At the conclusion of the Apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, he was in the habit of having a series of conventions of sorts. There were several positive points as to why Paul conducted himself in this manner. Perhaps we may see the same positives in attending our own synodical gatherings.
Typically, when Paul would conclude a mission trip, he would head to a gathering of believers in Antioch, Syria. Here the faithful would be treated to reports of the Holy Spirit’s work, performing miracles and adding to the Church of Christ. Paul and his fellow workers would then usually travel down the coastline, stopping to give reports along the way, until they could meet with the church in Jerusalem.
Our Church of the Lutheran Confession’s biennial convention will be held June 21-24, 2018, at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. There we, too, will have the opportunity to hear the reports of our missionaries. They will give us reports of the work of the Holy Spirit in both foreign and domestic fields; how He still performs miracles of conversion, adding to the Church. Some years at convention, delegates have had the added privilege of receiving visits and hearing messages from some foreign pastors.
Paul, at times, received requests from the convention held in Jerusalem. “Remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10) Paul was asked by the Christians in the capital city. The believers in Jerusalem were often from the lowest levels of society and living in poverty. Without the safety nets of modern society, these Christians relied on the loving generosity of their fellow believers.
At our conventions, we also talk about finances. And even though the seemingly endless discussion of numbers and dollar signs may produce some Eutychus moments (see Acts 20:7-12), money is a valuable tool for doing the Lord’s work. Our financial support of the synod enables our beloved Immanuel Lutheran High School, College, and Seminary to continue to produce dedicated pastors, teachers, and laymen. Our offerings also provide support to mission congregations here in the states and abroad. Convention delegates have the important opportunity to designate funding amounts as well as give direction for the synod’s spending in the future.
Church conventions were not without controversy even in Paul’s day. As Paul left mission congregations, there would come in his wake those who would undo his precious work with false teaching. The believers gathered in Jerusalem deliberated at length concerning what was to be done about these false teachers and how the new brethren could be encouraged in their faith.
Our own synodical conventions have not been without disputes, controversies, and disagreements; this side of heaven, no gathering of sinful humans can be. Yet, we have the same source as the early Church did for settling all problems—God’s pure and unbreakable Word, written by the Holy Spirit Himself. This summer our delegates will be considering the proposed Joint Statement of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), and the CLC. This will be another opportunity for the delegates to search the Scriptures to be sure our doctrinal practices align with the Lord’s will.
This brings me to the final positive aspect of attending our conventions—the fellowship. What a joy and privilege to gather with like-minded Christians, roll up our spiritual sleeves, and get at the work the Lord has given us! The devotions, prayers, communion, and personal conversations do wonders to uplift and encourage us in our labor for the Lord.
If you have never been a delegate to our convention, speak to your pastor. Search your heart to see if this is a way you could serve our Savior. With the blessings of the Holy Spirit, the results will be nothing but positive!
David W. Bernthal is the principal of Luther Memorial School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.