Facing Grim Realities with Resurrection Hope

As we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus in this season of Easter, we are reminded once again of God’s power to bring the dead to new life! And God is alive! “Christ is Risen!” we declare with all enthusiasm and confident faith. This is Good News! I believe, trust, and celebrate it! But the troubling question I often struggle with in the face of the resurrection reality is why so many churches look closer to death rather than reflecting new life in Christ?
 
Across protestant denominations in the United States in the past two decades, 2 to 3 percent of congregations close their doors for good in any given year. If anything, this trend has likely accelerated due to the pandemic. Here in LCMC Texas, we have seen four churches hold their final worship services in my seven years in this position. Across LCMC a 2-3% closure rate would equal approximately 20 congregations annually that cease to exist. This reality may be masked as our total number of congregations slowly increase due to churches joining from other denominations and new churches being planted to numerically overcome these losses.
 
About a year ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Years of struggling with weight and healthy physical habits have resulted in this present reality for me. Like the church, the statistics for diabetics are not great. I was referred to a doctor who has helped me to confront the reality of my unhealth yet did not leave me without hope. Instead, he pointed me in the direction of some lifestyle changes that, if I make them a priority, will greatly increase the likelihood that I live a full and healthy life.
 
Is there any hope for dying congregations? Yes! The answer is congregational revitalization. Missiologists define a congregation in dire need of revitalization as one that faces closure in the next five years. Statistically speaking, 10 to 15% of congregations will close in the next five years, which means this is not merely hypothetical! But it does not have to be this way for your congregation. There is hope for churches with leaders who are willing to confront the reality of their congregational unhealth. Churches can be pointed in the direction of making lifestyle changes that, if they become a priority, can greatly increase the likelihood that the congregation will remain healthy and vital for generations to come!
 
Much like the changes that I need to make to improve my health are challenging, the journey of congregational revitalization is never easy. It does, however, need to be a priority for congregations that are unwell. The Good News is that God desires to breathe new life into our churches and you are never alone! Christ promises his presence with you! And as an association of congregations devoted to the mission of Christ, we are here to help. If you find your church to be unwell and in need of revitalization, I pray that you have the courage to start the conversation today!


Facing Grim Realities with Resurrection Hope

As we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus in this season of Easter, we are reminded once again of God’s power to bring the dead to new life! And God is alive! “Christ is Risen!” we declare with all enthusiasm and confident faith. This is Good News! I believe, trust, and celebrate it! But the troubling question I often struggle with in the face of the resurrection reality is why so many churches look closer to death rather than reflecting new life in Christ?
Across protestant denominations in the United States in the past two decades, 2 to 3 percent of congregations close their doors for good in any given year. If anything, this trend has likely accelerated due to the pandemic. Here in LCMC Texas, we have seen four churches hold their final worship services in my seven years in this position. Across LCMC a 2-3% closure rate would equal approximately 20 congregations annually that cease to exist. This reality may be masked as our total number of congregations slowly increase due to churches joining from other denominations and new churches being planted to numerically overcome these losses.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Years of struggling with weight and healthy physical habits have resulted in this present reality for me. Like the church, the statistics for diabetics are not great. I was referred to a doctor who has helped me to confront the reality of my unhealth yet did not leave me without hope. Instead, he pointed me in the direction of some lifestyle changes that, if I make them a priority, will greatly increase the likelihood that I live a full and healthy life.
Is there any hope for dying congregations? Yes! The answer is congregational revitalization. Missiologists define a congregation in dire need of revitalization as one that faces closure in the next five years. Statistically speaking, 10 to 15% of congregations will close in the next five years, which means this is not merely hypothetical! But it does not have to be this way for your congregation. There is hope for churches with leaders who are willing to confront the reality of their congregational unhealth. Churches can be pointed in the direction of making lifestyle changes that, if they become a priority, can greatly increase the likelihood that the congregation will remain healthy and vital for generations to come!
Much like the changes that I need to make to improve my health are challenging, the journey of congregational revitalization is never easy. It does, however, need to be a priority for congregations that are unwell. The Good News is that God desires to breathe new life into our churches and you are never alone! Christ promises his presence with you! And as an association of congregations devoted to the mission of Christ, we are here to help. If you find your church to be unwell and in need of revitalization, I pray that you have the courage to start the conversation today!


Facing Grim Realities with Resurrection Hope

As we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus in this season of Easter, we are reminded once again of God’s power to bring the dead to new life! And God is alive! “Christ is Risen!” we declare with all enthusiasm and confident faith. This is Good News! I believe, trust, and celebrate it! But the troubling question I often struggle with in the face of the resurrection reality is why so many churches look closer to death rather than reflecting new life in Christ?
 
