Lutheran Witness: November 2017

In this month’s Lutheran Witness, we share trends, data and individual “snapshot” stories that, taken together, offer a detailed look at the state of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2017.



  • Where have all the Christians gone? — Heath R. Curtis
  • What are they seeking? Pointing millennials to Jesus in a secular age — Chad Kendall
  • Snapshot: Harvey — Kevin Armbrust
  • Snapshot: First, Knoxville — Melanie Bartholomay
  • Snapshot: Ferguson — Rachel Bomberger
  • Snapshot: Kenya — Sarah Kanoy
  • Snapshot: Trinity, Conklin — Terri Kober and Ruth Mackie
  • Snapshot: Seminary — Joshua Vanderhyde and Nathaniel Jensen
  • Faces of the LCMS — photo spread by Erik M. Lunsford


  • LCMS Disaster Response
  • Averages and attendance
  • Rostered church workers
  • Expenses
  • Giving
  • Office of National Mission
  • Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty
  • Office of International Mission
  • Lutheran K–12 schools
  • Concordia University System
  • LCMS Seminaries


  • searching scriptures: Christ the Rock — Joshua P. H. Conradt

From the editor

What exactly is the state of our Synod? As the Rev. Heath Curtis points out (p. 6), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod hasn’t seen a year-to-year gain in member congregations since 2001. Numbers from the Association of Religion Data Archives are even more alarming: By their count (measuring individuals rather than congregations), the LCMS hasn’t experienced a growth year since 1997.

The hard task set before The Lutheran Witness this November is this: to tell the truth about the state of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2017 by presenting data from this past year and, where possible, the past 20 years.

When we turn our gaze away from big data trends, however, and examine individual Lutherans and their congregations (as we have tried to do here with a series of “snapshot” stories from around the Synod), the picture begins to look very different. In these stories, we don’t find cause for despair. We see instead “love and faith and service and patient endurance” (REV. 2:19) as God’s people hold fast to Christ crucified in the face of every adversity.

What’s the state of our Synod? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Of this, though, I remain confident: No matter what storms may assail us — be they hurricanes or legal battles or long-term demographic slides — we will continue to weather them, joyfully, together.

Rachel Bomberger
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Witness

1 thought on “Lutheran Witness: November 2017”

  1. The historical comparison of LCMS statistics is appreciated as the current issue of The Lutheran Witness included 20- and 50-year comparisons for baptisms and confirmations, and 20-year comparisons for university enrollments. I was disappointed that no historical comparison was shown for our Lutheran schools, without which the current numbers on the paper mean little. I don’t have access to 20-year schools data, but I did find 10-year old data to compare (2006-2007 to 2016-2017) which shows a 34% decline in the total number of students (-39% early childhood students; -33% elementary; -7% secondary) and an 18% decline in the total number of schools (-16% early childhood centers; -22% elementary schools; -16% secondary schools). Those are shocking numbers which should spur the Synod to action, but absent reporting, I don’t expect action to be taken.

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