Let’s put it in Perspective

 

I spent two days last week in dismal humidity teaching about the Augsburg Confession to a small but enthusiastic group of Lutherans from Marion Ohio. Currently I am drinking coffee and looking out at the mountains of Utah where I am resting in anticipation of the Higher Things conference held in Logan, beginning this afternoon. There I will speak to – I would guess – 40 or so high school kids on the topic of “God, Marriage and Sex: in that order.” Following that, I rush home and have a baptism Sunday while also preaching and giving the Holy Communion. Then during that week I will give communion to all of my shut-ins – about six, visit the widow of a man who passed away ten days ago and have the last make up of my Christian Doctrine class for those who need it anticipating membership since we will receive four new families on July 18. Then on the ninth if July I will travel to Texas to help as the LCMS delegates seek to make decisions which, arguably, will be the most important and potentially far reaching in a couple of decades. 

Here is your question. Of all these tasks and obligations which is the least important. Think about it. OK. The answer is “drinking coffee” although I have heard that the salutary effects of that mild stimulant are greater than most of us had thought.

Seriously, we need to put the convention into perspective. Of all the things that the church does, and all the things that pastors do, attending conventions pales in comparison to teaching, preaching, baptizing, communing, consoling and the “mutual consolation of the brothers” as Luther says. 1000 years from now the gospel taught and proclaimed and sacraments administered will be praised by those who, at the feast of the lamb, credit them for their current blissful circumstances. And the 2010 Convention of the synod will be unremembered and unextolled.

Having said that, I believe that the convention, and many conventions, do play a role in making the ministry more or less possible. We can do things which encumber the word or make us frustrated, or divide us or distract us and we need to avoid that. And we can do things which energize us, potentially unite us and make us hopeful. I believe that we have the capacity at a convention to fulfill the prayer, “that thy word as becometh it may not be bound.” And if we can do that then the 8 days of heat and humidity in Houston may serve to awaken our synod to encourage pastors and congregations to do the things we all know are “the one thing needful.”

Pray for the delegates that they may elect good leaders and make good decisions that serve to further the church by focuses our attention on the Word and Sacraments of Christ.


Comments

Let’s put it in Perspective — 23 Comments

  1. Well put! I know how thankful I am for all that I have in my congregation and also in our larger church body. We are truly blessed.

  2. Thank you for your words, which help put this into perspective for all of us. Jesus told us not to worry. We should do what we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and pray: “Father, into Thy hands we commend ourselves, our bodies and souls and all things (our convention,…). Let thy holy angel be with us, that the wicked foe may have no power over us. In Christ, our Lord, Amen.”

  3. I was a vicar from Fort Wayne in 1991-92. My supervisor/bishop was Rev. David Anderson, one of the two members of the FW Board of Regents who supported Dr. Robert Preus when he was fired as seminary president. I was extremely concerned about the future of our synod (and the FW seminary, whose 1992 class had largely been uncalled). Rev. Anderson and I had numerous talks about all these things and we both were very hopeful about the possible election (and resulting change of direction, we hoped would happen) of Dr. Barry. One day I was especially worked up and said something to the effect of “we NEED Dr. Barry to be elected”. Rev. Anderson’s response was simply to say “It is still Christ’s Church, Vicar, and He knows what He is doing”. It is good to have wise men, like David Anderson and Klemet Preus, to remind me of that!

  4. Say, if you get a chance to talk to Pr. Cwirla at that Higher Things conference ask him why he stopped blogging. His blog site is frozen at Reformation Day last year.

  5. Enjoy the sites of Utah. If you have never visited it, you have to go to Temple Square! It is a beautiful sight and will let you know why the Mormons have so many members worldwide. If you fall for the things they say in Temple Square, you will fall for anything.

  6. Rev. Sterle,
    That last statement of yours, is what I was taught & what we teach our sons.
    I you refuse to stand for anything, for anything will you fall.

    Pastor Preuss,
    Brilliant, as always.

  7. Actually, Klemet, I would put drinking coffee and looking at the mountains as one of the most important things one could do. At such moments, the Christian naturally lapses into a state of meditation and prayer, praise unto God for the wonders of Creation (coffee, mountains), and thanksgiving to Christ for his atoning death and resurrection.

  8. Bravo. One other thing to consider is how much actual influence does a synod president have on an individual congregation, the small groups within a church or the individual ministries performed by lay members and pastors. In my humble opinion, the SP matters little in daily gospel living. Kind of like the old analogy about the most important person on a ballot is the local dog catcher.

    Tim

  9. The SP has more influence than we sometimes realize, as do DP’s. Often time their influence is a slow that is built up over many years. It often is the result of numerous little actions. One place where the rubber hits the road is in the training and screening of pastors. I know of a case where the sem faculty booted a guy and then, under pressure from the guy’s DP reinstated him. Now we have in our district. The sem was right. He shouldn’t have been certified. Now he’s doing a great deal of damage to one of our congregations. So in a lot of little ways DP’s and the SP influence the training of pastors and through that what happens at the congregational level.

