LCMS Then and Now

A certain weekly landed in my inbox today, with the annual statistics about number of pastors who aren’t serving congregations. (The point being, that we are far more bureaucratic today than we were in years past – one point on which I agree with this publication.) It featured a picture of the cover from 1964, and the current cover. The cover from 1964 had a picture of a chancel. It looks like it would have been a fairly new building in 1964 – bereft of any significant artwork, and basically boring. The altar has a bible on it, but is not set up for the Sacrament. The cross is missing a corpus. The sanctuary (properly speaking, not simply a generic reference to the entire ‘worship space’) has stone floors, but the rest of the chancel is carpeted with an amusing blue. In contrast the current LA cover has a vine and branches with a quote from psalm 119 and a picture of the Lutheran Study Bible. The color scheme and artwork were obviously produced by an accomplished Graphic designer. It looks very nice.
I much prefer the cover from 1964. Why? Because, it is of a parish, somewhere. (Or of a movie set from a parish, I can’t be sure – there is no one either preaching or listening. But it is of a parish.) The current cover honors Concordia Publishing House. Last year I believe it was the hymnal. Before that the LLL, or seminaries, or LWML, or World Mission, or … (You get the idea).
You see, you don’t need to go through the annual and count people to discover that we are far more structural and bureaucratic that ever before. It turns out, you can tell a book by it’s cover. In 1964, the annual was about congregations. The LCMS was about serving them. Now, the annual is about the LCMS. The LCMS is about the LCMS.
The restructuring proposals are so we can “save the LCMS.” When someone asked if there would be any changes to congregational life if the proposals didn’t pass, it was admitted that there would not be. Our POTS added that there would be “deep, deep cuts” if they didn’t pass. But, if these “Deep, deep cuts” don’t affect the congregational life of the synod – which is what the synod was supposed to be about – then why not simply make them? Why were they not made years ago, and the money redirected into useful efforts? So what if the International Center is a ghost town. I don’t care. I live in Wyoming, which has more ghost towns than real ones. The ones that still exist have a function. The Ghost towns outlived their usefulness. The people went where there was something to live for. Maybe the increasingly deserted LMCS IC should tell us something.
Ultimately, the question that should be asked before ANYTHING EVER is done is this : What purpose does this serve in the kingdom of God? If you can’t come up with one that actually affects congregations, people, or anything outside of the office building in which you work, then don’t do it, hire it, or keep funding it.
Does it really help our work for God’s kingdom to have professors that are not even Lutheran in our Colleges? Do the schools exist for outreach to the professors? Then what purpose do the students serve? After all, if Lutherans are a minority on campus (and LCMS Lutherans an even smaller minority) and the professors are a majority non-Lutheran, then why bother? We have created a secular school (and probably not a very good one) with a religion department. THIS should get our time, attention, and money?
Good stewardship isn’t just about raising money. Sometimes it’s about not spending it.

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