The Reverend Doctor Nathan Corl Minnich, STS
Ordained Lutheran Pastor of the North American Lutheran Church
Grace and peace be unto you from our Lord Jesus Christ!
Well, summer has arrived and so has the warm weather and vacations! Yes, I just mentioned all the things that negatively impact the church in the first sentence of my message to you in this newsletter. Why? Well, the answer is simple. Many think that these things may be a nuisance for the church, but just a momentary inconvenience. This is far from the truth! When larger number of the faithful are absent from worship it is noticed. No, not just by those who count the offering, or take attendance, but by everyone! If you don’t believe me, stand with me at the entrance after worship and listen to all the people who ask me “where is _____ and their family?” As if I have all the answers. The bottom line is this, if you’re wondering where your friends and neighbors are when they are not among us on Sunday… CALL THEM! Surely you don’t buy into the myth that it is the pastor’s super power to know everyone’s whereabouts? Surprisingly enough, I rarely know when someone is in the hospital or severely ill until the news travels around town that much that it finally gets to me. When did it become okay to be so complacent in our faith that we think it’s okay to just sit back, watch, complain, and ignore the decline of the church. Not just in this place, but I’m speaking of something that ALL churches are experiencing, except maybe those who’ve become an entertainment venue rather than churches…you know, the ones that are a stage production, rock band, costumed, false gospel gathering than an actual church with a liturgy! (But that’s for another discussion).
What can we do to make a difference? Well first we must better understand OUR ROLE in the spreading of the Gospel and the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. It starts with YOU! The pastor has a role, preparing a theological statement every week, presiding at the Mass, responding to those in crisis of health or faith. The deacon has a role, to assist in the proclamation of the Gospel, have a finger on the pulse of the community, visiting with those in need. Yes, the parish secretary has a role in printing our bulletins, recording our tithes and offerings, managing the church office and communications. The parish council president has a role in assisting the pastor in the administration of parish affairs and being the head layperson representative in our leadership urging and guiding your participation in the congregational events and outreach. BUT, what about the role that far too many THINK should fall to these leaders? It is the simplest role of all, but yet so many think it is the JOB of the paid and elected staff…yep…I’m talking about INVITING others to join you on your faith journey! Only you know the needs of your own family, and closest friends and neighbors. Yet, how many of them have YOU INVITED to join you at Salem? How many of these people who have no place to call spiritual home on Sunday mornings have you spoken with about why YOU get up and go to church?
When the church people begin to delegate these things to 4 people of the entire congregation, yet sit back and wonder where their neighbors are, the church will not survivie! When the average churchgoer is content to let the pastor worry about where the so-called ‘regulars’ are, the church will decline. When 95% of the people are satisfied to complain that ‘nothing is getting done’ but yet do nothing to engage their own time, and that of their family, the church will fail to keep up with all the distractions of life. Soon, it’s dilapidated, empty, broke, and just a part of history. Look around us locally, and for a moment think small rather than all of Christianity…at one time there were enough faithful Christians to BUILD all of these churches, and now there are hardly enough to keep half of them open, and nearly none of them full.
So, when you wonder where someone is…don’t just ask me, or the deacon, or the secretary, or the council, ASK THEM! That’s why we have an online app directory! When I ask, I get all the usual excuses, vacation, camping, it’s too hot, I’m just too busy, the grass needs mowed, I’m working overtime, I need to sleep in at least one day a week, I’m just out of the habit… THE LIST GOES ON, and on, and on.
But, just maybe, when each person becomes engaged and involved, and shows that they care, and are not sitting back wondering where others might be, those who have fallen away would feel loved, missed, cared for, and encouraged. Trust me, caring for one another is part of this thing we call Christianity. Expecting others to do what you’ve promised to do is not. Yes, you’ve all promised…at baptisms, confirmations, confessions…