Entries tagged with “faith”.


living-life-in-ordinary-time

My column for the May/June issue of The Canadian Lutheran was entitled “Living life in ordinary time,” and is available to read online here. In this article, I discuss Ordinary Time, that season on the Church Calendar “that comes when there are no real seasons to speak of.” It’s the time between the major festivals and holidays. In my article, I draw the comparisons between Ordinary Time in the Church and Ordinary Time in daily life. A sampling below:

cl2803-cover-webThe temptation is to think Ordinary Time in the Church is somehow less important than the big events. You see that reflected in our attendance numbers. We all know members who only seem to show up for Christmas and Easter. But in the middle of July? Not so much.

But Ordinary Time is where real life happens! After all, each of us have more unbirthdays (to borrow a phrase from Alice in Wonderland) than birthdays. So what do you do in “ordinary” life when you’re not celebrating a holiday? You go to work. You study for classes. You eat supper. Maybe you read a book or watch a television program. You play with your kids. These aren’t earth-shattering events, but they’re part and parcel of daily life. Doing these things are important to keep you in good health, both physically and mentally.

The same is true for Christian faith. We have Ordinary Time things to do. We need to go to church regularly, to feed on God’s Word and receive His Holy Supper. We need to spend time studying the Scriptures, growing deeper in the faith. We need to go about our daily work, telling others about the good news of Jesus Christ. And we need fellowship with other Christians, to encourage and pray for one another.

Read it all online here.

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A few weeks back I was asked to lead devotions for Lutheran Church–Canada’s Board of Directors meeting here in Winnipeg. Here is, more or less, what I spoke about that morning.

Reading: 1 Peter 1:3-9

In this letter from Peter, we see the paradox which so often accompanies the people of God: our faith is filled with joy; but it is also filled with suffering. We rejoice in the salvation won for us by Christ; but at the same time we suffer griefs and trials.

We rejoice in the salvation won for us by Christ; but at the same time we suffer griefs and trials.

st-peterIn this book, Peter is writing words of encouragement to the faithful in Asia Minor. We learn in this letter that the Christians there were in some state of suffering.

At the point at which he’s writing, it doesn’t seem that outright persecution is the problem. That will come, but for now it may be that they are merely facing increased societal disapproval for being Christian. They are becoming Pariahs. Scapegoats. Outcasts. For this reason, Peter encourages the faithful not to be discouraged when they are insulted for being Christians. Instead, they ought to do their best to make peace with their neighbours. They ought to live such good lives that no one can accuse them of wrongdoing. They ought to be good citizens, obeying their rulers and authorities.

All good advice. But within a few decades, this social disapproval of Christians would transform into outright persecution. The Romans would begin executing the faithful for the simple “crime” of bearing the name “Christian.” During that time, this area of Asia Minor would come under the authority of a new governor: Pliny the Younger. What’s particularly interesting about Pliny is that he wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan describing the prosecution of Christian, and his letter survives to this day. In it, Pliny describes how he treats Christians when they are brought to trial: he gives them three opportunities to recant their faith. If they refuse all three times, he sentences them to death.

It is in this context of growing persecution of the Church in Asia Minor that Peter writes his letter. And it is Easter hope in the midst of this suffering that he offers.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he writes. “In his great mercy, he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Right from the beginning of the letter, we are reminded that our hope as Christians is not found in our earthly comfort, but rather in the sacrifice of Christ. We don’t have a “living hope” because we have good jobs, or because we’re healthy, or because we are well-liked in this world. We are often the opposite of these things: we are poor, we are sick, we are despised.

But our hope looks up to God. We can have a “living hope” because Christ has been raised from the dead. His suffering makes us able to bear our own suffering. It’s a hope not in earthly things but a hope, Peter writes, of “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade”—an inheritance “kept in heaven” for us. When things look difficult in this world, we look to the One who has overcome the world. We look to Christ. And though our earthly situations may be grim, we see in Christ God’s eternal goodness to us. And we can bless the Lord for that, “though now for a little while we suffer grief in all kinds of trials.”

The medieval theologian Bede writes well of this passage: “It is right for us to bless God,” he says, “because, although on the strength of our own merits we deserve nothing but death, he has regenerated us by his mercy to a new life. He has done this by the resurrection of his Son who loved us so much that he gave himself up to death for our sake. When that death was overcome by his resurrection, he offered it to us… to give us hope of rising again ourselves. For he died in order that we should no longer be afraid of death, and he rose again so that we might have a hope of rising again through him.”

