Comfort and Praise for Rural Pastors, the two types of growth.

Many times at conferences and conventions certain congregations and pastors are paraded forward as fine examples for the rest of us to emulate.  I remember such a presentation at the 2010 Synod Convention.  I have heard other pastors remark about these presentations and the implied accusation that they are not laudable or exemplary because they have not had the numerical growth that the example congregations experienced.  To that, I will add another category of growth which most rural pastors are very faithfully working on, that would be growth in the faith.

When you look at the Scriptures, sure there are numerical growth examples (Pentecost being the finest example).  There are also many examples of growth in the faith (milk to meat stuff) and exhortations for pastors to feed the sheep.  These passages can serve as great encouragement for pastors often chided for not being in situations where numerical growth took place (remember that Election has a role to play here).

But those rural or small congregation pastors are often the most skilled caretakers of souls out there.  They care for the person for years, taking them through trials and tribulations, having a relationship deeper than any larger congregation could afford with each of his members (unless small groups… oh wait that idea has been discussed already).  Finally, those faithful pastors in those small “maintenance” congregations are the skillful shepherds who lead their sheep carefully to the gateway to life eternal.  They are there with their sheep, guiding them with the Word of God to the Shepherd.

So for all of those rural pastors (of which I used to be one) I give thanks to God.  God uses them to create a growth that is often immeasurable, growth in faith.

For all the larger congregations, consider starting to support the smaller congregations (string-free) as they are vital to the care of souls in smaller communities.  Support can have many forms, including just plain financial support.  You want to talk about Witness, Mercy, and Life Together, all three done in one action of generosity and fellowship.

Before anyone comments, I realize there are many faithful pastors in faithful urban/suburban congregations as well and they deserve thanks to God for their work as well.

Stay tuned to BJS in the future as I hope to introduce some tools to help our rural pastors and parishioners share ideas and encourage one another in their situations.   Perhaps some in their comments would like to give comment on a “forum” to discuss rural ministry among those who are actually in the thick of it.

About Pastor Joshua Scheer

Pastor Joshua Scheer is the Senior Pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He is also the Editor-in-chief of Brothers of John the Steadfast. He oversees all of the work done by Steadfast Lutherans. He is a regular host of Concord Matters on KFUO. Pastor Scheer and his lovely wife Holly (who writes and manages the Katie Luther Sisters) have four children and enjoy living in Wyoming.

Comments

Comfort and Praise for Rural Pastors, the two types of growth. — 37 Comments

  1. I agree.

    A congregation that is growing numerically and is doctrinally faithful should receive applause, and respond with humble thanks to the Holy Spirit for His work.

    Unfortunately, the fame of larger churches and their training conferences, their ability to do what a less wealthy just cannot, etc. has left some rural pastors (of course not all) in very small towns feeling that they are somehow being cheated. Some really don’t do the ministry where God has placed them, but instead spend their time trying to figure out how to get “upgraded” to a bigger congregation. As an example of what I mean–in a typical town of 500 in my state, visitors may have trouble locating the 150 year old LCMS church–because the pastor has given up on his community and has led his congregation in the same direction.

    Although I think that these men are losing track of their true purpose, they could be helped to understand that they are in that small community for a reason. I think that it would be a great idea for President Harrison to take the time to find out about each of these churches and pastors (obviously through the work of researchers) and then write a personal letter of encouragement to each. Yes, I know, it would be tremendously time consuming—but very pastoral.

  2. It is possible in a rural parish to have both numerical growth and
    growth in faith. The Holy Spirit can bless the efforts there as well
    as in the suburban parish. I served in both and have seen it
    happen in both. You can have adult confirmands in both places.
    You can have Pastor-led Adult Bible classes on Sundays and
    during the week in both places. Do not limit the work of the
    Holy Spirit. Numerical growth can happen in a rural parish and the
    Holy Spirit is behind it through the means of grace, Word and
    Sacrament.

