My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have returned from Lutheran Week in Denver, we have been asked by many people about the NALC’s strategy for mission, specifically our strategy for planting churches. They have heard us say that the NALC does not plant churches at the national level. This is a new strategy and vision for many people.
The formation of this strategy change began several years ago after I read an analysis and study done on the topic of mission in different denominations.
A comparison of Lutheran denominations found that most of them (and other mainline denominations) established mission departments at the national level in the 1970s. They began to encourage congregations, synods, and regional associations to collect mission money and send it to the national office. The purpose was to centralize the mission fund in one pot.
The national office would then be responsible for planting churches, sending out missionaries, and supporting global projects. The role of the local congregation shifted from being engaged in mission to writing a check every month. This money was sent to a regional office, which often took a percentage, and then sent on to the mission office in the national headquarters.
What happened with that money? What did that system do?
Because the national church was responsible for mission, most congregations made themselves responsible only for worship. This killed their capacity to multiply and plant other churches.
And now we can see the outcome: Each of the mainline denominations (whether more conservative or liberal in theology) that employed that vision and strategy has dwindled. And they continue to dwindle. There is clearly something wrong with that mission strategy.
In the NALC, we are embracing a different strategy for mission. Rather than the national church being responsible for planting congregations, it is critical to put mission in the hands of congregations. Mission funds need to be in the hands of congregations. Mission projects and strategy needto be in the hands of congregations. That is why we emphasize that the NALC is Mission Driven and Congregationally Focused.
Congregations are in the driver’s seat of planting churches. Rather than making one office responsible for mission, we make thousands of congregations in the mission field responsible for the propagation of the Gospel — and for the planting of churches. That is why we say the NALC does not plant churches from the national office. If planting churches is not done by congregations — and specifically your congregation — it is not going to be done.
That’s why responsible pastors and mission congregations work individually or collectively within their Mission Districts to make pastors, lay leaders and members responsible for the work of mission. To assist in this endeavor, we are mobilizing critical resources and systems:
1. An Introductory Packet and access to Current Resources are available to assist – please contact Jenny Brockman in the NALC Mission Office at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Pastor Brad Hales (Director of Domestic Mission) will be leading a monthly webinar as an introduction to review our resources and answer questions. This same content will be available each month on the last Thursday of each month at 7 pm EST. To register, please contact Jenny Brockman at: email@example.com
3. After connecting with the introductory webinar, there will be monthly coaching available (GOLD) through our New Starts Team. To connect with this information, please contact the New Starts Team and Pastor Trina Petersen at: Email Registration.
4. We are continuing to develop strategic partnerships and pathways, as well as update our website. More information will be forthcoming.
As we engage in this work of mission together, it is my joy to remind you of the words of Jesus in Matthew 16: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
As we engage in mission — whether church planting, evangelization or discipleship — we can be certain we will be attacked right and left. Our relationship with God and relationships with each other will be attacked. But the good news is that nothing will overcome the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ!