*The Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church — Canada is meeting in convention in Edmonton, Alberta beginning Friday. The following report of the Department of Outreach was included in the Convention workbook and describes what the Spirit of God has been doing the past three years as God’s people participate in Christ’s mission of seeking and saving lost people.
C.F.W. Walther, the first president of the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod writes, “All Christians are to shine as lights among the world. The Christian Church is a great mission-house. Each Christian is a missionary sent out by God into his own circle of activity to convert others to Christ and to call them to the kingdom of God. (From: A sermon preached by Walther in 1842 as printed in the Lutherisches Volksblatt, Anniversary Edition, Summer 2004, p. 7-8, emphasis added)
With Walther’s thoughts in mind, the Department of Outreach of the Alberta-British Columbia District of Lutheran Church — Canada has focused on assisting church workers and lay people to “shine as lights” as they embrace the role of missionary and participate in Jesus’ mission of seeking and saving lost people. Operating with the understanding that local congregations are mission “outposts” to their community the focus of the Department’s work has been to assist congregations and church workers in preparing, equipping, and sending God’s people as missionaries to the lost people in their communities.
During the “churched era” in Canada congregations could issue the invitation, “Come and see” and offer a variety of appealing programs with the result that some people would respond to the invitation, but as Canada enters a “post-church” era, it is critical to Christ’s mission that God’s people “Go and tell” and “Go and serve.” (cf. Mark 1:38; John 20:21; Acts 1:8; Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19; Luke 19:10) In today’s context, God’s people need training to serve as missionaries which includes: an in-depth knowledge of God’s Word; an awareness of the culture and context in which they live; training and equipping so that they are “prepared at all times to give an account of the hope that is in them, but with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15); and witnessing and serving opportunities. The focus of the pastor, his staff (paid and volunteer), and congregational leadership is to be “mission-driven” meaning that they are evaluating what they (and the congregation’s programs) are doing and not doing by asking questions like: “How is this activity preparing us for outreach to the lost?” or “How is this activity sending us among those who do not yet believer in Jesus as their Saviour?” “To whom is God sending me so that I might share the Good News with them?”
The Department of Outreach realizes that the idea of congregations as “mission houses” or “mission outposts” to their community with all members as missionaries sent to the lost is a “paradigm” shift. For decades (many even centuries) most Christians have seen themselves as members of a congregation who are served by the called servants and a certain level of passivity exists within many North American Christian congregations, especially in relationship to Jesus’ invitation to “Go!” In order to overcome this passivity an intentional reorientation of a congregation’s focus away from the needs of members to the needs of those who are still living in spiritual darkness is required.
In order to assist church workers and congregations in adapting to being missionaries and mission outposts in this emerging post-church era, the Department of Outreach focused on the following priorities during the past triennium:
- Learning communities for church workers: Three learning communities are operational. Pastors and other church workers meet every 4-6 weeks to discuss books focused on Christ’s mission. The participants pray together and discuss their missional challenges. (Ref: ABC Resolution 2009-01-07; LCC Resolution 11-01-07)
- Transforming for Missions (T4M) Consultations (http://www.lccabc.ca/departments/outreach/missional-leadership/ ): Seven ABC District congregations have gone through a T4M consultation with an eighth consultation scheduled for June 2012. The purpose of the consultation is to help members see themselves (and their congregation as a whole) as missionaries to the community. Following an extensive pre-consultation congregational self-study with Bible study and prayer vigils, the consultation weekend includes: interviews of staff/lay leaders, focus groups, and a leadership seminar with the result that a report is presented to the congregation that highlights strengths, challenges, and prescriptions that are unique to that congregation and its mission to the community. (Ref: ABC Resolution 2009-01-07; LCC Resolution 11-01-07)
