I am one of those people who always has to fight the temptation to add a qualifier to statements that I make. More or less. Both, and. Sort of, kind of, like…. I know I am an editor’s nightmare.
Why do I do this? It’s partly a habit. It’s partly hedging my bets. It’s partly a fear of speaking too boldly or acting like a know-
it-all that has been drilled into me since childhood.
Sometimes I hear people talk about our church in a more or less kind of way too. We are in decline but we are learning to be missional. We are an aging church but our focus is on youth and young adults. Our days are numbered but we have a new vision and new energy.
The reality is that we live in a time of rapid change. The world is changing, the place of organized religion in our society is changing, our own church is changing.
A few years ago I was very anxious about the future of our church. Our membership numbers are declining. The synods and National Church have less financial resources and fewer staff. If you were only to look at statistics and graphs and pie charts it would be at least a bleak if not downright scary picture.
But our God is able to make “all things new.” In the economics of the gospel, the mustard seed, the smallest seed, produces the biggest bush in proportion. The widow’s mite is the largest and most generous gift. The shepherd leaves 99 sheep to look for the one who is lost. The first are last and the last, first.
So is it really any surprise that God can take the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, infuse us with the Spirit, and send us off in a new direction?
That is what I am seeing happen! I am starting to boldly proclaim that we are not a small church. Yes we are small if we compare ourselves to the United Church of Canada or the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. But if we look at the median-size of churches in The Lutheran World Federation, or even in the Canadian Council of Churches, we are not small—we are medium sized!
It’s true we have fewer members and financial resources than when our church was formed in 1986. But from what I observed at our convention last summer and from what I have seen and heard from synods, congregations and ministries, there is a new and exciting spirit within our church. We are becoming a more mission-focused church. We are becoming more spiritually grounded and vibrant. We are uniting in a common vision and common aims. We are learning how to respect and even rejoice in the regional differences we experience within our church.
How else can you explain a church undertaking a Reformation Challenge to sponsor 500 refugees, raise funds for 500 scholarships in schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, plant 500,000 trees in Canada, Ethiopia and Palestine, and raise 500,000 dollars for The Lutheran World Federation?
As we are reminded in Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
I’m changing my tune. In #myELCIC it is no longer more or less. It is an honest and excited realization that our God calls us to a new life of less and more.
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada