The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Ambience is more than pillows

Our congregation's welcome rests in the theology of the cross

An intern pastor asked me if I thought his home congregation held as many people with stories of such profound brokenness as does ours. Not knowing the other congregation, I couldn't make any comparisons. But I told our intern that those who serve in pastoral roles are in a unique position to learn people's stories. And our congregation is good at attracting people whose lives have had their fair share of messiness.

Becoming aware of the overwhelming brokenness in our community is something that happened along the way. It developed as we worked hard to create an environment in which the truth about our lives could be told.

designpicsHave you ever been part of a committee charged with outreach or evangelism? Often when we congregational leaders talk about reaching out beyond the walls of our buildings, we immediately jump to possible events and programs. That's unfortunate, as this can overshadow the need for deeper dialogue about the ambience of a community of faith.

Unlike shows on the Home and Garden Television network, congregational ambience isn't about candles and throw pillows — something to be planned, programmed or measured in a verifiable kind of way. Yet it is real. Newcomers sense a congregation's ambience when they gather with the community. They sense an ambience marked by anxiety and control, as much as they sense an ambience of freedom and joy. What visitors sense and experience helps determine whether they want to return.

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February issue


Embracing diversity