What’s Wrong with the Church–LCMS Church & School

I am going to begin this personal analysis of what is wrong with the church with an examination of my own church and denomination, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS). The LCMS is notorious for providing opportunities for Christian education in conjunction with the church. Unlike Catholic schools, there are no strict nuns running around and typically most don’t require student uniforms. In 2009, there were over 98,000 students enrolled in almost 900 LCMS K-8 schools and 90 high schools with an enrollment of over 16,600 students in the United States.

I attended an LCMS K-8 school in rural Minnesota almost 40 years ago. At that time, there wasn’t an LCMS high school in the area, so I transferred to the local public school. Coming from a class of 9 students into a class of 150, the transition was surprisingly quite easy. Academically, I was about a grade ahead of my fellow ninth-graders.

Now living in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, I had the opportunity to send my own child to an LCMS K-8 school, as it was only 5 minutes away from our house. The school is attached to our church, and the church supplements the cost of tuition as long as you are a member of the church. There is also an LCMS high school right across the street from the church and school, and most of the children who go to the K-8 school transition over to the high school. I opted, however, to send my child to the public school as there were more opportunities for her there. The thought of paying $8,000/year for tuition at an LCMS high school that had limited sports and a marginal, at best, music program, did not make sense to me.

For the most part, the K-8 school has excellent teachers that provide a good education. I will forever be grateful to what my daughter learned there over the course of 8 years. Having “religion” as a class every day helped her stay grounded in her faith once she went to public school. About to enter her junior year of high school, she still does not swear or curse, and constantly reminds her friends not to say, “Oh my God!” She, too, had an easy transition from a class of 12 to a class of almost 600, again a testament to the fact that she received a quality education prior to making the switch.

However, now as a parent with a child that has “left the fold” and is not attending the “connecting” LCMS high school, all of a sudden I realize that the church and the schools are kind of like one big clique. None of LCMS students attend Sunday School or youth group provided by the church, because the parents feel “they get enough religion in school.” As a result, for the few students who go to public school, the Sunday School and youth group are sparsely attended. For a high schooler, there is no motivation to go to youth group or Bible Study on Sunday when there are only two or three other students there. As such, my daughter’s religious education and continued spiritual enrichment has ceased.

I recently found out that the LCMS high school across the street from our church did contemporary worship services and held a student-led Bible study on Saturday nights. I asked if anyone could come, or was it just for the LCMS students. The response I received was, “Sure, anyone can come!” I asked why they didn’t advertise it in the church bulletin or reach out to some of the public school students, or why they didn’t reach out to youth in the community. I thought, what a wonderful opportunity to reach out to the unchurched youth in our community! I just got a blank stare as my answer.

Some additional observations–I rarely see students from our church that attend the LCMS high school in church on Sundays. Not sure if this is again part of the “they get enough religion in school” theory or not. I also see former LCMS high school students and teachers enjoying their kegs of beer after church-sponsored softball games, or having five or six rounds of drinks while they bowl on the church bowling league. I’m not being judgmental, but it’s probably not a wise thing to drive after having six drinks within a two-hour period. My ex and I bowled on the church league for about three years. My daughter would beg to come and watch us bowl, but I wouldn’t bring her, because I didn’t want her to see her 5th grade teacher half blitzed.

Finally, what is the purpose of Christian education? Is the purpose to make sure that children don’t fall into the evils of this world? Is its purpose to segregate them from the mainstream? Or, is its purpose to build up children to be followers and disciples of Christ? To further their education so that they can be witnesses and bring others to Christ? I would think and hope it would be the latter. Instead, I see the LCMS families that promote and continue with the Christian education staying within the four walls of the church and its schools. I do not see them venture out into the community, sponsoring programs or activities that might bring the unchurched walking through the doors.

This could all be the very reasons that LCMS churches and schools are diminishing in size and ultimately closing their doors. According to the LCMS, declines in membership have been reported for the past 40-some years–average weekly attendance is about 150. Next week, I’ll explore the reasons why the LCMS appears to be a dying denomination.