He died in order that we should no longer be afraid of death.

“He died in order that we should no longer afraid of death.” And if we need not fear death, neither need we fear trials in this world. The situations Peter is addressing in this book are ones we in Canada are beginning to understand a little. In the past, Christianity and Christians were respected in our society. Today, we are reminded only too often that our faith is not welcome in the public sphere. We begin to face, as Peter’s audience in Asia Minor faced, “insults” for being Christian. We are accused of intolerance for confessing the Word of God—for proclaiming the reality of sin and the need for a Saviour. Prominent politicians label such beliefs “unCanadian.” More and more people are convinced faith should be restricted to the home and not be brought out in public.

And we face other trials too, as a church. Our membership numbers have dropped; we have less and less resources to do the work we are called to do. But in all of these things, we have Peter’s words of comfort: “These trials have come so that your faith… may be proved genuine, and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” Joy is coming. In the meantime, Peter tells us, we are “shielded by God’s power” “through faith” “until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.”

Do we in Canada suffer to the same extent today that the early Church did? No, and God-willing, we won’t anytime soon. But when we face difficulties as Christians—be they griefs in our personal lives, concerns over the future of our churches, or increased resistance to Christianity in wider society—when we face these trials, we must look back to the light of Easter and look forward to the return of Christ.

At present, we live between the two moments: Easter happened two thousand years ago; Christ’s return is still to come. But while we wait, while we live between Easter and the coming Kingdom, we do so with a living hope. “Though we have not seen him, we love him; and even though we do not see him now, we believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. For now, right now in these present days, we are receiving the goal of our faith: the salvation of our souls.

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Doctor-Who-Akhaten

The Doctor confronts the old god in “The Rings of Akhaten.”

In case you haven’t heard, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of Doctor Who. As a fan, I’ve wanted to pay homage to the show for some time, planning to write a post discussing the good Doctor and religion. Now seems as good a time as any, given that the most recent episode “The Rings of Akhaten” is a story in which the Doctor comes face to face with a “god.”

It’s a common enough theme in science fiction: the self-proclaimed deity who is unmasked as a pretender (think Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country—“What does God need with a starship?”). Still, the Doctor’s confrontations with religious beings are a little different than those in other science fiction series. He is, after all, a semi-divine figure himself. All space and time is at his disposal. He can go anywhere and anywhen. He’s more Q than Picard, if you will.

The Doctor’s confrontations with religious beings is different than in other science fiction. He is, after all, a semi-divine figure himself.

So when the Doctor comes up against a “god,” we know he’ll be able to expose it as a fraud. And it always is another a fraud. It might be a powerful being; it might be ancient. It might, as in the most recent episode, have existed for millennia, feeding on the offerings and worship of its followers. But whatever else it is, it is not truly divine. It is as much a part of the universe as anything else. It can always be explained. It can always be understood.

Except, perhaps, in one two-part story from the Tenth Doctor’s era. In this story, the Doctor again comes across someone professing godhood: he meets a being which claims to be the Beast, the devil himself. But the Doctor has faced many false gods in his day; they are all pretenders. “If you are the Beast,” he mocks, “then answer me this: Which one, hmm? Because the universe has been busy since you’ve been gone. There’s more religions than there are planets in the sky. There’s the Arkaphets, Christianity, Pash-Pash, New Judaism, San Claar, Church of the Tin Vagabond. Which devil are you?”

Only this time the devil is real. “Which devil are you?” the Doctor asks. “All of them,” the Beast replies. He is not lying.

Here the Doctor is confronted with something greater—and more terrifying—than he can imagine. Not merely because it is an unknown but instead because it is by its nature unknowable. When the Doctor asks the Beast when he came to be chained in the Pit, the latter answers, “Before time.” This answer makes no sense to the Doctor; he cannot conceive of a “before time.”

“What does ‘before time’ mean?” he asks.

“Before time and light and space and matter. Before the cataclysm. Before this universe was created.”

“You can’t have come from before the universe,” the Doctor responds incredulously. “That’s impossible.”

To which the Beast replies, “Is that your religion?”

The Doctor can only respond, “It’s a belief.”

The Beast scoffs, “You know nothing. All of you, so small.”

