Posts tagged Congregations

The Life of God in Your Church

Every congregation exists to give away life. In worship and communion we receive the life Jesus gives. We feed on Him and live through Him who gives Himself for us in Word, and in water, bread and wine connected to the Word. But this life of God is not meant to be kept to ourselves. God has put you and your congregation where it is located in order to give life to your community and beyond. Baptized into Christ, we are called to grow in this life as well as to bring others into this life.

The life of Jesus does not come from a new program, but through repentance and faith. The life of God is not the result of moral instruction and moral living, but flows from God’s gift of a new relationship with Him in Jesus Christ.

This is the beating heart of your congregation – the life of Jesus Christ, His life lived for us and offered up for us on the cross. His life triumphant in His resurrection. His life freely given in His body and blood, in the forgiveness of sins, in the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.

You are alive because you are in Christ. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you and to all who believe. You are alive because Jesus gives life to you through your congregation, your pastor’s work and your fellow members’ witness to Jesus. You are alive in Christ because He has made you alive in His Spirit.

When we say that your congregation exists to give away life, we are simply praying for your parish to become more and more the body of Christ. We have received in Jesus Christ our true Head. “Now you are [together!] the body of Christ, and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27). If Christ is the Head, and we the body, then we are sent into the world as members of the body to extend His ministry of love and service to the world. The Church then becomes the sign of Christ’s presence and Christ’s care for the world, giving away His life.

The life of Jesus given for us therefore implies that we take worship seriously. If Christ is our Head and we His body, we nourish ourselves at the font, the lectern, the pulpit, the altar, wherever the Word of God is found. Here Christ gives Himself to us that we may give away the life of Jesus by serving others and drawing them into the life we have received.

The new life Jesus gives implies that we are always ready to teach the Word of God, “ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks us a reason for the hop that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15). Led by the Spirit, we search the Word of God together to discover and to grow in the will of God for our life together. No one is too young or too old to be taught, but everyone is drawn into the Word.

The life of Jesus connects us to one another in love. We are not alone, but we receive His life – together! We are “thankful for your partnership in the Gospel, from the first day until now…” (Philippians 1:5). We stand together in a new relationship to God in Christ. We seek to strengthen one another in the faith by our words and our actions, helping each other enjoy the good gifts of God.

The life of God in Jesus means that we take prayer and family worship seriously. We teach families to pray together. We provide many opportunities for worship and prayer and study of the Word. We provide holy absolution and holy communion as often as they are desired.

Jesus gives life also in order to send us into the world, for the sake of the hungry, the needy, the lost, those who do not yet know Him. Jesus gives life so that we also present ourselves as “living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God” in Him (Romans 12:1). We are a community of servants sent into the world and into our various vocations to serve God by serving others. We are the sign of God’s love in Christ for the sake of the world.

Then every week the Spirit pulls us back to the beating heart of the church’s life in the Word of God proclaimed and the body and blood of Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. Christ Himself fills us, enlivens us, and sends us out again to give His life away. How’s it going in your locale? (Various thoughts in this article drawn from A.C. Piepkorn, The Church, pp. 116-118).

+ Herbert Mueller
First Vice President

Resilient Congregations, Resilient Pastors

Popular therapists often refer to healthy families and healthy people as resilient. The notion finds fertile ground among corporations, the government and churches because it captures the idea of being able to withstand struggle and adversity. According to the American Psychological Association, “Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or even significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.”[1]

The Church calls pastors to Word and Sacrament ministries in order to nurture and sustain the men, women and children of their congregations. Pastors fulfill their callings by faithfully proclaiming the Gospel, administering the Sacraments and properly caring for their flocks. Every congregation is unique; yet, the common bond among them is the Word and the Sacraments.

Pastors proclaim the Word of Life in and out of season—personal struggles and needs are set aside for the sake of their flocks. Through their faithful preaching and teaching, parishioners grow in grace. Called to faith in Baptism, they grow “resilient” through ongoing Word and Sacrament ministry. This resilience is not merely a psychological ability to bounce back, but it is a spiritual growth and maturation in, by and through faith that hears the death knell of the law and seeks comfort in the righteousness of God through the atoning work of Jesus. 

Bouncing back from adversity or difficulty is not a human endeavor, but it is the gift of God. God pronounces His forgiveness in the words of absolution proclaimed every Sunday, when pastors declare, “Almighty God in His mercy has given His Son to die for you and for His sake forgives you all your sins. As a called and ordained servant of Christ, and by His authority, I therefore forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[2]

Such words are not only for the congregation, they are also for the called servants of the Word. Pastors may grow weary as they shepherd their flocks; yet, there is hope to bounce back but not by human endeavor. Rather, pastoral resilience is a gift of God, too.

Temptations abound to perform ministry by personal strength, intellect and persuasion. All such self-guided efforts lead to despair. There is hope, however. Resilient shepherds find consolation in the words of absolution, “. . . and for His sake forgives you all your sins.”

May every flock and every shepherd grow in resilience as they receive the forgiveness of sins and feast at the table of life.

[1]“What is Resilience?” Copyright Information Online. n.d. (accessed August 16, 2012).

[2] “Divine Service Setting One”. LSB, page 151

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