Consider the LCMS’s consistent boldness:
In 1856, a plea was brought to the synodical convention: “Now, we believe that we can [carry the joyous message of the Gospel beyond local congregations] by establishing the so-called office of evangelist; those who hold this office should not bind themselves to this or that congregation or congregations, but they shall make it their only task to plant the church…where it does not yet exist…” (Carl Meyer, Moving Frontiers, 204-205).
In 2013, the LCMS Task Force on Licensed Lay Deacon ministry echoed the historic words above when it recommended:
“District lay training programs are to be commended with thanksgiving for the many willing lay servants who seek further theological education and desire to serve in various capacities in their congregations. The task force recommends that a major emphasis in lay training programs be placed on the role of evangelist and the task of outreach in the increasingly diverse and challenging world of the U.S.” (Task force report, 24)
At the 2016 LCMS convention, resolution 13-01A reinforced this emphasis. Entitled “To Extol and Equip the Blessed Partnership between the Royal Priesthood and the Office of the Public Ministry,” this adopted resolution said in part:
- “That congregations and districts be encouraged to identify individuals for special training in and attention to evangelism and outreach;
- That congregations and districts be encouraged to facilitate lay training on both local and district levels and to establish new opportunities for lay people to make use of their gifts in evangelism and service to the church; and
- That districts be encouraged to provide assistance and support for lay training.” (Proceedings of the 66th Regular Convention, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, 235-236)
These strong and courageous mission declarations show how the LCMS treasures the “marriage” of the priesthood of all believers and the office of the public ministry. A mission movement embraces the work of both clergy and laypeople.
The Texas District has seen an influx of lay leaders engaged in mission during the past few years. As momentum for church planting and Gospel outreach has increased, God’s people have been reaching out to their communities with the love and Good News of Jesus. Serving as “lay-evangelists,” these Gospel servant-leaders have been:
- Organizing Vacation Bible Schools in neighborhoods from Dallas to San Antonio and in Del Rio and the Big Bend Region;
- Serving and witnessing to residents of apartment complexes;
- Establishing home Bible studies in neighborhoods;
- Serving homeless youth;
- Hosting ESL classes, becoming language partners, and connecting with international students and refugees;
- Spearheading disaster response efforts that help share the Gospel; and
- Starting neighborhood “coffee houses” to show Christ’s love to neighbors.
A number of laypeople have voiced their desire for further training in outreach. Hearing these requests and following the mandates from the LCMS, the Texas District has begun the development of a pilot lay-evangelist training course.
This emphasis is consistent with Lutheranism around the world. Lay movements, led by lay-evangelists in places like the Lutheran Church in Ethiopia, are multiplying Gospel outreach in families, communities and nations.
In Texas, the pilot lay-evangelist training coursework, “Evangelist 101,” consists of basic catechesis and lessons that help the lay-evangelist engage the community with the Gospel.
Our hope is to develop four training courses and, in partnership with congregations and networks, to deploy a growing number of servant-leaders who will forge relationships and reach communities with the saving message of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.
By Rev. Michael W. Newman
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area C