that congregation.  I realize it is just anecdotal but I spent some time with them recently helping my daughter's boyfriend move, and it really hit me: this is the future of the LCMS.

By the way, my daughter, bless her heart, broke off with several young men because they were indifferent toward Christianity.  She was set up with this guy by a cousin because they are both professional bassonists and the cousin thought they'd have something in common, though she didn't know anything else about him.  The religion issue came up on about their third date.  He hesitantly said, "Well, I was raised in [ ________ ].  In fact my grandfather was a minister and my Dad works at their national headquarters.  But when I was in high school, I was the only one in my family to switch to another denomination, a small group you've probably never heard of."  "What is it?" asked my daughter.  "Well," he said, "it's called The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."  "My Dad's a Missouri Synod pastor!" my daughter exclaimed.  :)


The third paragraph above in your post reflects an accurate situation with some of the young people who attend Shepherd of the Hills down here in San Antonio.  The case of a decline may be more of a plateau in the LCMS (I can't really say beyond my small area of the LCMS). 

Texas district has some heavy hitting in the missional dept. at least down here.  I can say this as I compare this to what I had experienced in the SW Texas Synod of the ELCA formerly.  (I had been a rostered pastor in that synod for awhile before resigning.  I'll tell you the difference in approach is more about Jesus than anything else which says to me the local ELCA synod needs to step up to this Christological challenge.)

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2019, 04:53:01 PM »

By the way, my daughter, bless her heart, broke off with several young men because they were indifferent toward Christianity.  She was set up with this guy by a cousin because they are both professional bassonists and the cousin thought they'd have something in common, though she didn't know anything else about him.  The religion issue came up on about their third date.  He hesitantly said, "Well, I was raised in [ ________ ].  In fact my grandfather was a minister and my Dad works at their national headquarters.  But when I was in high school, I was the only one in my family to switch to another denomination, a small group you've probably never heard of."  "What is it?" asked my daughter.  "Well," he said, "it's called The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."  "My Dad's a Missouri Synod pastor!" my daughter exclaimed.  :)

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Dave Benke

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2019, 08:44:27 PM »
I think in fact it can be largely attributed to high death rates and low birth rates.  The baby boom was very good to Protestantism and the LCMS, a boom reflected across many denominations including our Synod.  All through my life I was generally in the largest class on record, the biggest Boy Scout troop they ever had, etc.  Because I was toward the end of the baby boom (1960), nearly every school building I attended, dorm I lived in, etc. was brand new.  Now?  There's a huge building boom around here at least in nursing homes and assisted living.  That's why the US had the lowest population growth on in 80 years in 2018 at .62% (www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/12/21/us-population-growth-hits-80-year-low-capping-off-a-year-of-demographic-stagnation/).  And that is the overall population, with the historic demographic makeup of the LCMS in negative territory.

I've got a bit of anecdotal good news.  My daughter's new boyfriend was raised in another Protestant denomination, in fact his father works at their national headquarters.  I haven't gotten the whole story yet, but in high school he was the only one in his family to switch to LCMS.  He is very committed and it is so inspiring to see his love and appreciation for things that I just take for granted.  For example, I unexpectedly was at his apartment so he didn't do this to impress me and all over his bedroom walls he has printed out posters with the Six Chief Parts, to help him memorize them!

Even better is a friend of his I recently met, another guy in his early 20's but who grew up with no church at all.  He also in high school was the only one in his family to start attending an LCMS church.  They became friends when they both moved to this area and starting attending the same LCMS congregation.  This guy's a truck driver and I don't know if he went to college, but he too is very committed, very informed, really in just a few years approaching the level of what one could call a lay theologian. 

Turns out at the LCMS congregation they attend there's a large group of such young men, many of whom became Christians and/or LCMS as adults, who listen to Issues, Etc. and all sorts of LCMS podcasts, watch YouTube videos by LCMS pastors, and absolutely devour every latest book from CPH.  I'm familiar with the congregation and pastor and though he's a fine man don't think that's the genesis of it. They had different paths of discovering the LCMS and for various reasons moved to this area and ended up somewhat randomly at that congregation.  I realize it is just anecdotal but I spent some time with them recently helping my daughter's boyfriend move, and it really hit me: this is the future of the LCMS.

