The best thing going

The Rev. Christopher Esget, LCMS sixth vice-president and pastor of Immanuel Evangelical-Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va., preaches during morning Matins at the 67th Regular Convention of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on Sunday, July 21, 2019, at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Fla. LCMS Communications/Erik M. Lunsford

by Matthew C. Harrison

Dear people of the LCMS,

Grace and peace in Christ! The various leaders and delegates of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod gathered for the 67th Regular Convention in Tampa in July. The convention theme, “Joy:fully Lutheran,” came directly from St. Paul’s admonition in 1 Thess. 5:16–18: Rejoice, Pray, Give Thanks.

The preaching was great! The various convention essays were terrific! Outgoing First Vice-President Rev. Dr. Herb Mueller gave a delightful presentation on being “Joy:fully Lutheran.” He was determined to do so, even after undergoing the removal of a brain tumor. That fact made it joyful enough already! The Rev. Dr. Gottfried Martens, pastor of some 2,000 Persians (former Muslims) in Berlin, Germany, presented a moving essay on “Give Thanks.” He pointed us to Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and the tax collector and warned that it was the Pharisee who spouted proudly: “God, I thank you that I am not like other men,” and that it was the Pharisee who counted things: “I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get” (Luke 18:11–12). True thankfulness exists in the face of the cross and the loss of everything for the sake of Jesus. The Rev. Dr. Tom Egger, professor at our St. Louis seminary, treated us to an essay on true joy, and the Rev. Joe Hoem gave us a moving presentation on prayer and the journey of his life in India, where he spent his first years in an orphanage. All these wonderful sermons and essays are available online at

Resolutions were passed on various mission emphases and efforts with overwhelming majorities. Making Disciples for Life is our new Synod mission emphasis for the next three years. Outreach and retention of the faithful are key and will occupy the work of our Office of National Mission. We also celebrated 125 years of international mission for the LCMS, with our mission leadership from around the world telling the wonderful stories of often difficult but fabulous work that continues around the globe. We welcomed new partner churches. We celebrated the fellowship, partnership or friendship of some 35 churches around the globe, introducing their leadership.

A resolution thanking God for Concordia College Alabama was a point of real pain. I thought it best for the delegates most concerned and affected to voice their pain and disappointment about Selma’s closing. The market and the money were just not there to keep it going. We pray the Lord will bring good out of all the pain of our brothers and sisters whose lives were formed by and invested in the school. Lord Jesus, have mercy.

I came away from the convention thankful. I spent a few days thinking about how I might have done this or that in a better way, but those worries soon gave way to thankfulness. Most everything passed by overwhelming majorities. It’s inevitable that some issues don’t get enough time, but we tried to give significant issues sufficient time for discussion. It was clear that the convention wants the leadership of the church to come to a resolution on ecclesiastical supervision. We will work on that. In the discussion on the affirmation of the six-day creation, I heard no one reject our church’s biblical and longstanding confession. Nor do I recall any delegate denying any biblical teaching of our Lutheran church. In this day and age, that is, frankly, amazing. What a blessing! Much more happened. This issue lays some of it before you.

The LCMS convention season has a way of humbling us. It lays our warts and disagreements out in the open. A lot of stupid and false nonsense is spread around the internet. Despite it all, we are richly blessed. The LCMS is still the best thing going.

That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!

-Pastor Harrison

1 thought on “The best thing going”

  1. Looking at this summary of the convention as an ordinary Lutheran sitting in the pews, I can’t help but conjecture that the Synod today is undergoing some turmoil under the surface, where pastors are debating and disagreeing on how to move forward in these modern times. There are those who want changes made, in everything from the Liturgy to the worship service, while others are more traditional and striving to retain the old ways. In the process, one wonders how the Lutheran identity will play out over time.
    As an observer, I have no authority or special knowledge of the issues facing the Synod, but it seems to me that there is less unity, and too much automony. If I were to make one suggestion…it would be to get rid of the contemporary worship first. I have attended some that were good, but also went to one this past year as I visited an LCMS church in another area. It was troubling indeed. So much drama, too much entertainment, too focused on the congregation’s need for self expression. This same church had a wonderful traditional service and Liturgy, but the contemporary service was terrible. Is this where we are today? No wonder even Lutherans in the pews wonder what a Lutheran is supposed to believe.
    The Synod needs to focus on sermons teaching the Bible, Lutheran distinctives, and retaining the Liturgy, while eliminating the contemporary worship style, and the casual nature it embraces. Beyond preaching the word of God, singing hymns of praise, the rest is just fluff.
    Soli Deo Gloria, Waremest regards, John J. Flanagan

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