Confessions Of A Pastor: “Selling” The Church To Newcomers?

As a pastor I feel the burden to “grow the church.” Yes, I know that the pastor doesn’t build the church, but I still feel the pressure. As a result of this burden, I used to find myself giving a slick sales approach so as to sell the church to newcomers.

“Why yes, we have nursery on Sunday Mornings… fully staffed I might add.”

“Yes, we have some great ministries here and you will fit in just fine.”

“We have a great youth leader and youth group too, as well as Kid’s Club on Wednesday night!”

It is very natural to highlight the unique features and benefits of the church to newcomers with the intent to entice and hook them into the church isn’t it?

Several years ago, the church that I’ve been serving the last 4 years went through a tremendous struggle. To make it simple, let’s just call it a church split. This conflict essentially made it impossible for me to use the methodology of selling the church. What could I possibly sell or promote in the context of struggle, conflict and pain? I can recall coming clean with a new couple in the midst of the struggle saying something to the effect,

“Here at SLBC we have a lot of problems. We have failed in about every way possible. I guess you could say that we have a lot of experience in the sin department. As a pastor I am certain that I will fail you too. However, I do believe you will hear Jesus and the forgiveness of sins in the midst of our failures. I do believe that you will see a savior for sinners and the hope of the Gospel that speaks confidently in spite of our circumstances.”

In all seriousness I was attempting to do them a favor and let them know what they were getting into and what they could expect. I can remember thinking that this was one of the most anti-church growth things I had ever said, however, as I soon found out, it was one of the more Christocentric things I’ve said to a newcomer. Several weeks later this couple approached me and said, “Pastor, that was one of the most refreshing things we’ve ever heard a pastor say.” I am happy to say that this couple has been members of the church body ever since.

Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church

It seems to me that the error in my ideology was not only my own sin of performance but also my mentality that the church needs to sell its unique benefits and features to newcomers. However, is not the good news of the Gospel (i.e. the forgiveness of sins) enough? I believe it is.

Now, please don’t mistake me! I am not condemning programs and the unique features of a church, what I am merely trying to point out is that the structures, programs and features of the church are not the Gospel itself, they are secondary. These things are not of primary importance, thus they cannot and should not be the primary thrust of the church. Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures and was buried and He was raised on the third day, this is what the church hinges on. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) The Gospel is what we get to offer to newcomers for that is the main reason why the church exists!

At SLBC I now continually try to focus on highlighting and extending the Gospel to newcomers and I also notify them that they will also be gifted some disjointed programs, an imperfect pastor and some messy parishioners that come with that as well. 🙂

 

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Confessions Of A Pastor: “Selling” The Church To Newcomers? — 41 Comments

  1. “It is very natural to highlight the unique features and benefits of the church to newcomers with the intent to entice and hook them into the church isn’t it?”

    This question is an interesting one in light of what features are indeed highlighted to SLBC newcomers (or SLBC website viewers). For example, the SLBC Brochure, presumably handed out to newcomers at Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church and available at the church’s website, highlights the statements:

    “Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church (SLBC) is a part of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren (CLB).”

    “SLBC is a conservative Lutheran church holding to the Lutheran confessions and the Bible as the final authoritative guide for faith and conduct.”

    The first statement in the SLBC brochure tells the reader up front what church affiliation SLBC has. One can compare this notification to the websites or literature of a significant number of Missouri Synod Lutheran churches, for which one would have to look high and low, for any microfonted hint of their LCMS affiliation, and for some Missouri Synod churches using only a generic Protestant-sounding name, whether they are even Lutheran at all.

    The second statement reassures the reader that SLBC is truly a Lutheran church in that it holds to the Lutheran confessions. A Lutheran church is defined as one that believes, teaches, and confesses the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Lutheran Confessions. This has pretty much been the de facto definition of “Lutheran” since… oh, about 1580.

    Uh, oh. Wait a minute!

    On its What We Believe webpage, Sidney Lutheran Brethren Church states:

    …About Lutheran Confessions
    The Lutheran confessions are a summary of Bible doctrines. We adhere to the following confessional writings: The Apostles’ Creed, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, unaltered Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small Catechism.

    And this is exactly the same statement on the CLB website.

