I recently attended a gathering of women and men, in a variety of roles, discussing the present and hopeful future reality for the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. The experience inspired this blog. We have so many amazing leaders in the LCMS! I am humbled to be around some of these tables.
First, what is a synod? It is a national gathering of the baptized, including leaders—lay, commissioned, and ordained—who believe we’re a better version of the Church when we walk together. I truly believe we are better together.
Unfortunately, it appears that since I was ordained (15 years ago) we have struggled to walk together. We struggle to hold unity in the midst of diverse gospel expressions. We hunker in our small tribes, mostly with people who think like us, look like us and execute ministry like us. Our division is more sociological than theological. Nonetheless, our institutionalized passive-aggressive and tribal tendencies are sinful. They must be confessed. Confession
must start with me.
I confess to labeling brothers who wear clerical collars. Please forgive me.
I confess to judging those who solely stick to pages 5 and 15 in the old red hymnal. Please forgive me.
I confess to putting the worst construction on pastors who preach in a less passionate way than I but are so remarkably in love with God’s Word. Their passion just sounds different than mine. Please forgive me.
I confess a prideful spirit. Please forgive me.
Your turn. Only the sick need a Healer. I need the Healer moment by moment. You do, too.
Mutual confession and absolution, tethered to our love of the Word and Sacraments, could change the trajectory of the LCMS. Call me young and naive (I’m 41 and getting older daily), but I see this day in the not-too-distant future. I yearn for this day. I think you’re reading this because you do, too.
The gospel of Jesus is unique. Duh. This is a remarkable understatement. The glory and
mystery of Jesus’ incarnation is that Jesus became like us. Jesus “crosses the aisle” to embrace the other—us—with all our sins. The smell of death clinging to us all. Jesus became death for us, that in Him alone we might have life, freely given by faith.
The gospel changed the early church. The gospel changed the initial writers of the LCMS constitution, too. Check out page 11 here.
Reason for Forming a Synodical Union
1. The example of the apostolic church. Acts 15:1–31.
What is found in Acts 15? The Jerusalem Council. The Jews argued, with much debate,
about whether the Gentiles should be circumcised (ouch!) in order to be a part of the church. The conclusion? James, the half-brother of Jesus, spoke up and said, “No…we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality…” (Acts 15:19-20) After James spoke “the apostles and the elders, with the whole church” sent men with Paul and Barnabas to let the Gentiles know the Good News!
Praise be to God the Holy Spirit moved to unite the Gentiles to Christ solely by faith!
Imagine the legalism that could have pervaded our work together if this story did not end the way it did! For goodness sake, few of us are orthodox Jews, but Gentiles. We are the recipients of the example of the Jerusalem council!
This one blew my mind. Our founding LMCS leaders realized that much dialogue and debate would take place around doctrine and practice. This was a good thing! Yet, much debate, even across cultures, should lead toward a united, Spirit-led conclusion for the sake of introducing Jesus to all people!
For this to occur two things must occur at all levels of church leadership.
Disagree agreeably about how best to live together, and go on mission for the world. A strange culture of fear has pervaded many leaders in the LCMS, inhibiting creative solutions all aimed at discipling the found to reach the lost. This must end.
Unite in confessing Jesus is Lord for the world. Why does the church exist? The examples of the Apostles tell us: to bring the gospel of Jesus received by grace through faith to the world by whatever means necessary. Has the LCMS forgotten who we are? I urge you to remember again.
Here is the second reason for forming a synod:
2. Our Lord’s will that the diversities of gifts should be for the common profit. 1 Cor. 12:4–31.
This one really blew my mind. The Apostle Paul probably blew the mind of the church in Corinth. You cannot be a part of the body and discount other parts of the body.
We need the heart and passion and vision of many of our extroverted and entrepreneurial leaders—lay, commissioned, and ordained.
We need the head and content housed in our seminaries and universities and ample recognized service organizations.
We need the hands of all of the laity carrying the gospel in Word and deed to neighbors.
We need the feet of our young and new believers running with the gospel of the risen and reigning Jesus Christ to their friends and neighbors.
We need each other, in all of our diverse gifts, personalities, and gospel expressions. Celebrate our diversity!
The founders of the LCMS knew why we formed a synod. Some parts of the LCMS have forgotten our "why".
Now you know. Share the story.
You are the LCMS. Better yet, we are.
The Unite Leadership Collective was formed to help us re-imagine how much better churches and leaders are together. Let us know who we can learn with you. uniteleadership.org