A blessed 2018 to each of you! It is my prayer that you would grow stronger in your walk of faith and in your ability to share Gods’ grace with others.
The Texas District’s mission statement is, “To strengthen congregations to reach the lost, disciple the saved, and to care for people, locally and globally.” How is the district doing in accomplishing its mission?
The Ablaze! emphasis launched by The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 2004 set a goal for Synod to attempt to start 2,000 new ministries by the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. I do not know the number of new ministries started in Synod during this time, but I do have the numbers for the Texas District.
Back in 2004, the district informed Synod that we would attempt to start, by God’s leading and blessings, 200 new Word and Sacrament ministries. The numbers I share with you are new congregations doing worship along with Sacraments on a regular basis.
Many times since the district set this goal, people have asked me, because I was serving as mission executive in 2004, whether the 200 number was achievable. The district was averaging approximately five new Word and Sacrament ministries per year in the years leading up to 2004. We could have set the goal for 100 and tried harder in what we were already doing to reach the 100 number.
Setting the goal at 200 meant that we would have to learn new ways of starting new missions. Over the Ablaze! years, I have thanked God many times for leading the district to select the number 200. Blessings upon blessings have been poured out on the district that I believe wouldn’t have come without setting the goal at 200 and learning new things and experiencing surprises along the way.
God blessed us from 2004 through the Reformation anniversary in 2017 to have planted 123 Word and Sacrament ministries. We did not make 200, but I will share with you what happened beyond the 123.
The Board of Mission Administration (BMA) decided in early 2005 that it would assist congregations in planting new Word and Sacrament ministries, and that if at all possible, the BMA would not start any by itself. So, the 123 new ministries were all started by congregations and mission networks. The 123 number is larger, on average, than what the BMA’s average was before 2004. These 123 new starts represent seven years where the district saw 10 or more new starts. The highest year was in 2010, when there were 17 new starts. That’s truly amazing!
In future articles I want to go deeper into the 123 new starts. How many closed? How many were non-Anglo? How many were satellite starts of congregations? How many merged with another ministry. And along the way, I will be sharing blessings. For now, as we begin 2018, join me in thanking God for mission blessings over the years and for a renewed mission focus for the future.
To God be the glory!
Rev. Ken Hennings
President, Texas District