Igniting Renewal Through Mission

(How ‘City Mission’ was Born, Part 2)

Editor’s Note: K. Craig Moorman is an NALC pastor of River’s Edge Ministries in Maryland and is a member of the board of Lutheran CORE. Pr. Moorman encourages you to read Part 1 of his article as background for Part 2. Click here to read Part 1 which was published in July of 2022.

Amid our first City Mission in April of 2014, the temperature dropped dramatically and unexpectedly to a bone-chilling 19°. Our base of operations was a 30’ x 50’ tent—we were not in the comfort, warmth, and familiarity of a church setting. This is how City Mission was born. It was an important moment of discovery, more of a blessed eureka moment, when we stumbled upon a basic truth: Renewal is ignited through mission. Now I am inviting you to engage in a missional experience that could reinvigorate the life of your congregation and bring you a season of refreshment and renewal.

Although I’m sharing a first-hand account of one such experience, City Mission, many of you have also been immersed into the mission field. You might recall how it revealed the heart of Jesus and His Gospel, a face-to-face encounter with the Cross. Oftentimes, there is a severe shaking from the core of our being when a reprioritization of our living takes place—new Christ-centered values emerge, a greater hope is gained, and renewal of body, heart, mind, and soul settles in.

These past two and a half years of navigating through a global pandemic and utter cultural turmoil have diminished our emotional capacity, made us more prone to discouragement and vulnerable to despair. And, if that’s not enough, let’s pile on the usual daily grind and throw in more critical personal matters, some unresolved and unattended to. All of this leads us not to “green pastures” and “still waters” but, instead, a wanting and a desperate longing for peace and a renewal by the Spirit.

Therefore, I humbly invite you to engage in Gospel-centered mission. My hope is that it will serve as an antidote for what is ailing each of us individually, our churches/communities, and even the nation. I believe making such a commitment and engaging in Christ’s Kingdom work will be the catalyst for this reprioritization that I spoke of previously. It can move us out of our lethargy, pre-occupations and distractions, misappropriations, and missteps, etc. AND gently (and graciously) push us in the opposite direction. Might this be repentance? I believe mission can significantly help us to get unstuck and experience such a metamorphosis … renewal! A calling back into the mission field will place us right at the foot of the cross, from death to resurrection. What a gift.

In my earlier article, “How ‘City Mission’ was Born, Part 1,” I wrote of how City Mission developed from another missional outreach ministry called Cross Country Mission. You may remember that CORE is an acronym for (Lutheran) Coalition for Renewal and bringing elements of ‘renewal’ to the broader Lutheran community has long been a part of our vision. Practically speaking, I pray that this article will bring you personal renewal and help reignite your passion for mission and bring it back to the center of the conversation.

Again, amidst our first City Mission in April of 2014, the temperature dropped dramatically and unexpectedly to a bone-chilling 19 degrees. Our base of operations was a 30’ x 50’ tent—we were not in the comfort, warmth, and familiarity of a church setting. This is how it all began. It was cold, uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and a little chaotic. Believe me, it was neither perfectly planned nor executed! We have since unofficially adopted a guiding principle, “Expect the unexpected … and see what God does.” This has been freeing on so many levels!

Later that same day and into the evening hours, after all our 50-60 participants/leaders retired for the night, either commuting back to their homes or to their scattered tents, Brother Ray and I moved back into the quiet of the big tent and sat down on a couple of bales of hay. I’ll never forget my dear friend looking up, with tears in his eyes and saying, “It just doesn’t get any better than this.” There we were, both in our late fifties, tired, worn down, cold, etc., but completely content and at peace. And yet I couldn’t help but wonder why Ray had spoken those words. I’ve been thinking about Ray’s statement for the last eight years. Something miraculous had happened and Ray knew it but at the time could not articulate it.

But what was it—what made his statement true? In a nutshell I believe we witnessed the Church operating as Jesus intended. He gave us a foretaste of the feast to come.

