Pastor Dan
June 2017

Image result for pomegranate

There's a couple of times a year in which I tend to reflect more on the church as a whole, the ELCA and our Grand Canyon Synod more purposefully than other times of the year. It's that season now in which we prepare for our Synod Assembly in Phoenix. This season, more than previous seasons of concentration, I am a little more concerned about the direction of our future as the ELCA. I can't say I'm worried about the future as much as I am wondering and envisioning and curious about what the Lord is doing at this time to prepare this expression of the Body of Christ known as the ELCA.

In the front of my family home we've had this pomegranate "thing" that's been there since we've moved in some eighteen years ago. Most of its presence has been spent being sticks that shoot up out of the ground. There have been times, if I had the time, I would have dug it up and put it out of its misery. One time, we saw that it was starting to have leaves and within days, some ants came and took all the leaves off of it. Over the years, it has shown signs for life as it will green up for a season. My wife read up on the watering "routine" necessary for a pomegranate and she has been very faithful over the last several years. This year, it is green and it is bearing many fruits!! So now, we have new questions about this pomegranate bush/tree/thing such as, "When are the fruits ready to eat?" "Do you think the birds will leave us any?" "What DO we do with the fruit?"

Someone planted this pomegranate producer. Someone else nurtured and watered. And now there is fruit. This reminds me of St. Paul's understanding of church when he reminds the Corinthians, "I planted, Apollos watered but God gave the growth." (1 Cor. 3:6) One of Paul's concerns throughout the letter is, "What do we do with the fruits?" To a very real extent, leadership has much to do with getting the fruits to a place where they can and need to be shared. And this gets me to the point of where this article began, I'm wondering about the future of the church and how we go about getting the fruits to the places they will continue to have impact. I share from a letter written to alumni of Luther Seminary from the president of that Seminary, the Rev. Dr. Robin Steinke:

Much has changed since I graduated from an ELCA seminary. Though enrollment in the ELCA seminary system stayed fairly stable from the late 1980s to 2012, it's been a different story since then. In the course of the last five years, Luther's enrollment is down between 30% and 40%, depending on how you count. Other ELCA seminaries are seeing similar declines. Add escalating retirements, and this explains why a 2016 report by the ELCA projects that within a few years there will be 1,000 pastoral vacancies in congregations that could otherwise afford to call a full-time pastor.

Let's ask a wonderful Lutheran question: What does this mean?

As a good seminary president her answer to the question is to get more young people into seminary. This is a very good solution to such a dilemma and I do encourage you to plant seeds into the minds of your children, grandchildren and the children you encounter in our congregations. And yet, as a church body rooted in the priesthood of ALL believers, I am wondering what else the Lord is doing among His people. I am wondering what is going to take shape in our laity as these "pastoral shortages" impact our congregations. Maybe the Lord is stirring something in you in regard to helping the Lord get His fruits into places that will impact the lives of the other.

Like I say... Just wondering.

In Christ's love and service,  Pastor Dan

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