The NALC is committed to the renewal of all our congregations, working to develop and deliver resources that challenge and open the NALC to the work of the Holy Spirit in our ministry and mission. Join us for March’s session of The Academy: The Small and Rural Church.
There is a prevailing attitude in some quarters, that if a church doesn’t worship many people, receive an adequate sum of offerings, or isn’t saturated with daily programming, that it is not a viable center for mission.
Some believe that if a congregation is aging and struggling to do ministry in communities which are declining, then it has little hope for the future. Sadly these thoughts and opinions are based on worldly standards rather that what the Holy Spirit is doing. Small and rural churches are the backbone of the Christian community in the United States. Whether these congregations are found in tiny towns, the middle of farmland, residential enclaves in suburbia or nestled within bustling cities, groups of dedicated individuals gather in mission, centered in Word and Sacrament, seeing ways to build relationships and reach out to neighbors.
The Rev. Tony Ede graduated from Waldorf College, where he earned an associate of arts in electronic communications and a bachelor of arts in multimedia communications. Graduating from Luther Seminary in 2006, Tony worked as a graduate teaching assistant in the homiletics department, helping to teach classes on using media and technology in worship and preaching. Pastor Ede has served at Bethany Lutheran Churches in the Danish Village of Kimballton, Iowa; as the teaching pastor at Trinity Lutheran in Webster City, Iowa; and currently serves as the senior pastor at First Evangelical Lutheran in Manchester, Iowa. As part of his commitment to lifelong learning, Tony earned an MBA in 2017 from Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa, with a concentration in organizational development. Following a long family tradition, Tony is a nationally certified firefighter and EMT and has used these skills to serve in the community, as well as in disaster response statewide. Tony was married to LeAnn at Trinity Lutheran Church, New Hampton, Iowa, on August 17th, 2002. They have three sons that keep them busy: Carver, Liam and Burke.
The Rev. Tom Hilpert, a seasoned church planter, received his bachelor’s degree from Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, and his Master of Divinity (M.Div.) from the American Lutheran Theological Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He makes his home in the woods of Tennessee near Nashville, with his wife, Kari Hilpert, and children, but he spent his formative years in Papua New Guinea, the son of missionary parents.
Currently, Pastor Tom serves New Joy Fellowship in Tennessee and as the director of Life Together Churches. A ministry partner of the NALC, Life Together Churches, is a network that supports people hosting worship and congregational life in small group environments, such as: house churches, missional communities, and mission fellowships.
The Rev. Marvin Combs is a bi-vocational pastor who has intentionally maintained this ministry model for decades to be able to serve the Church in urban/suburban settings. With his primary income coming from his manufacturing business, Marv has been free to fill the needs as pastor for many congregations, as well as develop a mission start. He sees the bi-vocational pastor as becoming the “new normal” in many cases. This combination of vocations helps Marv bring useful business strategies to the Church. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Biola University, he went on to Concordia University, Irvine to earn a M.A. of Theology. He is the Dean of the Southwestern Pacific Mission District. Marv and his wife Linda live in Huntington Beach, California. Being a native of Southern California and close to the Pacific Ocean, Marv enjoys deep sea fishing in his free time.
The Rev. Christopher Martin has been Pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church-Vilmar, an open-country congregation near Greene, Iowa since August of 2018, and brings with him over 11 years of experience in small town and rural parish ministry. He came to St. John’s after previously serving as Pastor of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, Audubon, Iowa (2007-10), the McConnellsburg Lutheran Parish, which consisted of three congregations (one in town, two open-country churches) near McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania (2010-12), and most recently, Emmons Lutheran Church, Emmons, Minnesota (2013-18). During his last year at Emmons, he also served part-time at Bethel Lutheran Church-Vinje, a small, open-country congregation near Scarville, Iowa.
Pastor Chris has been active in the local ministerial association in his previous calls, and served as Secretary for the Lake Mills, Iowa Area Ministerial Assocation (LMAMA.) He currently serves on the Mission District Council of the Iowa Mission District-NALC and the NALC’s Renewal Team. Pastor Chris married his wife, Lindsay, on October 29th, 2005. She is a stay-at-home mother to the couple’s three children: Bradon (8), Zachary (5) and Cassie (3).
The Rev. Wendy Berthelsen has partnered together with her husband, Joel, both in ministry and at home for many years now. Having complementary gifts, they have a passion for each person in the church to know and live out their call from God: the call to know, follow and serve Jesus. They believe that each person is unique and God desires to custom design His church around people. Wendy and Joel believe that God’s call has to do with all of life, one’s work, family, community and world. They are graced and honored to be the parents of four wonderful children, Amara, Stefan, Philip and Ana. Wendy graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College and LutherSeminary as well (Master of Divinity). Most of Wendy’s time as a pastor is devoted to Call, Inc., a non-profit teaching mission of Hope Lutheran Church where she serves in Cedar Hill, Texas.