    Where are the other Lutheran confessions, like the Apology, the Smalcald Articles, the Treatise, the Large Catechism, the Formula of Concord?

    “Holding to” the Lutheran confessions, but saying you only “adhere to” some of them is not being Lutheran. It is more like a quatenus holding of the various Lutheran confessions, adhering to some (parts), and relegating the rest to some dusty, historical shelf.

    It’s actually being “Lufauxran,” which is not a feature that should entice and hook visiting confessional Lutherans.

  2. Because, Carl, in the brave new world of international Confessional Lutheranism, subscription to all of the Confessions of 1580/84 will not be required. Thus, it becomes possible for the LCMS, NALC, the Lutheran Brethren, and various international Lutheran bodies to be in fellowship.

  3. @Carl Vehse #1

    Carl,

    As a pastor of this small church I wish I could say that we have a profound understanding of the confessions, but here too I confess that we are a work in progress. While there is always room for improvement, I am hopeful where we are going though. I am encouraged with the parishioners who are attending two confessional reading groups as well as those who spent the last year working through Luther’s Small Catechism. Please pray for us in our journey as we learn more and more about the implications of having Christ crucified for us.

    I would also like to offer up one caution though. While I can totally understand your perception and assessment above, please don’t confuse the lack of the confessions in our statement of faith as an outright rejection of them or that they are not a part of the life of the church. You are attempting to make an argument from silence upon SLBC (i.e. argumentum e silentio). While I still don’t have a comprehensive & firm grasp on the confessions (the same goes for others in my church), together we are learning from them and loving every moment of it! Again, I ask for your prayers.

    PAX to you my friend.

  4. “You are attempting to make an argument from silence upon SLBC (i.e. argumentum e silentio).”

    No, I made a comparison between two conflicting statements from its website that the “SLBC is a conservative Lutheran church holding to the Lutheran confessions” and that “We adhere to the following confessional writings: The Apostles’ Creed, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, unaltered Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small Catechism.”

    Now, perhaps the pastor and congregation of the SLBC actually do hold a quia subscription to all the Symbols of the Lutheran Confessions, but they just haven’t got around to officially correcting the statements on their website.

    In that they would have the “quia” company of the LCMS, whose constitution proclaims that “every member of the Synod, accepts without reservation… All the Symbolical Books of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as a true and unadulterated statement and exposition of the Word of God, to wit [that is to say; namely]:”, and then lists all of symbolical books… except the Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope; and the ELS (a Norwegian church relative of the CLB) whose constitution states: “The Evangelical Lutheran Synod subscribes to all the symbolical books, or confessions, of the Lutheran Church contained in the Book of Concord, … namely:”, and then also lists the symbolical books… except the Treatise.

    If this were the case, then a simple acknowledgement of SLBC’s quia subscription to the Book of Concord of 1580, such as WELS and CLC do in their constitutions, would quickly resolve the issue.

    But after reading statements such as:

    “I wish I could say that we have a profound understanding of the confessions…
    “we are a work in progress…
    “there is always room for improvement…
    “I am hopeful where we are going though…
    “I still don’t have a firm grasp on the confessions…
    “we are learning from them and loving every moment of it!”

    it appears that the pastor and congregation of SLBC do not yet hold such a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions.

  5. As a music teacher I had a list of things that I believed should be a part of every music program. As a result I incorporated those things into my teaching. As a result I had this idea that every program should look a certain way, the choir should sing a certain way, the marching band should look and sound a certain way (based upon external observances). I thought that if those things weren’t in place then you couldn’t call your music program a “real” music program. (based upon external observances) Turns out, I was wrong. There are in fact many “real” music programs that don’t necessarily look or sound anything alike. I even found that many of the teachers of these other programs had many of the same convictions I had towards the field of music education, however, incorporated them differently. They met their students where they were at, in the environment in which they existed.

    This is obviously a broken analogy, but one that I believe can be used here. Does Confessional Lutheranism always look the same on the outside? Can you only find it in certain places? What makes one a Confessional Lutheran?

    At the heart of Confessionalism is obviously the Confessions contained within our Book of Concord. It’s solid, resolute, we believe it’s correct and it’s also portable. It can be taken places, and much like the Gospel, can show up in some of the most unexpected places, even a Synod that only holds to the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene and Athanasian Creeds, unaltered Augsburg Confession, and Luther’s Small Catechism.

