Following Jesus' Command and Invitation: Go, Make Disciples, and Baptize EVERYWHERE!!!!

It was with a sense of joy and admiration that I listened to the congregation grab hold of the Congregation's Vision for Outreach and Growth at last Sunday's Annual Meeting. In that meeting a call was issued to Pastor Anna-Kari Johnson to serve as our half-time Outreach Pastor, effective 2/1/11 - affirming the work of the Council, the adoption of the Outreach Plan last November, and giving us a clear signal that we as a congregation are ready to move into a new phase of being the church here. That is so exciting!

We have been undergoing an organizational culture change here at Trinity for a few years now. As our school declines in enrollment (from 220 at one point, to now 68 students), we have to realize that we can no longer be dependent on the normal influx of families and children to filter in to our congregation. This is not at all said to in any way de-emphasize the school ministry. It is simply a statement of fact - the enrollment numbers have changed so drastically that we have to think differently about our mission and ministry-the drastic down-turn in the economy has affected Lutheran and other church-based schools in drastic ways throughout the country, and we are no exception.

What is this change? It goes to our very DNA as a congregation. Who are we? Why are we here? How Shall we serve God? The answer is clear: We are to be defined by our connection to Christ and his call to Go, Make Disciples, and  Baptize EVERYWHERE, reminding people of and embodying the presence of Christ (Matthew 28:16-20).  This is the core of who we are called to be as a church - NOTHING is more important than that. Everything we do needs to be tied to that.

This growing realization of the need for a culture shift has challenged us in some important ways, and caused us to ask some important questions. How shall we then reach out to the community? What will our part be in inviting people to come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior? How shall the love, compassion, mercy and grace of God be shared with all around us?

I have been working with the leaders of Trinity on this for several years, even as we have been trying to rebuild the school. We looked for a time for an Outreach Coordinator, we interviewed candidates to be an associate pastor, we interviewed experts, we prayed, we hoped, and we dreamed.

This past Sunday's meeting marks the realization of these hopes, the beginning of that new path. To be able to have a qualified and experienced person on staff SOLEY DEDICATED to Outreach ministry, one who has background and training in reworking the mission of a congregation, and one who has experience and training in reaching out to our community through a new Latino ministry, who is invited to work in a congregation that is READY FOR OUTREACH AND GROWTH - is absolutely wonderful. This is going to be an amazing year on many levels!

I wanted to ask that you join me in lifting Pastor Anna-Kari up in prayer - not just to encourage her in ministry. Several months ago she made us aware that she had a commitment in El Salvador this week. A church that she had helped found and fund is being dedicated this week, and she and her youngest son Xavier left on the red-eye for El Salvador to be a part of that dedication. Please keep them in prayer - for joy in the celebration of that ministry, for safety in her travels, and for refreshment of heart and mind.

Serving you with joy and amazement!

Pastor Larry

(A personal note: please know that, just as I promised when I first arrived here 16 years ago, I am available ALWAYS when you need me - no limits at all!!!! It is an honor and privilege to serve as your Shepherd.)