The generally accepted Christian consensus provided this country's cultural foundation for many years, but more recently it has eroded under the weight of pluralism and an increasingly antagonistic attitude toward the Christian faith. This change is actually kind of exciting, because the spiritual climate of today is much like that in which the Church was born. Christ's call in Matthew 28:18-20 to go into all nations and make disciples is as all-encompassing for our congregations today as it was for the original disciples who heard his Great Commission with their own ears. For Community of Joy Lutheran Brethren Church of Eagan, Minnesota, this means that our Lord Jesus has called us to lives of active discipleship.
The role of the Adult Discipleship Team (formerly the Adult Education Board) of Community of Joy is to help our congregation think in terms of discipleship. This is to be the key emphasis in all that Community of Joy is and does. A major task confronting the congregation is to equip disciples of Jesus Christ to engage a culture that is no longer grounded in a biblical worldview and is therefore either apathetic or even hostile to the message of Christ. The question is, "Where do we begin?"
There's been a stirring in the hearts of our people in recent months to become more mission-focused in showing love to our neighbors. Our children's ministry and women's ministry have recently adopted Dakota Woodlands, a shelter in Eagan for homeless women and their children. Volunteers conduct our Kids Club for the children of Dakota Woodlands one Wednesday night each month and our Women of Joy prepare and serve lunch there once a month as well. In addition, we are partnering with the Eagan Resource Center, our local food shelf, and Amnion, our area crisis pregnancy center.
Even as we reach beyond the walls of our church in these ways, we want to be grounded in the Word of God and motivated by God's love for the world as expressed in the Gospel. Our Adult Sunday School curriculum has been reorganized to better equip our people to address the current culture from a biblical viewpoint. For example, we've just completed two Sundays on life issues, and we are currently studying World Religions. Last year we enlisted the services of Tentmakers which conducted a two-day course called "Bridge Builders," in which participants from Community of Joy and Gethsemane Lutheran Brethren in Rochester received training in how to converse with people we had never met before. This past fall we introduced our Sunday night Discipleship Training Course called S.A.L.T. (Simply a Life Transformed). This is in-depth training to ground participants in the Word with a view toward providing both content and confidence in sharing our faith with others in culturally relevant ways.
When Jesus sent his first disciples out to reach their world with the Gospel, he entrusted the most important task in the entire world to that group of humble men and women. He empowered them with his Holy Spirit. Beyond that he had no alternative plan, no "Plan B." The same word he gave to them resonates in our ears and pounds in our hearts today: "Go, make disciples of all the nations."
Mark Jarvinen serves as pastor of Community of Joy Lutheran Brethren Church, Eagan, MN.
Printed in the March/April 2010 issue of Faith & Fellowship Magazine