Cameron & Kirstine Brauer and Carlin and Chris Ruhle (pictured) from St Mark’s Lutheran Church in Dalby gladly attended the SENT Conference in Brisbane recently, assisted by an LLL Mission Resource Grant. The Conference’s focus was on the important place of church planting in reaching out to those who are not-yet-Christian, and what church planting looks like within the LCA. They write:
Teaching throughout the weekend sessions focused on the importance of relational evangelism: its place in reaching the lost within church plants, and how the Holy Spirit drives and empowers every church and congregation in different ways. In facing the problem of declining numbers of members in Lutheran churches across Australia, speaker Noel Due suggested that the question should not be ‘What do we do to fix things?’ but instead, ‘What is the Spirit saying to the churches?’
For us as attendees, the information presented helped us realise how the dynamics of family and congregations have shifted over the generations. The most recent National Church Life Survey gives confronting facts, such as that we are now often in communities that view regular church attendance as once per month – not weekly. Church planting today is driven by relational evangelism – different from what we have seen in the past; for example, through the revival evangelism movements. To reach someone not connected to a church, we need to build a relationship from the ground up. Just like other relationships, church planting takes time, there’s no instant growth.
The Holy Spirit has the pivotal role in strengthening congregations, and in reaching into communities through church plants. Noel Due reminded us that in the book of Acts, the church was constantly on the move – the church was constantly being driven out by the Spirit. The Spirit is strong, always moving forward, though not in a linear path. The path we walk on with the Spirit is not under our control, and could very well take us to places we would not normally choose to go. Yet, corporately (together), and personally, the Holy Spirit is working for and with us. We need each other for the full expression of the gifts the Spirit has given each of us. This is the same for church plants – not every church will plant a new congregation. Some congregations will be Partner churches; through prayer, giving, and the sending out of specific leaders, mentors and disciples.
We are excited to see where the Spirit is leading the LCA through the department of New and Renewing Churches in the next ten years, and identifying the parts that we can play personally and together in listening to the Spirit’s direction to fulfil God’s mission for us