Author Topic: LCMS Inc 2020 Report  (Read 47654 times)

Dave Benke

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13530
    • View Profile
    • Atlantic District, LCMS
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2020, 12:48:39 PM »
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.

The setting of goals, particularly in outreach/invitation, is a great step, and should be encouraged across the board.  What happens in life in several types of congregations - those with conflict especially conflict with the pastor and/or leaders, and those which have dwindled down to a precious few - is that outside involvement is necessary.  And the local congregation especially as perceived and taught in the Missouri Synod, is nothing if not a closed system.  So we enter those parishes - we at the wider church level - and attempt to be honest and encouraging at the same time.

Dave Benke

Dave Benke

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13530
    • View Profile
    • Atlantic District, LCMS
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2020, 01:01:01 PM »
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.

Having just participated with your successor in New York on his doctoral thesis in the area of apologetics (along with maybe 15 other pastors), it's not difficult to pin the tail on "them," the enemies out there in ideology, culture and societal structure.  We've been doing it thusly:  They Say, Scripture Says, We Say.  It's effective and revelatory.

At the same time, the place I find the enemy more than out there is inside.  In truth, the best effort is not being put forth x 6000 in the Missouri Synod.  And that must be addressed as well as the enemies from without.  I think that's what Tim, and Dave Likeness, are driving at, and Rob Morris' analogy of the open door fortress church is right on target.

Dave Benke

Dave Likeness

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5339
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2020, 01:22:14 PM »
As I understand Bishop Benke, there are too many dysfunctional parishes in LCMS.
When pastor and members are at odds, then the outreach mission of the parish is
compromised.  We need more pastors who are able to avoid the intramural battles
of the parish and who stay focused on the mission of proclaiming Christ to their
communities. Healthy pastors and healthy parishes can meet the challenges in
front of them.

Dave Benke

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13530
    • View Profile
    • Atlantic District, LCMS
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2020, 01:45:04 PM »
As I understand Bishop Benke, there are too many dysfunctional parishes in LCMS.
When pastor and members are at odds, then the outreach mission of the parish is
compromised.  We need more pastors who are able to avoid the intramural battles
of the parish and who stay focused on the mission of proclaiming Christ to their
communities. Healthy pastors and healthy parishes can meet the challenges in
front of them.

All true, and all too true.

I especially like the use of the term "intramural", Dave.  As you would know from the old days, the fiercest battles in sports were not at the varsity level, where the opponent came and left (with notable long-term exceptions like - for us - Northwestern the WELS folks, with whom we were bitter rivals), but at the intramural level.  I took some hits in intramural flag football from people I had thought were friends that still give me pain today.  "Hey, it's FLAG football, guys!"  Not so much.

Dave Benke

Mark_Hofman

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 122
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2020, 02:14:47 PM »
My assumptions drive my emotions.
My emotions drive my behavior.
No amount of spoken logic or reason, no amount of blame or finger-pointing, will ever overcome that reality for any of us.

Lesson? Check every assumption being made, meaning don't take something as fact until it's been put to the test.

In the LCMS we act a lot on the emotions flowing out of those things we sincerely believe to be true, but perhaps - if closely examined - aren't fully true.




Dave Likeness

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5339
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #20 on: December 22, 2020, 02:35:00 PM »
It is noteworthy that the Apostle Paul's list of qualifications for a pastor include:
"he must be above reproach, self-controlled, not violent, but gentle, not
quarrelsome" (1 Timothy 3).  Yet somehow these guidelines are ignored.
Too many pastors are battling with their members. If pastors are self-controlled
and not quarrelsome, then the mission of proclaiming Christ to the community
might gain some traction.

Mark_Hofman

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 122
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #21 on: December 22, 2020, 02:45:06 PM »
Too many pastors are battling with their members.

Perhaps a first step could be shunning vagueness, such as when we use pronouns rather than proper names.  We all do it. We all hear it.  "They....them...those people...a person I know said..."  Even "this pastor I know..." or the infamous "well, the administration..."

