What Would This Mean For Christ’s Bride– The Church?
While all of this is frightening and should give us pause respecting the fragility of our civilization, what would such potential events mean for the Bride of Christ– the Church? While Scripture tells us that even the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church of Christ Jesus, that does not mean that His Bride will not suffer in this world. The genocide we see of Christians and their culture in the Muslim world should prove the point. It should be remembered that we still live in the Church Militant, not the Church Triumphant.
What follows is, of course, speculative but should provide a basis for pondering what our Lord’s Church might look like and act like in such dire circumstances as those described above. More importantly, it might give some impetus for congregations to prepare their members for the potential coming catastrophe, whatever its form.
Some likely possibilities for the Church:
- Synods and denominations would likely cease to function as institutions.
For starters, in the event of an EMP attack, there would be no means of either communication or transportation beyond that of walking or riding horseback, unless you have a very old car without an electronic ignition, and then you wouldn’t be able to obtain gasoline because the gas pumps would not be functioning. Second, since all electronic communications devices and services (TV, radio, Internet, and Postal Service) would fail, there would be no means by which church body institutions could communicate with their members. Every individual congregation that could still function would be completely on their own as no districts or national church institutions would be able to assist them. Ecclesiastical supervision by church bodies would cease to exist.
- Most congregations would likely be unable to serve most of their members.
If congregants only have the ability to walk, traveling to worship services would become virtually impossible for most members and dangerous for all. Gone are the days when churches were located about five or six miles apart to enable their members to attend on horseback. Many church facilities will simply become impractical to maintain.
- Home churches would multiply with heads of households and collections of neighbors gathering for worship, following the initial on-set of troubles. Those who survive the initial terrors of the on-set of societal collapse would eventually gather with friends and family members who live close by for worship. Early on, even this gathering of local groups might prove too dangerous and worship would be confined to the home. Such emerging “mini-congregations” would need to deal with pastoral issues, doctrinal issues, communion issues, and worship issues that are inherent in being thrown together with others of varying beliefs and practices. The temptation to downplay doctrine to a lowest common denominator would be very difficult to resist.
- While many faithful pastors would remain to serve their congregations, some would not and many could not. Additionally, pastors, like all others, would be preoccupied with helping their own families survive.
Both for the clergy and the laity, this would be a time of separating the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Those who are truly faithful will do all in their power to continue some form of congregational life, but others will abandon their calls or laymen their participation in the congregation. In some cases, the congregation will abandon the parish, leaving the pastor without a congregation to serve. In other cases where the clergy abandon their call, whatever form of congregation remains will need to understand that they need to call a pastor to serve as their shepherd, even if it is from the men of the congregation. Congregations need a rightly called pastor to be the Church. Surviving retired pastors in a community might become sought after resources.
- As time passes after the collapse, congregations in local regions will need to find ways to provide a theological education to those men desiring to serve as pastors.
Just as the German Lutheran settlers of Perry County, Missouri, in the 19th century founded a log cabin seminary, so too would the Bride of Christ in local areas need to find a way to train pastors for the feeding of God’s sheep by qualified men. Theological libraries would need to be established as best as possible, utilizing pastor’s libraries as a primary source for texts and pastors as the primary instructors. Rather than succumb to the temptation to take shortcuts in theological education, strict standards of preparation need to be kept for the sake of God’s people.
How Can Congregations Prepare For These Coming Events?
St. Paul writes in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even in the event of a societal collapse, God will use the terrible things that happen to draw His people closer to His Word and Sacraments, thus giving spiritual strengthening and nourishment to His potential flock. Perhaps the first thing that a pastor and his congregation can do to prepare for the coming catastrophe is to understand that God is still God no matter the circumstances in which His people find themselves.
It should be obvious that a good under shepherd of Christ would help his congregation prepare for disaster, especially since it is clear that the current economic trajectory of this nation simply cannot be sustained much longer and the risk of a nuclear EMP attack grows with every news cycle. It is also true that our world has become immeasurably more dangerous with acts of terrorism driven by Satan’s Muslim followers occurring even in our own country and perhaps even in our own communities. Additionally, rogue international bad actors, like Iran and North Korea, have plainly told us of their intentions to destroy America and Christianity and have made it clear that they will do whatever they need to do to keep their word. We really ought to believe them!
What steps can be taken by local pastors and congregations to prepare for a possible societal collapse?
First, realize that among your own congregations are a few (perhaps many) of your members who are already “Preppers”. A Prepper is a person who has intentionally begun to lay aside food and supplies in order to help their family survive a possible societal collapse. For the most part, such folks are not “crazy” nor do they wear “tinfoil hats”. They are rational men and women who have simply chosen to see what’s headed their way and are taking actions for their families to survive it.
In a congregation, already existing Preppers are an invaluable resource for others who have decided that events are likely coming that require preparation. Preppers have been there and done that. Most Preppers want to live in a community in which most people are Preppers, because if they are not, then when the worst comes even fellow neighbors and church members can become deadly enemies as they seek to provide the necessities of life for their families. Hungry people will kill one another to keep themselves and their children fed.
In many ways, congregations of God’s people are the perfect Prepper communities! They already share the Christian faith, which enables them to see one another as true brothers and sisters in Christ. They already care about one another and want to help those in need. They are, or should be, a “family” unto themselves. Congregational Prepping will only help to deepen that God-given bond. As is always the case, the congregation’s pastor must take the lead.
Prepping can’t be the pastor’s primary goal in the congregation. The pastor’s call is to teach the Word of God in all its purity and to administer the Sacraments in accord with Christ’s institution. That always comes first! The pastor is the chief catechist of the congregation, and the chief thing he is to teach is the Christian faith. However, Christian life is also a topic on a pastor’s plate. It will require some courage on the pastor’s part to actually bridge the prepping topic of conversation. He has to risk being seen as something of a “nut-case” by those members who simply will not see the dangers that are at our door and are subject to something called “normalcy bias”.
Wikipedia defines normalcy bias as “…a mental state people enter when facing a disaster. It causes people to underestimate both the possibility of a disaster and its possible effects. This may result in situations where people fail to adequately prepare and, on a larger scale, the failure of governments to include the populace in its disaster preparations. The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred, it never will occur. It can result in the inability of people to cope with a disaster once it occurs. People with a normalcy bias have difficulties reacting to something they have not experienced before. People also tend to interpret warnings in the most optimistic way possible, seizing on any ambiguities to infer a less serious situation.”
It seems fair to conclude that the United States federal government has a very bad case of normalcy bias, since it has chosen to ignore the clear warnings of its own EMP Commission and has done absolutely nothing to harden the public grid infrastructure of this nation, which the Commission estimated could be done for the relatively small amount of $20 billion dollars. At the same time, however, the U.S. military listened to the findings of the Congressional EMP reports and has taken some precautions to harden some of its electronic assets. Likewise, normalcy bias has prompted the continued downward spiral of our economy to be seen as a “new normal” and nothing to be concerned about. The erroneous conclusion by many in government is that continued deficit spending can continue indefinitely and that no day of reckoning need be contemplated.
As a pastor, you have likely proven that you are a Godly man of rational mind and of good heart. You’ve earned a hearing even on this subject. But if you are to have a congregation to serve, then the topic of societal collapse must become a secondary priority for you, even at some personal risk. The alternative is to watch your congregation literally kill each other off for food and then come after their prepping pastor’s family. Lutherans need to understand the true nature of original sin in order to adequately assess what can happen in such a national calamity, and Lutherans need to be taught again about the fundamental corporate nature of the Church. We are many parts but one body.
Pastor’s know how to approach their own congregations best. Perhaps you could approach your Board of Elders with this article and get their reaction to it as a first step. Another possibility would be to put this article in your church newsletter as a way of opening the conversation. You might consider using the topic of the Church Militant as a Bible study for your adult class and bring the subject up. While I have no idea if the coming possible and likely catastrophe is part of the events leading up to the Second Coming of our Lord, I also don’t know that they wouldn’t be. I do know that we are now 2,000 years closer to our Lord’s return than we used to be and that Scripture tells us that things will be very difficult at the end, especially for His Bride, the Church. Whatever you have to do, do it! There’s simply too much at stake.