In the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, Atlanta adopted a slogan that was intended to help guide the city and its people through those tumultuous times: “Atlanta, a city too busy to hate.”
Obviously, the tensions and problems in other Southern cities were also in existence in Atlanta, but the businesses and enterprises of the city kept moving forward toward a greater goal, with the intent of achieving racial reconciliation and equality.
At least that was the hope and vision. Historians certainly disagree on the degree to which this was happening at the time. However, I’m not writing today about that reality.
I mention the Atlanta slogan because it’s the theme that came into my mind as I attended our North American Lutheran Church national convocation a couple weeks ago in Oklahoma City.
“The North American Lutheran Church (NALC), a Church too busy to hate.”
It seems to me that many of the mainline denominations of churches have been overtaken by “angry agenda-driven” people and groups. I realize that is a very broad and ambiguous indictment and would need a lengthy discussion of the agendas and their actions within these churches to prove this point. But I won’t do that here and now. I must leave it to you to recall where you have seen this as well.
As I sat through the days in Oklahoma City with the other 500 pastors and representatives, and as I reflect back now on the whole experience, I celebrate the Spirit-filled, positive, up-lifting mission and ministry of our new church body.
Yes, new. We formed the NALC in 2010 as a Lutheran church body that would stand strong in Biblical theology and practice, maintain a high standard in Lutheran understandings, and lovingly hold firm to the traditional Biblical values for marriage and family.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard a report that we are one of the fastest growing church bodies in America for adding new congregations. Many of these are existing congregations that have come to us from other Lutheran church bodies, mainly the ELCA. We have many new churches being planted, and many of these are beginning as “house churches,” with hopes for growth and more permanent facilities.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard several reports from our international partners in ministry around the world. Our African partners reported that Christianity and Lutheranism are growing rapidly in many countries there. These wonderful and beautiful people shared heart-warming stories of what God is doing through them and among them there.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We were introduced to new resources to help strengthen families and to help parents bring their children up with our Christian and Lutheran faith and values. We were reminded of the resources already available to help individuals, families, and small groups to actually become “disciples” of Jesus, and to learn what that looks like in our modern lives.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard great sermons in powerful worship services, all lovingly proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ and invoking the Holy Spirit to empower us to greater faith and service in the world.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard a presentation from “Lutherans for Life,” our agency that gives great support to women and children. They encouraged us to work locally to support women in pregnancy.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard an encouraging report from our newly-formed seminary, where new pastors are being educated and trained in our theology and practice. Many of these seminary students are young people who will lead the church for years to come.
“A Church too busy to hate.” We heard Biblical and theological presentations from several of our young theologians. These young pastors and professors in their 30s and 40s have earned their Ph.D. in theology and articulate our Biblical faith in both depth and understanding.
“A Church too busy to hate.” Because of our history and the events leading up to our forming in 2010, we pastors and people of our NALC have such a love and respect for one another. Our comradery and collegiality and friendship runs so deep.
It was a blessed event. I thank the people of St. Martin Lutheran Church in Midtown Atlanta for electing me their pastoral delegate, as their pastor was unable to attend.
I must still say this. If you are a Lutheran or a Christian whose church body and congregation have become a place for social agenda and cultural conformity, then I invite you to investigate one of our local NALC congregations.
I name them again: St. Martin Lutheran in Atlanta, Word of God Lutheran in Sharpsburg, and Prince of Peace Lutheran in Fayetteville.
I know you’ll find “A Church too busy to hate.” Amen.
[Dr. Justin Kollmeyer, a thirty-seven year resident of Fayette County, is a retired Lutheran pastor. He offers his preaching and teaching pastoral ministry to any group seeking or needing a Christ centered, Biblically based, and traditionally grounded sermon or teaching. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.]