Here the Doctor, nigh on a deity himself, is confronted by something beyond him. Unknowable. Unthinkable. Impossible. He cannot conceive of existence before time and matter. His reason is too small; it cannot bend so far. He cannot comprehend it. He cannot measure it and test it. “If that thing had said it was from beyond the universe, I’d have believed it. But before? Impossible.”

So too did God question Job: “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4-6). The questions are, for Job, impossible to answer; they are beyond his understanding: “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job 42:3). But Job’s inability to answer God’s questions about creation—and the Doctor’s inability to comprehend existence “before time”—does not change the fact of their existence.

So then: the Doctor finds himself opposed by a power he cannot even comprehend. He has no more ideas. He has no more options. Even the TARDIS—and, consequently, the only chance of escape—has been lost. All hope is at an end. The situation is utterly and completely beyond him.

The situation is utterly and completely beyond him. How fitting then, that the solution must also come from beyond him.

How fitting then, that the solution must also come from beyond him. It has, in fact, been prepared in advance by those who first imprisoned the devil. The Beast had been imprisoned “before time,” he tells us, when “the Disciples of the Light rose up against me and chained me in the pit for all eternity.”

doctor-who-satan-pit

The Doctor meets the Devil in “The Satan Pit.”

It is impossible to miss the reference to Scripture here. “And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Revelation 12:7-9). And again: “The angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day” (Jude 6).

As in the biblical text, the devil was defeated and chained in the darkness (in the television series, the devil is quite literally chained on an “impossible planet” fixed in space in the shadow of a black hole). But the Disciples of the Light seem to have foreseen both the Beast’s attempt to escape and the Doctor’s presence at the event. When all hope is lost, the Doctor finds the Disciples of Light have prepared a solution for him ahead of time—quite literally before time existed.

Having fallen into the Pit, the Doctor awakens to find he was “expected.” “I was given a safe landing and air,” he says to the Beast, asking why. Slowly it dawns on him: provision for his safe descent was not the devil’s doing; it was the work of the Disciples of Light. “That’s it!” he exclaims. “You didn’t give me air, your jailers did! They set this up. They need me alive, because if you’re escaping then I need to stop you!” The Doctor discovers what the Disciples of Light intend him to do, and he does it—knowing full well it will mean his own death.

Except it doesn’t. In a deus ex machina worthy of the name, the Doctor’s previously lost TARDIS is discovered to have also fallen into the Pit. In fact, it’s landed right where it needs to be, almost as if by plan. And perhaps it was by plan. That’s what’s so fascinating about this particular Doctor Who story: it leaves room for the possibility of something more—something beyond mortal comprehension, beyond even the super-human Doctor’s understanding. The Doctor lays down his life to defeat the devil, only to find his life restored to him in the end.

God out of the machine indeed.

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The two-part story under discussion here is “The Impossible Planet” and “The Satan Pit.”

Cross-posted at A Christian Thing.

What does it mean to “love the Lord our God with all our minds”? That’s the question that sits behind the most recent (July/August 2012) issue of The Canadian Lutheran. This issue features articles on being thinking Christians, on the spirituality of ordinary life, and on apologetics. As usual, I try to set the stage for the issue in my Table Talk column.

My column this time is entitled “By the renewing of your mind,” and you can get a taste of it below:

Sometimes as Christians we assume we’ve learned all we need to know. We’ve done our time in Sunday school and Confirmation, and now we’re finished. We’ve “graduated,” as it were. But the fact is, when we stop trying to understand more about our faith, we inevitably begin to forget even the basic things we once knew. We stop looking daily into God’s Word. We stop spending time in prayer. Bit by bit, we let the cares of this world choke out the seed of faith. And though we may spend our entire lives in the Church, we suddenly find ourselves in need of the same criticism: by this time we really ought to be teachers of the faith; instead, we need a refresher on the very basics of Christianity…

As we seek a deeper knowledge of Him, we will find that the false teachers of this world become less appealing: we will learn to “discern good from evil,” as the Holy Spirit renews our minds. Then the central tenet of our faith will rise up in our mind’s eye: a cross standing high on a hill above every lie. We will learn to see the world with Christ as its focus, with Christ as the Answer to its every question, and with Christ as the only Salvation for its sin-stained brokenness. We shall see Truth. And the Truth shall set us free.

Check out the article here. Or, if you’d rather read the whole issue, download the July/August issue pdf here.

