God’s Purpose, Our Commitment in the Future
The purpose of carving Texas out of the Southern District was strictly missional. The Southern District and the Synod recognized the fast growing state of Texas as a mission area that needed a unified focus on sharing the Gospel with thousands of new people making Texas their home. God’s purpose given to His church in the great commission was the underlying reason for the creation of the Texas District. This is also the very reason that needs to guide the Texas District into the future. Our commitment and strong resolution must be focused on the reason the Texas District was started.
Our forefathers took on this missional challenge with great vigor and clear focus. At first it was to immigrants who spoke German. Other mainline denominations spoke English; therefore many of these immigrants had no church home. Almost from the beginning, the District recognized areas where the Gospel needed to be shared in English. Around the twenty-fifth year of its existence, the District started the first Spanish speaking ministry in the entire Synod. Even though German was dominant, the missional commitment of the District moved it rapidly into other languages and other cultures.
Today the Texas District experiences worship services in more than just English, Spanish and German. As immigrants from other countries arrive to live in Texas, God has blessed the District in bringing the Gospel to these new people from China, India, and many areas of Africa in their own languages as they adjust to English and a new world. Our commitment and strong resolution must be to proclaim and live out God’s love to these new people coming to our state.
Fields Are Ripe For Harvest
Throughout its history, the state of Texas has experienced a strong population growth year after year. By percentage, the state has grown faster than the United States over its long history. Demographers are predicting that this phenomenon will not change in the next 20 to 30 years. Every 10 years Texas experiences a net growth of 3.5 to 4 million people. Texas continues to be one of the top six states where immigrants come. Texas has three of the top 10 cities in the United States within its borders, and over 80% of all people coming to Texas move to the metropolitan areas of our state. God’s purpose is for these new people to know Him and His love. It must be the Texas District’s commitment to engage these people with God’s love.
Just as the Texas District moved from a German speaking District to an English speaking District in its first 100 years, the future will challenge the District in findings ways to empower, encourage, and incorporate many people groups and languages as part of the District. The Hispanic population needs to be a major part of the Texas District in the future. Somewhere between 2020 and 2030 the Hispanic population will become the largest people group living in Texas. Between 2030 and 2040, this people group is projected to become the majority. Reaching these people with the Gospel and incorporating them into the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod will be a huge challenge. We are not capable of doing this on our own. We will need to earnestly seek God’s guidance and strength and be willing to follow where He guides us.
The major cities of Texas are growing expeditiously. Another challenge for the District in the future will be to bring the Gospel to the millions living in our large cities. The LINC (Lutheran Inter-city Network Coalitions) organizations in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston areas are teaching us much regarding how to do ministry in the cities. As we continue to learn from our brothers and sisters involved in LINC, we will need to incorporate our learning into other large cities in Texas. These new ministries might not have a church building. Their worship services might be held in a coffee house, an apartment, or outdoors. Their organizational structure might look different than what we have been accustom to, but our commitment to God’s purpose must not wane as we experience new things, learn, and walk together.
The rural areas of our state must not be forgotten in our commitment to God’s purpose in the future. Sociologists are predicting that small towns and communities will see a decline of businesses and churches in the future. Our brothers and sisters in the mid-west states are already experiencing this trend. The Texas District will be challenged to find new ways to carry on a Christ-centered ministry to these areas of our state. People will still live there, and God is interested in everyone knowing Him and His love.
Demographers are telling us that the percentage of younger people connecting to a local church is declining rapidly. Some have estimated that only 10 percent of children two years or younger will have a significant relationship with a Christian congregation by the time they are teenagers. If this statistic is accurate, we as a District have a major challenge to reach out to these children and their families. Our Sunday Schools and Day Schools have a challenge as they attempt to connect with these children and their families in order to share Jesus with them.
The fields are truly ripe for harvest. Our forefathers believed that they needed to partner together to address the mission opportunities that were popping up all around them. For the Texas District to be faithful to God’s purpose in the future, partnerships will play a key role. The Apostle Paul did not consider himself being a “lone-ranger.” He established partnerships with churches wherever he went, and these partnerships were an important factor in his being able to share the Gospel in many places and among many different people.
In the future, District congregations will need to reaffirm the partnership it has with other congregations in the District to carry out God’s purpose. District congregations will also have to be open to new partnerships such as LINC and Texas Partners in Mission in order for us to use our God-given gifts in sharing Jesus with new and different people.
Our forefathers set an example for us to follow as we engage the future. We see them time and time again going out to meet the new people moving into Texas. Whenever lay people came across a group of people speaking German, they would find out if they had a church to attend. If not, these lay people would inform their German speaking pastor of this group and he would go to them and explore ways in which he could minister to them. There are examples of German speaking people informing the Synod and District of people speaking English that needed ministry. Every time we tried to send someone to them.
As we enter into the next 100 years of our District, we must not forget this example from those that went before us. We must commit anew to going. We will not be faithful to God’s purpose by waiting for people to come to us. We must always be on the go to meet the new immigrants coming to our state and to engage those that have lived here a long time. This going will not always feel comfortable and will not always be easy, but it must be our commitment because we know God’s purpose and have experienced and known His faithfulness and commitment to us in our going.
We thank God for being able to look back after 100 years as a District to see His faithfulness to those that have gone before us connected to this District. We also thank God as we move into the future for His promise to go with us, direct us, and refresh us with Himself. It is this confidence that enables us to engage in His purpose and to commit ourselves anew daily, monthly, and yearly. To God be all the glory and honor!
Texas District, LCMS