* DATELINE — JANUARY 1968 (In December 1999 Missionary David Koenig submitted to us the following thoughts)
In a CLC Mission Newsletter of January 1968 there was the following: “MORE ON INDONESIA — One man responded by saying that rather than bewail the fact that we don’t have men and money to go there and work, we reexamine our system of priorities and be ready to send men into such a promising mission field. He considers this a better stewardship of our limited funds and men. He says: ‘I know from experience that there are foreign fields where one man can accomplish what ten can do here in the States. Such fields are becoming rare. But it is possible that Indonesia, because of the peculiar circumstances of its recent history, is such a field just at this time. Later it may not be. But why should we feel that we could not send a man into such a field white with heavy harvest because we do not have enough men to pick up the gleanings in the very unproductive mission field that the U.S. has become?’ There is much worth considering here!”
Sukarno and his pro-communist government were overthrown. Now the man who replaced him is no longer in power in that island nation. Suharto has been replaced in the recent past. Kingdoms rise and wane, but the Church of Jesus constant will remain. The church will continue, even though opportunities may pass–opportunities to preach the Word while doors are open.
May it not be said of us that we passed by the opportunity unheeding. For instance, in Indonesia not every place was a Bali. There were and are places like violent East Timor. Yet in between there may be areas where the Gospel is in absence and where the Gospel can be taken. There is many a hindrance to going such as deprivations, a drastically different culture, lack of common amenities we are used to, and so on. But when you get right down to it, the greatest hindrance is within us.
“There is much worth considering. . . . ” from that article of over thirty years ago, and when we look around today.
* ‘WHOSE CHURCH IS IT?’
Over the last quarter of the last century much was said and written about the concept of ‘church growth’ and/or how the church of Jesus Christ should (want to) go about reaching out with its message.
Not long ago the following good words appeared in the worship service bulletin of one of our CLC churches. Since the words were a ‘quote,’ we sought to trace the original source. This tracing led to the discovery that the words were first written in 1976 by Pastor Carl Thurow (whose obituary appeared in our November 1999 issue). At the time Pastor Thurow was serving St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Austin, Minnesota.
What follows is as fine–that is, as far as we are concerned, solidly Lutheran–a summary as we have read on the subject. We say this realizing that, while the words indict much of what is being carried on outside our circles as far as ‘gospel’ outreach is concerned, there is a message aimed in our own direction.
Under the title question ‘Whose Church Is It?’ this is what Pastor Thurow wrote:
Church members, with few exceptions, want to see their church grow. In fact, this can become their chief concern–to figure out ways of making the church grow or to fix the blame for its lack of growth. Even the more inactive members often share this concern to a marked degree. One can’t help wonder sometimes, though, whether this great zeal for growth is properly motivated. Whose church are we trying to build–ours or Christ’s? Does the church exist to fulfill the purposes of Christ or to flatter the ego of its members?
Satan can capitalize on misdirected zeal. If he succeeds in confusing our purpose, we wind up building a Tower of Babel, marvelous to behold, but useless in fulfilling the purpose of Christ. If zeal for the church as an institution were properly channeled, it would translate itself into interest in the Word of Christ and concern for the salvation of souls. Members would never miss church if they could help it, and Bible classes would not be so sparsely attended as they often are. Members would then also approach the unchurched with a view to sharing the Good News rather than to expanding the membership.
A high body count, along with a healthy balance in the treasury, can be looked upon as a hallmark of success. As the goal of the church, however, it can be disastrous. When the Gospel degenerates into a sales pitch to build up the membership and when the real goal of the church, cloaked in the sheep’s clothing of religion, is self admiration, whose church is it?
* HAVE YOU ATTENDED A ‘RETREAT’ LATELY?
Doubtless each of our CLC congregations has its ‘retreats’–youth groups, ladies’ meetings, men’s meetings, Bible classes, discussion groups. Such are ‘retreats’ in that they take us away from the humdrum of daily routine and bring us into interaction with fellow Christians. Such are good, necessary, and spiritually uplifting gatherings–as far as they go.
A few of our churches, we know, have family-camp get-aways over a weekend or more. We have heard of marriage seminars in our CLC–couples from one or more congregations getting together, with Christian counselors leading the way.
Lately it seems efforts are being made to have district-wide or synod-wide seminars or retreats.
In October 1999 Immanuel, Mankato hosted a combination Christian Men’s Conference and The Christian Woman Today Seminar. Men as well as ladies were invited to come and spend a day in fellowship around the Word. After meeting together for the opening devotion, lay-men and lay-women discussed a variety of scripturally-based topics in their respective groupings. As one who attended the Men’s Conference, yours truly gained from discussions on how to be a strong(er) 1) husband, 2) father, 3) leader in the church.
The Women’s Fellowship has met a number of years now during synod convention, and recently announced its plans for this June. The CLC Youth Conference August 4-8, 2000 (details mentioned on these pages last month) promises five days of scripture study, informal fellowship and fun for our youth.
As a pastor we have witnessed–among our members who have attended one or another of these get-aways–the spiritual refreshment evident when attendees return home.
And so we say, if you haven’t attended a ‘retreat’ lately, do so. You’ll be glad you did.