Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you to the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20).
I know that it has been the “rage” for several years for congregations to write “mission statements.” They do this because organizational theory tells them that they have to follow the path of “successful” organizations, institutions, and industry so that they (the congregation) knows what it is about and what it is to be doing. Over the years, I have helped many congregations write a mission statement. I have been thoroughly imbued with organizational theory from my M.B.A. studies. For many organizations, I see the need for such a statement. I do not believe that the Church is one of those. The Church and congregations do not need a mission statement because we already have one. We have a mission statement given to us by our Lord Jesus Christ. Go…make disciples…baptize…and teach. I suppose that we in some way think that we can improve on that statement or “personalize” the statement to make it reflective of our congregation. I do not agree. We (the Church, congregations, and us as baptized individuals) still have the mission statement given to us by our Lord. I have yet to read a mission statement that improves on the one Jesus has given us. It tells us in precise words what we are to be about. We are to go.
I know that today it is also the “rage” to become a welcoming congregation which generally means that we wait for “seekers” to darken our door and we change practically everything about us, including our theology, to attract people to come. I hear very little of the “go.” The word “go” makes a big difference. I don’t think that we wait for seekers. We go, we go and we invite our family, our friends, and our neighbors. We go to them with the good news that they, as we, are loved, forgiven, and accepted as the children of God, not by what they have to do, but simply because that is what God does. So, I encourage All Saints Lutheran Church and St. James Lutheran Church to become inviting congregations of people who are loved, forgiven, and accepted by God their Father because of what God did for them through Jesus Christ. We may have to change our language. We use invitational language when we speak to our neighbors. Going includes listening. We need to listen to our neighbors, pray for our neighbors, and invite our neighbors to come and worship so that they too may hear the good news of what God has done for them through Jesus Christ. We ought to invite our neighbors to come to Sunday school, vacation bible school, small groups, and all other activities of the congregation. But, first and foremost we invite them to come to worship with us so that they too may receive the gifts of God, His Word and the Holy Sacraments. The object is not to grow in numbers, but to ensure that our neighbors have the opportunity to hear of God’s love and grace (although we would certainly grow).
Both congregations, All Saints and St. James, began as inviting congregations. I know that All Saints began that way because back in 1978, 1979, and 1980 I personally invited each and every member to come and worship and be a part of All Saints Lutheran Church. I issued that invitation while visiting them and sitting down with them in their homes. From reading the history of St. James Lutheran Church, I know that the congregation began the same way. People were invited to come and worship and to hear the Good News of God’s great love. I applaud the efforts to become welcoming congregations and pray that we become even more welcoming. But if we don’t first invite who are we going to welcome? I pray that St. James and All Saints Lutheran Churches become going congregations whose goal, whose mission, is to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach, always remembering that Jesus attaches a promise to His mission statement, And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
The Lord is risen! He is risen indeed!
In Christ’s Name,
Pastor David A. Aanonson, interim