By the way, my daughter, bless her heart, broke off with several young men because they were indifferent toward Christianity.  She was set up with this guy by a cousin because they are both professional bassonists and the cousin thought they'd have something in common, though she didn't know anything else about him.  The religion issue came up on about their third date.  He hesitantly said, "Well, I was raised in [ ________ ].  In fact my grandfather was a minister and my Dad works at their national headquarters.  But when I was in high school, I was the only one in my family to switch to another denomination, a small group you've probably never heard of."  "What is it?" asked my daughter.  "Well," he said, "it's called The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."  "My Dad's a Missouri Synod pastor!" my daughter exclaimed.  :)


The third paragraph above in your post reflects an accurate situation with some of the young people who attend Shepherd of the Hills down here in San Antonio.  The case of a decline may be more of a plateau in the LCMS (I can't really say beyond my small area of the LCMS). 

Texas district has some heavy hitting in the missional dept. at least down here.  I can say this as I compare this to what I had experienced in the SW Texas Synod of the ELCA formerly.  (I had been a rostered pastor in that synod for awhile before resigning.  I'll tell you the difference in approach is more about Jesus than anything else which says to me the local ELCA synod needs to step up to this Christological challenge.)

In terms of the Missouri Synod, you're on to and part of one of the dividing points in our denomination.  Kevin's first point has been roundly pilloried by many in the LCMS, and President Harrison, the "author" of the point of view regarding differing birth rates from generation to generation, has stepped back from making that point.  Because it's a non-starter when the average age of a Lutheran in worship is 63.  Another route to gaining new members must be chosen.

So, there is a different point to be made; the Missouri Synod, alongside many denominations, has had a difficult time bringing in new adherents/members/converts from other faith groups or no faith - that is, new members from "outside" the LCMS fold.  Some of the Texas congregations, and I think you're a member of one, George, are leaders in the more "missional" and evangelical outreach component of the LCMS.  Institutionally, the leading edge for mission outreach nationally is an adjunct organization, Lutheran Hour Ministries. 

They have tracked our denominational record when it comes to bringing in new adults from outside.  It turns out that 95% of the new adult members from outside come from 5% of the congregations, which is, anyone would aver, extraordinary. 

The question is why that movement seems more "on the edge" of the action in the Missouri Synod.  It could be that there's just a higher emphasis on doctrine than outreach.  Or holding the line on social and moral issues over against simply bringing folks into Christian fellowship.  But without question the leading edge "missional" endeavors are not part of the national church agenda.  Instead, they're doing their own thing - the annual Best Practices conference in Arizona started out with 5-700 people, and is now up to I believe 2500 folks gathering to strategize congregational mission outreach.

I think a difference between the LCMS and WELS is that in WELS the large and growing congregations are also involved in denominational leadership - the "worship wars" have not infected them to great degree.  In the LCMS there have indeed been worship wars which have ended up weirdly marginalizing the large and growing congregations from national involvement.  Which is in many ways OK, because they and their districts or regional leaders can still plan, equip, and get things done. 

But - you're not going to have a praise band parish getting any tread on the national level.  You who are missional/evangelical and sacramental Lutherans are, I think, important for our denominational future.  Keep up the good work!

I don't know where to start when it comes to urban outreach.  It's incredibly opportune, and at the same time incredibly challenging, maybe the more so for an oldster like me.  But every week brings something new to our door in Brooklyn, and we intend to remain a lively option for Gospel witness in the Big Apple, by God's grace.

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2019, 09:12:27 PM »
As I entered the pastoral ministry there was a pastor from San Antonio, Texas that I admired.
His name was Rev. Guido Merkens and I heard him speak at conferences in Moorhead, Minnesota,
St. Louis, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois. He taught me that one of the priorities of every pastor
should be teaching Adult Instruction Classes and allow the Lord to bless your parish with Adult
Confirmands.

