(Rev. Simcak contributes regularly on behalf of the Texas Confessional Lutherans. The other posts in this column can be found on the Regular Columns page.)
In a February 2008 letter to LCMS pastors synod president Kieschnick stated that the 2007 Synod convention in Houston “adopted a resolution to revitalize the mission of 2000 existing LCMS churches by 2017 as a major component of ABLAZE!”
A revitalized congregation is regularly and consistently making
new disciples and renewing its members in order that they make
new disciples through the power of the Holy Spirit
He reminds us that LCMS World Missions was already working on revitalization even before the 2007 convention. Dr. Terry Tieman, LCMS World Mission’s national director for revitalization, affirms that “we have a pretty good idea how it works.”
The districts of synod have been invited to participate in a “Transforming Congregations Network.” (TCN). Districts were invited to send someone to TCN training April 2-6 in Sacramento, CA. Another training event will be in Orlando, FL in September.
The LCMS World Mission Task Force on Mission Revitalization
has been working with district mission executives and district
presidents to identify characteristics of a revitalized congregation..
Here are some of the suggested characteristics:
- “Marked increase from previous years in conversion growth, measured by adult baptisms and adult confirmations.”
Comment: What does “marked increases” mean? Are a pastor and his congregation to be judged by “conversion growth”? Where in God’s Word is there any mention of “conversion growth, measured by adult baptisms and adult confirmations”? What about pastors in small congregations? The pastor may be faithful in preaching and teaching God’s Word and administering the Sacraments as Christ has instituted them; however, the opportunities for numerical growth are very minimal. Is this Christian love to brand such a pastor and congregation as needing revitalization? Every pastor at his ordination and ensuing installations never promises or even remotely infers that he will strive for a “marked increase from previous years in conversion growth.” We leave the results to the Holy Spirit, Who works through the means of saving grace!
- “Worship attendance increasing 5 percent or more.”
Comment: Show me a Bible passage that mandates at least a 5 percent worship attendance increase! There is none! How discouraging it must be for a congregation to be told it needs to be revitalized when it has been faithful to God’s Word, but has not demonstrated at least a 5 percent growth in worship attendance! What if a congregation has only a 2% growth? Is it to be revitalized?
- “Increase in members returning a tithe and/or increasing their percentage giving.”
Comment: How will a congregation determine the percent of income members give to the Lord? Did the Task Force examine Scripture to determine God’s guidelines for giving?
- “Multiplication or number of hours invested by laity in community service.”
Comment: What does this really have to do with being a revitalized congregation?
Some of the other suggested characteristics of a revitalized congregation are “multiplication of personal evangelism initiatives, including initiatives like ‘Groups Ablaze!”; “multiplication in number of critical events.” Space and time does not allow further comments about all the suggested characteristics.
All of them that are finally presented to the 2010 convention need extremely thorough examination and discussion based on what God’s Word states about revitalizing congregations, pastors and laity
Every congregation, every pastor, every lay person – we are daily in need of revitalization. This can only occur through the Word of God and the Sacraments!.
Rev. Andrew Simcak, Jr., President – Texas Confessional Lutherans