  10. @Tim Schneider #8

    Two nights ago I enlightened my father-in-law to some of the shenanigans that are going on this year. He was totally oblivious.
    His only comment was “Well, convention always seems to bring out the worst in people.”
    My reply: “Why, then, do we have them?”
    I was met with silence.
    I ask you the same essential question: if synod presidents have so little influence on anything that matters in the synod, why do we have them?

    I’m not being a smart alec – I really don’t know, and when I ask people who have been around longer than I, nobody seems to have an answer.

    I can tell you that when I read through the LCMS constitution and bylaws, it seems pretty clear that the presidents are given authority to do things that conventional wisdom says they can’t.

    They have plenty of influence over individual congregations – when they don’t exercise oversight over the district presidents, and the district presidents don’t exercise oversight over the congregations, they are de facto rubber-stamping every despicable act the congregations take part in.

    I don’t understand all the hulabaloo about the convention either, but it’s mainly because nobody seems too concerned with what the synod documents say to begin with, so what’s the point getting so excited about how they want to change them?

    My entire small group is hanging on just long enough to see the vote count, and if it goes the wrong way, we’re gone. Even a Harrison victory isn’t a guarantee that we’ll stick around. I’d call that a pretty big influence.

  11. @ #10: “…I don’t understand all the hulabaloo about the convention either, but it’s mainly because nobody seems too concerned with what the synod documents say to begin with, so what’s the point getting so excited about how they want to change them?…”

    I hate to put it into such blatant language, but it seems to boil down to this: The oldest generation belonging to the synod’s congregations is mainly concerned about where they will be buried – too old to change, rock the boat, leave their congregations, etc. The next generation, the wonderful “boomers” are largely the ones who have ushered in CW and have tolerated CGM. They want to keep things the way they are in their neo-Pentecostal congregations or want to change the ones that haven’t yet fully gone down that road. The youngest generation(s) either emulate what their boomer parents/grandparents do or are empathetic about almost anything. Ironically, the latter ones in this group remain the most reachable and amenable to adopting things like the Lutheran confessions, because they realize that everything else going on in their congregations nowadays is little different from what they see and hear in their regular daily secular lives. The problem is, who will begin to plant that seed of change in their minds and hearts? If it comes totally under the control of the synod, no one.

  12. Rev. Jody Walter :
    The SP has more influence than we sometimes realize, as do DP’s. I know of a case where the sem faculty booted a guy and then, under pressure from the guy’s DP reinstated him. Now we have in our district. The sem was right. He shouldn’t have been certified. Now he’s doing a great deal of damage to one of our congregations.

    That is the tail wagging the dog so to speak. IMHO, would not the sem faculty know best if someone is prepared to be a shepherd in the field. A DP might know the needs of the district via its pastors, but who is prepared to enter the ministry seems a leap of “faith”. Guess this speaks to power issues in the LCMS.

  13. Not all congregations have succombed to neo-Pentecostalism yet. Some “boomers” don’t appreciate Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) replacing the liturgy and hymns, and find congregations that are still committed to Lutheran worship.

    Fisharmor: You wrote: “My entire small group is hanging on just long enough to see the vote count, and if it goes the wrong way, we’re gone. Even a Harrison victory isn’t a guarantee that we’ll stick around. I’d call that a pretty big influence.” If your small group decides not to “stick around”, to whom shall you go?

    I resent “George in Wheaton”s characterization of “The oldest generation belonging to the synod’s congregations.” You call them “too old to change.” You are assuming that change is good. What change do you think they are too old to make? I lament that my parents are in an LCMS congregation that is giving in more and more to neo-Pentecostalism. They are even falling for this ‘substitute Lutheranism.’ I am middle age and long for genuine Lutheranism, which seems to be in short supply these days. The LCMS Commission on worship themselves state that they don’t theologically screen the so-called ‘praise songs’ with as much scrutiny as is done for selecting hymns for our hymnals. WHen you have Lutheran congregations that know next to nothing about the Lutheran Confessions, are very much Biblical illiterate, have youth instructors who don’t have proper theological training, and a congregation that just wants to sing whatever the mega-church down the street is singing, you have a recipe for disaster. Many congregations I am familiar with refuse to use excellent resources designed by CPH, and insist on using non-Lutheran books/resources. My question: Why leave the name ‘Lutheran’ on the church sign? Why not just be honest and leave the Lutheran church? It’s frustrating when many of our churches today are so eager to trade in their greatest treasure for sub-standard garbage (and I’m not even speaking of musical preferences here). I’m frustrated when Lutherans reject Lutheranism. Kyrie Eleison.

  14. Rick @ #16 – I think you misunderstood my point and perhaps I worded it poorly. When I said that some of the elderly in LCMS congregations consider themselves to be “too old to change,” I meant put up resistance against CW and other manifestations of the current liberal influence in the synod in order to change BACK to traditional, confessional forms. They often just give up, thinking themselves to be too old to change to another congregation, often from one they’ve attended since youth, but one that has now succumbed to post-modern trends. I base my statement upon my observations – many of that generation do not attend voters meetings, do not volunteer for pivotal positions on church boards (esp. elders). They frequently do, however, grumble about the direction the church/synod is going, dissatisfaction with CW formats, etc. – they simply feel “too old” to rock the boat.

