Edification and Encouragement of Church Workers

There is a lot of work to do — the harvest is plentiful — but the work is not easy.

The harvest is at least as plentiful as it has ever been, but the workers seem ever fewer and farther between. Moreover, among those laboring day after day, year after year, there is often weariness, malaise, burnout. To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic did not make the work any easier. Ministry is about connecting Jesus and people which becomes all the more challenging when you are isolated and distanced from others. As COVID has waned, the people have not returned — not all of them. Already small congregations have become smaller. There are fewer young people in the pews. Pressure on congregational budgets is often also felt on church workers’ family budgets. There is a lot of work to do — the harvest is plentiful — but the work is not easy.  Does “more bricks, less straw” sort of resonate?

At least we have each other, right? Do you ever wonder, however, whether we really have each other’s backs, or if there is a lot of backstabbing among us? We watch how people disagree with one another on the news, and then we see that style of behavior mimicked in the church. Disunity only adds to the distraction. Evil is enervating. Evil is exhausting.

We wonder why some young people turn their backs, not only on church work professions but even on the church. “If this is what being a pastor or teacher is all about, count me out!” We may counter, “It is not all that bad.” But the numbers don’t lie. The church, our church, is in precipitous decline — free falling. Still, there are not enough workers to meet our own shrinking needs, never mind expanding our reach into the vast harvest field.

I am not a prophet of gloom and doom. I self-calibrate somewhere between reserved realist and overt optimist. It is optimistic to say that our best days are still before us in The Lutheran Church — Missouri Synod. The opportunities before us are too good to miss, and the calling to which we are called is too compelling to ignore.

It all begins with how we support each other and work together as the Body of Christ, how we treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, and how we encourage and edify those who work among us and alongside us as workers in the Lord’s Church.

Among us church workers, we have a lot of listening to do — listening to one another. I am convinced that we would do well to engage one another in thoughtful and fruitful conversation. It would be helpful to broaden the sources of input and influence among us to gain the benefit of hearing other voices from different perspectives. I have a lot of confidence in our called and ordained clergy, our called and commissioned educators and other workers, and our colleagues and co-laborers in various corners of the harvest field. It begins to turn around with trust. It will go nowhere fast without trust. Hope, not fear. Trust, not doubt.

As a Concordia president I had a keen interest in the preparation of church workers for their vocations. In my final sermon as Concordia’s president, at Baccalaureate in May 2021, I spoke to our graduates who were taking the next step toward their roles as LCMS church professionals. Ultimately, our refuge is in Jesus Christ alone — our rest, our haven, our sanctuary. And because the Church is His bride, together we stand before Him radiantly without fault or blemish or blame. No, there is nothing wrong with the Church because we, all of us, belong to Him.  There is good cause for overt optimism! If you are a church worker, or know somebody who is, I hope you will be encouraged by this message. Download and read it here


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Patrick Ferry in his officePatrick Ferry in his office