The Synod’s Evangelical Mission: Death Leads to Resurrection
The Rev. Phil Hirsch, the synod’s Director for Evangelical Mission and an Assistant to the Bishop, delivered his report. The work of being evangelical is expanding, growing and reaching more people, he said. How are we doing in this? The year 2009 was a great year for adult baptisms in the synod, but they were down for 2010. Worship attendance in the synod continues to decline, as it has steadily since 2004. Only 10 of the synod’s 75 congregations are growing. This is better than other synods, Pastor Hirsch reported.
There have been a number of congregational deaths in the synod, but dying can give rise to new life, as Pr. Hirsch explained. Resurrection Lutheran in Kensington, Md., closed. When it closed, it gave its building to the Oromo Christian Fellowship, one of the synod’s mission congregations. Some of the funds from the closing went to the synod to support the establishment of new congregations. Another congregation, Bethany Lutheran in Suitland, Md., also closed. When the building sold, funds from the sale went all over the church. Some of the funds are going to Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran in Haymarket, Virg., to build its first building.
Another death and resurrection: Crusader Lutheran in Rockville, Md., changed its name because it was problematic. The new name is Living Faith Lutheran. This was a courageous act, said Pr. Hirsch.
A new mission start in Northern Virginia (Loudon County) was closed, but Pr. Hirsch said a lot was learned from it.
In the Secret Visitor Initiative, 30 visits happened last year.
Go Grants are still available to congregations to do something on Matthew 25 (“Go and make disciples”).
A daughter church planting conference was held.
A meeting to assess how to reach out to Latino populations was held.
Four new church starts:
• La Sagrada Familia
• Oromo Christian Fellowship
• Global Peace Lutheran
• River of Grace
Take-home: We want to avoid making what we’re about too complicated. So what are the basics of our faith?
• Faith: It’s trust in that grace, accepting that we’re already accepted.
• Christ: Jesus is central and makes grace real.
• Scripture: The cradle in which we understand Christ.
• Glory only to God
“People are looking for something to hold on to, something of Christ to come to,” Pr. Hirsch said. There are people like this all over, he explained. They need what we know of in Christ – if we can figure out how to tell our story. What are you willing to die to for the sake of the things listed above? This was the question he asked. We need to change how we “do” church, he concluded.