It all started over a year ago when one of the elders from Immanuel Lutheran Brethren Church in Pasadena, California asked me about what the restart of a congregation meant.
He was aware that the Church of the Lutheran Brethren had done a few “restarts” over the last few years. He was curious because his congregation had been in decline and he, along with others, realized that something had to be done if their congregation was going to survive. So I described what a restart entailed – what had been done elsewhere, what had been learned, and what could be done together with Immanuel. I didn’t “pull any punches.” I outlined that there were a few essential elements such as a restart pastor, a ministry team to work with the pastor, a transition leadership team, and a workable financial plan. I explained that these were all “deal breakers” – if any one of them couldn’t be established, the whole process would stop. I also explained that the likelihood of all of these elements coming together was slim and that if this were to happen, it wouldn’t be by human effort but only by God’s grace and his doing.
I suspected that would be the end of that conversation, but I was wrong. To my surprise, but also to my delight, the leadership of Immanuel wanted to hear more and indicated an interest and willingness to engage in the process. So, to telescope the last year, the congregation voted to embark on the process, adopted a memorandum of understanding, and affirmed the transition leadership team that has now begun meeting and planning. This brings us to the present time.
The process is at a point where the information about this restart effort needs to be spread far and wide so that the Lord can begin raising up the people that he is calling to be a part of this God-driven endeavor. The bar is incredibly high for both the restart pastor and the ministry team members. We’re asking the restart pastor to move to Pasadena in order to engage the people in the area around the church in building a new congregation – with no guarantee of the effort surviving long-term. Clearly, this isn’t a call to bask in the sun of southern California. Anyone embarking on this road will have to have an unmistakable call from the Lord.
In terms of the ministry team members, we’re asking individuals or families to move to Pasadena, find jobs, and secure housing in the neighborhood of the church, all for the purpose of actively engaging in restarting a church. Pretty crazy, huh?
As crazy as it may seem, we believe that God will be (or already is) calling people to do exactly this – young adults, young families, middle-aged couples, retired seniors, whoever. We are trusting that God is putting this team of people together to restart a church in an urban environment to reach people who don’t know him – to bring glory to himself!
So, how about you? Is the Lord stirring a desire in you to follow his call to a huge city that may be a great distance away from you now? Is he calling you to embark on a “crazy” adventure? If this restart effort happens, it will be a testimony to God’s grace. He alone will get the glory because this can only happen if he brings it about.
Is he calling you to be a part of this God-driven endeavor, this great adventure? If he is, we need to hear from you! And for the rest of you, we need your prayers that this effort may move forward by his grace.
If God is calling you to be a member of the ministry team, give me a call! If you’re a pastor, and God is calling you to lead this effort, give me a call – let’s see what God is going to do!
Rev. Stan Olsen is Regional Pastor for the CLB Pacific Region.
Contact: (218) 731-0042