    Is Confessional Lutheranism a Synod? No. Do we find more Confessional Lutherans in some Synods over others? Absolutely. Do those Synods all look the same? No…but that would make life much simpler 🙂

    In it’s basic form, what makes a person a Confessional Lutheran is one’s holding to the Book of Concord. Will all these people look the same? No. Will they all be found in the same Synod? No. Is it possible that they can be found even in congregations in synods that only hold to part of the Confessions? Absolutely. Despite how much or how little that particular Synod may hold to the Confessions, the individual still does. Should we not be thankful for this? I thank God for pastors who hold to the Confessions even if the Synod they belong to doesn’t. That can’t be easy for them. We should all be thankful that we are finding Confessional pastors outside the “usual” places. I know that I am. I’m blessed to be ministered to and taught by a Confessional pastor as I’m one of those guys who isn’t found within one of the “usual” places. I’m thankful for the spread of Confessionalism.

    Grace and Peace friends.

  6. Back to the topic of this thread, the truth is that a healthy
    parish “sells itself” to newcomers by word of mouth.
    There is no amount of advertising that can match the members
    of a parish who actively speak well of their congregation to the
    community. A Lutheran parish that preaches and teaches the
    Word of God in all truth and purity with a law/gospel dynamic,
    conducts the Divine Service according to its hymnal, and
    rightly administers the Sacraments will be healthy.

    Members who are growing spiritually in a parish will tell others.
    The witnessing of parish members in the community will attract
    newcomers in town and people who are unchurched. The Lord
    will bless a parish as the Holy Spirit touches the hearts of those
    who have no church home. By word and deed a Christian
    lifestyle serves as a magnet in the community to reach the
    people who do not know Christ as their Lord and Savior.

  7. I agree that we shouldn’t “sell” the church to non-believers by watering down the message, etc., but I do think that we should make it easy for those seeking a church to find us. I’m a relatively new Lutheran, but I’ve noticed that evangelical churches do a much better job of being “visible” than the average Lutheran church–at least in the areas in which I’ve lived. When new believers or new neighbors are looking for a church, many do an internet search and choose the one that has the most informative/appealing website. When confessional Lutheran churches neglect their internet presence, we can’t be surprised when people choose the “fundagelical” church down the street.

  8. @Josh Hanson #6
    many do an internet search and choose the one that has the most informative/appealing website.

    It needn’t be the “flashiest” web site. [There was a “rotating scenes”/blinking lights fad some time ago. I ran from those sites!] The site should tell the visitor what he might expect.

    A small congregation can have a simple site: identifying banner with location and phone included on every “page” and a side column with service times, Pastor’s office hours and a map are a good idea if there are multiple pages.

    For a very basic page: see Our Savior, Cavalier, ND.

    http://www2.polarcomm.com/~scheblei/

    [Yes, they could use some right and left margins at the top. Don’t go all artistic on them. Everyone has not got a half dozen geeks in his congregation!]

    For one with several ‘pages’ but still not complicated: Pilgrim, Kilgore, Tx

    http://www.pilgrimlc.org/

    BUT: If you put up a web site, either “feed” it regularly or take it down!
    Nothing is more off putting than to look at a church calendar and find it’s year before last!

  9. @Carl Vehse #4

    Carl,

    You are correct that SLBC only adheres to the AC and the Small Catechism, the same goes for our denomination. Personally I embrace the Book of Concord and interestingly enough, my ordination certificate states that I am ordained to the “Lutheran Confessions.” With this said, I would rather not take us off course towards the intricacies of my denomination for it is not the topic of this thread. Furthermore, without ample understanding of the denominational context it is difficult to give an adequate criticism, for understanding must always precede criticism. Like all denominations, we all have our own challenges as well as strengths. I sent you an email to visit about this one-on-one if you would like. You also have my phone number so please feel free to drop me a call. It would be fun to visit and connect.

    @Dave Likeness #5

    Dave,

    Thank you for steering us back towards the topic thread! I am appreciating hearing from everyone.

