Faith Related Q and A|
|» ||I was wondering about raffles, tag sales and other type events in the church. I was raised in the conservative Lutheran church and our churches were always self- supporting, which I still favor. What is WELS' view on this? Is it just an opinion of man all of these years that giving come from the church rather than sales to the public to help support them?|
There is no synodical policy on the activities mentioned in your question. Differing local circumstances can lead to different practices. What I can do is pass along some observations from personal ministry experiences.
What congregations will want to keep in mind is the impression given by such sales. Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce what many people wrongly think in the first place—that “all the church is concerned about is money.” Congregational fundraising in the community can reinforce work-righteous thinking in the minds of the unchurched, leading them to conclude that, if they have contributed something, “I’ve given to God, so I’ve done my duty.” Congregational fundraising in the community can undermine a church’s efforts to encourage its members to grow in their management of God’s blessings by relying on community revenue. Congregational fundraising in the community can lead people to think that the church cannot survive on its own but needs their resources.
Congregations might utilize community outreach efforts, including the sales you mentioned, to establish connections with their neighbors. As noted above, congregations will want to balance their exercise of Christian freedom with proper concern for all involved.
In addition, sales events within congregations can provide members with a service or product they might purchase elsewhere, and by purchasing said service or product, members are not diverting their regular offerings with these purchases.
Your questions are reminders to keep biblical principles of stewardship of money in mind: God owns everything (Psalm 24:1). We do not own a thing. God entrusts his possessions to us for faithful management of them (Matthew 25:14-30). It is love for God and gratitude for his love that provides the motivation for giving back to God what is his in the first place (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 4:19). You and I have reason for planning our giving and planning offerings that are proportionate to how God has blessed us individually (1 Corinthians 16:2).
|» ||I'm just curious as to the average reimbursement that organists may be getting for playing for a service. Our congregation is in the process of possibly modifying our policy in this area. We currently pay the organist/pianist $30 per service. Thank you.|
I do not believe I will be able to help you much with your congregation’s assessment and planning. It has been years since WELS last surveyed congregations regarding the honoraria they provide their organists. A number I can reference is what the Synodical Council recently approved for reimbursing congregations when their “personnel need to be away from their vocations while serving the synod voluntarily for a specified term” – $82 for a single service.
If you are not able to find a common or average honorarium for organists or pianists to use as a guide for your purposes, perhaps you and your congregation could simply take a philosophical approach to the reimbursement you provide. Maybe you could arrive at a reimbursement figure by asking and answering questions like these: “What value do we place on having organists/pianists to assist us in our worship? At a time when many congregations within and outside our fellowship struggle to find and retain organists/pianists, what does our reimbursement say to our organists/pianists? How can we show our appreciation for the time our organists/pianists commit to finding music for Sunday services, practicing it and then playing it in our worship services? What does the amount of reimbursement say about the excellence in worship for which our congregation is striving? Are there ways our congregation could help organists/pianists build a music library?”
A worship and music leader in our church body has made this observation: “Honoraria or salaries for organists are best understood when related to goals set for music in worship. A congregation wanting to encourage excellence and creativity may set higher rates than a congregation (maybe without really thinking about it) being content in the status quo.”
God bless your congregation’s worship life and your management of his resources. May he guide you as you imitate King David’s actions: “I will sing and make music to the Lord” (Psalm 27:6).
|» ||Is there a reason why we as the WELS don’t appear to emphasize fasting as a Christian discipline? (Or maybe we do, and it’s just been my experience to have not heard much about it?) If a believer is considering a fast as a means to draw closer to God in prayer, how would one go about it? Thank you!|
Fasting falls in the area of Christian freedom, so an emphasis on that practice will vary from person to person.
“As is the case with any adiaphoron, motives for fasting can be important. Some of the literature I have seen speaks of fasting serving the purpose of ‘assisting and enhancing’ our prayers. In view of that, you may want to ask yourself: ‘Am I thinking in any way that God is going to hear and answer my prayers because of something I am doing? Am I fasting like the Pharisees—thinking that fasting will put me in a better standing with God and make me superior to non-fasting Christians?’ Any thoughts like these would rule out fasting.”