The church I attend has been doing a sermon series on “acceptable sins,” and the series is based on the book, Respectable Sins, by Jerry Bridges. I think you can figure out what the premise of the book is. There are sins that we think are really bad–murder, theft, adultery. Then there are those that we know are sins, but they are “little”, right? Like gossip, jealousy, pride and selfishness.

But, a sin is a sin–no matter what the size. I remember my ex and I used to disagree about this all the time. He felt that his attraction to pornography wasn’t as bad as someone having an affair. Even though he went to church on a regular basis, it was clear he never read scripture. Jesus said in Matthew 5: 28, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And, murder, is really bad, right? Jesus again says in Matthew 5:21-22 that whoever murders and whoever is angry with a brother or sister shall be subject to judgment.

Every day I struggle with the fact that I have been divorced twice. I took vows in front of God, yet I broke those vows in front of men. But, every day I also say unkind things, to my daughter in anger because she hasn’t finished her homework in time or isn’t going to bed when she should be. I also say unkind things about people I work with–those that I feel aren’t doing their job. I chime in with gossip when I hear it. I also am quick to judge those that I feel aren’t very Christian. I’ve been struggling over a year now with the people in my “home” church because they haven’t reached out to me since the divorce to see how I’m doing–I judge them for that.

The good news is, as we all know, that Christ took all these sins with Him to the cross so that we are forgiven. But, it doesn’t mean that God now tolerates these sins. How many times have I thought, “Well, I’m not perfect, so I’ll just do it, and thank God for His Grace, that I can keep on doing this wrong thing, and He’ll just keep forgiving me.” I grew up Lutheran–the all-saving Grace of God!

The more and more I stay in God’s Word, the more and more I realize these “acceptable sins”.  Just as I’m about ready to say something negative about a co-worker, I feel this tinge, and a little voice in my head says, “Don’t do it…don’t do it!” Sometimes I listen, and sometimes I don’t. The fact that I’m aware is good. The fact that I continue on with my negative words is not. The fact that God forgives me is good, and just as He has forgiven me, I need to forgive others. My ex, my daughter when she irritates the heck out of me, and the co-worker that I can’t seem to tolerate. It’s all the same, no matter what the sin, circumstance or person.

Celebrate Freedom to be a Christian

As I sit here writing this blog on the eve of our nation’s birthday, I hear people outside laughing and celebrating by shooting off fireworks and fire crackers. Tomorrow, people will gather at community parades to see floats, hear marching bands and shake hands with politicians. Once it is dark, bigger and brighter fireworks will light up the sky, and people will gaze up and slowly repeat, “oooh, ahhh.”

It’s a celebration–a celebration of freedom. Freedom of religion. Freedom to worship. But as Christians, how free are we really? We are free to attend church and worship within the confines of those buildings and our home, but what about outside of those areas? Are we free to worship in school, to pray if we so desire? No, if we mention God or speak of Christianity, we may “offend” someone. We no longer speak of Christmas or Easter. It’s Winter Break, Happy Holidays, and Spring Break. We have taken the “under God” out of “one nation”. I wonder, how has Christianity become offensive, and where is the Christian’s freedom?

John Adams, our second U.S. President and signer of the Declaration of Independence said, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” Our government today, as well as the liberal left, are trying to remove any trace of Biblical/Christian ideas that were the foundation of this nation.

As Christians, how do we deal with this situation? Well, I believe most of us remain quiet. We accept teachers who tell us that Creationism is a myth. We don’t pray in public. We learn to say “Happy Holidays,” even though we celebrate the birth of Christ. Are we afraid? Embarrassed, perhaps? And how does God feel when he looks down on us? On this country? I would think He is sad, as He sees a country pulling further away from Him and His word, and as He sees His people continue to show acts of denial.

We should be celebrating! Celebrating that we have a God who loves us, protects us and promises to take us to be with Him for eternity in a place where there will be celebrations every day. We should be dancing in the streets, thanking and praising Him for everything He does. He gave us this wonderful country, which gave us the freedom to be children of God without being ridiculed.

So, shoot those fireworks off and shout out praises to the Lord. Make July 4th a celebration of the gift that God gave our forefathers so many years ago. Remember that we are, “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Yes, even for Christians!

Psalm 33:12–What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen for his own. 

Let’s show everyone that we are truly joyful, because we are His! Read more of this post

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