■ By Pastor Ronald Ritter / Contributed
The basic mission of the Christian church that has endured throughout the earth for over 2,000 years was given to Jesus’ disciples immediately prior to His ascension into heaven. It is recorded in the New Testament’s Book of Acts, Chapter 1 and verse 8. It says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ESV.
The Judeo-Christian roots of America testify that this mission was executed faithfully with excellent results from its colonial period through the Revolutionary War period and to a successful greater or lesser degree until the present post-Christian period of the 20th and 21st centuries. As a result, there has been a constant reduction in American church attendance over the past 100 years with an occasional and barely recognizable temporary upward spike during that time. In reality, the Christian church is growing in many countries throughout the earth, but no longer in America. In terms of church attendance, Jesus’ original mission statement is being fulfilled in countries like Ethiopia, not in America.
“Some years ago a study was commissioned to seek insights into one question: Why are some Lutheran congregations growing numerically while others are not? One consistent finding among congregations that were experiencing numerical growth was an intentional decision of leaders and members alike to be engaged in ministry beyond their own membership. WHAT they did, and HOW they went about doing it changed from place to place, but the WHY they did what they chose to do remained constant.” Here is the striking, but not-so startling conclusion:
“When the focus of a congregation is internal, the choices they make most often reflect their own needs – paying the bills, staffing the programs, and keeping the congregation going. But when the congregation is external (focused on the needs of others) their choices more often reflect a desire to serve others as they themselves have been served without wondering how they will benefit from the effort.”
The biblical admonition that encourages, directs and facilitates any Christian congregation from falling prey to the counter-productive results of a focus on self-service is recorded in St. Paul’s second letter to the Christian congregation in Corinth, Greece. He writes in chapter five and verse 15, “He died for all, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was brought back to life for them.” ESV
Come experience what the application of this biblical truth has meant for the nation of Ethiopia. Prince of Peace Lutheran Church at 701 N. Sanderson is hosting a Mission Festival gathering on Saturday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. The main speaker will be Dr. Haragewen Kinde now serving as a missionary in Ethiopia. Foods representing various countries around the world will be offered to our guests.
Pastor Ronald Ritter ministers at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church located at 701 N. Sanderson Ave., Hemet.