Grace and peace,
On April 26 we welcomed 28 new members as part of Lutheran Church of the Holy Comforter. 28 new members is without a doubt something to celebrate as a congre-gation, but we must look beyond simply the numbers to recognize why we celebrate.
A congregation that is only focused on the numbers is often a congregation that is dying, even if they have a lot of members. What I mean by this is that when a congre-gation becomes too focused on the number of members they have, they become much less focused on the ministry to which they are called. The work they do becomes more about attraction, and the ministry that we are called to as the body of Christ suffers. The true life of a congregation has to do its spiritual well-being and life of faith, not the number of people present on a Sunday morning.
However, I believe that congrega-tions that are committed to the work of God’s kingdom, of caring for and supporting one another, of welcoming visitors as part of the family, of works of justice and mercy in the world, and worship of our Lord, are attractive. People see the passion and sinceri-ty with which the community of faith does this work, and they see Christ’s presence within the community. We continue to work to live into our baptismal calling more and more as a congregation, just as we do as individuals (a process called sanctification), but receiving new members can certainly be an affirmation of Christ’s presence in this community.
If we were baptized as infants, our family makes promises concerning their raising us in the faith. In Confirmation, we affirm that baptism, and claim that as we grow into adults we want that faith as our own. In the sacrament of baptism, the congregation makes promises to pray for us and support us in our lives of faith. We are bound together by our adoption as children of God and members of the body of Christ, and through the promises we make to those being baptized. As we welcomed our new members, part of that liturgy was an affirma-tion of our faith, and we made similar prom-ises to them as a congregation.
While we, like every other congrega-tion, continue to work to grow and change so that, day by day, we better represent Christ in the world, I truly believe the Spirit is alive and working through Holy Comforter. The Spirit is alive in the warmth and wel-come given to those who are new to our community, through the way members walk with and support one another through trials of life, through the way we celebrate with one another in the joys of life, through the works God’s justice and mercy in the world, and through our coming together to worship our Lord.
So in welcoming these new mem-bers we celebrate not our increase in our membership roll, but that the Spirit is working in and through Holy Comforter as a congregation, and has called these new members to be a part of the mission that we share together, to proclaim Christ in the world through word and deed. Let us continue to work to find new ways that Christ can be made known in our own lives, and in the world around us.
Yours in Christ,