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Question & Answer
Faith Related Q and A

» In the past we were able to get calendars from Thrivent that would tell us what each Sunday was, like Advent 2, or when Pentecost began. They no longer supply these calendars. Can you let me know where I can find this schedule for the 2018 year? We use this to plan our ushering and attendance charts. Thank you.
Northwestern Publishing House has a church year calendar that you can download for free. This link will take you to that calendar. Our Synod’s Commission on Worship also has the same calendar available for downloading. In addition, the Commission has a church year calendar that you can download to your smart phone or other electronic device. This link will take you to the place where you can download those calendars. (Once you land on that page, scroll down to see the resources that are available.) God bless your planning!

» Is it right or wrong to encourage members of our church to register to vote and participate in the election process? This encouragement would not include suggestions or recommendations regarding how to vote on any particular issue or candidate. Please include Bible references regarding your response. Thanks!
It is certainly proper to encourage members of our churches to register to vote and participate in the election process. What our churches cannot do, as you indicated, is endorse any candidate for political office. Doing so would be a violation of the Internal Revenue Code. Participating in the election process is part of responsible citizenship. While the Bible does not address your topic specifically, passages like Matthew 22:21, Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 speak of proper civic attitudes.

» As I understand it, WELS teaches that there must be complete doctrinal unity before any kind of joint Christian activity can take place amongst believers. And yet when I read your proof passages they all seem to be related to the key teaching of Scripture -- justification by faith alone in Christ alone. Isn't it impossible on this side of heaven to be "in perfect agreement?" It seems like WELS would say that if we agree on everything except who we identify as the Antichrist, we can't pray together. Yet, in Philippians 3:15-16, Paul seems to imply that there is room for disagreement on non-fundamental teachings yet still be together.
The “Church and Ministry” section of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body, explains what we teach and profess about doctrinal unity and fellowship. “We believe that God directs believers to acknowledge oneness in faith with Christians whose confession of faith submits to all the teachings of Scripture (John 8:31; 1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). We believe, furthermore, that individuals through their membership in a church body commit themselves to the doctrine and practice of that church. To assert that unity exists where there is no agreement in confession is to presume to look into people’s hearts. Only God can look into people’s hearts. It is not necessary that all Christians agree on matters of church ritual or organization. About these the New Testament gives no commands (Romans 14:17). “We believe that those who confession of faith reveals that they are united in the doctrines of Scripture will express their fellowship in Christ as occasion permits (Ephesians 4:3). They may express their fellowship by joint worship, by joint proclamation of the gospel, by joining in Holy Communion, by joint prayer, and by joint church work. God directs believers not to practice religious fellowship with those whose confession and actions reveal that they teach, tolerate, support, or defend error (2 John 10,11). When error appears in the church, Christians will try to preserve their fellowship by patiently admonishing the offenders, in the hope that they will turn from their error (2 Timothy 2:25,26; Titus 3:10). But the Lord commands believers not to practice church fellowship with people who persist in teaching or adhering to beliefs that are false (Romans 16:17,18).” As indicated, the Scripture passages used to explain what we teach and profess about doctrinal unity and fellowship are not limited to the subject of justification by faith alone in Christ alone. When it comes to Philippians 3:15-16, the phrase “such a view of things” in verse fifteen takes us back to the previous verses where the apostle Paul was speaking of zealousness in living the Christian life not classifying doctrines of the Bible. Unity in the faith is a precious gift of God the Holy Spirit. We thank him for it. We seek to preserve it. We look for greater expressions of it.