In the following paragraphs I talk more about City Mission and what we have learned from each event. These ‘take aways’ have morphed into lessons learned that are the building blocks for how City Mission operates and lives out its mission. I believe these lessons are transferable to others pursuing and engaged in mission in other congregational settings.

First, since our original disaster relief mission to Biloxi, Mississippi (post-Hurricane Katrina), in November of 2005, it’s been a priority of River’s Edge to help those who have been through the storm, be it a hurricane, flood, tornado, human-generated catastrophe, or just the difficulties of life. Our initial efforts came through Cross Country Mission and then through City Mission. City Mission was designed to engage the local parish in its own back yard.

Our City Mission base of operations is a 14-acre landbase situated just 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore. I would describe it not so much as ‘disaster relief’ but ‘urban relief’ because it involves cleaning up trash and litter, building out construction-related projects, landscaping, clearing of land, painting, gardening, and preparing meals. Your base of operations may be in your church building/campus or elsewhere.

One benefit of City Mission is that little traveling is needed. We intentionally identify and engage in mission on a regular and more localized basis. Too, it’s typically less costly and feels more like a camp, retreat, workshop, and worship gathering all rolled into one. Another unique characteristic of City Mission is that its ‘success’ does not depend solely on River’s Edge Ministries, nor does it look just like our church. This is most obvious during the evenings as we gather a large group for a meal, fellowship, and worship. In that gathering, a multitude of individuals are involved in food planning/prep, music, and speaking/preaching. This, then, is a gathering of the larger Church.

Second, our ‘take aways,’ now reflecting our core values, enable us to remain faithful and effective in establishing a Kingdom-oriented, repeatable, missional experience called City Mission. Establishing, implementing, and fine-tuning the following three specific components has been critical in contributing to the development and effectiveness of City Mission:

  1. Networking with Local Community Organizations and Leaders—We have been intentional in networking with community organizations and leaders who are based in the mission field we serve, thus reflecting a more authentic heart, mind and will of the community.
    • One of the unexpected blessings of this decision is that it allowed us to work more interactively with many different groups/folks, crossing racial boundaries. This foundational core value has revealed the power and efficacy of working directly with those who already have ‘boots on the ground,’ moving us beyond the familiarity of just our building and resources to work cooperatively with others who are well established and respected in the region.
    • This bridge-building has created ‘natural’ relationship development with a vast array of people from many different backgrounds intimately involved with City Mission (i.e., the Baltimore Ravens, Towson University Gospel Choir, Helping Up Mission, Baltimore City Community Organizers, etc.) gathering together, literally, under one tent. The outcome of such intentionality has been nothing less than miraculous!
  2. Building an Alliance of Multi-denominational Churches—Certainly, there is a place for Lutherans doing life/mission together; after all, this is what many of us are most acquainted with. But there is an even greater place and need to invite and gather the broader Church to do life together and share in the mission of Christ’s Church, especially in these challenging days. City Mission has been a highly effective and faithful conduit to bring the body of Christ together. This includes many different speakers, music, denominations, etc., from many different backgrounds, all bound up in ‘orthodoxy’ and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s all about His work, His justice, His compassion, and His mission … with no other agenda! Let us, as the Church, carry the narrative for the day and not allow others (with a radically different agenda and cause) to fill that void!
    • After nearly a decade of building out this mission, it is a joy to share that we’ve had dozens of different churches from the various streams of the Church (Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal) participate in City Mission representing many denominational backgrounds including River’s Edge Ministries, GraceWay International Community Church, Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church, The Transformation Center, Mt. Union Lutheran Church, East Baltimore Graffiti Church, Baltimore Rescue Mission, Redeemer Lutheran Church, St. Timothy’s Ordinariate Catholic Church, and many more.
    • As a result of such broad-base missional effort, we have become much more united and effective as a ministry. In the High Priestly Prayer found in John 17, we hear Jesus praying to the Father, specifically that we—the Church—may be united, “… that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me” (v. 23)As a ministry, we are committed to pursuing such a vision for this hour.  
  3. Creating a Base of Multi-generational Participation—Quite often it seems that youth ministry ‘programs’ are built on dynamism and the personality of a particular youth leader. The problem with this model is that everything hinges on that leader, including the availability of time and resources. Over the past decade or so, and as a lead pastor in at least three different congregational settings, I have taken a much different approach in overseeing/leading youth ministry/young adults. It has never been centered on the charisma of a youth leader. There is always a component of intentional discipleship and participation in mission. And even more importantly, parents and other older adults are almost always involved in this process. It seems that the presence of the older generation has produced a younger generation that is much better equipped and more deeply grounded. This model has been especially effective in City Mission.

Finally, on a more personal note, an unexpected (and invaluable) outcome from both the Cross Country Mission and City Mission experiences has been the immense even life-changing impact upon my children. I’ll never forget interviewing for a call with about twelve adults present, nearly all of them parents, telling me that none of their children were attending church and certainly not in any type of relationship with Christ. I remember feeling extraordinarily sad. Then they asked me about my children, church life, and God. They were shocked when I expressed to them that all five of my kids were not only involved ‘in church’ but had a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. And, almost without hesitation, I said this was due to exposing them to the mission field beginning with our time in Biloxi, MS, after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and beyond.

Over the years, City Mission has impacted many hearts and minds for the sake of the Kingdom. If you’ve ever witnessed the catastrophic devastation in the aftermath of a hurricane, flood or tornado, you’ll understand that the sights, sounds, smells and stories get in your belly—take up residence in your heart and minds—and never leave you the same. A calling to step into the mess inevitably surfaces and mission ensues. I suppose this is called compassion. Compassion seems to be that thing which drives our mission, which allows us to participate in events much larger than ourselves and our own worlds. Our lives are forever altered!

Our next City Mission is slated for May of 2023. It would be our honor to welcome you to our Missional Life Center and to host and house you for this event. It’s an opportunity for you to ‘test the waters’ surrounding City Mission. Or we’d be privileged to head in your direction to provide training at your base of operations.

The essence of this communique is to encourage you anew, as a brother or sister in Christ, to simply engage in mission … to at least do something regarding mission … and then make it a regular part of the ebb and flow of life. This is how renewal can be ignited and your life restored. May your life be renewed … for the living of these most challenging and historically significant days.

Just this past spring, I asked our young adult, post-high school group (many of whom have participated in City Mission since their middle/high school years) to describe City Mission in just a few words. Ben, one of our ‘veterans’ who is now 24 years of age said, “City Mission is a raw and unfiltered experience of what it means to be the Church.” Truly such a youthful and unspoiled understanding of the nature of the church can replenish and enable us to embrace how mission can spark renewal. 

How Did It Happen? The ELCA and Community Organizing – Part One


A question I am often asked by people is this – How did it happen?  How did LGBTQ+ values, priorities, and agenda completely take over the ELCA, and so quickly?  The purpose of this article is to show how the principles of community organizing were used most effectively to bring about this change.

The ELCA was formed in 1987 and began functioning as a church body in 1988.  At the 2005 Churchwide Assembly traditional values prevailed, though just barely.  It was not until 2009 that standards changed, and look at all that has happened since.  For nearly twenty-two of the thirty-four years that the ELCA has existed, at least the officially recognized position was more traditional.  It has only been during the last twelve years that revisionist views have prevailed.  Actually and officially, the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly only gave its blessing to (PALMS) publicly accountable, lifelong, monogamous same sex relationships.  But in reality the ELCA has fully embraced the LGBTQIA+ agenda, values, priorities, and lifestyle.  The ELCA has completely marginalized anyone who holds to any other view, and it is charging ahead at such a rapid pace that it makes you wonder whether anything could stop it except a total crash.

How did it happen?  Part of the answer can be found in the fact that those who have been driving this are super focused and relentlessly dedicated.  Part of the answer can also be found in the image of lily pads on a lake.  Let’s say that the area of the surface of the lake that is covered by lily pads doubles each year.  At first, the amount of increase is small.  Then it becomes larger and more noticeable.  Eventually lily pads are covering half of the lake.  At that point and at that rate how much longer will it take for lily pads to cover the entire lake?  One year.