    ((( moderator: This is not the LCMS Rev James Knuth, who has written me and said these comments are not from him. It may be another Rev James Knuth; I am attempting to find out who is writing using this name )))

  3. @Rev. James Knuth #2
    Certainly James – the Lord can cause numerical growth wherever He pleases, this article is about encouraging the faithful pastors who teach and preach to aging congregations causing growth in the faith, even though the Lord has not caused an increase numerically. They do not get thanks and encouragement enough in my opinion.

  4. @Sue Wilson #1

    Sue Wilson :I agree.
    I think that it would be a great idea for President Harrison to take the time to find out about each of these churches and pastors (obviously through the work of researchers) and then write a personal letter of encouragement to each. Yes, I know, it would be tremendously time consuming—but very pastoral.

    Why President Harrison? I think this is the type of thing which could more effectively, efficiently, and pastorally be carried out by the DPs (as the synodical officers in that area).

  5. It is also possible for a large urban/suburban parish to grow both numerically and spiritually, but that is not what this article is about either.

    Thank you, Pastor Scheer, for the encouragement! It is a breath of fresh air, especially considering what a new DP told us at our first winkel with him: “There is no pastor shortage. It’s just that I will not allow any “maintenance pastors” in my district.”

    Again, thank you!

  6. @Ted L. Crandall #5
    It’s just that I will not allow any “maintenance pastors” in my district.”

    What does that mean?
    Does it mean that the district is attempting to shut down smaller rural congregations, telling the farmers to “go to town” for their church needs? (Is the town church willing to provide daytime LWML, social groups and Bible classes then, for people who are past driving safely at night?)

    [It sometimes seems that districts have little use for old sheep, unless they are rich enough to be worth approaching for an endowment or a life insurance policy in favor of the church.] 🙁

    Deja vu all over again?

  7. Are these congregations faithful in the teaching and preaching of God’s word? Do they preach law and gospel, administer the sacraments, support missions and the spread of the Gospel? Is their fruits of faith present? Then they are “good and faithful servants.” What if the numbers haven’t changed for 30 years? How do we not see that for every death, the Lord provided another soul to minister too. What if the numbers are dwindling? Who are we to predict what God has in store for that congregation. He has a greater plan. If his plan is for that congregation to struggle so they can be strengthened by his Word or to allow others and opportunity to share their earthly blessings or prayers, who are we to say that someone must have done something wrong or hindered the Gospel in some way. Evaluations of congregations should be of the message is teaching and preaching not the numbers or services it is able to provide.

  8. A pastor I know heard a former synod official comment that if a congregation has 100 or less attendance for Divine Service, you might as well shut the doors because your congregation is a drain on synod resources.

    Congregations that have 100 or less attendance for Divine Service are the backbone of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Many of those are in rural areas. I served a congregation in an extremely rural area for a little over 4.5 years. There were baptisms and confirmations (both youth and adult). A district official asked me if we were “growing”. I said, yes, growing in grace and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    That’s the growth that counts, in the country or in the city.

  9. @Rev. David M. Juhl #8

    On that note, it’s kind-of drilled into us at Seminary that a congregations needs about 135 (I’m not sure the exact number) as average worship attendance to be able to fully support a pastor with salary and full benefits. However, I know for a fact that it doesn’t work that way in practice. My home church has between 40-50 average worship attendance, but it is in a decent economic area, so they are at least staying afloat financially (as far as I know). My fieldwork church, however, has between 150-200 average worship attendance, but they couldn’t support their pastor without assistance.

  10. Pastor Scheer,
    Thank you for this post. I heartily echo your remark “So for all of those rural pastors (of which I used to be one) I give thanks to God. God uses them to create a growth that is often immeasurable, growth in faith.”

    I also was in a rural parish and thoroughly loved being there. I gained a profound appreciation for the faithfulness of my brother pastors in rural parishes. The work given to a pastor is different in every parish. It is very different to shepherd God’s people where everyone knows everyone (and knew their parents and grandparents as well) than shepherding people where no one knows anyone else because the parish is large and the members are all from somewhere else. Thank you again for this article.

