Just where are you teaching them to go? An overall question for pastoral and churchly practices.

May 3rd, 2014 Post by

worshipLast night we had public examination of catechumens in the congregation I serve.  The catechumens confessed the faith in good fashion.  One of the questions that I asked had to do with having to move away from our area and go somewhere else (for college, work, family, etc.).  I asked “what would you look for in a church if you had to move?”

Their answer was related to the preaching, teaching, and administration of the sacraments.  They also have been taught the value of the liturgy and the Divine Service.  They understood the value of the Divine Service in faithfully delivering the goods of God.  Sad to say in our divided LCMS, the answer could not just be “a congregation of the LCMS”.

I remember a friend who once related to me the story of visiting an LCMS “Mega-Church”.  When they discussed membership with the Administrative Pastor this friend asked “When people leave your church and move elsewhere, what kind of churches do they end up in?”  The answer was honest:  “Usually a non-denominational church”.

Just where are your church practices teaching people to go?

This relates to a lot of things in the parish.  If the parish is set up as a house of busyness and activity, the moving parishioner will look for the busiest place to move to.   If the church has taught its’ members that worship is chiefly the sacrificial act of the worshipper, then the moving parishioner will look for something similar.  If the church models itself after the latest and greatest fads, the parishioner will look for the same (in that case it may happen within the same town when the church doesn’t keep up).  If the church is about the atmosphere of emotional reactions (sensuality in its finest sense, which Paul warns us against following), guess what kind of church they will go to?   If your church is all about the style of worship you have (extremes of CoWo or High Mass) then you may be teaching them to go non-denom or some form of “orthodoxy”.  If your church is all about small groups, they will go to the church with the small groups.  If you have taught them that doctrine is not of the chief importance, but rather some form of reduced Gospel with “more” and “less” important parts all really subordinate to matters of worship or activities, then they will not care much about the teachings of where they move (for a proper order of things, see Acts 2:42).

We live in a mobile society.  Of the 12 children in my congregation who will be confirmed this weekend, many will not stay in our area to remain church members here.  All kinds of situations will cause them to go elsewhere.  The question for me has been: “Where have I been teaching them to go?”

This question should be included in every parish pastor’s considerations, but it’s even more important to consider in those “transient” church settings like campus ministries, chaplaincies, and our Concordias.

 

 


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  1. John E
    May 3rd, 2014 at 14:27 | #1

    There is no major program to support the out going teens/adults after high school and then going to college in the LCMS, that I know of. Maybe some minor attempts. I was impressed years ago by the support the So Baptists gave their graduates by contacting the nearest church to the graduates college and asking the pastor there to stay in contact with the kids and keep them active in the church. The congregation would also try and help the kids join some groups and attend events that were Christian/Baptist friendly and even some bible classes at church. What does the LCMS do? Maybe someone can tell me of any programs.

  2. Randy
    May 3rd, 2014 at 14:39 | #2

    Rev. Scheer,

    This is a great article. Thank you. Directly related is the concern that properly catechized youth won’t be able to even find a Confessional, Word and Sacrament congregation once they leave home. That’s something I’m addressing with my kids right now before they go off to college. It’s a travesty that the LCMS association means very little these days. Actually, I’m going to correct myself. The LCMS association means quite a bit these days. The LCMS association means that one needs to be extraordinarily cautious and guarded when first attending a church in “our synod” for fear of being introduced to false teachings and unorthodox liturgy.

  3. R.D.
    May 3rd, 2014 at 15:16 | #3

    @John E #1
    Perhaps an analogy, and Scott Diekman can shoot it down if need be. Air traffic controllers may “hand-off” to one another. So if I am buzzing along receiving air traffic control services in area covered by Minneapolis Center and will cross into area covered by Kansas City Center, the controller I am talking to might contact the Kansas City Center to “hand-off” me to them for seamless service – in a *small* way, helps keep the pilot safe.

    I don’t think the LCMS or WELS, or whatever doesn’t need another bureaucratic program. I do think pastors individually should do a “hand-off” to another pastor (after checking them out to see if they are orthodox, of course) for those who move away – especially in the case of the college student who is not likely to have permanent residence where they will spend most of the year. Doing so helps keep the parishoner safe in a *big* way. Just my opinion, anyway.

