Vision for the District

I have the privilege of walking alongside congregational leadership from time to time as they explore their vision, mission, values, and strategies. It is one of my great joys to join them in their process of discovering God’s particular call for their church. And I often seek to impress upon these leaders the importance of not only discovering vision, but also effectively communicating it over and over again.
But what about LCMC Texas District? What is the vision God is calling us to as an association of Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ here in Texas? Even though the Texas District discerned vision several years ago, it is worth repeating … and remembering … the call that God has placed before us: to see disciple-making and church planting movements in and through our congregations across Texas. We have distilled this to a mission that more plainly states it: “Multiplying Disciples and Churches.”

You Can Lead a Horse to Water…

I don’t know about you, but I grew up hearing the wise old proverb: “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.” And even though this wise old saying is certainly not in the Bible, I have heard it thrown around in the church so much that it almost makes you think it might be! The saying, which appears to have originated in England during the 12th century, has often been used when giving up on another for his or her inability or unwillingness to do the simple thing that would be most beneficial for him or herself from the perspective of the one repeating the proverb.
In the church I have often heard this phrase come up when discussing evangelism. Before we go on, let me be clear: I do believe that there is truth to this proverb as applied to evangelism. It is absolutely true that we can do everything to share the Gospel clearly with someone and yet cannot make them receive it. But more often than not, this proverb is used as a reason to not even try to evangelize instead of describing the reality that occasionally occurs when we do.

The Expanding Family

by Guest Author Percy Smerek
My family has expanded.
My children married. That brought some new members, a daughter and sons into my family. Their children have married and I now have a new granddaughter and new grandsons. This is what happens in a real family: People move out and yet expand the family.
What happens in the family of God? We stay in the house and the family grows; maybe or maybe not. Our natural children move out and sometimes return to the community, but often move out, but others are filling in spots around us who may not be in the family ever.

HeBrews 10:24 on the Move in SA

In 2017, I introduced you to Chuck and Azeneth Knudson of New Braunfels who have been called to live on mission and to plant a church in San Antonio. God has given them a great vision to establish a church-owned coffee roasting / coffee shop “business” as a means to engage the Dellview community in ministry while providing sustainable financial support for their new church plant. Unfortunately, this vision has been difficult to live into as more obstacles than we could ever have imagined have interfered and delayed their efforts.
But today I have Good News: God is on the move as HeBrews 10:24 has experienced breakthrough in San Antonio! A large, neglected retail space in an old strip center in the heart of Dellview has been offered at a below-market lease rate. This would be an excellent location for a coffee shop and worship space. Located in a redevelopment district, HeBrews 10:24 will have an immediate impact in the community!

How Will You Be Remembered?

On September 20, my world was rocked with news that my mom had stage III-IV pancreatic cancer. While the doctor said her life could be extended through chemotherapy, her cancer was inoperable and likely terminal. Over the past three months, Mom has suffered through chemo with incredible grace. Even though the cancer and its treatment has taken so much from her, we are so grateful for getting to spend some quality time with Mom since her diagnosis. However, the end of her life on this earth is very much on our minds.
During one of my recent visits, Mom asked if I would be willing to have a role in her memorial service. Suddenly my mind began to race as I thought about what to say about the woman who gave me birth; who changed my diapers and bandaged my wounds; who counseled me and coached me; who taught me about Jesus and living life with purpose; who always stood behind me as I grew to be a husband, father, and pastor.

Missionary Mandate

The Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 has served as the church’s marching orders since the very day Jesus ascended to heaven: “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 everything I have commanded you.”
The church has long understood its purpose is to make new disciples and to strengthen the disciples we already have. Church leaders have long debated which is more important: making new disciples (mission) or strengthening the faith of disciples (maturity). Most pastors, if forced to choose, I believe fall on the side of maturity even though they believe mission (making new disciples) is also important. Read more…

What Does a Church Look Like?

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “What does a church look like?” It might seem like a silly question at first, but how we answer reveals a lot about our view of the church. For some the church looks like a building with a steeple or bell tower that is dedicated to the worship of God.  For others the church looks like fully developed community organization with programs that meet specific needs.  Still for others the church looks like a modern theater with a coffee shop, an awesome worship band, an excellent communicator on stage and great programs for their kids.  What all these responses have in common is that they primarily are concerned with the form of a church.
But what if church wasn’t defined by its form but rather its function? This is the fourth article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.

Walking Alongside

Is being a disciple of Jesus more about knowing the right information or living life in relationship with Jesus? I think we all know the answer to that question! Yet often times our classical approach to faith formation elevates the importance of learning information. What would happen if instead we elevated the role of guidance? This is the third article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
The third shift Im highlights in his book is to move from sage to guide. Recent scholarship in the field of adult education has confirmed that adults learn very differently than children. Im points out that 70% of what adults learn comes through doing while 20% is gained through interaction. Just 10% of adult learning can be attributed to classical education methods such as reading and listening. And why should it be any different when it comes to following Jesus?

Thinking Intentionally About Discipleship

What if the church started thinking and acting more intentionally about how we make disciples? This is the second article in a five-part series on increasing effectiveness in developing disciples by making small shifts in our behavior, based on Daniel Im’s book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry.
The second shift Im highlights in his book is to move from focusing on the output goals to the input goals of discipleship. It should come as no surprise that we are typically driven by outputs and outcomes. We always want to win the championship, to make the honor roll, or to lose 20 pounds. Similarly, in the church we desire to see people come to faith in Jesus and grow and mature in their faith as disciples. That is a Kingdom win.

Move in the Direction of Jesus

What if we could significantly increase our effectiveness at making disciples by making a few small shifts in our behavior? Over the next five months, I’d like to take the opportunity to unpack one at a time the five “micro shifts” that Daniel Im lifts up in his book No Silver Bullets: Five Small Shifts That Will Transform Your Ministry. I believe that we have much to learn from this book as we seek greater effectiveness as we make disciples not only among our members, but most importantly with those who’ve yet to believe in our communities.
The first shift is to move from focusing our spiritual maturation from destination to direction. Often times we think of spiritual maturity as a destination to be arrived at. We ask “What does a spiritually mature person look like?” Once we can check all the boxes then that means we are spiritually mature. Some large churches even organize their adult education courses around this idea of growing in faith to higher level classes. Others will measure spiritual maturity by counting how many progress from being worship attenders to small group participants to serving ministers to leaders. All of this points to thinking about discipleship as a destination.