29 April 2009

Shrinking=faithful to the Gospel is the new growing=faithful to the Gospel

We all know the LCMS loves getting in on Americhristian trends, so someone spare Our Beloved Synod the embarrassment of being three years behind AGAIN and forward this article by Mark Galli from Christianity Today to an email address that ends @lcms.org. Here's the basic idea:

The more strictly you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, the smaller the church will "grow." One of the most crucial skills of a military commander is, in the face of defeat, to lead a retreat that doesn't turn into panic or a massacre. And one of the most crucial skills for pastors and church lay leaders is to manage church decline when people are leaving because they see, finally, what Jesus is asking of them. This is not a job for the faint of heart, and will require great wisdom to manage resources, personnel, and morale in such a time.

Evangelicals have become the unmatched experts in church growth, but often end up with a truncated gospel. If we are to live into the full counsel of God in the years to come, I believe we'll need a few experts in church shrink.

Since it's not written by a Lutheran in a collar (anathema), or any kind of Lutheran (suspect, unless possessing a soul patch or giant bank account), maybe the purple potentates will listen.

BĂȘtes noires

Mark Galli's argument is valuable in a church culture obsessed with growth. If anyone took it seriously, it would certainly help the social status of small church pastors in our gross hairy neck of the theological woods. But the bottom line for me is counting=not the best use of the church's time. We see Scriptural examples of both increase and decrease as a result of faithful proclamation. The numbers just don't tell us whether we (or anyone else) are doing a good job. Membership trend analyses and judgments are so not a mark of the Church.

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