The Rev. Dr. David Eberhard presents an article called “Dr. Eberhard Speaks Out”. He challenges us with his thoughts and experience as a leading churchman in America. While we may agree, or not agree, he shares with us what he has learned that works in the local parish. Over his forty years of experience in the ministry, and 24 years in the political arena, he has always tended to be ahead of the current curve and is always “pushing the envelope” to get us to expand our thinking.
DR. EBERHARD SPEAKS OUT - "Wake Up!"
Each week I hear of another Lutheran Church in the Metro Detroit area closing, or planning to close in the near further. Why ? one asks. Is it because the present congregation had become “a club”, and the last person should “turn out the lights”. Is it because they failed to see that they are surrounded by millions of people, that if they asked they could gain at least a few. Is it because the pastors is not working, he’s off to another conference - another meeting to study on how to be the church. Wake up, no conference, no consultant, no class is going to do the Lords work for you. When we hear that so many churches have only 40, 60, or maximum of 125 persons in worship on a Sunday. How many times can you call on 40 people, how many times can you email 40 people. I’ll bet your church facilities are closed most of the week, and open only for 2 hours on Sunday."
Get up - go open the doors. Have something - anything - to get people to come in the "side door", and some will come back in through the" front door". Then we have those that think we should not be concerned about how many people we have in church. We need to only have a "heart" for non-believer and the unchurched. Some have even gone as far as having Holy Communion "out there" in cell groups, not in the church building. Others feel we need to go out and start new churches in shopping centers, schools, storefront, anywhere other than a church building. They contend the church building is offensive, it is a stumbling block to reaching out. Come on now, get real. So now we have 30 people in a storefront, and we say hallelujah we have planted a new church. Unfortunately, too often that planning is not really to reach out, but rather to say at conventions - "we have opened 75 new churches". Yes, but we have closed 50 churches, and next year we will close 65 of those new plants and all along our denomination numbers dwindle even more.
Too often we are denying being "Lutherans" as if that is a bad word that drives people away. We provide "new" people with water drowned doctrines - don't want to hurt anybodies feelings. We are Lutherans, that stands for something, it is solid - and people today don't want quick fixes! You can't out "black" the fine Black Pastors, nor can you out "Baptist" the dynamic Baptist Preacher. Stop running in circles, stop throwing the baby out with the bath water, stop feeling sorry for yourself, stop thinking your congregation can not meet the needs of today's world, stop feeling that being Lutheran is old fashioned and outdated. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. While we may have, should have, various versions of worship services and assortment of hymns, we can do these effectively in a church setting. Storefronts, theater churches, etc. are temporary. When the "mission" funds run out, who is going to pay the bills? What happens to that poor pastor you stuck with an unstable future? It takes at least 300 members to make a parish self sufficient.
Fling wide open your church doors, be a caring people, become a powerful worshiping community, be a beacon of hope in an unstable world, administer the sacraments, and preaching the Word. People will come! We had all better get back to supporting, strengthening, and revitalizing the churches, older ones or new plants, before it is too late - and we will have no Lutheran presence in our Metro areas. Raise high the Cross of Jesus Christ - and move forward.
The Rev Dr David Eberhard