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Pastor Bob's report

Dear Friends,

“Why don’t so many people come to church anymore? Why aren’t our pews filled, like they used to be?” I’ve heard these questions often over the years, especially recently. I’ve had the same question myself, especially on church festivals and on many a summer Sunday. We’re not alone in having these questions. Churches all over the country are facing the same dilemma, even mega churches. It’s not that people aren’t interested in faith, or don’t want to follow Jesus. Most people still consider themselves “spiritual”, and want God to have a place in their lives, but they just don’t like churches, and organized religion! It’s a tough thing for us in churches to hear.

Dwindling worship attendance seems to be a common challenge for churches in the United States and in Europe. It’s not just a city or rural problem. So something cultural seems to be going on, shifts and trends that are affecting whole populations. A few years ago I attended Convocation at Luther Seminary. This is a meeting of leaders and pastors from all over the country to learn and talk about recent ideas and trends in the church. This time we heard that there are four trends that seem to be affecting church attendance and church membership. They are the association of organized religion with violence, abuse (priests and sexual abuse), exclusion, and political agendas.

Whether or not Lutherans had anything at all to do with any of these trends, the whole Church was lumped together by the media and the public, causing us all to suffer together. So why would someone want to come to church if religion is associated with violence, abuse, exclusion, politics? That’s a good question and whether this association is true or not, that’s the perception among many. It’s a lot of baggage to overcome! So what does this mean for our church here in Arcadia?

Even though we are somewhat isolated from the “big city” problems we are still affected. I think we need to think differently about our audience, how to reach them, and what we offer. What is the message that we want to give that might connect with people who are judging what we do as well as what we say. Some people come to church wanting “answers” to their faith questions. They want to hear something that will give them hope. At the same time, they also want a safe place to bring their questions and their doubts. They want a community that will respect them and show them love even when their questions might be difficult to answer. Many people are looking for faith that is inclusive and open to a wide diversity of people and ideas. They want a place where they can express their faith through service in their community, and act for justice in the world. That is a far different “church” than many of us grew up in, but not at all different than the faith Jesus taught his disciples as we see in the gospels.

So that’s the good news! We don’t have to “re-invent” Christianity or the faith. It’s already there! The scriptures teach this kind of faith! The good news of Easter is that the grave which once held Jesus is empty; he is no longer there, he is risen! The Church as we once knew it may not be what is was, but something new is rising up in its place! The good news is that Christ is alive, and His Body, the Church, is also still very much alive and growing! It’s just that it is changing, just as the needs of the people and the culture in new generations always change. So if we know this and are willing to think “outside the box”, we have nothing to fear! For Christ is risen! Thanks be to God!

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Bob Schoenknecht

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