Our synodical president, the Rev. Dr. Matthew C.Harrison, has issued an interim report on the state of our church body titled "Joyfully Lutheran." A printed copy is being distributed to all district convention delegates, which are meeting this spring and summer throughout the USA. An electronic copy is available for you to read and/or download here: https://blogs.lcms.org/2018/message-to-the-church-about-challenges-we-face-and-how-to-face-them. An online video with much of the same content is available for your viewing here: https://blogs.lcms.org/2018/joyfully-lutheran-rejoice-pray-give-thanks-christ-has-done-it.
I think this report is very well done, and very encouraging. Let me quote for you part of the Preface of "Joyfully Lutheran":
We must focus on being biblical, on knowing the Scriptures and acting in accord with the Word of God. We must focus on being Lutheran, on knowing our own confessing documents and the fabulous strength and joy they afford us. Being Lutheran Christians is our gift, our witness and our vocation in this world -- for the sake of the Gospel in the world! ... We have blessings aplenty. The senimaries are enormous blessings. They are producing excellent graduates. The upcoming pastoral shortage and low seminary class numbers can only be solved by all of us. ... The Lutheran Women's Missionary League (LWML) and the International Lutheran Laymen's League (Int'l LLL) are vibrant and continue to provide resources and outreach in the name of Christ all over the globe. The Lutheran Church Extension Fund is thriving and providing dollars for the expansion of the ministry of the Gospel globally. The Lutheran Federal Credit Union is still an infant but growing daily. The LCMS Foundation is likewise thriving and provides planned giving opportunities to extend the work of Christ. Concordia Plan Services is a phenomenal entity that remains financially robust and assures the blessings of stable retirement funds for tends of thousands of church workers and their families. Yes, we have declined in the number of Lutheran grade schools, but most of the schools that have made it through very challenging demographic and financial times are doing well. In fact, the number of teachers in our Synod's schools is growing. Our universities are coping with myriad challenges and, in the majority of instances, with Lutheran fidelity. In a day when many denominational publishing houses are closing or in decline, Concordia Publishing House (CPH) is a robust, stellar institution. We have some 15,000 people Synodwide trained in disaster response. Our church is known far and wide for the excellence of its relief work. World Relief and Human Care continues to provide mercy far and wide. Much more could be noted. A multitude of congregations, church workers, mission societies and institutions of mercy serve millions in the name of Jesus. Our Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty (LCRL), under the direction of the Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, is up and running in Washington, D.C.
In Part One, following the preface, President Harrison recounts our lutheran history, and how the comfort of the cross and the joy of the Gospel has been at the center of all we Lutherans have done through five hundred years. In Part Two, President Harrison, challenges us all to study the Scriptures and the Book of Concord. In Part Three, he presents results of synod's demographic studies. In Part Four, he presents new tools for congregations: "Every One His Witness" (personal evangelism); "re:Vitality" (congregational reinvigoration); "LCMS Church Planting Guidebook" (for new congregation starts) -- as well as reports on retention of confirmands, health of congregations, visitation, finances, the international impact of the LC-MS(a really amazing story), and the "Koinonia Project" devoted to synodical unity in doctrine and practice.
The end portion of "Joyfully Lutheran" contains appendices with a report on LCMS colleges and universities, the issue of admission to the Sacrament of the Altar, an appeal to congregations to retain a common order of service for the Lord's Supper (2016 Resolution 4-04A); and a table of statistics for LC-MS districts comparing 2005 with 2015 baptized membership.
I encourage you to read this report and watch its video(web-addresses listed above) for your summer reading, so you have a better idea of the challenges and opportunities we face as Lutheran Christians today.
Yours in Christ,