God has commanded His people in Matthew 28:19 to “go and make disciples of all nations.” From the earliest days of the AFLC, its people have recognized the need to be faithful to that command right here in the United States. One of our chief reasons for existence is to work to develop free, living Lutheran congregations where the Word is preached and taught so that people repent of their sins and look to Christ alone for salvation.
The people of the Annual Conference have authorized the work of Home Missions and have placed the program under the guidance of a Missions Corporation, which is made up of 100 members elected from AFLC congregations. The Corporation in turn elects a Home Missions Committee of seven members and entrusts them with the task of developing new local missions.
The Committee is responsible to give encouragement and direction to the Director, the staff, the mission pastors, and church members so that every Home Missions congregation conducts its program as a Lutheran congregation, reflecting the doctrine and pietistic position of the AFLC.
Our experience in Home Missions has convinced us that two things are necessary when building a free and living congregation in a new mission area: prayerfulness and positiveness.
When Christians gather, they bring with them their own agendas and opinions, the fruits of their experiences, and the traditions to which they are accustomed. These agendas and opinions may be thoughtful or unexamined, good or bad, but what is certain is that they will vary greatly from one person to another. People with different agendas strive to convince one another to think as they do. Arguments become heated. The end is conflict, bitterness, and division of the fellowship.
Churches that wish to do God’s work in God’s way must start with prayer, not with someone’s agenda or opinion. Each member must lay down his own preconceptions and be willing to be led by God, like Abraham, in a way he may not expect.
In Acts Chapter 2 we read of the explosive growth of the early Church. Acts 2:42 says, “And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Verse 47 says, “The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
This is the Biblical pattern. Our experience in church planting has shown us, again and again, that no other plan will receive God’s blessing. It is not optional for AFLC Home Missions congregations. If you are not willing, as a group, to prayerfully submit your own agendas and opinions to God’s will, spending time with Him regularly in group prayer, we cannot help you.
Many people join AFLC congregations out of a desire to get away from other church bodies that have strayed from biblical principles. We welcome these people, and are happy to provide a safe home where they can serve the Lord in spirit and in truth.
But such people have often endured years of conflict, disputes, harsh words and bitterness. They bring with them hurt feelings and suspicions, and often need time to heal in a “safe” spiritual environment.
Too often, such people do not take time (or are not given time) to “decompress”. They bring habits of controversy into their new churches. They keep busy with protests against things, letter writing campaigns against things, boycotts against things, and many similar activities, all “against” something.
We in the AFLC are against many things. We are against watering down God’s Word and Truth. We are against social developments that limit Christian freedom, or that devalue human life. We are against the glorification of habits and lifestyles that lead only to death and shame.
But we are not “about” the things we oppose. The Cross of Christ is a plus sign. We are aboutpreaching the gospel to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, setting free those who are down trodden and proclaiming the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18). There are times when we have to say “no” and fight against evil. But that is not Job One. One is the Good News of salvation through the Cross of Jesus Christ.
We ask each fellowship considering a request for Home Missions status to prayerfully consider these two questions:
1. “Are we people of prayer? Are we willing to commit ourselves to purposeful, regular prayer together before the throne of God, setting aside our own agendas and submitting to His will?”
2. “What are we for? Are we united with one another by more than our anger at some other church or pastor or organization? Are we motivated more by a desire to draw near to God, or by a desire to draw away from someone or something that has offended us?”
In addition to these two questions, look over an outline of core beliefs here. The principles outlined (from the book of Colossians) are essential for the beginning of a new Living Congregation.
An interested group should consider these questions and the core beliefs carefully. When the Home Missions Committee considers your application for Home Missions status you will be asked about them.
Selecting a Field
There’s no question that a tremendous need exists for evangelical Lutheran work in America today, but limited resources of money and personnel, and the responsibility to be good stewards, make it impossible for the Home Missions Committee to give the go-ahead to enter every open door.
Before an area can be designated as a Home Missions project, the Committee needs to see evidence that real potential exists for a self-supporting congregation to develop in a reasonable time. Inquiries may come to the Home Missions Committee from individuals or groups.
When the Committee is satisfied that a closer look is in order, they often test the wind by holding an informational meeting, inviting the public through paid advertisements in the local newspaper. A representative of the Home Missions Committee will be present to describe the work of the AFLC and to answer questions. This informational meeting will help assess interest within the community.
A second method used by the Home Missions Committee to identify potential mission sites in the door-to-door survey. These surveys are carried out by teams of Bible School students under the supervision of the Home Missions Director.
When the Home Missions Committee believes that an area has potential for, and interest in, a new congregation, they may vote to designate the area as a Home Missions project.
Once an area has been designated a Home Missions project the Committee and the Director cooperates with local residents to decide when and how to begin. A detailed outline of this process has been compiled in the AFLC Home Mission Handbook.