Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Observations from the LCMC National Gathering

I’m in Fargo, ND, at the LCMC National Gathering. It’s wonderful. It’s like coming home. You can watch the Gathering until 10/7 at noon CST via web streaming at www.lcmc.net Here is my brief report.

Personally speaking, my time her has been incredible. It has been a time of personal and professional renewal. I have laughed long and hard and sung and prayed with over 700 of my brothers and sisters in Christ. The keynote speakers have been fabulous. The break outs have been informative and very, very relevant. It’s been a joy connecting with these mission minded brothers and sisters.

Here are my observations:

This is where the happy Lutherans have gone. I know this will offend some of you but from my perspective this is true. The worship was songs we know by heart both traditional and contemporary. There was swaying, lifting hands, spontaneous applause... such a sense of joy dominates the environment here. There is laughter everywhere.
The business part of the meeting was brief. There is no bureaucracy to support. Get this, the numbers part was brief, all the motions were passed, all but one unanimously, and the real focus was on the state of the association. And the state of the association is growth. 20 new house churches in Vietnam and Cambodia have been planted. I wept at this because those churches were planted by LCMC pastors who were denied permission by the ELCA to plant those churches. Why were they denied permission? Because it’s illegal to spread the gospel in those countries. Praise the Lord that LCMC exists to empower mission. LCMC churches continue to grow in Belarus, Russia, Canada and Mexico as well. So the business we discussed was about hope, life, and kingdom growth. It was amazingly refreshing.
There was little to no anger at the ELCA. Sure there were some new members who needed prayer in dealing with difficult situations, but overall I found the attendees to be about doing mission in the here and now and leaving the past behind them. LCMC seems to be an organization for those who want to devote themselves to mission, not anger. The quote of the day from a Canadian pastor: “I want to be light. I don’t want to fight.”
I have never met a friendlier group of over 700 strangers anywhere. In the crowded halls they all laughed and talked and greeted each other. So many new friendships were created. There is a real sense here of “being on the same page.” And, just so I’m clear, it’s a unity that comes from where we’re going not from where we’ve been.
The Bible teachings by pastors and by such names as Walt Wangerin and Walt Kallestad was biblically sound and built up all who heard.
The breakout sessions were amazing. Nearly as good as the breakout sessions at a Willow Creek conference. They are mostly congregations sharing what’s working with other congregations. It’s done with such humility and, I’ll say it again, a real sense of having the same mission.
There are many seminarians who are finishing various programs at different seminaries and who will be coming on board in the next year. It was exciting to see them brought forward for prayer. I was astounded by the large number of pastors who joined the association this year as well.
There were so many visitors! Over 300 more than expected. They represented churches checking out LCMC. Word on the street is that most are planning to join.
I couldn’t believe the number of my former seminary classmates I ran into. It seems that everyone I went to school with who loves the word of God and wants to tell people about Jesus is either in LCMC or soon will be. Amazing.

We hope to get all 16 LCMC churches in Iowa into a working relationship. There are many things we can do together and we can support and love and build up one another. Next year at this time Des Moines will host the LCMC National Gathering and Lutheran Church of the Cross in Altoona will be the site. We’re excited to be a part of this great organization. Thanks for reading. PJ

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