Perhaps the thing to start doing is gently naming names.  Call out the behavior, and call out the person exhibiting it by name.

"Hi. I'm Mark. And I'm acting on the emotions caused by my untested assumptions. Thank you for calling me to account for my behavior."  I've got a name and it isn't "him" "xe" "that nutbag" "that bureaucrat in a cubicle" or <fill in the blank>.  Commend good, God-pleasing behavior. Call out the Satan-feeding behavior too, using names, since going to people (pastors or laypeople) privately doesn't seem to be helping?
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 03:10:34 PM by Mark_Hofman »

Dave Likeness

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5339
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #22 on: December 22, 2020, 02:58:19 PM »
@Mark Hofman.....As a Circuit Counselor in a LCMS Midwest District, I witnessed 4 parishes
which finally closed due to battles between pastors and their members.  These were
mid-sized parishes which once flourished but finally became embroiled in power struggles
and the people voted with their feet by walking away.  I served as Circuit Counselor for
13 years and three of these parishes were in a neighboring circuit.

Weedon

  • Guest
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #23 on: December 22, 2020, 03:03:00 PM »
The same Apostle also insisted that pastors should be husband of one wife (1 Tim 3:2)... And do we?

And that they were to rebuke sharply those who taught falsely (Titus 1:13)... And do we?

And that they must hold fast the faithful Word that they have been taught so that by sound doctrine they can exhort and convince their opponents (Titus 1:9)... And do we?

And nowhere in Paul’s lists of attributes for those who serve in the office of the holy ministry do we find the one that our Synod, sadly, has seemed to value about all else: “winsomeness” (and I wasn’t going to say it, but as a crusty old curmudgeon, why not): and that’s just a wimpy name for “popularity” that makes it sound not nearly as offensive as it should be.

P.S. And none of the above ought be read as endorsing “lording it over the flock” because St. Peter’s utterly clear on that one, as was our Lord Himself.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 03:30:22 PM by Weedon »

Mark_Hofman

  • ALPB Forum Regular
  • ***
  • Posts: 122
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #24 on: December 22, 2020, 03:07:42 PM »
Rev. Likeness,

It seems my comment was taken as an accusation. That was not my intent, so I apologize for causing offense. As the son of a now-retired LCMS pastor who also served as a circuit counselor/visitor and district v.p. back in the day, I too have seen what power/emotional/spiritual/control struggles can do to a congregation. One of those involved a Caterpillar bulldozer showing up in the middle of the night and the resulting need for the remnant to find a new location to worship.

Agreeing to step into the middle of those situations to effect a positive outcome is an act of bravery deserving of a medal.

My remark about naming names was an observation of the behavior that we as a denomination seem to accept without question, anywhere and seemingly everywhere. We use pronouns and generalities instead of names. That's all.  It's only my opinion based on a myopic observation over many years, and carries no real substantive weight anyway.  Again, I sincerely apologize for the offense I seem to have caused, and beg forgiveness for Christ's sake.

 
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 03:15:45 PM by Mark_Hofman »

Dave Likeness

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 5339
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #25 on: December 22, 2020, 03:09:56 PM »
The admitting to our Seminaries of men who have been divorced was a mistake.
Yet, it was allowed by Admissions Officers in the 1990's who were concerned about
getting more bodies into the Seminary.

Dan Fienen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 13572
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #26 on: December 22, 2020, 03:59:11 PM »
There are many reasons that churches and church bodies are in decline. As we examine and discuss this we need to also examine the sociological factors that have fed decline. In our eagerness to beat each other up for how we have not been faithful enough or energetic enough, our how our leadership has not been mission minded enough, there are also factors at work that are beyond our control. Much as many of us emphasize theology, both the liberal ELCA and the conservative LCMS are declining and at similar rates.


Our society is changing, has been changing for a considerable time. Some of this is technological. For example, consider how air conditioning has changed neighborhoods. During mild and especially hot months, people no longer go out on porches to escape hot houses. People no longer stroll down the sidewalks and interact with their neighbors on their porches.


