Evangelism Virtue Signaling

In a culture full of special snowflakes who need to be validated, how one feels about a thing is generally more important than whether he has acted upon those feelings. That doesn’t change in the Church, either.

We American Lutherans have been wringing our hands for decades about how many fewer rear ends are in our pews than we had back in the glory days of the ’50s and ’60s. If you’re the kind of person to point fingers, there is no shortage of targets. “It’s those rotten confessionals who insist on closed communion” “It’s those closed-minded pastors who won’t get with the times”…

For the last couple of years, LCMS President Rev. Matthew Harrison has been telling groups of people that, statistically, the decline of the numbers in our congregations more or less matches the decline in the size of our families. He has been positively excoriated on that point from elements of the synod who, let’s just say it, are more okay with the synod resembling the world than the average BJS author or reader might be. They mock him for stating the plain truth that most of us parish pastors know by experience and that the synod now knows by statistical analysis.

The fact of the matter is that when the world lied about The Pill, in large part, we Lutherans bought the lie. We were told that it isn’t enough to bring a child to the font and teach him the faith, love him, care for him, and nourish him. Our children have to have the same visible signs of success we adults do — each child needs his own bedroom, his own college fund, his own smartphone, semiweekly trips to the nice restaurants…

And worse — there are many who view children primarily as fellow-victims of the oppressive system (whatever it is) into which we ourselves were born: “Oh, I don’t dare have a child right now, with so much uncertainty in the world and so much strife. It would be cruel to do that.” I’ve heard those very sentiments from a number of people who consider themselves to be confessional Lutherans. But at the root is faithlessness. We don’t merely confess the god of Deism, who creates and then leaves the creation to its own devices to figure things out. “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.”

Instead, the solution proffered is “evangelism.” That word is seldom defined in the positive by those who mock the idea of more babies yielding larger congregations, but it often defined in the negative — according to those scoffers, bringing one’s own family to the font, pew, and altar is not evangelism. I’m not pulling that out of thin air; I have seen fathers assert that they have done their duty by bringing their wives and children regularly to church only to be mocked and told “that isn’t evangelism”.

And yet, many of those who scream “evangelism” the loudest in our own congregations are the ones who must sit in the pew alone on Sunday morning, while their own children and grandchildren worship at other altars: youth travel sports, football, sleep.

The fact is that Baptism is not salvific apart from faith. Loudly proclaiming how much one cares about “evangelism” while one’s own children are not hearing the Word of God is as nonsensical as complaining that the mall doesn’t have updated fire sprinklers while at home the kitchen is burning to the ground.

Rather than simply point fingers back and shout et tu quoque, we would each do well to examine ourselves and ask whether God has placed people in our own lives who need not only to have heard the gospel once but need it regularly. Whom do I know who needs to go to church? Start with your own family. Your wife and children need Jesus. What about the rest of your family? Do your parents need a ride to church as they get older? Do you need to help them arrange visitation of they’re shut-in? Are your children bringing their own children to church? Are they reading the Bible and praying at home? Start there, and then start working outward from the home.

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