Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab’s response in last month’s Reporter “Letters” to the two pastors writing about the Covenant Congregations story in the January issue does not address the matter of the declining birthrate and viewing children as a blessing — as raised by Pastor H.R. Curtis.
For what it’s worth, the late Dr. Martin Justus Naumann — a professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Springfield (now at Fort Wayne) — wrote the following:
“All children are souls intended for God’s kingdom. Any drive for missions is made ridiculous by the talk of birth control. As the church is to propagate itself by the power of the Gospel, so are Christians to increase the family of God by increasing in the place where the love of missions should start — in the family. Raise the average [size] of the Lutheran family and you would have a natural and God-given increase of the church without counting the souls won by the preaching of the testimony among unbelievers.”
Rev. M.L.F. Freiberg Sr.
Rev. Benjamin Ball’s letter last month regarding the quote of Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab that “The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has seen its membership decline because we are not taking the ministry of church planting seriously” prompts my response.
Rev. Ball wrote, “… it is our Lord who builds His Church (Matt. 16:18); this is not the work of man. Growth in the Church comes only through the Holy Spirit.”
When I hear this comment or similar ones, I expect them to be followed by something like “therefore we can expect to decline.”
It is by the Holy Spirit that numerical growth takes place, but the Holy Spirit uses people in the process — and denominations can fail to respond.
Why have [some churches] grown consistently? Has the Holy Spirit picked some denominations and individual congregations to grow and others to decline? If God wants all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4), I doubt if He wants the increase in the numbers of saved to be through some denominations and not others. Is it possible that some denominations have responded to the Holy Spirit’s leading in ways that others haven’t, and that those who have responded in [God-pleasing] ways are experiencing growth?
Perhaps the reason the LCMS and other denominations are declining numerically is not necessarily what Rev. Mengsteab suggests, or any other simple explanation. But the fact that some denominations are growing while LCMS numbers are shrinking could cause us to seek the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power — unless we’re convinced that God wants us to continue declining.
Rev. George Gustke
Oklahoma City, Okla.
I am writing in response to Dr. Bruce Hartung’s suggestions in his February “Pressure Points” column, where he gives a congregation leader advice about supporting good health and participating in prevention for the congregation’s staff and members.
Dr. Hartung offered some excellent ideas. However, among his suggestions for church workers, there was a glaring omission. He neglected to emphasize the need for congregations to honor their commitment to providing sick days for their workers, particularly teachers. Lutheran school teachers often come to work sick, due to financial pressure, pressure from their principals, or lack of substitute teachers.
Having taught in a Lutheran school myself for eight years, I was often made to feel “guilty” if I had to call in sick. This attitude needs to be changed.
Church workers are professionals, and therefore need to be treated as such. Congregations need to commit financial and staffing resources to ensure that their teachers are able to take sick leave if they need it.
The benefits of such a plan are immeasurable. Teachers’ health will improve quicker, and ultimately will lead to lower health care costs (in terms of dollars). I suspect this form of prevention is just the kind of health care the author of the letter to Dr. Hartung had in mind.
Please send letters via e-mail to REPORTER@lcms.org or by mail to REPORTER Letters, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name, postal address, and phone number. Letters may be edited
for length and clarity. — Ed.
Posted Feb. 29, 2008