  4. Jason
    May 3rd, 2014 at 18:04 | #4

    Back in the day we used to have Lutheran Student Fellowship. Now it is kinda LCMS U. Campus ministry is officially out there, but I am afraid it is more miss than hit. I was fortunate to have been able to be in some campus ministry. the congregation I am at in New Jersey has a college right in town, and it is like we do not know they even exist. Even had one our our members stay home and attend, and still, nothing. I am more than disappointed in that. We could/should have more. And if the Enthusiasts would quit dividing the synod and actually work together, maybe the collegiality would help as students transition into college.

  5. May 4th, 2014 at 15:27 | #5

    And see, this is why those who run to the mega-church/CoWo/American pop-evangelicalism movements for their practices and theology really need to evaluate whether or not they should remain in the Lutheran church.

    A foreign organism, once introduced, must be dealt with, or it will spread throughout the body.

    And I fail to understand why leadership in some areas refuses to do anything about it. I think they’d get a lot more support for addressing it than they may think (not to mention that it’s simply the right thing to do).

  6. Randy
    May 4th, 2014 at 17:14 | #6

    @J. Dean #5

    I’m too am baffled about why the leadership won’t address issues. We have a colossal breakdown of leadership in our synod.

    The ACELC has a great article on their website right now titled, “Speak God’s Words!”

    http://www.acelc.net/

  7. Diane
    May 4th, 2014 at 17:25 | #7

    Pastor Scheer,

    I’m so glad you are being a faithful Lutheran pastor to your flock, particularly to your 2014 confirmation class. Kudos to your congregation for still having an examination in front of elders or the whole congregation.

    When I was confirmed many years ago, my pastor, the sainted Rev. Carl J. Goette, told us that we shouldn’t join a church just because of the pastor. We were to take a look at what the church body believed, taught and confessed. Of course, my confirmation was in 1963 when one could attend any LCMS congregation on any given Sunday and have page 5 or 15 as the liturgy from TLH.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore. It’s so sad that some pastors/and or congregations have taken the historic liturgy (whether it’s TLH, LW or LSB) away from the people.

    Lord have mercy on us.

    In Christ,
    Diane

  8. Tim S.
    May 5th, 2014 at 02:15 | #8

    John E :I was impressed years ago by the support the So Baptists gave their graduates by contacting the nearest church to the graduates college and asking the pastor there to stay in contact with the kids and keep them active in the church.

    I always thought LCMS pastors or congregation boards of elders did that too. If not, they should.

  9. Jack K
    May 5th, 2014 at 02:25 | #9

    A friend was actively involved in preparing his son for attendance at a college away from home. Together, they found a confessional Lutheran congregation near the campus. The son is completing his second year at college, faithful at home and away.

    Parents, remember that Luther, in his Small Catechism stated that it was as the head of the household should teach his family – not as the Pastor or Congregation should teach our families.

    Pastor Sheer, and all shepherds who properly feed and tend the flocks to which they are called, along with the sheep who raise their lambs in the Word can rest assured that their lambs are prepared. The lambs will choose the way that they will travel.

    We sheep are responsible for seeing that we and our lambs are in the care of shepherds who truly stand in the stead of The Shepherd. They are easily identifiable. We will find them only where the Word is properly taught and the Sacraments are rightly administered.

    Jack

  10. Brad
    May 5th, 2014 at 09:09 | #10

    We teach our kids and adults what the marks of the Church are, so they may rightly discern any congregation they find themselves in– LCMS or otherwise, including our own congregation and our own pastors. We attempt to show them the great value of a pure doctrine, rooted in the Scriptures and the Confessions, and to seek it out as best they can when they depart for other places.

    I have personally called around to congregations in college towns where our kids have gone, and after doing the best I could to evaluate their area congregations from a distance (both directly and indirectly,) given both parents and students recommendations of where they might seek Word and Sacrament in that area. Sadly, I’ve had to recommend non-LCMS congregations on occasion, when no faithful ones were near a college campus.

