Only Twelve?

For those who might not know, clergymen of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, have two documents circulated to congregations considering the sending of a Divine Call to a pastor. One is a Self-Evaluation Tool (SET). In the SET a pastor answers a series of doctrinal questions, well not really doctrinal mostly comments about pastoral practice and reactions to various synodical resolutions. This is done so that calling congregations and district presidents can ascertain, for example, if the pastor will break out his acoustic guitar as worship leader, say the black/do the red, or go cruciform on Good Friday.

The second is the Pastor's Information Form (PIF). The PIF gives the pastor's birthday, educational background, pastoral experience as well as the district president's evaluation of the pastor's conduct of the ministry.

The PIF also gives marital status of the pastor; his wife's name and birthday, their anniversary and the names and birthdays of his children. And how many numbered blank lines are there for the pastor to list his children???

TWELVE - 12 - !!!

Now this is good stuff I say. The Synod is anticipating that her pastors will be having large families. Too bad there is no room on the form if you get Duggersized. Still, I think this is great and I thought Missouri deserves a big attagirl! Attagirl Missouri! Encourage those preachers to have a dozen then maybe this whole decline in membership will be take care of itself as the old beloved synod desires (expects???) her pastors to follow the Word..."Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth...Suffer the little children to come to me...".

See brothers, those PIFs are not so bad.


Let the little children come?

The 10:30 a.m. divine service had just concluded. After making the sign of the cross while blessing the congregation, Pastor Meyer made a few announcements, one being a reminder of the special “open forum” that would be held in a few minutes. He explained that it would be for getting feedback from the congregation in preparation for the next Sunday’s voters’ meeting. Generally, that was a cue for the apathetic members of the congregation to head for the parking lot. This day was different. The congregation was at a cross roads.

The meeting was packed, buzzing with several conversations simultaneously. The chairman called the assembly to order and announced the business to be decided at the following Sunday’s voters’ meeting: whether to approve the finance board’s recommendation to increase--dramatically increase--tuition at the congregation’s Lutheran elementary school. The floor opened for suggestions.

John Shoemaker, a parent of three, two of whom were enrolled already, the third of whom would start kindergarten the following year, spoke first. “I’m afraid that a lot of families, ours included, will struggle to afford Christian education if the tuition goes up. We have always appreciated the way this congregations values its children, and the support from the congregation’s budget that offsets tuition.”

Bill Bachman, a member of the finance board, spoke next. “I wish the congregation’s subsidy could continue, too, but the fact is, contributions have been down, utilities and health insurance expenses have gone up—largely beyond our control—and we’ve had to freeze salaries, but that still isn’t enough to make a balanced budget.”

Several others spoke. Some gave assurance that God would bless the congregation and the budget would balance itself. Others raised philosophical questions, debating the pros and cons of tuition vs. congregational subsidy and of charging different tuition rates for member families vs. non-member families. That last topic became an unexpected turning point in the discussion.

Ray Lindemann, a retired schoolteacher himself, raised his hand to be recognized. “Mr. Chairman, and fellow members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, the issue before us is not simply a matter of meeting the budget, nor of determining the proper balance between congregational subsidies and parents’ tuition payments. The question is whether we value children, whether we say with Jesus, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them.’ And, the question is, if we do believe that, then how will our works follow our faith?”

“Some would say, that if we really value Christian education, then the congregation will subsidize as much as possible, perhaps even—as in our sister congregation, St. Timothy Lutheran—to the point of there being no tuition for member families, and just a small load of book and activity fees. Others would say such a plan is impractical, especially given our current situation here at Good Shepherd, with the number of members laid off during this economic recession.

“But let’s take a broader look, for a moment. Why do we even have a Lutheran elementary school in the first place? Why do we offer Sunday school between the 8:00 and 10:30 services? Historically, Lutherans in America regarded Sunday school primarily as an outreach ministry for non-members. It was assumed that adults who had been raised in the church could provide their own children with basic instruction in the home, through family devotions. Sunday school would supplement this, of course, but it wasn’t the main thing. Now we’ve come to the other extreme, where Christian parents enroll their children in one Vacation Bible School after another, hopping among all the congregations in town, as if VBS has become a free daycare service. Now, that’s wonderful, of course, to have the children learning God’s Word all summer long, but shouldn’t we instead be reaching out to the unchurched with our VBS and Sunday school programs? I fear we have lost the proper focus.”

“Is the Lutheran elementary school any different? Why is it that both a mother and a father should get a job, so they can earn enough money to pay for someone else’s mother or father to teach their children all day long? And why is it, that the teachers would not instead be at home raising their own children? Perhaps this is not the time or the place to mention it, but I find it scandalous that two of our teachers have children under the age of three, whom they drop off at daycare in order to serve in our school. Perhaps we need to seriously rethink what it meant when Christ said, ‘Let the little children come to me.’”

