CHICAGO – Rev. Gary M. Wollersehim, evangelism task force chair and bishop of the ELCA Northern Illinois Synod, Rockford, Ill., presented the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) with the first draft of “Toward a Vision for Evangelism in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America: Sharing Faith in a New Century”, along with a report of progress made.
The ELCA Evangelism Strategy Task Force put together the draft. The ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop, together with the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries (DCM), organized a 33-member task force to set the strategy and presentation for the 2003 ELCA Church-wide Assembly.
All work on the final draft is expected to start around January of next year. The draft will be reviewed by the DCM board in February and then voted on for approval to go onto the ELCA Church Council, when further action will be considered. Altogether their work has been supported by a fund totaling over $450,000, approved by the Church Council.
“More than 900 voting members voted to pursue a strategy on evangelism,” commented Wolllersheim, at the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Philadelphia.
The assembly was presented with a 1991-2001 evangelism strategy report, entitled “A Telling Witness of God’s Good News.” Subsequently, the assembly authorized the ELCA’s presiding bishop to establish a task for the development of a comprehensive strategy on evangelism, in lieu of their of the report.
“The 65 synods of the ELCA have identified evangelism as a number one priority,” said Wollersheim. “A strategy on evangelism ‘is necessary’.”
The number of people not going to church is rapidly declining, while the recorded number of congregations is dropping to all-time low numbers. The United States is the fourth largest mission filed in the world, says Wollersheim. “There are four objectives at the ‘heart of the strategy’.”
One of the aims of the new strategy is to help members of the ELCA grow in prayer. Other goals include developing evangelical lay and clergy leaders for the church, beginning and renewing congregations, and teaching discipleship.
In course of the year, the task force has been regularly meeting in sub-teams, facilitating a “renewed focus” on prayer for the witness and evangelism ministries of the ELCA, inviting members for the witness and evangelism ministries of the ELCA, inviting members of the church to study the place of the gospel in daily lives, receiving gifts from the church’s companions around the world, and an awareness of previous ELCA research on evangelism.
By Daniel K.