Partners in Ministry,
received a phone call asking me to do the funeral of a young
man, whom I will call Bill, who was a member, albeit inactive,
of one of our congregations. As I walked into the funeral
home I was briefly introduced to the family and we chatted a
bit. I then moved to the casket and was approached by one of
the loved ones and informed in a rather formal, yet a casual and
matter of fact way, that Bill was really just a “lazy”
Lutheran. And I could not help smiling at the concept.
Go figure, a
“lazy Lutheran”. What a great topic for an upcoming newsletter
concept rattled around in my brain for weeks and believe me that
is a lot of rattling. After all, in those rare moments when we
are honest with ourselves, we might all classify ourselves as
"lazy Lutherans" who, at times, could and should do more for the
Christ who saves us. And so I had a real pulpit pounder in
mind for this article. I was going to point to our failings and
our lack of commitment, including our willingness to sit back
and let others do for us rather than go the extra mile of being
servants of others for Christ’s sake. Then I was going to talk
about our sinful natures and hard hearts thereby establishing
our need for forgiveness. I would tie it all together by
stressing our need for a Savior! That’s what I was going
to write on the theme of “Lazy Lutherans”!
And then along
came Ben Roethlisberger who, following the AFC championship win
on Sunday, said something important in response to the news
reporters’ attempts to fault individual players for the second
half’s near meltdown. Ben simply said, “We are a team. We win
as a team and we lose as a team.”
What a reality
check to challenge my perspective. His words forced me to
rethink the focus of my whole article. After all Jesus did
not usher in the kingdom of God all by himself. He picked a team
to help him.
As I was mulling
all this over I came across an annual report of what one might
consider an ideal congregation in our synod. You know the kind
of congregation I am talking about: one of those “healthy”
suburban congregations from which many a pastor would like to
receive a call. So I started looking through the proceedings
book of our last Synod assembly. What I discovered astonished
me. We, like so many other small congregations like ours,
have so much to celebrate. In reviewing the most recent 2010
Proceedings Book, I was unable to find one congregation out
there that is healthier as a whole than our PLUM congregations.
As individual members we financially give more for ministry, in
most cases over 25% to 30% per capita more than the larger
congregations; our seven small congregations give over $650,000
in total receipts (divide that by our average joint weekly
attendance of 286). We have over 75 people in leadership and
servant roles on our congregation councils not to mention the
many others that work so diligently to make our ministry
happen. We have 7 individual mission fields, helping people in
times of crisis and need in those communities in which our
churches are located. In 2010 alone we had 26 people join our
congregations through Baptism and the Affirmation of Baptism.
We have an intern who is going to help build the Church of the
future. We have 11 youth preparing for Confirmation in 2011.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg because we are sowing
seeds for future harvests. We are healthier, as good stewards
and evangelists, as we continue to stand and provide fortresses
of strength and hope in the midst of the communities we serve.
And, most importantly, we are part of a team of pastors and lay
people who are committed to helping each other be the best we
Are there times
we get overwhelmed and become “lazy Lutherans”? Did the
Steelers get “lazy” and lose their focus in the second half of
Sunday’s game? Of course. The difference for us is that we are
people of the promise - Christ’s promise, “‘All
authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in
the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew
28:18b – 20)
It is because of
this promise that we can be the church and thrive where He has
planted us. I cannot explain how God has called us together but
I do know why; the harvest is plentiful and the laborers may be
few but God has great things planned for us as, together, we
work to build His Church for the future in our neighborhoods.
We, as your
pastors and staff, find it an honor and blessing to serve with
you as together we walk in faith serving our Lord.
May each of you
know the Peace of Christ as together we begin a New Year.
Beth, Paul, and Vicar Melba