The Associate Minister at Lake Harriet preached a good sermon based on the gospel. At some point she talked about how Jesus referred to the Twelve as disciples and then apostles. She reminded me that the word "apostle" means, "One who is sent." The main gist of her sermon is that it can be easy to be just a disciple, a learner and not ever go out and preach the gospel.
Later in the day, my husband, Daniel showed the story of Light of the World Lutheran Church, a new church plant just south of the Twin Cities. I've met the pastor, Deb Stedhlin. She was an associate at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran in Apple Valley, a Twin Cities suburb. They commissioned her to start this new church, paying her salary for a few years. The result is the church has grown from 85 people when it officially launched in December of 2007, to about 200 now.
Daniel shared this for a reason. He was well aware of my own travails in new church planting, except I had to do it with out the two things you really need to get a faith community off the ground: money and people. I joked and said that I was a tiny bit bitter about the whole experience, but Daniel saw right through that saying it was okay to be a lot bitter.
And the fact is, I am. I'm am very bitter about my experience and the state of the Disciples here in Minnesota. Now, I know a lot of my fellow Disciples here and care for them all, but there seems to be such a myopia when it comes to mission. I remember trying to share with members of other congregations about the need to support Community of Grace and for the most part it was met with silence. The cantor of Community of Grace and my dear friend, Dan once overheard at a Regional meeting how people were dissing new churches, saying how they would never make it.
I think there are reasons for such a lack of support- they aren't good reasons, but they are reasons nonetheless. At least in Minnesota all the churches are struggling. They have lost members and are dealing with declining memberships and budgets. That has allowed these churches to become inward focused, looking only at maintaining the church and not pursuing mission and ministry. So here comes some punk whose wet behind the ears and talking about preaching the gospel and they look at this kid like he is crazy. "Can't you see that we are struggling?" they ask.
I also think that the heritage of Disciples being what they are, we don't really live on faith. We are such a cerebral folk that we tend to only look at the "facts" and not at what could be.
But closing oneself off to mission is hardly the way to keep a church alive- in fact, it's the way to kill a church pretty quick. It's interesting that next week's gospel talks about those that try to hang on to life will lose it in the end, but those that lose their lives will gain them.
I think there are many churches hanging on for dear life and wanting to live at all costs. They hope that something, anything will happen to bring back the old days and the money to support the building they worship in.
But that's a good way to kill a church. No one wants to be part of a church just to keep the doors open. Like the disciples of old, they want to be part of an adventure.
It's easy to not have much faith that anything will change. All I can do is pray for a real revival among people. To see the outside world as a mission field and be willing to give all for Christ.
Next weekend, I will be preaching at Lutheran Church of Christ of Redeemer. It's a small Lutheran congregation in South Minneapolis. What has always amazed me is how this small church is sooo engaged in mission. And you want to know the result? They are growing. But they are growing by not holding on for dear life, but by giving it away.
It's time that Disciples stop being just students. We are called to be apostles.