In other news, a certain fiancée of mine worked on the cover art for this one. Chances are she’ll read this: so let me say this: I love you, dear heart, and I thank you for the help you give me on many things, including the art work and column-refinement you helped me with on this issue. But mostly, just thank you for you.

Jack Layton’s funeral is tomorrow, and I felt I should honour his contributions to Canadian society in some small way. His compassion and concern for the downtrodden was inspiring, as was his commitment to keeping his politics civil. Whatever one’s political inclinations, we can all thank God for that type of leadership.

Jack Layton and his wife Olivia Chow in front of St. Francis of Assissi Church (Toronto), during the 2011 Good Friday Procession. Image from Toronto Star.

As my blog is primarily focused on faith, and the relationship between faith and culture, I thought it worthwhile to consider Layton’s approach to faith. Layton was a practising member of the United Church of Canada (though he joked in one instance, “I don’t practise as frequently as I should”). The following are selections from Layton’s written and spoken words where he talks about personal faith, and the role faith can and should play in the political process. Make of them what you will.

“Faith and Politics: Party Leaders Respond.” Faith Today. Jan-Feb 2006. (co-written with Bill Blaikie). http://www.evangelicalfellowship.ca/page.aspx?pid=1247

There is much common ground to be found and to be developed between the religious left and the religious right

The challenge for Canadians who want to practise a politics that is faithful to their understanding of God, of their Scriptures and of their own faith tradition, is how to do this appropriately in the secular, pluralistic and multi-faith society that Canada has become. For Christians this is particularly challenging, because this needs to be done in a way that preserves the right of Christians to bring their values into the public square while respecting the fact that in a post-Christendom context no policy can be officially adopted or rejected for explicitly Christian reasons, as might have been the case in a previous era….

There will always be a role for Christians, and for people of other faiths, to speak out of their prophetic traditions, challenging the rulers of their day to do justice, to love kindness and mercy, and to measure their political choices not in terms of how they help the rich and already powerful, but how they help the hungry, the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalized and the environment that future generations will have to live in.

The prophetic voice may not always be welcome in public policy debates, but it is essential that its role be defended as one of the important ways that the spirit speaks to us in human history.

“Interview with Jack Layton.” Canada Kick Ass. October 11, (2009?). http://www.canadaka.net/article/673-interview-with-jack-layton

We’ve actually started a faith and justice commission in our party because we believe that this idea that people who have values that motivate them in politics derived from whatever their faith journey might have been, this idea that this is somehow the exclusive preserve of a far-right component of the population is just simply wrong….

Of course we also have a profound, not only understanding, but belief in the separation of church and state. That is a very very important principle in Canada. We’ve also chosen, however, to be a multi-cultural sort of society. So we’ve allowed for gray areas around the edges, and I think that’s part of working things out in a complex society, and ours is a little more complex than most.

“Jack Layton: Role of Faith.” listenuptv. August 22, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WuiHUQ8pBI

[Responding to a question about the role of faith in his life]: [Faith] has been an active role. My folks got us involved in the youth movement of the United Church right from the get go. I used to be in the junior choir – before my voice changed. We used to go to a group – in fact, my mom and dad ran the group – it was called the “Bible Study Class” at 9:30 on Sunday morning. Three of us went. One was because my dad was running it so naturally I had to go. And there were two others who went. And he said to us, “What would we have to do different?” And I’d say, “Well, you’ve gotta make it more relevant. For example, what if you made it Sunday nights? And what if you changed it from “Bible Study Class” to some other name? Maybe some of our friends who come.” So we came up with the name “Infusers” – the idea that you could infuse your ideas and your work and your enthusiasm into the community. And before you knew it, practically every kid in Hudson was coming (mostly because it was the only way you could get out on a Sunday night was to say you were going down to Mr. Layton’s Bible study class at the church). But we had all kinds of involvement, and… we would go out and meet seniors…. and we’d sing with them or bring them things that they needed. That whole notion of service. So what do I derive from all of that? It’s the concept of service – an optimistic opportunity to serve.

“How the leaders view religion and politics.” Globe and Mail. April 21, 2011. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/how-the-leaders-view-religion-and-politics/article1995302/

I believe that people’s ideas and promises should be the issues of the campaign. It shouldn’t matter if a policy idea [comes] from a place of faith or a practical experience – but people should judge for themselves how it will affect them and their community….

