By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Rev. Steven D. Schave, author of the brand-new guidebook Mission Field: USA — A Resource for Church Planting, admits that “planting a new church is not for the faint of heart.”
The effort “takes commitment, the needed investment and the right people,” says Schave, director of LCMS Church Planting and Urban & Inner-City Mission with the Office of National Mission.
Nevertheless, he says, church planting is as integral to the Synod’s mission as “reaching the least and the lost.” Especially today, when you consider that the United States is the third-largest unchurched country in the world.
An LCMS church-planting manual produced in the mid-1980s noted that there were five times as many unchurched Americans as when the LCMS was founded in the mid-1800s. And that edition included “an encouragement to be more aggressive than ever before in our history,” according to Schave.
“To be sure, this sense of urgency has never been greater than in these dark and latter days,” he adds. “Things have changed quickly in the religious and cultural landscape of the U.S. since the founding of our Synod, but the need to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ remains the same.”
The new Mission Field: USA resource — two years in the making, which included collaboration with church-planting organizations and practitioners — updates the previous one in that it “addresses the changes in the landscape of our nation and culture.”
Those changes — including “major shifts in demographics … and massive urbanization” as well as cultural changes such as the widespread use of social media — are addressed, and the new resource also integrates the Synod’s emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together “into a replicable framework for doing missions while developing a Lutheran ethos,” says Schave.
The new guidebook’s purpose is twofold, he explains:
- “First, it aims to provide the theological underpinnings for doing Lutheran missions in order to help a core group develop their shared identity in what it is to be the Lutheran Church.
- “Secondly, in the following chapters, it offers a practical step-by-step approach to go from forming a core group to chartering a new LCMS congregation.”
The guidebook’s first eight chapters focus on the sacraments, worship, prayer and other aspects of the “Theology of Witness, Mercy and Life Together in Missions.” Subsequent chapters address specific steps in the church-planting process: Planning and Support, Administration, Worship, Fellowship, Community Development and Caring for the Marginalized, Understanding Your Community, Serving Your Community, Pastoral Care in Times of Tragedy: An Introduction, The Church as a Place of Care, Outreach, Training, Vocation, Christian Education — Adult and Children, and The Lutheran Church Plants Lutheran Missions.
“We hope that anyone with an interest in new missions in the U.S.” — church planters, church-planting networks, district mission facilitators and executives, lay leaders, church-planting core groups, mission-track seminarians — “will find this to be a valuable resource,” says Schave.
Congregations considering a mother-daughter model of church planting may find the new resource “especially valuable,” he adds, for providing “a clear path” to starting a “daughter” congregation.
Delegates to the last LCMS national convention, in July 2016, set a goal for the Synod to plant 150 new churches over the next three years — a task Schave says is “very doable, given these resources, and if we are willing to make the needed investment.”
Free “companion resources” including individual online training with mentoring are in the works, he adds, and may be available as early as April. Group-training workshops for the new church-planting resource, including coaching, may be scheduled now, and seed-funding grants may be available as well. For information, contact Schave at 314-996-1752 or email@example.com.
Planting churches, Schave says, “is part of the very fabric of the LCMS, as is mission to new people groups,” but “will take a shift in priority to see the USA as a ripe mission field in need of investment.”
The 112-page Mission Field: USA — A Resource for Church Planting is available for free downloading at lcms.org/churchplanting.
A limited number of printed copies have been shared with LCMS districts and their mission staffs as well as other church-planting entities. To request a printed copy, contact your district.
Additional printed copies are available for $14.99 from Amazon.com.
Posted February 3, 2017