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The Next Missouri Synod - The Coming Generational Shift

A Presentation Delivered 2014-10-13 at the Michigan District Professional Church Workers Conference in Dearborn, Michigan

Lawrence Rast

on 9 July 2016

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Transcript of The Next Missouri Synod - The Coming Generational Shift

Philip Clayton, "Theology and the Church after Google"
You don’t have to be a specialist to know that things have changed. A major national survey recently published in USA Today shows that 72% of “Millennials”—Americans between the ages of 18 and 29—now consider themselves “spiritual but not religious.” Even among those who self-identify as practicing Christians, all of the traditional forms of Christian practice have sharply declined from previous years: church attendance, Bible study, and prayer. Doubts are higher, and affiliation with any institutional church is sharply lower. All of us who are still connected with local congregations already know this pattern, up close and personal. Still, it’s sobering to see the trends writ large; after all, we are talking about almost three-quarters of younger Americans!
If the decline of traditional churches and denominations continues, by 2025 the effects will have transformed the American religious landscape—even if not as radically as in Europe…. Some estimate that up to two-thirds of mainline churches may have closed their doors by that time; others will struggle on without a full-time pastor. Denominations will merge in order to be able to maintain even minimal national staffs and programs.
Theology is not something you consume, but something you produce.
No institutions, and very few persons, function as authorities for theology after Google.
Theology after Google is not centralized and localized.
Similarly, theology after Google does not divide up the world between the “sacred” and the “secular,” as past theologies so often did.
The new Christian leader is a host, not an authority who dispenses settled truths, wise words, and the sole path to salvation.
“Will There Be a Church for Millennials”

Christ on Campus
Bloomington, Indiana
February 21, 2015

Lawrence R. Rast, Jr.
Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 1:3-4 ESV)
Be alert, study, keep on reading! Truly you cannot read too much in the Scripture; and what you read, you cannot understand too well; and what you understand, you cannot teach too well; and what you teach well, you cannot live too well. Believe me, I know by experience! It is the devil, it is the world, it is our own flesh that storm and rage against us. Therefore dear sirs and brothers, pastors and preachers: pray, read, study, be diligent! I tell you the truth: there is no time for us to lazy around, to snore and sleep in these evil, wicked times. So bring your talents that have been entrusted to you and reveal the mystery of Christ.
Jackson Carroll, God’s Potters
Demographic Changes
rural to urban to suburban to exurban
Rise in education
Increased life expectancy
Birthrates and immigration
General Religious Climate
Receptivity to religion in general
Growing Religious Diversity
De-Europeanizing of Christianity
Impact of Consumerism
Self-authoring religious identity
Lack of denominational loyalty
“De facto Congregationalism”
“the trend toward de facto congregationalism or voluntarism has meant that the clergy’s authority of office, given to them in ordination, often seems of less importance in terms of exercising leadership than does their personal authority, their capacity for persuasion and influence.”
Methodist (2,700)
Baptist (2,700)
Presbyterian (1,700)
Congregational (1,100)
Lutheran (800)
Episcopal (600)
Friends (350)
German Ref. (300)
Dutch Ref. (180)
Unitarian (150)
Universalist (200)
Roman Catholic (124)
Methodist (19,883)
Baptist (12,150)
Presbyterian (6,406)
Catholic (2,550)
Congregational (2,234)
Episcopal (2,145)
Lutheran (2,128)
Disciples (2,100)
Quaker (726)
German Ref. (676)
Universalist (664)
Dutch Ref. (440)
Unitarian (264)
Congregational (423)
Anglican (246)
Presbyterian (160)
Baptist (96)
Lutheran (95)
Dutch Reformed (78)
German Reformed (51)
Roman Catholic (27)
Congregational (749)
Presbyterian (495)
Baptist (457)
Anglican (406)
Lutheran (240)
German Reformed (201)
Dutch Reformed (127)
Roman Catholic (56)
Actual Number of Congregations
Congregational (75)
Church of England (41)
Dutch Reformed (13)
Roman Catholic (12)
Presbyterian (5)
Lutheran (4)
Baptist (4)
Congregational (146)
Anglican (111)
Baptist (33)
Presbyterian (28)
Dutch Reformed (26)
Roman Catholic (22)
Lutheran (7)
What were “The God Options”?
Pew Conclusions
Men are significantly more likely than women to claim no religious affiliation. Nearly one-in-five men say they have no formal religious affiliation, compared with roughly 13% of women.
Among people who are married, nearly four-in-ten (37%) are married to a spouse with a different religious affiliation. (This figure includes Protestants who are married to another Protestant from a different denominational family, such as a Baptist who is married to a Methodist.) Hindus and Mormons are the most likely to be married (78% and 71%, respectively) and to be married to someone of the same religion (90% and 83%, respectively).
Pew Conclusions
The Midwest most closely resembles the religious makeup of the overall population. The South, by a wide margin, has the heaviest concentration of members of evangelical Protestant churches. The Northeast has the greatest concentration of Catholics, and the West has the largest proportion of unaffiliated people, including the largest proportion of atheists and agnostics.
Pew Conclusions
People not affiliated with any particular religion stand out for their relative youth compared with other religious traditions. Among the unaffiliated, 31% are under age 30 and 71% are under age 50. Comparable numbers for the overall adult population are 20% and 59%, respectively.
By contrast, members of mainline Protestant churches and Jews are older, on average, than members of other groups. Roughly half of Jews and members of mainline churches are age 50 and older, compared with approximately four-in-ten American adults overall.
Why Do Successful Churches Decline?
“Successful religious movements nearly always shift their emphasis toward this world and away form the next, moving from high tension with the environment toward increasingly lower levels of tension. As this occurs, a religious body will become increasingly less able to satisfy members who desire a high-tension version of faith” (F&S, p. 45).
“The recurring trend over the past two hundred years has been for ‘expensive’ sects gradually to lower the costs of membership and, by doing so, to reduce the benefits of membership as well” (Finke and Stark, p. 253).
Conclusion: “The demand is the highest for religions that offer close relationships with the supernatural and distinctive demands for membership, without isolating individuals from the culture around them” (p. 275).
Let us above all and in all matters be concerned about this, that the pure doctrine of our dear Evangelical Lutheran Church may become known more and more completely among us, that it may be in vogue in all of our congregations, and that it may be preserved from all adulteration and held fast as the most precious treasure. Let us not surrender one iota of the demands of the Word. Let us bring about its complete rule in our congregations and set aside nothing of it,... Here let us be inflexible, here let us be adamant. If we do this, we need not worry about the success of our labor. Even though it should seem to be in vain, it cannot then be in vain, for the Word does not return void but prospers in the thing whereto the Lord sent it. By the Word alone, without any other power, the church was founded; by the Word alone all the great deeds recorded in church history were accomplished; by the Word alone the church will most assuredly stand also in these last days of sore distress, to the end of days. Even the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (C. F. W. Walther, Synodal Rede, 1848)
The Churching of America
Challenges -- Web 1.0 to 2.0

