The centrality of the local congregation to evangelize the world—and specifically North America—is very important to understand for the mission of God to advance in the 21st century. God did not create institutions to do the work of the evangelist; instead, He called and gathered the faithful so that they may also be scattered to plant God in every community.

In his book “A Biblical Theology of Missions,” George W. Peters sums up the centrality of the local congregation in the mission movement to evangelize the world: “Wherever Paul went to preach the gospel he founded a church. Of course, it was not a church merely for a church’s sake. Paul evangelized to plant living cells that would become evangelizing centers in that community,”

This brings us to the mission of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, which is, “to strengthen congregations to reach the lost, disciple the saved and care for people – locally and globally.” The revitalization of our congregations is critical for our mission movement so that we may continue to plant churches that would be the “evangelizing centers in their communities.” In other words, we cannot have a mission movement on the shoulders of declining congregations.

From Petters’ statement, there are two important elements to note: the role of the apostolic leader and the raising of indigenous evangelists. The Gospel takes root when the local community believes it and spreads it to people around them. The local church lays hands on those who have the gift to take the Gospel to unevangelized communities, and the sent ones evangelize and leave “living cells” with evangelists leading them to continue the apostolic succession in that place.

My challenge to you, dear reader, is to envision our urban, suburban, and small-town, and rural congregations thinking of themselves as having the responsibility to propagate the Gospel to all men and women in their parishes. I want you to envision a congregation that is intentional about organizing living cells in every community, rather than having people drive 20, 30 and sometimes 40 to 50 miles to be at church functions. I want you also to envision that Christ, through the power of His Holy Spirit, raises up apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and prophets to advance His kingdom in every era, generation, and community until He returns.

After all, it is in our reformation DNA to think of the high calling we have as members of the priesthood of all believers. As Peter writes:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
1 Pet 2:9 (NIV)

We are to declare the praises of Him “who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light,” while laying hands on those that God would raise in our midst as evangelists to organize living cells in every community.

The Texas District in convention has adopted a vision for raising 500 evangelists and church planters to plant 500 Gospel lights in Texas. However, this vision cannot be a reality through institutional efforts. It must be a grassroots movement as is happening in the global South. So far, we have raised more than 100 evangelists, most of them certified and others in training, actively planting God in their communities. The light of Jesus is shining brightly in Texas. But more needs to be done to evangelize our state and nation!

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By Rev. Dr. Yohannes Mengsteab
Mission Strategist, Area B