Congregational activities and preaching

In viewing many of the websites and social media accounts of various WELS churches, I've noticed many of them focusing on items like blood drives and "National Hot Dog Day." It appears their preaching has also become more "culturally sensitive" with less emphasis on the text. At the same time we hear of our synod membership shrinking every year. Coincidence?

I am not familiar with the websites you viewed. It looks like you came across information from congregations that planned community events as part of their outreach strategy.

I cannot speak to pastors’ treatment of sermon texts, since I do not have the information you do. What you can certainly do is contact pastors about the sermons they post online. Speaking to them first would be appropriate and scriptural.

As far as synodical statistics are concerned, a recent demographic survey identified the following factors that have contributed to a decline in membership in our synod:

“Families today are having fewer children.

“The number of WELS members dying and going to heaven is increasing as the overall population ages.

“It has grown increasingly difficult to retain members, especially younger members. Since 1986, WELS lost between 240,000-260,000 members through removal/excommunication or from those members joining other Christian churches. These are sometimes referred to as ‘back door losses.’

“Fewer people are living in rural areas, and this is impacting more than 100 churches who now face the ‘50/60 challenge’—fewer than 50 people worship each week and the average age worshiping is above 60 years old.”

As you and I think of membership in our individual congregations and in our synod, the following instruction can be helpful and productive: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).