Saturday, September 29, 2012

Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Good Friday

In His Passion...

Christ Died for Sinners, Christ Died for You!

The Church Calendar and Evangelism: Good FridayIn my previous post, entitled Confessional Lutheran Evangelism: Confessing Scripture's Message about Lent, I promised to feature the postcard we distributed during Holy Week, prior to Good Friday. Initially, having been first developed for a quarter fold pamphlet (8.5x14in sheet of paper folded twice), it included the full Passion account and additional imagery, along with the image and explanation pictured at left. Over time, however, and for several reasons, it was reduced to this large postcard format. Again, as with the Lenten postcard featured in our previous post, the congregation is not at all on display. There is no hint of self-promotion, no invitation to the reader to “visit us because of us” contained in it. Instead, it's all about Jesus. All that is said about the congregation is on the reverse side: the address and phone number of the congregation, a list of service times and travel directions to the church. That's it.

But I also promised to include some explanation for the criteria we used to determine the level of content we composed for these mailings. As with the Lenten postcard, there are lots of words here, some big words, too. There is a reason for that.

The community in which this congregation is located straddles the border of two, principally rural, western Wisconsin counties: the south end of town is in one county, the north end is in another. The western border of these counties is also the State border, immediately to the west of which is a Minnesota county that was listed during the 1980's and 1990's as one of the top ten richest counties in the nation. Beginning in the late 1990's, property and personal income tax advantages began to draw many high-income families from eastern Minnesota into western Wisconsin, and to encourage this exodus once it had begun, considerable investment in the development of utility infrastructure and optimistic community planning likewise began to dominate the docket of every village, town, and city council in the area. To support community investment, property taxes began to rise proportionately throughout this time period. Significant increases in housing costs also occurred. Interestingly, by 2005, the average wage in this congregation's community was on the order of $10/hr (a full 12% lower than the state average), while the income required to support the average home in this community had grown to approximately $35/hr – this statistic was supplemented by data suggesting that most residents (61%) were employed outside of the local area (mostly in Minnesota). Notably, among new residents, 40% of married adult females were categorized as homemakers. Hence, as a result of continued tax advantages and community investment, these counties saw an average growth of 30% over the decade beginning in the late 1990's, and this growth was mostly due to the influx of well-educated, successful professionals, a significant proportion of whom were heads of single wage-earner households.

On top of this, the community itself is host to a University that is well-regarded in the fields of education, agriculture and others. It is no surprise, then, to learn that the rate of college degree attainment in this area is over twice the State average (over 50% of the population), and the rate of advanced degree attainment is nearly triple the State average.

Having studied our community, we not only thought it safe to err on the side of more words than fewer, we thought it advisable to regard people we had not met with a dignity befitting educated people – by actually assuming that this is what they were (if it doesn't right now, this may make more sense after our next post). So there is no suggestion here that every congregation ought to copy, verbatim, what our congregation had done – this is not “evangelism in a box” by any means! However, my hope is that, as I describe the kind of research we did, and as I describe how and why we made the decisions we did, it will become clear (a) that our effort was calculated to do one thing only, to substantively and directly communicate the message of Law and Gospel as broadly as we could given our limited resources, and (b) to describe the process of developing such materials well enough that Lutheran congregations desiring to do the same for themselves will have in the examples I give, some concepts to apply on their own.

The next post in this series will feature the postcard we sent late in Holy Week, for arrival either on Good Friday or Holy Saturday: the Easter postcard (it doesn't have as many words – not nearly). It will also include a description of our rationale for who we selected to receive these mailings. Our resources were limited, so we couldn't mail them to everyone in the county... but there were doctrinal concerns involved, as well, so our selection wasn't random, either. More on that next time.


Warren Malach said...

"He willingly suffered and died in order that mankind MAY BE reconciled with His Heavenly Father." (Caps added)

"MAY BE"? 2 Cor. 5:18-19 says "Now all things are of God, who HAS reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, God WAS in Christ, RECONCILING the world to Himself, NOT IMPUTING their tresspasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation." (Caps added)

WHERE does the "may be" come from?

Warren Malach said...

Addendum to my last comment: Please see AC XXVII:49: "True Christian perfection is to fear God from the heart, to have great faith, and to trust that for Christ's sake we have a God who HAS BEEN reconciled," (Concordia Edition, p. 69/57, caps added.)

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Mr. Malach,

Thanks for commenting. You're quite right -- the phrase "may be" is improper here, at best it is very weak. Given the construction of the sentence, "would be" is far preferable. I noticed that phraseology as I was preparing these images for posting, and thought to myself, "That's something I would change, if these were going to be put back to use," but I decided to leave the content essentially as it was for the sake of this series, the point of which is far from providing opportunity for theological critique, but rather demonstrating the stark contrast between actually disseminating the Gospel and the anthropocentric, organization-building techniques of the Church Growth Movement. If you're eager to harp on imperfect expression, you'll see ample opportunity in all of these mailings -- as I stated in the Lenten Post, "I'm sure that many could still find room in them for improvement." And to repeat, yes, I'm quite sure that they could be improved.

(BTW, there was a definite process for approving the content and formatting of these mailings, which will be described in a future post -- even so, again, there remains, and always will remain, room for improvement).

Thanks Again.

Mr. Douglas Lindee

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