Thy Kingdom Come…
We pray it every Sunday, but I wonder what we’re thinking about as we do so. Luther, in his Small Catechism, states that “the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayers, but we pray in this petition that it may come among us also.” In Luther’s Large Catechism, he expands our Biblical understanding by writing, “This we ask (Thy kingdom Come), both in order that we may have accepted and may remain faithful and grow daily in it and in order that it (God’s kingdom) may gain recognition and followers among other people and advance with power throughout the world. So we pray that, led by the Holy Spirit, many may come into the kingdom of grace and become partakers of salvation, so that we may all remain together eternally in His kingdom which has now made its appearance among us” (Tappert, p. 427).
The bottom line for Luther was that, as we pray “Thy kingdom come,” we are asking God to reign with grace and power in our lives and in the life of His Church; AND that His kingdom would also come through us, His Church, so that others would be brought into His kingdom through our Holy Spirit-empowered witness.
However, many congregations and pastors sense that they simply do not have the necessary assets (volunteers, finances, time, and emotional/spiritual energy) to address the call of God to serve and witness the love of God in Jesus to their community. Some ministries are barely able to keep the doors open and some can no longer afford a full-time pastor. While God’s kingdom is indeed wherever his Word and Sacraments are present, there is great concern about being an effective conduit of God’s love to those who are yet outside His kingdom of grace.
A Word from God
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 NIV).
If God’s coming kingdom is the “main thing,” and if it is something that we pray for every week, then what would keep congregations and leaders (both lay and clergy) from working together? I’ve got a hunch that it has something to do with one of two things: Lack of knowledge or pride. We have either never considered working together, or we’ve considered it and have dismissed it because we can’t be in control of it, or we may lose our “identity.”
If the issue is lack of knowledge, consider yourself informed, since you’ve read this far. For more details, contact the Michigan District and your CMMF can assist you.
If the issue is pride, or lack of humility, then you may need to reconsider your position. Let me be blunt. Pastors will come and go. Ministry programs will come and go. Congregations will come and go. Only the CHURCH, that is, God’s kingdom brought about by the Holy Spirit through His powerful Word and Sacraments, will prevail against the gates of hell (Matthew 16:18). Look it up! Your congregation’s name is not in the text of Scripture from Jesus’ lips. And the congregation does NOT exist to pay the pastors’ salary. What’s more, your congregation (its “identity” and its past) does not need to survive. What IS important is that God’s kingdom comes among us and through us to our communities where God has planted us, His “kingdom-people.” That, ALONE, is to be our legacy!
What might a partnership among congregations look like? That can vary from context to context. Some merge and become a whole new entity, like Lamb of God, Flint and Faith, Detroit (see story in the upcoming September 2018 Michigan In Touch). Others may follow the “adoption” model of merger where a larger congregation receives into membership those people from a smaller sister, and restart with a missional community at the former site in order to reach the community. Others enter into a dual parish arrangement and share the cost of their pastor or other church workers, like Salem National, Westland and Grace, Canton recently did. Still others may choose to become a “preaching site” in an association of congregations in a geographic area served by a team of pastors and church workers called to one “cathedral” congregation.
- Pray over Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 and ask the Lord of the Church what He may be putting on your heart and upon your congregation. You may be part of a larger ministry that could come alongside a smaller sister to help with volunteers or other services, or you may be part of a smaller congregation that needs some help. Both positions demand humility in order to accomplish what God wants to do. Remember: The “third strand” is Christ himself!
- Attend with a team of two or three from your congregation a special workshop on congregational partnerships scheduled for September 22, 2018, at Our Savior, Lansing. Pastor Dennis Heiden from Hosanna Lutheran Church, Mankato, Minn. and his team will present Exploring Congregational Partnerships in Neighboring Communities: From Boogey Man to Big Brother. Come to listen. Come to explore the possibility. Come to discern God’s purposes as we pray, “Thy Kingdom Come!”
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