Community Organizing

A more detailed answer can be found in the principles of community organizing and how that methodology has been used extremely effectively by such groups within the Lutheran community as ReconcilingWorks.  ReconcilingWorks is an organization that since 1974 “has advocated for the full welcome, inclusion, and equity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual/aromantic (LGBTQIA+) Lutherans in all aspects of the life of their Church, congregations, and community.”  Specifically we will be looking at how community organizing is the central approach employed by the Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit (BIC) developed by ReconcilingWorks in order to change peoples’ minds, turn the minority position into the majority position, and thereby take over the church.  A link to the Toolkit can be found here

Community organizing is also the primary approach employed by many other social justice activists – in the secular world as well as in the mainline church – in order to push for social change.  It is popular because it works.  Its techniques are effective, which is why and how the liberal/progressive movement has been so successful in taking hold of the mainline church and secular society.

Lutherans who hold to a high view of the authority of Scripture need to be aware of this process, so that we might develop and offer an effective response.  Our failure to do so is a major reason why we are losing the battle – in the mainline church as well as in the secular world – to the LGBTQ+ agenda and other liberal/progressive concerns. 


Here are some resources that you can use for further study.  Fortress Press is “an imprint of 1517 Media.”  1517 Media is “the ministry of publishing of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”

  • Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit by Reconciling Works
  • Doing Justice: Congregations and Community Organizing by Dennis A. Jacobsen (Fortress Press)
  • Faith-Based Organizing by Charles Frederickson, Violetta Lien, Herbert E. Palmer, and Mary Lou Walther (Fortress Press)
  • Faith-Rooted Organizing by Alexia Salvatierra and Peter Heltzel (Fortress Press)

Theological Education

Several ELCA seminaries offer classes and/or training in community organizing as part of the public theology and/or practical theology components of the seminary curriculum.  At one ELCA seminary the “public church” curriculum has become the primary organizing principle around which the degree programs are structured.  At other ELCA seminaries, efforts have been made and/or are in progress to expand the “public theology” focus, often at the expense of Biblical and confessional theological content.  At one ELCA seminary a career in community organizing is one of the possible career pathways that the Master of Theological Studies (M. T. S.) degree leads to and prepares for.


Community organizing methodology was developed by Saul Alinsky, a secular Jewish man, in the late 1930’s.  Although Alinsky never identified as a socialist and/or a communist, he shared in common with them radical left (for his time) ideology, concern for the poor, and support for working-class communities and labor movements.  Alinsky saw the need to fight for specific goals and used the principles and techniques of community organizing to achieve those goals.


Community organizing relies on two main things – strong relationships and shared values.  Community organizers use these two things to change the minds of community members in order to get them to support a cause.  In this way they build a coalition of supportive people.  They then rally these people together and work together to press for change.

Community organizing begins with the following steps –

  • Gather together a small core team of people who are already committed to your cause. These are the people who will start the process of pushing for change.
  • Gather information about individual people as well as about the community. Build relationships with people.  Learn about what they believe and why.  Use what you learn to plan your approach.  Identify key influencers and supporters who may be assets to your cause.
  • Tell stories which evoke sympathy and support for your cause.
  • Build common ground with your community (shared values and/or experiences).
  • Educate the community in order to bring its members to your side.
  • Once the initial prep work has been done, choose a course of action.
    • Either a conflict approach, where the people in power are seen as your enemy.  If so, confront them and take them down.
    • Or a consensus approach, where the people in power are seen as people who can change their minds.  If so, convince them to side with you.

Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit

The Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit from ReconcilingWorks builds upon, and relies upon, the community organizing method.  Its approach assumes that there is already support from the leadership (clergy, church council, lay leaders, etc.) and that what needs to be done is to convince the rest of the community – enough to secure a 75% vote for RIC (Reconciling in Christ) status, as required by ReconcilingWorks.

As such, the proposed course of action is similar to the consensus approach.  However, normally in community organizing the primary target is people in power (i. e. the clergy).  However, in the BIT Toolkit, the primary target is the community at large (i. e. the congregation).  The primary target’s minds need to be changed in order to accomplish the desired goal. 

A Faith Community Assessment Survey is taken to evaluate the faith community’s current position(s).  A link to the survey can be found here. Based upon the results, one of three timelines is suggested – Cautious, Moderatus, and Adventurous.  The timetable ranges from six years to under one year.  But no matter how long it may take, those working to bring about change are focused and relentless.  

Whichever timeline is followed, the process is broken down into eleven steps, and there are six tools that are employed in order to work the process.  These steps and tools are described in the Toolkit.  Four of the six tools are Graceful Engagement, One-to-One Visits, Public Storytelling, and Scriptural Engagement.

Scriptural Engagement

It is interesting – and significant – that the sixth step – Providing Educational Opportunities – and the sixth tool – Scriptural Engagement – both come so late in the process.  Typically, people who hold to a high view of the authority of Scripture would begin by focusing on what the Bible says.  But that is not what the BIC Toolkit does.  Instead the primary means of building community support are finding shared values – such as diversity, equity, inclusion, and welcome – and then engaging in carefully crafted storytelling in order to evoke sympathy and support for the cause.  “Scriptural Engagement” does not actively come into play until the steps that build support from the community have already been completed. 

It should not surprise us that “Scriptural Engagement” does not come until late in the process.  The Bible does not support what ReconcilingWorks is trying to accomplish.  The Scripture passages that are included in the BIC Toolkit include Luke 10:29-37 (the parable of the Good Samaritan), John 4: 4-26 (Jesus and the woman at the well), Matthew 22: 35-40 (the Greatest Commandment), Matthew 26: 51-52 (Peter’s cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear), and Luke 23: 34 (one of the words of Jesus from the cross.)  There is obviously no way that these passages support the LGBTQIA+ agenda.  They do not even address LGBTQIA+ issues.  No wonder support and agreement must be built in other ways rather than on the clear message of Scripture.  Relying on the principle that feelings are often more important and more powerful than facts when it comes to convincing people to change their minds, the BIC Toolkit focuses on feelings-based approaches, such as storytelling, rather than on facts-based approaches, such as asking what the Bible says, in order to get people to come on board with the cause. 

By the time the “Scriptural Engagement” tool comes into active use, the community’s minds and hearts have already been shaped into being LGBTQ+ affirming.  Very little of Scripture is engaged with, and the purpose as well as the message of Scripture is distorted.  The whole of Scripture’s message is reduced to three themes –

  1. We are called to love God and love our neighbors.
  2. It is not our place to judge.
  3. Treat others as you would want to be treated.

Specific passages from Scripture which appear to support these themes are selectively chosen in an effort to demonstrate that these ideas form the fundamental message of Scripture.

Other themes of Scripture – such as sin and our need for God’s forgiveness, God’s command that we repent of our sins, our need to obey God, and the Bible’s instructions regarding holy living – are minimized or avoided entirely. 

The prescribed approach to the so-called “clobber passages” (the passages that clearly speak against same-sex sexual behavior) is to avoid them, or else to minimally engage with them only as needed, until the three themes mentioned above are firmly established in the hearts and minds of the community as the primary message of Scripture.  Only then are the “clobber passages” engaged with, under the assumption that, if indeed the primary message of Scripture is one of welcome and inclusion, and the “clobber passages” are neither welcoming nor inclusive of LGBTQ+ identified people who are engaged in same-sex sexual behavior, then either we have misunderstood these “clobber passages” or the “clobber passages” must be wrong in some way. 

With so little engagement with Scripture, and with what little of Scripture is utilized being so badly misrepresented, people are left with an understanding that is far from biblically sound.

I will be completing this article in my February Letter from the Director.  In that second part I will tell more about how the Building an Inclusive Church Toolkit uses the principles of community organizing to change people’s minds and get them on board with the cause.  I will also offer several suggestions as to what those with a high view of the authority of Scripture need to do and can do in order to provide a viable, effective, and convincing alternative.