Yesterday the voters assembly of Bethany Lutheran Church and School in Naperville, Illinois, the home of the Brothers of John the Steadfast, voted to call a third pastor and also voted to conduct a capital campaign this fall to raise pledges to build a one million dollar building that will house a youth center and a music rehearsal hall. This is a wonderful blessing of God through his mercy in Christ and a sign of how confessional parishes can have a great sense of vision and act on it in faith.
About 130 members showed up for the voters assembly. The ballot was done by voice vote with a nearly unanimous acclamation in favor of the two-fold mission, with only two or three nay votes heard.
About eight years ago our congregation had a horrendous internal struggle. The former church council had tried to enact some staffing changes secretly, without voters’ knowledge. When that came to light the struggle ensued and the congregation lost about a fourth of its members – which makes this vote and blessing even more amazing.
At that point the congregation developed a new constitution that did away with the board of directors known as the “Ministry Council” and replaced it with a Waltherian structure of voters assembly and pastor/elder leadership. We also started focussing on the six duties of the church as drawn from Scripture by C. F. W. Walther (see his booklet titled “The Proper Form of the Christian Congregation,” available from CPH). That structure of transparency and pastor/elder headship as served us well. The vision for this motion to add a pastor and build the new space was drawn nearly entirely from Walther’s first duty for the church – “dwell richly in the Word.” As a confessional church we have also focussed heavily on the second Scriptural duty of the church – “maintain pure doctrine and practice church discipline.”
Moving to this structure has not cancelled out our ability to have vision and act boldly. It has simply taken our courage and shaped it properly by focussing on the six duties of the church, including the last one – “build the church at large.”
Who says confessional churches can’t have vision? Vision is highly over-rated but it is not inherently impossible when one focusses on Scriptural duty rather than warmed over corporate approaches to the Church or trendy changes that try to recreate the Church in the mold of the culture. (Why any right and Scripturally thinking person would ever want to do that defies all logic and all theo-logic.) Vision is not the third means of grace. A simple, humble parish that focusses on administering Word and Sacrament faithfully, is pleasing to God whether they make “bold” steps forward or not, but don’t let it be said that such parishes can’t take such steps and seek the Lord’s blessing as they seek to dwell richly in His Word.