Any Canadian should be able to become prime minister by earning the confidence of the Canadians who elect them, no matter what their faith status might be. A prime minister needs [to] be able to reach out and talk with people from all kinds of different backgrounds – bringing people together from diverse backgrounds is an important leadership trait….

[When asked to describe “a time of personal or political crisis when your faith guided your or helped you”]: Some aspects of one’s faith and spirituality, especially in difficult times, really should remain private.

“Statement by NDP Leader Jack Layton on the Kirpan.” New Democratic Party. January 20, 2011. http://www.ndp.ca/press/statement-by-new-democrat-leader-jack-layton-on-kirpan

It’s time to stop playing divisive, political games with Canadian’s religious beliefs. Canada has a reputation of tolerance and understanding, and we must continue to work together and embrace our differences.

And now, some additional thoughts on Jack Layton’s faith, but this time from his friend Bill Blaikie, an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, currently serving as an MLA in Manitoba, having served as an NDP MP from 1979 to 2008. His thoughts were published a day after Jack Layton passed away.

“Jack Layton’s strength had Sunday school roots: NDP stalwart Bill Blaikie remembers his friend.” Christian Week. August 23, 2011. http://christianweek.org/stories.php?id=1651

“Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

With these final words, penned just days before his untimely death on August 22, Jack Layton expressed the firm foundation of his worldview. It was a way of looking at the world that had its roots in his United Church upbringing – a spiritual inheritance he cherished and nurtured as his life progressed….

Jack Layton’s light always shone for a more inclusive, loving, environmentally sensitive world. He dared to believe God’s will could be done on Earth as it was in heaven if those who wanted to anticipate the kingdom and its justice pursued it with discipline and courage.

Canadian Christians, whatever their politics and whatever their disagreements might be, should recognize that in losing Jack Layton we have lost a great example of a public life significantly shaped by the church.

Jack ran the race set before him and fought the good fight. I am as sure as one can be in this life that the words “well done, my good and faithful servant” welcomed him into God’s care and keeping.

Layton’s final thoughts on faith and life will be revealed tomorrow at his funeral. The Globe and Mail reports that he had begun planning it with the Rev. Brent Hawkes more than a month ago. Rev. Hawkes says that Layton asked him to deliver a couple of specific messages during the service. We will have to wait until then to learn what they are.

“Does the fact that we have mental illness in our community show that the Gospel is weak or inefficient?” So asks my friend Karl Persson in a recent talk he gave at St. John’s Vancouver Anglican Church: “Make Level Paths for Your Feet: Mental Illness and Evangelicalism in the Lives of Cowper, Carey and Hauerwas.”

In order to avoid unsettling questions like the one above, too many of us in the Church have simply ignored the premise of the question: as far as we are concerned, there’s no such thing as mental illness. At most, we seem to think, some people struggle with spiritual problems which could be overcome if they just prayed harder and had more faith.

Karl turns that type of thinking on its head. By exploring the stories of three Christians who suffered with mental illness, he thrusts the existence of such conditions before our eyes. Dorothy Carey (wife of the great missionary William Carey), William Cowper (the great hymnist and friend of John Newton), and Ann Hauerwas (wife of prominent theologian Stanley Hauerwas) all suffered with mental illness. None found healing in this world.

Karl reflects: “We like the stories where we get up at the microphone and say, ‘These bad things happened but God got me through it, and now everything’s okay.’” But that simply isn’t the case much of the time. “It’s harder to hear these stories,” Karl says. They remind us that suffering and pain are all too real in this world, that God doesn’t simply wave a magic wand and make it all disappear.

We cannot simply deny the existence of mental illness. And if it exists (as it does), that poses the question: “How do we make sense of this theologically?”

For Karl, there are no easy answers. And that’s perhaps the point. This side of reality, we don’t get all the answers. All we can do is trust in Jesus Christ, clinging to God as he has revealed himself to us. All else may be smoke and vapours, intangible; but the cross is real. And the cross must therefore be our anchor.

Shortly after Karl gave this talk, a very close friend died suddenly. When he shared the link on Facebook, he prefaced it with the following words. I think them worth repeating:

My talk on Christianity, mental-illness, suffering and death. Listen with the caveat that death and suffering are bloody awful and have no sufficient theological ‘answer’ except that they will be sealed impotent in the deepest recesses of hell for eternity. Missing you Abigail, and anticipating death’s defeat, when we will be blessed by you once more in the presence of God, whom you loved and still love.

