The Synod’s excellent definition of Christian stewardship is: “The free and joyous activity of the child of God and God’s family, the church, in managing all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes.” However, periodic reports of difficult fiscal issues make it evident that many of us do not understand God’s call to place Him first in our lives with all that we are and have.
The theology and practice of Christian stewardship must be taught on all age levels in our parishes, especially to the children, lest we have a stewardship-famished next generation. As one who has served on the Indiana District Stewardship Board and as the district’s stewardship counselor, I know that our districts strive to promote stewardship education. However, I also am aware that our seminaries are doing little to equip soon-to-be pastors to be affective stewardship leaders in their new assignments.
The pastorate is different from the business world, where a person is slowly elevated to a leadership position. The newly ordained man is immediately expected to be the leader of the congregation and have all the answers (even though he might not). Some may argue that stewardship is “layperson business.” But reality shows that the congregation that does not have a pastor who motivates his people, using the Gospel message, to freely and joyously manage all of life and life’s resources for God’s purposes will most probably languish in living out
the Christian faith. We must remember that as we have been saved by grace we also are God’s workmanship, created by Him in Christ Jesus to do good works (Eph. 2:8-10).
Our Synod has the resource to equip seminarians and present pastors to teach the people of God the Christian use of time, talent, and treasure. The Congregational Stewardship Workbook, published in 2000 and available from CPH, is a treasury of knowledge and practical procedures. Its 28 booklets cover stewardship areas of theology and motivation, committee work, education, finances, and other resources. Four booklets deal with the role of the pastor. Why not specify one unit of the seminary curriculum to train future pastors themselves to live whole-life, year-round Christian stewardship so that with joy they can convey the same to their future parishioners? It would be an important and fruitful beginning in assuaging our fiscal woes.
Rev. Luther Strasen
Fort Wayne, Ind.
Is more better?
As the saying goes, “More is better.” The December Reporter had letters that agreed that more is better regarding communion services. I agree, provided that preparation be increased.
Not long ago, communicants and the pastor-shepherd came to church 30 minutes earlier. The confessional service provided discipline, depth, intensity, and responsibility. The seminaries gave homiletical helps. There was less communion but a richer preparation. How do I manage some of this omission?
Now we have more communion, less preparation and discipline. These former bonds are forever lost. Since this system has gone by the wayside, I have a reflex when preaching and there is communion. I press the text of my sermon in such a way that the communicant at the rail will connect with what just came from the pulpit and what he takes with his mouth a few steps away. This helps me to carry out my responsibility and give fuller freight, both sacramentally and pastorally.
Over time, my people have a more informed faith. Combining pulpit and altar, they will better comprehend the “and” between pulpit and altar.
Now and then I will confront them and ask, “Now, how does this text have connection with what you intend to receive at this altar?” Then I read the text once more and show a connection.
The first communion was three years in preparation. From the very table, Jesus showed one of them the door. More is better in some ways. Not always!
Rev. F.A. Hertwig
Growing up with an uncle who became Church of Christ and whose church had communion every Sunday put me ill at ease when discussing our differences. They communed to follow New Testament examples but rejected the grace it affords.
When our congregation called a new minister some 30 years ago, I was honored to be on the search committee. I asked the pastor-to-be, to whom the Lord led us, two questions: “Do you believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, and how would you feel about communion at each service?” He affirmed both.
As I have grown older, and particularly when problems lie heavy on my heart, the climax of the service even more rests in that simple gift of God’s grace, the Sacrament of the Altar. Worship without it seems incomplete.
Dr. Hubert L. Dellinger Jr.
In regard to the next “model theological conference” (Reporter, Jan. ’05), which is to address “the relationship between the pastoral office and the priesthood of all believers”: I always thought this was pretty clear. The congregation calls me to serve them, to teach and help them in their ministry, with Scripture as my authority.
Rev. Bill Reinhardt
Burr Ridge, Ill.
The bigger picture
As I have read Reporter and heard church leaders discuss the decline in membership, I have found that very few people see the bigger picture.
First, why has no one noticed that the LCMS is not alone in this struggle? In the past 10 years, Protestant numbers have shrunk by 20 million while the general population has grown by 30 million. Some mainline Protestants (e.g., United Church of Christ) are down by 15 percent in the last 10 years; the United Methodists are down to just two-thirds of their 1965 high. By comparison, the LCMS’ 10 percent decline over four decades almost seems respectable, especially when some of that loss was due to a split. We are about on par with the Southern Baptists, who despite their claims are actually declining slightly.
Only the Roman Catholic Church and the Pentecostals are growing. But the former is growing by only 1 million a year — far below the number of Catholic immigrants and new births — and the latter is not growing nearly as explosively as in the past. If we were wise, we might ask what is going on in American Christendom as a whole that precipitates our current stagnation.
Second, why does no one appreciate that church growt