  11. As if we haven’t all heard, “The experts say that a congregation has to have at least 125+ in worship every Sunday to be viable… yada yada…” A poke in the eye to our little congregations who struggle from day to day! Rural parishes are important members of the Synod, just as valued in God’s eyes as parishes many times there size. Whole regions of rural Amnerica are struggling to survive, much less just the churches. Someone told me that on vicarage, the high school kids were looking to get out and go to the city. The older people told the younger ones, you need to get out of here. How many pastors are willing to serve rural parishes where the churches (and community) are just hanging on?

    To have the Synod recognize the importance of rural congregations is quite heartening and encouraging. We need to value where “two or three are gathered in My name.” I suppose that many were shocked at the BRFFTS (or whatever it was called) said that 1/3 or more of our churches were small parishes.

    Rural parishes don’t want handouts. They are by nature pretty self sufficient. But to be known and be remembered in their unique struggle I think is the greatest encouragement.

  12. For those who are interested, Pr. Rossow posted something like this before:
    https://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=11526

    This also shows how our Synodical President looks at small congregations as a theologian, focusing not upon the number of people in the pews, but upon the means of grace that are there. Where Christ is, there is the Church.

    I always wonder how those who advocate “larger congregations are better” deal with Augsburg VIII which rightly confesses that many hypocrites can exist visibly in the church (not that we should go about the Pietists work of determining who really is a believer). Again, once we forget what we believe, it is easy to get things wrong – like in the Church Growth erring theology which forgets about many things, not to mention the means of grace and also AC VIII.

  13. I have seen rural congregations who are faithful to Word and Sacrament and our confessions grow numerically because of their faithfulness. You cannot predict how many will be added but it seems very likely that faithful congregations will grow in number as well. After all faithful congregations will be sharing the Gospel with others. There is some truth to years without growth reflecting a lack of sharing.@Rev. Michael G. Piper #11

  14. IMHO, the growth or shrinkage of a church doesn’t have much to do with whether the Gospel is proclaimed in its truth and purity. Take for example, Joel Osteen. Most growth has to do with where a church is located. Lutheran churches in rural areas with populations that are shrinking, like here in west Texas, and are increasingly hispanic, will generally shrink. Churches in middle class suburbs that are growing will usually also grow. This is why it is so common for large congregations in neighborhoods that are changing into minority neighborhoods to move out to the part of the city that is growing. Usually the new homeowners are young couples with children. The congregations builds a large new worship facility and watch the people come in. Unfortunately, far too few people today care or know about correct doctrine and practice and pure Gospel preaching.

  15. @Ted L. Crandall #5

    In relation to this attitude, I am going to get very harsh. This DP is acting evilly. For all those CGM deliquients, one of their mantras is finding lost sheep, but they are really looking for lost goats (trying to remember were I read the goat/sheep dichotomny). In looking so hard for the one sheep, they really are abandoning the rest of the herd, because they are never going back to tend to it. They are constantly looking for the next lost sheep, which is self-fulfilling because of the herd being allowed to scatter. CGM has fallen in love with numbers, and often forgets maturation and sustaining.

    As stated here, some areas are samll, so how many lost are there? How much sheep steadling do you wish to do? (that’s for the ecumenical types that like to get super-cozy with every other denomination) Soem areas are shriniking. So really, where is the pool of resources to to sustain large congregations? For some of these, you really would need the entire town in your congregation. And I doubt this is practical or realistic. (smoke that those who wish to use human reasons of practicality and realism)

    So then, if they are “too small,” we should just abandon them? That is acting like a hired hand, not a shepherd. John 10:10-13 Pastors like this are in it for themselves. These men want a cushy job with security, fame and glory for saving so many. (stealing thunder from the Holy Spirit) They follow worldly criteria for success instead of following God’s calling. They treat small congregations and doing time, penance, stepping stone to bigger and brighter horizons. Men liek this who become DP’s need to continue to promote this, because without numerical size, the district’s coffers will not be enough to sustain their lives and luxurious overlords. They are folowing a different spirit, and there only are two spirits: God and Satan, who comes in a great many quises.

    I get very tired and upset with the lack of Christian and Lutheran attention too many of our pastors display. (and one negligent pastor is too many) Foloing the Good shepherd for mJohn 10, Jesus said how he is other sheep not of this fold. Christ is always looking for His beleivers, and will go anywhere to get them, including the unsexy rural areas. He tries to call workers, because workers are too few to harvest the overflowing bounty. And yet some among us refuse to gladly go to them with the pure Gospel as God commands us. Shame on us.

  16. When we say “maintenance congregation” my question is what is it that we are maintaining? It seems to me that a purely institutional view of the church (ie. programs, budgets, office hours, and utility bills) has trumped the spiritual view (word, sacraments, faith, Christ).

    Ironically, the congregation that I serve, which happens to be rural, has been experiencing numerical decline, while simultaneously seeing those who remain take a renewed interest in Bible study and worship and prayer. Satan’s controversy is driving us to Christ! Soli deo Gloria!

  17. @Concerned Seminarian #9
    That’s truly silly. Needing 130? Between my 2 churches, my goal is 60–and lately, we have had a hard time reaching 50 (throw in the “in town” congregation that has received a candidate whom they–and I–are eagerly anticipating, and the number might reach 110 as an average). Financially, we’re okay. Not throwing money around because we have so much, things need to be done, but we’re surviving, and they have been quite generous toward me and my family. Humblingly so, imo. Oh, and the economy around here has *never* been all that great. The local public school has something like 40% of the kids (or more, maybe) on “Free or reduced” lunches–that is, living near or below poverty level.

    The Gospel doesn’t have to have lots of $ to do what It does. We let ourselves get so fixated on the earthly support aspects of the Church that we sometimes forget that what makes the Church Viable is nothing other than the Gospel. But this is the temptation of our age and culture: *Everything* has to be measured and evaluated on the basis of such measurements.

  18. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #12
    I wrote out a “speech” for the floor debate on a particular ’04 resolution to study basing representation on congregational size. Never got to the mike for that. Had the same speech, slightly modified, ready to go at our ’06 district convention, didn’t give it. I still have it. I was gratified to see recently in “At Home in the House of My Fathers” that pretty much my whole theological line of thought simply echoes what Wyneken wrote/said in one of those articles/sermons/addresses. The Church is the Church, gathered by the Holy Spirit, through His Means of Grace, wherever it is, and it is the *whole* Body of Christ, regardless of how many or how few people are visibly present. There is only one Christ, and His Body is truly indivisible. So for us to talk about “larger or smaller *parts* of the Body of Christ” is very sloppy and damaging language.

    The huge congregations need us dinky ones, and we need them. If “one Hope, one Faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of us all….” is really true, then we really are in this together, and we really all do need each other.

    I love my circuit. We have one “gorilla” church with 2500 baptized or so, a couple “mid-sized” and a bunch of dinky’s. But as far as the pastors are concerned, at least, we really do have respect for each other, without regard for size-on-paper.

  19. @mames #13
    I respectfully disagree with the words “very likely”. You just can’t predict it. In one sense, it is logical that if our own people are faithfully confessing Christ with lip and life others will be drawn in. but there is too much in Scripture to say that sometimes, when you are *most* faithful, people really will turn away. Best example of all, of course, is our Lord. He feeds the 5000, which leads to the John 6 conversation, where He is very pointedly “faithful” in His teaching, and the result is that “from that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” He did His “front porch” “ministry” thing–feeding the bellies, then He faithfully refused to be made a “Bread-king”, then He faithfully and carefully taught them about the True Bread (very good teaching technique, really), but their hearts were hard, and became even more hardened.

