Those who work closest in the area of ethnic mission efforts, understand how difficult it is to begin an ethnic church that becomes self-supportive in a reasonable amount of time. I think it is time to move into A New Era. One in which, this reality is reality no more. I would encourage you to consider the work at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in inner city St. Paul, MN as one effort towards this. The plan includes reaching out to the Hmong (Asian), thus strengthening Bethlehem and starting two new churches that will be self-supportive.
Please note that I am not advocating for segregation. However, as I consider the Hmong (Asian), which I love and work with, I know that there is a large gap in language, learning and culture that must be considered when reaching out.
How can the Hmong Mission Proposal model the way for the LCMS to move into A New Era (self-supportive ethnic churches) with ethnic mission starts?
Consider the various foundations the Proposal builds upon:
a. The area directly around Bethlehem has the highest density of Hmong in the whole U.S.A.
b. Bethlehem members naturally have built many relationships with Hmong families. (i.e. One member, who is a private piano teacher for a number of Hmong families, awaits eagerly the day she can refer the families to the Hmong Pastor.)
c. Bethlehem started a classically based Lutheran School, JOY Academy, in 2009, which is becoming an option for more Hmong families.
d. Most of the Hmong members at Bethlehem are young, well-connected to many other Hmong through school and employment and some even hold key positions in the community.
e. Hmong members serve in the highest positions in church leadership, in addition to Sunday School Superintendent and other chairs of church boards.
f. Bethlehem has a called (part-time) deaconess who can serve alongside Hmong women in their areas of need.
Consider what the Hmong Mission Proposal addresses that is key to a self-supporting church:
a. The need for the Mission Planter to be very comfortable as bicultural, bilingual and engaging with Hmong of all ages, especially the young Hmong.
b. The ability to be engaging at a high level in Lutheran theology to compare and contrast the various beliefs of animism versus Christianity. Many Hmong want to know the truth.
c. The ability and experience to raise up leaders within the Hmong culture and involve men in the life of the Church.
d. The experience of living and teaching biblical stewardship.
e. Organizational skills to provide ideas and execute activities that address a growing divorce rate, two parent households, where both parents work outside the home, and cultural clashes between the youth and “elders.”
As you notice, some things in this proposal may be common across various plans, others not. The mission proposal, which could lend to A New Era (in the LCMS), is in eyesight. In fact, I ask that you pray for the members of Bethlehem as they deliberate about issuing a call to a Hmong Pastor on Sunday, January 20th. You can certainly support this effort with a financial gift and know that your mission dollars are being put to great use and in the process, the LCMS is reaching all nations.
Note: The Minnesota South District (MNS) and partner churches have made this proposal a reality. Initially, the MNS District is providing 1/3 support, Bethlehem, 1/3 support; and partner churches, 1/3 support. The support of the district will slowly decrease. Support from partner churches, God – willing will hold steady. Support from Bethlehem will continue to rise. The proposal calls for the whole effort to be self supportive by the end of Year 5.
Rev. Nathan Raddatz is the pastor at Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church in St. Paul, MN. You can email him at [email protected]