We have discussed on these pages over the last months the concept that we have lost our first love. The idea goes like this – once a church begins to see itself as it’s own mission that church is basically dead. When the “mission” is paving the parking lot and fixing the fellowship hall, when “outreach” is painting the sanctuary so as to attract “seekers”, we are indeed in what some have called the “Christendom Model”. The Christendom Model is the idea that churches and schools were created to take care of the faithful and now that the faithful are getting old and declining we don’t know what to do. My guess is that most of the rural and small town churches in Minnesota and North Dakota were family churches. One or two families got together about 150 years ago and built a facility to take care of their children and grandchildren. That was nice but now the great grandchildren have moved off the farm and went to a mega church in Minneapolis, and now their parents and grandparents are trying to pay for the upkeep on a building that most of them can’t get into anymore. The idea of mission and outreach is blurred and the tension exists between building and saving and fixing what we have for us, and reaching out to the growing number of people that have no religious affiliation. If your church is known in the community as the “Schmallenburger church”, you might want to think about how intimidating that is to someone whose name is Martinez or Ogonganya. The idea that we are “mission outposts” in an increasingly hostile and pagan world seems to be completely alien to most of us, especially in North Dakota and Minnesota. I have heard people say that they have no need for outreach because “everyone in their town goes to church somewhere”, even though the evidence is that every Christian Church in America has plateued or is declining and that church attendance has dwindled. Pastors and people get into conflict over these two opinions and even our tradition is called to account. One old bromide as to why Lutheran’s seem to be so disinterested in “mission” (the professional sent to a mission field is the exception) is “how can you go and tell, when your motto is Here I Stand?” There is a lively discussion in our circles as to whether or not Martin Luther even had a theology of Mission.
We should have this discussion since the mercy/mission emphasis of the Distirct Presidents of North Dakota and Minnesota North is heavily tilted toward mercy at home in our back yards and mercy and mission overseas with our partner churches, especially the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya.
Here is what I would like to see happen – those of you who are reading this blog right now think hard about what I have said. Be honest. Do you see “mission” as something that happens overseas that you will write a check for, or what happens in your congregation? Have you ever asked the question, “don’t we have a mission right here”? If you asked that question what did you mean? Then read the next blog about the book that is pictured above and the great question that it asked, “Who is it (Christianity)for?” Then let’s have a discussion on line or on this site or over the email lines but let’s get serious about who we are and what we are about.