Ray Hartwig

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Posts by Ray Hartwig

Do Not Hold Back

Eighteen years ago while serving as district president, I became aware of some unrest in one of our well-established congregations caused by a small group of people whose interests didn’t fit in. Most of the congregation wanted to continue to do things more conventionally, which I certainly supported. This small group wanted to try new things, most of them very acceptable to our LCMS way of thinking and doing.

I remember meeting with this group in one of their living rooms one evening. They were truly a black sheep group, having fallen out of favor not only with their congregation but with surrounding LCMS congregations and pastors. I provided a little counsel about some things that interested them that were out of step with the Synod. Having obtained their cooperation, I also recognized among them a real energy and interest in serving their Lord. Rather than discourage or oppose them, I advocated their peaceful release from their former congregation, supported their efforts to form an LCMS congregation, and provided initial pastoral service on Sundays when I was available to do so.

The rest of their story to date is 18 years of hard and faithful labor, abundantly blessed by God. They began by purchasing an old building with many rooms to serve as their Father’s House. Using their own considerable talents and resources, they remodeled it to provide worship space and modest beginnings for an early childhood ministry. They called a pastor who also recognized their interest and energy in serving their Lord and provided faithful and compatible spiritual leadership. Their small number and ministry to the community began to grow. After several years they sold their first building to purchase a more suitable one. They and their ministry continued to prosper over the years.

This past Sunday I preached for the dedication of their most recent building, purchased with the help of the district church extension fund. The text I used was Isaiah 54:2. It was a wonderful day of reminiscing and marveling and giving thanks by congregation and pastor, district personnel, the fifth vice-president of the Synod, and members and pastors of surrounding congregations.

It was a glorious dedication by a now-much-larger congregation of their 120,000 sq. ft. building that they have been able to convert into a church-like exterior, a beautiful sanctuary, and an amazing Early Childhood Center serving more than 200 children. And there is plenty of room to spare…for a future interest, a parochial school.

An amazing story, in which I was privileged to play a small part. I only mention it, as someone with a more conservative bent, because I marvel how I was led to recognize the need to do the right thing, to step outside the box and “not hold back” (Isaiah 54:2).

Ray Hartwig