The chairman paused in silence, as murmuring cascaded across the room. Sheepishly, Karie Habeck, a woman in her early twenties, raised her hand. Just six months earlier she had accepted a call to teach the first and second grades. One month before arriving, she had gotten married. “I want to thank the gentleman for voicing his concerns. I am—I have,” pausing to swallow, she continued, “It’s just that I’ve always dreamed of being a teacher. I thought this was God’s plan for my life. I also dreamed of marriage and children. I assumed work and family would somehow fit perfectly together, and they did, in my little dream world. Of course, a little girl doesn’t stop to think through the practicalities of it all. In college, as I trained to be your Lutheran elementary teacher, the importance of the teaching ministry was instilled in me day after day. This is God’s special calling for my life. And yet, aren’t I called to be married now, too? In the capstone class at college, our professor advised us to use birth control for at least the first few years of our teaching career, to help us get established. He said then it would be easier, if we had a child later, to take a maternity leave and get right back into the classroom.”

Some of the older people in the congregation sat uncomfortably. Sex had never been the topic of discussion at a voters’ meeting before, but before anyone dared to interrupt, the teacher continued. “My husband and I love each other. We love this special time in our life, as we begin our new life together. But I feel, somehow, well, robbed. I feel like a part of marital bliss can’t be ours, if we deny ourselves the prospect of having children, just so that I can be a teacher to someone else’s children. Oh, please don’t get me wrong,” she quickly added, holding back a tear.

“I love teaching! I enjoy working with your children! But I feel lost. I’m not sure which role models to choose. I deeply appreciate the help that the experienced teachers have given me. They are wonderful mentors, as far as teaching goes. But am I to follow in their footsteps, and put my kids in daycare so I can continue teaching? Is that the way to ‘have it all’? It’s not that I ever wanted to be a ‘career woman.’ I just always thought, somehow, that being a Lutheran elementary teacher would be totally family friendly. By now listening to today’s discussion, I must admit, I’m really not so sure. In fact, I have a confession to make: my elementary education degree doesn’t really mean that much. Most if not all of you parents out there could adequately teach your children in your home. Why, then, do we even bother having children, if you’re going to put yours in school with me, and I’m going to put mine in daycare with someone else, and all of us will miss out on the cutest, most memorable moments of their lives—and they’ll miss out on ours?”

Pastor Meyer stood up. He looked out at his congregation, the sheep of Good Shepherd Lutheran. Silently, he prayed for the Holy Spirit to give him the words for such a time as this, and then he said ...


Great Article

from Salvo Mag on how contraception (and subsequently abortion) has stripped women of their freedoms.


Fulfillment of the Law & 1st Article Gifts

Often times when speaking with others about procreation, the issue of one's own fulfilling of God's command comes into play. They say, "But I have fulfilled the command to be fruitful, I have multiplied." Recently one such discussion then led into, "I've been fruitful, I've multiplied, and without making possessions and idol, why can't I stop having children and enjoy the finer things in life?"

I think this is the perception of most in our culture. If they are Christian, they feel that they have fulfilled God's command by having children. And the second, in regards to material possessions is the predominant view.

There are two main theological issues at hand here that I would like to address here:

1. Fulfillment of God's Law
First off, no, God does tell us how much we must multiply by, but neither does he give to us to say when we have "done enough." So you say, you've been fruitful, you have multiplied. Good for you, you Pharisee who looks to the law as yours to fulfill and earn God's grace. The reality is, God gives to us to be fruitful and multiply. And this is not only a "pre-fall command" (as I have heard others say) but one that is given again after the flood (Gen. 9). Being fruitful and multiplying, i.e. having children, is not about fulfilling God's law. We will never fully fulfill God's law, for we are sinners. For this reason, God sent his Son, to redeem us who are under the law (Gal. 4). We must stop looking to ourselves as completing God's work in us, for that is the way of the Pharisees and the Romanists and many American "Evangelicals". But God's law is fulfilled in Christ, we are recepients of his good and gracious gifts... which brings us to:

2. 1st Article Gifts
To be fruitful and to multiply is a part of God's good and gracious gifts to his people. As repeatedly discussed on this blog and elsewhere, children are gifts of God. Rarely will a Christian argue this point. But what about not having more children so that I may enjoy the finer things in life? Regardless of one's words, looking to earthly and material goods for oneself is nothing short of idolatry. You either idolize yourself in your own fulfilling of God's command or you idolize money and possessions for yourself. God has not promised that you will be provided with the finer things of life, you may never own a new car, you may never be able to eat steak and seafood on a regular basis, you may never even have an Armani suit, and you may even never get to go on that fabulous vacation you dreamed about. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with such things, but these are not yours by birth right, they are additional gifts. God "richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life." (1st Article of the Creed, Small Catechism)
In our society, the definition of needs is so highly scewed. The arguement of prohibiting children from the standpoint of gaining earthly possessions is idolatry and shows a lack of faith in the 1st Article of the Apostle's Creed, that we will provided with all that we need to support this body and life. Oh and by the way, did you notice that one's wife and children are part of these same 1st Article gifts

We should not be as fundamentalists, who hinge salvation itself on the fulfilling of God's laws, but neither are we given to reject God's gifts. No other gifts mentioned in the 1st Article of the Creed as listed in the Small Catechism, would anyone reject, except that of children. No, salvation does not depend on it entirely, but hearing God's Word on the issue, receiving God's gifts, earthly gifts as well as the gifts given to us in Christ, "for all this it is our duty that thank and praise, serve and obey Him. This is most certainly true."