    PAX

  10. Are laymen at all relevant in the church?  How many Lutheran laymen are even aware of any confessions beyond the creeds, UAC and SC?  More than a handful?  Are there any confessional laymen then to speak of?   Seems to me time for laymen would be better spent studying the Bible.

  11. @Carl Vehse #4

    it appears that the pastor and congregation of SLBC do not yet hold such a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions.

    Hi, Carl. I can see where you get that from the website stuff, but having a close familiarity with Pr Richard, I can assure you that his subscription is of the “because” sort, and that he is diligently, no, I’d have to say relentlessly, drawing the congregation in that direction. The congregation, it must be admitted, needs to be drawn that way, and the same could be said of nearly every Lutheran congregation I have ever seen, even the ones with the best website statements or the best synodical de jure positions.

    Transitioning back to the topic of the article, I can also say that the community knows there is a direction in the congregation. I’ve heard it said multiple times that the SLBC has “gone Lutheran.” This happens without specific selling. The congregation presents Law/Gospel preaching and teaching, and people graduallty start to get it. It’s beautiful and exciting.

    Perhaps I can be excuses for being effervescent about Pr Richard because of my gratitude for how much he does for my son, daughter in law, and grand children. As evidence, my daugher in law, who was raised Baptist, has posted quotations from the BOC on her Facebook page, and excerpts from Todd Wilken and Issues Etc. Jesus said, “I will build my church,” and He is.

  12. @John Rixe #10

    I prefer that they learn BOTH the Bible AND the BOC, not EITHERr the Bible OR the BOC… It is the same as my disdain for congregations that play with services, kids church and Sunday school, overlapping them and running concurrent evenets. I mean, heaven forbid people spend TWO hours Sundays to attended Sunday school and Bible class and then worship together as a family. I didn’t realize it was such and insurmountable effort to be in the buildilng over 60 minutes.

  13. Sorry to hjack your thread but…….  It’s critical that tax accountants and lawyers spend their lives studying all the intricacies of the tax code.  It’s their job.  Likewise, it’s critical that seminary theologians spend their lives studying the intricacies of the confessions.  It’s their job.

    Why should ordinary folks spend any time studying the tax code or the confessions?   They can always go to the experts if they have a question. 
     
    I’ve always belonged to churches where the confessions were never mentioned unless June 25 happened to fall on a Sunday.

  14. @John Rixe #13
    I’ve always belonged to churches where the confessions were never mentioned unless June 25 happened to fall on a Sunday.

    Keeping the laity ignorant is how we got to half of LCMS not knowing what being a Lutheran means today! (Some of it was deliberate so they could turn us into something else.)

    How many of those congregations studied “Purpose driven life” or some other “Christian bookstore” schlock? (Yes, I thought so.)

  15. I hope everyone is aware of Chris Rosebrough’s informative new lecture and his many radio broadcasts about Peter Drucker’s influence on modern American “Christianity.” It’s all about marketing & church growth (plus something far more sinister beneath the surface). The business guru Drucker turned church growth into a customer oriented deal… find out what the customers want, give it to them, and they will come. Makes sense from a biz standpoint. And look what Drucker spawned: Willowbrook, Saddleback, Buford’s Leadership Network, COEXIST, etc…. and now the next iteration is beginning to show its strength and influence: the “Emergents.”

    Get Rosebrough’s PDF and the accompanying lecture, Resistance is Futile – You Will Be Assimilated into the Community:
    http://www.fightingforthefaith.com/2012/05/resistance-is-futile-you-will-be-assimilated-into-the-community.html

    Then search the archives for Drucker, Rob Bell, Brian McClaren, et al.

  16. @helen #14

    You’re correct. A simple reading of the Augsburg Confession is an eye-opener–at least it was for me. Who had read the Large Catechism (let alone the Small Catechism)? It (they) are a treasure trove of great theology. Laymen should be familiar with the BOC, fer cryin’ out loud. There’s enough pastors around who are not.

  17. @SallyVee #15

    This little lecture should be required listening–then visit a few congregations’ websites in your own district and see how many have been drinking from the CG koolade pitcher.

  18. @helen #14

    None. Helen – There’s an enormous pool of the clueless middle that are neither ĂĽber-confessional nor liberal CG. We study the Bible. (and the catechism)

  19. Mr. Rixe,
    I would say that a layman should learn as much about both Scripture and the BOC because their pastor cannot believe for them. You are unnecessarily depriving yourself of a deeper understanding of the God’s grace and love. It is every layman’s honor and privledge to explore the depth of the gospel.

