July 2024 Newsletter

January 2024 Newsletter

Mission Under Accompaniment

Director’s Note: Spencer Wentland is uniquely qualified to write this article analyzing the ELCA’s concept of global mission as accompaniment rather than evangelism – as responding to requests for help from indigenous churches rather than being concerned to share the message of Jesus with unreached peoples.  Spencer is a member of our young adult group, which meets via zoom about once a month for fellowship and support.  He is passionate about reaching people who do not know Jesus.  He has much international experience, including studying and serving in a discipleship community in Denmark.  He has served as an ELCA lay missionary in Japan and has written on the theology of global mission of different Christian groups. 

The ELCA defines accompaniment as “…walking together in a solidarity that practices interdependence and mutuality[*] (Global Mission, emphasis in original). Although often portrayed as a biblical theology coming out of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus, it is strongly influenced by and rooted in liberation theology[†]. My immediate concern with it, as a heuristic to the what and where of mission, is that it is antithetical to the Pauline priority on unreached places.

The Apostle Paul emphasized not building on another’s foundation but to establish the Church where it does not exist. Combined with Jesus’ teaching that the Gospel must be preached in all nations (Gk. ethnos, often understood as ethno-linguistic people groups by many missiologists) and then the end will come, there has been a strong emphasis on sending missionaries to work amongst unreached and unengaged people groups[‡].

While working as an ELCA missionary, I heard about experienced mission personnel being sent home while the Japanese Evangelical Lutheran Church was told how they were going to become less dependent on the ELCA. In the name of being post-colonial, it was an ironically patronizing execution of implementing an accompaniment model.

Accompaniment is actually very good in shaping how we do mission. We should not ignore the presence and work of indigenous Lutherans. If consistent with the values of accompaniment, it’s a good way to think about working together in the larger context of God’s mission. It reminds us that the task of mission must be informed by the catholicity of the Church as well as its apostolic nature. It also informs us to do mission in the pattern and practice of Christ himself who is Immanuel.

The problems with accompaniment are when it determines what the content of mission is and where it is done. When applied to the what of mission, it frames the whole task into a ministry of presence. This collapses into the problem that when everything is mission, nothing is mission. The primary task of establishing the Church in unreached places, making disciples and evangelical mission is diminished into almost oblivion by tasks being determined by the partner denomination. True accompaniment would involve both churches determining the content of mission work in the light of both Scripture and context. Working together is key, not completely abrogating task criteria to the partner church.

The ELCA’s requirement that pre-existing Lutheran churches request the ELCA to send missionaries (an effort in being post-colonial) assures that no missionaries will ever be sent to unengaged people groups. The Japanese are the second largest unreached people group, so there is an odd and good anomaly that work is going on there. During my missionary orientation, I asked if someone had a vision like Paul of a man from Macedonia, saying come here, would that qualify a call (Acts 16)? Is the Holy Spirit leading with the Word, or are we reducing the idea of being spirit-led to a democratized principle of the external call coming through partner churches?

In conclusion, accompaniment is a mixed bag. It’s great for the how of mission, and it is a true gift. However, it needs to be understood in the larger context of the ELCA’s constitution and statement of faith, including its responsibility to work for the fulfillment of the Great Commission. To do this, the primary tasks need to be strategic partnership for the purposes of mission development/evangelical mission and a willingness to send people to places where no Christians, let alone Lutherans, exist.

Photograph courtesy of Spencer Wentland; it is of a protestant church in Okinawa.

[*] “Global Mission.” Elca.Org. Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Accessed November 5, 2023. https://www.elca.org/Our-Work/Global-Mission.

[†] ORDÓÑEZ, CLAUDIA. “Public Health Needs Liberation Theology.” Aquinas Emory Thinks. Aquinas Center at Candler School of Theology, February 15, 2021. https://aquinasemorythinks.com/public-health-needs-liberation-theology/.

[‡] Unreached: relative to the population living near a gospel witness. Imagine an American city of about 250,000 people and if there is only about three or four churches of twenty people and no youth groups. Unengaged: has any effort been made by Christians to bring the Gospel and make disciples among this particular people group?

In Faith

“We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” 2 Thessalonians 1:3

The congregation of St. Paul located in Pensacola, Florida began the discernment process of leaving the ELCA in 2018. We had the 2nd vote to leave the Florida-Bahamas (FB) Synod of the ELCA in 2019. We expected some challenges in leaving because of the small group of members who wanted to remain in the ELCA. The congregation voted with a super-majority to leave the FB Synod. St. Paul applied to and joined the North American Lutheran Church (NALC) in 2020. Shortly after being received into the NALC, the congregation council received a letter from the FB Synod informing us that we could not leave.

