Before You Relocate

A question pastors often get asked is, “I am moving to __________. What is a good church for me to attend there?” This is a great question that members should discuss with their pastors to be sure. The problem is that it may be too late.

The question of where to attend Divine Service should be the first question that comes up. Before career opportunities. Before community amenities. Before school pedigree. Before distance to relatives. If you relocate to a community without a congregation that is faithful to the Scriptures, you are putting your family in danger of great spiritual harm. You are leaving yourself with the option of either attending a congregation that has watered down the Word of God or driving a great distance to attend a faithful congregation, which is an additional temptation to not attend at all.

Before you pick a university, pick a congregation. Before you consider applying for a career change that requires relocation, know what congregation you will attend in the area. If you are now in an area where you are surrounded by faithless congregations, find a congregation that preaches God’s Word in its truth and purity and administers the sacraments according to Christ’s institution and then look for all the others things that are necessary for life.

Too often, I have had the question asked of me, and there are no good choices at the given location, but the decision had already been made to accept a job, university, etc. The assumption has sometimes been that because there is a congregation in the new community that is in fellowship with us according to the synod, that such a congregation is in fellowship with us according to Christ. Sadly, with our divisions, that is often not the case.

One resource you can use is LutheranLiturgy.org. The site provides a listing of Lutheran congregations that solely use the historic liturgy, practice closed communion, don’t have women lectors or communion assistants, and maintain faithfulness to the Scriptures as confessed in the Lutheran Confessions.

Please do speak with your pastor about relocating. Just do it before your decision to move has been made. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and everything else you need for your body and life will be added to you as well.

About Pastor Johannes Nieminen

Pastor Johannes (John) Nieminen serves Zion Lutheran Church in Melville and Trinity Lutheran Church in Neudorf, Saskatchewan, Canada. After a decade-long foray in business following his undergraduate degree, he attended Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St Catharines, Ontario, graduating with a Master of Divinity degree in 2014. He is married to Lydia and they have been blessed with three children: Ethan, Summerlee, and Jacob. His sermons are posted weekly at zionlutheranmelville.com.

Comments

Before You Relocate — 11 Comments

  1. Alas, my son (a solid confessional Lutheran) learned this the hard way. Several years ago he took a new job (which he loves) and relocated from Chicago suburbs to upstate New York. For the first few years he drove almost an hour to a congregation on the outskirts of Albany. There were a few minor things that concerned him, so he never transferred his membership. Eventually, the congregation slid further down the liberal slope, he stopped attending there, tried a few other equally distant and marginally acceptable churches, and is currently not attending anywhere. We discuss it frequently. His faith is intact, but without nourishment from the Divine Service. Please add your prayers to mine. Thank you.

  2. Being near a good Lutheran church is obviously desirable, but sometimes job or family necessities make that very difficult or impossible.

    Better to attend a non-Lutheran Christian church than not go to church at all.

    There is also the possibility of folks starting a new Lutheran congregation where they live. 🙂

  3. Unfortunately many congregations have Pastors who hold to the “Conservative” theology of the Confessions and the Divine Services of the hymnal but in preaching and teaching conduct the word into Antinomianism and or Soft Antinomianism and or Smiling Antinomianisn and or Gentle Nomianism.

    Along with “any” teaching of the Scriptures that would offend anyone and by a personality and character that seeks Psychological control and or dissimulation of all words and acts to shape the soul according to their benefit.

    Unless you have been studying the word you cannot recognize in one sermon just who is the Minister and what he really teaches.

    Because when one decides to hide who he/she really is the more they reveal who they are with points of unpersonal personality traits.

    It is getting so bad that you wonder where you can go to find a truly living faith in ministers.

  4. @Kathleen #1

    Kathleen, depending on where your son is in upstate NY, St. John’s in Rome may be a possibility. It may be a bit of a drive, but we have people coming from as far away as Syracuse (1 hour East), Watertown (Ft. Drum and surrounding area, an hour North), Edmeston (45 min South), and Frankfort (40 min West).

    Granted, they are not always able to come every week, but as we are one of the very few confessional, liturgical congregations in upstate NY, it has become a priority for them.

  5. A good article, but we might consider one other detail we’ve become too comfortable with in our mobile society: “Before you relocate… consider your importance to the congregation you would be leaving.” We have unintentionally raised Christians to think of the congregation as a local commodity that serves the individual, rather than the individual being called together with fellow Christians by the Holy Spirit. Each individual is part of the body and ‘serves the whole’ by cherishing it. Unfortunately, “faith in God and fervent love for one another” too easily becomes “faith in God and fervent love for career and degree.” Until the ‘local-commodity-until-I-move-on’ mentality is reconsidered, people will feel that a career or degree or ‘success’ is far more important than the fellow Christians who gather around the altar with him each Lord’s Day.

