When I was a younger man, eager to begin my new life as a pastor in the growing Reign of God’s love, I knew three things to be true:
The first was that the Christendom of our past -with all its clout, all its power –was coming to an end. We can longer speak from a lofty and privileged vantage point. The mission field does not care about our Lutheran pedigrees nor the size of our buildings.
The second was that the Body of Christ has nothing to fear from this death. For Jesus’ disciples know that the source of Gospel power is not in the strength of an institution. Right? The source of Gospel power is in what God has done for us at the cross of Jesus, whose death and resurrection breathes new life into me and you and everyone who are lost in our trespasses and sins until God acts to save us.
As an old Missouri Synod kid, I think my generation was truly the last to assume parochial school, folk choir, and 4 years of daily catechetical training in preparation for confirmation was just what you did as a kid. But we can no longer assume that all babies will find their way to the baptismal fount and adults will find a way to plug into a bible study.
And that brings me to the third thing. Our mission is not in glorifying our past. Neither is it in forgetting the treasure God has given us. If our salvation is found at the foot of the cross, our mission as the risen Christ’s disciples must be there too. In the messiness. With the broken. Among the forgotten. Our mission to the world is uniquely a Gospel one. To speak life to death. The treasure that only the Church can bring – albeit in earthen vessels- is the entire forgiveness of our sins and new life out of death because of what God has done for us in Jesus.
These three things deeply impacted the choices I made. I have been convicted by the Apostle Paul’s bi-vocational model of building a business to pay life’s bills while doing ministry at the crossroads of the public sphere. This model has afforded me the privilege as a pastor in this Synod to speak life to the poor, proclaim freedom to felons, and open the eyes of the churches God has called me to pastor to the mission fields around them. This model also equipped me with some atypical entrepreneurial and innovation skills for a pastor, skills to see things in a new way, skills to collaborate and mediate conflict, skills to frame and cast a compelling and workable vision. Skills to work a plan and develop resources. Skills God has been using in me to bring new life to God’s mission outpost in North Minneapolis and create the vision of the churches in Minneapolis Area Synod working together for growth and life. And it’s working!
And then…. the Churches of our Synod asked four of us to discern with them as bishop candidates to what God is calling us into. I have, to date, met and talked to 47 pastors and many more lay folk in our Synod to discern prayerfully and humbly.
What have I learned? We yearn for the moment when our imaginations will be caught up. Caught up with how the life-giving power of the Gospel of Jesus will meet the spiritual crisis of our age. Caught up with how we will be released from our own synodical bondage to a Christendom that has served its purpose. Caught up in how we will again speak life to the poor, proclaim freedom to the imprisoned. Caught up in how our eyes are again opened to the mission fields all around us. And grow!
I did not seek out this candidacy to become the next bishop. But this process has sharpened my conviction that now is the time to be caught up in exactly how the life-giving power of the Gospel of Jesus will meet the spiritual crisis of our age in our Synod. I want you all to understand that if I am called to this office by the Holy Spirit and this assembly, I will take the model I have been using successfully and a few other models and scale it up so that all of our churches begin working to grow. I have developed much over these past weeks on this website so that we all can see how vision would work.
This is who I am. This is what I will do if elected. I am content as a shepherd in the mission field into which God has put me. But if you hear the Spirit calling me to this office, I will answer.
No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor heart imagined what God has prepared for those who love God. — Paul to the Church in Corinth