The congregation council of that period were faithful in their commitment to Christ. They had a strength in faith that was unwavering. It proved to be a blessing for us as the FB Synod attempted to stop the people of God from leaving. To resolve the issue of St. Paul leaving the ELCA, the congregation council filed a motion in court. This was to maintain our rights to the building and the financials of St. Paul. During the legal process, letters with false statements were sent to the church members of St. Paul (NALC). Slanderous statements were made against the council and me. The ugliness of letters from the FB Synod showed a lack of Christian love for others and did not speak the truth of the intentions within the ELCA. The object of the ELCA was and I believe still is to “suppress the truth” of what they are doing or what they have done. We had suggested that the majority (us) and the minority (them) could share the building. But that was met with another ugly response. The Bishop of the FB Synod stated in words like these: Any other denomination but the NALC would have been okay. But not the NALC.

Eventually after many legal disputes the FB Synod Bishop filed a summary of judgment with the claim of ecclesiastical hierarchy. Taking the matter away from the civil court and giving it back to the FB Synod to make the final determination. The ruling gave our building, bank accounts, and endowment funds to the FB Synod and the small group of people who wanted to stay in the ELCA.

This could have been crushing for us if it were not for “faith.” Instead, the ruling of the judge based on the ecclesiastical hierarchy was freeing! Shortly after we lost everything to the ruling, God founded a new name for us. Led by the Spirit, Epiphany Lutheran Church became our new name. In 2021 we sought and found a new location for worship. I was introduced to Rabbi Tokajer in September, and we began worshipping at the Synagogue on Nov. 7, 2021.

In faith we left the building in Pensacola for a new beginning. With our vision clear and our faith steadfast in Christ, we began rebuilding and evangelizing for God’s church in the new location. With little financial stability we stepped out. In our faith journey, we didn’t think about what was lost. Instead, we recognized how much God was providing.

I encourage pastors discerning their call to contact the General Secretary of the NALC. The threats from the ELCA that place fear into individual pastors is nothing more than evil. If you want to remain faithful to the Word of God, I encourage you to place your assurance in Christ not the ELCA. The letters I received informed me that I was nothing without their endorsement. The ELCA didn’t call me into ministry. God called me into the ministry of Word and Sacrament. What about my pension and medical benefits? Have faith! As God is my witness, this question came to my mind too. It was a fleeting thought as I discerned the call to serve in faithfulness. 

In March of 2023, I spoke to the congregation about our faith walk. I referred to the summary of judgment and the loss of our assets and property. In the message of faith I said, “We lost everything for the sake of Christ.” It is in this loss that we found out just how strong and faith filled we were. As I’ve said many times, “It’s easy to have faith when everything is going well in your life.” With the help of God, we’ve grown in number, in spirit, and in faithfulness. Like the letter of Paul to the Thessalonians, we lift up the church and all those who continue their journey in “faith.” We share the love of Christ with new believers and all visitors at Epiphany Pensacola. All are welcome to experience the love and joy of Christ in worship.

As I am writing this article it just dawned on me that on Nov. 7, 2023, when we break ground on a new church building it will be our 2nd anniversary of this new start congregation in Pensacola, Florida. God has blessed us with generous financial support for the church property. The mission and ministry have been financially supported by several NALC churches. We’ve received domestic mission partnerships from other NALC churches. The congregation has grown, and the people of God have been generous in supporting the mission and ministry of Christ. Losing everything for the sake of the Gospel has been transformational to the members of Epiphany Pensacola.   

Faithfully Serving,

The Rev. Dr. Franklin J. Gore

Epiphany Lutheran Church


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9)

Photos courtesy of Brenda Ekstrom and Donna Busarow.

Training Disciple-Makers

“…take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan…” Joshua 4:3

We wish God’s blessings upon Dean Rostad, president, and the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute.  This is the third of a series of three articles about various residential discipleship ministries for young adults.   We began in January by featuring Faith Greenhouse, connected with Faith Lutheran Church (LCMC) in Hutchinson, Minnesota.  We continued in March with the Awaken Project (TAP). TAP is a non-profit organization housed on the campus of Mt. Carmel Ministries in Alexandria, Minnesota.  We thank God for these ministries and pray for them as they work to raise up a whole new generation of followers of Jesus and leaders in the Church. 

After 40 years of wandering in the desert, the Israelites were about to experience God’s saving work in a profound way – walking through the parted (piled-up) Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. So that this God event would never be forgotten, God instructed them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan. These rocks of remembrance were to become physical pointers to God’s saving action in their lives. God never wants us to forget how He has moved in our lives.

