SID DP Timothy Scharr — What Did You Say?

Found on SIDlcms website:

What Did You Say?

By Rev. Timothy J. Scharr, District President


The concern is genuine; the apprehension palpable.  Worry gives way to fear that sounds the alarm.  Income lags behind expenses.  Fewer people are attending church on a regular basis.  The slide parallels that of the surrounding community.  How are we going to turn it around?  What will it take to get more people in church who then contribute money to meet the budget?  Sound familiar?  It is being voiced throughout the United States in communities large and small, urban and rural.

Scapegoats are sought.  It doesn’t take long before the target is acquired. Sharp barbs of accusation are launched.  “The pastor is driving people away.”  “His personality is not winsome and charming.”  “The sermons are lack luster and boring.”  “If only he was more like Pastor So and So.” “You know, the one nearby.” “He’s a great story teller and loves to crack jokes.”  “Ah, if only our pastor was not such a loser”  “We expected the perfect pastor for our situation but each one that comes is flawed in ways we refuse to overlook.”  “What’s wrong with our universities/seminaries/district/Synod?” The same thing that is wrong within you and me.

There is none that is righteous, no not one.  No one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one (Rom. 3:10-12).  Stop and think about what people in your congregation say about your church, your workers and your people?  Is it positive?  Is it negative?  Does it glorify God’s name and His Word (Ps.138:2)?  Sinners excel at sin. Their throat is an open grave.  The venom of asps is on their lips.  Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness (Rom. 3:13-14).  What do your words sound like to God and others? James writes regarding the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father and with it we curse people.  From the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not be so (James 3:8-10).

What’s a sinner to do? Repent, repent and repent again as often as necessary.  The good news is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.  It is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are sick.  By nature everyone is born with the terminal disease called original sin.  This soon gives way to actual sin, even among the baptized.  Those who are baptized have the Holy Spirit and the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38-39; Titus 3:5).  This is not a license to sin for hateful words grieve the Holy Spirit of God with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30). Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Eph. 4:29, 31-32).

The questions raised at the beginning are genuine. No one person is to blame. Go back and read President Harrison’s column in the June/July Lutheran Witness. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The first three commandments are routinely broken with hardly a blush of shame or even an apology.  The answer is surprisingly simple.  It follows the actions of those baptized on Pentecost.  They continued steadfast in the Apostles’ Teaching, in the fellowship, in the breaking of bread and the prayers (Acts 2:42).  These are the reasons for the Divine Services and Bible classes.  When you are in Bible class it is like Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet.  When you attend worship you are knit closer in the fellowship as forgiven sinners receive the body and blood of Jesus.  The prayers are another way of saying the liturgy, the ordered service of the church back to the days of the synagogue rich in Scripture and the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ.  Miss any of them and you are spiritually starving yourself. Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and keep it (Luke 11:28).  Why not say with the psalmist: I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!”(Ps. 122:1).  I look forward to seeing you in worship AND Bible study.


About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


SID DP Timothy Scharr — What Did You Say? — 20 Comments

  1. I can’t help but comment that “everyone’s a sinner” is a fairly irrelevant observation on matters of earthly righteousness. Whether our pastors/seminaries/laity/congregations/etc are doing a good enough job is clearly a matter of earthly righteousness. For the sake of our souls, we must remember that even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before God. For the sake of our brothers and sisters, we must carry out our vocations well rather than poorly.

    While I am 100% in agreement that the answers to the initial questions are the divine service and Bible classes rather than fads & programs, we must never relegate these to mere check boxes (i.e. “if they’re on the schedule, the church is fine regardless of whether anyone still attends”). We impoverish each other when we do these things poorly rather than well, and pastors/seminaries/laity/etc should be holding each other accountable for doing them well–even as we seek forgiveness for sinfully doing them well.

  2. Kudos to President Scharr. This is precisely the kind of episcopal leadership The LCMS desperately needs.

  3. “The pastor is driving people away.” Is this ever true for any reason?