Across protestant denominations in the United States in the past two decades, 2 to 3 percent of congregations close their doors for good in any given year. If anything, this trend has likely accelerated due to the pandemic. Here in LCMC Texas, we have seen four churches hold their final worship services in my seven years in this position. Across LCMC a 2-3% closure rate would equal approximately 20 congregations annually that cease to exist. This reality may be masked as our total number of congregations slowly increase due to churches joining from other denominations and new churches being planted to numerically overcome these losses.


And Who is My Neighbor?

“Then an expert in the law stood up to test him, saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘What is written in the law?’ he asked him. ‘How do you read it?’ He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’ ‘You’ve answered correctly,’ he told him. ‘Do this and you will live.’ But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’” – Luke 10:25-29
 
If you’ve spent much time at all in the church, chances are high you are quite familiar with this text. This conversation between a lawyer and Jesus serves as the introduction to what is perhaps Jesus’ most infamous parable: The Good Read more…


Accepting the Savior’s Invitation

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
 
I recently returned to my day-to-day duties after 2 months off on sabbatical. This was my first sabbatical in my 20 years of ordained ministry and a much-needed rest. I am forever grateful to the District for providing this season of rest and renewal. I knew I needed a sabbatical… but I needed it more than I knew!


Where Do Pastors Come From?

Note: This guest post is by David Mayer. David is the interim pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Seguin, Texas, and teaches New Testament for Harvest Workers.
 
Every year there are more pastors retiring. So, where do new pastors come from? Where are the gardens in which future pastoral candidates are grown? Apart from one candidate who I helped nurture and mentor, I admit that I have acted as if pastors “just keep coming,” as if there were an automatic stream of people eagerly filling the ranks left empty by retiring pastors. Is this how congregations think? Is this how pastors join the ranks, always from somewhere else, but never from any place in particular?


Reflecting on Advent & Christmas

Note: This guest post is by Kari Malinak. Kari serves as the Associate Pastor of Living Word Lutheran Church in Grapevine. Kari was elected to the District Council in 2020.

Happy New Year! Well, as I write this, happy new liturgical year! With Advent, the Christian Church begins a new cycle of seasons and liturgy. Advent is a special season filled with hopeful anticipation, expectation, and joy knowing the celebration of Christ’s birth is only a handful of weeks away. Advent is also a penitential season in which we reflect on the need of God entering this sinful world and our own sinful nature. In our modern world, though, we can lose the meaning in a hectic holiday season. So, writing this now, I hope we can appreciate Advent and Christmas in a calmer time.

Read more…



Sabbatical Time

This article is going to be a little different than most. This month I share from my hurting—yet hopeful—heart as I look forward to what I think may be one of the most significant seasons of my life and ministry. In case you have not yet heard, I am extremely honored to be able to take a sabbatical for the first time in this my 20th year of ordained ministry and 7th year of ministry here in LCMC Texas. I will be taking two months of sabbatical and two weeks of vacation time and will be totally unplugged from my job responsibilities from November 1 through January 15.
 


Teamwork

Last month the world watched as the greatest athletes of our time assembled in Tokyo to compete and display their incredible athleticism and unique abilities. It is more than entertaining; it’s awe-inspiring. As remarkable as the individuals themselves may be, I always find myself drawn most to the team sports. The goal of the athletes competing in team sports is a little different than those in the individual sports. In a team sport, all parts of the team need to function in harmony as individuals partner with one another so well that they can almost begin to function as one. This is most awe-inspiring part of the Olympics for me.
 
In faith life, I similarly spectate how disciples of Jesus live out their faith on a daily basis. I am amazed by the incredible dedication and faithfulness that individuals demonstrate in living out their personal callings and I treasure these examples of the Holy Spirit active in the lives of God’s people! And yet what I find myself most drawn to are the examples of Christians in community that unite together around common goals and work in harmony to function as one.
 


Why Can’t Life Be Easy?

Why does life seem to be so hard? It is one of the age-old questions that can challenge our faith in God as the all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful deity that we profess him to be. Why do humans experience hardship, suffering, sickness, and persecution? How can God allow these terrible circumstances to befall anyone, let alone his faithful children?
 
In the Church, we are quick to place blame squarely on sin, and rightly so. For we live in a broken world where sin and evil cause chaos, confusion, and so much pain. But why does the God who loves us and holds the power to end our hardship and misery allow it to persist?