Archived Sections, Lutherans in the Twin Cities

New urban ministry project focuses on developing indigenous leadership

A couple election cycles ago, voters became quite familiar with the mantra,
“It’s the economy, stupid.” Churches are realizing, or probably more
accurately remembering, “It’s the relationship, stupid.”
A group of active Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) leaders in the
Twin Cities have embodied this phrase. They have transformed a well-
intentioned but tired ministry into a dynamic new opportunity for mission and
outreach.
“In the 1980s a number of pastors and lay leaders wanted to give support to
Trinity First school [LCMS, Minneapolis],” explained Dick Goebel, a retired
LCMS pastor. “We wanted to raise money for newly arriving immigrants
coming into congregations…. If some women’s group made quilts, we would
collect and distribute them to immigrants in need.”
Goebel and his colleagues realized they wanted to, and could, do more. And
the timing for such an epiphany could not have been better.
“In LCMS, ethnic ministry programs were popping up all over the place,”
Goebel said. “They were entrepreneurial and responsive to needs, but the
shortage of resources raised questions of sustainability.”
Recognizing the changing needs within the culture generally and the Twin
Cities community specifically, Partners in Mission, the LCMS group that had
formed to meet people’s basic needs, began to morph into the Lutheran
Intercity Network Coalition—Twin Cities (LINC—TC).
According to Goebel, “A new LCMS ethnic ministry in Columbus, Ohio, called
Hope in the City, first caught our attention. Jeff Johnson, the founder there,
took a dying church and revitalized it.”
Then, the Oswald Hoffman School of Christian Outreach at Concordia
University, St. Paul, a training institute for directors of Christian outreach,
hosted a leadership conference on outreach. Mark Junkans, who had started a
cross-ethnic ministry in Texas, was a main speaker. “We were so excited, a
group of us went to a conference sponsored by Junkans’ Houston LINC
organization to gain exposure to the principles,” said Goebel. The program
was very committed to action.
The Twin Cities group now was ready to compare the various models,
including other LCMS programs, like the Alliance of Mission Outreach.
Eventually Junkans was invited back to the Twin Cities to meet with
stakeholders and potential partners. And many people and groups were
“linked” through this process — Minnesota South District (LCMS), Concordia
University, Osward Hoffman School, immigrant pastors, and Netfish (an
evangelization program). All agreed that LINC—TC could provide a catalyst
for ongoing mission and could pro- vide a transparent relationship with the
District.
LINC-TC is a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of LCMS, as well as a
501(c)3, not for profit organization registered in the state of Minnesota.
The mission statement states “LINC—Twin Cities is a network of strategic
partnerships multiplying churches among diverse communities.” It’s goals
include a commitment “to recruit, train, and equip indigenous missional
leaders within every local community”; “to share Christ’s redemptive love
while devel- oping people’s potential for improving their lives and
communities”; and “to support local church renewal, in their planting of new
churches, multiply themselves rapidly, and expand geographically.”
“LINC has brought together a number of groups, including the South District,
in what is a joint venture to accomplish some common goals,” said Peter
Meier, assistant to the president for mission for the Minnesota South District.
“The LINC model allows ministries and congregations to be themselves, using
the gifts God gave them; it’s an indigenous model for local ministries whether
an English-speaking congregation asking what’s next or an immigrant
congregation that needs the resource to reach out into their communities.”
According to Meier, this model also has the potential for congregations that
feel some marginalization to find a connection within the district. “God has
brought the right people and circumstances together to use this for His
mission in the Twin Cities.”
One of the “right people” is the new director Susan Hewitt. Hewitt recently
moved to Minnesota from St. Louis where she was the Metro Missions
Coordinator for the Missouri District of LCMS. There she worked with urban
churches to reach out to the surrounding communities.
Hewitt first met the Twin Cities group at the Houston conference. She was
there to find applications for her own ministry.
“To do this work, we must be listeners,” Hewitt said. “We really need to find
the greatest unmet need [in the community], and then make the connections
to people who live there and who can meet the need.”
Seeing what happened in St. Louis has given Hewitt hope. “God still does
miracles, so I know He can turn around churches.”