Faith makes the difference in living



January 31, 2011 - 12:00 AM

This is the second of a weekly series of stories on Iola churches.


You can almost hear the fiddler Teva bellowing “Tradition!” — so firm is the Rev. Bruce Kristalyn’s sentiments that Lutheran services are as relevant today as hundreds of years ago.
“We’ve been singing and saying the same things for the past 1,000 years,” Kristalyn said. It’s this “unbroken chain of history” that provides a solid foundation from which “we are teaching, believing and professing.”
Kristalyn, 57, has been pastor of Grace Lutheran Church, 117 E. Miller, for 10 years. He began in the ministry in 1989, first serving a congregation in Hanover, N.D.

WITHOUT FAITH, life is not worth living, Kristalyn maintains.
It starts at birth, which from the get-go is “Sinful,” Kristalyn said. “We are born terribly, terribly broken.”
Life’s hardships are so numerous that “no one has the strength to go it alone,” he said. “We are weak and feeble. But in the midst of our frailty is the hope of eternal health and happiness,” of an everlasting life with God once we die.
The fruits of this faith, are a “seven-course meal compared to a meal of peanut butter and popcorn,” for those who won’t believe “the truth. God is there,” he said.
The rewards of the ministry is when “people get it,” Kristalyn said. Likewise, it’s a “heartache, when they refuse to accept Jesus is that Good Shepherd leading you.”
Kristalyn sees his role with the church as an “encourager.”
“There are captains and generals who make plans and lead. I don’t operate that way. I’m here to maintain the Christian perspective,” he said.
A church needs to be congregation-driven, Kristalyn said. “If I die, someone else will replace me. This church belongs to Jesus. A church is the bride of Christ.”
That management style for Grace Lutheran resulted in a new church in 2008, which was debt-free the day its doors opened thanks to generous bequests from members.
Kristalyn sees his strengths in small group settings such as Sunday school before church services. He prefers the dialogue that comes with questions.
“If people don’t attend Sunday school, they are short-changing themselves,” he said. “It’s a chance for interaction and understanding.”

GRACE LUTHERAN has 192 members on its rolls. Attendance at its 10:30 a.m. worship service averages 60. About 20 adults attend the 9 a.m. Sunday school; with about 10 youths attending their class. After church, about eight or nine youths come to the Kristalyn home to participate in a youth group.
Perhaps as a reflection of the demographics of Southeast Kansas, which has seen a steady loss in population for the past 20-plus years, Grace Lutheran has witnessed a decline in its membership.
Kristalyn takes the change as a national symptom of a culture “not interested in Christianity as much as we used to be.” Kristalyn also contends people don’t feel an allegiance to a particular denomination as much, either.
Those who “hop” from church to church can be “frustrating to a congregation and to themselves,” he said.
“If you’re looking for a perfect congregation, you’re not going to find it,” he said. For those looking for a different “fix” from a church, perhaps the place to start is within, he said.
“You have to assess what you hold dear. We do not all agree on the nature of our faith. You have to be able to say ‘This is what I believe’” and see if that aligns with a congregation, he said.
Kristalyn gets notably irritated with the “what’s in it for me,” attitude about church.
“We tend to forget it’s not always about us,” he said. “It’s about what Jesus has done and how everything should be to the glory of Christ.”
Even a bride should be able to step aside and realize it’s not her day, but His day, Kristalyn said.
Likewise, funerals should not focus on the fact that a person has died, but should be about Christ’s promise of resurrection. “Otherwise, a funeral would be so sad,” he said. “If there is no Jesus, no heaven, then everything in this world is just sad and depressing.
“The purpose of the church is not to make each other happy. It is telling people in the midst of self-pain that there is hope of a glorious end.”

IT’S THIS MESSAGE that Kristalyn believes keeps the faithful coming in the door.
Kristalyn said he prefers the beauty and simplicity of the music his organist Beth Ringwald plays.
Modern-style bands and multi-media presentations that entertain parishioners are “carrots, dangled to get people in the door,” he said. “It’s manipulation. The focus is to feel good.
“But if people are not connected to Christ, they’re not going to come” no matter the style of worship, he said.

June 18, 2013
October 1, 2010
May 10, 2010
January 23, 2010