I was standing in line at the Phelps County Fair waiting to get some BBQ sandwiches. When one couple standing nearby learned that I was the pastor of the new ELCA Lutheran church in Holdrege, NE, they had a few things to say to me. You see, they had been connected to the ELCA at one time, and they were still receiving a publication from the Nebraska Synod, Your Nebraska Lutheran. They said things like, “Did we pay for that?” and “I don’t know why they bother with things like that!” Frankly, they didn’t see any value in that kind of relationship.
So, why do we pay for that? Why bother?
In this day and age, denominations seem to be unimportant. People are more interested in being generally Christian than having a tie to a faith tradition — if they’re interested at all. Church budgets are shrinking in many places. Channeling millions of dollars to a Synod and Churchwide organization doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense in the current economy, either.
So why bother?
Our denomination provides a ministry of connectedness to the wider church. Through the Nebraska Synod, we are linked with hundreds of congregations around the state. Through the ELCA, we are linked with more than ten thousand. Through the ELCA’s ecumenical partnerships, we have friends and resources around the world — as well as several churches in our community.
With that connectedness comes resources, ideas, and accountability. There are people outside our community who expect something from us – people who are praying for us, supporting us, and walking with us as we reach out to our community in mission. It’s not just about what we get – if that’s the only cost we count, that’s selfishness and idolatry. (Luke 12:34)
The church is about relationships and the kingdom of God. We are many members with diverse gifts in diverse places, with wide-ranging concerns for our local community and the well-being of people around the world. (1 Corinthians 12) Having strong connections in the church makes that work.
(BTW, the BBQ was AWESOME!, even if the sauciness (pun intended) I got in line wasn’t.)