By Cheryl Magness
In January 2014, the Mission Board of Faith in Christ Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, N.M., was given permission by the North and South Sandia Circuits of the LCMS Rocky Mountain District to conduct a feasibility study for a Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) plant in southwest Albuquerque. The area, with approximately 190,000 people, has no other LCMS presence.
Albuquerque is one of the more ethnically diverse cities in the United States, with a majority-Hispanic population. Almost 25 percent of its residents are bilingual. The median household income is about $50,000.
In 2015, following a year of study and door-to-door surveys, Faith in Christ unanimously voted to serve as the mother church for the new plant, which was officially recognized by the district through a Gospel Gap grant and by the LCMS Office of National Mission under the Mission Field: USA initiative.
On April 12, 2015, St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Albuquerque, began holding Sunday services.
The first preaching and pastoral responsibilities at St. Andrew were handled by Faith in Christ Pastor Rev. Eli Lietzau, with assistance from several others, but on June 4, 2017, LCMS Domestic Missionary Rev. Adam DeGroot was called to serve as St. Andrew’s first pastor. After accepting the call, DeGroot began the process of raising the funds necessary to be deployed.
As a domestic missionary under the Network Supported Missionary Model, he is responsible for raising 100 percent of his annual funding, and that will continue until St. Andrew is constituted and self-supporting.
Talking to Reporter about both the work that has been done and that lies ahead, DeGroot noted that “the need is great for individuals, groups within churches and congregations to support this mission work.”
This March, the DeGroot family arrived in Albuquerque, and on April 8 DeGroot was installed as St. Andrew’s first pastor. The following week, St. Andrew celebrated its three-year anniversary of weekly Sunday worship.
DeGroot said of the two milestones, “What a joy it was to finally be face to face with, praying with and sharing in the Lord’s gifts with the people I had been called to serve.”
St. Andrew’s new pastor has hit the ground running. Twice each week, he, Lietzau and Al Arnold, who chairs the Faith in Christ Mission Board, walk the neighborhoods around the church, handing out information and inviting people to worship. DeGroot daily visits hospitals in the area to minister to patients, none of whom are members of St. Andrew.
DeGroot also is in contact with fire and police officials, local businesses and community centers to gauge the needs of the community and establish Saint Andrew’s presence there. Since there was not an LCMS church in the area before St. Andrew, the primary focus is reaching out with the Gospel to unchurched, non-Lutheran individuals.
According to DeGroot, the goal is to build “a core group, teaching, preaching and administering the sacraments, from which all forms of mercy work are derived.”
As chair of the Mission Board at Faith in Christ, Arnold has been involved in the vision for St. Andrew from the beginning. He says the process has been “very difficult as we were starting from … nothing. In fact, we were discussing an exit strategy in March of 2017, as it appeared we could not continue long-term … and prospects for a worker were very dim.”
Then, Arnold says, “We were made aware of Pastor DeGroot. The call was extended and accepted in early June and we were all together for the 2017 Lutheran Women’s Missionary League national convention in Albuquerque in late June. What a joyous week that was! All of us were ready to hit the ground running in July.”
The process was delayed, however, as “the good Lord had other plans and we had to wait until March of 2018 for the DeGroots’ permanent arrival before we could fully start to run on that ground all together in Albuquerque. But the Lord has been faithful to St. Andrew. … We are all so grateful for the DeGroots, the budding congregation at St. Andrew, the mother church at Faith in Christ, the greater Sandia Circuits and the Rocky Mountain District.
“The calling process was a major relief and the long-awaited installation service in April … incredible. So many happy people. Thanks be to God for His faithfulness!”
Lietzau shares Arnold’s joy at seeing St. Andrew move from a dream to a reality. “Throughout the entirety of this process,” he says, “the sustaining comfort has always been the promise from our God that He is the Lord of His Church. And this is a great and wonderful thing, for if this work were up to us sinful creatures nothing would come from it. We might have a building and even some people gathered, but it would not be the Church.
“And yet, as the Spirit speaks Christ through His Word and gives Christ through His Sacraments, He does the things of the Church and calls His people to be His own. And now, thanks to the Lord above, He does this on a daily and consistent basis for the people of southwest Albuquerque through Rev. DeGroot.”
DeGroot concurs. “Thus far we’ve seen to what’s most necessary — faithful preaching and teaching. This will continue by the grace of God, and our hope is that the seeds take root and that a fully constituted and self-supporting congregation will take shape.”
To learn more about the DeGroot family and support their domestic mission work, visit lcms.org/degroot.
Posted June 7, 2018