LCMC 3.0 is the new season of life and ministry the Lord is leading us into as an association. It is a season of continuity and change. It is a season in which we are being called to embrace the tension (nothing new for Lutherans) between the two as we follow the Lord. It is a season in which we’re being confronted by challenges. But as we’re told in the Scriptures, what appear to be challenges to us can actually be turned into opportunities by the Lord to accomplish His purposes.
In LCMC 3.0 we will embrace a practice of continuity. The Gospel will continue to be proclaimed. The good news of the kingdom of God will continue to be declared and demonstrated through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God will continue to be preached and taught. Loving the neighbor and welcoming the stranger will continue to be practiced. We will continue to embrace our Lutheran Distinctives for ministry and mission. All of this and more will be part of the continuity we will experience and embrace in LCMC 3.0.
At the same time, LCMC 3.0 will be a season in which God will lead us to embrace changes that can help us be effective in our call to the mission of the Gospel in a changing cultural and sociological landscape. Our mission remains the same as it was in 2001 when 25 congregations came together to found Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. However, the cultural and sociological context that we continue that mission in today has changed dramatically. And those 25 congregations are now almost 1,000. What worked in the culture of 2001 may not work as well in 2023 and beyond. What worked for 25 congregations may not work as well for 1,000. Embracing change as well as continuity will be part of life for us in LCMC 3.0
Districts and Fellowships
One of the changes that may serve us well in our present-day context will be embracing the revitalization of existing districts and fellowships and the establishment of new ones. The connectedness that healthy districts and fellowships can offer is essential in an association of almost 1,000 churches. The challenge to love, connect, and care for such a large number of congregations can be turned into an opportunity that the Lord can help us embrace through a system of districts and fellowships. The connectedness that they can offer is vital if we are to live our stated values of being accountable to one another and making disciples of all nations. Living out these values can happen best when we are connected with and in relationship with one another rather than trying to go it alone.
Many inside and outside of LCMC perceive our association to be one of individual and independent congregations held together by a Constitution, Statement of Faith and the missional implications of our name, Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ. The truth is, only half of the congregations in LCMC are active in districts and/or fellowships. In LCMC 3.0 we will seek to increase the level of regional participation and collaboration for the sake of the well-being of our congregations and to help them do ministry and mission together.
In this season of life and ministry together, we are asking questions like:
What if groups of congregations were more intentional about mutual ministry interests and sought to live out our core value of accountability to one another in a more intentional manner?
What if mission endeavors, mission plants, church revitalization and making disciples would spring from regional pockets within LCMC?
What if the formation of districts and fellowships was not about telling churches what you have to do, but about asking who do you believe God is calling you to be and what do you believe God is calling you to do, and then asking, how can we help you in that?
Rather than going it alone as congregations, what if we come together through the revitalization of existing districts and fellowships, and the birthing of new ones to experience the benefits of a peer-to-peer, not hierarchical system of connectedness?
At its best, participation in a peer-to-peer system of districts or fellowships can enable our congregations to experience benefits such as:
- Helping one another process and navigate the challenges and issues of life and ministry in healthy and effective ways
- Connecting and networking with one another to develop partnerships and share resources for mission and ministry opportunities
- Emphasizing the significance of each congregation and leader in LCMC and letting them know they are not alone
- Developing relationships and resources to aid in areas such as the call process, conflict management, equipping of volunteer and staff leaders, and congregational visioning
- Developing relationships and resources for those called to plant churches, and supporting them in their vision to reach out to those who do not yet know Jesus as Savior and Lord
All of these and more can be some of the challenges turned opportunities of a healthy system of districts and fellowships that can help almost 1,000 churches stay connected with one another so we can encourage and equip each other in our call to the mission of the Gospel and to live out the stated values of our association.
Intentional Care for Leaders
Another challenge turned opportunity can be the intentional care of leaders in our association. One of the greatest gifts we can provide our congregations are healthy leaders (lay and ordained) who are being loved, connected, and cared for.
The world doesn’t encourage leaders to care for their own lives, and sadly, too often, neither does the church. Both demand that leaders produce and perform without any thought being given to the fact that this will eventually result in very dedicated and gifted women and men wearing out, burning out, and giving up. Therefore, we must be intentional in developing ministries, systems, and relationships that will help us love, connect, and care for our leaders in LCMC.
Thus, a major emphasis in LCMC 3.0 will be identifying and networking existing ministries and people at the grassroots, national, and international levels that can help us take advantage of this challenge and turn it into an opportunity to love, connect, and care for leaders. Of course, the care for leaders in our congregations has already been happening to varying degrees through ministries and relationships already in place. However, we are hoping and praying that in 2023 and beyond, God will increase our capacity for the care of leaders, lay and ordained.
Toward this end, two new ministries are being launched in 2023. The first is a new fellowship group for retired pastors and spouses. This fellowship will create opportunities for these faithful women and men to connect in loving and caring relationships with one another and to discern how God may have them, as a fellowship, meet various needs in our association.
Another new ministry that is being launched in 2023 through districts, fellowships, and regional congregations is The LeaderCare Initiative. The LeaderCare Initiative is a series of retreats that will focus on God’s work in a leader’s life of relational, emotional, and spiritual formation. The retreats will provide leaders a place to gather in an atmosphere that is safe and will help them build loving and caring relationships with one another. In this atmosphere leaders will experience God’s work of increasing their capacity to live healthier and more mature lives as persons and as leaders. And a healthy and more mature leader will only bless a congregation. The intentional care of leaders, lay and ordained, can be another challenge turned opportunity by the Lord in LCMC 3.0.
Another challenge that can become an opportunity for of our association is the shortage of clergy in general, and in our smaller congregations in particular. Thus, a major emphasis in LCMC 3.0 will be the process of developing relationships, systems, and strategies that can help us identify, equip, and mentor women and men to meet that need in our association.
Toward that end we will be working to identify and help network people and ministry resources that are already at work equipping and mentoring men and women for pastoral ministry in our association at the grassroots, district, and fellowship levels. We also anticipate that new ministries, people resources, and strategies can be developed so that we can face this challenge as an opportunity, trusting that the Lord will help lead us and provide for us.
Lutheran Distinctives for Ministry and Mission
Yet another challenge in LCMC 3.0 that can be turned into an opportunity is the expansiveness and limits of our theological commitments. For centuries the Lutheran Church has been a steward of certain theological distinctives that are gifts to the larger body of Christ. At times we have imagined this as more of a burden than a treasure. The great gift of our theological heritage is the relentless commitment to “keeping the main thing the main thing” while encouraging freedom and creativity in everything else.
The challenge is the temptation to equate our theological heritage with certain forms of cultural heritage. Where those cultural traditions are unhelpful the theological commitments are sometimes accidentally jettisoned as well. The promise of the Gospel is not some dusty dogma. It is the life-giving, faith-creating Word. Renewed clarity on what that promise is and is not will, along with clarity on other Lutheran Distinctives can help us meet the challenges for ministry and mission in our current cultural climate. Far from being a burden, this is the great gift we have to share.
Welcoming of New Congregations into Our Association
Another challenge embraced as opportunity in LCMC 3.0 is to intentionally welcome new congregations and leaders into our association in a manner that ensures they are being loved, connected, and cared for. It is one thing to join a new family, it is another to feel a part of it.
We have a particular culture or DNA in LCMC that will be new to most who are joining us. It can be helpful for us then, to connect relationally with our new congregations and leaders to help them become aware of any old culture or DNA of past affiliations they may need to leave behind, and the new culture and DNA to be embraced in LCMC.
Toward this end we are already at work implementing a very detailed plan for welcoming new congregations and leaders to membership in LCMC. This plan involves association staff, district and fellowship coordinators, and regional congregational leaders connecting with those new congregations and their leaders. With this plan in place, we’re better able to make a congregation’s transition from life in a denomination to life in this association a welcoming one.
What Can God Do in a Season of Continuity and Change?
LCMC 3.0 is the new season God is leading us into, a season in which we are being called to embrace the tension of continuity and change. As God launches us out into this new season, a question for us to encourage one another with is this: What can God do?
What can God do with an association of almost 1,000 congregations that is willing to follow His leading to embrace the tension of continuity and change in a healthy way? What can God do when an association of almost 1,000 churches embraces the continuity of proclaiming the gospel of what He has done for us that we can never do for ourselves through the life, death, and resurrection of His son, our Lord, and Savior Jesus Christ? What can God do when an association of almost 1,000 churches and their members and leaders continue to declare and demonstrate the good news of the kingdom of God in the power of the Holy Spirit?
What can God do with an association of almost 1,000 congregations that continues to embrace such continuity while at the same time is willing to discern and embrace changes that God is calling us to make in our life together? Changes that can help us continue to carry out our call in the mission of Gospel in a cultural and sociological context that is significantly different than the one in which our association was founded? Changes that can help us be aware that what once served 25 churches well, may not serve as well in an association of almost 1,000 churches?
The answer to those questions? God can draw millions of people to faith in Christ as Savior and Lord. He can disciple millions of people, training and empowering them to live as followers of Jesus in a complicated world. He can heal millions of people relationally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And He can reveal to millions of people the ways He has designed them on purpose for a purpose that is significant. God can do all this and more through an association of almost 1,000 churches who are willing to embrace the tension of continuity and change.
And as it has always been, so shall it ever be, that the One who is leading us into this next season of life and ministry together is the One whom we can confidently follow, our Lord, and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.Log in to add a comment
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