Great Stuff — Churches acting like churches….

Another great post by Pastor Peters over on Pastoral Meanderings:


This from the Bob Smietana and The Tennessean.  You can read it all here….

When it comes to the numbers, the difference between mainline churches in Middle Tennessee and those in the country as a whole are striking, according to the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies.

From 2000 to 2010, the Episcopal Church declined 15.7 percent nationwide but grew by 26.7 percent in the Nashville metropolitan area, which includes Franklin and Murfreesboro. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) was down 22 percent nationally but up 8.8 percent locally. United Methodists declined 9.9 percent nationally but grew here by 9.2 percent.

David Roozen, director of the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, said that churches in general benefit from being in the South, where religion is still an important part of life.

Churches that act like churches also have an advantage, he said.

While most people in American say they are Christian, many don’t have ties to a specific church. Those who do go to church want to be part of a religious group and not a social club.


My Comments:

Funny.  We are told by national jurisdictions and mission planners that churches that act like churches are dead or on their way there.  Maybe not.  Bob Smeitana, a great religion beat reporter, wrote a story on liberal churches in Nashville that are bucking the trend of decline prevalent on the national level.  Among the things he wrote is that these churches are not one issue churches and they have not shed the ordinary churchly identity because of their liberal stance.  They emphasize good worship, they have Bible study, and they look, act, and sound like real churches — not social clubs or political organizations.

Imagine that.  Churches growing because they do not look, act, and sound like anything but a church!  Perhaps we might get the message that we do not have to ditch all the familiar trappings of church in order to reach people and grow.  It seems we are getting signals from all sorts of voices outside the regular channels telling us just that.  Will we listen?  I am not sure.  I hope so.

It seems like forever we have heard it repeated over and over again that in order to grow we have to ditch the very things that identify us as church — liturgical worship, Biblical preaching, confessional identity, catechetical training, etc… Our new LCMS missions have more in common with the side shows of the evangelical emergent church than with the churches whose mission support pays their bills. The time is now to challenge the common wisdom and return to the uncommon wisdom of churches unafraid and unashamed to be church.

Without debating the rightness or wrongness of their theological opinions, these congregations act churchly and so they suggest to us that changing the design of our worship service, church music, pastoral appearance, etc… is not THE key to growing.  A focus on people, a commitment to excellence in worship, an embrace of the churchly identity, and Bible classes and teaching works even in a more liberal context to reach and keep people.  Imagine, just imagine if you will, if we Lutherans capitalized upon those strengths — people focused, the best in liturgical worship, church unashamed of being church, and the evangelical and catholic center upon Scripture and the Confessions — why, we might even impress ourselves!

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


Great Stuff — Churches acting like churches…. — 10 Comments

  1. In the 1970’s there was a best seller by Kelley called,
    “Why Conservative Churches are Growing.” Nothing
    has changed since that book was written.

    The unchurched people of America are still looking for
    a Bible-based, Christ-centered parish. They will find
    it in the LCMS, in a parish that proclaims the Gospel
    of Jesus Christ, and rightly administers the Sacraments.
    We should not be ashamed of Jesus Christ and His will
    for our lives in the 21st century. People need to come
    to worship each week to confess their sins and receive
    absolution from the pastor. People are not looking for
    the latest fad in worship, but a way to strengthen their
    faith in Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

  2. Or could it be in part to the overall growth of the South population wise? Tennessee in particular (I have multiple family members there) has been a great job growth market and has had population influx because of thus. Same with Texas and many other Southern states. So is it in part due to the writers observations or simply because of the general population boom in that region? Or a little of both? Remember, TN is where Lakpointe plants all their mission churches that “thrive” and none of them even remotely look like church. 🙂

  3. But, but, but……..

    “Without getting too churchy, it’s just fun to see what God is up to.”

    To rediscover and to emphasize what makes us Lutheran would go against the wisdom of the Willow Creek, the Saddleback, and the TCN consultants. Until LCMS congregations begin to have a “Saul on the road to Damascus” moment, the LCMS will continue to falter.

    Are we starting to see signs that the LCMS is waking up, or will it continue to disintegrate.

  4. @Lumpenkönig #3

    Seminex era pastors and their sympathizers are retiring. A variety of people I have spoken to (although not enough to to qualify as a sample size) are noticing the bit more conservative bent among the young(er) pastors. Pres. Harrison defunded TCN at the synodical level. As fads, hopefully these things will diminish. I think our LC-MS Deaconess Conference is failry conservative, and as women in large part are saying ‘no’ to women’s ordination. I am hoping we are turning a corner. About the only big thing that we will struggle with immensely I think will be CoWo. But remember “It’s Time,” and the 15% While I think the bulk will be okay, I also see fracturing, and a certain loss, just not a full disintegration.

    Just my two cents. (and hopeful optimism?)

  5. Oh, and I also noticed at Reporter that some new people were installed for synod level youth ministry. what I found interesting was that two of them came out of large traditional congregations. One from 5th VP Scott Murray’s site, and the other had a pastor who wrote on the website how he left CoWo and came back to liturgy. The third on is freshly coming out of Mequon, I believe. This contrasts to former head LeRoy Wilke who wrote in support of Kieshnick (the 40 of 2010), and Terry Dittmer, who I have always experinced as a CoWo advocate. So who made the decision to call them in?

    Please let us turn a corner.

  6. @Jason #4
    I thought that district-supported SMP programs were designed to counter the “more conservative bent among the young(er) pastors.”

    Synod may no longer fund TCN, but districts do.

    The LCMS still cannot figure out where the role of a deaconess ends and where the role of pastor begins.

    It is not a good sign when an LCMS congregation decides not merely to supplement traditional worship, but to eliminate it altogether in favor of a CoWo service.

    I don’t want to start sounding like a Chicago Cubs fan with the “Just wait until next year” mantra. I would love to start reading some good news about a turnaround, but I just don’t see it.

  7. real church bodies defend real ministers and do not turn away with blind eyes and proceed with anti-Biblical teaching and practice and expediency which destroys many congregations-am I wrong?

  8. @ralph luedtke #8
    real church bodies defend real ministers and do not turn away with blind eyes and proceed with anti-Biblical teaching and practice and expediency which destroys many congregations-am I wrong?

    If you are right, we are not in a real church body. [Case in point: ULC MN]

    It is reported that the problem of Pastors relieved of their parishes, (one way or another, but all unScriptural) and consequently CRM, was mentioned at Texas District Convention. SP Harrison is supposed to have repeated the DP line that, “some men made poor career choices”! I am sorry SP Harrison is not more aware of events “on the ground”. Sitting in the audience were a half dozen men whose “poor career choice” was only evident after 10-20+ faithful years in the ministry!

    These weren’t out altogether, and perhaps that’s why 2010 was a “fail” for the CG/PLI/us1st’ers (or seemed to be)? But, like TCN, the RIF still going on with “licensed lay minister” substitutions. [And some of the victims have given up.]

  9. Then someone I love and respect made a bad career choice after 26 years defending Scripture and practice and LC over Liberation Theology and Hymnology,open communion,elders wanting to be non-Lutheran,sexual immorality of all types,breaking of Commandments, 3,5,8-Mt 18,church growth TN,syncretism,altar fellowship,church rentals to raise cash from non-Lutherans————Yes,I guess in the minds of some,including the SP,he made a bad career choice—-but he did take the oath-to remain faithful———-and many in leadership really are the ones who made bad career choices——–and it shows!!!!!!!!!!! Jesus’ Love and Life deserves so much better—and so do His sheep and lambs

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