Monday, May 3, 2010

What I Learned in Omaha

Why Omaha? Because that was where the LCMC ( ) leadership conference was held on April 25-27, 2010.

I love Omaha. They have truly awesome food in Omaha. Svickova and dumplings at the Bohemian Cafe ( ), melt in your mouth prime rib at Johnny’s Cafe ( ), and while the food is definitely food service, you can’t beat the relaxing atmosphere while having lunch in the Durham Cafe at the amazing Joslyn Art Museum ( ).

The conference was amazing, too. Over 300 in attendance, which is a lot for an association with 400 churches. Listening to friends who have been in the LCMC since it’s birth, it’s amazing to think that a few years ago, 50 people was a lot for one these leadership deals. I asked one guy what it was like, watching this gathering of church leaders blossom and grow. He said it was weird considering that now few people new who he was. I couldn’t help but think that’s how people feel when congregations grow also.

There were many wonderful presentations. But one that really struck me was by my long time colleague, David Housholder ( ). There were a number of points he brought forward which I think are pertinent to our life and ministry at Zion and I want to share them with you now:

Lutheranism in America is about to have a demographic catastrophe. This isn’t new information, but for a denominational group that stopped growing and begin the slide toward extinction in the mid 60s, we are now much closer to the end game. Housholder was bold enough to equate the precipitous fall in Lutheran numbers with the advent of the birth control pill in 1965 and the facts bare him out. He correctly identified three major waves in American Lutheranism: the growth that came through immigration in the later part of the 19th century and early 20th; growth from the early 1900s until 1965 from having lots of kids; and now, the third wave, the real possibility of extinction. See my earlier blogs for the stats and the links to websites that prove this statistical analysis. This means that in order to survive, we must grow through conversion. In fact, according to Housholder, we must grow our congregations by 10% each year purely through adult conversions and baptisms in order to stay alive. Wow. That’s exciting. It means we have to get back to our first love, proclaiming the real Gospel of Jesus. Finally, all the excuses are gone. We HAVE to do mission! Praise the Lord!
For my part, I wonder how well prepared we are to undertake such an enterprise. But I’m so excited to be part of the generation of pastors who must completely change the way we have been doing things for the sake of reaching a world around us that does not know Jesus or understand its need for him. Bring it on, God!
Dave talked about how he was present in Ethiopia at a meeting of evangelists from the Makene Yesus Church (Lutheran/ ). They had charts and graphs and were emphatic that they must baptize 163,000 people this year. Why? Because they baptized 163,000 people last year. And they believe they must baptize 163,000 more every year in order that the line on the graph showing the growth of Christians will meet the line symbolizing the growth of their population on their charts. They want nothing less than an Ethiopia where everyone is a believer in Jesus Christ. What boldness. What an amazing, refreshingly honest, kingdom attitude they have. Wouldn’t be great to desire the same thing? The only time I’ve seen charts and graphs in the American church is when we’re talking about money. Now is the time that we must learn from our Ethiopian brothers and be bold and dream big dreams. Because Jesus wants to reach everyone through us. Can you imagine if every one of our churches had the lofty goal of the total conversion of our states, cities, towns, and neighborhoods? Let the charting and graphing begin! Wow, these are exciting times.

So, while the challenges we face are daunting, they are real kingdom work to which our Lord and Master has called us to. Time to get out there really work the vineyard. Maybe it took the real possibility of the loss of everything to make us do it, but at least we’re beginning. May we be as bold as the Ethiopians in following Jesus into the lives of others. Thanks for reading. God bless you. PJ


  1. I'm up for the challenge and happy to tell the story to people. Although it takes time to build a relationship with Christ. I almost think it is unrealistic to expect the same amount of growth year to year. Groing at a certain rate may take away from the quality of relationships, leaving a weak body. It also feels that if we set that demand of growth for ourselves we are taking God out of the equation.

    The goal is fantastic and I pray that we as congregations and people of Christ can take such an attitude.

  2. Thank you for the appeal for mutual ministry, and for accepting inspiration from evangelism around the world. Dynamics will help sustain demographics. The celebrations of EECMY are within a context of the sociology of Ethiopian religion, among the oldest homes to Christianity. The celebrations of the Lutheran communion in the U.S. also reflects both global migration and domestic sociology. The connection of very-broad dots above hardly does justice to the field of statistical analysis. Please keep seeking fuller understanding of concurrent--not contradictory-- developments in attitudes and ethos in our pluralistic country.
    Grace and Peace, lnj