My name is Dean Rostad and I have the privilege of serving as the President of the Canadian Lutheran Bible Institute (CLBI) in Camrose, Alberta. CLBI is a campus-based Bible college through which 1000s of young adults have been trained to become disciple-makers in their churches, neighborhoods, and professions. In 2023, CLBI’s vibrant discipling community comprises 45 students, staff and committed volunteers. Just as Jesus discipled along the road, around the table and in the community, we also do.  Our students experience a different Bible class each week taught by high-caliber instructors from all over North America and beyond. Some weeks learning is off campus through inner-city ministry experiences, canoeing/hiking in the mountains, or serving cross-culturally. Each student is discipled one-on-one and is part of a rich weekly discipleship group that meets in a staff home. All of this is done to help CLBI achieve its mission of discipling young adults in the way of Jesus and equipping them for a life of mission in their vocations (be that as a pastor, baker or candlestick maker). I never know how Jesus is going to make a profound impact in our students’ lives, but I am completely confident that He always will.

When I ask alumni how God impacted their life while they were at CLBI (aka their rock of remembrance from the Jordan), the answers are incredibly varied: their faith took three steps deeper in Romans class, while being discipled by a staff member, they realized that they needed to stop trying to prove themselves to God and others and simply rest in the gospel,  a late-night conversation in the dorm led them to finally forgive someone, a cross-cultural ministry experience awakened a calling within them to bring the gospel to those who have never heard it, when they discovered they had found the spiritual family they had longed for. These are all significant transformational rocks of remembrance.

Currently, two members of the CLBI community are in online seminary studies with the Institute of Lutheran Theology. Both had no intention of going into pastoral ministry when they first came to CLBI. Once again, I love watching how Jesus changes the trajectory of people’s lives.

Since 1932 Jesus has been changing lives through this school. Please pray with me that God will continue to raise up all of the students and donors needed to ensure that current and future generations will have the opportunity to encounter Jesus in this holy place. For American students, the complete cost for eight months is just over $10,000 USD. That even includes a January trip to San Pedro, California for our students to connect with another Lutheran discipling community. To learn more about this incredible jewel of a school, visit clbi.edu.

What is your “rock of remembrance”? What is your significant God experience that marked a new trajectory for your life?

Sincerely Pastor Dean Rostad

CLBI President


September 2023 Newsletter

Prevailing Against the Gates

“Alderaan? I’m not going to Alderaan. I’ve got to get home. It’s late. I’m in for it as it is.”

Name that movie.  Name that scene.  Anyone with even a passing interest in the Star Wars franchise knows this one. It’s a pivotal moment.  Obi Wan asks Luke to come along, inviting him on a journey. It’s the beginning of Luke’s heroic journey; it’s a term penned by Professor Joseph Campbell who traced such stories through history, all of which followed a certain pattern and all leading to a central task: prevailing against darkness. 

George Lucas conferred with Campbell while writing the first three movies of the series.  Maybe that’s why most aficionados consider them the best of the nine. I find it ironic that when I first saw that movie, I looked like the kid being given a light saber.  Now I’m the white-haired old guy saying, “Hey, come along this way…” and for what it’s worth Luke’s first response is basically, “No thanks old man, I’ve got to get home and work on some evaporators.” In short order Luke experiences the loss of his aunt and uncle, crosses the threshold of Yes and with Obi Wan goes down into the valley of the spaceport.  Lucas knew what he was about.  The imagery was subtle, but followed the ancient pattern, down into the valley of the shadow of death with an outcome unknown. 

At our August board meeting of Lutheran CORE, our executive director Dennis Nelson led us through a bible study on the trip to Caesarea Philippi and the question, “Who do people say the son of man is?” Dennis offered a quick survey of Simon’s response, a look at the meaning of being given the keys and what that might entail, and then an insight into the gates, the gates that will not prevail against the rock. Then Jesus gave Simon his new identity, role, and assurance, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.”

The thing is that gates don’t take territory.  They don’t advance against an intruder.  They attempt to hold back an incursion.  Their role is to block that which is outside, like an opening in any good boundary regulates what can come in and what will go out.  Why can’t these gates prevail?  I sat there and soaked in that insight.  Of the many times I had explored that text, I asked who is Jesus in a pagan culture, what does it mean to be given the authority and therefore the power of the keys to bring life and the promise of forgiveness and eternal life?  What did it mean that Peter had a sufficiently robust relationship that he could endure the challenge of being compared to Satan and standing behind? And as our walk with Jesus becomes more personal, what does it mean that we find ourselves more open to being challenged in our brokenness and sin (sin that the Gospel may release)? And then Dennis brought up the idea of prevailing against the gates.  That invigorated a lively conversation around the table. 

