Author Topic: LCMS Inc 2020 Report  (Read 41195 times)

PrTim15

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 160
    • View Profile

Padre Emeritus

  • ALPB Forum Member
  • **
  • Posts: 95
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #1 on: December 22, 2020, 01:43:53 AM »
Interesting.  I pray we stop talking about COVID-19 without also sharing the love of Jesus Christ for every one of the people living on this planet.....
The Old Padre Dave Poedel, now retired, coming back to catch up with friends, old and new

PrTim15

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 160
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #2 on: December 22, 2020, 08:42:28 AM »
We have the catechism and doctrine nailed, we are good at that. But what is LCMS Inc about in terms of direction and  focus? We have fewer congregations, fewer clergy, less money and we have gone from being conflicted to apathetic. Confronting brutal facts and having hope is hard, but necessary. Also, if you don’t have an idea what to do, ask someone else, find a group, reach out to those you disagree with. Covid has accelerated our previous position.

Randy Bosch

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 555
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #3 on: December 22, 2020, 09:24:47 AM »
We have the catechism and doctrine nailed, we are good at that. But what is LCMS Inc about in terms of direction and  focus? We have fewer congregations, fewer clergy, less money and we have gone from being conflicted to apathetic. Confronting brutal facts and having hope is hard, but necessary. Also, if you don’t have an idea what to do, ask someone else, find a group, reach out to those you disagree with. Covid has accelerated our previous position.

Sometimes, silence during grief (as during the unsettling events of this year - in society and church-at-large ) is not apathy, but people awaiting the rise of leadership that shows the path out of the mire and back to focus on what counts, Christ and Him Crucified - and Arisen.

peter_speckhard

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 19185
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #4 on: December 22, 2020, 09:52:26 AM »
It is a hard future to envision. Institutional churches are collapsing. I don't think that is for lack of faith or desire to reach out. In a way, the whole thing is simply built for a society and culture that is now in decline. University presidents, editors of publications, pastors of churches with schools, really anyone in charge of a substantial institution faces this issue.

What would be some actionable suggestions? "Get organized," or "Quit infighting and focus on the Gospel," or "Raise up servant leaders," are not actionable suggestions. I mean concrete proposals that can be said to have been completed within a certain timeline. What vote should be taken or change should be made such that five years from now we aren't in the same place only smaller?

RevG

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 832
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #5 on: December 22, 2020, 10:24:14 AM »
I don't know, Tim.  I think this is a time in which we need to grant one another a lot of grace.  It's tough for everyone, I would imagine it's no different at the IC. 

Peace,
Scott+

Dave Benke

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13257
    • View Profile
    • Atlantic District, LCMS
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #6 on: December 22, 2020, 10:32:43 AM »
It is a hard future to envision. Institutional churches are collapsing. I don't think that is for lack of faith or desire to reach out. In a way, the whole thing is simply built for a society and culture that is now in decline. University presidents, editors of publications, pastors of churches with schools, really anyone in charge of a substantial institution faces this issue.

What would be some actionable suggestions? "Get organized," or "Quit infighting and focus on the Gospel," or "Raise up servant leaders," are not actionable suggestions. I mean concrete proposals that can be said to have been completed within a certain timeline. What vote should be taken or change should be made such that five years from now we aren't in the same place only smaller?

The future is very hard to envision in terms of institutions and agencies, and the farther up the food chain you go, the harder it gets.  Starting at the local level, medium-sized and larger congregations will make it through, with some pain.  The smaller ones, already vulnerable, will in some to a lot of cases fail.  The age of congregants is the other trip wire; the replacement pool is limited. I've only been referencing this for 10 years on this board, but out of 6000 churches, at least a quarter are below the line.  In the ELCA with 10000 it would be 2500.  Substantial losses, and now hastening to pass.

Moving up the line, it does start at the top, so my sincere belief is that middle management, ie districts, need to be reworked and re-staffed with maybe 15 districts in the LCMS nationwide to set courses that are less crusted over with the various traditions.  I don't see that happening because it would take too much honesty and courage.  And it would have to be led by the President/Praesidium and District Presidents and punch through the entropy.  Streamline for mission, for rebuilding.  The current program, which has to do with making lifelong disciples and is essentially about catechetics, will run out of life because the disciples' lives on earth are ending.  Looking at the attendance at the roll-out, it was basically able to be held at a senior center.  So additional options in a leaner structure would have to be explored.

