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Really Synod?2 min read

As you know, “Synod” means walking together. Literally it is to be on the same road. When we in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod hear that word, our inner GPS dials up St. Louis and the International Center. That needs recalibration.

It is important to remember that Synod starts here, in your community, in your circuit. The journey of walking together in faith and faithfulness as followers of Jesus begins locally.

And now more than ever.

Throughout our District we have many small congregations, and we have congregations that cannot afford a full-time pastor. These congregations are small, but that does not necessarily mean dying.

At the same time, we have congregations with great capacity for ministry. They have a large worshipping community. God has blessed them with large staffs, robust programs, and large facilities.

And in between are plenty of mid-sized congregations. They are “holding their own” in an increasingly non-Christian environment. They work to expand their touch into their various communities.

We also see fewer pastors available for ministry. For many years now the graduating classes from the Seminary have gotten smaller. The average age of pastors has risen; the baby boomers are retiring.

Of course, in the midst of this, many, many around us languish in unbelief: our neighbors don’t know Jesus; people are living lives of distraction, distortion, and drug-induced dullness. Mission opportunity is at our every doorstep.

Now more than ever, we need to be Synod locally. Our congregations and pastors must band together not only to maintain ministry, but to increase faith and faithfulness, to expand Gospel outreach. We can work together with the confidence that Jesus will build His Kingdom and neither the gates of hell, a hostile culture, an aging congregation, nor a limited pool of pastors will prevail against it.

Here are three ways you can be Synod locally:

  • Work with other congregations around you to share resources, properties, and workers. Smaller and medium-sized and very large congregations can strategically unite in ministry. A key to this is not to worry about “what is ours.”
  • Embrace rather than criticize the differences between congregations. Set suspicion and competition aside. We are in this together. Let’s leverage the distinctions between us for outreach around us.
  • See your Circuit as the seedbed of the Synod. Use your Winkel meetings and Circuit Convocations as mission strategy centers. You do not need to wait for a Synod program to get started.

The Kingdom of God is never in retreat. Jesus taught, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mark 4:26–27 NIV).

Let us walk together here and now. Let us be really Synod—on the same road. Let us prayerfully, joyfully, and humbly work in the Spirit for a season of church planting and revamping. Synod starts here. Now. You and me.

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About the Author

Rev. David A. Davis serves as President of the Michigan District, LCMS. Rev. Davis and his wife, Sallie, have four grown daughters, two granddaughters, and two grandsons.

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Lenore Lemanski - January 3, 2023

Thank you, Pastor Davis. I have appreciated your wisdom and leadership ever since about 2005, when you were leading the Ablaze! effort. We invited you to speak at our first PICO (Practical Ideas for Community Outreach) in Saginaw in 2014. Our church, Messiah-Carrollton, a church that blended with Redeemer-Saginaw in 2013, now sees 4-5 dozen people at worship each week and our pastor recently took a call to Wisconsin. Our prospects for getting a pastor are slim to none, but we continue to have a vibrant outreach ministry because we have learned to partner with other churches and local helping organizations. If our focus is inward, we cannot survive.

Craig Britton - January 3, 2023

Thank you, President Davis, for this wonderful counsel and encouragement. And challenge.

Joel Hoyer - January 3, 2023

Couldn’t agree more. And pastors, attend your circuit winkels. If you really think you are such a great pastor that you get nothing out of it, then put something into it! Iron sharpens iron.

Robert Schultz - January 3, 2023

Is Synod, in St. Louis, walking with us? Given it’s attitude toward ordination of deacons–which many wanted–which is now canceled, it seems as if it does not want smaller congregations to have pastors.

Roger Guetzkow - January 3, 2023

Great advice, President Davis! Let’s urge our congregations to focus on outreach and organize activities that serve their communities. The world is looking for hope that only Christ and the Gospel message can satisfy.

Randy Duncan - January 3, 2023

Amen, Brother! The Synod/congregation that desires to save its own life will lose it, but the Synod/congregation that is willing to lay down their life for Jesus and for the spreading of the Gospel will find life!

Pastor Jim Weist - January 4, 2023

Thank you president Davis for this wonderful article!! I am inspired. I am presently serving a small congregation as their vacancy pastor (they presently can’t afford a full time called pastor) I have served all kinds of churches, city, large, schools, church plants, etc! I so agree…we need to come together (synod) to be about the mission of God and answer, Jesus prayer in John 17, that we would be one so the world will know Him!

Patrick Winter - January 9, 2023

Pastor Davis,
What is the current disposition of CUW and Dr. Schultz?

Pat Maier - January 10, 2023

Thank you, President Davis. Good focus & words to bring focus to the Word and our place in the Kingdom of God. We appreciate your encouragement for working together!

Patti Jacques - January 11, 2023

Thank you Pastor for the excellent article. As Gifts For All God’s Children has worked for years with inner city congregations and suburban congregations we have been a conduit of bringing congregations together. Also we have watched the Lutheran Laypersons League in Detroit begin under the direction of Willie Marie Henry several years ago. We have seen how those congregations that are part of it are working together and it is marvelous. Silo congregations and ministries are way to common unfortunately and we thank the Lord that He has a plan to change that.

Andrew Twietmeyer - January 12, 2023

A question about your second point: are we to embrace, categorically, all differences between our congregations without any consideration or discussion about the theology, thinking, or reasons behind the differences? In other words, perhaps the differences in our congregations illustrate and illuminate areas in which other congregations can learn, grow, and subsequently change and follow suite.
Thank you for your time and work.