Hope said to a friend, “You know, before we think about having a family, we want to make sure we have a nice house, we have enough money set aside for major repairs, we take time to enjoy great meals and outings together, we contribute resources to some charitable causes, and, perhaps, we start some ventures that can bring in some revenue and share our values with the community.”
Hope’s friend replied, “I understand your need to have your house in order and to feel secure and fulfilled. I also understand that not everyone is able to have children or is in a position to raise a child. But do you think you’ll ever consider growing your family?”
Hope responded, “I don’t think so. The financial costs, the stress, and the risks seem too overwhelming. I think we’ll just stay as we are.”
Let’s take a break from the story. In this little parable, Hope is not a person. Hope is a church. Let’s call it “Hypothetical Hope Lutheran Church.”
There’s been some talk these days about the church’s need for procreation among its members as the birthrate drops. But the story of Hope is about CHURCHES giving birth. The parable is about communities of faith being fruitful and multiplying. What if local congregations never consider multiplying. What if they do not provide life and space for new followers of Jesus? This is the most frightening birthrate prospect for the church today.
From 1885 to 1886, it took 11.08 LCMS congregations to start one new congregation.
From 1946 to 1947, it took 41.58 LCMS congregations to start one new congregation.
From 1962 to 1963, it took 63.58 LCMS congregations to start one new congregation.
In the decade from 2001 to 2010, it took an average of 769.75 congregations to start one new LCMS congregation.
LCMS churches have virtually stopped reproducing. Local churches are choosing not to have kids. They’re thinking like Hypothetical Hope Lutheran Church: “The financial costs, the stress, and the risks seem too overwhelming. I think we’ll just stay as we are.”
But new churches are the best way to reach new people with the Gospel. In the Texas District, it’s taking about 40 churches to start one new church. During this season of Pentecost, God’s will to see His Kingdom be fruitful and multiply is very clear. It’s not only His will; it is His gift. He desires all people to be saved. He includes us in the beautiful blessing of proclaiming the Gospel to all creation. How might your congregation heed the call to be fruitful and multiply?
By Rev. Michael Newman
Questions for reflection:
Read Acts 12:24-25. In the face of persecution, God continued to grow His church. The verbs in verse 24 are the same verbs used in Genesis 1:28—being fruitful and increasing in number. How did your congregation come into being?
What is one way your congregation might be able to multiply as a faith community?
Prayer starter: Read Revelation 3:7-8. Ask God to show you His open doors for kingdom multiplication.