    “His personality is not winsome and charming.” Do interpersonal skills matter in ministry?

    “The sermons are lack luster and boring.” If the preacher does not preach “as one who speaks the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11), might that have an impact?

    It’s been said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. Speaking in terms of sin and forgiveness is necessary but not necessarily sufficient for addressing the internal and external challenges facing a particular ministry in a particular place.

  4. Carl H: Do you support your pastor? And if so, how?

    I find that people who do not use their full/real names on forums like this tend to feel a bit more freedom to, well, let’s just say, “fracture” the 8th Commandment.

  5. @Carl H #3
    It’s been said that if the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

    Unfortunately, for too many people, the Pastor is the nail and therefore comes under their hammer, deservedly or not.

    A “Missouri” congregation couldn’t be wrong! ? 🙁

  6. The concern is genuine; the apprehension palpable.

    Regarding people who drop out of liberal churches, the concern is indeed genuine:

    How can we convince liberal Christians that they can find refuge in the LCMS?

    Regarding people who drop out of mainline “conservative” churches, what reasons would they give for leaving? More importantly, what reasons would they give for returning to the “mainline” church of their youth?

  7. Fewer people are attending church on a regular basis. The slide parallels that of the surrounding community. How are we going to turn it around? What will it take to get more people in church who then contribute money to meet the budget?

    Why should this necessarily result in the above mentioned finger pointing, mean spiritedness and all around angst freighted weeping and gnashing of teeth?
    “Grandpa’s Church” (this blog’s golden age of Lutheranism) had far less than the membership levels we enjoy today. I say we embrace our inner mustard seed and celebrate what it means in America to be small i.e., old, weak, defeated, appalling, docile (Luke 6:30), obedient, generous, grieving, and the like.

    The LCMS has had numerous slogans since the original Solas; for example:

    We’re the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and you’re probably wrong

    Just Say No!

    Our doctrine can beat up your doctrine!!1!1!!!

    Martyria, Diakonia, Misogynia

    But, since we’re now very obviously living in a “Post-Christian” world why not try…The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod~ Let’s Get Small!

  8. @Lumpenkönig #6
    Regarding people who drop out of mainline “conservative” churches…

    There hasn’t been a “Mainline” conservative church in a 100 years.
    Maybe more. “Mainline” was a social construct, not a theological one, unless I’ve really been reading in all the wrong places!

    It certainly never was LCMS Lutheran, or WELS or ELS, either. We were built by farmers and small town businessmen… never “Mainline”.
    I saw elca listed among “mainline” churches somewhere recently, (because of the “illustrious” company it keeps, no doubt). I had to laugh.

    [If the butcher’s son aspired to impress that crowd, he was looking downward.]

  9. @Pastor Ted Crandall #9
    Pastor Crandall it seems that the faith of our fathers has very little use for women. We serve a male deity, worship a male savior; study scripture~ all of which was written by men; adhere to doctrine formulated by men; attend regular services presided over by men, all within a polity completely dominated by men etc., etc., etc.,
    Now be honest, wouldn’t you agree that an outsider looking in would be somewhat justified if they considered our men’s group misogynistic?

    Anyway, the slogan was inspired by how the media interpreted our synodical president and his male cohorts testifying before congress concerning women’s reproductive health.

  10. Pres. Scharr: Thank you for this fine writing. This article addresses these all-too real concerns in a fine way, and points us to the only answer that helps: God’s Word.


    I seriously hope you are not suggesting that God needs to be a woman; that Jesus obviously can’t be our savior since He was a man; that we need to have new Scriptures written by women; that we need to throw out the Scriptural expositions of the faith simply because men wrote them; that Scripture teaches falsely because it says only some men can be pastors; and that the polity of the Missouri Synod is sinning against half of the population of the world. Is this truly what you are saying? Or are you giving voice to the way that the world sees us?

