While I didn't learn anything new at the conference, what I really enjoyed about it was hearing about all the creative and innovative ministries happening in the ELCA.
The area of most growth seems to be in ethnic ministries, Hispanic, Somali, Korean and other Asian backgrounds and cultures, seem to be on the forefront of church renewal. And many of these missions are being developed by laypeople. Not one collar in sight. They've been commissioned and sent to form churches from within their own ethnic communities. And are being educated and trained as they go. Which was why they were there.
I LOVE this model. And I don't think it should be restricted to ethnic ministries. I don't think there should be a disconnect between doing theology and doing mission. The two should be done together because they are Which is why I think the parish should be the primary place of theological education.
Theology is God talk. An exploration into what God has done/is doing in the world. So it makes sense that theology is done primarily where people are living out what they believe God is asking them to do.Theological reflection and missional activity go foot in sandal.
Of course, the ELCA also has more traditional mission starts. And if they still work, then God bless 'em.
But I have to question the door-knocking bit. One developer said he knocked on over 1200 doors and received 3 members from these efforts, “But it was three members we wouldn't have received any other way,” he said.
The question I have is, where did he get the other 900(!) members of his church? And would he have gotten more if he used the methods to recruit those members instead of the hundreds of hours he spent interrupting peoples' day? I dunno. I'm just asking.
We heard about emerging churches, multi-site churches, house churches, churches in coffee shops, and traditional churches. Some missions are extraordinarily effective. Others are struggling to get by.
But at least they're trying new things. They gave me a lot of hope for the church's future.