At the 19th Regular Convention of the Mid-South District, Rev. Norman Groteluschen, President Emeritus, shared a brief address with the delegation. What follows is an “expanded version” of his address in which he discusses both the history and future of the church – and the critical role of Church Planting for both.
Church Multiplication as a means of making new disciples is very much a part of LCMS history.
In the late 1880’s, the Synod averaged a new church a day (the boats kept coming). In 1980, it became evident that if church planting was to continue at a reasonable pace in the Mid-South District, changes would need to be implemented (5-year subsidy reduction plan was a key piece. Church Planter’s manual, etc.).
By 1989, 2 years prior to the 25th anniversary, Church Planting had reached its zenith in the Mid-South District. What follows presents a challenging and exciting New Chapter as we prepare to celebrate our 50th anniversary.
When the discussion turns to Church Planting, it is vital to begin with demographics, population shifts, etc. Today we add global Christianity changes. And when we do we find ourselves faced with a new frontier.
From a global perspective we have quickly become the third largest mission field in the world. “Only China and India have more people outside the Christian faith than we do” (Rev. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban and Inner City Mission).
In short, the mission field is here*. The landscape is changing (see Pew Research “Religious Landscape” report). Church Plants will go beyond suburbs, etc. to different ethnic groups, neglected inner cities, and underserved communities. Church Planters will be helping not only to plant but to restart churches (domestic missionaries). Strategies and formats vary. From my conversations with Dr. Paavola, I am confident that our district staff is ready to lead the Mid-South District in a God-pleasing manner into the untapped field.
This is what we have been called to do – to make disciples of all nations – to be Christ’s witnesses to the ends of the earth. We have a Gospel proclamation opportunity – to preach repentance and forgiveness to all.
The Apostle Paul, Church Planter par excellence, writes to one of the congregations as follows in 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (specifically verses 19-20):
Verse 19: “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” God appointed Christ to be sin for all. Jesus covered all sins by shedding His blood. That is the heart of the Gospel.
Verse 20: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Through faith as Christ’s ambassadors, we are charged to proclaim forgiveness of sins to all.
What a God! What a Savior! What a Privilege!
Lord, You became sin for my sins. Continue to send messengers that all might hear Your Word of gracious forgiveness.
*REFERENCE: “the mission field is here.” The Immanuel Lutheran Church (Memphis) Ethiopian congregation story, as told by Pastor Will Miller. It is an exciting, heartwarming mission venture.