Lutheran Family Fellowship

We’ve been meeting for about two months or so at Bethany, and it’s been good! The group is growing, people are enjoying it, and inviting others to come check it out. We’ll take a break in August, but look for more announcements about the next meeting.

Here are some pictures from our family fellowship this week. Click the pictures to see a larger version. First, here’s a photo of the group assembled for the opening devotion in the sanctuary. We use the office of Compline in the *Hymnary*, and have been reading chapters from 1 Samuel.

familyfellowshipgroup

Here’s a photo that I think illustrates the diversity across generations in the church. It’s not just for kids, nor only for families with children, nor only for those in their golden years. It’s for everyone! The same can be said for gender: it’s not just for women, or just for men, but for all!

lff-generations

Here’s a member of the youngest generation showing us his pizza and brownie. Family Fellowship suppers are very simple, but we try hard to have everything done by 7 PM, so that the family bedtime routines of our attendees are not disrupted.

lff-ljj

How do People Pick a Church?

We just had a long-needed evangelism meeting at Bethany two days before I’m writing this. One of the things we talked about was improving the first impression that we give to our visitors. Over at the Blog of Veith that I mentioned in the previous post, there is a short article and discussion about the way people tend to pick a church. Since [the blog entry][entry] is short, I’ll quote the whole thing below.

[entry]: http://www.geneveith.com/the-basis-for-picking-a-church/_750/

> This weekend I talked with someone whom I think highly of who told me > all of the different churches he has been a member of. At various times, > depending on where he has lived, he has attended Presbyterian, Anglican, > Bible, Evangelical Covenant, Campbellite, Christian Missionary Alliance, > non-denominational, and house churches. > > Whereas for me (even before I became a Lutheran), the criteria for which > church I joined had to do with what it believed. For him–and I suspect > there are a great many like him, possibly a majority of evangelicals–the > criteria has to do with the people in the different congregations, the > kind of “fellowship” they experience and whether they like the pastor. > Theology is something held by the individual, with these different > churches being more or less OK with whatever the individual member > believes, within a few parameters, so that these churches today assert > few theological distinctives for themselves. > > According to the Lutheran mindset, the heart of a church body, the basis > of fellowship, and the definition of unity must be its confession. > Whereas for much of American Christianity, fellowship and unity are the > heart of a church body, which allows for diverse confessions.

This difference between the two different ways of evaluating a church is something we probably have known about before, but we should also take it into account when we think about evangelism. The primary goal of evangelism is to tell the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not believe it, but we also have the further goal of leading those souls to an orthodox Christian Church where they will be fed the bread of life regularly in the Divine Service. We naturally believe that our own congregation is the most qualified for that, to God’s credit alone, but what if these evangelism prospects finally visit our church only to find themselves uncomfortable with the “fellowship” of our members or the “likability” of the pastor (things Veith mentioned above)? Might we get the doctrine and the Divine Service right, only to fail in the way we treat each other and our guests?

This reminds me strongly of 1 Corinthians 13, the “love chapter,” which is often used at weddings. Read the first three verses of that chapter and see how they apply. You will probably also want to head over to Veith’s blog at the link above, and read the comments left by his readers.

One comment I found particularly interesting described a couple’s experience visiting two different churches. Among other things, the writer said, “after four weeks we’d only had 3 couples actually put forth effort to welcome us (passing smiles, handwaves, and ‘Hi’s’ don’t count).” She contrasted that with the other church, where “I think there were two adults who did not talk to us – one hand waved – one didn’t talk at all.” I’ve always thought that two or three warm greetings from the members is sufficient welcome for our guests, but here is a couple who were more impressed when nearly the entire congregation made an effort to speak to them. It shows how every one of our members can have a real influence on the ongoing work of evangelism, simply through the way we respond when guests visit on Sunday.

The Blog of Veith

Some of us have read books by Gene Edward Veith, including *The Spirituality of the Cross*, which we are discussing at Bethany’s Lutheran Family Fellowship gatherings.

You may be interested to know that Veith has a blog of his own, to which he posts quite often, and which hosts a lot of high quality discussion related to Christianity, our culture, and vocation. It’s named after a Lutheran layman and friend of Martin Luther whose professional vocation was that of a painter. There are framed Lucas Cranach paintings at Bethany, and I preached a sermon focused on one of them last Summer. Cranach painted many others during his career, making him an example of serving God through his earthly vocations. Veith’s blog is therefore named after Lucas Cranach.

The address for the Cranach blog is [www.geneveith.com](http://www.geneveith.com).

Good Lutheran Talk Radio: Issues, Etc.

Several years ago I met Pastor Todd Wilken and Mr. Jeff Schwartz though they probably don’t remember me, because it was at the Marvin Schwan Retreat Center for one of the Worldview Seminars that was being held there. Those men were the host and producer, respectively, of a radio talk show aired in the St. Louis area and also broadcast online. It was a successful outreach of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, but this year during Holy Week, the LCMS cancelled the show. Speculations abound, but to me it seems highly likely that the value of the show was much lower in the eyes of synod administrators, because its allegiance to the Gospel and the Lutheran Confessions was stronger than its allegiance to the synod. Though the show did not flaunt this, it was evident in its “Christ-centered, cross-focused” operation.

The good news is that the show “Issues, Etc.” has been reborn as an independent endeavor. You can listen to past shows, or live streams of current shows online. Podcast and iTunes links are also available for those who prefer them. The new show began broadcasting this week, and I have to say that it’s better than ever.

If you have the time, and you are the sort of person that enjoys thoughtful conversation about important things, please give it a try. You can find all the information you need at [http://www.issuesetc.org](http://www.issuesetc.org).