The Strict Church?

The following article is taken from the January 2018 Zion Lutheran Newsletter.  To learn more about Zion Lutheran Church, go to:

Over the years, I am sure that you have heard the comment that Zion Lutheran is the “strict church” in town.  Now, I am not quite sure what is exactly meant by this label, but I am pretty sure that it isn’t used as a compliment towards our church.  As a result, there might be a temptation for us to get defensive or angry by this comment.  However, is the comment unfair?  Is it inaccurate?  You see, instead of getting defensive or angry, I think we should pause and hear this comment as a ‘complement,’ not a criticism.

But why is it a compliment? 

In a recent Canadian study on churches in Ontario (reported in the Washington Post: January 7, 2017), it was discovered that “Conservative Protestant theology, with its more literal [strict] view of the Bible, is a significant predictor of church growth while liberal theology leads to decline.”  That is to say; the results from the Canadian study are surprising since we have been told for years that those of us who hold to a conservative (i.e., strict) interpretation of the Scriptures are a dying breed, soon to be replaced by the enlightened, “progressive” believers who have found a new way of reading the Bible.  However, this is not the case, as demonstrated by the Canadian study and history in general.  

So, what is going on here? 

Simply stated, churches that believe that the Bible is God’s Word, believe that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead, and purchased us with his blood, believe that there will be a future resurrection, believe that our words and deeds have eternal significance… well, it is only natural for parishioners of these conservative (strict) churches to be ‘deeply’ devoted to the Lord and the Church.  And deeply devoted churches, with deeply devoted clergy and parishioners, can weather the storms of culture and remain steadfast – and even grow.  A conservative and strict approach to the Bible is a sign of a healthy church, not a shortfall.      

That is why we can rejoice that Zion has the reputation of the “Strict Church."  Yes, we are conservative and deeply devoted, because we know that the Lord is deeply devoted to us.  Frankly stated, we are still attending Grandpa's Church.  We don’t see the church of our forefathers as oppressively strict, out of date, or irrelevant – something to move away from or criticize.  We do not need to do something new, but instead, we are absolutely convinced that the historical and traditional practices, and orthodox and wisdom-laden ways of believing, are what the current and next generation needs. The historical liturgy, Lutheran confessions, and unchanging Word of God were precious gifts to our forefathers and continue to be precious gifts to us today! 

So, dear Baptized Saints, do not be ashamed of the label ‘strict.’  We are!  We are deeply devoted.  We are strictly dependent upon God’s Word.  We have profound gratitude for our forefathers and history.  We are all these things because we know that Alexander Hamilton was right, when he said, “When you stand for nothing, you fall for everything.” We also remember what the Apostle Paul said, “We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.”  So instead of falling or being tossed to and fro, we long to grow up in every way into Jesus, who is our head, our rock, our Redeemer, our truth, and our life.

Grace and peace,

- Pastor Richard

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