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Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Word from the Pastor

I recently spent eight days in Houston, TX for the 2010 Convention of the Luthern Church-Missouri Synod. Every three years our Synod (a word that means "walking together") gathers to discuss the business of our denomination. This included issues such as the following: Is our current synodical structure efficient for supporting mission and ministry? How are we to respond to recent decisions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and what do their decisions mean for our work of human care alongside of them? We voted to support our troops, chaplains, and organizations who are working to end Malaria and human trafficking. We discussed how best to fund and support our educational institutions and our synod which have all been effected by the economy. It was a week full of discussion, amendments, amendments to amendments, parliamentary procedure, arguing, agreeing, and even worship and forgiveness.

I must say that I was honored to serve our congregations in this area. At the same time, it was a frustrating and long eight days. In a time when denominations are on the rapid decline, one wonders what the point of such conventions is. Further, will there be a future for such things as the age of denominations comes to an end (if that is what the Lord wills)? Perhaps the end of denominations is a good thing, right?

Not so fast, argues Ed Stetzer, a popular missiologist (that is, he's a dude who studies and takes part in mission work) and member of the Southern Baptist Convention. In a recent article for Christianity Today, Stetzer points out that, though denominations have their weaknesses, they are a great blessing. Denominations are a tremendous blessing because they: a) function as a tool for mission, b) come out of and foster a culture of cooperation/unity in mission and ministry, c) connect us, not just with each other, but with the theological heritage from which we come, d) and, when strong in their confession, they provide a safeguard against false teachings which seem to be arising in churches all over the place. He says,

Denominations at their best are not places to get something but places to give and to serve. Our gifts, passions, and experience have greater influence through a worldwide denominational network. Through a denomination, we can provide resources to people we will never meet, reach places we will never go, and preach the gospel to lost souls who are beyond our personal reach. We can find what we need and give as much as we want - because the key to cooperation is to both give and receive. A healthy denomination ultimately gives us strength. It's a home, not a prison. It allows us to share specific theological convictions, practice expressions of ministry relevant to our communities, and serve a common mission in the one thing that brings true unity: the gospel.

It is very easy (especially when sitting in your seventh eight hour session of an eight day conference) to grow so weary and frustrated with church politics that we lose sight of a remarkable fact, Jesus even works in and through denominations! Even the Missouri Synod! It is my prayer that we can grow more aware how we can find our place to give and serve within our own church body.

Pastor Bob

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