Built On The Rock

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. Matthew 7:24-25

The familiar hymn begins, “Built on the Rock the Church shall stand, Even when steeples are falling.” Built On the Rock was the theme of our Fall Pastors’ Conference. Ted Kober, President of Ambassadors of Reconciliation, was our speaker.

Ted has worked in hundreds of congregations and situations across our church body and beyond to help people work through the reconciliation process. He has trained hundreds more to work as reconcilers. Conflict is a common reality in any family or church family. No church is exempt. Through his many experiences with congregations in conflict, Ted started to notice that some seemed to be able to handle those conflicts while others struggled with more paralyzing conflict.

As he did more thorough research, he found the common thread that when more adults were engaged in Bible study, congregations were healthier and more vibrant. We have been talking about that for a long time in the Nebraska District. Whether small or large, country or city, growing or stable, healthy congregations need healthy leaders and that means more than just the pastor.

So often as I interact with congregations, the perspective is that “we just need a good pastor and everything will be fine.” I don’t disagree that congregations need good pastors, but I also have seen clearly that the health of the congregation includes the culture and vibrancy of the members and pastor working together.

My primary take-away from this conference is the obvious need for developing spiritual maturity among both members and leaders of the congregation through adult Bible study. Kober’s research shows that healthy, vibrant, resilient congregations have an average of 40% and a minimum of 25% of adults who are engaged in Bible study, relative to the average number regularly in worship. Similarly, an average of 75% and a minimum 45% of congregation leaders are engaged in spiritual development. Most of the congregations I visit are well below both those minimums, much less those averages.

God’s Word is the lifeblood of our faith. Being in the Word and putting that Word into practice is what any wise man would do. Sadly, I have dealt with many adults who are resistant to gathering for study. This is an area of focus for our congregations and District that will not change overnight and requires continued effort. It calls for multiple approaches, venues, and leaders in every congregation. It includes elements of Bible study and prayer in our meetings. It also includes rethinking and training in how adults learn compared to children and youth.

As a District staff we are looking to encourage and coach pastors and other workers to identify barriers to adult involvement, areas of interest, training in adult learning techniques, and a variety of offerings, venues, and leadership. I am also rethinking my own spiritual development and how I model adult learning and Bible study in my meetings and events. Built on the Rock, and only on the Rock, the Church shall stand and serve as we hear His Word and put it into practice.

In Christ,
Rev. Richard Snow, President, Nebraska District LCMS