The following are some questions, thoughts, and observations I have had recently concerning life in the Church. They are mostly random, some related, some rhetorical, but all pertinent to our present circumstances. Permit me to ramble…
1. Conventions/Conferences cost exhorbitant amounts of money that could be used in the mission field, given to the seminaries, or any other worthwhile endeavors. Why do our District Conventions have to be held at major convention halls? Does anyone know what it costs to put on a convention at, for example, Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield, IL? I have no idea. But it cannot be cheap. Why not hold the convention at a high school gymnasium at one of our Lutheran schools, and have one of the local restaurants cater the meal? Why do we have to do everything like the corporate world?
2. Discussions about whether or not to stay in the Synod or to leave the Synod always seem to get squelched by the die-hard Missourians. “I’ll never leave this Synod!” you hear them say. What else is the Synod but a group of churches that are in pulpit and altar fellowship with one another. To stay in the Synod is to remain in fellowship with pastors many of whom are of a completely different spirit. How can light have fellowship with darkness? Mark those who cause divisions and avoid them. Thus saith the Scriptures. What are we holding onto by staying in the Missouri Synod? A pension check? A health insurance plan? What is the point? I don’t get it. I’m honestly not anywhere close to leaving the Synod at this point, but I am becoming more and more sympathetic to those who have left and those who are planning to become independent (not for some other church body like Eastern Orthodoxy or Rome). Seriously, our churches receive nothing from the Synod. We are not dependent on it. Our churches could easily become independent. Now, that might mean that some pastors would have to bite the bullet and stay at their congregations for longer than 4 years, since there may not be calls available. And in some cases that might mean having to work an extra job. It would be a heavy and burdensome cross to bear, but at least we would not be in fellowship with those who use heterodox worship materials, who participate in public worship services with non-Christian and heterdox clergy, and who think there is no theological necessity for a called and ordained man to preside at the altar and celebrate Holy Communion. We are supposed to be faithful and not count the cost. “He who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of heaven.”
Having said that, do I think there is such thing as a *perfect* church here on earth? No. That is not the point. Luther was a realist too, and did not for that reason desire to start a church within the church (ecclesiola in ecclesiam) like the Pietists did. The true church, though it is mixed with hypocrites and unbelievers, is nevertheless true because it possesses the notae purae: the pure Gospel and the right administration of the Sacraments. So when I say there is no perfect church on earth, I mean that there is no church in which every member is free from error or in which there are no hypocrites or unbelievers. Luther taught that the true church existed where the teaching was pure and unadulterated. I cannot think of any theological reason why a pastor or congregation is obligated to remain in the Missouri Synod. Before the Missouri Synod became “incorporated” there were individual congregations and pastors who served them. The Missouri Synod was formed in part because these pastors and congregations felt that they could carry out the work of the Gospel more effectively together than they could independently of one another. Is that still the case today?
3. Missions and Circuits: Over the last few years, we have had to call back several foreign missionaries. This is decried by the same people whose salaries near the triple digits. What gives? In our own district, it was suggested that we downsize our staff by one ordained position and use the money (some $82-90,000) towards a mission. It failed, but I was in support of it. Why do we have full time district and synodical staff at all? Why couldn’t most of these jobs be cut, and the rest be done part time by parish pastors and church workers? Here is my suggestion: have each circuit pool all its mission dollars from each congregation and support a missionary/mission. One of the congregations could call a pastor as Assistant pastor and missionary to the people in Ghana, West Africa (for example). How many circuits do we have in the C.I.D. alone? Imagine how far reaching our mission dollars could go if we worked things this way.
Okay, I’m finished for now.