Rejoice Always

Through My Window

Over 80 years ago (1934), T. S. Eliot, a Christian, wrote these words in “Choruses from The Rock,” a drama in verse.

The endless cycle of idea and action,
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from GOD and nearer to the Dust.

Eliot was lamenting, in prophetic fashion, the secularization of his culture, despite all its progress, moving farther and farther away from God. Sound familiar? Like every preacher and prophet, we district presidents work hard at helping the church see itself in relation to its culture. The laments abound here. America is becoming what Europe has become – a secularized society that has lost its Christian moorings. Churches can look more like museums than life-saving stations. Young adults are ignoring the church or walking away from it in record numbers. Meanwhile, individuals and government and religious institutions play God, redefining Biblical truth at will and rewriting the Ten Commandments. A new season of subtle and outright persecution of Christians is under way globally, and Biblical Christians are often depicted as judgmental, hypocritical, and irrelevant.

I’ve been among those who sadly reporting statistics like these:

  • Over 80% of American churches are in decline with 3,200 closing annually.
  • The number of LCMS churches worshiping under 50 increased from 1092 in 2002 to 1762 in 2012. If this rate continues, we will be a denomination of 1000 churches in 30 years.
  • The average age in the LCMS is over 60. 
  • The MN South District has closed 13 churches in the last 13 years.

In the midst of all this doom and gloom talk, our MNS District gathers in convention this month around the theme, “On Our Way Rejoicing” (Acts 8:39). One might wonder, “Why would we still be on our way rejoicing in the face of all these challenges. Answer: Because Jesus said it wouldn’t be easy. Because God encourages us in His Word to rejoice when we face various trials (James 1:2). Because we have the opportunity to share in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering (Phil 3:10). Because we have seen the end, and God wins (1 Jn 5:4). Like Christians before us, we will tell God’s story of grace and forgiveness, and we will embrace inconvenience and suffering for the sake of Christ. With the angels in heaven we will rejoice when even one sinner repents, and the gates of hell will not prevail against us.