A week ago on Monday evening I was privileged to meet with about fifty of Central's leaders and then with a smaller group of our pastorate leaders. I came away from that evening once again rejoicing in what I get to be a part of here at Central!
God is doing a very cool thing here. I'm going to talk mostly about pastorates in this post, though the work God's Spirit is doing also includes D4D groups and many other elements. But pastorates is the one that's closest to my heart.
Many of you who read this blog are familiar with pastorates -- they are mid-sized, home-based groups of believers who meet together for worship, prayer, fellowship, and Bible teaching / study. They are led by people trained through Central Lutheran as shepherds and teachers for these groups. Those individual leaders then spread the leadership roles out within their group so multiple individuals are involved in worship leadership, caring for and teaching children, providing refreshments, leading prayer, serving communion, and teaching the Bible. As these groups meet together, individuals grow in their own spiritual maturity and sense of call, and the group grows together in significant relationships.
Another key dynamic to these pastorates is that together, the pastorate members seek to reach out and draw new people into the life of the pastorate. This keeps a new energy and new vitality present within the group. Also, the pastorate seeks to live beyond itself, to reach out into the world with the love of Jesus in some kind of mission. Some pastorates are sponsoring Tanzanian orphans. Others are sponsoring needy families at Christmas. Still others are working to provide a solution to the issue of homelessness in the Elk River community.
There are many benefits to these pastorate groups at Central. Currently we have about 200 people involved in one way or another in these pastorates, and that kind of fellowship centered in God's word and pushing out into the world in mission is GOING to have an impact! We see these groups providing a quality and quantity of pastoral care that is far more than can be offered by professional pastors. It's amazing to hear stories of what goes on in these groups!
But by far the biggest reason to push in this direction, to work toward the goal of pastorates as an integral part of Central's ministry, is because the New Testament assumes -- over and over and over again -- that people will be gathering in each other's homes, sharing each other's lives, having communion not as an antiseptic "meal" in front of an auditorium-style sanctuary but as a meal shared with other believers, working together to share the love of Jesus in the world, caring for each other, building each other up, and delving into God's word together. This idea is so fundamental to the entire New Testament.
How did we ever get to a place where we thought being the church meant meeting for 60 minutes a week in a building dedicated to religion, watching while the professionals (whom we pay) lead us through a worship service that tends to bore us (be honest) and giving a few dollars each week so someone else can take the gospel to those who haven't heard?