Collier's, May 6, 1944
The most impactful television events of the last 50 years, as measured in a survey conducted by Nielsen and Sony Electronics. The rankings are based on a questionnaire of consumers about events they had watched, if they remember where they were and if they discussed the events with others.

1) September 11th tragedy (2001)
2) Hurricane Katrina — the levees break (2005)
3) The OJ Simpson verdict (1995)
4) The Challenger space shuttle disaster (1986)
5) Death of Osama bin Laden (2011)
6) The OJ Simpson white Bronco high-speed chase (1994)
7) The Earthquake in Japan (2011)
8) Columbine school shooting (1999)
9) Oil spill in the Gulf (2010)
10) Princess Diana's funeral (1997)
11) News coverage of the death of Whitney Houston (2012)
12) Capture and execution of Saddam Hussein (2006)
13) Barack Obama acceptance speech (2008)
14) Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton (2011)
15) Assassination of JFK (1963)
16) Oklahoma City bombing (1995)
17) Bush/Gore election debacle (2000)
18) Los Angeles riots, Rodney King beating (1992)
19) The Casey Anthony murder trial verdict (2011)
20) The funeral of JFK (1963)

1. Hypocritical. Outsiders consider us hypocritical—saying one thing and doing another—and they are skeptical of our morally superior attitude.
2. Too focused on getting converts. Outsiders wonder if we genuinely care about them.
3. Antihomosexual. Outsiders say Christians are bigoted and show disdain for gays and lesbians.
4. Sheltered. Christians are thought of as old- fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality.
5. Too political ... [W]e are overly motivated by a political agenda, that we promote and represent politically conservative interests and issues.
6. Judgmental. Outsiders think of Christians as quick to judge others .... They doubt that we really love people as we say we do.
Concerning pastoral vacancies in the church, COP Secretary Rev. Dr. Chris Wicher, president of the Eastern District, gave the following tallies: sole-pastor vacancies — 278, senior-pastor vacancies — 43, associate- and assistant-pastor vacancies — 61. The total, 382, is nearly 60 vacancies fewer than last April.

Also, Wicher confirmed that since April, there have been 26 new congregational starts and five closings.

“It’s always good,” said COP Chairman Rev. Dr. Larry Stoterau, president of the Pacific Southwest District, “to see more starts than closings.”


LCMS Challenges over Time
Founding of the LCMS (1847)
Free Conferences (1856-1859)
The General Council and the Four Points
The Election Controversy (ca. 1880)
Prayer Fellowship (1904)
Merger Efforts (1915-1930)
The Brux Affair (1930s)
The 1938 Convention
Joint Prayer and Prayer Fellowship (1944)
The End of World War II (1945)
"A Statement" (1945)
"The Common Confession" (1950)
ELS Suspension of Fellowship (1955)
WELS Suspension of Fellowship (1961)
"Theology of Fellowship" (1965/1967)
Gospel and Scripture (1960s/70s)
ALC Fellowship (1969-1981)
Women's Service (1970s- )
Chuch Growth (1980s)
Yankee Stadium (2001)
Newtown (2012)
Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever! Amen.” (NIV). (NIV).
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