    And thus, we return to the Election and Evangelism topic….. (Sorry!)

  20. Amen and amen. How many times have we forgotten whose Church it is? I wonder if Jesus Christ could have been ordained in most denominations today, proving a profound need for self-examination of if we truly serve Him ultimately with our ordination standards, I fear a dubious proposition. His earthly ministry, i.e. the pre-Pentecost Church, would have been considered pretty shabby by today’s worldly James 4:4 tools with little of the mind of Christ in this regard, or of the mind of even Luther for that matter. The Church has one ultimate goal, to be the Bride of Christ, He alone being worthy of praise, and everything else must be subservient to that glorification of The Bridegroom (including the mundane Jesus always santified and sanctifies even today in worship, Word & Sacrament, evangelism and discipleship) lest we be cast off as the whore of Babylon, God forbid, proving we were never elect/saved, only true for those who endure to the end, as the Lord tells us in Matthew’s Gospel, 10, repeated in 24 (I try to avoid giving verse #s (sometimes even chapter #s) to ensure appropriately large context and avoid proof texting). Soli Deo Gloria! What a Savior!

  21. @Rev. David Mueller #19
    Dear David:
    That’s so precious to reflect on. In differing sized congregations I’ve found it most amusing to experience that the bigger ones can actually be “smaller” in terms of available person-to-person access, for so may feel disconnected and are eager for the contact (in my limited experience anyway, which may be invalid), whereas the smaller ones can be so tightly knit as to be unable to avoid excluding outsiders, even if you point out that’s what they’re actually doing. As was said previously, the Church is the Church, and the gates of hell (purely stationary DEVENSive versus OFFENSEiv measures) shall not prevail against her. Hallelujah! Soli Deo Gloria!

  22. @Jason #16
    In relation to this attitude, I am going to get very harsh. This DP is acting evilly. For all those CGM delinquents, one of their mantras is finding lost sheep, but they are really looking for lost goats (trying to remember where I read the goat/sheep dichotomy). In looking so hard for the one sheep, they really are abandoning the rest of the herd, because they are never going back to tend to it. They are constantly looking for the next lost sheep, which is self-fulfilling because of the herd being allowed to scatter. CGM has fallen in love with numbers, and often forgets maturation and sustaining.

    IMnsvHO, they are not interested in the sheep they have, nor in the sheep they claim to be “seeking.” As an ego trip, they are interested in inventing their own style of “worship” and strangers will put up with that better than educated Lutherans. I think they would all be Joel Osteens, but few of them have the talent! They like his big cars and opulent lifestyle, (supported by people who can’t afford it themselves.)

    Ironically, many have shot themselves in the foot by pushing the “priesthood of all believers” over the OHM. Now, instead of thinking they should support their Pastor with the best they have, too many people think they are just as good as he is, so they’ll give themselves the good life first, and throw relative pennies in the plate for pastor and mission giving. “They don’t really need him” if they are as good at pronouncing forgiveness to each other as he is to them, and missions? “Let other people take care of themselves, as we do.”

    “The DP” is an hireling. Rural congregations have prospered in the past, and their children made up the “growth” in town, because there was no job for them in the country. Now how can the district preach about “taking care of your parents” when district itself would cast them and their churches off? [Answer: They don’t preach it!]

    Sorry to be so long!

    End of Rant!

