Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church - Marshfield, WI

May Newsletter 2021

How important is unity in the Church?  I could give a theological paper on it.  I could give a list of synonyms with unity in the bible: community, harmony, concord, oneness, & fellowship.  Here are just a few passages talking about unity with God and with one another:
“A man should leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife and the two shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1
“walk in a manner worthy of your calling…eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  For there is one body and one Spirit—Just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…” Ephesians 4:1-5
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”  1 Peter 3:8 (Sympathy means literally “suffer together”)
“Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” John 17:11
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of the bread and the prayers.”
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14
“That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 5:3
I could keep going here and lay out more.  But I will let God speak for himself.  Unity is his gift and God be praised when it happens.
That is the goal here at Christ Lutheran as we keep moving forward and rebuilding.  That we strive for the unity to which we are called.  This fall will usher in many ministries since covid.  And as we plan times and opportunities that is our goal.
Future of Service
Our numbers in service have been trending upward, thanks be to God!  On Sunday May 2nd, we had 185 people inside.  This was no doubt due to having two baptisms and PUPPETS in the service, but I do hope that this number becomes more common and grows.
As we approach fall, I wanted to let you know the main plan of attack.  I have talked to Elders, Staff, and other key leaders concerning this to get them on board as well.  A few details need to be worked out yet, but here will be the plan:

Church Service.
Sunday School/Bible Class.
That will be Sunday Morning. We will have one service followed by an Education Hour.  The exact timing is still being discussed and worked out and I am hoping next month to have that for you all.
Now for the reasoning on this.  At the time, I do not see a need for a second service.  We are still rebuilding, and I think it does us good to worship at the same time.  I have heard back many comments saying as much and I have seen a lot of unity coming from the one service on Sunday morning.  From my standpoint it also helps me focus and be streamlined as well and at my best.  Logistics too.  For PUPPETS, Choir, Bells, Elders, and any other ministry that participates in service from time to time, this helps keep it easy and simple for them as well.  Everyone is able to be on the same page and the same mind.  That goes a long way toward unity.
I also have loved the full sanctuary.  Your voices carry better, and it is more edifying for all of us.  Worship is also supposed to build our confidence in the faith as well.  Two services with a quarter to a third filled sanctuary just do not carry as much weight and unconsciously depress you guys into thinking the church is in trouble with people not coming.
As we continue to return it will be important to connect and get to know others of the congregation who worship here.  We have as many congregations as we do services and as I stated at the opening, I want the goal of bringing us together, physically, at the same time.  Yes, we have the Thursday night, but that service fills a different need for our congregation.
Theologically, we do not need two services just because of preference to time and liking of a particular service or what not.  That is not how disciples talk, that is how American consumers who are out of shape with Christianity talk.  Disciples say, “If this is when Jesus Christ is giving his gifts of Word and Sacrament and His Teaching, then that is when I need to be there with the rest of Christ’s people.”  Consider me to be your spiritual exercise coach here to get all of us, myself included, into a faithful shape.
So, this is an invitation to prove me wrong and show me a reason why we need two services.  I would be ecstatic if you did.  My goal before I think we should consider two services is 350 people in regular attendance in Sunday service. That is the capacity of our sanctuary.  That is also a quarter of our 1200+ official member congregation.  I would say that number is a very doable and achievable goal.  
To help with that transition of people coming in person (and also just to enjoy God’s creation here in Wisconsin), on Sundays in June, our Sunday services will be outdoors, weather permitting.  We hope this provides a small step to help those come back as well as enjoy the creation that God has given us.
Also to promote coming in person, the services on YouTube will not be published publicly starting in June.  We will still have online service available for shut ins and those who request a link.  And the service will still play on the local broadcast on the local T.V. station.  But the service just will not be made public on Facebook or YouTube.  The FM will still be available in the church parking lot for those still wary of coming inside.  The FM will continue for as long as the need for it is there.
The reason for not posting the service online is this: we do not want it to be a crutch.  You need in person worship because that is how God gives his gifts in Christ.   And this is also how we form ourselves to be disciples by loving, bearing and putting up with each other in the flesh.
Online viewing is not membership that is sustainable, accountable, nor one full of discipleship.  The Church is like her Lord, incarnational and present physically.  Online church is not the future of the church nor can it be.  Theologically it just does not hold water.  Online services were a tool that got us through a difficult time.  Where I see online church going is this: it will help fuel our tendency to reduce Christianity into consumerism, where you fit the church into your life instead of how you can fit your life into the Church’s life.  (Hopefully you notice that I am big on fighting consumerism for those who carry the name of Christ on them.)
Another question with the one service on Sunday will be the contemporary service.  There is a lot of work I hope to be doing on that topic in the next year and I do not have the space here.  But I encourage you to check out our upcoming Worship 101 this summer where we will talk and discuss worship and what it is and what it means.
Ultimately, I will not have the service come back in its form prior to covid.  A song-sermon-song structure prevalent in so many non-denominational services lack catechizing, teaching, God’s Word, and too often even Jesus.  (I always cringe when a whole service can be done without quoting the words from Christ himself).  Our worship is structured by our beliefs and our beliefs structure our worship.  The only medium for worship is God’s own Word which He says to us and that which we say back to Him.
Now does that mean that we cannot pull out a guitar one weekend and pick some of those songs?  We certainly still can.  I have talked to Alex, our contemporary band leader this past week, and he is game for once a month leading that.  It will be easier for them as well since most of the musicians we had in the contemporary band have moved or gone away in the last 3 years.  (Dillenburgs, Bahn’s, Coffren’s just to name a few).  They did a lot of great work, but with all of them gone, we only have a few people able to do that.  Not enough to carry that out every single week.
Wednesday Morning Chapel will also be ending after Memorial Day.  We will pick it up again after Labor Day.  We already have the schedule and plans ready for next year with it.  Ultimately the break will give me a rest and to also give me more time to plan Bible Classes, Confirmation, Services, and what not that I usually do in the summer.  Plus vacations and a bit of being laid back helps me retool and push ahead for another year.  A good rhythm to life.