  20. Mr. Rixe,
    At one congregation I used to attend before a job took me else where, the pastor would teach on topics such as the person of Christ or Christology. He would use both Scripture and the confessions in the class so you got both at the same time. It was a very good way to learn about both Scriptures and the confessions. If your pastor teaches a book of the Bible, he could bring in reference from the confessions with relate to the verses or theme that the particular book of the Bible is discussing.

  21. In response to the original topic, I liked the idea overall. I guess I’m reminded of Theology of Glory vs. Theology of the Cross. In Cross Theology we say what a thing is and call it for what it is. In Glory theology we call good evil and evil good. I’d say the explanation made to the couple was very cross-centered. In my own paraphrase “You should know we’ve got issues. We’re a congregation of sinners. Despite that, I believe you’ll still find Christ preached, the one who offers forgiveness of sins to sinners.” (Theology of the Cross) It’s honest. I know that there’s a danger with an explanation like that. People may shy away, may want to be part of a congregation where they’ve “got things figured out” and they’ve “got things going on.” (Theology of Glory) But it’s the same danger that congregations face everyday when pastors properly preach with Law and Gospel.

    In response to some of the comments in regards to websites, I find them very useful. When I’m traveling they are invaluable. They don’t have to be crazy-go-nuts, and in many ways I’d rather they weren’t. Vital information such as the times of services, bible study, possibly confirmation times and such are good ideas to have present. (And as mentioned above…PLEASE KEEP THOSE THINGS UPDATED 🙂 ) I like when you can also listen to audio of past sermons. Granted, it’s not necessary, but can be a good idea. If I can listen to a sermon and the pastor is using Law and Gospel, it’s more likely that I will bring my family to visit that church while we’re on the road. Just my two cents worth 🙂

  22. How many churches have had at least one Adult and/or Youth Bible class on the LC (or AC or SA or Tr or SD) in the last two years? (No, you can’t count a Bible class on the SC; that should be a given.)

  23. @Carl Vehse #21
    In my previous parish we studied the Large Catechism. In my current parish we studied the AC a couple years ago. I use the Large Catechism in my adult instruction classes some. I know another congregation here in Cheyenne is going through the Smalcald Articles.

  24. Our men’s group has been blessed to work through most of the Book of Concord the last three years. Our women’s group just did a 2 month study working through Kolb’s “The Christian Faith” and Mueller’s “Christian Dogmatics.

    I have contemplated taking our Sunday School Class through a wonderful book by Friedemann Hebert titled, “One In The Gospel: The Formula Of Concord For Today.”

    The one thing that I have learned thus far in introduces the confessions to the body of Christ is that we can do this from a gracious disposition. I have failed in previous attempts when I have put shaming pressure on people to study the confessions, thus my disposition turned these wonderful ‘gifts’ into something that they are not. Thus I have burned bridges and closed ears.

    Rather, my friends, these confessions are wonderful gifts to us. We ‘get’ to read them and we ‘get’ to gather our church families into their rich theology.

    So what opportunities do we all have before us to introduce the confessions to our friends, families and churches? Are there any opportunities to start a Confessional Reading Group in your area?

  25. In response to questions above about confessional layity, yes, a number of us do exist. We obviously don’t just study the confessions, but the sacred scriptures and confessions in tandem. Walther’s Law and Gospel was equally eye-opening. Speaking as a former evangelical (please don’t hate me 🙂 ) I cannot express enough how this has benefited both me and my family. I’m sure you’ll find many similiar examples throughout the confessional layity.

    http://leifhalvorson.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-was-dying-on-inside.html

  26. You know what sold me on the Lutheran church lock, stock and barrel? I read the Book of Concord. I can’t tell you how often I would read a section and shout “this is IT!!!” That told me the Lutheran church was indeed where I needed to be. It helped that the church I attended is very confessional and has a great pastor.

    My husband and I attended one down the road from my church for Christmas services just to see. The difference was that it really appeared as if the congregation was on display with bells, bangles and whistles. Even though they were welcoming and all, it didn’t have the clear and resonating voice of a confessional church like mine does.

    There are internal issues and struggles with every congregation, but as long as it’s faithful to the confessions (and in that – the scriptures) you are being fed. Websites are great, but as many have commented, please keep them updated. I check out different pastors and their sermons or bible studies that are on the net or ITunes all the time for mid week pick me ups. It’s a bonus when the website is clear and uncluttered and easy to navigate.

    As far as the laity, it’s the pastor’s love of the doctrine and theology that will trickle down to the members. There will always be those who learned all they needed in catechism class and never set foot in any Sunday school or extra stuff. But, I’ve enjoyed learning with all the people at my church so many things.

    Selling the church is done by being a faithful witness in our communities and workplaces. We are the examples and our churches are the backbone. You don’t need 30 days of prayer or 40 days of freak shows to get them in. Just the word of God, plain and simple.

  27. @helen #8
    Sorry, Helen. I have to agree with Josh. Younger generations have short attention spans. How much time does a casual web surfer spend on a website that he or she is viewing for the first time. The time to make a good first impression is measured in seconds. Younger generations perceive a poorly designed and/or a rarely updated website as belonging to a poorly run organization.

    What would Rev. Fisk say about this issue?

  28. Dear all (especially “Carl Vehse”),
    I would encourage you to take Pr. Richard’s confessional statements as they stand. There is a growing movement toward confessionalism within the Lutheran Brethren and some other Lutheran bodies (like the AFLC). These courageous men do not need our criticism but support. Perhaps in 50 years the Lutheran Brethren will list all of the confessional documents of the 1580 Book of Concord. There are many reasons a church body may not list those documents. In particular the Formula of Concord was not usually adopted on Scandinavian churches because it was not necessary (they rightly understood the AC and did not have all the problems of the time from Luther’s death to 1577). This manifests in church bodies that derive their past from the Scandinavians as well.

    On top of that, an average LCMS layman can be called confessional even if he has really only learned the Small Catechism. The Small Catechism has long been the gold standard for laity in confessing the faith.

    I support Pr. Richard fully in his efforts to believe, teach, and confess what our confessions teach to his own congregation and to his larger church body. Everyone remember what our rites of Baptism and Confirmation say? They mention that we are a part of the “Evangelical Lutheran Church”, not LCMS or whatever acronym you want.

    BJS exists to support Confessional Lutheranism and its media. That goes beyond denominational lines, as our variety of authors here demonstrate.

    Walther once had a vision of a confessional Lutheran group that became the Synodical Conference. He enacted that vision by engaging in theological discussion with other Lutherans and encouraging their efforts to be confessional.

  29. @Lumpenkönig #28

    As a member of the “younger generations” I’d somewhat agree, but it’s not about attention span, it’s about standards. If I’m going to look for information on any organization and their website is poorly put together, It speaks negatively about their organization. However, poorly put together doesn’t mean simple. In Helen’s example the first one would qualify as poorly put together, the background color, the lack of practical navigation, and the poor use of “white space.” The second one Helen linked was fantastic however. It has no unnecessary plugins, puts all the relevant information above the fold, and has an attractive and user-friendly navigation.

    But when one looks at an organizational website for a church, they are looking for information. When I look at a church website, I want to know that their worship style aligns with my preferences, that they celebrate the Eucharist at every worship service, and that they have a clear statement as to their communion practice. I’m unlikely to reject a church for a bad website, because I’m not randomly browsing the internet and finding church websites. If I’ve decided to go to a church website I’m already there looking for the information described above. the only thing that will dissuade me is if I can’t find the information, and flashy websites sometimes make that harder than simple ones. Browsing a church website is for me, and most of my peers, a different process than looking at a website for a movie, or game, or a forum or blog.

  30. @Leif E Halvorson #26
    Speaking as a former evangelical (please don’t hate me )

    No need! Welcome “home”!
    “Former” [any denomination or none] often make the best Lutherans… those most interested in learning more! And telling others about it, too. They know they found something better.

    (“Born” Lutherans too often look at green mirages and imagine wonderful things which aren’t there, instead of learning about the treasures they have.)

  31. @Lumpenkönig #28
    Sorry, Helen. I have to agree with Josh. Younger generations have short attention spans.

