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Last week something very sad happened on the campus of Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the campus of Concordia Seminary in Saint Louis, Missouri. Over thirty men who had gladly responded to the Lord’s call, “Who shall go for us?” saying, “Here am I, send me!” did not receive calls into the office of the holy ministry. Thirty men. Thirty men who had heard how much our Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod needs pastors. Thirty men who have been told how many are the vacant congregations in our Synod. Thirty men who heard how great and urgent is the immediate need of the church for laborers for the Lord’s harvest. Thirty men who spent many years being prepared to be the best possible pastors they could possibly be, receiving the finest training they could possibly receive. Thirty men who went through multiple moves, to seminary, out to vicarage, back to seminary, and they are ready to move again. They have known financial want. They have known difficulties and hardships, sacrificing much for the sake of the Ministry, and when the time came, there was not a single call to serve as a pastor, for them.

I was lucky.  When I graduated in 2001, there were more calls than students.  It’s strange how in a few years, the situation can completely reverse.

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A great article by Pastor Peters on evangelism.  Enjoy!

A thought-provoking article by Pastor Peters, for your consideration and reflection.

On another on-line forum is the question “Why Lutherans Can’t Evangelize.” It is a striking question born of a time when Lutherans have borrowed the evangelism methods of others and found themselves without a voice of their own to speak the Gospel to their neighbor. I cannot always have been true because there was a point in the 1950s when Lutherans were growing at astounding rates. TIME magazine noted this in April of 1958 with the prediction that if things continue everyone in America will be Lutheran by 2000. We know how that turned out. Perhaps TIME jinxed our forward momentum since the last year we saw substantial growth in the LCMS was 1963.

I think we lost our voice. The boats stopped coming from Europe, America changed and suburbia brought with it additional cultural changes, our own shift from a largely rural to mostly urban and suburban church body made us turn inward to figure out what this meant for us, and we found ourselves without a voice to speak to those around us.

So we did what Lutherans are wont to do. We went shopping in the religious marketplace. We looked at the denominations that were growing (Southern Baptist) and began shaping our approach in their terminology and from their perspective. But it was a little like those who speak another language from a phrase book. It was not our native tongue.

Then came Evangelism Explosion and D. James Kennedy. We Lutheranized it into Dialog Evangelism (ala BZ) and suddenly there were people showing up on the front porches of America asking “What would happen to you if you died tonight?” Again, with all our tweaking, it was a foreign language to us and the decision theology part of it all left a taste in our mouth that diluted our enthusiasm.

In the end what this did is transfer the responsibility to an Evangelism Committee. Remember that before this Luthern congregational structures did not even have an evangelism group or committee or deacon. Don Abdon came along to help us with this restructuring need and with a list of those who were “evangelists” and we decided that evangelism was best done by those with its gift. All of this distanced the average Lutheran Christian from the task and purpose of sharing the faith.

Advance a few years and we were shopping at Willow Creek or Saddle Creek or CCM radio stations in the hopes that if we looked different and sounded different people would be attracted to us. Never mind the fact that our sanctuaries were architecturally unsuited for this style and our heart was not fully convinced (hence the traditional services that kept us Lutheran in identity at least at 7 am on Sunday morning).

Our mission execs began shopping for those churches that were growing and they shifted our paradigms and made us more missional and insisted that everything we were or did had to be negotiable if we were really to grow. Their hearts were in the right place — they daily faced statistics that most people in the pew choose to ignore… but the result has been a great division between those congregations that are LINO (Lutheran in name only), those who have abandoned even the name but exist within the denomination, AND those who turn to page 151 on LSB on Sunday morning and the worship wars past and pressent.

Now our Lutheran evangelistic zeal is part of the angst of who we are and what we are. If we did bring people to worship, would they feel at home? Would they like it? Would they find us friendly? Would they come back? Can we do this? Will it (giving up who we are) be worth it all in the end? Instead we should have been thinking Isaiah 55 — My Word will not return to me empty handed… Instead we should have been confident that where the Word and Sacraments are and the baptized people gathered around them and their Pastor, there is the Church with the fullness of the Spirit who IS the one who grows the Church.

Our parish grows because the people invite people to come with them. Our outreach is through the people in the pew who daily witness and share their faith and not through an evangelism committee. People hear about our work in the community or find out about us through our highly regarded preschool or come to one of our Music at Grace concerts or are brought by those who have confidence in the Word and Sacraments, the means of grace. We do try to be deliberately welcoming, we have a welcome desk at the door and people stationed to identify and welcome visitors. We have signs and lots of parking. We have a well maintained building. But we sing the liturgy on Sunday morning and use the full resources of the hymnal for the Divine Service. We have good teaching for all ages and good Biblical preaching that keeps the Law and Gospel distinct but together. We do everything wrong in this regard and next week we will receive nearly 40 new members (through baptism, instruction, adult confirmation, affirmation of faith, and transfer). What happens on Sunday morning and who we are during the week is the same. The result is that people know who they are in the pews and feel confident about bringing people with them, sharing the faith with their neighbors and co-workers, and they know what people will experience on Sunday morning. Even kids do this.

We must know who we are before we know our voice in evangelism and outreach. It must be authentic and real, positive and genuine… Identity is what helps us welcome… confidence in that identity gives us confidence to invite and welcome… it really does work.