Concordia Lutheran Church, San Antonio, Texas was always one of the top parishes in Adult Confirmands
in the LCMS during Pastor Merkens tenure there.  Teaching Adult Adult Instruction Classes has nothing
to due with the low birth rate in America. At least 50% of America is unchurched so there is work to do.
I thank the Lord for the impact that Pastor Merkens  had on my ministry.  I loved teaching Adult Instruction
Classes and the Lord blessed our efforts tremendously.

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2019, 09:56:51 PM »
Kevin's first point has been roundly pilloried by many in the LCMS . . . Because it's a non-starter when the average age of a Lutheran in worship is 63

I don't know if you misunderstand the point, or are purposely mischaracterizing it so that it is easy for you to pillory.  I said only that the rate of decline is largely attributable to an aging population with declining birthrates in the traditional demographic makeup of our denomination, which is undeniably true.

I did not say that the solution is to increase birthrates among Missouri Synod members though I certainly would not be opposed to such a development.  I heard President Harrison likewise make that exact point in exactly the same way at our last district convention.  He explicitly emphasized that he is not proposing we stem the decline by increasing Missouri Synod birthrates though he certainly would not be opposed to that. 

To me, a pro-life mentality obligates one in any such discussion to state the Biblical truth that having more children would be a blessing: "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord . . .  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them" (Psalm 127:3-5).  Why is it controversial and "pilloried" by you to say that?  Who would be opposed to our young people having more babies?

On the other hand, that being said, other than promoting a pro-life ethos, which we should be doing anyway, things such as birthrates are outside the purview of the Church.  What President Harrison actually said at our district convention, rather than your false caricature of his position, is that the demographic reality we face internally highlights the need for external growth, particularly outside our traditional demographic base of the "frozen chosen."  He also emphasized, however, that "saving the Missouri Synod" is not our mission and dare not be our impetus for outreach.  That impetus comes from the Gospel, and our Lord's command to make disciples of all nations.

For the record, I spent most of my ministry in mission congregations composed almost entirely of those brought in from the outside.   I remember once getting shocked looks when I said in a circuit meeting, "Well I don't have any Lutherans on my board of elders."  What I meant of course was that none of them were raised Lutheran.  At my last congregation there was a wonderful man, a Methodist pastor's son, who one year was president of the local United Methodist congregation, and the next year head elder at our congregation.  I would smile when my whole congregation would say the Lord's Prayer "wrong" (either "debts" and "debtors" or omitting the doxology) or sing the common doxology "wrong" (isorhythmic rather than rhythmic).  That's because most of them had only been Missouri Synod a very short time.

Even more exciting were those with no church background or a non-Christian background.  The 28-year-old man I baptized one Easter, who had never set foot inside a church in his life and said, "I used to drive by and wonder what went on inside churches.  But I was scared to go in because I thought they'd kick me out."  The Jewish young man getting a PhD in religion at the University of Kansas.  The woman raised Bahai and several Muslims.  The University of Kansas professor raised in the Worldwide Church of God cult, who when I visited them the week following their first attendance at worship sat in his living room sobbing uncontrollably. When I asked what was wrong he said, "Nothing's wrong! I'm crying because I'm happy!  During your sermon I knew that we would be joining your church.  Because you said God loves me no one in my life has ever before told me that God loves me!  I don't want my kids to grow up the way I did I want them to grow up hearing every week that God loves them."

I've got nothing against "best practices" but I've been to enough conferences like that on the district tab over the years to know that the real and enduring best practice is Word and Sacrament, Law and Gospel, and Lutheran liturgy and hymns.
Rev. Kevin Vogts, Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church
Paola, Kansas
www.trinitylcms.org

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2019, 10:31:38 PM »
There is something about the fact that in the sacrament of Holy Baptism God actually places us in the Body of the living Christ.  I have lived long enough and reflected on this in my own faith life and St. Paul in Romans 6 et. al. nails it down pretty obviously:  "...we have been united with Him (ie. Christ) in a death like His, we will certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His."  This being placed so is a constant underlying theme in the writings of Paul that it occurs to me that Paul having been commissioned by Jesus to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles wants to make this "theme" the underlying structure to his churches.  We have actually been attached to Jesus' risen Body and so are commanded by the Lord to listen to his announcement that all sins are forgiven and that the new life in Christ means living in Jesus' Body by Word and Sacrament.  Again,  it is about Jesus because as the Holy Spirit has called us initially and set us in the Body of Christ by way of Baptism it is there that the relationship between His Father and Himself becomes that living and breathing reality for others, ie. we are living witnesses to God being for us and not against us.