Amen. I too eagerly await that day when death will be at last buried in the lake of fire. And I too look for the resurrection of the dead, that day when every tear shall be finally wiped away. Until then, pie Jesu domine, dona eis requiem. Et nobis levamentum dona.

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Karl Persson is a Doctoral Candidate working on the intersection of Biblical and Old English wisdom literature; theologically, he is interested in being a good husband to Meg, being a good father to Andrew, and working out a theological grammar that allows us to speak appropriately and well about issues concerning God, suffering, and the broader problem of evil.

The above link is to an mp3 file. The talk can also be downloaded as a wma file by visiting the “Learner’s Exchange” at St. John’s Vancouver’s website and scrolling to Karl’s talk (May 29, 2011).

Ever wonder what youth in the Lutheran church are thinking? Wonder no more. Back in June, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod released the results of a survey they took at their 2007 National Youth Gathering. I’ve gathered a bit of the more interesting results below to consider. Some of it is encouraging. Some is simply concerning.

Personal Faith Life
When asked how much time they spent per week in personal Bible study and devotion, the largest response by far was “very little/almost never.” In fact, 47.6% of 18 year olds, 48.2% of 15 year olds, 51.4% of 16 year olds, 55.5% of 17 year olds and a disheartening 55.5% of 19 year olds checked that category. Another 29.7% to 40.5% chose the next lowest option: 30-60 minutes per week. 6.1% to 10% chose 61-120 minutes while only 1.7% to 4.4% checked more than 2 hours.

25.6% to 33.3% of teens responded they speak to parents/family about God and spiritual matters ‘often’. 41% to 46.8% said ‘sometimes’. 13.3 to 22.7% said ‘rarely’ while 5% to 7% said ‘never’.

Morality
Only 52.1% to 58.3% of teens agreed pre-marital sex was always wrong. An encouraging 77% of 15 year olds said they never engaged in sexual intercourse, but that number progressively drops to a dismal 48.3% among 19 year olds.

Only 58.7% to 67.2% were certain that homosexuality was a sin according to God’s Word and therefore wrong.

An encouraging 86.5% to 91.4% responded that they never do drugs. 64.2% to 79.3% insisted they had not once been drunk in the past 12 months.

69.1% to 70.3% believed abortion was definitely wrong and identified themselves as ‘pro-life’. 16.9 to 21.4% believed a woman should have the right to choose and identified themselves as ‘pro-choice’. 

Worship
17.3% to 24.9% preferred “traditional, liturgical worship, using hymns pretty much out of a hymnal.” 24.9% to 31.9% preferred “contemporary music with praise band usually singing praise choruses. Never out of a hymnal.” The largest category at 39.9% to 43.4% preferred “a mixture of old and new” while 8.3% to 11% were unsure what they preferred.

On the subject of church fellowship, a disappointing 18.3% to 23.3% believed “all religions are pretty much alike.” 15.3% to 22.3% believed Lutherans should associate only with other Lutherans. 47.8% to 58.3% affirmed belief in a larger catholic understanding of Christian unity.

Church Workers
On the issue of female ordination, 39.8% to 50% believed it was contrary to God’s Word. 21.1% to 30.6% believed the issue should continue to be studied and held up to God’s Word. 8.3% to 14.9% suggested the official LCMS position was definitely wrong, while 15% to 24.2% admitted they just didn’t know.

41.5% to 47.9% were “really not interested” in considering a career in professional church work. Another 18.3% to 23.4% had “never really thought about it.”

Home Congregation
Most teens considered their home congregation generally unwilling to consider any change even if “a good, new idea comes along.” 15.7% to 23.1% felt their home church “wouldn’t change a light bulb if they didn’t have to” while an additional 35.3% to 42.2% felt their home congregation was unsympathetic towards change but that “sometimes they can be convinced.”

Only 17.1% to 23.3% and 5% to 12.1% thought their home congregation was either “good or “excellent, respectively, involving youth in congregational decision making.
 

That’s just some of the numbers that caught my eye. It’s time to consider results like this to discern where we’re succeeding and where we’re failing, to re-evaluate methods which my be flawed and support methods which may be working.

Plenty to think about and plenty to pray about in any event. Read the full results of the survey at LCMS’ website.