Letters to the Editor (February)

Thrivent Builds in Poland

I am a Thrivent Financial for Lutherans employee at the Operations Center in Appleton. Thank you for the article on Thrivent Builds with Habitat for Humanity in the January Reporter.

My husband, Chuck, and I will be leading our second Thrivent Builds Worldwide (TBW) trip to Poland, Aug. 21-31, and are looking for a few more volunteers to join our team there. We will work with Polish Habitat families, get to know them and their culture, and share their stories and hopes as we help their dreams of a decent home come true.

To volunteer, no building experience or language skills are necessary. Anyone can apply, regardless of Thrivent Financial member status.

Cost of the trip is about $1,440, plus roundtrip airfare to Krakow, with discounts available to Thrivent Financial benefit members.

For more details and an application, contact me at terri.gafford@ thrivent.com, or call (920) 628-4180.

Thank you for helping slam the door on substandard housing.

Terri Gafford
Appleton, Wis.

Pastor-shortage concerns

In Martin Barlau’s January letter regarding pastor-shortage concerns, he wrote, “… when a newly ordained pastor takes office in a congregation of fewer than 100 worshipers, is he really doing more than a good lay minister could do?”

He most certainly is!  He is remaining faithful to the Scriptures and our Confessions, specifically Article XIV and Matt. 16:13-19, 18:17-20, 28:18-20; John 20:22-23; Acts 6:6, 20:28; 1 Cor. 4:1, 14:40; 2 Cor. 2:17; Eph. 4:11, 14; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Timothy 3, 4:14, 5:17; Titus 1; Heb. 13:17; 1 Peter 4:11, 5:1-4; and 1 John 4:1.

The argument seems to be made more and more these days that we really don’t need ordained clergy to serve many of our congregations.  Rather, we should have more laymen serve small, vacant, and/or mission congregations because of the shortage of pastors and/or funds. 

The great concern is keeping false doctrine from being taught, believed, and practiced.  God’s Church, regardless of size, deserves the highest and best preparation that we are providing in our seminaries.

Rev. Randall Wehmeyer
San Angelo, Texas

I was amused to learn from Martin Barlau, via his letter to the editor last month, that as a newly ordained pastor of a congregation with a mere 100 members, I’m “not doing [anything] more than a good lay minister could do.” 

Mr. Barlau seems to indicate that the Divine Call to a congregation of this size or smaller is a waste of the “fine preparation we are providing in our seminaries.” 

There are two major flaws with his conceptualization of the office of the ministry. 

To use my own example: I serve a smaller congregation because this is where God has called me to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins and to administer His sacraments (Augsburg Confession V and XIV).  

Second, in publicly preaching and administering the sacraments, I am indeed doing something a layperson has not been given the authority to do (AC XIV), no matter how “good” or “talented” he may be.

A final problem with Mr. Barlau’s letter is its inherent disregard for the sacrifices so many have made to answer Christ’s call to the pastoral office.  I believed that uprooting my young family to attend seminary for four years was a worthwhile sacrifice for the sake of ensuring that God’s people would get the best pastor I could possibly be.   

I’m sure Mr. Barlau did not intend to write something offensive to new pastors and degrading to the office of the ministry, and he does offer some very insightful thoughts concerning mission congregations and how they will be served in the future.  However, his understanding of the pastoral office, … if ever officially adopted by our Synod, would greatly harm the Church.

Rev. Brian Stark
Defiance, Ohio

Covenant Congregations

Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab’s quote in the January Reporter is disturbing: “The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has seen its membership decline ‘because we are not taking the ministry of church planting seriously,’ according to Mengsteab.” 

The Scripture is clear that it is our Lord who builds His Church (Matt. 16:18); this is not the work of man. Growth in the Church comes only by the Holy Spirit, not through the seriousness, or lack of it, regarding church planting in the members of the LCMS.  As we confess, “through the Word and the Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is given, and the Holy Spirit produces faith, where and when it pleases God, in those who hear the Gospel” (Augsburg Confession V).    

Rev. Benjamin Ball
LaGrange Park, Ill.

Rev. Mengsteab’s statement that the decline in the LCMS’s membership is attributable to the fact that “we are not taking the ministry of church planting seriously” is nothing if not bold.

I would be very interested in seeing the data and arguments that rule out any of the following as factors greater than the one he mentions: a declining birthrate among us (that is, a reluctance to view children as a blessing), the shrinking of rural America, failure to retain confirmands, dissatisfaction among the people regarding our faithfulness to our confession, or simply God’s will, since it is He Who works through the Word and Sacraments only “when and where he pleases.”

Can’t we find a way to motivate ourselves to carry out missionary work that does not rest on laying a trumped-up guilt trip upon the people?

Rev. H.R. Curtis
Worden, Ill.
 

Concerning points raised by Rev. Ball and Rev. Curtis in their letters, Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab responded to Reporter with the comments that follow. — Ed.

I totally agree that it is God who builds His church and that only the Holy Spirit converts people through Word and Sacraments.  I disagree with the statement that the decline of our churches and people not coming to faith might be God’s will. God’s salvation is universal. “He wants no one to be lost but rather that everyone repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Epitome, Article XI: Election). 

Moreover, God entrusts the proclamation of His Word and the preaching of the Law and the Gospel to us so that people may hear the Gospel and come to faith through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; John 20:21).

It is true that rural America has been declining and so have our congregations, but the percentage of unchurched rural people continues to grow even faster than in the general population.  The population also continues to gr

Reporter Online is the Web version of Reporter, the official newspaper of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Content is prepared by LCMS Communications.

Comments are closed.
LCMS News & Information