» My wife is looking at working in a capacity that would promote a casino/resort. Initially, I thought it could be fine. The Bible does not explicitly forbid gambling. (That does not make it right, however.) The casino is one part of the resort's activities. One could run into a similar problem promoting a hospital that performs abortions (but "abortions" are not what one thinks when they hear the word "hospital," whereas when one hears "casino" they think "gambling") or owning a liquor store. What are your thoughts on such a situation? I understand that if one has doubts, one should not go against their conscience. That is another little wrinkle. My wife doesn't really have doubts, citing biblical examples of people who worked within sinful organizations, such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meschach and Abedego, etc. I'm the one trying to clear my doubts. I've also consulted my pastor, but I am looking for further input. Thanks.
You are correct in putting this situation in the area of one’s conscience. While the Bible does not specifically address the subject of gambling, the Bible does warn against greed (Luke 12:15) and instruct us to look not only to our own interests but the interests of others (Philippians 2:4). Against the backdrop of passages like those and others, Christians might arrive at different conclusions about the appropriateness of working at a casino/resort. I am going to pursue one of the thoughts you passed along, and that is that “the casino is one part of the resort’s activities.” There certainly may be guests/customers who visit that place of business only to visit the casino because they are motivated by greed and concern only for their lives. There may be other guests/customers who visit that place of business for entertainment, recreational activities, meals or relaxation. An employee at such a business is bound to interact with some people with attitudes of greed or unselfishness. But that is true of some other—perhaps, unlikely—businesses. An employee at a convenience store/gas station might ring up a lot of sales in gasoline, food and…lottery tickets. Perhaps there are regular customers who load up on lottery tickets on a predictable schedule. Those people are not going to casinos to gamble; they’re simply stopping at a gas station on the way home to gamble. The employee interacts with customers who have different attitudes toward money. Another employee in a brokerage firm is part of a support team that provides services for conservative and savvy investors—and perhaps also for people who look upon day trading as sophisticated gambling. Those people take great financial risks to get more and more money. The employee is part of a company that serves people who have different attitudes toward money. Those are just a couple examples of employees who provide products that greedy people can abuse. The biblical examples your wife cited do illustrate God-fearing people who were able to maintain their faith in and devotion to God while being in the employ of foreign, ungodly governments. Certainly, their involvement in those governments was not an endorsement of all the governments’ activities. So where are we after all this? You and your wife need to sort out what the concerns of her possible employment are, how legitimate those concerns are and how serious they might be. You want to arrive at a consensus so that there is not a wedge of any kind between the two of you. Prayerfully determine how both of you can use life to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31) by serving others (Galatians 6:10). I will offer similar prayer.

» There is a community program that helps with homeless families in the area. They are sponsored/supported by many local churches. Is it wrong to also support this work that is not affiliated directly a specific church, but supported by many churches and the community at large? Thanks.
You will want to examine the organization’s goals and purposes to see how biblical fellowship principles might apply as it carries out charitable work in your community. Your pastor will be a good resource to help you sort out the information.

» May an LCMS member take Communion at a WELS church after professing their faith to the pastor, and vice-versa?
Our pastors are happy to commune people who belong to churches of our fellowship. An LCMS (The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod) member represents his or her church, and because WELS and LCMS are not in fellowship with one another, we refrain from communing together, as the reception of the Lord’s Supper is an expression of unity in the faith (1 Corinthians 10:17). The individual profession of a person is one thing, but a person’s profession of faith by his or her church membership is what we really need to consider. We see church membership as a way in which Christians acknowledge Jesus before others (Matthew 10:32) and publicly indicate their unity in faith and doctrine with fellow believers. Our practice in WELS is not unique. LCMS states on its website: “The official position of the Synod is that not only are members of other Lutheran churches with whom we are in altar and pulpit fellowship [my emphasis] invited to commune with us, but also that in certain extraordinary cases of pastoral care and in emergencies members of churches not in fellowship with us may be given Communion.” WELS also allows for extraordinary cases and emergencies, but we recognize LCMS’ position of normally communing those “with whom we are in altar and pulpit fellowship.” That would exclude WELS. While WELS and LCMS are not in fellowship with one another, you may or may not be aware that the two synods, along with the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), have met annually for the last six years to share information and to be better informed on areas where there is agreement and disagreement. This link will take you to a report that describes the most recent meeting.

» Is wearing of a clerical collar becoming more acceptable? I hope so. I never had a WELS pastor yet that wouldn't be fit to wear one. I have loved all my WELS pastors - best pastors on the planet. And my pastor came to church wearing one for the first time. He said it gives him more opportunity to talk about Jesus to strangers.
I do not know if I can point to any kind of trend developing in our synod. The wearing of clerical collars fits into the category of adiaphora: those things that God has neither commanded nor forbidden. While wearing a clerical collar might more commonly be associated with clergy of other denominations, it is an option for clergy of our church body. As you indicated, and as the term suggests, a clerical collar identifies a person as a member of the clergy. That identification can open doors for conversations about the faith. As it is with any change in congregational life, pastors will do well to speak to their members about the rationale behind their use of a clerical collar. Such conversations can address any misunderstandings that might exist. Thank you for your kind words about our pastors. I hope many of them read your words.

» Has WELS always believed in "free will" in the works of this life? I grew up WELS and I thought I distinctly remembered that WELS did not believe in free will. I see the website says: Human beings have a free will in works of this life. But only the Holy Spirit, working through God’s Word, can lead a person to love God. So now I'm confused. Maybe I have just misunderstood the secret of my life's choices the last 55 years?
Ever since the fall into sin in Eden, the free will that people have is limited to making decisions about their earthly lives. So, people choose to marry or remain single, enter into this or that vocation, live in a certain area, etc. Of course, when it comes to making decisions like those, people may not always get what they want. After the fall into sin, people by nature can choose only evil in the spiritual realm. “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so” (Romans 8:7). “Every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). “Every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” (Genesis 8:21). Because of natural sin and unbelief, people are God’s enemies; they want to do only that which displeases God. Then, when we consider passages like 1 Corinthians 2:14, Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13, we understand that even if we wanted to choose to believe in Jesus, we could not do that because we were spiritually blind and dead by nature. All we could do was sin and reject God. Thankfully, God did what we could not and did not want to do: he connected us to Jesus Christ in faith so we could enjoy all the blessings he won by his holy life and innocent death, and which are guaranteed by his glorious resurrection from the dead. As a child of God, my free will is much different than before my conversion. Now my new self wants to use the means of grace to strengthen my faith; now I want to follow God’s law as a tangible way of showing my thankfulness to him for my salvation in Jesus his Son. However, even when I, as a child of God, want to do those things in life that are good and godly, I recognize that it is God working in me: “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). As you look back on your life as a child of God, and as you look ahead, thank God for the wonderful freedom he gives you to determine each day how to serve him and others.

» When someone takes their own life for various reasons, do they have a chance to go to heaven if they have always believed in Jesus Christ?
A significant phrase in your question is “for various reasons.” People have taken their lives for various reasons. Some who did so might have been suffering from psychological or mental health issues. Others might have committed a rash act in a moment of weakness. Still others might have ended their lives in unbelief. The Bible teaches us that Christian faith saves and unbelief condemns (Mark 16:16). The Bible explains the need to have Christian faith in the heart when life on earth comes to an end (Revelation 2:10). The Bible informs us that judgment takes place at death (Hebrews 9:27). While we do not know the judgment that takes place at a person’s death, that judgment will be made public on the last day (Matthew 25:31-46). In years past, individuals who took their own lives were often treated as a group: they were automatically considered to be people who were lost forever. In more recent times there has been a greater understanding of psychological and mental issues that might have contributed to a person taking his or her life, while still dying in the Christian faith. This does not minimize the seriousness of suicide or its tragic effects on survivors; it provides explanation only. God makes it clear in the Bible that only he—directly or indirectly through his representatives in government—has the right to end a person’s life (Deuteronomy 32:39; Psalm 31:15; Psalm 90:3; Romans 13:4). God is serious about protecting a person’s life because that is the only time a person has to be brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Any threat or expression of ending one’s life needs to be taken very seriously. If you are aware of such threats or expressions, do speak to that person and/or the proper authorities.

» Is a non-WELS person (another Lutheran synod, Catholic, Baptist, etc.) permitted to solo during the funeral service of a WELS member in a WELS church?
Singers and musicians—those who serve as worship leaders in regular or special worship services in our churches—do need to be of our fellowship. The Bible encourages us to work together with those who have a common faith and to work together to promote the truth (3 John 8). At the same time God, through the Bible, tells us to separate from and not join in fellowship activities like worship with those who are not one in faith with us (Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10; 2 John 10-11). When people belong to a church, their membership acknowledges acceptance of that church’s beliefs. It is the comparison of the church’s beliefs with the Bible, not an examination of the individual’s heart, that leads to a determination of whether or not there can be the enjoyment of fellowship activities like worship. When I answer questions like this, I like to point out that we are talking about the difference between visible churches and the invisible church, the Holy Christian Church. WELS and the churches you listed are visible churches. If a person from one of the visible churches you listed is not able to sing a song in one of our churches, we are not saying the person is not a Christian, nor are we pretending to read what is in the person’s heart. We are happy when a person’s sincere confession of Christian faith identifies him or her as a member of the Holy Christian Church, the invisible church. But only God knows who belongs to that Church; you and I operate in the realm of visible churches. So, while we may have a common membership in the Holy Christian Church with other Christians, their membership in a visible church outside our fellowship prevents us from doing the things we might like—like singing at a funeral service. If you would like to read more about our biblical fellowship practices, this link will take you to the appropriate section of This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body. And, finally, please do speak to one of our pastors if you have other questions related to the one you submitted.