This missional approach seems to resonate with folks in that they want their thirst quenched by Jesus' living water because at that point then they are out of themselves (their sinner-nature) and through Word and Sacrament, by being out of themselves they are turned to the Good News alone in the preaching and teaching and realize that their only hope is living in the Body of a real person (actually three) over whom death no longer has dominion as He delivers on his promise to be with us forever.  They are testimony to the fact that Jesus is no liar but that you can rely on Him in the bitter darkness of loss or poverty of whatever.  Jesus actually does what He says He will do.  They receive thorough and complete comfort as they place into Jesus' hands their guilt over sin.  They take seriously that confession means to go out of yourself (delivering burdens over onto Jesus as he requested folks do...since his death on the cross was for this purpose so that we might have a way out of the prison on sin) and by hearing the New Testament kerygma go into the One who is their life and light now:  Jesus!
« Last Edit: November 23, 2019, 10:47:21 PM by George Rahn »

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2019, 10:36:33 PM »
I think in fact it can be largely attributed to high death rates and low birth rates.  The baby boom was very good to Protestantism and the LCMS, a boom reflected across many denominations including our Synod.  All through my life I was generally in the largest class on record, the biggest Boy Scout troop they ever had, etc.  Because I was toward the end of the baby boom (1960), nearly every school building I attended, dorm I lived in, etc. was brand new.  Now?  There's a huge building boom around here at least in nursing homes and assisted living.  That's why the US had the lowest population growth on in 80 years in 2018 at .62% (www.brookings.edu/blog/the-avenue/2018/12/21/us-population-growth-hits-80-year-low-capping-off-a-year-of-demographic-stagnation/).  And that is the overall population, with the historic demographic makeup of the LCMS in negative territory.

I've got a bit of anecdotal good news.  My daughter's new boyfriend was raised in another Protestant denomination, in fact his father works at their national headquarters.  I haven't gotten the whole story yet, but in high school he was the only one in his family to switch to LCMS.  He is very committed and it is so inspiring to see his love and appreciation for things that I just take for granted.  For example, I unexpectedly was at his apartment so he didn't do this to impress me and all over his bedroom walls he has printed out posters with the Six Chief Parts, to help him memorize them!

Even better is a friend of his I recently met, another guy in his early 20's but who grew up with no church at all.  He also in high school was the only one in his family to start attending an LCMS church.  They became friends when they both moved to this area and starting attending the same LCMS congregation.  This guy's a truck driver and I don't know if he went to college, but he too is very committed, very informed, really in just a few years approaching the level of what one could call a lay theologian. 

Turns out at the LCMS congregation they attend there's a large group of such young men, many of whom became Christians and/or LCMS as adults, who listen to Issues, Etc. and all sorts of LCMS podcasts, watch YouTube videos by LCMS pastors, and absolutely devour every latest book from CPH.  I'm familiar with the congregation and pastor and though he's a fine man don't think that's the genesis of it. They had different paths of discovering the LCMS and for various reasons moved to this area and ended up somewhat randomly at that congregation.  I realize it is just anecdotal but I spent some time with them recently helping my daughter's boyfriend move, and it really hit me: this is the future of the LCMS.

By the way, my daughter, bless her heart, broke off with several young men because they were indifferent toward Christianity.  She was set up with this guy by a cousin because they are both professional bassonists and the cousin thought they'd have something in common, though she didn't know anything else about him.  The religion issue came up on about their third date.  He hesitantly said, "Well, I was raised in [ ________ ].  In fact my grandfather was a minister and my Dad works at their national headquarters.  But when I was in high school, I was the only one in my family to switch to another denomination, a small group you've probably never heard of."  "What is it?" asked my daughter.  "Well," he said, "it's called The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod."  "My Dad's a Missouri Synod pastor!" my daughter exclaimed.  :)


The third paragraph above in your post reflects an accurate situation with some of the young people who attend Shepherd of the Hills down here in San Antonio.  The case of a decline may be more of a plateau in the LCMS (I can't really say beyond my small area of the LCMS). 

