This month’s pastoral perspective comes from Vicar Susan Devine. Sue is a seminary student serving a one year internship at Hope Lutheran Church of Forest Hills. She is a member of St. Andrew Lutheran in East Carnegie, former President of PLUM, and served as presiding minister at worship services in PLUM congregations in 2018.
“But in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15
Recently, I was blessed to attend two workshops. It is something that I have grown to love. I meet new people from all over our synod, the information is almost always helpful and it is a chance to experience community with others who have the very same questions, doubts and fears that we have. We are not alone in our struggles.
These recent workshops shared a common theme. We need to share our stories, the stories of our congregation and, especially, God’s story. I learned some interesting statistics.
· We will soon be living in a world where 5 generations live side by side.
· If you are under the age of 70, the North American church has never been growing in your lifetime.
· 30% of people under the age of thirty have never been to church.
· Only 12-14% of the population of the United States attends worship regularly.
Those are some staggering statistics. I hear over and over again; “Our church is dying. We need more people to attend church.” Sometimes, our motives are a little off. We want more people so the load that we bear is lighter and there will be more money to meet the budget. We are sad to see empty pews. We make excuses for people – they work, there are competing activities. We recently asked people at Hope to ask people why they don’t attend church. I heard many of the usual responses – “it’s boring, I don’t feel welcome, I can worship God without going to church”.
Here are some other interesting statistics:
· 82% of people asked reported that they would attend church if someone they trusted asked them.
· 86% of people say that they came to church because someone invited them.
· 6% of people say that they came to church because the pastor invited them.
· 2% of people say that they came to church because of advertising.
So what does all of that information mean for us? For me, it means that there are a lot of people who do not attend church, some who have never attended church. It means that there are a lot of people who do not understand, as we do, that being in a Christian community feeds our souls and nourishes us for the everyday living that encompasses most of our lives. It means that, each day, every one of us comes in contact with people who say that they would come to church if we just asked them. You may need to ask more than one time, but don’t give up.
This is where our stories, God’s story and the story of our congregation come into play. As Peter said, “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.” When someone asks, “How did you get through what you were going through”; we can say “with the help of God and the support of my church”. When someone thanks us for helping them, instead of just saying “You’re welcome” we can say, “because of what Jesus has done for me, I feel like it was the right thing to do”.
There are many, many ways that we can share our stories and be true witnesses to what God has done in our lives. I hope we will share more with each other in the coming months.
I leave you with a few questions to ponder:
What about your faith life brings you joy?
What is your favorite story about Jesus?
Who told you about Jesus?
Who can you tell about Jesus?
I would love to talk about these things with you. Let’s get together and share our stories.
Peace be with you,
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773