Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Walking Together Sunday" - The Concept

In this month of September, congregations in the WELS were encouraged to pick a Sunday and celebrate “Walking Together Sunday,” aka “Synod Sunday.” This encouragement came mainly through the office of the Ministry of Christian Giving, though it was also featured in one of the biweekly “Together” e-mails that go out from our president. Packets of information were mailed to my congregation (and I assume every congregation), and resources were made available online for all pastors to use at their discretion. These resources included a Bible study, a one-time Order of Service with special readings to use in place of the regular Lectionary on that day, and also a complete sermon based on Revelation 14:6. Another option suggested in the materials was “to do a shortened regular service and end with a Walking Together emphasis that includes showing the video, praying the Prayer of the Church, singing a hymn, and referring members to the special offering opportunity highlighted in the brochure.”

I am fully in favor of promoting the work of our synod, and if a pastor chooses to take a Sunday and have a special emphasis on the synod that day, I have no problem with it. I don’t do it at my congregation, but that is my preference. I don’t see the wisdom in setting aside the Lectionary for this. The Lectionary has a balanced emphasis, which includes missions and the Church. Picking a random Sunday in September because there is a general “Pentecost theme of preaching the gospel across the world” seems to miss the point of the Lectionary.

Instead, at my congregation we promote the work of our synod by regularly praying for our missionaries, pastors, teachers and synodical leaders, and by sending in a generous percentage of our offerings to support the synod’s work, including special offerings like the “Jubilee” offering last year. I try to keep my members informed of the work that is being done and of special needs that arise, but I have found that the less I try to “sell” the work of the synod, the more interested they are in supporting it. People can recognize an advertisement when they see it, and frankly, they are tired of being the targets of mass marketing campaigns in our advertisement-laden culture.

Don’t get me wrong. Talking about the Lord’s work and the Lord’s kingdom and our place in it is not “advertising” per se. As a world missionary, I was asked to visit congregations and talk about our mission and the work the Lord was accomplishing there. I would encourage people to support our synod so that these missions could continue.

But even when a congregation asked, I would decline doing a slide show in the middle of the Divine Service, insisting instead on doing such presentations before or after the service, or at another time. And my “missionary” sermon was always a Law/Gospel, text-based sermon, with a few examples of how the Word and Sacraments were producing fruit in the foreign country to which I had been sent.

I recall once, after such a service, the pastor reprimanded me rather sternly, saying, “They can hear all that Law and Gospel stuff from me anytime. You were supposed to tell them what mission work is like in foreign countries. That’s what they came to church to hear about today.”

My mistake.

In any case, I’m not bashing the concept of a special “Missions” Sunday or of a “Walking Together Sunday.” Even if it wouldn’t be my preference, I can see it being a positive thing, depending on how it’s carried out. As I’ve said before, I think President Schroeder is doing an excellent job at promoting confessional Lutheran doctrine and practice in our synod, and I don’t fault him in the least for encouraging congregations to celebrate a WT Sunday.

Although I wasn’t planning on using them, I did peruse the resources being offered to our congregations this year. (I mean, a lot of time and money went into preparing, sending out and promoting them.) I found them to be – less than helpful. They may well be promoting our synodical “Walking Together,” but if we mean to be “walking together” as a confessional Lutheran synod, we can put forth better materials than these.

I won’t comment on the Bible study materials. They weren’t bad. In the next two posts, I’ll comment on the Order of Service and the Sermon that were provided.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad that I'm not the only person who is uncomfortable with booting the lectionary in favor of "Walking Together" and other "special interest" Sundays! To be perfectly honest, when I come to the divine service on Sunday morning, I want to hear about Jesus, not about the WELS, or the local ALHS, or WLC, or WLCFS, of TLHA, or any of the other special interests which insist on having special services, especially when they include cheesy fund-raising videos. The same thing goes for "Stewardship Sundays". If pastors actually preached the lectionary, they would realize that the issue of stewardship comes up regularly. It's no wonder that many Lutherans have forsaken the lectionary. It's hard to see the beauty and flow and value of it when it only gets used every few weeks or so.

Mr. Adam Peeler

WELS church lady said...

Good morning Intrepids. I was getting a little worried of the slow activity. Nice to see a new post.

"That law and gospel stuff?" So God's word has been demoted to "that" and "stuff." Here is a new take on C.F. Walther: "The Distinction between That and Stuff." Some how this is not keeping God's Word in its purity.

Let me share with you what happend in my congregation. A few years ago, a WELS leader from a synod organization came to preach. In Bible Class he discussed all the various things that his entity provides. When it was time for church, this pastor did the sermon. He accused us WELS members, in the MIDDLE OF THE SERMON, of sitting on our hands and sitting on our wallets! I was thinking to myself, "Who does this guy think that he is." Yes, I was embarrased. Did he really think that members were going to contribute after a so-called remark? This same pastor made a few other accusations, but the above example was the heaviest swing. Anything goes in WELS, so these things should not surprise us.

I commend the leadership of SP Schroeder. As our leader, and a gracious one, he is obligated to thank our districts and other synod organizations for their work. Be careful, do not confuse a thank you as an actual endorsement. Para-synodical organizations, such as Church and Change, make it their business to keep some distance away from our Confessional SP. WELS Kingdom Workers is a worthy and much needed organization. KW needs to be on the look out for the CG crowd. Too late, Elton Stroh went knocking at KW's door after he was let-go from Parish Services.

I miss Michael Schottey's Devotions on the Lectionary Posts.

In Christ,
Rebecca Quam

Anonymous said...

You are not alone. I too am uncomfortable with all the "special" Sundays. We could come up with 52 "special" Sundays if allowed to run amok.
Rebecca, I certainly hope your pastor did not expect people to contribute after his Law comments. He of all people should know that the Law does not motivate. If your congregation needed the Law to break stony heart and wallets, the Law as used correctly. We all need that preaching of the Law for our stony hearts.
Adam, there is hope for the end of "cheesy" fund raising schemes. I was at a voters' meeting at my new congregation. Our area Lutheran High School delegate was discussing the need for a fund raising effort to complete the school's building work. A layman specifically asked that they not spend money for an outside source to tell us how to raise money. His comment was "..we get it..."
Scott E. Jungen

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