With the beginning of a new year, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s Office of National Mission (ONM) is launching a new initiative to increase church planting and revitalization within the Synod.
The Rev. Bart Day, ONM executive director and the Synod’s interim chief mission officer, has appointed two men to lead this work mandated by the 2013 Synod convention in Res. 1-04A and 3-08A, respectively.
The Rev. Steven Schave, director of LCMS Urban & Inner-City Mission (UICM), also will take on the role of director of Church Planting under the new initiative. To this position, Schave brings experience as a pastor for revitalization in Cincinnati and as a church planter in Perry, Ga.
“Going through a seminary mission-formation program and co-leading our student mission society helped to prepare me for planting a church in an area where there was no Lutheranism, and this also helped me to see the need for us to be looking at missions in the United States,” Schave said, noting the overlap between UICM and the need for new congregations in underserved areas.
“Most of our congregations are in rural areas, and yet we see this vast population move back into the city limits. Urban and inner-city areas are a good place — but not the only place — to focus some attention on as we help sustain, restart or plant new ministries where there is nothing.”
Schave’s plan is to help districts, mission societies and congregations plant distinctly Lutheran churches. He is working to place fully-funded missionaries on the domestic mission field and will soon begin working with the two LCMS seminaries to create ways to train the next generation of church planters.
“I hope to draw from some of my own experiences and use Witness, Mercy, Life Together as a framework to do church planting in places around the country where it’s most needed,” he said.
In addition, the Rev. Mark Wood, director of LCMS Witness & Outreach Ministry, also will take on the new role of director of Revitalization.
“To me, the essence of revitalization is taking what is vital — Word and Sacrament — and increasing it through existing and new ministries,” he said.
In Wood’s view, revitalization is a “tremendous need,” and he points to statistics that reveal that 80 to 85 percent of LCMS congregations have reached a state of plateau or are in decline.
“That’s almost 5,000 congregations that need help with revitalization,” he said. “How do we meet this large-scale need with a large-scale solution?”
Answering this question is at the heart of his plans for his new work under the initiative. His first order of business is to create an objective self-assessment tool that congregations can use to measure how they are doing. He envisions a self-assessment tool and accompanying training modules that congregations can use without outside assistance. This will increase the capacity of the materials and allow them to be used on a larger scale than previous programs.
Eventually, Wood and Day plan to expand this revitalization work to impact all of the ministries of the LCMS.
“The Synod understands how critical the work of multiplication and revitalization are for the future of the church,” Day said.
“These brothers are uniquely equipped. They have done the work of planting and revitalization in their own congregations. They are both completing doctorate work in the areas of planting and revitalization. They bring a passion to reach the lost in the world and to strengthen our existing ministries to be better equipped to share the Gospel in their communities. These men will be a tremendous blessing to the church as ONM strengthens its collaboration with districts.”
Posted Jan. 23, 2015