February is a unique month with Ash Wednesday falling on Valentine’s Day. The beginning of the Lenten season and Valentine’s Day will find ways of challenging each other and complimenting each other. Of course, it is Jesus who is our focus of love, service and commitment.
There’s a children’s Valentine song that links the two together. The words are:
“Jesus is my true Valentine,
His heart was pierced for me.
I cannot tell why He loved me so well,
But He proved it on Calvary.”
Yes, Jesus is the One who was sent to love, serve, die and rise so that we would have no doubt about God’s forgiveness and love for us. It is the message we are to share with each other and with those who do not have this knowledge and hope.
A friend who lives in another state made the statement, “The Texas District is a well-oiled mission planting machine.” The Texas District has led the Synod in planting new congregations, as it should with the population growth happening throughout Texas, but I don’t know if I would say we are “a well-oiled mission planting machine.” This would mean, to me, to be truly “well-oiled” the district would have to in membership at the same rate of Texas’ population growth. It would also seem to mean that this “machine” is running so well that nothing ever breaks down. This is just not what happens. The district does have new congregations that fail or can’t sustain a full-time worker.
Between 2004 and 2017, the Texas District helped congregations, mission networks and other groups plant 123 new congregations where the Word was preached and the Sacraments were given on a regular basis. However, everything did not go as planned with some of the starts. Of the 123 new congregations, 33 are no longer in existence (12 Anglo; 21 Non-Anglo). Some would say that only having 33 close is a huge success. On the other hand, one might say that the district should have been more aggressive and taken more risks so that there would have been more congregations started. A larger denomination expects 50 percent of their starts to close, so it plants many.
The district also had seven of the 123 new congregations merge with another new or established congregation. Depending on the situation, this might be a positive thing as more people were touched by the Gospel. Another situation could be that the new start just could not go it alone, so merging was the logical thing to do. Of those seven congregations, four were Anglo and three were Non Anglo.
There were 14 satellite ministries started among the 123 and all but three are still in existence. A satellite ministry is an additional worshiping community of an existing congregation, but at a different location. The satellite ministry operates under the jurisdiction of the mother congregation. One of the 14 is a multi-cultural ministry that is still in existence.
I continue to thank our loving Father, who sent His Son to redeem us, for allowing us to participate in mission planting. It is His will that all come to know His Son and the salvation that comes as a free gift through Him. Our Father has blessed the Texas District and will continue to bless it as congregations seek ways to reach more people with this Gospel message. Planting new congregations is one way of reaching more people.
By Rev. Ken Hennings
President, Texas District