    Sometimes, we are forced to relocate (just ask families who can’t even afford the rent in California or the property taxes in Illinois). Other times, it’s voluntary. In neither situation is it a sin. But in every situation we should reteach our people to cherish the community of believers they currently have and who cherish them, whether that means changing priorities to stay put to help confess the faith in that place, or leaving out of necessity with a tearful goodbye. In a society (and American Christianity) increasingly adrift, that faithful congregation anchored in Christ is worth far more than a pay raise, a secular-progressive university degree, and worldly success.

  6. Many people work for large corporations which decide who will be transferred, where and when. Individuals have minimal “say” in it if they wish to retain their job. The next assignment may be in another state, or even overseas.
    You take it, regretfully say farewell and look for another church in the new location.
    In country, on our “house hunting trip” we looked for a church first and then found a house in the area. Overseas, we were pleased to discover a good Lutheran congregation in an Asian country, although I had come prepared for a “DIY” confirmation instruction which was due. (Since I had the books… and the training… the congregation provided me with 10 more students.)

    [The author cheerfully suggests “staying with your old congregation”. But he himself went to college and seminary in aid of his future profession.]

  7. Wow, H. Jensen, that’s a pretty cynical view of “the author.” Three points:

    1. College: Actually, I passed up invitations to play college football out of state in order to stay in my home congregation and with my family. No other commitments at the time: no work, no girlfriend, etc. But the home congregation and family are important.

    2. Seminary: It strikes me as odd that you portray men going to the seminary as a self-advancing move into a “profession.” What a low view of the Office of the Holy Ministry!, which a pastor enters into not for self-gain or ‘success’, but to be prepared to proclaim the gospel to the congregation he’s been “married to” by the divine call… even if done for no pay and having to sustain himself and family with other odd jobs to make ends meet.

    3. You conveniently forgot to mention that “the author” also said that “sometimes we are forced to move” and that whether going or staying, “in neither situation is it a sin.”

    Every pastor moves from his own home to arrange his life around the congregation to which he has been called. As such he loves those people more than anything else except the Christ who sent him. I would think people would appreciate a pastor cheerfully saying to them, “Let us encourage one another and see each other as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and be there for one another!… for, if you will think of your blood relatives before deciding to move, how much moreso those who are brothers and sisters by the blood of Christ!” But, H. Jensen, if you don’t want to be encouraged by such things… suit yourself.

  8. @Rev. Mark Bestul #8

    1.You were very unusual in having a college close to your home that could prepare you for seminary. How many of your seminary classmates did?
    2. I don’t much like the word profession for the ministry either, “confession” do you? [I probably have as high an opinion of pastors as you, having two in my family.] The pastors-to-be had to move for their education…and so did their brothers and sisters.
    3. You did mention being “forced to move” but the thrust of the paragraph seemed to be “stay, because your motives for moving aren’t good enough”, it seemed to me. [If I was wrong, sorry!] Most of us have to move for education and for a job, because there isn’t going to be a job where we grew up. You can’t keep us all down on the farm (even if you positively yearn to lead our country church, which I doubt). Farms got a lot bigger and use a lot less year round labor than they used to!
    There’s no living for us all in the country (even when it isn’t under water!).
    Peace!
    –helen

  9. I found this article to ring true for my wife and I. We moved from the west coast to the east coast as we were becoming new grandparents and wanted to be close to our family. All the LCMS churches we visited in our area were more liberal in practice. After a long search, we ended up finding a traditional LCMS church about 35 miles away. While it is a longer drive than we would like, it is worth the effort. We had no idea that LCMS churches differ in practice and doctrine from district to district and parish to parish until after we moved. I guess we were insulated in our prior parish and didn’t think to check out the churches before we moved. It has really opened our eyes and I would advise anyone looking at a move to familiarize yourself with the congregations in the area before relocating to save yourself from the possibility that you have no good options for LCMS churches.

  10. The article mentions lutheranliturgy.org which I have greatly appreciated over the years for family vacations and during college searches. However, it appears to be down at the moment and the last times I used it was in need of maintenance, with SQL errors resulting from search attempts, etc. Can anyone update us on its status?

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