  23. There’s an interesting thing about that crucial distinction between numerical and spiritual growth when it applies to the small, shrinking rural church and the large, growing church (or is it really “revolving door” church, given many new members don’t stick more than 7 years from one stat I read, which is not surprising, given they’re fed nothing but spiritual junk food as their faith atrophies.) Alot of District “experts” predicted 20 years ago that my rural church to not be here today…Gotta do something radical, they said. If you go just on numerical statistics of growth or decline, it is deceptive. A rural church that is being faithfully fed and is growing spiritually even though gradually declining numerically simply due to deaths may exist for alot longer than such would assume, precisely because where there is spiritual growth in faith, there is also the fruits of faith in life…Hence, if you wanna find incredible givers in terms of offerings, who step up to the plate when the organ breaks or the church needs a new roof, well, look to your rural church with its “maintenance” pastor. There may be less people than the big glorious suburban church all ablaze, but alot of times they’re spiritually more mature (due to that horrid “maintenance” pastor’s years of consistent effort at catechizing and visitation), and thus put alot more in the offering plate and will do anything they can to keep their church afloat….As for pastors yearning for calls to bigger congregations where they pay twice the district scale or more, well, that’s not true of all of us…..I mean, aside from the fact that we’d have to cop a Joel Osteen which some of us simply can’t in good conscience do, what a pastor ends up doing in such large congregations often becomes less and less about the means of grace in terms of preaching, teaching, and visitation, and more about administrative/fundraising/CEO’ing of a business. No thank you! That’s not what I went into the ministry to do. Would rather be poor yet rich in spirit than rich and poor in spirit. And may my wife shoot me if somehow I ever succumbed to such a glory road…

  24. @ concerned seminarian
    Every pastor knows the District Prez. It is unfortunate, but a letter from President Harrison would mean much more to the rural pastors. The higher the praise and encouragement comes from, the more effective it will be.

    Of course, God is our real source of reassurance, but being human, even pastors need to hear from a human senior in their ministry that they really do count.

  25. Sue Wilson,

    I agree — the “higher” the praise comes from the more it is appreciated. So, better than a district or synod president’s thanks would be for the congregational members to say/demonstrate it. Better still will be when that pastor hears it from his Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

  26. Thanks from those who know what you do is worth any number of form letters from officials who don’t know.

    Not least because the thanks is more rarely given! 😉

  27. @helen #23

    It is so funny you use Joel Olsteen as the example. I guess he is a pastor in the Lutheran sense that he is who is congregation called. I use that term loosely. What can be gleaned form his bio is that his dad was a Baptist minister who turned charismatic, started his own churhc, and Joel took that over. Joel attended Oral Roberts, but no degree, nor was he in seminary. Could he have learned and been trained by his dad, similar to the method of the Apostalic Age? But seeing his known background, what kind of bad hermenuetics is he using? I don’t know if he would be the role model I would copy. (actually I do: he is not) And LC-MS pastors want his self serving style? God help us. (litertally)

  28. Glad to see you are keeping busy. I just came here as per your suggestion and will be looking forward to futher involvement.
    In Christ
    Jeremy

  29. @Jason #28

    It is so funny you use Joel Olsteen as the example…

    Just proximity, Jason. THere is one large non-denom in Austin, but the Pastor is not a by-word as Osteen is. I wouldn’t say that inheriting a congregation from your father is quite the same as a Lutheran Call to the OHM.

    I don’t know if he gets close enough to the Bible to use any “hermaneutics”. He’s a “prosperity gospel” preacher, by all accounts. (My Hindu colleague watches him; I don’t.)
    It seems to work very well, for him!

    And LC-MS pastors want his self serving style? God help us.

    Some LC-MS pastors seem to aspire to similar popularity.
    I agree. God help Missouri!

  30. Another hardship of rural pastors that is often overlooked is that although they have less parishioners in total number compared to a big suburban/large town congregation, they are now usually serving two parishes, if not in some cases three. Also, oftentimes precisely because so many of the parishioners are related in a rural congregation, ala “blood is thicker than water”, pastoral care becomes very difficult to carry out in a timely, discretionary way. I mean, anytime there is any kind of “fire” cropping up in terms of public sin and church discipline (e.g., Billy Jean is shacking up with Jimmy Joe), the task of the pastor in dealing with such is often not simply with the couple in private, but very often becomes a monumental task in getting the elders, their wives (!), their cousins, their friends, etc. within that same congregation on board with what is Scripturally right (rather than what they desire as sociologically expedient), before you ever get to the parents/grandparents of the young couple who have complained to the elders behind the pastor’s back. And the fact that the congregation may have published policies in place on certain matters doesn’t simply serve to end all such strife, as many just ignore such. For sure, a larger suburban/urban/large town parish has its own distinct difficulties, but the rural parish has its unique difficulties too….just because they are less total members does not mean it is an easier task. Far from it.