What does it take to prevail against those gates, not merely hunker down and survive, but prevail?  Not in a militaristic sense, but certainly with a recognition that the church was founded to be movemental, to advance into new territory, to train and equip those who would bring the Gospel from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and all the ends of the earth.  How are we doing with that in our own contexts?  Were any of us trained to lead a movement?  Are we prevailing? Most of us were taught to preach, teach, bring comfort to the homebound and hospitalized, baptize the children, marry the silly romantics, bury the loved ones of the grieving. 

What if prevailing is more than that? In these times that often feel like we are traversing down into the valley of the shadow, what tools did we miss in seminary that we need for the journey? If you can find a copy of the book In The Valley of the Shadow by Hanns Lilje, it’s worth a read.  Lilje was a contemporary of Bonhoeffer—he survived his experience in the camps, later became a Bishop and wrote a catechism for adults.

Drawing from the disparate training of those on the Board, friends of CORE and others we will likely recruit, we are working on providing tasters on topics we didn’t learn in seminary.  During my brief stint as an assistant to the bishop in the ELCA’s Sierra Pacific Synod, I was called to manage first call theological education as part of a team for region 2.  Since I like to be data driven when it comes to providing training and support, I got all our first call pastors together, asked how it was going, and what do they think they missed?  I heard an earful.  So many things.  And that was twenty-five years ago. 

Since then, we’ve experienced the sexuality wars, the worship wars, the decline of Christianity numerically in the US, Covid, rising racial tensions, massive rejection of the faith by a younger generation (half of GenZ claiming to be agnostic or atheist)[i], family brokenness splashing out onto all the mediating structures of society including the church.  Etcetera. These tasters could be provided live on Zoom and recorded for later viewing.  We could interact via a social media platform as we figure out how to use what we’re learning.  Some of the topics being considered are:

  1. visionary leadership, the power of casting a vision and how to do so
  2. how to reach multiple cultures in our contexts including how to maintain core values amid an influx of new members
  3. how to be a church that can reach new people, a look at everything from Celtic models to multi-generational faith formation
  4. how to mobilize faith for mission and ministry within the congregation and in the mission field of their daily lives
  5. managing conflict and boundaries
  6. creating healthy staff teams
  7. creating leadership pipelines for disciples who know how to make disciples, for small groups and missional communities
  8. balancing personal life and strengthening the emotional side of pastoral life
  9. worship, preaching and leading transitions to discipling culture church
  10. developing a giving church and a church built on prayer

In the months ahead we will test a number of pilot offerings to see if we are on the right track.  If any of these topics are interesting to you, please let us know. If there are other areas of stress send us a note about that also.

The gates of hell shall not prevail “for lo! his doom is sure; one little word shall fell him.” All of us in leadership in the church heard the call, crossed into the journey, and now find ourselves on paths unknown to destinations unchartered.  May we do so while knowing that Jesus’ love is always supporting us, and his hand is guiding us. 

[i] https://www.aei.org/articles/perspective-why-even-secular-people-should-worry-about-gen-zs-lack-of-faith/#:~:text=Pew%20Research%20repeatedly%20found%20that,boomers%20and%20the%20Silent%20Generation.

City Mission 2023

Our prayers are with Pastor Craig Moorman and all those who are providing leadership for and participating in City Mission 2023, a multi-generational, multi-denominational outreach effort into the inner city of Baltimore organized and hosted by River’s Edge Ministries (REM) of Mt. Airy, Maryland.  Craig is an NALC/LCMC pastor and also a member of the board of Lutheran CORE.

Since 2014 REM has been coordinating these outreach ministries into the inner city.  One of the participants has described them as “a raw and unfiltered experience of what it means to be the church.”  River’s Edge describes them as “calling on the Church to be His Church” and giving the people of God an opportunity to live “a Christ-centered life through meaningful worship, community building, and missional outreach.” 

River’s Edge has been coordinating another kind of mission effort – Cross Country Mission – since 2005, when a group of followers of Jesus traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina.  Since then Cross Country Mission groups have traveled to various parts of the country to bring relief, help, and encouragement to people whose lives and livelihoods have been battered by hurricanes, floods, and the other storms of life.  This past January a group went to Pine Island, Florida to help the victims of Hurricane Ian rebuild their lives.  It was a great privilege for Lutheran CORE to be one of the sponsors of this year’s Cross Country Mission.  Here is a link to the articles in the March issue of CORE Voice, which told about this effort.

The dates for City Mission 2023 Baltimore and Beyond are May 17-21; service days (excluding set-up) are May 18-20.  Please be praying for this effort.  Here is a link to a video that will tell you more.  For more information you can also go to the website for River’s Edge Ministries.  We encourage you to gather a group from your church to go next year. 

September 2022 Newsletter

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.