The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Report on the 2006 ELCA congregational survey

Research and Evaluation
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
September 14, 2007

In July of 2006, Research and Evaluation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) fielded a questionnaire to 1000 ELCA congregations. Six hundred seventy-nine questionnaires were returned for a response rate of 68 percent. The questionnaire was designed to gather information about ELCA congregations and the pastors who serve them. The same questionnaire was also fielded to an additional 184 ELCA congregations who are members of the Willow Creek Association. We chose to focus on these congregations because their interest in the Willow Creek Association suggests that they are intentional about church growth. We wanted to know if these ELCA congregations differ from other ELCA congregations and we wanted to know if the differences produce growth. One hundred forty-three of these congregations returned questionnaires for a response rate of 78 percent.

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Posted at 2:52 am (U.S. Eastern) 11/9/2008

It is interesting that a commentary entered here.  I will just mention what I experienced within my home town church after studying theology at St. Olaf college.  I think that some people came to our church to ask questions and like others I mentioned the things which I liked about my own church.  I will say that prior to returning I also found Rick Warren's book to be an ok read. He didn't seem the traditional southern baptist. Yet..

First, I had at the point of departure from and undergrad considered going on to Seminary but was also seeking some form of relatable employment.  I returned back to my hometown church under unpleasant situations after being away for a good 8+ years aside from special occations.  It was also around the time or shortly after all of the iraq situation. 

At Olaf I ended up picking up the book rapture exposed by Barbara Rossing as well as American destiny and the calling o the church by Paul Wee and found both of these books to align with my situation.  One of my good friends from college was Evangelical and perhaps on this issue of this war and US nationalism that we started holding different views.  I then entered a "non-denominational" bible study which was led by a great man but filled with "the faith of George Bush" discussions of people seeing israel as surrounded by demons and so forth and so on. 

Returning to my hometown congregation that was Willow Creek and Willow Creek was not what I had any real previous knowedge of. 

Some of the differences that I noted were first of all people seemed oblivious to what was in the Lutheran and I found a bit of joy or excitement in finding some off the very books I picked up being mentioned.   There seemed to be allot of evangelical materials laying around.  It also seemed to have many things which seemed much more baptist or had more of the baptist college feel to it than st olaf.

I did then receive a stevens minister for my personal situation and I will say that part of my past experience had been hearing all of the "you probably don't support the war." etc etc.  But he stood in the typical israeli bias and pretty much did not like anything of the "political heads" of the ELCA.

I described to another pastor on this and other things what seemed to be allot of enthusiasm but not allot of directive.  To put it as well what seemed to correlate with the last reading suggestion by a professor HR Niebuhr's christ and culture. It seemed to relate to the christ of culture category. 

I have read allot on the matter since this time and might be categorizing one particular church.  GA prichard might be best. However,  I can't say that I always like what the senior pastor says. ie..

"the day of the deep thinking pastor is gone and the day of the evangelist is here"  "What lutherans do evangelicals quote.." They won't understand theology.  Etc etc..

I think that he is accustomed to allot of criticism from other lutheran pastors and I hear how they are very judgemental and arrogant from him.  Of course I was coming more from the perspective of entering and well...everything seemed very critical of the ELCA or what I learned in college first...

I have read as well his views upon ELCA divisions and picked up a book on lutheran identity in the 21st century where walter sundberg describes "conflicting movements competing."  I think that this rather than tensions might be a description.  But in the divisions my church will see evangelical catholics and peace and justice as two groups with power in the ELCA while pieitists and church growth are at tension wishing more individual congregational control.

Within the church growth category I also would note North Heights lutheran which is not ELCA and seemes to stand at difference with another "Evangelical" church in St. Paul led by Greg Boyd.  I have to think of Bonhoefer in relation to the later two groups as well as luthers initial ideas towards Carlestadt. 

I could go on and on as I have looked into this much.  But it does me little and I am unable to do little with any knowledge gained.

Basially, I would consider it its own denomination. I also tend to think that a bit of work with our ELCA peace not walls campaign and other issues of social justice would help to bring more people in the churches more than any recent fad.

I am obviously very cynical.  I would be tempted to contact Bishop Hanson in my own experience and just say "cut them" and let them be their own denomination.  This seems to be what they are doing anyway as there is little conversation with synods or bishops.

I am not happy with my lutheran church that went willow creek

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Posted at 3:06 pm (U.S. Eastern) 11/10/2008

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