Without question, what came to be called the University System is in a very precarious place; the "crown jewels" have in large part tumbled off the tiara.  The Synod's Board of Directors seems to me to have a very tough job, because it's more about cutting losses than where to put the realized gains, and that wears people out.

I liked what came out of the Concordia Plans and maybe LCEF early on in COVID time - a questionnaire and invitation to congregations to tell the story of what was happening on site, and what help might be needed.  In other words, like Moneyball, there is a need for analytics in combination with authentic conversation.  That's how you would get the ball rolling locally, and that's what would in my opinion work denomination-wide.  All of it is meant in the end as encouragement - with eternal destiny secure by God's grace, we can take an honest look at where we are, be grateful for what we have, and make decisions sub cruce that honor Lord and Church.

Dave Benke

Charles Austin

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 14696
    • View Profile
    • Charles is Coloring
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2020, 10:38:59 AM »
I think the ELCA has about 1/3 of its congregations on the edge of viability. I used to run down the yearbook (when we published one) and look at stats for synods and their congregations. An absolutely amazing number of congregations with fewer than 200 members or fewer than 100 worshipping regularly. Some of these will survive, but not many. And some will survive only as donut shops for the remaining members, not places reaching out with the Gospel or acts of mercy.
Retired ELCA Pastor. Iowa native. Now in Minneapolis. One must always ponder both the value and the dangers of poking the bear. Aroused and stimulated, the bear usually shows its true self. Or it might leap to an extreme version of itself. You never know with bears.

Dave Likeness

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5266
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2020, 10:49:10 AM »
There is not much the LCMS Executives in their cubicles at Kirkwood, Missouri can do to stem the decline.
There is not much the LCMS District Presidents on their turf can do to stop the downward movement.

However, the local parish can set five year goals which meet the challenges of the current times.
Parishes which are healthy and alive  understand what is needed.  They will  be proactive and
 set goals which highlight the future rather than complain about the present.

Measurable goals:  1. A goal of at least 10 adult confirmands each year for 5 years.

This will depend on the parish members actively inviting unchurched friends,
relatives, neighbors, and co-workers to attend worship services and the
adult instruction classes.  For a time live-stream video worship services
and instruction classes may be necessary to reach the unchurched people.

2. A goal of each parish family increasing their financials gifts to the Lord
through sacrificial and first fruit giving each year by 2% for 5 years.

This will depend on parish members actively focusing on returning to the
Lord the gifts that He has given them.  They will become immersed in
a daily devotional time which includes Scripture readings and prayers.
It becomes a time for stewardship awareness in their daily lives.




 

Randy Bosch

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 555
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2020, 11:42:21 AM »
It is a hard future to envision. Institutional churches are collapsing. I don't think that is for lack of faith or desire to reach out. In a way, the whole thing is simply built for a society and culture that is now in decline. University presidents, editors of publications, pastors of churches with schools, really anyone in charge of a substantial institution faces this issue.

What would be some actionable suggestions? "Get organized," or "Quit infighting and focus on the Gospel," or "Raise up servant leaders," are not actionable suggestions. I mean concrete proposals that can be said to have been completed within a certain timeline. What vote should be taken or change should be made such that five years from now we aren't in the same place only smaller?

Interesting.  "...built for a society and culture that is now in decline..." follows a historical line that in Europe after the "fall of Rome", tribal/kingdom leaders identified a need for a unifying, civilizing element to lead peoples out of barbarism and chose Christianity to do that in order to establish basic civil order and make their people more governable.  Only that.
I think God had something more to do with it, as all of us here including you and me also think (I hope).  But this is an aside.  The leaders of that multi-century era may have actually thought that was its purpose.

As to what are "actionable suggestions", I understand where you are coming from, looking for concrete proposals.  As a life-long professional planner, I find that, simply, correct.  However, we have actionable suggestions and concrete proposals that we enact every day.  The concept of "immanence" (not the hackneyed SF or cultish versions) as defined by, among others, a student of "immanence" in socio-economic-cultural-ecological things, Adrian Ivakhiv (he is oftentimes a bit wacky, like me, but often has a few gems buried in his work, you have to pick through it with discernment) who found that "Philosophers of immanence, from Heraclitus and Nagarjuna to Spinoza, Whitehead, and Deleuze, find inspiration in the middle of things, the moment-to-moment movement of thought, awareness, connection, action, rather than in large, transcendent, ventriloquistic forces (such as ideologies, ultimate causes, or apocalyptic narratives)".

What's the point?  It is "finding inspiration in the middle of things, including action.  We're in the middle of things, the most important of which is that God is doing the "action" through the Gospel.  The Gospel and the accompanying actionable suggestions and concrete proposals in every book from Acts to Jude (at least) are everything we need.
I'm especially enthused by Jude v. 17+ff, "A Call to Persevere". 
Please read Jude v. 17, pray over what it says, and "just do it".

FrPeters

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 2388
  • An Obedient Rebel
    • View Profile
    • Grace Lutheran Church Website
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2020, 11:43:07 AM »
Quote
The times are disturbing. I do not know or understand the hidden will of God. Why does God allow the church, especially in the West, to continue to decline? Why does our world sink into ever deeper depravity, division and even mayhem? Why has the world turned so hostile to the Gospel and the Word of God? Why does the Gospel find impenetrable rocky soil in places where it once was planted and prospered? Why has church planting proved so difficult in the past decades? Why have so many turned from the Good News to nihilism, or to a “spiritual” religion of the self, void of any biblical content?

Pres. Harrison laments what we all lament. Yet hidden in that is also the realization that the answer does not lie in programs or more enthusiasm.  We will not work our way out of this.  We speak the Gospel.  We testify with love.  We welcome those who hear.  We catechize.  And these we have done and still we struggle.  I am not at all suggesting that we should resign ourselves to this and try no more or no harder to be more effective in worship, witness, intercession, and acts of mercy but I am suggesting that we are not laboring in a field we have let go fallow.  It is ripe with enemies.  Like the disciples of old, we are so tempted to suggest that the problem lies with the seed or the sower.  Could it be that despite the best efforts of the sower and the best seed of all, the fields will not produce?  Surely we are all guilty of all the things we have said, thought, and done that get in the way of the sowing but as I look around us, it is not for lack of effort that the Word falls on rocky soil or fails to grow where it is planted.  There is something more at work.  We may not wish to admit it but there is.
Fr Larry Peters
Grace LCMS, Clarksville, TN
http://www.pastoralmeanderings.blogspot.com/

Rob Morris

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 702
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2020, 11:56:45 AM »
I think that anyone who doesn't acknowledge that this is a season of decline for Christianity in America has blinders on. Anyone who thinks some plan or program or strategy will prevent it has a greater optimism than I do. We enjoyed our season of growth throughout the late 20th century, but now comes a different season. Covid has only made the reality of the season more obvious.

But seasons are interesting things... most deciduous trees cannot survive without winter. Unchecked growth would lead to soft, mushy rot. Overladen branches would lack the structure to feed them or the strength to survive a storm. The winter is when the tree must harden, strengthen, and lose some of summer's unsustainable growth.

Barring something totally unforeseen, the church has entered a winter season in America. And winter is a relentless pruner.

But I believe, and Biblical and church history bear this out, these seasons of challenge and decline result in a more vital, more tenacious faith for those who hold faithful to it (and more importantly: are faithfully held by their faithful Savior).

Churches as resorts or activity centers may never recover. Churches as fortresses in the midst of life's wearying war: these will remain, no matter what their appearance.

Resorts and activity centers need marketing plans; fortresses don't.

Resorts and activity centers need to figure out how to get people through the doors; fortresses need to make sure that when the wounded and weary come through the doors, there are enough rations and supplies and caregivers to see them through to better days.

Resorts and activity centers compete; fortresses endure.

I believe the winter of Christianity in America has come. But that fact does not disconcert me. Not if it leads to deeper roots and a stronger core.

Besides, I have always loved winter.

RevG

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 832
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2020, 12:04:36 PM »
I think that anyone who doesn't acknowledge that this is a season of decline for Christianity in America has blinders on. Anyone who thinks some plan or program or strategy will prevent it has a greater optimism than I do. We enjoyed our season of growth throughout the late 20th century, but now comes a different season. Covid has only made the reality of the season more obvious.

But seasons are interesting things... most deciduous trees cannot survive without winter. Unchecked growth would lead to soft, mushy rot. Overladen branches would lack the structure to feed them or the strength to survive a storm. The winter is when the tree must harden, strengthen, and lose some of summer's unsustainable growth.

