By Linda C. Hoops
An initiative by pastors and congregations in Circuit 13 West of the Southeastern District brought together 200 people for a two-night seminar Aug. 8-9 in Raleigh, N.C., on the reliability of the Bible.
“Our goal as a circuit was to present an opportunity for the community to meet our church, trusting the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts and minds of those eager to learn more after the two evening sessions,” said the Rev. Michael Merker, pastor of Jordan Lutheran Church, Apex, N.C., one of eight churches sponsoring the event.
The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha, associate dean of Theological Resources and Publications and director of the Office of Continuing Education and Parish Services at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, was the presenter at the free, four-hour seminar titled “Is the Bible Reliable? Did We Get the Right Bible?”
Merker said Kloha was selected as the presenter because of “his academic background and specialty as a textual critic able to address this challenging topic,” which he said many people are asking about the Scriptures. It offered the sponsoring congregations the “opportunity to leverage the talent in our Synod’s seminaries to engage the greater community.”
The pastors encouraged their congregation members to invite friends and neighbors to the seminar and with funding from an Ablaze! grant and other donations, developed a website, www.trianglefaith.org, promotional materials and radio spots on the region’s largest FM station during morning and evening drive time to promote the seminar.
Merker said he didn’t know how many participants were from LCMS congregations and how many were from the community at-large, since attendance was not taken.
“As people entered the auditorium, they were greeted by a pastor at the welcome table which had fliers listing the contact information for each of the sponsoring congregations,” he said. Merker added that many of the guests picked up the fliers and will follow up with local congregations.
He said the response to the seminar was favorable. “Several people commented on their excitement at learning the area churches were working together,” Merker said. “The cooperative effort seemed to resonate with the community.”
He also related that one guest expressed a wish that “the presentation had lasted all week, and several attendees sought to engage Dr. Kloha after the seminar to learn more about the topic.”
He added that a “spirit of cooperation” has grown in the circuit following cooperative efforts to plant new congregations since the late 1990s. Three have been planted to date. Although the circuit has previously offered continuing education for pastors, this was the first time it was extended to the community. Future plans for joint circuit activities include walking as a circuit in the Raleigh Christmas parade to sing Christmas carols and to work cooperatively to emphasize the importance of meeting people at the crossroads of their lives. The circuit also is discussing using the www.trianglefaith.org website as a way to advertise and share joint circuit news and events in the community.
“This event is simply another reflection of the missional perspective that characterizes the congregations in our visitation circuit,” Circuit Counselor Rev. Larry Lineberger told Reporter. “We have been blessed for several decades with pastors and churches who perceive our fast-growing part of the country as a rich opportunity to reach out and touch many lives with the Gospel. Offering such seminars and planting new congregations in harmony and cooperation certainly enhances the effectiveness of our efforts.”
Merker would recommend other circuits follow the example set by Circuit 13 West to “leverage ways that circuit churches can cooperate to present our unity to the community. The world pressures us in so many ways, and joint efforts and partnerships help to instill a tangible example for those in each congregation of what it means in the creeds to be one Christian church.
“The effects of this event are felt not only immediately,” he added, “but in each individual congregation and member who witnessed how the seminar drew together people from across the region who sought to learn more about the precious gift that our Creator has given us through His only Son Jesus Christ.”
The other LCMS churches in North Carolina sponsoring the seminar were Resurrection, Cary; Advent, Chapel Hill; Holy Cross, Clayton; Grace, Durham; Our Savior, Raleigh; St. Paul’s, Ridgeway; and Hope, Wake Forest.
Linda C. Hoops is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Resurrection, Sunset Hills, Mo.
Posted Sept. 14, 2011