During the summer there will be the start of an opportunity.  The first week in June, we will begin reading the Bible together during the Sunday Bible Class hour.  We will take the year to do that and we have several plans for engagement, questions, and the like as we go through.  Make an effort to be a part, even if you can’t be there every week for it.  It is actually designed to run without me being there if something were to happen, and I am excited to once again engage in God’s Word with you.
Finally, our financials are still doing well. There were a few annual and quarterly bills that had to paid in April, but we are still ahead by $2000. We were also able to send our usually $2500 to the North Wisconsin District and $2022 to the LCMS Disaster Response for our April Tithe.
In May, the tithe will go to Shirley’s House of Hope here in town. Their mission is “To Rebuild, Renew and Restore lives of women and children hurting from domestic violence along with alcohol and drug addictions.”
Our building fund is also doing well. At the end of April, we had over $55,000. This does not include a generous $20,000 donation made at the beginning of May. This will help pay for the necessary brickwork and new windows, as well as other upcoming projects.
There.  This was a lot and I grant a lot of thoughts.  Of course, as always, there is more.  I began writing this newsletter on the day that I went in for a covid test (5/6) and now I am putting the finishing touches on this as I sit here on my first day back in the office.  Thankful for the prayers and support of all of you as I went through it.
If you have any questions and or comments, feel free to reach out and let us know.  It does help if we know where the comments are from, otherwise it is impossible to address them properly or even at all.  Occasionally, we get feedback for which we are thankful.  But when they are without name, they end up not going far and we feel helpless to do anything without context.
As stated at the beginning my hope is that this is a chance to work toward building up the church and unifying us.  I have no delusions about it being easy.  It will come at great sacrifice and cost.  But it is worth it.  We have a good Lord Jesus Christ who gives us His way and truth and life.
Indeed, God’s peace to you all in Christ.  I am thankful and glad to call you my parish and would not have it any other way.  Thank God.  And thank you for that joy.  I certainly do not deserve it.
In Christ,
Pastor Andrew Belt