From a Lay Leader's Desk

A series of opinion articles from lay leaders in our synod.



Feb 10, 2021

By Branden Dupree, Assistant to the Bishop/Director for Evangelical Mission

Dear Church,
You’ve probably learned a lot about yourself in the last year. Being in a global crisis does that to you.
Equally of note, the intense stress from the pandemic has offered church leaders clarity and sensitivity as we have had to key in on our core values in order to adapt to the reality of our future together, even in a remote and mobile environment. As the Director for Evangelical Mission for the Metropolitan New York Synod, I have the privilege of being a connector from our churchwide organization through the office of the Bishop to our local congregations. I’m able to serve God by grounding my work in community and leaning into each opportunity to serve God’s people.
On day 1 of our Future Church initiative, ELCA Presiding Bishop Rev. Elizabeth Eaton noted “the way people hear and receive the gospel is changing at an increasingly rapid rate. The competitors of the gospel are many. What hasn’t changed is the liberating good news that we are set free to serve the neighbor.” Let’s be clear – the demographics are changing. Our church is growing younger, more multicultural, multilingual, and intentionally anti-racist. If the community of leaders that you are trying to reach change, your vision needs to change along with them.
The gospel is never irrelevant to the culture but outdated church models continue to ignore divine disruption and miss the missional opportunity to innovate. Congregations and leaders don’t need to be experts but we do need to pay attention with intention. As manifest by our Ecumenism, our interconnectedness urges us to be learning communities intersected through mission and vision. As people are craving psychological safety and spiritual nourishment, here are 5 ways we can prepare for our future church in a way where leaders feel encouraged, safe, and connected:
  1. Holy listening –  Listen to learn! Invitation to church is through relationship. When we invite someone else into curious conversation there is an opportunity to establish deeper relationship with God and others in the faith community, learn about shared values, passions and most importantly to note how God is at work in our lives.
  2. Missional Visioning – The balance between spirituality and strategy. Congregational mission and vision statements should focus on the shared experience and shared identity and must be contextual. As our communities shift, don’t be afraid to invite someone into the process who isn’t a “member” and see how we can benefit from the diverse perspectives.
  3. Being Antiracist - The radical reorientation of our consciousness. To create an equitable community, we must commit to consistent, unbiased and self-aware in all aspects of our lives. To not work toward eradicating racism within our church is a disservice to the giftedness of diversity and the great commandment to love all of God’s people.
  4. Partnership – Examine how we are church together. How is your partnership with the poor? Jesus had a special relationship with the poor because they are his people. Additionally, there is an entire participating community online. Into our collective future, are they part of the congregation? How are we connected to these populaces?
  5. Focus on the joy – People want to know they matter. The reason people come to know Jesus may not always be the reason why they stay so embrace every authentic opportunity to remember the impact of a simple biblical concept: joy.