  31. Also, someone coming into a rural parish now should not assume that the number on the rolls is the number he will see in church, even on Christmas & Easter. Elders protect their relatives from the pruning knife for decades. It becomes literally “hatched, matched, dispatched” and never seen between those events.

    A very long time ago, 95% of the members were in church on Sunday unless they were ill, or a geographically distant relative was being married or buried. But I suspect it was because all the members lived within range of the church bell; you couldn’t afford entertainment in the 30’s; it was the only time the wife got out of the house in the 40’s and so on.
    IOW, a temporary phenomenon.

  32. I thought this jived welll with your comment, and the stuggles that rural pastors face:

    “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies. He will not put on a hairy cloak in order to deceive, but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a worker of the soil, for a man sold me in my youth.’ And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ he will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’ Zech 13:4-6

    @Anonymous #31

  33. @Helen #32

    You write:

    “Elders protect their relatives from the pruning knife for decades. It becomes literally “hatched, matched, dispatched” and never seen between those events.”
    —–
    Helen, what a wise Christian you are! This is so very true about serving rural congregations–the problem of long-standing inactives, since, as you say, it is not merely about speaking with the inactive member (over a number of times by personal visitation, if/when they will receive you), but also about getting the elders/rest of the congregation to carry through and support removal from membership if such needs to be done, that is, after many personal visitations pleading for their return have been made. The issue of inactive membership is perhaps one of the greatest if not the greatest challenge facing many rural pastors, since again, it is not so much the inactive member who is being obstinate that is the largest problem, but the rest of the congregation who is related to that inactive member.

  34. Vielen Dank! It comes with age, the Bible says. 😉

    We touched on this topic in Bible class tonight. The Pastor mentioned the 50’s & 60’s as the high point of church attendance, because, he said, the GI’s came home, started families and brought them to church. I’ll give him the 50’s on that score; I’m not so sure attendance wasn’t already declining in the 60’s.
    [Someone with a love for digging up old graphs will know.] 🙂

  35. @helen #35
    Yea, Helen, but the seeds of the current precipitous exodus from the pews were sewn precisely during those years of “phenomenal growth” in synod. Two key hybrids: first, the 50’s and 60’s (with, thanks be to God, many notable exceptions) were *not* good years for pastoral formation, and thus, they tended not to be the best years for congregational catechesis. And the second hybrid “seed” is that the Pill was invented and promulgated during those years.

    Mind you, I can’t go so far as to say that Scripture *absolutely forbids* any form of contraception. But obviously, the Pill and other means have been a “candy store” for the devil’s plans. Sex became disconnected from parenthood and marriage. Children become a commodity and play-things, tools for *self*-“fulfillment”. And now we are reaping some of the bitterest grain from that–the acceptance of homosexuality.

  36. @Rev. David Mueller #36
    first, the 50?s and 60?s (with, thanks be to God, many notable exceptions) were *not* good years for pastoral formation

    In plainer language, half or more of our pastors went through CSL and were infected with the “higher-criticism” virus, from which many have not recovered, but went on to collect a few more “diseases”… CG, CW, and the lust for power that propels PLI/TCN. [Which is not to say that all CTS grads were/are immune from these current maladies!]

    “Cooperate and graduate” becomes “Go along to get along with the DP” more often than is good for the pewsitters. In some cases they in turn have created their own “Go along to get along” rules and what DP is stopping them?

    The other comment is a whole other topic, (which is not to argue against your opinion).

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