    Besides pastors and parents doing the best they can for hand-offs (and in a digital age, maintaining contact with traveling parishioners is not so hard,) I think the best our congregations can do, is to raise up our children in the way they should go, so that when they are old, they will not depart from it. I remember reading that somewhere…

  11. helen
    May 5th, 2014 at 10:01 | #11

    @J. Dean #5
    A foreign organism, once introduced, must be dealt with,
    or it will spread throughout the body.

    It has, hasn’t it!?

    And see, this is why those who run to the mega-church/CoWo/American pop-evangelicalism movements for their practices and theology really need to evaluate whether or not they should remain in the Lutheran church.

    Why would those in positions of power leave the Lutheran church!? They are in a fair way to turn the whole thing “protestant” with themselves in the seats of privilege. In the non-denom they are importing they would be just another pebble on the beach.

    Sand, where Lutheranism once built on the Rock!

  12. Brad
    May 5th, 2014 at 11:11 | #12

    @helen #11
    Well said, Helen.

    The main reason for staying in the LCMS, is the value of the organization– the LCMS still gathers a lot of money into the central coffers. That money can be used to fund an awful lot of innovation, and all those enthusiasts listening to spirits want the money and the bureaucracy to drive their ideas and programs.

    Of course, if they really had faith in these spirits they are listening to, they would have struck out on their own, built their own churches with their own bureaucracy, gathered their own money, and driven their own purposes into the world. But they either don’t trust the spirits they hear over their Cheerios well enough to do so, or they just don’t want to work to build something with their own hands, preferring rather to seize the work built by others.

    But that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The same spirits who whispered into Neitzsche’s ear about the Will to Power, have been whispering to enthusiasts from the beginning… I mean really, who do we think was whispering to the Pope, when he declared himself king of the world and the church? He didn’t build that system from scratch, but seized it from others, and used their system and riches to further his own enthusiastic notions.

    Nothing new under the sun.

  13. Rev. David Mueller
    May 5th, 2014 at 17:32 | #13

    REgarding the “failure” of the LCMS to have any program or real effort to keep track of young adults (“kids”) going off to college–
    1. I do expect things to slowly get better. I believe Rev. Marcus Zill has just become the director of LCMS U., and he has a pretty good track record. Slowly, however, because it needs to be done right, and
    2. the Purple Palace *does* send out requests for information on high school and college age kids from each congregation, presumably so as to make some effort to keep them connected somehow. This is done on a district level, here in the IN district. I have rarely (ought to more, now, admittedly) sent the synodical form back in, because for a long time, I didn’t want the PP sending my kids questionable stuff. I have, when I knew it was pertinent for my two churches, sent in the district form.

    Conclusion: It’s not really the “synod’s” fault. It’s the synod’s fault in a broader sense in that we have a growing “disconnect” between a. Joe, Jane and Jrs. Schmoe in the pews and the synod/district/circuit; and b. Pastor Joe Schmoe and the the synod/district/circuit.

  14. Rev. David Mueller
    May 5th, 2014 at 17:43 | #14

    Next item: Very good article, Pastor Scheer!
    I only have one question: I have seen examples (one is plenty and “too many”, and I know of half a dozen, myself) of *pastors* who “Went East”, though I’m not sure the blame can really be placed on “extremes” of “High Church” liturgy. (Liturgy certainly is *a factor* in the examples I know of, to be sure.) But I do not know of any *laity* who have “Gone East” (or “swam the Tiber”) *because of High liturgy*. Are they out there? I would assume there are some, but I cannot imagine it is *anything* like the numbers of laity who are conditioned by CoWo to head to Willow Creek or Saddleback or the closest thing to them in their own area. The only exception to this that I can really see is if there are *only* CoWo/Finneyite LCMS churches in a particular geographical area, such that a better-trained Lutheran young adult might consider a Roman or Constantinopolitan church to be a lesser evil, and then, slowly get sucked into *their* errors.

