One of the common themes being heard on the convention floor, in the lunchroom and back at the hotels is that small and medium sized congregations need to be supported in new and creative ways in the LCMS. These congregation are the foundation of our synod and are a place of great opportunity and hope; opportunity that is too often overlooked and passed over by our national body. It is in just these humble settings where families are fed and faith flourishes.
A while back Matt Harrison, nominee for LCMS synodical president, wrote about this in an article titled “Let’s Hear it for the Small Congregation!” The point of the paper is to remind us of things we have forgotten in recent years of emphasis on growing churches.
I’m afraid that much of the material that we “Synod types” have put out in the church in this regard, while well-intentioned and often very good advice, has disregarded the great blessings which Jesus brings people in the small congregation. When our talk is all about “grow, grow, growth, mega, meta, magnificent,” we run the very strong risk of giving—inadvertently—the small parish the message: You’re bad, you’re sick; you’re backward, your abnormal.
In the paper Harrison defends the smaller congregation. Here is an example:
More important than anything else is that in these small parishes, Christ Himself, through His blessed Word and Sacrament, dwells to give sinners life and salvation. That is a point C.F.W. Walther loved to drive home when he sensed any devaluation of smaller parishes by anyone in the Synod. Very important to me as executive director for LCMS World Relief and Human Care is that so many small parishes so well approximate the ideal Luther held up for the church, as we all are members of the same body, caring for one another.
The synod in recent years and in some of the decisions during the current convention has shown some bias for larger congregations. Matt Harrison supports small and medium sized congregations. It is one of the many reasons he is a fitting candidate for the office of the presidency of the LCMS.
Our Lord works where, when and how He may. His will is done, His Body and Blood are offered, and faith in Christ is sustained in congregations large and small. Working to help and encourage the small congregations, providing these brethren help and support to continue this work is often more vital than accolades and awards heaped on the largest and grandest among us.