I was assigned as a Vicar-in-Mission to Redeeming Grace Lutheran Church, a congregation that can just barely consider itself a “mission congregation.” Having just passed its tenth year since formation, Redeeming Grace is beginning the transition off mission subsidy from the Synod—in a matter of a few years, it will no longer technically be a “mission congregation.”
At the same time, Redeeming Grace is a congregation that will never cease to be a mission. That was apparent from my first day on the scene. I hit the ground with my feet running; from day one, I was engaged with canvasing and preparations for our Summer Soccer and Karate Bible Camps. Throughout the year, the congregation was constantly involved in brainstorming creative ways to connect people with the Gospel: parades, Trunk-and-Treats, Jesus Cares Ministries, ice-fishing trips, family meals—the list could go on and on. It was a humbling privilege to serve a congregation with such a heart for missions.
But one aspect of evangelism that caught me by surprise was the amount of mission work done for the elderly. As any naïve vicar, I came to the congregation expecting that “mission congregation” meant reaching out primarily to younger families. Yet one of the greatest blessings of my vicar year was seeing the Gospel powerfully at work among the elderly. Here was a group of people all too often overlooked by larger churches, people who desperately needed to meet their Savior through His Word.
One Wednesday morning, my first week on duty, I marched into a senior center specializing in memory care to conduct our bi-weekly chapel service. I was a minute or two late, so I politely turned off the Lawrence Welk Show and turned to face a crowd of about sixty people—almost three times our normal attendance! I will never forget the yearning look in their eyes as they were told about their Savior, assured their sins were forgiven, and promised eternal life in heaven. I will also never forget my feeling three weeks later when I found out that I had showed up at the wrong place that morning—interrupting their scheduled Lawrence Welk showing.
The Vicar-in-Mission program did two wonderful things for the sake of the Gospel. First, it allowed the vicar placement to be determined based on need rather than funding. Second, it put me in a place where I could grow and be enriched by a wonderful mentor and congregation that will never lose their “mission congregation” identity.
Reverend Josh Mayer
Redeeming Grace Lutheran Church