Carved in the wood above an old school door in Niesky, Germany, are the words: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel" (Matthew 28:19). Moravians call this the "sending door."
The school trained early Moravian missionaries. Betsy Miller, president of the Provincial Elders' Conference of the Moravian Church, Northern Province, an ELCA full-communion partner, tells how those new missionaries made their own coffins and packed their belongings inside. That was both practical and symbolic, Miller said. They were willing to give their lives in service to the Lord. Each graduation day, new mission workers emerged from the school's sending door, the words of the Great Commission carrying them on their way.
|Above the "sending door" in Niesky, Germany, are the words: "Gehet hin in alle Welt und prediget das Evangelium (Go into all the world and preach the gospel)."|
During World War II, occupying troops took over the school, boarding over those words so no religious expression or symbols would be visible. After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, people could openly express their faith. The elders remembered the words above the sending door, and the people took down the boards, uncovering the Great Commission.
How many sending doors have our congregations boarded up? Miller asks us all. How many of us remember our call to be sent into God's mission in the world?
To look at what it means to be the church today, in 2009 the ELCA Church Council tapped members from across the U.S. for the study "Living Into the Future Together (LIFT): Renewing the Ecology of the ELCA." The task force was asked to consider internal and external changes that impact the church and to recommend changes. The LIFT group envisioned ways to strengthen our relationships in the church and to seek out new mission opportunities for the ELCA.
One key recommendation is that every ELCA congregation develop a mission plan for strengthening 4.2 million everyday evangelists — our members — who are sent into their unique contexts to serve and participate in God's mission in the world.
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© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers