Text: Acts 1:1-11, John 17:11-19
Draft of Homily
On the Sunday we celebrated Ascension Day (actual Ascension Day was Thursday) we had a mission Sunday. This seems fitting because the last words of Jesus at His Ascension were that we, his disciples, would be His witnesses. We would also be clothed with power from on high, the promise of the Holy Spirit fulfilled 10 short days later on Pentecost. For this reason we invited Scarlett Aeckerle, the executive director of LINC-Rochester which is the local Lutheran mission society for the city of Rochester, to come speak. So, my little homily served a couple of purposes. The first was a mission charge. Don’t fall in the ditch of being mute or the opposite ditch of distorting the witness of the sake of “effectiveness”. The power is the Spirit’s. We get to take part. The second was to introduce Scarlett. So, you’ll hear me and then Scarlett.
Scarlett brought visuals, so at the end she moves away from the mike. I’ve amplified it in line with the rest and think it sounds ok, but if the background sounds a little louder, that is why.
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First Things publishes an article about the Texas district of the LC-MS mission strategy. That strategy is more or less incubated and first tested in LINC-Houston which I went to observe. That is the strategy that we’ve imported and are using with LINC-Rochester. Necessity is the mother of invention.
LINC-Rochester (yes, its still moving) has three principles:
1. Community Involvement – this is care for the community we are seeking to evangelize in a simple way, what are the felt needs and can we address them.
2. Indigenous Leadership – the goal is to find, teach and place leaders from the community itself, the faster the better
3. Church multiplication – the goal is not just to plant a church but to plant multiple churches and to create churches that have planting in their DNA
Those principles are part of LINC-Houston that I witnessed and they don’t seem too far off from the apostolic church observed in Acts and Paul’s letters. The early church was renowned for taking care of the “widows & orphans”. The first fight in the church was over the distribution to the widows (Acts 6:1). Paul sends Titus around to appoint elders in each church (Titus 1:5) and just the amazing fact of the early church talks about church multiplication. That was the mission they were involved in. The first place they were called Christians, Antioch, set aside Paul and Barnabas to plant more (Acts 13:1-3). This is solid biblical ground.
I hope I’m not stepping too far out in saying that the group meeting for LINC is looking to encourage congregations to behave in such a manner themselves. It is an embarrassment that there is not an LC-MS congregation in the City of Rochester proper. Even stepping away from the denominational definition it is something of an embarrassment that a group of congregations around the city supposedly working together have only a marginal mission in the city (important but in the grand scheme marginal, it effectively does one of the three principles of LINC).
In putting together an organization and a budget the question ultimately is what level of support can be generated for such a mission? This is what I proposed.
In the Rochester circuits the last reported average attendance was just over 2800 people on any given week. (That is an attendance number and not a membership number which would be roughly 3-4x the attendance). The total combined budgets of those congregations is just under $5 Million per year. My initial proposals for funding the mission in Rochester were to aim for $10 per individual attendee. Over 5 years as hopefully we proved effective, I hoped to grow that to $25 per attendee. I also put into the budget the thought that congregations would start (in 2013) appropriating 0.5% of their budget to local mission. Again hopefully proving success along the way growing that congregational support for local mission to 2% of budget. Two separate streams. Individuals buying into the mission of the church in Samaria/Judea and Congregations doing the same.
Here is the question: do those assumptions seem pie in the sky? If you were trying to fund local mission work where would you start for funding assumptions? Do you agree or disagree that we should first look at ourselves (as opposed to an outside grant source)? This is a sincere bleg.