- Coaching: When a congregation adopts the T4M consultation report, they are assigned a coach who works with the congregational leadership for at least one year and, in some cases, up to two years. Currently, seven pastors are serving as coaches to other pastors and their congregations. In addition to these seven coaches, thirty-seven pastors of the ABC District participated in one of two coaching clinics during the week of January 30-February 4, 2012. The coaching clinic helped the participants learn how to assist pastors and lay leaders to take responsibility for their lives and to take more ownership for the Lord’s mission. (Ref: ABC Resolution 2009-01-07; LCC Resolution 11-01-07)
- Pastoral Leadership Institute (PLI): Seven pastors (and their wives) have been involved in this four year continuing education program. The ministry of PLI is to provide advanced missional leadership training for pastors whose hearts burn with passion for the Gospel. The Department of Outreach provides educational grants to the students from the ABC District. For more information on PLI, visit: http://www.plinstitute.org/. (Ref: ABC Resolution 2009-01-07)
- Regional Outreach workshops (www.rowabc.org): Mrs. Melanie Kuhn and Rev. David Dressler developed and led outreach workshops that encouraged, equipped, and introduced resources for congregational outreach. Two workshops have been held – in Calgary and in Port Coquitlam. Participants were given the opportunity to participate in a local outreach community event organized by the host congregation. (Ref: ABC Resolution 2009-01-07)
- Regional Outreach Conference – Vancouver (http://www.lhm.org/roc/roc.asp?id=17637): One hundred and eighty youth and adults attended the Regional Outreach Conference (ROC-Vancouver) held in Vancouver on October 14-15, 2011. The participants were inspired by the study of God’s Word and inspirational worship. Insightful plenary sessions were presented by Dr. Robert Newton and Rev. Greg Seltz. Practical and engaging workshops helped people see how to share the Gospel of Christ with the unchurched. Led by a Five14 team (http://www.lhm.org/five14,) youth were trained to share their faith. A second Five14 event was held in Calgary. (Ref: Resolution 2009-01-07)
- Chaplain’s workshop: About fifteen pastors from the ABC District attended the chaplain’s conference at Camp Kuriakos on October 6-7, 2011. Presentations were made by Rev. Bill Ney, Rev. Chuck Cooley, and Rev. Rod Buck. One attendee expressed the sentiment of those who attended the workshop when he commented: “It was an incredible experience.” There are plans for future workshops for pastors serving as career or volunteer chaplains. (Ref: Resolution 2009-01-09)
- “Go!” blog: “Go!” is dedicated to encouraging God’s people to participate in Christ’s mission of seeking and saving the lost. “Go!” is a forum where missionaries are able to tell their story as they “Go!” “Go!” highlights websites and other witnessing resources that help God’s people “Go!” Quotes from books, sermons, and academic papers are provided with biblical and missiological foundations. Visit “Go!” at: http://goandmake.ca/ and book mark it as one of your favourite sites. (Ref: ABC 2009-01-08)
- Short-term mission trip grants: At least four congregations have requested and received grants to assist with costs associated with their short-term mission trips to Nicaragua or Ukraine. The Department of Outreach provides short-term mission grants because there is no better way to learn and grow as a missionary than to be involved personally in mission.
- Love Life conferences: Three Love Life conferences have been held at Concordia University College of Alberta since the last District convention. These day-long conferences, a cooperative effort of Lutherans for Life – Canada, the ABC District, Concordia Lutheran Seminary and Concordia University College of Alberta – bring in top notch speakers who address life issues like: abortion, stem cell research, sexually transmitted infections, cohabitation, sexual abstinence, and ministering to people who are struggling with pornography or homosexual/lesbian orientations. Many of these presentations have been made available online (http://www.lutheranchurch.ca/videonet.php). The 7th Annual Love Life conference will be held on Saturday, November 17 at Concordia University College of Alberta (Edmonton). The speakers will be: radio and talk show host, Mr. Michael Coren (http://www.michaelcoren.com/) and Rev. James Lamb, the Executive Director of Lutherans for Life — USA (http://www.lutheransforlife.org/). For updates and registration, visit the Love Life conference website at: http://lovelifeedmonton.com/default.aspx. (Ref: ABC 2006-01-01A; LCC 11-01-02a)