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Making Disciples

Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” is no mere suggestion, but rather comprises the primary mission of the Church, the one thing that nobody else can do if we don’t. And yet, seemingly, in most North American congregations this primary mission has been pushed to the periphery, replaced by other concerns and activities.

Lutheran CORE’s vision for returning the Great Commission to the center of the Church’s ministry, from inside our existing congregations to the farthest mission fields around the globe, includes the following:

1. Effective discipleship begins in the congregational setting.

2. Recent surveys suggest that our nation has become a mission field, in which a very substantial portion of the population does not know Christ. Lutheran CORE believes training mission developers and planting new congregations must be priorities for congregations, synods, and church bodies.

3. Modern communications technology and increased international travel have given the Church an unprecedented opportunity to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Lutheran CORE believes robust global missions initiatives, centered on gospel-preaching missionaries in the field, are essential for the Church’s life.

Since its beginning in 1988, the ELCA’s total baptized membership had declined 11.8% through 2008, from 5.25 million to 4.63 million. The population of the United States grew more than 20% in that period. The number of ELCA congregations also dropped by 6.5% in those years. New ELCA mission starts have declined by 50% and only 11% have become stable congregations.

Missionaries supported financially by the ELCA have declined by 62%, down from 471 in 1988 to 180 in 2008. ELCA global mission uses an accompaniment model, meaning that it intentionally shifted from sending evangelists to supporting already established churches. As a result, in 2009 the ELCA funded only 11 missionaries who have evangelism in their job description. The other ELCA missionaries do much needed ministry, and no doubt they witness to Jesus. However, there are still millions of people in the world who have never heard of Jesus and his Gospel. Evangelists are needed to tell them the Good News. Independent Lutheran mission agencies such as the World Mission Prayer League have been sending evangelists into mission fields dropped by the ELCA.