Defining Emerging Contexts of Ministry

24 08 2012

To being exploring how the ministry of DCE’s in the LC-MS might be re-imagined, it would be good to define terms.  In my prior post I commented on something called “emerging contexts.”  What might those be?   How might an emerging context be defined or distinguished in order to assess appropriate response(s). What I mean when using the term “emerging context” is those contexts of ministry in a state of substantive to radical change due to external pressures.  Just as the church through the centuries has had to wrestle with the changing nature of ministry (for example the impact on the legalization of Christianity by Rome and its eventual place as the official religious expression of a formerly polytheistic culture).  What I am hoping to wrestle with, and through my posting from this process engage you in the wrestling as well, is the nature of how we communicate the faith as DCE’s in 21st century America and the world, taking into account how culture shapes those we have been called to reach with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what factors impact the contexts in which we find ourselves serving?  

  1. From a cultural stand point, it would be foolish not to acknowledge the post-Christian nature of our culture.  Just as “Christendom” was established by the full (near full anyway) adoption of Christianity as the cultural currency of the Roman Empire by Constantine impacted the missional response of 4th Century Christians, so too does the disintegration of Christendom impact 21st Century Christians.  Thus we will explore what it means to communicate the faith to those who have limited to no personal context with Christianity and how that might free DCE ministry to create new structures for ministry.  We will also discuss how culture shapes those within the church in their understanding of what our faith is all about.
  2. We are also as members of the LC-MS part of a church body in a multi-decade demographic decline. Growth areas for the LC-MS, especially in districts like the Pacific Southwest, are in immigrant communities.  Thus we will explore how DCE ministry might intentionally connect with growing areas of the church while developing strategies and ministry models to revive declining congregations.   
  3. The economic situation of our country and the world in general as well as that of our churches in particular has also impacted the nature of ministry.  Thus we will discuss creative strategies to continue to extend and grow ministry while being responsible stewards for the financial and personnel resources in our church body. 
  4. The LC-MS continues to have lingering ecclesiastical issues as it relates to defining ministry and the office(s) there in.  Thus we will discuss the history of church ministry and the roles/offices that we might draw out from our history and the history of other traditions in order to better chart a course for future ministry. 

There is likely many more context of emergence that you have encountered in your own ministry or participation in the church. That is why my hope is that this will be a conversation.  Comment below to suggest any holes you see in my assessment above that you believe would be fruitful to consider. 

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2 responses

24 08 2012
Steve

1) our culture is by no means uniformly post-Christian, though that may well be the case in bi-coastal large urban areas. I think we should be aware of the lack of homogeneity across the country in this matter, as well as with regards to other cultural matters.

4) I strongly suspect that we DCEs will not be allowed to propose ecclesiological reorganization of the LC-MS.

I think we need to consider what we are doing to communicate the Law and Gospel accurately to our youth, whether we are portraying Christianity as objectively true, or just a matter of what we Saxon immigrants in our little sub-cultural enclaves hold as social glue (a very post-modern perspective, but not a Christian one).

How can we prepare our youth (discipleship) to believe with enough understanding to withstand the social and educational pressures of college to turn them away from Christ and faithfulness to Him.

How can we do our part for God to move them from lukewarmness to an earnest personal “daily contrition, faith and obedience” – SC?

24 08 2012
dcedave

Steve,
First thanks for your comments.

Second, as one whose ministry has been on the coast dealing with a post-Christian culture has been a reality of sorts for sometime. Also since much of the pop culture is shaped by folks in bi-coastal large urban areas its impact should be considered. Naturally the impact is far deeper in communities in the district I serve than many others in the LC-MS. So naturally I will wrestle further with them than might seem unnecessary elsewhere.

So far as DCE’s not being allowed to propose ecclesiological reorganization of the LC-MS, you are right we sit on the outside of that conversation. That does not mean that we ought not take up the challenge to consider the implications of our ecclesiology and its impact on our ministry. The end result man require more of an adjustment on our part in how we engage in ministry, but I do not accept the idea that we are entirely with out ability to engage in discussion and perhaps in some small way influence the shape of the synod we serve.

Thank you for bring our application of Law and Gospel to this discussion as well as discipleship. They will be featured as things progress.

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