The paragraph above is from a February 2015 column in Forward in Christ. This link will take you to that column. It will address the subject of fasting with more detail than I can provide here.
|» ||How does the WELS church minister to individual churchgoers suffering from mental illness?|
WELS has a Commission on Special Ministries. Its mission statement explains that it “offers spiritual and practical guidance and training to congregations and individuals as they share God’s love to those with special needs or in special circumstances.” Mental health is included in those “special needs.”
This link will take you to the Commission’s presence on our synod’s website.
|» ||Generally speaking, how welcoming is the WELS church to visitors? Since the denomination shares minimal fellowship with other church bodies, can I expect to receive the cold shoulder or shunning? Lastly, why are sermons in the WELS church so brief? Relatively speaking,13-15 minutes is much shorter than other Reformed Churches I have visited. Additionally, the local WELS church I watched online did not use his Bible, during the sermon and all in all it seemed very simple and shallow in content. Lastly, if you had to pick just one, what would you identify as the biggest obstacle/challenge the WELS is currently confronting? Thank you!|
Like other church bodies, each of our congregations can have a personality of its own. Tradition, culture and local leadership are some factors that can help shape a congregation’s personality. I would like to think that our congregations are welcoming to visitors. Could some of our congregations grow in that regard? Probably. Undoubtedly, there is room for growth in welcoming visitors in any gathering of Christians in any location.
I would not expect you to receive the cold shoulder or be shunned if you visited one of our congregations. Do keep in mind though that the ways in which visitors and guests are acknowledged and welcomed can vary from congregation to congregation.
Sermon length is also going to differ from one church to another. Even within a congregation, sermon length might vary from week to week. Factors such as Holy Communion distribution and special singing can impact sermon length. When it comes to the length of a sermon or a pastor’s use of the Bible, I would encourage you not to let an experience with a congregation describe an entire church body.
What is our church body’s biggest obstacle or challenge? We do not have a list, so I can offer only a personal observation. Our challenge is to be faithful to God and his Word in the face of growing opposition to God and his Word (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Finally, you might be interested to know that WELS is in fellowship with over 30 church bodies throughout the world. This link will provide you with more information.
I hope you do visit one of our churches and receive a warm welcome. God bless you.
|» ||What is the second type of eating in the sacrament that Lutherans confess? I don't understand how there are "two" types of eating.|
Questions regarding what Lutherans confess will lead to answers from the Lutheran Confessions. The following is from the Formula of Concord. Thorough Declaration. VII. Of the Holy Supper.
“There is, therefore, a twofold eating of the flesh of Christ, one spiritual, of which Christ treats especially John 6:54, which occurs in no other way than with the Spirit and faith, in the preaching and meditation of the Gospel, as well as in the Lord’s Supper, and by itself is useful and salutary, and necessary at all times for salvation to all Christians; without which spiritual participation also the sacramental or oral eating in the Supper is not only not salutary, but even injurious and damning [a cause of condemnation].
“But this spiritual eating is nothing else than faith, namely, to hear God’s Word (wherein Christ, true God and man, is presented to us, together with all benefits which He has purchased for us by his flesh given into death for us, and by His blood shed for us, namely, God’s grace, the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and eternal life), to receive it with faith and appropriate it to ourselves, and in all troubles and temptations firmly to rely, with sure confidence and trust, and to abide in the consolation that we have a gracious God, and eternal salvation on account of the Lord Jesus Christ. [He who hears these things related from the Word of God, and in faith receives and applies them to himself, and relies entirely upon this consolation (that we have God reconciled and life eternal on account of the Mediator, Jesus Christ), – he, I say, who with true confidence rests in the Word of the Gospel in all troubles and temptations, spiritually eats the body of Christ and drinks His blood.]
