Share your stories of a congregation’s death bringing life to others or of the death of something in your congregation leading to new life. Send 300 words or less by Nov. 28 by email or to Sonia C. Solomonson, The Lutheran, 8765 W. Higgins Rd., Chicago, IL 60631.
For Christians, salvation is a matter of life and death. Or, as Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde put it in the subtitle of one of his books, A Matter of Death and Life. Why, then, should Lutherans be squeamish about death-and-renewal cycles playing out in their lives, their congregations or the Christian church?
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There is little debate that times are challenging for Lutherans throughout North America when it comes to reaching out and engaging people with the gospel. From 2002 to 2007, for example, about 6 percent of ELCA congregations grew 5 percent or more in worship attendance. At the same time, 60 percent of ELCA congregations lost 5 percent or more in worship attendance.
In the past, smaller and medium-sized congregations were most likely to decline. But from 2002 to 2007, as a group, the 90 congregations in the ELCA with 801 or more in worship saw their attendance decline by 6.5 percent. Nearly all of these large churches have contemporary worship services, a moderate to conservative theological perspective and a host of programs designed to appeal to those who expect congregations to meet their needs.
Living with these trends can be daunting. But those of us who believe Lutherans have so much to offer continue to be hopeful. Perhaps one day many more ELCA members will shake loose their inhibitions and give voice to the gospel.
Martin Luther was clear about this: “See, this is what it means to have a proper grasp of the gospel, that is, of the overwhelming goodness of God, which neither prophet, nor apostle, nor angel was ever able fully to express, and which no heart could adequately fathom or marvel at. This is the great fire of the love of God for us, whereby the heart and conscience become happy, secure, and content. This is what preaching the Christian faith means.”
This gospel is exactly what North America needs and now is the time for Lutherans to speak up loudly and clearly.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers