What is the church?

According to the Augsburg Confession, the Church is where believers gather together to hear the Gospel (the Word of God) and receive the sacraments. The mission of the church was given by Jesus in the words of the Great Commission. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28: 19-20) Thus, Bethlehem and St. Paul are the church when we gather together to hear God’s Word (both law and Gospel) and when we go out to the world to make disciples by preaching and teaching God’s Word (both law and Gospel).

This summer, since we have taken our first vote to terminate our relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we are deciding which Luther Church body to belong to. Basically there are three options. We could remain in the ELCA, or we could terminate our relationship with the ELCA and join “Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ” (LCMC), or we could terminate our relationship with the ELCA and join the “North American Lutheran Church” (NALC). (As I said in last month’s newsletter, becoming an independent congregation is not a viable option, nor is it one that any of us want.) The question is; which one of these three options help us to fulfill our mission as a church? If our church is about hearing God’s Word and preaching God’s Word, which church body is best suited for us at Bethlehem and St. Paul? In other words, which church body is true to the Word of God (both law and Gospel)? This is the question we have to ask ourselves in our adult forums this summer, as we decide on the future of our churches.

On Sunday, June 13 we will have our second of three adult forums. On May 2 we had our first forum, where we studied the LCMC. On the 13th we are studying the option of staying in the ELCA. Remember, we have only taken the first vote to leave. To officially “terminate our relationship with the ELCA”, according to our constitution, requires a second vote. Until that second vote occurs, we remain in the ELCA. At the forum on the 13th we will have a representative from the Western Iowa Synod, who will present the ELCA’s case. This will be our consultation with the synod, which is a constitutional requirement. We will hold our forums after church, just as we have done with our previous adult forums.

I want to thank everyone for their patience and diligence as we have gone through this process. The forums have been well attended so far, and I hope that continues. I hope to see you on Sunday, June 13th.

Your friend in Christ,


Pastor Ron

“The life of the church is to be found in the Word of God, not in church programs or activities. Family lives suffer when churches think they’re really alive because their calendar is full of programs and activities. In stead of being believers hungry for the Word and sinners hungry for forgiveness, members become human resources for the church.” (A Lesson from Professor Jim Nestigen at Luther Seminary) - In other words, it’s time for the church to serve the people, rather than the people serving the church.