    But I cannot agree that the outsider looking in would be justified by considering our synod misogynistic. The problem is not misogyny. Misogyny is the irrational hatred of women. What it seems to me, is that there are some people in the LCMS who are now following the damnable philosophies of our world, and have now adopted the world’s androgyny, hating men and everything associated with men. If a person came with the irrational hatred of men and saw our synod, yeah, that person would probably want to condemn us and call us misogynists. I honestly would expect this, because that’s what 1 Cor. 2:14 implies. However, the name-calling would not be justified. It would be a false judgment, using distorted criteria and coming from a very accusatory premise.

    Let us instead hold to the Word, simply because it is the Word. Let us ask what the Word says, and let that be our chief concern. If the Word says something, even if it is counter-cultural, let us still hold to it no matter how many people hate us for it It is not man’s word, not Paul’s or Peter’s or John’s or Moses’. It is not first-century, or earlier, thoughts from cultures that have long since been forgotten. No, everything in Scripture is God’s Word. The Holy Spirit has inspired it, and Scripture remains the only certain foundation for teaching and life. It is true that God’s Word is a stench of death to those who are perishing. But it is also true that God’s Word and its correct exhibition is nothing but the fragrant aroma of life to those who are being saved. With this attitude toward God’s Word, I suspect that the issue you raise won’t be problematic at all.

    In Christ,
    Rev. Robert Mayes
    Beemer, NE

  11. @Rev. Robert Mayes #13
    I appreciate your response Pastor Mayes and no, I am not advocating that women serve as pastors nor am I suggesting that God become a woman. My made-up slogans were meant to serve as caricatures of the LCMS as seen by a disinterested 3rd party. And the final one “Let’s Get Small” was an homage to Matt 13: 31-32 and 1 Cor 1:28 as a sort of cheeky in-your-face defiance of current cultural norms and expectations.
    However, as noted in my response to Pastor Crandall, I do worry that the label of misogyny may be too easily applied to our church. And I wonder if others struggle with this fear as well.
    Anyway, I don’t mean to hi-jack Norm’s thread.
    Thanks again Pastor Mayes for your response.

  12. @#4 Kitty #12
    “…the media interpreted our synodical president and his male cohorts testifying before congress concerning women’s reproductive health.”

    Actually, they were testifying concerning the health of the unborn children of men and women — although the media did put their spin on it as men, yet again, speaking on behalf of women. (Since they have so little respect for the child that they would “terminate” without considering it murder, it’s not surprising that they don’t even consider the health of the father of the one they are “reducing.”)

    “My made-up slogans were meant to serve as caricatures of the LCMS as seen by a disinterested 3rd party.”

    That’s a relief to hear! And yes, we are an easy target in this world.

    @Rev. Robert Mayes #13
    Thank you, Pastor Mayes, for a clear, concise, and loving response!

  13. Now be honest, wouldn’t you agree that an outsider looking in would be somewhat justified if they considered our men’s group misogynistic?

    Hi Kitty….
    As an ‘outsider looking in’ I’ve not considered the LCMS as misogynistic. Ordered, firm, kind, serious, yes.
    This is so unique in American churches, it’s almost enough to make this ‘outsider’ come in.

  14. @Lizabth #16
    Ordered, firm, kind, serious, yes.
    This is so unique in American churches, it’s almost enough to make this ‘outsider’ come in.

    You must have found some of us who do not worship garage bands!
    Come on in, Lizabeth! You’ll find that some of the most articulate voices for Lutheranism were once something else, and so know the value of the catholic faith. [But don’t forget the small “c”] 🙂

  15. @Lizabth #16

    Misogynistic men’s group joke:

    Sweet little old lady whispers very quietly to her husband in church, “Oh, dear! I just accidently let a silent one. Whatever should I do?!”

    Cantankerous husband in a stage whisper: “Well, the first thing you should do is change the batteries in your hearing aid.”

  16. “My made-up slogans were meant to serve as caricatures of the LCMS as seen by a disinterested 3rd party.”

    Unlikely such caricatures would pop up in the minds of the truly disinterested 3rd party. Such caricatures are crafted by those forces who oppose truth and light.

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