“The other eating of the body of Christ is oral or sacramental, when the true, essential body and blood of Christ are also orally received and partaken of in the Holy Supper, by all who eat and drink the consecrated bread and wine in the Supper—by the believing as a certain pledge and assurance that their sins are surely forgiven them, and Christ dwells and is efficacious in them, but by the unbelieving for their judgment and condemnation, as the words of the institution by Christ expressly declare, when at the table and during the Supper He offers His disciples natural bread and natural wine, which He calls His true body and true blood, at the same time saying: Eat and drink. For in view of the circumstances this command evidently cannot be understood otherwise than of oral eating and drinking, however, not in a gross, carnal, Capernaitic, but in a supernatural, incomprehensible way; to which afterwards the other command adds still another and spiritual eating, when the Lord Christ says further: This do in remembrance of Me, where He requires faith [which is the spiritual partaking of Christ’s body].” [Concordia Triglotta. Page 995. Emphasis in the original]
In short, one kind of “eating” (John 6:54) is receiving Jesus Christ in faith. Another kind of eating receives Jesus’ body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine.
|» ||I just came to this site. I see questions, but where are the answers?|
If you clicked on “Recent Questions,” you would see only the questions. If you click on a particular question, the text expands to give the first part of the answer. Clicking on “Continued” will reveal the rest of the answer.
The same thing is true if you use the “Topical Q & A” categories. For example, clicking on “Baptism Questions” will list several questions, but you need to click on a specific question and “Continued” to see the entire answer to that question.
I hope this helps.
|» ||I am a recovering alcoholic, so one verse that I remind myself of when I am feeling weak or unfulfilled is 2 Corinthians 12:9.
I am curious if we have any idea what the thorn in Paul's side was.|
The apostle Paul did not explain what the “thorn in his flesh” was. That has not stopped people from guessing. The guesses range from physical ailments to mental torments to an actual person who was disruptive to Paul’s ministry.
Even though we do not know what Paul’s problem was, we do have information related to it. There was a good purpose behind Paul’s thorn in the flesh. In light of his otherworldly experience (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), the thorn in his flesh was intended to keep Paul humble.
We also know that God heard Paul’s repeated prayers to remove his problem, but God’s loving and wise answer was a “no.” In his wisdom and love, God left the problem in Paul’s life but gave him the strength to carry out his ministry. God’s actions led Paul to understand better how a powerful God works through weak human beings (2 Corinthians 12:9).
God grant you continued strength to fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).
|» ||Jesus said we are to forgive others, but does that mean we should stay in relationships with people who are toxic and manipulative?|
I am not sure which kind of relationships you have in mind. When it comes to marriage, the Bible lists unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:9) and malicious desertion (1 Corinthians 7:15) as actions that break the marriage bond and enable the other spouse to leave that relationship. Other situations can call for loving rebuke, confession and absolution to enable spouses to maintain their commitment to one another.
When it comes to friendships, there could be circumstances that warrant creating distance from people who do not treat us well. If that is the case, Christians still have biblical mandates like these to guide their actions: “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Romans 12:14), and “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
God bless your efforts to speak openly and honestly with people (Ephesians 4:15) and to seek their good (1 Corinthians 10:24).
Planning for a wedding can be sometimes overwhelming and stressful. I am a very strong Christian and I believe that a marriage involves three people - God, husband, and wife. Having Christ at the center of your marriage keeps you strong in all circumstances. While planning a wedding, it can get crazy with remembering to get all the physical type things done and then we can tend to forget about the spiritual focus of a wedding. What would you recommend to make sure the spiritual focus of getting married isn’t lost when planning everything else for the wedding? Thank you!|
I commend you for having such wonderful priorities when it comes to wedding planning. You recognize very well that wedding service and reception details are important, but a lifelong marriage is much more important.
Pre-marital counseling from your pastor can help maintain your spiritual priorities during the busyness of wedding planning. In addition, reading and discussing the Bible with the one you will marry can help keep your spiritual focus.
Besides Bible reading, you might consider the following books: Marriage and Family, Building the Christian Home, and Growing Together in Christ. All are available from Northwestern Publishing House.
God bless you and your future marriage!
WELS Q&A are topics that are submitted to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod website. The articles here are an automatic feed from the wels.net Q&A website. Even though we may not have generated this contect, we are in fellowship with the WELS and generally subscribe to the beliefs of the breatheryn in the synod generating these answers.