Breaking The Bad News
Dear Friends and Fellow Pastors in the Ohio District,
Someone needs to break to bad news that social work, is not mission work.
For the last 50 years we have expended copious amounts of blood, sweat and tears hoping that basketball nights, and food banks, would lead people to baptism. But they haven't. Indeed the opposite happened. Nor have we done any better with more direct missional approaches ranging from the Kennedy Evangelism of the early 1970's to whatever the current program is.
Nothing has worked. So, what should we do?
In the words of one pastor provacateur: Do nothing!
But what he actually means is: Do This! He has come to realize that the church cannot manufacture catechumens, or even inspire the love of worship in her own people in more cases than not.
And so let us be the church. Let us not Do That, but let us "Do This in remembrance of me". Because the Divine Service is the place (and event) to which Holy Spirit "gathers" the people he "calls."
Which people? Why not more people? To ask such questions is highly inadvisable. "For who has known the mind of the Lord, and who has been his counselor?" (Romans 11:34) Certainly not you, O anxious Christian who fears institutional death.
And so, again, let us do the one thing Jesus commissioned us to do: This do! Baptize, catechize, absolve and feed every soul the Spirit brings - including the ones who are already here. For they, too, need ongoing absolution, instruction and "the medicine of immortality." (Ignatius of Antioch, 115 AD).
Let the church be chuch.
God grant it. Amen.