“Confessional” is not the Antonym of “Progressive” or “Visionary,” by Pr. Rossow

Church Growthers often give the impression that Confessionals are somehow unprogressive and non-visionary. This is just not the case if you consider the courage and gumption of several confessional parishes that I know of that are starting building programs even in this uncertain economy.

The congregation I serve, at a special voters’ assembly yesterday, approved a million dollar building project. I will share more on that and the other churches in a moment.

God does not require of congregations that they be visionary and progressive. That is a myth of the Church Growth movement. Scripture speaks of the duties of the church as Walther teaches in his booklet titled “The Proper Form of a Christian Congregation.” The duties of the church are 1) to dwell in the word, 2) to uphold pure doctrine and practice church discipline, 3) to care for church members in need, 4) to do things in good order, 5) to work together with other orthodox congregations and 6) to advance the kingdom.

Some congregations are more progressive at fulfilling those duties and others are less so. That’s OK. That is not the issue in Scripture. What is the issue is to understand the Scriptural duties of the Church and to faithfully complete those duties.

That being said, I am impressed by the number of confessional churches that I know of in my limited field of vision, that are taking bold steps as they consider how to fulfill these duties. A small church in central Michigan is completing a half million dollar building program this spring that adds Sunday School and Bible class space and a new fellowship hall. A liturgical church out east is planning a multi-million dollar expansion program for their school. A traditional congregation in South Carolina is busting at the seams and so is reconfiguring their narthex and adding space to their sanctuary. A confessional parish in Nebraska has just finished the architectural plans for a similar program.

The congregation I serve, Bethany Lutheran Church and School here in Naperville, Illinois, the birthplace of The Brothers of John the Steadfast, took the courageous step of adding a third pastor last year (Jonathan Fisk) and at the same time planned a million dollar youth and music rehearsal space. Just this Sunday the Voters approved the construction contract and so construction will begin within the next few weeks. We also approved the bridge loan if needed, but God has been good to us and it looks like the million dollars will have all come in by the time the building is completed this fall and so there will most likely be no need for a loan.

So, say what you want about confessional churches but do not say that they aren’t visionary and even more fundamentally, don’t say that vision and progress are required of a church to be godly. What is required is faithfulness to the God-given duties of the church and sometimes, God-willing, that is done in a progressive way.

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