Texas district has some heavy hitting in the missional dept. at least down here.  I can say this as I compare this to what I had experienced in the SW Texas Synod of the ELCA formerly.  (I had been a rostered pastor in that synod for awhile before resigning.  I'll tell you the difference in approach is more about Jesus than anything else which says to me the local ELCA synod needs to step up to this Christological challenge.)

In terms of the Missouri Synod, you're on to and part of one of the dividing points in our denomination.  Kevin's first point has been roundly pilloried by many in the LCMS, and President Harrison, the "author" of the point of view regarding differing birth rates from generation to generation, has stepped back from making that point.  Because it's a non-starter when the average age of a Lutheran in worship is 63.  Another route to gaining new members must be chosen.

So, there is a different point to be made; the Missouri Synod, alongside many denominations, has had a difficult time bringing in new adherents/members/converts from other faith groups or no faith - that is, new members from "outside" the LCMS fold.  Some of the Texas congregations, and I think you're a member of one, George, are leaders in the more "missional" and evangelical outreach component of the LCMS.  Institutionally, the leading edge for mission outreach nationally is an adjunct organization, Lutheran Hour Ministries. 

They have tracked our denominational record when it comes to bringing in new adults from outside.  It turns out that 95% of the new adult members from outside come from 5% of the congregations, which is, anyone would aver, extraordinary. 

The question is why that movement seems more "on the edge" of the action in the Missouri Synod.  It could be that there's just a higher emphasis on doctrine than outreach.  Or holding the line on social and moral issues over against simply bringing folks into Christian fellowship.  But without question the leading edge "missional" endeavors are not part of the national church agenda.  Instead, they're doing their own thing - the annual Best Practices conference in Arizona started out with 5-700 people, and is now up to I believe 2500 folks gathering to strategize congregational mission outreach.

I think a difference between the LCMS and WELS is that in WELS the large and growing congregations are also involved in denominational leadership - the "worship wars" have not infected them to great degree.  In the LCMS there have indeed been worship wars which have ended up weirdly marginalizing the large and growing congregations from national involvement.  Which is in many ways OK, because they and their districts or regional leaders can still plan, equip, and get things done. 

But - you're not going to have a praise band parish getting any tread on the national level.  You who are missional/evangelical and sacramental Lutherans are, I think, important for our denominational future.  Keep up the good work!

I don't know where to start when it comes to urban outreach.  It's incredibly opportune, and at the same time incredibly challenging, maybe the more so for an oldster like me.  But every week brings something new to our door in Brooklyn, and we intend to remain a lively option for Gospel witness in the Big Apple, by God's grace.

Dave Benke

You guys up north are doing a fine job preaching the Gospel.  Don't let the numbers fool ya'.  Just ignore the response and keep preaching, being in the Lord Jesus as you are and fight the good fight.  Stay focused on both the Scriptures and our Lutheran Confessions because that is the key to open and informed witness to the Gospel.

readselerttoo

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Re: Sharp Decline In LCMS Members From 2010 to 2018
« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2019, 10:45:43 PM »
As I entered the pastoral ministry there was a pastor from San Antonio, Texas that I admired.
His name was Rev. Guido Merkens and I heard him speak at conferences in Moorhead, Minnesota,
St. Louis, Missouri, and Springfield, Illinois. He taught me that one of the priorities of every pastor
should be teaching Adult Instruction Classes and allow the Lord to bless your parish with Adult
Confirmands.

Concordia Lutheran Church, San Antonio, Texas was always one of the top parishes in Adult Confirmands
in the LCMS during Pastor Merkens tenure there.  Teaching Adult Adult Instruction Classes has nothing
to due with the low birth rate in America. At least 50% of America is unchurched so there is work to do.
I thank the Lord for the impact that Pastor Merkens  had on my ministry.  I loved teaching Adult Instruction
Classes and the Lord blessed our efforts tremendously.

 :)  Truly life-giving!