Full Text for An Emergency Appeal to Our Pastors (Text)

722 An Emergency Appeal to Our Pastors. ments of "Group A" were not met properly. To-day we face the sorry plight of a tremendous indebtedness in "Group A." The fact that it has passed the million-dollar mark should startle us and arouse us to earnest thought. What is the matter ~ Why is it that we were not getting funds enough to carryon the Lord's work properly even during the period of unprecedented prosperity~ Why were our people "living in ceiled houses" and permitting the Lord's house "to lie waste" ~ Hag. l. Without a doubt our people were blessed abundantly with temporal possessions. The Liberty Loan and Red Cross drives during the World War revealed that. It was brought out again most forcibly during the recent financial crash. Our Lutheran people lost mil­lions of dollars. These facts show that God was not getting His proportionate share. Shall we lay the blame entirely at the doors of our people ~ We know that many were withholding contributions from God. Many were "robbing God," Mal. 3. But what about us pastors and teachers of the Word? Did we ourselves give propor­tionately? Did we at all times show glowing warmth and burning interest in the affairs of our District and the kingdom at large? Did we furnish genuine evidence of whole-hearted interest in our sermons, our addresses, our meetings, our conversations, whenever opportunity arose? Did we speak to the individual, to "them that are rich in this world ... that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate"? 1 Tim. 6. Did we perhaps even encourage our congregations not to do too much for synodical purposes by such indiscreet remarks as: ccDas Hemd ist uns naeher als die Jacke"? Did we think too much of our local needs, our own salaries, etc., and permit this to throttle our efforts in behalf of our District and Synod? Or did a proud desire for outward pomp and glory prompt us not to dissuade our congrega­tion from borrowing staggering sums and thus shouldering an almost crushing indebtedness for the purpose of erecting a stately church, a school, a parish hall, a parsonage? And did we then claim that our home obligations prevented participation in synodical affairs ~ In fact, did we try to be the lieb Kind by always speaking of the inability of our congregation to do more for the Kingdom? The present crisis ought to arouse us. We need to subject our­selves to an unsparing self-examination. We need to repent. We need to confess our faults, our neglect of opportunities, our SIns in our pastoral office. We need to plead for forgiveness. And then? Then by God's grace let improvement follow. The present emergency rises as a mighty challenge :first of all for us pastors. God has called us to be "the ministers," "the stewards," "the overseeTS," "the shepherds," of the flock, the spiritual leaders of An Emergency Appeal to Our Pastors. 723 His people. It certainly is our duty to train our people, to lead them, to set them a good example, also to give proportionately for the upbuilding of the Kingdom. As we instruct them and admonish them to walk as children of God, to bring all manner of spiritual sacrifices, so we are to instruct them also in the grace of using their temporal possessions as true Christian stewards. Also (or shall we say especially?) during such emergencies as we are now facing we pastors must lead our people to do the God-pleasing thing. All of us realize and recognize this to be our God-appointed duty. But the task presents all manner of serious difficulties. It requires courage to speak to people about financial contributions during a peTiod of depTession. It Tequires a special measure of patience to meet all the objections, the unwillingness, the feaTS and doubts which beset our people, and in aU these things to Tetai.n our composure and yet to caTTY on the Lord's work aggressively and successfully. At the recent convention in );rilwaukee, after thorough and prayerful deliberation, resolutions were adopted instTucting the Board of Directors to inauguTate the pI' opel' steps toward the balancing of OUT synodical budget. Our laymen also offered suggestions conceTn­jng the method to be employed in the raising of funds to meet our synodical obligations. The BoaI'd of DirectoTS and the EmeTgency Collection Committee sought to combine the two proposals and are presenting a plan which will be discussed thoroughly in every circuit and, we hope, in every congregation thToughout Synod. If these plans, inaugurated by Synod itself, aTe not to miscarry, if we hope to meet with success in raising sufficient funds to meet our current expenses and to cancel the increasing indebtedness, it will be necessary that our pastors throughout Synod put fOl·th earnest, consecTated, aggTessive effoTts. Unless theTe is whole-hearted co­opeTation on the paTt of all OUT pastors, we cannot hope to gain whole-heaTted coopeTation on the part of OUT congregations. Some eaTllest, straightfoTward pTeaching on ChTistian steward­ship will be necessary. Our people must be shown, and Teproved fOT, their sins of omission during the days of prosperity. We need to lead them to heaTHelt Tepentance. Again, and that is the all-im­pOTtant featuTe, we should point out to them the marvelous grace of God, which prompts the FatheT's heart to forgive us, the unpaTal­leled love of the Savior, which prompted Him to redeem us at such a staggering cost, the astounding long-suffering of the Holy Spirit, which prompts Him not to cast us aside, but to come again and again to set us right. We need to impress upon our people to what ex­tremities God goes in order to save us. It is His kingdom in which we aTe peTmitted to labor. It is Jesus who is calling for our coopera­tion. It is He who "hath need of them," of our temporal means, 724 An Emergency Appeal to Our Pastors. for the work of His Ohurch. It is He who is offering opportunities to us now to manifest the sincerity of our love for Him. We should answer the challenge which comes to us in the present circumstances in the words of St. John: "We love Him because He first loved us." But is this the opportune time to speak to our people on financial contributions? Look into the Old Testament, and you will find that the sharpest and most severe admonitions concerning giving to the Lord came at such times when "depression" made terrible inroads upon Israel, Hag. 1; Mal. 3. In fact, God connects the depression with their refusal to give properly. Turn to the pages of the New Testament. Jesus has immortalized the memory of the poor widow who "of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." St. Paul call1lot refrain from emphasizing the "grace of God be­stowed on the churches in l.{accdonia." What was that outstanding grace? He says: "How that in a great trial of aflliction the abun­dance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and be­yond their power, they were willing of themselves." What a mighty encouragement for everyone of us! It is not a matter of chance that our Ohurch is facing such a crisis. The Lord is putting us to a test. He is trying the sincerity and the depth of our love for Him. He still has supplied us with sufficient funds to carryon His work, if only we are sufficiently willing to bring real sacrifices. He is still presenting opportunities. Doors are open. The very fact that we have the Gospel in its pristine purity while others have forsaken it is opening more doors for us. He has given us many workers ready to enter the vineyard. He still supplies us abundantly with the powerful Gospel, by which hearts will be rendered willing to carryon His work. He still remembers the glorious promises which He made to His people both in the Old and in the New Testament, and He will fulfil them if they will but show the proper willingness to consecrate their silver and their gold unto the Lord. Brethren, necessity summons us to more aggressive action. The emergency drafts us into more intensive service. The critical situa­tion challenges us to more consecrated leadership. Our adorable Redeemer commissions us to go forward. Will we respond? Under the banner of the Oross let us start a great offensive. With our eyes fixed upon Golgotha and directing the attention of our people to Him who died there, let us assume the responsibilities of the task before us willingly, courageously, aggressively. May God graciously bless our efforts! Houston, Tex. J. W. BEHNKEN.