The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Parting insights

Future holds concerns, promise

Editor’s note: Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson requested that Lowell G. Almen, secretary of the ELCA for the past 20 years, write this month’s column. Almen retires Oct. 31.

People of the church, when spiritually healthy, stand on their tiptoes gazing toward the horizon. Together, they anticipate God’s future. They do so in confidence—the confidence established by God’s promises and embraced in the witness of the faithful throughout the ages.

By contrast, when people of the church allow their vision to narrow and their focus to be diverted by issues, however significant or minor, they miss the bigger picture. They lose their sense of the communion of saints in heaven and on earth. They grow vulnerable to squabbles that sap energy and disagreements that threaten their full engagement in God’s mission.

Will your congregation and will the whole ELCA show in the years ahead spiritual health with constructive focus on God’s mission in the world? I hope so. But I do have concerns.

• How deep will be the commitment of members and congregations to the work that we share together through this church? Surveys show a substantial majority of the people in the pews have no awareness of mission endeavors beyond their congregation. I contrast that with the experience of the congregation in which I grew up. Scarcely a Sunday passed without the pastor reminding the congregation of some aspect of the church body’s global or domestic efforts for the sake of the gospel.

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