Check the Mirror, Pastor — After Five Years, Your Church Looks Like You.” This was the headline of an article that caused me to stop and reflect. If it’s true that after five years the congregation I serve will look a lot like me, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
If congregations begin to reflect their pastor over time, it might lead the pastor to think about what he should do to shape his congregation. The pastor will be tempted to think about how he can and should shape it: How can I make my congregation enthusiastic for evangelism? How can I make my congregation take the Word of God seriously and want to study it? How can I shape my congregation to make an impact in our community?
But if those are the first questions the pastor asks, his focus is in the wrong place. When I first read that headline and the accompanying article, the reality that my congregation would reflect me as a pastor felt like a heavy burden to bear. Do I really want my congregation to look like … me? To paraphrase St. Paul, Do I really want my congregation to look like the chief of sinners?
And yet, St. Paul also wrote in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” How can Paul claim to be the chief of sinners and yet say, “be imitators of me”? How can a pastor do the same?
In short, Paul wasn’t seeking to have the focus on him, but on Christ. He understood that the example he set would impact how those to whom he was ministering would see Christ. By speaking of himself as the chief of sinners and as the least of the apostles, Paul modeled the reality of the need for Christ and His forgiveness.
Pastors follow Paul’s example not when they seek to hold themselves up as the perfect example to be imitated, but when they show the congregation that they too are sinners in need of Jesus. By spending time in God’s Word on a daily basis, devoting time to prayer, forgiving and seeking forgiveness quickly, valuing and hungering for the Lord’s Supper, and being honest about their weaknesses, pastors model the very things they want to see in the flock they serve.
There’s much more to discuss concerning this topic, but I think it starts with pastors echoing the words of John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Contributed through the LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission monthly newsletter By Rev. Benjamin Meyer, Hope Lutheran Church, Sunbury, Ohio
Minneapolis, Here We Come!
The 2019 National Rural & Small Town Mission Conference will be held Nov. 14–16 in Minneapolis, Minn., at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel Bloomington-Minneapolis South. Registrations made after Sept. 1 are available but at an increased rate. Register before Sept. 1 for the early registration rate! Late registration open until 9/20!
The blessings and challenges facing rural and small-town congregations today will be addressed. Congregations will be encouraged to cultivate ways to become healthy churches, eager to bear witness for Christ, able to show mercy to those in need in communities and develop a robust life together with fellow members. We hope you’ll join us by registering now and reserving your spot!
Speakers and Session Topics
Keynote speakers will include Rev. Todd Kollbaum, director, LCMS Rural & Small Town Mission and Dr. Harold L. Senkbeil, Executive Director for Spiritual Care, DOXOLOGY. Rev. Robert Zagore, executive director, LCMS Office of National Mission, will lead the theme Bible study of the conference based on Hebrews 12:1b-2a.
Breakout topics include dealing with addictions, mental health, young adults in ministry, bi-vocational pastors, stewardship, community engagement, partnering with LERT, online education and many other topics affecting our rural and small-town congregations. There is something planned for everyone … from layperson to pastor, student to teacher!
We encourage you to bring your whole family to spend a few days together! Enjoy the Mall of America and take advantage of the special family rates that include access to all conference activities.
Don’t forget that a special track for Youth Ministry will be returning this year, led by youth peer leaders and specially meant for your youth to join you as well; this option will have a limited number of seats and require attendance in all six sessions.
Adult registration for the conference is $225/person and includes all plenary and breakout sessions, materials, Thursday dinner, Friday lunch and dinner and more. See our full registration form for discounted rates for youth, students, families, couples, LWML members, meals only and groups. Contact our office with questions.
Hotel reservations must be made separately from conference registration. The Doubletree is offering a rate of $100/ Single or Double plus applicable taxes for our group including breakfast buffet per day per occupancy level; complimentary self-parking; complimentary airport and Mall of America shuttle.
More information and online registration can be found at lcms.org/rstm/conference
RSTM Events Update
Don’t forget that Rural & Small Town Mission provides free monthly webinars on topics important to congregations in town and country settings. Up next is “Church Reflections” with the Rev. Benjamin Meyer on Sept. 26, followed by “Moving Beyond Survival: DOXOLOGY and Your Church’s Future” with the Rev. Dr. Harold Senkbeil on Oct. 10. Find past webinars in our archive.
Register for one our Engaging Your Community (EYC) or Engaging the Wandering (ETW) events at lcms.org/ rstm. These partner events offer practical resources and training in communication skills for reaching out to our wandering members and communities with Christ’s love. Contact your district or our office if you are interested in holding an event near you.
The LCMS South Dakota District will partner with RSTM to hold two ETW events, at St. John Lutheran Church, Groton, S.D., on Oct. 26, and Trinity Lutheran Church, Hartford, S.D., on Oct. 27. Online registration is available for these ETW events.
In partnership with Minnesota South, RSTM is also rolling out a new type of event, Welcoming, in Pipestone, MN on Oct. 12 that we think you and your congregation are going to love and benefit from! We will address the little known “brain gain” of rural and small-town communities. These day-long events will help congregations to be more welcoming places that provide God’s Word to both current members and guests. They are also great opportunities for leadership and volunteer training.
For more information about our events or to see the rest of our calendar, visit lcms.org/rstm or contact our office at 888- 463-5127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Register now! The 2019 National Rural & Small Town Mission Conference, “Running With Endurance: Eyes Fixed On Jesus,” will be held Nov. 14–16 in Minneapolis. Watch for updates and more information at lcms.org/rstm/conference.
For more information about our events or to see the rest of our calendar, visit lcms.org/rstm or contact our office at 888-463-5127 or email@example.com.