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I found this at cyberbrethren.com.  I thought it was a great article.  Enjoy!

I recently had an unpleasant experience with a Lutheran pastor who blogs anonymously. He felt a need, apparently, to vent his spleen in a particularly spectacularly nasty way about something. When it was pointed out to him how thoroughly inappropriate and way over-the-top his comments were, and how egregiously sinful and slanderous his accusations were, all he could do was issue a revised form of a post, along with a lot of self-defensiveness and excuse making, and of course, playing the, “I’m allowed to act like a wild boar, because I’m such a confessional Lutheran and I’m defending the truth” card.

I could not help but once again be reminded of why anonymous blogging is such a bad idea. I refuse to believe that this pastor would have said the things he said, in the way he said them, in the degree to which he said them, if he were blogging openly, using his real name.

Pastors: there is no excuse for anonymous blogging. If you run a blog site, put your name to it.

Consider this: (A) The chances are very high you will not actually remain anonymous, as in this case; (B) Anonymous blog posting is the coward’s way. If you are unwilling, hesitant, or otherwise concerned about putting your name on what you blog about, that should be a strong warning to you that you are heading down a wrong path.

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Want to share with you today something from cyberbrethren.com

I heard today from a couple who wrote to me, in response to my post about baptism, and said, “Pastor McCain, because of what happened in our ELCA church we are now attending a church that teaches that only adults should be baptized. Here is what they said:

“This issue is of great interest to my wife and I. Since leaving an ELCA congregation we have been attending a church that preaches adult baptism and does not recognize infant baptism. Personally I am skeptical of the entire infant baptism vs. adult baptism debate. I don’t even know if baptism should be considered a sacrament. The story about the penitent thief on the cross (Luke 23: 39-43) seems to undermine both sides in that argument, since I doubt that fellow was ever baptized. Arguments about baptism remind me somewhat about arguments concerning eating meat offered to idols (1 Cor eight) – lots of heat, but little light.”

Yes, dear reader, this is the tragedy of the ELCA situation. And make no mistake about it. It is a tragedy of immense proportions. The ELCA decisions regarding homosexuality have scandalized the faithful to the point that people are now abandoning the simple faith taught to them in their basic confirmation course.

How should we respond?

Reach out! For God’s sake, reach out a helping hand of love and concern, and invite them back to the truth of God’s Word! Extend to them friendship. Do more listening, than talking. Bear their burden, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Now is not the time for timidity, but for great boldness!  Boldness in the Lord! Boldness for the sake of the Gospel of Christ! Boldness for the sake of the eternal welfare of souls!

Here is how I responded to the message I received this late-afternoon.

Dear Brother and Sister in Christ,

May I make an appeal to you, in the name of Christ?

Please, oh, please, do not let the horrendous troubles in the ELCA drive you away from the Gospel of Christ! A church that teaches that only adults should be baptized is teaching contrary to Jesus words, “Let the little children come to me.” Please do not abandon Lutheranism.

How may I help you find a new church home that is faithful to God’s precious, holy Word and His blessed Sacraments?

Paul McCain

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When would you say that faith begins, on the basis of which we should venture to baptize? Perhaps at the present age of confirmation? Or in little children when they can confess with the mouth, as Thomas Muenzer of old would have it? Why, it would be the equivalent of turning the miracle wrought by the Holy Spirit into a psychologically perceptible fact, if any attempt were made here to fix a time-limit for the working of the Spirit.  Here, too, Luther goes his lonely way between Rome with its hierarchical, and the enthusiasts with their psychological sanctions—the lonely way of the Reformer who heeds only the Word and God and trusts that this Word can do all things, even the humanly impossible. In this way, and only in this way, has Luther and the Lutheran Church after him been able to hold both the objectivity of the sacrament and the sola fide, not forgetting that justifying faith is not a matter of a single moment but the content of an entire human life. For this faith certainly is not the individual act of surrender to God, consciously felt and experienced at certain moments of our life, but it is the continuing trust—though overshadowed again and again—in the Gospel promise of grace; just as repentance according to the evangelical conception is not a single act but something that goes on continually throughout our life. So too our baptism is not a finished act, but it goes with us throughout our life. To be a Christian does not mean simply to have been baptized sometime in the past, but it means to live in the power of Baptism and to return to it again and again. As is well known, the Small Catechism answers the question: “What does such baptizing with water signify?” by saying:

It signifies that the old Adam in us, by daily contrition and repentance should be drowned and die, with all sins and evil lusts, and that a new man daily come forth and arise, who shall live in righteousness and purity before God forever.

Just as we who are sinners and righteous at the same time live by daily contrition and repentance and by daily forgiveness of sins, so too our dying and rising again with Christ, that real though incomprehensible anticipation of an eschatological event which takes place in Baptism, is something that determines our entire life. This, over against Rome and against the enthusiasts, was Luther’s understanding of Baptism and of the faith that accepts Baptism. We embrace it not only at one given moment, whether it be at the moment we are baptized, or at the moment of confirmation, or any other given moment of our life that might be named, but we embrace it or should embrace it throughout our entire life, every day anew. This is the reason why Luther recognized no additional sacrament to supplement Baptism, whether it be confirmation or repentance, which would be anything else but a return to Baptism.

Sasse, Letters to Lutheran Pastors, IV

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