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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Inactive members

What do we do with them?

For 10 years, David Lintvedt wouldn't go near a church unless he "absolutely" had to for a funeral, baptism or wedding.

His hiatus from church began after he was confirmed in 1978. Prior to that, the lifelong Lutheran was "forced to go," he said. "I felt like it was an obligation. I found the services to be very boring and dry. The sermons were long — I really didn't want to hear what the pastor had to say."

And while Lintvedt found freedom to do what he wanted on Sunday mornings, he felt emptiness in his life. He eventually turned to drinking and drugs. "There was a reason why I drank so much," he said. "I was seeking something — something greater than myself. But I didn't think I would find it at church."

michael d. watsonA turning point occurred in the late 1980s when Lintvedt attended a family baptism at Trinity Lutheran Church, Staten Island, N.Y. — at a time when he also had been trying to control his drinking. There he heard a sermon by Thomas F. Mugavero, now a retired ELCA pastor.

"His preaching really got to me," Lintvedt said. "It struck me — he talked about how God loves us no matter what. That God has an open arm and welcomes all of us back. How God remains with us, even if we don't always realize it ... how Christ walks beside us wherever we go."

In addition, members made a special effort to warmly greet Lintvedt and invite him back. "I felt like I was at home," he said.

Lintvedt eventually did return to Trinity. Soon after joining, he became an usher and lector. Eventually he became involved in the council and volunteered for the congregation's soup kitchen ministry.


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