The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) has what the world needs. Jesus has given us, as His blood-bought Church, all we need through His Word and Sacraments.
We are the baptized, the forgiven, the loved, and the deployed people of the living God.
We have been called to bring light to dark places.
We have been given meaning and purpose by the living God.
We have died to self and been raised up in Christ.
We have been called to go and make disciples and spread the gospel.
We are the people of resurrection hope.
We are the Church.
The world needs a confessional- and mission-oriented church body, like the LCMS, more than ever. Every national and district leader within our church body should shout this out! I am saddened when I see the snarky conversation on some Lutheran Facebook groups. These biting exchanges also sadden the heart of Christ.
I am saddened when we mirror our current political climate and divide ourselves along conservative and liberal lines.
I am saddened when the debate over traditional versus contemporary worship causes synodical rifts. I truly believe the vast majority of LCMS pastors and churches love the liturgy. It connects us to God’s grand story. Some churches are simply striving to connect musically to the diverse melodies of peoples’ hearts, while not compromising doctrine. Some of our trained worship leaders are writing new hymns and songs using modern instrumentation. But the deeply Lutheran lyrics of their songs still focus on faith passively received because of the work of Christ. This should be celebrated by all, whether or not your church practices contemporary worship. Please resist the urge to label churches that choose different worship styles. This damages our witness.
I am saddened we divide ourselves along “confessional” and “missional” lines. We have a shared confession—Jesus is Lord. We have a shared mission—let the world know Jesus is Lord by the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit. Many of our divisions stem from disrespect for varying pastoral personalities and leadership styles. Pastors are generally passively imbalanced. See my blog “The Passively Imbalanced Pastor” for more on this. Passive pastors are often labeled “confessional” and “conservative.” Dynamic pastors are labeled “missional” and “progressive.” All of them are both “confessional” and “missional.” They have simply been wired differently by God.
Martin Luther and the early reformers yearned for us to live in Paul’s “middle course.” In accordance with Romans 14, Luther wrote in Freedom of a Christian:
“How much better is the teaching of the Apostle Paul who bids us take a middle course and condemns both sides when he says, “Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgment on him who eats” [Rom. 14:3]. Here you see that they who neglect and disparage ceremonies, not out of piety, but out of mere contempt, are reproved since the Apostle teaches us not to despise them. Such men are puffed up by knowledge. On the other hand, he teaches those who insist on the ceremonies not to judge the others, for neither party acts toward the other according to the love that edifies. Wherefore we ought to listen to Scripture which teaches that we should not go aside to the right or to the left [Deut. 28:14] but follow the statutes of the Lord which are right, “rejoicing the heart” [Ps. 19:8]. As a man is not righteous because he keeps and clings to the works and forms of the ceremonies, so also will a man not be counted righteous merely because he neglects and despises them.”
LCMS brother and sister in Christ, do not neglect nor disparage the ceremonies of others out of mere contempt. This displeases the Lord and damages our witness. Love one another. Listen well. Build relationships with those whose ministry and context differ from yours but still faithfully hold to Scripture and the Confessions. Humbly learn from one another.
The theological spectrum of the LCMS is very small. If you’re a member, commissioned minister, or pastor in the LCMS today, especially in the midst of the rapid secularization of America, you are a conservative Christian. Period. You stand on God’s never-changing Word. You believe baptism saves. You yearn for all believers to receive the forgiveness of sins through the body and blood of Jesus. This uniting reality should be heralded by all national and district leaders within the LCMS.
Please resist the urge to think any division today is rooted in a battle over the Bible, as we experienced in Seminex and the infamous “walkout” of roughly 50 years ago. I believe some of these wounds are still raw. Please hear me. I am a third-generation LCMS pastor who was not born when this division occurred. I know it was painful. I have heard the stories. Any division today is not based on any of the divisions of that painful time in our LCMS story.
These divisions do not exist in the LCMS today. Praise Jesus.
The ULC does not exist to divide but unite. Unity will come as we ask and seek the Spirit’s lead to answer practical questions about the future of the LCMS.
I dream of the day when we recognize our sociological and personality differences are viewed as a strength and not a hindrance to our church body.
I dream of the day when we yearn to learn from those who are doing ministry in different cultures and contexts, and we tell the stories of diverse leaders reaching diverse communities with the never-changing gospel of Jesus Christ.
I dream of the day when diverse educational models are championed by our existing seminaries and universities, all for the sake of meeting the needs of the local church in diverse contexts.
I dream of the day when national, district and institutional leaders realize they exist to bless the needs of the local church—not the other way around—and then listen to the solutions offered by local church leaders.
I dream of the day when national and district leaders can be honest about our current national decline—both of churches, members, and leaders—and then invite the Holy Spirit to give them a fresh vision for discovering, developing, and deploying disciples of Jesus to reach the lost.
Some people have asked what the Unite Leadership Collective is all about. Yes, we consult and bring cohorts of churches together. Yes, we are exploring new ways to train church leaders (kairos.edu), while remaining theologically faithful to the teachings of the LCMS.
Yet the ULC’s purpose is far greater than these things. We are a network of churches honestly asking tough questions about the current and future trajectory of the LCMS. We then offer real solutions to help the local church accomplish her mission.
Join the mission. The days are short. The Day is coming.
We have what the world needs. Let’s unite and share it. Let’s share Him.
Join the mission at uniteleadership.org