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Church Gospel Life LCMS Living Hope

‘Young People Don’t Go to Church’

“Young people don’t go to church.”

Ask anyone in the church today, the common refrain about the state of the established church on earth is that younger people – millennials, Gen Z’ers, Gen X’ers – don’t have a regular worship life. They could be the “high holy day” Christians, showing up on Christmas Eve or Easter morning. Or they be part of the “well, I was baptized and I believe in God, so I don’t need a church” crowd.

As recent news shows, a growing number of younger people are not only rejecting regular worship, but are rejecting God.

Church, as an institution, is frowned upon by our culture. The pedophilia priest issue in the Roman Catholic Church stained the entire Christian Church. I’ve been called various evil things about my role as a “priest” and questioned as to why hasn’t “my church” done anything to stop the abuse of children, even though I am not a Roman Catholic priest, but I wear the same type of black clergy shirts with a plastic tab in the neck. Other churches including my own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod are called out for holding onto beliefs that are archaic and don’t have a place in the modern world. “Why doesn’t your church have women pastors,” I am asked. “Why do you hate gays and transgendered people,” is thrown at me even though I nor my church doesn’t hate gays or transgendered people.

Yet, even in mainline churches who embrace a modern view of the culture within the church are finding out that they, too, are seeing fewer and fewer people in their churches every Sunday.

“Young people don’t go to church.”

So the question of the viability of individual smaller churches is growing within the Church as a whole. Small churches can’t afford regular clergy leadership or any of the modern ways of worshipping that larger church institutions are making due with today. These smaller places of worshipping God can’t do the things larger churches do because there isn’t a support system to make them a reality. Every year, thousands of smaller Christian churches close because making a financial go of it is impossible.

And everybody blames the young people who don’t go to church.

The church, as a whole, needs to take the time to ask themselves questions about how they worship, how they do ministry, how they teach, how they evangelize, and how they serve their neighbor before they reflexively jump to the easy answer to the church’s problems that “young people don’t go church.”

We need to really take time to look at our churches and how we operate. Have our churches become social clubs where people in our churches meet for coffee and cake every week and do little on outreaching into our communities?

My LCMS, on a local level, is struggling. Small churches are closing. Where our urban churches are located, they are barely hanging on. And in many urban centers, our LCMS churches have just given up.

Some have ideas in which to save the church. Smaller churches could close up and join other churches so they can form slightly larger churches. More people would be in the pews every weekend, giving the newer church a chance at making it for a while.

Another idea is to close smaller churches in the suburbs and make them come together with a larger church so that this new, much bigger church can support missions within the urban areas.

Yet within our struggling churches, the people have the answer to all their problems – young people just have to come to church.

Maybe it is time for a new way to look at our local churches and how we “do church.” We need to begin to question our local church governance and our how we center our lives and our mission on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The time of the social club church is at its end.

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Gospel Life LCMS

As California Burns, Lutherans Care

California is on fire.

Since mid-July, a group of complicated and ever-changing wildfires have destroyed the landscape and property in their paths, notably the Carr Fire in Shasta and Trinity counties and the Mendocino Complex Fire covering Colusa, Lake and Mendocino counties…

Several LCMS congregations have been affected directly by these fires. Trinity Lutheran Church and Early Learning Center in Redding, Calif., is only two miles from the flames of the Carr Fire.

Read more at LCMS Reporter: As California burns, Lutherans care

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Church Gospel Life LCMS New Hope

New Hope, Day One

No one at St. Matthew’s in New Milford, NJ has ever gone through the process of starting a new church. The challenges, the fears, the “where are we going to worship” questions have never been a part of the everyday Christian life of any of the congregants of our 123 year old church in northern New Milford.

A series of challenges over the past few years has opened the doors to the exciting opportunity of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lots of people simply by cutting away that which is holding us back, namely our fears and our building.

The fifty year old structure we call our spiritual home is in trouble. Well, it has been for a long time. We’ve put in thousands upon thousands of dollars to upgrade pieces of the building – a new roof, parking lot, handicap ramp, and the heating system, to name a few. But overwhelming problems are on the horizon – the electrical system needs to get up to code; our furnace is very old and even with the upgrades to the heating system, the furnace doesn’t have a lot of life left in her; the building really needs a cooling system because without it, our lights sometimes do not go on during the humid days of the summer; and the stucco on the outside of the building needs repair in numerous places. Oh, and that steeple leaking issue continues to vex us.

Financially, we are facing tough times. We’re a small congregation with limited financial resources. Not that small congregations are bad, but when financial issues come up, struggling with how to deal with them is a major challenge. With a building that is not attractive even with the bandages we’ve placed covering over our issues, the congregation has made the bold choice to bring the Gospel to people.

New Hope 3In early June, St. Matthew’s voted to sell our property in New Milford and move, to take up the mantle of bringing Jesus to His people, to partner with our LCMS friends to build a new St. Matthew’s and a new suburban ministry effort in Bergen County. A joyfully Lutheran ministry effort that shows and builds on the strengths of Jesus Christ. We want to bring to God’s people the hope of life centered on faith in Jesus, to be a people not worried about making mistakes, but seeking forgiveness from God and of one another. We want ministries that change lives for the better. And we want to build a community in different places that focuses on the hope that lives can get better and, by working with God, we can change them forever!

Essentially, we want to center our new church on the mission of bringing New Hope to people in our faith community now and those outside of it who need to hear the love of God in Jesus Christ.

As I was praying this afternoon after eating lunch, I don’t know if it was the Spirit or not but I had an urge to start this new church project. Why wait until the fall when people come back from summer vacation?

Why not kick off the New Hope project today?

There is plenty that needs to get done at St. Matthew’s in both the near and long term to make this project come to life. It starts now. We’ll need to hold lots of meetings with pastors and churches and church leaders and towns people. Inside St. Matthew’s, we need to discuss a lot of things about all of our “stuff” and what we’re going to do with all of it. We need to plan and most importantly, we need to pray.

We’re starting over.

It’s all about the New Hope found only in Jesus.

 

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Church Gospel Life LCMS

Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant

Some Lutheran pastors I know weren’t thrilled with the theology espoused by the Rev. Billy Graham, America’s pastor who was called to his eternal rest at age 99 this week. They viewed his preaching as being filled with ‘works righteousness,’ namely that faith in Jesus isn’t enough and one needs to “do something good” to earn salvation. It is the earning that riled them up.

I, too, wasn’t thrilled with Rev. Graham’s works’ centered theology.

But you can’t deny that there are a lot more Christians in America today because of Billy Graham. They may not receive the Lord’s Supper regularly or they may have been baptized in a pool instead of at a font, but in the end, they all believe that Jesus died for them. In the whole scheme of things labeled ‘eternal life,’ it is faith in Jesus that counts. And for that, we Lutherans should be grateful for all the work that Billy Graham did to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ around the world.

See, when Lutherans from the LCMS get to heaven, there are going to a lot of people there who weren’t followers of the church that bears Martin Luther’s name. We aren’t going to be subjected to a theology test at the pearly gates.There isn’t going to be a quiz about what is the true understanding of the Lord’s Supper or whether it is good to chant the Gospel on Sunday mornings. Believers in Jesus Christ are going to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Rev. Billy Graham was a good and faithful servant. May he rest in peace.

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LCMS

President Harrison’s October “Life Together” Video.

OK. That photo above is from the LCMS Youth Gathering. It may not be the most flattering photo of our Synodical President, but I think he’d like it because he is doing what he loves to do: Preach Christ crucified.

And below is his October report: