When God calls His people to change, it starts with “me.” Every one of us needs change. God’s kind of change. A change called for by His Word and our ministry to His world. A change that requires us to take a good look at ourselves and capture a God kind of hope for the future.
Our hope for the future of the LCMS requires that we take a good look at the past so we can see where we need change. As we look back, Congregations Matter recognizes that our current situation as a denomination can be summed up in great measure as “dysfunctional.” We also recognize that we have been a part of the problem that made us so and will work to help positive change happen in the LCMS. We repent and, by God’s power, will change.
Our situation in the LCMS requires a change. We believe congregations are not being supported in their work as they should. There is little coordinated effort nationally. Some of our institutions are struggling – others have closed. There seems to be no clear plan for the future other than surviving through the year.
POLITICAL VS SPIRITUAL
The answer to our problems in the LCMS is not political. God has given us His Word and directs Christians by His Spirit. Change is a spiritual issue. All things God uses to change and direct His Church towards His future path are just that – spiritual.
But within LCMS, the system we use to decide which future path to follow – to change – is political by nature. While we are primarily spiritual we are also political. How can that be? Just consider two things:
- How else would you describe a system where everything important is decided by a majority vote? We make decisions by a vote at congregational meetings, in District conventions, and at our Synod conventions.
- How else would you describe our process of electing people to serve us? We elect pastors in congregations, visitors in our circuits, delegates to conventions, and leaders at District and Synod. People are nominated, vetted, and voted for to serve us.
Any time we determine things by a vote, the process is political. The LCMS used to recognize this as a First Article of the Apostles’ Creed issue. In fact, in former days our seminaries even taught LCMS polity as a class so we could understand and work together in our First Article, political LCMS system.
However, most pastors and congregations want little to do with our system of making decisions and electing people to serve us because of the necessarily political nature of deciding anything by a vote. They say it’s “just too political” when we determine our future course and leadership by counting hands and ballots.
A PLEDGE TO CHANGE
At Congregations Matter, we realize we have been a part of the perceived “too political” problem because we stridently advocate for a point of view and those who support it.
We’re making changes that will help all of us “Be the Change” in the LCMS, too.
Although we can’t change the political nature of Synod (we will still decide things by a vote), we can change us. We can change our words and actions.
Recognizing – and repenting – that in the past, some Congregations Matter articles caused “more heat than light,” we altered our editorial policy and changed the scope of our future articles.
To reflect this new direction, we changed our masthead to reflect this change: “Our Congregations…Our Synod.”
Through the posts of Our Congregations – Our Synod, you will find our new focus on the shared “hope and future” we have in the LCMS.
Because it will help build our hope and future, our articles will offer interviews and perspectives from a variety of voices in our Synod. And more. We will propose answers to issues that will address the concerns of the broad “middle” of the LCMS.
Our extreme voices in Synod get most of the attention. Their points of view, however, contribute to our dysfunction as a system. We pledge not to add to the dysfunction.
WE MUST STILL BE INFORMED
For sure, Our Congregations — Our Synod will bring some news of what’s working and not working in the LCMS.
We must. Our future ministry together is at stake.
Before our next convention, our congregations will face some of the consequences and opportunities resulting from decisions made by leaders at our regional and national offices. We will have to vote on our future next year in Milwaukee at the 2023 Convention.
Want some examples? Think of what has been going on with our Concordias over the last few years – and the proposal for reorganizing our relationships with the Concordia University System. We’ve got a vote to take and a decision to make.
And remember the emphasis we made at the 2019 Tampa convention on recruiting future pastors? How will the success or failure of that effort affect the future of your local congregation? Decisions and votes are again required.
A GREATER FOCUS ON THE WHY
To help us all make decisions and vote, future articles in Our Congregations – Our Synod will focus on why issues matter to LCMS congregations, not on assigning fault or blame. The divisiveness in our Synod has to stop. While still “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:14-16), we pledge as far as we can that “we will live in peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
DISAGREE VS. BEING DISAGREEABLE
Sadly, some in our denomination have used disagreements and votes regarding program direction and leadership to attribute evil to the “other side.” We will not feed that spirit.
Disagreeing with decisions or opinions does not give us or anyone else the right to be disagreeable. Our Congregations – Our Synod will work to provide information and a variety of interpretations. All of us need to understand the pros and cons of convention decisions so that we can make informed decisions.
We do that in congregation Voter’s Meetings. We should be just as informed at District and Synod Conventions. Without pro and con information and debate, our process quickly moves from being led by the spirit to being voted on by factions.
A FOCUS ON THE POSITIVE
While some in the LCMS may still focus on “change and decay in all around I see,” Our Congregations – Our Synod emphasis will be on the One “who changes not” abiding with us, leading and guiding us, challenging us, and binding us together in love. His love. His love for the world through Jesus.
We believe God still has a plan and use for “Momma Missouri.”
Therefore, we must figure out how congregations (and delegates representing them) will plot a course of action at local and national levels that will witness Jesus’ love to more people.
We all agree that’s the job Jesus gave us. Our work is to let more people know Jesus Christ as Savior and friend through our combined Confessional witness and our Word and Sacrament ministry. It is time to focus on job one and align our Synod work to support it.
IT’S TIME FOR ALL OF US TO ACT
Because our system requires votes in conventions, instead of abandoning the convention and voting, why not engage it for good? Here are four things you can do:
- Sign up for our email list and receive new posts from Our Congregations – Our Synod. We will help you become more informed on the issues we face as congregations in the LCMS.
- Elect local delegates to the National convention who will refocus our Synod leadership to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities to support congregational work (see Article III of the LCMS Constitution).
- Pass resolutions to district and national conventions that support our focus on peace among us, a hope for the future, and a God-directed path to get us there.
- Nominate men and women to serve on Boards and Commissions who will support a bottom-up congregational focus from our Synod leadership.
Our Congregations are Our Synod. Let’s not abandon “Momma Missouri” at a time she needs people of good will the most.