  15. Jason
    May 5th, 2014 at 17:47 | #15
  16. Oliver Young
    May 6th, 2014 at 16:07 | #16

    Pastor Scheer –

    Thank you for highlighting something so very important as we prepare our children to venture out in to the world. You asked your catechumens a very pertinent question “what would you look for in a church if you had to move?” I would also suggest turning to the parents of these catechumens and ask them a similar question “how will you be involved and what will you encourage your children to look for in a church when they move away?”

    My eldest daughter goes off to college this coming fall. At each of the three colleges she applied to, during our campus visits, we very purposefully visited the closest LCMS congregations to see what worship and congregational life might be like if she were to attend. I consulted with my Pastor about what to ask and to look for and to be wary of, much of which I already knew, but I wanted to see if there were other things to consider and bear in mind. At each campus congregation we sat down with the Pastor and shared what is important and valued in our worship life in our home congregation. And I asked these Pastors hard and pointed questions about the conduct of worship, the practices in the Divine Service, the types of liturgy used, and congregational life.

    For 2 of the 3 congregations we visited I would have no concerns about my daughter joining the congregation for the duration of her college education. One congregation and its Pastor did leave me with some concerns, but my daughter has not chosen to go to that college.

    Without taking the time to visit both college campuses and congregations we would have been left praying for the best. But that is not good enough, in addition to ensuring that they are well catechized, it is my duty and responsibility to ensure that my children are in good hands as they spread their wings and leave the nest. It comforts me to know that my daughter will have a great congregation to call home for her time at college.

    Parents, be active and involved in the college choices your children make. Instil in them the importance of a solid church home, visit congregations and talk with the pastor and know that their faith will be fed and nurtured in a way that you yourself would be happy to be a part of.

  17. Tim Schenks
    May 8th, 2014 at 04:51 | #17

    John E :There is no major program to support the out going teens/adults after high school and then going to college in the LCMS, that I know of.

    Higher Things had a college branch but their leader, Pr. Zill, went on to head the LCMS task force on campus ministry a couple of years ago, so I’m not sure if they are still around, or working together, or what. Our campus ministry at Southeast MO State University became affiliated with Higher Things at about that time.

  18. Rev. David Mueller
    May 8th, 2014 at 12:23 | #18

    @Tim Schenks #17
    Actually, Pr. Zill just recently accepted the call to the full time position. He was probably doing a lot of that work already, while remaining in WY, however. It was 3 or so years ago that HT became an official RSO of synod–including the Christ on Campus part. Christ on Campus does still exist, as far as I know. My 2nd son has been involved via the local LCMS church near his campus. (Immanuel, Terre Haute, IN–Pastor Phil Meyer for his freshman year, and now Pastor Jacob Sutton–for both of whom prayers of thanksgiving ascend)

  19. Tim Schenks
    May 9th, 2014 at 07:59 | #19

    Rev. David Mueller :@Tim Schenks #17 Actually, Pr. Zill just recently accepted the call to the full time position. He was probably doing a lot of that work already, while remaining in WY, however. It was 3 or so years ago that HT became an official RSO of synod–including the Christ on Campus part. Christ on Campus does still exist, as far as I know. My 2nd son has been involved via the local LCMS church near his campus. (Immanuel, Terre Haute, IN–Pastor Phil Meyer for his freshman year, and now Pastor Jacob Sutton–for both of whom prayers of thanksgiving ascend)

    That’s good to hear. I’ve been out of the campus ministry loop for over a year.

  20. Tim Schenks
    May 9th, 2014 at 08:05 | #20

    Brad :The same spirits who whispered into Neitzsche’s ear about the Will to Power, have been whispering to enthusiasts from the beginning… I mean really, who do we think was whispering to the Pope, when he declared himself king of the world and the church?

    Smalcald Articles Part III, Article VIII. Of Confession. Paragraphs 3-6

  21. May 9th, 2014 at 08:36 | #21

    @Rev. David Mueller #18

    Pr. Zill is considering a call. He will announce his decision this month

  22. Rev. David Mueller
    May 11th, 2014 at 12:18 | #22

    @Pastor Joshua Scheer #21
    Oh. THanks for the corrected info. I thought he *had* announced. Apologies for the misinformation!

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