What is strategy? Strategy in mission work does NOT mean a duly executed plan of action based on human observation and experience that brings people to faith, not unless we are speaking about the calling, gathering, enlightening, and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. However, we can speak of mission strategy if we mean a well-formulated but flexible method of procedure developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and subject to His direction and control to take the Good News of Christ to people. This understanding of strategy has been beneficial as God grew Abiding Shepherd from a cold start mission into a sizeable congregation.
What are the early stages of mission strategy? The first thing I did was get to know the people and community of Cottage Grove. Much of this was accomplished with door-to-door canvassing. I also set about getting to know my mission field by speaking to community leaders, local business owners, and core contacts suggested through neighboring ELS/WELS churches.
Once I understood the nature of this mission field, I could figure out what would and would not work. For example, while canvassing I learned the best time to have a worship service in this community was 9 a.m. Sunday mornings. That seems obvious, but a year after we started, another mission church also began in this area. They chose to worship on Sunday evenings – and they lasted less than a year.
Next, we planned our opening service. With a core group in place, we designed our worship space, a rented storefront. We also designed our service to meet the needs of the community with the pure Gospel. Implementing some variations to our traditional Bugenhagen liturgy, we designed our service to allow more time to deliver exegetical teaching of God’s Word, including visuals to reflect the picturesque original languages of Scripture. The Holy Spirit blessed these efforts to reach many unchurched as well as formerly churched people.
What is the strategy for building? When we outgrew our rented space, we began our land search with one major criteria – to be a visible part of this community. Though our land was expensive, three acres on the main road, it has paid dividends in exposure and ease of access. It allowed us to become well-known in this community as a friendly place to find spiritual help.
What is the strategy for future growth? As we move forward, we have tried to keep in place much of the strategy by which God has already blessed us: simple Biblical teaching and a caring part of this community. Also, as part of our administrative structure, we have a Strategy and Planning Team so that we continue to move forward in a Godly way.
What are some key components to good mission strategy? These have made quite a difference in our efforts to engage others with Jesus:
- Get out of the Holy Spirit’s way by preaching the text.
- Differentiate between outreach and evangelism. Outreach methodology is flexible to fit mission fields. Evangelism is sharing the unchanging Law & Gospel.
- Most people are looking for a shepherd, not an expert in theology. While good scholarship is important for our pastors, the priority is tending Christ’s sheep.
- Tradition is important. Employ it when it offers value. Move on when it gets in the way of the Gospel. It’s not about the building, location, the music, or the furniture. It’s about the Gospel and dying souls who desperately need it.
Reverend Nathan Krause
Abiding Shepherd Lutheran Church
Cottage Grove, WI