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August 24, 2006

Working the mission fields of Kansas


Dan McKnight came to Chicago Aug. 22 for a meeting of church planters. He’s an ELCA pastor who leads a new, multi-denominational congregation in Lenexa, Kan. Before his arrival, he invited me to lunch.

I usually don’t accept such offers from those I don’t know, but given his field of ministry I was interested. Pastor Dan, as his e-mail address identifies him, wished to share his experience in the mission field of suburban Kansas City.

It is one of many different stories on church starts being written within the ELCA, and a model perhaps not always highlighted. For Kaw Prairie Community Church reads much like an American evangelical congregation, drawing not only from the ELCA, but other traditions.

It is also affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Willow Creek Association (a group organized by the megachurch of the same name in suburban Chicago) and Emergent (for a full description each, go to the congregation’s web site).

On promotional material, Kaw Prairie calls itself “a young community church of people and families of all shapes and sizes. You’ll find real-life Bible-based messages, contemporary worship with ancient echoes, high-energy children’s and youth programs, lots of fun small groups, community work and more. It’s casual on the outside, serious on the inside.”

The current four-week Sunday series (not sermons) offers tools to address being “lost” and angry, lonely, afraid and found. There’s also Alpha: “Ever wonder why people actually believe in Jesus? Try Alpha. Great dinners, thought-provoking lessons, free child-care—and no pressure.”

In all, it’s Christianity for beginners. And apparently working, with about 225 people involved in church life after some two years of work.

While unabashedly evangelical, McKnight is equally supportive of the denomination. We concluded our lunch at a very public table of a restaurant with his offering of a hand-holding prayer for the larger church, The Lutheran and its staff.

The Kaw Prairie experience is one of many different approaches of bringing people to the faith. May God also bless the work there, and at church starts everywhere across our nation.

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