Future Ministry in Western Kansas and Beyond

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church   Natoma, Kansas

November, 2018

On October 7th, a number of us went to Hoxie and heard a presentation about the future of ministry in western Kansas.

It’s a long story as to why this is an issue, but the short version is that the number of people in church on Sunday morning is not what it used to be.  And as simple math will tell you, declining numbers and increasing costs are not a good combination.

So what does the future look like?  Well, eventually, something will change, either because we as a group bring about the change, or because time and circumstance force the changes.  What does that change look like?  Well, here are some options, although to be sure, these are not the only options.

  • Multi-point parish. This is perhaps the most familiar in that we are already doing this; but think beyond 2; think of what a 3 point parish might look like, or even a 4 point parish.  This would hearken back to the olden days of a circuit rider.
  • Hub and wheel model. In this option, one large church would call additional pastors and staff, and serve multiple churches in a given area, each of which would chip in on the cost of the pastor and staff.
  • One church would have the pastor present with them, and then other churches would watch on a screen at their location.  The pastor would rotate around from church to church each week.
  • Meet in the middle. Everyone would come to a central location and meet for worship.

Questions likely abound in your minds; let me try to answer some of them:

  • Can all this happen on Sunday morning? In some cases, yes; but otherwise not really.  Church might need to be on Saturday night or on Sunday afternoon, or at other times depending on time and travel.
  • What about Lord’s Supper? Well, again that would depend, but likely you would only celebrate Lord’s Supper when the pastor was present with you, which might be only once a month (think Circuit Rider model).
  • What about all the other stuff pastor does? Ultimately it would likely be a situation where the pastor does the Word and sacrament ministry, and all else fell to the leadership of the congregation (bulletins, calendar, etc.)
  • When can we expect this to happen? Not today; and maybe not for a while; but in the next 5-10 years, you should really expect this to be an issue as population continues to decline and costs increase.
  • What’s the good news? Glad you asked!  The good news is the same good news that we always have; the good news of Jesus Christ crucified and risen.  The good news is that the lifesaving Gospel of Christ crucified and risen, and the Word and sacraments that grant forgiveness of sins and eternal life still work; whether there are only 2 or 3 gathered or 200; and whether they gather on Sunday morning, or on some other day of the week at some other time.  The Gospel is still here for you, and it still does exactly what it says and has always done.

If you have more questions, or if you would like to discuss these options further, please feel free to contact me, and I would be happy to discuss them further.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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‘It’s not about abortion.’

That line was spoken several times in the Gosnell movie, and it was spoken several times in various news reports that I recall when these events were happening in real time just a few years ago.

And when I left the movie theater Monday afternoon, I too would have said that this movie is not about abortion.

And the facts back this up: Kermit Gosnell was tried and convicted of murder on 1 woman who died as a result of a botched abortion, and of killing several babies who were born alive after the abortion, whom he then cut their spines with scissors.

While Gosnell did perform abortions after the 24 week mark, illegal in Pennsylvania, those charges were lesser and are not the focal point of the movie, nor the reason he is in prison for the rest of his life.

So the movie is not about abortion, and in fact one of the witnesses shown in the trial is another abortion doctor, who is supposed to be the ‘good abortion doctor’, to show what a sick and deranged monster Gosnell really is.

So one must ask, if this movie is not about abortion, why the media blackout?  Why is the movie playing is so few theaters (I had to drive 3 hours to see it, past the 2 large theaters I frequent that normally get most major movies)?  Why all the challenges and roadblocks to even get the movie made?

Because this movie is about abortion, no matter what anyone tells you.

Allow me to illustrate.

When I was in Seminary, a video was shown in class one day about women who had had abortions.  The method detailed was the vacuum method, in which the baby is dismembered and then sucked out with a vacuum.  There was no video shown of an actual abortion and no body parts were shown, there was only an occasional vacuum sound effect.

That video truly opened my eyes to the horrors of abortion; that this was not a safe and humane procedure, but that this was so gruesome and horrible, how could anyone stand for it?  In fact a friend who grew up on a dairy farm recounted how they had used that same procedure on a baby calf that was dead in the birth canal of its mother, and how he and the vet were sick to their stomachs performing this on a big dumb animal, so how could you stomach it on a live human baby?

