Zion Lutheran Church of Dallas is an example of a congregation that has decided to stay put in the city. When many congregations have moved, either through dislocation of their physical addresses or member residences, Zion has decided to stay and expand. It is a regional congregation with a local focus. The celebration of her ministries on Sunday, January 8, was a demonstration of the commitment to stay and be counted.
Zion started as a congregation of German immigrants in the 19th century. The old German Bible displayed in the narthex is a vivid reminder of its roots. However, over the years, the congregation has reached out to different European nationalities, and now in the 20th and 21st centuries includes people from Africa, Asia and Latin America. It is a testimony to how a congregation that reforms and transforms itself to reach to every new generation has stayed strong for almost a century and half, and it continues to go strong.
My observation of the congregation over the years is that there are three things that she does well:
- Zion has had a strong music ministry over the years. This strong music ministry is marked by excellence in its corporate worship services. Classical in style, worship is done well and centered on the Gospel.
- Christian education for her young. The school has nurtured her children and has been used as an outreach to the community. However, the majority of the students used to be children of members; now 75 percent of them are from the community.
- A very strong pastoral care – Rev. Dr. Preece, senior pastor of Zion, is not only a good teacher, preacher, administrator, and worship leader, he is also an effective pastor who cares deeply for people.
This confirms my research findings on the factors that make an LCMS urban congregation effective: the role of the pastor, the role of the laity and the role of the community. The validity of these three factors was in full display on Sunday, January 8, at Zion Lutheran Church on Lovers Lane, Dallas, Texas:
- The congregation has opened her heart to the people in the community. The unity in diversity of these ministries was celebrated in a joint worship service followed by a lunch provided by the Eritreans and Ethiopians. It was quite a celebration.
- The community is now recognizing Zion as a place of welcome and care. It was heartwarming to see that a family in need would walk in on Sunday morning and ask for help, and the pastor and people opened their heart and their treasures to help! Oh, how wonderful it is when members of a community trust a congregation to be vulnerable in that way!
- Pastoral leadership – the pastor loves and cares for his people, loves and cares for the community and passionately makes Christ known to all! The love of God was and is fully in display on Lovers Lane!
By: Rev. Yohannes Mengsteab
Mission & Ministry Facilitator, Area B