There are so many Christian churches today, and new ones spring up all the time. Some have wildly different ideas. It's confusing. But in a world where Christians are going in a zillion different directions, a strong denomination — such as the ELCA — can keep its people clear on who they are, how they relate to other Christians and how they can witness the love of Jesus Christ to a needy world.
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In Racine, Wis., pastors of all 14 congregations, as well as Bishop Jeff Barrow and staff and the director for evangelical mission in the Greater Milwaukee Synod, recently met with ELCA churchwide staff. All agreed to begin a "rerooting in the community" mission strategy.
At the heart of this grassroots effort is a process where they will listen:
• To neighbors in the community.
• To God in Scripture, prayer and witness.
• To one another in the household of faith.
This listening process will be guided by training in the community organizing art of "one on one." As many partners as possible will be invited to meet together, including Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis.; Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin and Upper Michigan; and ecumenical partners.
At the same time, leadership issues will be addressed and a Racine-based school for lay missional vocations will be developed as called for by the strategy — in Spanish and English. All of the synods in Wisconsin are working together to develop this lay mission training model.
Additionally, the ELCA has been developing Latino lay leadership schools nationwide. This process will bring wider denominational conversations about leadership for mission right to the discussions in Racine.
Leaders agreed to initiate a process of local buy-in by church councils. There is great hope that this process, led by their director for evangelical mission, Sandy Chrostowski, with coaching from the churchwide office, will be immersed in Scripture, prayer and witness.
This process will be a path to the future for each congregation, a context for building/merger/staffing issues to be brokered, and the place where new mission may be generated. Concrete mission proposals — short and long term — will disclose the shape of Lutheran witness in Racine five, 10, 20 years from now.
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