A major sociological shift over the last half century has been a shift away from social/philanthropic organizations. We see this not only in the decline in membership in churches, but in lodges like the Masons, Elk, Moose, etc.; Veterans' organizations like the VFW or American Legion; and service clubs like Rotary and Lions. People have just not been as interested in joining. It would be interesting and useful to explore why that has been. People in general seem to have less of need to be a part of an organized group, and churches also fall into that category.


We see this also in youth organizations like the various forms of Scouting and church youth groups. Already when I was in high school back in the late 60s Walter league was on the decline. Time was that teens looked forward to Walther League meetings because it got them out of the house, with other teens (how many Lutheran romances leading to marriage were started in Walther League in the first half of the 20th century? How many in the last 50 years?) and with some fun activity. Early in my ministry, churches that ran extensive youth programs with plenty of activities and areas in the building or additional buildings where they could hang out were the growing churches. Not as many youth going forward, and even churched youth have plenty of other opportunities to hang out, have fun together, etc. The church as a place for young people to hang out is no longer needed, and rarely could we do that as well as the competition.




The Church used to be the major local charitable organization. Much of the social service needs and charitable giving was funneled through churches. In many ways, the early church invented social service and charity. Government has largely taken over those functions and with the ability to tax to fund that "charity" (no longer actually seen as charity) sucked up much of the money available for those social services. I'm not saying that that shift has been good or bad, nor to I want to argue that, it just is the way it is.


Whether or not people realize it, the need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is as pressing as it ever was. Spiritual hunger is as real a need as it ever was. There is a much greater buffet available to fill that hunger. That in our understanding much of the spirituality on offer in American society today is spiritual junk food doesn't keep people from filling up on that any more than the many PSAs promoting good nutrition has dented the market for physical junk food.


I'm not saying that I have answers, but as we look for answers, this factor needs to be taken into account. Very easy to set up circular firing squads to beat up on each other and ourselves. It's not all that we have fallen down on the job of offering the Gospel. A changing society needs to be approached differently.
« Last Edit: December 22, 2020, 04:42:30 PM by Dan Fienen »
Pr. Daniel Fienen
LCMS

Brian Stoffregen

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 44912
  • ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #27 on: December 22, 2020, 04:21:39 PM »
It is noteworthy that the Apostle Paul's list of qualifications for a pastor include:
"he must be above reproach, self-controlled, not violent, but gentle, not
quarrelsome" (1 Timothy 3).  Yet somehow these guidelines are ignored.
Too many pastors are battling with their members. If pastors are self-controlled
and not quarrelsome, then the mission of proclaiming Christ to the community
might gain some traction.


The word translated "self-controlled," νηφάλιος, literally referred to someone who drank no wine. The image of being sober vs. being drunk became took on the figurative meaning of being in control of one's life, thoughts, and words. (See the related verb in 1 Thessalonians 5:6.)
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

RevG

  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 844
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #28 on: December 22, 2020, 05:01:32 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.

I get what your saying Tim, but for me the enormous amount of responsibility prompts me to become much more localized in my focus. Maybe that makes me a bad Synodical churchman, I don't intend to be. I'm just not in that mindset right now.  It would never occur to me to look up the Synodical report and then post about it here.  I don't intend that as criticism but just to highlight where my focus is currently.  And I think Will's point about winsomeness is relevant here, I would posit that our attraction to such characteristics has cost us much more money and resources than we will ever realize.  Examples abound all around us if we have the eyes to see.  It's in the mundane, the day to day, the simple, and seemingly unattractive where the true gold is found and that seems to be lost on us time and time again.

Peace,
Scott+

peter_speckhard

  • ALPB Administrator
  • ALPB Contribution Leader
  • *****
  • Posts: 19820
    • View Profile
Re: LCMS Inc 2020 Report
« Reply #29 on: December 22, 2020, 05:05:34 PM »
On that note, I’m waiting John Nunes’s new book Meant for More, which is in the mail (hopefully). The theme of the book is just what Scott just posted about holiness and purpose being found in the ordinary.