You may be wondering how pastors spend their time in the Minnesota South District when they’re not immersed in all the duties of pastoral ministry. Two initiatives in our district involving pastors in a big way are the Koinonia Project and visitation ministry. Both of these ministries are encouraged by the leadership of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS).
The Koinonia Project has pastors talking with each other in small groups about teachings and practices which may divide them. Our district is the only district in the LCMS to go district-wide with the Koinonia Project. A Koinonia group is usually comprised of five pastors plus a trained facilitator. When pastors meet in their Koinonia groups, they talk about highs and lows in their ministry, pray for one another, and then take on an issue for conversation. Issues range from admission to Holy Communion to the role of women in the church to the relationship between pastors and lay people. Each pastor takes his stand on the issue. Then together they identify where they agree, what they reject together, where they disagree, and how they can move toward greater oneness in teaching and practice.
Our expression of oneness in the church can take three forms. Unity is the oneness we have with every Christian who believes in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. Concord is our oneness in teaching and practice, a common confession that shows itself in how we do church. Harmony is the oneness we express in showing love and respect toward one another as brothers and sisters in Christ, despite our differences. As Luther put it in a sermon on John 15, “Where there is no love, there doctrine cannot remain pure” (LW 24, 244). The Koinonia Project puts all three of these expressions of oneness to work. Incidentally, the Council of Presidents, comprised of Synod’s president, vice presidents, and 35 district presidents, is also participating in the Koinonia Project. I am hopeful that enhanced concord and practice will richly bless our mission of making new disciples of Jesus Christ.
A second initiative is visitation ministry at all levels. Pastors make visits to the homes of their members. Circuit visitors (formerly known as circuit counselors) visit the pastors, workers, and lay leaders of their circuit. We have 24 circuits in our districts. All of our circuit visitors have been challenged to make these visits, getting a snapshot of the strengths and challenges of their congregations and workers.
At another level our district staff will visit all 24 circuits of the district this triennium. These visits have us listening to pastors, church workers and lay leaders talk about the highs and lows of their life together. They find out what’s going on in neighboring LCMS churches. Along the way, we in the district get a clearer picture of the needs out in the field and how we can better serve our churches and workers.
At still another level of visitation ministry, President Matt Harrison of the LCMS visited our district last September, meeting with our Board of Directors, circuit visitors, staff, and district president. He or his representative will visit all 35 districts.
Ministry is always carried out on the dynamic stage of relationships. Both the Koinonia Project and visitation ministry provide ways to make our relationships stronger, full of love, trust, and hope. Please pray that God will bless these initiatives, and know how much I appreciate your pastor’s willingness to look outside your church to build relationships with those who share his confession.