Saturday, January 27, 2007

What You Can Do for the Church

It's easy to get discouraged about the church. We live in terrible times, terrible insofar as being a time of doctrinal sinkholes. But there are things individual Christians can do to strengthen that (Rev. 3.2) remain.

These things don't require you to be a pastor, hold a theology degree, or even be particularly intelligent. What they do require is faithfulness. Here are some ideas of things you (yes, you) can do.

1. Pray. When I was younger (that was a long time ago) I heard a speaker suggest that when we get to heaven, we will be shocked at how little we prayed. I think he was right. So try to remedy that situation. Seek to pray every day for the church. Getting up 15 minutes earlier can do wonders. When you have time (and 15 minutes can easily make this work) pray one of the Responsive prayer services in your service book. Or use the morning prayer service. And when time is short, use this very short, but wonderful order of prayer: Trinitarian invocation with the sign of the cross ("In the name of the Father," etc.), then recite the Creed, pray the Our Father, and close with Luther's morning prayer ("I thank you, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son," etc.) If you don't know these by heart, set about learning them now.

2. Learn. Know your Bible. If you can read one chapter a day (not a stretch) over the course of years, your reservoir of Bible knowledge will astonish you. Of course, knowing the Bible is not simply for the sake of knowing your Bible: knowing the Bible helps you know the Author of the Bible.

3. Learn doctrine. Start by reading the Confessions, perhaps going back over the Small Catechism, and then go through the wonders of the Large Catechism. Read doctrinally sound teachers. Challenge yourself. Read something that's not easy, something that requires you to be engaged in the argument. When something doesn't make sense, ask someone to help you understand it.

4. Learn the church's hymnody. One of the ways we worship with the church of all ages is to sing what they have written and sung. A good way to do this is to take a hymn that you liked from the previous Sunday, and sing it every day. If you can, sing it with someone else. Maybe your children, your spouse, or a friend. If you can't, sing it to yourself. Maybe you could sing it when you do your prayers. And a head's up here: I've never known a congregation that would object to your taking a hymnal home with you. That's what they are there for.

5. Teach. Maybe you don't have official teaching responsibilites. Maybe you do. But whatever your official responsibilities, teach whenever you have opportunity. When someone clearly wrong, gently correct them. If you have children, teach them. If you are married, teach your husband or your wife. This can and should be done in a kind and helpful manner. Just believe that God has placed you in whatever position you are in, and seek to help those around you.

More tomorrow ...

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