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Should the LCMS be shrinking?

Review of an article in The Reporter (March 2010, p3, 8) entitled, “Commentary: An ‘educated’ response to membership loss.”

In a recent article of The Reporter, the ‘official’ newspaper of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (www.lcms.org/reporter), the author comments that “the LCMS has been a shrinking denomination for the last 30 years.”

After noting these things, at least if you’re thinking numerically, eight reasons are given as to “why we shouldn’t be losing members.” Reasons range from “We have the largest Protestant parochial school system in the nation” to “Pastors are sensitive to making the worship experiences in their congregations relevant and timely.”

The reality is, however, even should a church body or congregation do everything “right” (and I’m not saying that the LCMS is), this doesn’t immediately equate to an increase in numerical growth. It might mean just the opposite (Read John 6, esp. v60ff).

Nowhere in the ‘commentary’ does the writer even mention sin, confession, and God’s forgiveness, as if the LCMS really shouldn’t be decreasing, or as if the LCMS doesn’t have anything of which to repent.

Neither does the writer of the article even allude to the truth of Scripture that we do not nor do our actions ‘grow’ the church. God does-through His Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament, when and where He pleases. See 1 Corinthians 3:6-7 & John 3:8.

This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be about doing what the Lord would have us do according to His Holy Word. We should—because God commands it—even should the results and consequences be not as we hope for or as we think they should be. Our confidence in what we do is not the end result, but in doing what God commands, that is, God’s Word.

Having said this, what is the LCMS now doing? What has it done? The question is not, “What can we do to grow?” It’s not really about numerical growth. It’s about what God says. What is the LCMS teaching in its doctrine and by its practice? Is it about ‘relevance’ and ‘worship experiences or even just ‘experience’ in general, to which the writer in the article alludes? Or is the problem really about one of faithfulness to our Lord, preaching Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23), keeping our eyes on Jesus, receiving the gifts of our Lord in Word and Supper, remembering our Baptism, and daily repenting of our sin, regardless of the external outcome? (Luke 13:1-9).

The author did speak about education. He’s right! Catechesis is what the church is about–teaching Christ; repenting of sin and trusting in God’s mercy, His forgiveness, in Christ Jesus.

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