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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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What about the ELCA?

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.


Comments

Larry

Larry

Posted at 12:29 pm (U.S. Eastern) 10/28/2008

I agree completely!  Part of what I do as a retired layperson is to engage and coach congregations following the Natural Church Development process.  The statistical facts mentioned in this piece beg for some pretty extensive soul searching and discussion.  I want to hear a lot more about this.

Chris

Chris

Posted at 11:51 am (U.S. Eastern) 10/29/2008

As a former council member who had to assist with the closing of our old congregation, I strongly agree that times are challenging.  I very strongly support the call to center our work in the Gospel.  It is all about mission and proclaiming God's Word.  When we focus on keeping the doors open, we lose sight of that mission and our way grows confused.  Each of us needs to keep that Gospel message in our hearts and be willing to sharing in any way possible, from a smile and a nod at someone who may need it, to sitting down and talking about faith issues with someone.  As Luther phrased it, we are "to be as Christ to our neighbors."



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