“If the apples don’t come from the grocery store, then where DO they come from?” the young child might ask.
Post-Industrial-Revolution life can make it difficult to see the fundamental origins of some of our most basic daily-bread items. We might be able to say the same thing of our own local Lutheran congregations. Many of these have been around long enough and are substantial enough in property and assets that the meager details of their beginnings may be very foreign to us as well.
A church starting from scratch? What would that look like? What does that take?
A FEW PRACTICALS:
A Place with People – The word “church” as found in the New Testament is from a Greek compound word that simply means “ones called out.” That fundamental understanding of “church” means that essential to a church beginning are those “ones” – people! Your synod’s Board for Home Outreach is regularly and studiously looking at U.S. demographics to see where people are concentrating for work and to live that we might put the Gospel – that which calls ones – in those concentrations.
A Pastor Called – Contrary to much of American Christian thought and practice, our missionaries are not “self-called.” I didn’t move to Parker County, Texas, on the basis of a vision or gut feeling. You called me here! Your synod’s Board for Home Outreach, speaking on your behalf, commissioned me to bring the Gospel to the concentration of people here. St. Paul speaks of this practice by way of teaching questions: And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15).
A Purse – Putting the Gospel in the midst of people is a study, but it isn’t rocket science. You see these concentrations of people (or voids) happening around you, too. At any given time, there are countless population centers that would prove opportune for the Gospel. But like many other good things in life, finances are a constraint. Whenever our mission board (BHO) is able to call and send a missionary to one of these concentrations of people, there are significant finances behind that – YOUR FINANCES! Your generous offerings – through your local congregation’s thank-offerings or private donations directly to synod missions – make that Gospel outreach possible. This is what St. Paul calls “partnership in the Gospel” (Philippians 1:5). Thank you!
A Plan of Action – (See Pastor Krause’s article in July/August issue)
A Persisting Petition – On his very best day, that missionary called by God to carry the Gospel to that given population center is rife with sin: pride of what his time and efforts seem to show; despair over his many sins and shortcomings. He is flesh, naturally focused on self. This natural disposition is spiritual death. And God brings rescue for it in Jesus. In his Sacristy Prayer, Luther teaches pastors to pray continually for this rescue from spiritual death: Use me as Thy instrument in Thy service. Only do not Thou forsake me. For if I am left to myself, I will certainly bring it all to destruction. Amen.
Isolating as it can feel, God doesn’t leave that exploratory missionary to himself. For that missionary – a profound sinner – God sent His Son to become flesh, to live under the law, and with His shed blood to redeem that missionary from all his pride and despair (Galatians 4:4-5). That exploratory missionary lives on God’s persisting presence in the person and work of His Son Jesus. It can’t be otherwise.
As you keep the ELS mission work in your prayers, you might simply include a missionary’s name (or your own pastor for that matter) in the petition of Psalm 51:
Cast (missonary’s/pastor’s name) not away from Your presence and take not your Holy Spirit from him. Restore unto (missonary’s/pastor’s name) the joy of your salvation, and uphold him with a willing spirit. Amen.
Reverend Kyle Madson
Managing Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church
Hudson Oaks, TX