What that video did for me is what the trial and this movie are going to do for so many others: expose the horrific reality of abortion.

If abortion is described as a safe medical procedure, done in safe and healthy environments, then everyone is happy.  But if abortion is shown as the horrific experience that it truly is, with live babies being killed outside the womb just the same way that they would be killed inside the womb, well than that is a much different story.

Even the ‘good abortion doctor’ comes off horribly in this movie, when she admits that if a baby were born alive after the abortion in her clinic, that child too would be left to die.

Don’t kid yourself, this movie is about abortion.

And that is why no one wants you to see it.

And that is why you and everyone else should see it.

Because abortion is not just a theological belief, or a political talking point; but this is a real procedure that murders real babies.

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Taking out the garbage

First Lutheran Church   Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

October, 2018

Growing up, my brother and I always had a fascination with the garbage truck.  On Saturday mornings, we would eagerly sit by the window and wait for the garbage truck to come and pick up the trash.  Occasionally, we would even try to run outside and help throw a bag onto the back of the truck.  A favorite game we later played was to take the couch cushions and pretend that we too were garbage men.

What prompted this fascination with the garbage truck?  Who knows; but perhaps in some part it was the wonderment that you could collect all this trash in the house all week long, and then one day put it out on the curb, and someone would magically come and take it all away, never to be seen again.

Where did the trash go?  We had no clue; all we knew is that if it went in the trash and if it was placed on the curb, it was gone forever.  Old food, torn clothes, broken toys, dust, no matter what it was, it was gone by Saturday morning when the garbage truck pulled in front of the house.

It struck me the other day, that this was in fact a wonderful analogy for Matthew 11:28, where we read: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

We are called to cast all our burdens, all our anxieties, all our cares and concerns on the Lord, and trust in Him to give us rest and peace of mind.

In a sense, Christ is the garbage truck that comes by, not just once a week, but every day, and He takes upon Himself all the things that trouble you, all the things that concern you, all the things that are causing you to worry, and He takes them away.  He leaves you with a free and clear mind, knowing that you do not have to worry about those things anymore.

Now unlike my younger self wondering where the trash on the truck went, you know where Jesus takes all the things that you cast upon Him: He takes them to the cross.

At the cross, Jesus suffers and dies for all your stress and concerns and problems.  They are all absorbed into Him, and you are set free from the bonds of sin and death and anxiety and all that troubles you.

At the foot of the cross, you lay all your burdens, and you walk away with a free and clear conscience.  At the foot of the cross, you put all that troubles you, and you walk away knowing that you will never see those troubles again.  At the foot of the cross, you put every dark and depressing thought that has entered your mind, and you walk away.

Jesus asks no questions, He simply bears those burdens for you, so that you can walk in the light of your Savior without any thing to weigh you down.

And you can do this every time you go to the Lord in prayer; every time you remember your baptism; every time you hear the words of absolution spoken over you.  Jesus comes, and He takes your burdens upon Himself, so that you no longer have to worry about them anymore.

That is the true wonder: not that someone for a small fee would take away your dirty napkins and broken toys so that you can have a clean house for a few days; but that someone, Christ Jesus, would come and take your sins away, solely out of His great love for you, so that you can spend eternity with Him forever.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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What is it to be great?

Pentecost 18 – St. Mark 9:30-37

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Faith and Works

Pentecost 16 – St. James 2:1-10, 14-18

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What kind of judge?

Brace yourselves; in a world of divided government, where most politicians can’t even agree on the color of the sky, we have embarked on confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court justice, played this time by Brett Kavanough, who will not just be any justice, but the one who could affect the balance of power on the Court for a generation.

Needless to say, one side is all for him, while the other side is passionately against him.

One of the main issues that will come up in the questioning, not to mention in an onslaught of advertisements, is what does the nominee think about abortion?

Now for you and I, we desire and pray for justices that are pro-life, who will protect the life of the child in the womb, and who will protect the elderly from doctors and relatives who just wish to euthanize them.

But there are several things that need to be made clear in our witness to those who question us about judges in general, and this one in particular.

  • Judges do not make laws. Judges rule on whether laws are constitutional and whether laws are properly being administered, but they do not make laws.  The only way Kavanough, or any judge will rule on any abortion case is if a case comes before him.  The seating of a new justice does not immediately change anything.
  • It’s all about the states. In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide, with no regard to state laws.  If a case comes before the Court and Roe v. Wade is overturned, the question of abortion returns to the states.  Some states have very strict laws regarding abortion; other states have very lax laws regarding abortion.
  • The real question is judicial philosophy. This is complicated but important; how does the judge view the Constitution and other governing documents?  Ironically, this is a similar question for how does one view the Bible?  Is it trapped in the context in which it was written, which means we need to change it to keep up with the times, or is what was written timeless, applicable to the whole of human history?  The right to an abortion, and homosexual marriage, are not in the Constitution, but were read in by those who felt the times required it.  We pray for pro-life judges, but we must not just bring in the judges who will change things for our side as opposed to the other.
  • It’s all about Jesus anyway. Yes, the prospects of a new Supreme Court justice are enticing, and Brett Kavanough is particularly alluring.  And yes, it will be a great and glorious day, when working through the established means abortion and homosexual marriage are returned to the dustbin of immorality from whence they came, but the real victory has already been won.  Christ Jesus stands triumphant over sin, death and hell and over all the forces of evil once and for all.  We work through the means given us on earth, but we do so knowing the victory is already secured by our risen Lord and Savior.

Let us pray,

Almighty God, you are the author of life, declaring it to be good from the very beginning.  We pray that you would raise up faithful leaders and judges who value life in every stage from conception to natural death.  And that this nation would repent of its sin of treating life and marriage so callously for so long.  We pray that future generations would learn from our mistakes, and not be so easily tempted by sin, but would acknowledge you alone as Lord of all; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN

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For those who have wandered from the faith

First Lutheran Church  Plainville, Kansas

Peace Lutheran Church  Natoma, Kansas

September, 2018

During the Rooks County Free Fair, the Natoma Lutherans For Life booth collected prayer requests, and we prayed for them as a congregation on Sunday, August 19.

To be honest, when the idea was first mentioned and then when we put the box out, I was a little apprehensive about what kind of requests we would get, and I dreaded trying to graft them into petitions that would be suitable for worship.

My apprehension was however, almost totally unnecessary.  The requests we received were almost entirely predictable.  There were a couple of names of people who were sick or suffering, one person who had died, a family dealing with the abandonment of a daughter’s boyfriend, and some requests for those who were expecting child.

But the prayer request we got the most, was for the return of children and grandchildren who had wandered from the fold of God.

These parents and grandparents, were praying desperately for their children and grandchildren, who for all intents and purposes had fallen away from the faith they had been baptized into and catechized in.  They were on their hands and knees begging the Lord to send His Holy Spirit into the cold, dead hearts of their own flesh and blood, and to kindle the fire of the Gospel in them once more.

And they asked us, the Church, their brothers and sisters in Christ, to pray with them, to pray that the darkness that clouded their eyes would be lifted.

This is the one that truly grieves us, isn’t it?  When asked what mission we would like to see the Church take on, the first response is always to reach out to the in-actives.  How many dream of the day when they will see their children and grandchildren in church once more, going forward to receive the body and blood of Christ.

We ALL know someone, in fact many someones, who stood up front in Christmas programs, came to every VBS, who was confirmed, who maybe even got married in the church, who since has wandered from the faith; who if we were brutally honest with ourselves, is going to burn in hell for all eternity because of their rejection of Christ.

And what did we see at the fair?  We saw those mothers and fathers; we saw those grandparents who were so hurt by their sons and daughters rejection of the faith, that they would walk up to a Lutherans For Life booth, and write on an index card, requesting prayers for those who have wandered from the faith, because this was not some nameless person far away, this was their own flesh and blood.

And just as they grieve, just as you grieve, so too does your Father in heaven grieve.  Like the Father of the prodigal son, there is much grief over those who stray, and there is the constant vigil, in the hopes that the lost will return.

And so we pray, for all those who have wandered from the faith, that the Holy Spirit would use us, to call them home to the Father.

That’s right.  Pray; and do not sacrifice any opportunities to call out to the lost.

There was one request that renewed my apprehensions about the prayer box; it was from someone, probably trying to make a joke, who mocked the faith and our efforts at the fair.  We prayed for that individual too on Sunday, that they too would one day confess Jesus Christ as Lord.

God Bless!  Pastor Schmidt

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