March 5, 2020

Trinity Lutheran Church sits on a hill overlooking the fields of northwestern Missouri. Established long before our grandparents or even great-grandparents were born, Trinity is over 160 years old, founded by immigrants from northern Germany. With such a rich history, you would think the church would see many visitors on Sunday morning, asking to tour the facility, participating in worship, eventually joining the church. There is even a plaque outside issued by the state of Missouri claiming Trinity as an official historic site!

Despite the draw to such a point of interest, membership is low in the eyes of the world. With fifteen faithful in attendance on Sunday morning, it’s easy to get discouraged wondering, “What are we doing wrong? Where did all the folks go who used to diligently make their way to church on Sunday? Has God forsaken us?” Yes, you could credit it to the fact that the church sits on an unpaved, dirt road, “off the beaten path.” You could say it is because it’s located in the middle of rural America where population numbers are declining rapidly every day. But neither of these explanations are encouraging, nor do they give an accurate picture of what is actually happening.

In all reality, such adversity can be attributed to what Christ promised His disciples many centuries ago:

“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you … If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin” (John 15:18, 19, 22).

The world hates sin, or more accurately, the world hates the thought of sin. When a woman hears that it is sinful to put the financial needs of herself before the needs of her unborn child, she cringes. When a paraplegic hears that taking his life into his own hands is ungodly, he shouts out in unbelief. Sin makes folks uncomfortable, angry in fact. And the Church talks a lot about sin. In today’s post-modern “I’ll see things the way I want to” world, it is much easier to stay away. Hence the decreasing numbers in our churches throughout our country.

But that’s exactly why our churches are relevant, why Trinity has stood for over 160 years, and why, God-willing, it will continue to stand for many years to come. Christ goes on to say this later in John: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Yes, Christ our Lord has overcome sin in this world, bringing reconciliation between the guilty sinner and the Almighty God. Our sins are no longer counted against us. The post-abortive mother no longer needs to feel the weight of guilt from her previous actions. The man who failed a suicide attempt no longer needs to grieve the selfishness of what seemed “so right” at the time. Rejoicing in what Christ did for them on Calvary, they join with all members of the Body of Christ in saving others from their own selfish desires. To reveal the gifts given all lives created by God, redeemed by Jesus on the cross—that is why Trinity continues to stand!

I’ve often wondered what a “Life Team” at Trinity might look like. With fifteen regular attendees, it can feel as though each person’s time and talents are already quite spent. But life ministry truly isn’t about raising thousands of dollars for the local pro-life candidate or spending countless hours serving soup at the community homeless shelter. Instead, life ministry is about walking together, bearing one another’s burdens, and celebrating the lives God has given us. Life ministry is assisting the mother who is struggling in the pew with her “busy” preschooler. Life ministry is encouraging the father whose unbelieving wife just left him. Life ministry is visiting the sick and elderly, preparing meals for the grieving, celebrating with the newlyweds. Christ’s Church continues to bring the message of new life into each and every heart. And that is a beautiful thing!

10 Ways to Be Life-Affirming in a Small Congregation:
  1. Build strong relationships with church members and encourage one other as you go through difficult times.

  2. Visit those who are hospitalized and the homebound.

  3. Form a “Funeral Meal Committee” to comfort families during their time of grief.

  4. Provide respite care for members who provide homecare for their loved ones.

  5. Drive a single mom to and from her OB appointments and take her out to lunch afterward.

  6. Take group field trips to a pregnancy care center and homeless shelter.

  7. Pass around a petition after church that promotes local pro-life legislation.

  8. Invite a pro-life speaker to a church function to speak on current issues.

  9. Collect canned goods to donate to the local food pantry around Thanksgiving.

  10. Send greeting cards to members to celebrate birthdays, Baptisms, weddings, anniversaries, etc.