Barring something totally unforeseen, the church has entered a winter season in America. And winter is a relentless pruner.

But I believe, and Biblical and church history bear this out, these seasons of challenge and decline result in a more vital, more tenacious faith for those who hold faithful to it (and more importantly: are faithfully held by their faithful Savior).

Churches as resorts or activity centers may never recover. Churches as fortresses in the midst of life's wearying war: these will remain, no matter what their appearance.

Resorts and activity centers need marketing plans; fortresses don't.

Resorts and activity centers need to figure out how to get people through the doors; fortresses need to make sure that when the wounded and weary come through the doors, there are enough rations and supplies and caregivers to see them through to better days.

Resorts and activity centers compete; fortresses endure.

I believe the winter of Christianity in America has come. But that fact does not disconcert me. Not if it leads to deeper roots and a stronger core.

Besides, I have always loved winter.

Amen.  A liminal space.  It's Holy Saturday, but like the first disciples we don't know exactly what's coming.  Thankfully, we know its Resurrection, but exactly what that will look like remains to be seen.

Peace,
Scott+

PrTim15

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 160
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2020, 12:05:19 PM »
I don't know, Tim.  I think this is a time in which we need to grant one another a lot of grace.  It's tough for everyone, I would imagine it's no different at the IC. 

I get that Scott, I also get the enormous responsibility we all have to keep on moving. Our district has enacted a new coaching program, has pivoted on welcoming workers, have done an online district conference, which had a very fine response. There's ways to pivot and move gracefully.

And also I agree with churches as resorts and clubs is over. It was over the moment church couldn't meet all your "felt needs" or provide enough business leads to get people out of bed. Honestly, Lutheran Hour Ministries has pivoted too. There's perhaps more opportunity to reach out in a broken world now than there were 9 months ago.


Randy Bosch

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 555
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2020, 12:39:45 PM »
I think that anyone who doesn't acknowledge that this is a season of decline for Christianity in America has blinders on. Anyone who thinks some plan or program or strategy will prevent it has a greater optimism than I do. We enjoyed our season of growth throughout the late 20th century, but now comes a different season. Covid has only made the reality of the season more obvious.

But seasons are interesting things... most deciduous trees cannot survive without winter. Unchecked growth would lead to soft, mushy rot. Overladen branches would lack the structure to feed them or the strength to survive a storm. The winter is when the tree must harden, strengthen, and lose some of summer's unsustainable growth.

Barring something totally unforeseen, the church has entered a winter season in America. And winter is a relentless pruner.

But I believe, and Biblical and church history bear this out, these seasons of challenge and decline result in a more vital, more tenacious faith for those who hold faithful to it (and more importantly: are faithfully held by their faithful Savior).

Churches as resorts or activity centers may never recover. Churches as fortresses in the midst of life's wearying war: these will remain, no matter what their appearance.

Resorts and activity centers need marketing plans; fortresses don't.

Resorts and activity centers need to figure out how to get people through the doors; fortresses need to make sure that when the wounded and weary come through the doors, there are enough rations and supplies and caregivers to see them through to better days.

Resorts and activity centers compete; fortresses endure.

I believe the winter of Christianity in America has come. But that fact does not disconcert me. Not if it leads to deeper roots and a stronger core.

Besides, I have always loved winter.

Thank you, good stuff. 
As to Winter, also remember and act knowing two things that happen in deep winter country (these two from Wyoming east of the divide:
1.  With snow and ice covering the land, the number one killer of trees, especially weakened ones, is THIRST.  Many non-deciduous trees are in winter-mode but not complelety "hiberating".  But the water they need is locked up by ice and snow and not priming their roots.
2.  Wyoming is a fence-out state; that is, if you don't want your neighbors cattle on your land, you must build and maintain the fence, not your neighbor.  In a fierce blizzard, many cattle will move with the wind trying to escape the blast.  When they reach a fence, they can drown by aspirating too much snow.  A good neighbor cuts his own fence to save his neigbors' cattle.

These have some bearing in churches as well, I think, and not just in Winter.  The Summer Program Hiatus - because "school's out, everyone's on vacation" - when most at any time are in town, leaves most members adrift (I know, staff and active volunteers need respite...), really adrift.  Hurray for VBS and summer youth activities but what about adult Bible study and fellowship?