    Funny. I don’t meet many of those “short attention span” people. [I wonder if that isn’t another misconception, like “younger generations have to be ‘entertained’ in church”.]

    But Josh and I were both arguing for informative sites. Cavalier has changed a bit since I last went there, but the needed information: service times, Bible class, etc. is still right up on top. [That was the first web site in ND district, about 15 years ago, BTW.] 🙂

    You can pick better examples, if you like. I do know that some members were skeptical of the need for the Pilgrim site. It soon picked up visitors like Leif, who do check things out when they travel, not for glitz but for content. [There are audio sermons there, too, now.]

  32. @helen #14: “Keeping the laity ignorant is how we got to half of LCMS not knowing what being a Lutheran means today!”

    There is really no excuse for the church pastor or his staff and elders/church council. The CPH used to sell a study booklet on the Book of Concord in about 10 lessons. Now they have separate study books on the AC/Ap, the SA/Tr, the LC, and the FC. These include both a teacher’s guide and a study guide.

    Some minimal familiarity with the Lutheran Confessions should be required for every adult confirmand and transfer member. In fact, the “Explanation of The Small Catechism,” used to teach junior catechumens in LCMS churches, covers a number of significant doctrines exposited in the other Symbols, and, yes, it does include excerpts from those other Symbols among its explanations.

  33. Carl: The German’s were not the only Lutherans. Although the whole Book of Concord as the Germans have it is a true exposition of God on the problems addressed, not all Lutherans dealt with the same problems at that time.

    We have been through this before.

    The best source of church growth is church members who speak to others because they realize the value of what they have. In our case, the chief source of growth is the parents impressed with what their children are taught in our school. They then are impressed with the depth of our worship and doctrine.

    However, web sites have become the way new people become acquainted with their community. For the new generation, that which does not have a website does not exist.

  34. @helen #33

    That’s really the point I was trying to make. Even within the LCMS, you’ve got all sorts of churches. It helps to have a bit of information about what the church believes, how the church conducts its services (and why), a bio of the Pastor(s), etc.

    I’m a former “fundagelical” as well, and I bounced around all sorts of churches–none Lutheran–never being satisfied with what I found, and I eventually resigned myself to being a “general Christian” who would just make the best of whatever church I happened to attend. I actually went to a different church every week for my first two years at Wheaton College. It was finally after reading the BoC that I realized, “This is what I believe!” and began my hunt for a Lutheran church.

  35. @Richard Lewer #35:
    “Although the whole Book of Concord as the Germans have it is a true exposition of God on the problems addressed, not all Lutherans dealt with the same problems at that time.”

    Today, the Missouri Synod is no longer German in culture or language, but it surely can be said the Synod continues to have to deal with those problems addressed in the SA, Tr, LC, and FC. I seriously doubt other non-German Lutheran church bodies have never had to also deal with the same doctrinal issues over the past 430 years.

    And as long as opinions are being posted regarding German Lutherans needing extra Symbols for its problems, here are some referenced opinions from “The Book of Concord and Confessional Subscription Among Norwegian Lutherans—Norway and America” (Erling T. Teigen, Sixth Annual Pieper Lectures, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, October 19, 2001), on why the Book of Concord was never accepted in the Church of Norway and Denmark and some of its progeny in America.

  36. @Carl Vehse #37

    FWIW: I took a class on BOC in my Norwegian college [It was ELC and Lutheran then].
    If they didn’t subscribe to all they were teaching, I don’t remember them saying so.

  37. @Carl Vehse #34

    One very helpful series on the Confessions is “I Believe” by Bjarne W. Teigen. It’s published by Bethany Lutheran College (ELS) and it is a gem. Here’s their web address: http://bookstore.blc.edu/

    The five booklets are: AC/Ap, SC/LC, SA, Creeds, FC.
    The whole series is less than $20 if purchased separately. I’m not sure if there’s a discount for purchasing all five together. Well worth the investment.

  38. @Pastor Joshua Scheer #30
    And so we rightly divide Law and Gospel and rejoice that Rev. Richard is both teaching and learning the Scriptures and Confessions. We do well to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ in their studies. Their wide-eyed curiosity of the Scriptures and Confessions is too often missing from “life-long” Lutherans.

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