    There are, of course, concerned and committed members among all of these generations, many of which blog on lists like this one, who are attempting to keep things on the right track, but too many are simply complacent. If you want a glimpse of the future this will bring about, here is a vivid example:

    http://faith.courier-journal.com/2010/06/presbyterian-decline-worsens.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+courier-journal%2FDqbI+%28Faith+%26+Works%29

    The PCUSA booted confessional Presbyterians along with Gresham Machen out back in the 1930’s in order to go along with the world views of that time. And it, along with most of the rest of the Seven Sisters of mainline Protestantism has been on the decline in the past 30-40 years.

  15. I would have to say SP and DP both have quite the influence over local congregations. My local LCMS congregation used to have a lot more biblical emphasis on teaching. Now they do not emphasize bible teaching but community projects. Most do not know what the Book of Concord is, but when I attended back in 1997 we used to have Book of Concord classes. An emphasis on the confessions was there as well as an emphasis on liturgy. Now this is all being compromised due to policies that came straight down from the SP. When I attended in 1997 I was confirmed as a member via Adult Confirmation Classes. Now they no longer have Adult Confirmation Classes anymore because they practice ‘Open Communion’. I have asked the Pastor and he says they are allowed to do these due to policies stright from SP and DP. So yeah, Pastor Preuss is right on. The Conventions do matter. I pray that God’s Will be done at the 2010 LCMS Convention this year.

  16. Klemet,

    Sounds to me like you are very busy with “maintenance ministry;” thanks be to God!

    Clint

  17. @Rick #16
    “If your small group decides not to “stick around”, to whom shall you go?”

    Christ. Wherever I find him. No matter where it is that I find him.

    I am only making decisions for my family, with the input of my wife.

    I suppose it doesn’t help that her brother is an Orthodox priest, or that I’m occasionally getting a totally different perspective on this which, unlike Lutheranism, is unencumbered by a pathological need to define itself by what it is not, as opposed to what it is.

    I’ve been asking this hypothetical recently:

    Group A is almost 100% dead-on regarding its doctrine and theology… on paper. The reality of group A is actually that anything goes, unless the offense in question is politically incorrect, in which case punishment is usually swift, severe, and itself unChristian. So therefore, when you look up from what you’re reading and look around, and look at what it is, group A is really something like 10% right in doctrine and theology.

    Group B is about 99% dead-on regarding doctrine and theology, both on paper and in practice. The 1% is particularly galling, but since this post is about perspective, let me ask you this: is it more galling to hear one inappropriate thing said about Mary amongst the hundred or so correct things said about Christ, or to hear nothing said about Christ at all?

    Now I’m not jumping over to Orthodoxy, but let’s not kid ourselves here: 99% is much higher than 10%. I stopped going to the LCMS church where both my children were baptized from a much more serious matter, but I noticed at the time that the vacancy pastor intentionally stopped using the word “Lutheran” when referring to the church, and nobody batted an eyelash. And I’d give a 30% chance that in any church (but one) in the whole district, you won’t hear mention of Christ during the sermon.

    This is not Lutheran – but that’s most of the argument we seem to have. The confessions are littered with examples of what we are not, and refer to church fathers when it comes to fleshing out theology. (And guess where I’ve been hearing a lot about them?)

    I have hope that Lutherans will begin to explore what they are – both the good, in that they might find out they are greater than a transcribed sum of rejections – and the bad, in that they might find out what they truly are today. The Lord can accomplish anything. But I’m also hearing my conscience say pretty loudly that I ought not to continue to be a member of a body that fails both to extol the good and decry the bad.

    This is the perspective I have for this convention.

  18. @fisharmor #20
    Yes, we confessional Missouri Synod conservatives are stronger and more effective and even, arguably, more Godly when we speak and act based more on what we are FOR than on what we are against.

    So what are we ‘for’ for this convention? We are for a new president who will truly be a pastor for us as well as an inspiring leader and excellent theologian, who knows how to walk the talk as well as talk the talk. We are for being united by God, holding to His theological truth. We are for unity of belief, unity of practice, unity of focus, and unity of priorities.

    And we are blessed in so many ways We have the Bible. We have the Small Catechism. We are orthodox. We are part of the church catholic. (Not Orthodox, and not Roman Catholic.) We have the historic liturgies. We have the compendium of the majority of the best hymnody of all time. We have the best seminaries in the world, and wonderfully dedicated pastors. We have the second largest Christian school system in the country, and arguably the most effective. We have a great publishing house whose publications are subject to reliable doctrinal review. We have “Law and Gospel.” We are evangelical and merciful in the best senses of those words. We have the Sola’s. We have much to be thankful for! Let us now rejoice together, and celebrate God’s blessing on us! And let us share it in every way, with each other and with the world that needs it so badly.

    This is the perspective that I have for this convention.

  19. I guess it is a matter of putting the synod in perspective. If something other than Lutheran takes over the LCMS there will still be Lutherans gathering all over the world. The Church will be here until Christ returns with or without the LCMS.

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