February 2023 (NALC VISION Part 1)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!                                                                               February 2023

Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

–Ephesians 3:20-21

As many of you know, I attended the NALC’s Pastor’s conference. While there, Bishop Dan encouraged us to promote and cast a vision for NALC’s 2020 Vision. So, for the coming months, I will highlight parts of this vision as part of my pastoral letter to you all.

The first key part of the NALC’s 2020 Vision is to Grow. This is important to consider as we reflect on the last 150 years of our congregation, First Lutheran Church. This year, the Anniversary committee highlights important facts about First Lutheran’s history and how it grew. Like the large majority of Lutheran churches in America, the church’s growth happened in two ways: Immigrants coming to America and family growth in the community and the church. Looking back, we see that as immigrants and migrants found their way to the Midwest looking for a new home, the church grew from these newcomers. As those individuals and families got established, the church saw another period of growth from these families having children, then grandchildren, and so on it continued. This saw churches become well-established in their communities.

However, in the last 30 years, with the advancement of transportation, technology, and the Internet. Individuals would move to seek better jobs or move because of education goals. This has greatly affected the traditional way the Lutheran church grew for most of its history in America. For this reason, NALC’s leadership has raised the awareness that we must adjust to a different type of growth. That is why the first part of NALC’s 2020 Vision is to Grow.

In this vision to grow, there are a few key parts: Discipleship, Church Plants, Spanish-Speaking church plants, and Stewardship. These four key parts of this vision to grow different from the historical ways of growing I shared above. Discipleship is something that is ongoing and beyond that, just confirmation class and learning the Small Catechism. To grow deep in our faith and in community together. It is also a calling Christ has set before us to go out of our church walls and be a light in our community for Christ. In many cases, new church plants must be identified because churches are closing due to migration to larger cities and communities because of jobs and resources. There is a need to realize that although English is a primary language in America, Spanish is now second and commonly found in and around our community, and there is an outreach opportunity for the church. The final one is stewardship; we must be good stewards of our resources and invest in the church’s future, not necessarily “save for a hard time.” Many churches have funds that can be used to directly support areas that can see growth for the greater Kingdom of God. Individuals can also equally invest in Kingdom work as God.

As we close, I wish to close with Bishop Dan’s prayer for the NALC’s 2020 Vision.

“Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we thank you and praise you for the abundance of your mercy, and the faithfulness of your grace revealed and given to us in Jesus Christ. We thank you for the calling we have in Him and for the way in which we have been brought together by You in the body of the North American Lutheran Church. We pray for your Holy Spirit to guide us as we consider the opportunities we have to serve in ways that will honor You and as we share in the work entrusted to us by our Lord. We ask for open hearts to be attentive to Your leading, for open minds to be challenged and transformed by Your love, and for generous and faith-filled spirits to respond to the calling we share.” – Bishop Dan

Lord, we pray for the 2020 Vision of our church, asking for You to continue to work through us to carry out Your will. We pray that our individual gifts will be used in collective ways to offer a witness to the world of the salvation found only in the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. Strengthen our faith. Bless our work. Use our lives, so that the life-giving message of Jesus will be proclaimed and heard today, tomorrow & forever. Amen.

In Christ,

Pr. Tom