Jonathan Morris was a priest that came on FOX News and offered opinion on politics and morals and the goings on of the Papacy. He is glib and well spoken and a nice looking fellow. I remember thinking after a statement that he made about some crime, that Lutheran pastors probably would never be allowed to comment on a news show with hard breaks for commercials and breathless comments rushed to get into a time segment. He said something to the effect that we all had free will and I tried to imagine a Lutheran pastor jumping into that kind of statement with the explanation of a bound will that when cut loose from Christ will always do what is wrong.
Anyway, I have been looking for ways to respond to an article about church planting and church growth that tries to get to the heart of why churches are declining in the US. There are a multitude of reasons other than the fact that we sold our heritage for a mess of pottage. Another reason may be the fact the churches have become bureaucracies where bean counters have taken over and drawn the parameters of “success”. Churches report on baptisms, confirmations, conversions, attendance, transfers and the numbers either show growth (good) or decline (bad) or status quo which is also probably bad.
Father Morris is no longer a father because, as he said the other day, he wants to get married and, if God wills have children, and be a real father.. I admire the fact that he recognized that his church does not allow married clergy and bowed to that knowledge instead of running around trying to trash the whole institution. Remember, Luther was not trashing the whole institution but questioned the practice of indulgences, which caused the catholic hierarchy to pretty much trash themselves. Anyway Mr. Morris went to church the other day and sat in the back as regular people do. I’m sure when he had a parish he wanted everyone to come to the front but now that he is a laymen he sits in the back. He was embarrassed when the offering plate was passed because he had no cash. That happens a lot too, and we haven’t gotten around to Apple Pay or I Pads that can take a credit card. Anyway the next thing that bothered him was they included in the offering section of the service a drive for people to join the congregation. He said something that lies at the heart of so many of our issues – “I will attend that church and worship there but I am not sure I want to join”. Now this fellow was a priest and I am sure he was all about getting in and welcoming new members, and now that he is laity the whole attitude about membership changes.
We have never properly explored the folks that come every Sunday, give an offering and refuse to join. Until we figure that out the questions of church decline and church planting and growth and all the rest will be meaningless in an organizational sense.