The Great Commission Society of the North American Lutheran Church is to be commended for the three-day, online missions conference which they held in early November under the theme, “Unveiled: Shining Light in the Darkness.” The comment was made at the beginning of the event that the only person that the conference organizers wanted to lift up is Jesus – not the structures of the church, not our own resourcefulness or efforts, but Jesus. I need a faith that focuses on Jesus. That is the kind of faith that I found nourished and sustained at the Unveiled Conference from the NALC’s Great Commission Society. I also give thanks for the gift of today’s technology, which made it possible for us to be blessed by such an event, even during the time of a pandemic.
Later in the day of the third session of the “Unveiled” conference I watched a webinar with Dr Thom Rainer of Church Answers. You can learn more about his ministry at https://churchanswers.com. His webinar was entitled, “Preparing for Revitalization in a Post-COVID World.” One of the points that he made that I thought was most insightful was his comment about how much COVID has accelerated change. Whatever dynamics and trends a congregation was experiencing prior to COVID have been accelerated by about four years. If a congregation was in decline, its decline has been accelerated by four years. But he also gave hope. He gave strategies for revitalization, and he is working to train coaches who will work with congregations in the process of revitalization.
Both of those webinars were life and hope giving. But what do I receive from the ELCA? A word that tells me that I need to repent of systemic racism and white supremacy.
The law is not life and hope giving. The law rightly applied shows me my sins and drives me to Christ. But the law wrongly applied only crushes, demoralizes, and discourages. If the main message the ELCA has to give is all of the ways in which I need to repent because I have acted contrary to all of their chosen priorities, then how can I ever expect that the ELCA knows how to renew congregations and help them recover from COVID?