I have a deep personal connection to the family of congregations that we call the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. You might think the reason I feel this way is because I’ve been a pastor in the CLB for many years. That is true, but that really isn’t the source of my commitment.
My passion is driven by the hope that people can encounter God’s grace and truth as I did a number of years ago. It was in one of these churches in 1981 that I heard the full force of God’s law and the all-conquering gospel. It was through this framework that I met the all-consuming Jesus for the first time even though I had heard about him my entire life. I knew many of the stories about the man called the Son of God. I believed he loved me, but it didn’t really impact me. But the Everything Jesus I now know changed my life and set me free!
I began to understand how often I wasn’t living in the freedom God had for me. I didn’t understand how prone I was to wander from one prison into another. Although I’ve never been physically imprisoned a single day in my life, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been emotionally and spiritually imprisoned. I believe that not living free is an ever-present battle as a result of the broken state of our world and my very being.
When, in the Garden of Eden, we decided that we would like to run our lives instead of entrusting that to God, we lost our peace. We claimed to be able to handle what God alone can. Humanity claimed that we can do this “life thing” better without God. In fact, we have claimed in a million different ways that we are free and independent. In our humanistic passion for freedom from the God of Truth, we abandoned the only source of actual freedom.
God declares to me clearly in his Word all I need to live free:
- He is my Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer.
- He tells me that I have immense value simply because he declares me valuable.
- He tells me what is true and what isn’t.
- He reveals to me the things that are good and beautiful.
- He is my source of peace for today and hope for tomorrow.
These are just a few of God’s glorious truths, but I think you have enough to go on.
Then there is life without God, where we need to create our own freedom:
- My existence and being are simply by chance.
- I need to earn my value by proving I am better and more worthy than others.
- Truth is all relative; therefore I will always choose the path that is “best” for me.
- “Good” is defined as what gives me pleasure in the moment.
- Peace and hope are illusions.
- I must live for the moment and make a name for myself!
For me, these two perspectives boil down to living a God-defined life or a “Nick-defined” life. I have found that I have a very tough time defining life rightly. When I attempt to do God’s job, I fall far short every time. I end up imprisoned in pride or fear. Or I care too much what others think, or maybe I don’t care enough. I will end up feeling like I don’t measure up, or I will notice so many of the imperfections in others.
At this stage in my life, it is very apparent to me that it is only in claiming my unearned position as a Child of God that I find myself actually living free. Jesus said, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32,36).
Even in our tendency to rebel against God’s rule, he is relentless in his pursuit to bring us his freedom. God’s love for us is tenacious and he wants our churches to enjoy it and our lives to show it. Jesus came to “set the captives free.” That glorious declaration is for us!
My personal story is a simple picture of the North American mission for us individually, congregationally and denominationally. We are united in our calling to make disciples that are enjoying God’s freedom and using all that we are to bring others into the family of God.
Ryan Nilsen and I will be working toward increasing congregational vitality and planting new churches. We have been called to serve, lead, coordinate and facilitate the CLB congregations in North America in our continued movement toward being disciple makers where God has placed us.
This means that we will encourage our congregations to become more intentional in their call to make disciples. In the Great Commission, Jesus has invited and commanded us to be about his business. This is why he came, and our God wants us to follow Jesus down this path. North America is filled with people imprisoned like I was in 1981.
Our culture today is often described as post-Christian. This is not a time for us to be fearful. It is a time to be reminded that we are people of faith and that our faith is in the God who knocks down walls, brings life out of death and sets the captives free. He has done this in me. Has he done it in you? If he has, the calling is clear that he is on the move and he wants us involved in making disciples.
North American Mission is the Church of the Lutheran Brethren in Canada and the United States simply being who God made us to be. It is living out our unique gifts where God has placed us. It is also going to the new places where Jesus has gone ahead and now calls to us, “Follow me!”
In a nutshell, North American Mission has been restructured to focus our talents, stories, passions, resources and congregations to be a Disciple-Making Movement. God has made you to be a part of this. God has prepared us to be his people for this time and this place. Isn’t that exciting?
Jesus is asking for nothing less than all of you. But here is the thing… When we respond with our lives, we will discover we have finally found the life we have always been looking for!
We are the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and we are called uniquely to unite in making disciples in North America.
Rev. Nick Mundis is Director of North American Mission for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.