I've only been in Garrett County for a few days, but I have some observations. For one thing, these are among the nicest, most hard working, godly people I have known. They're wonderful. That being the case, why aren't the churches growing? Or perhaps the better question is, why are they losing members???
A Missouri Synod church is Accident is losing members as they are waiting for a new pastor. This begs the question of the role of lay leadership. In talking with the candidate for pastor there, he thought churches were flailing because of lack of leadership. Now I wonder if he meant strong pastoral leadership (Herr Pastor) or did he mean lay leadership?
In the case of my home church, Emanuel in West Warwick, RI, there was strong lay leadership that had been nurtured over the years. With an interim pastor for nearly two years, the church did quite well. The deacons assisted, actually led worship. All the committees functioned including church council.
So I wonder...as this LCMS church awaits a new pastor, are people leaving because there is no strong lay leadership? I'm just wondering.
Concerning another matter, I am grateful that the ELCA's tent is big enough for the wide varieties of Lutheranism it encompasses. In the Northeast, it's a very liberal Lutheranism...in this synod, it's pretty conservative. It's almost a mix of Lutheranism and conservative evangelicalism with a good dose of patriotism thrown in. Faith and faith practices like prayer and Bible reading are not something the people need encouragement in. They are doing it already. They need to understand their faith in light of historic Lutheranism and the confessions perhaps. They have been greatly influenced by civil religion and some of the televangelists.
The people I have met are such good God fearing Christians that know how to reach out with God's love. They are warm. You aren't greeted with a handshake, but a hug. So my question is, where is the disconnect? These churches should be full! I would love some insight and comments if anyone has any.
I am finding this place, these mountains, these people to be therapeutic. If God should ever call me to this area, I would be ecstatic. For now, I will try to listen and hear what the Spirit is saying.