Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Yes Virginia, There is a Church in Franklin

It would seem I wasn’t clear in my first installment as within hours, what I had said in the previous post was misunderstood. It was a comment in a weird random location and not very relevant to the topic but it was there nonetheless. However, I will try to clear that up.

“FeltNeeds over on his blog says that Victory of the Lamb was formed to serve the "unchurched" people of Franklin.


He seems to have forgotten that church.

He also forgets the 18 other churches within 10 miles that the WELS Church locator finds. Franklin to Muskego, New Berlin, Oak Creek or Southern Milwaukee is a wonderful drive taking about 30minutes on a worst case scenario.”

I did not forget about St. Paul’s Franklin. They were one of the congregations that was going to help fund this mission and they did give some donations. One would have to really consider if they think one church for a city of 30,000 is all that is needed to serve the needs of that community. If that were the case, Milwaukee would only have 20 churches to serve that community…alas it has nearly 50. Additionally, you’d have to wonder why the one church in a city that is expanding and growing at such an aggressive rate was not matching that growth rate if for nothing else than just tracking along with the population with transfers. If that is too subtle for you, I will just say it outright. It is laughable if you think St. Paul’s, Franklin was adequately reaching all the un-churched of Franklin. I’d love to hear how many new residents of southwest Franklin even knew about this church on the north side. I’d also love to hear St. Paul, Franklin’s ministry plan for the un-churched and how that’s been working out for them. (of course it was very ironic when an un-churched person visited our church who lived in the subdivision abutting St. Paul’s Franklin. We mentioned she lived within blocks of that church ..and she didn’t even know anything about it except that it was obviously there.)

Victory was very strategically placed to fill a gaping hole where the nearest WELS church was 4 miles or more away in most any direction. To the southwest, Living Water is 7 miles away on the same highway. Ironically Living Water (a 3rd the size of St. Paul’s Franklin) has been a huge supporter and donator to Victory.

See, the point was not that there are 18 churches within 10 miles. The point is that un-churched will rarely drive more than 3 miles away from their house to go to a church. There could be 100 churches within 10 miles, but if there is not a church within 3 miles then you can expect very little un-churched from the community to find or even bother trying your church. I’d love to examine any congregation and ask them how much impact they have on the un-churched outside a sphere of influence of 3 miles. See a church is part of a community. It is not safe to say that a city in and of itself is a community. Northeast Franklin and eastern Franklin along 27th street is NOTHING like 76th and Ryan Road.

Having lived in NH for seven years I have some experience with a congregation that was the only one in the entire state. Trust me in that although the members drove from all over the place and distances of up to 70-80 miles that only the die-hard WELS member transplants would do that. Yet getting an un-churched person to drive from Merrimack, or downtown Nashua out to Amherst was very difficult indeed.

I know these concepts are tough for some old-school WELS to handle. What good WELS person wouldn’t drive a really good distance to be at a church. However you can’t transfer that desire to the un-churched. If you could influence them somehow, you should not worry so much about the distance they drive than just providing the motivation to get out of bed on a Sunday morning. However, after they are up and ready to go, then it will be a lot easier to get them to a church they can drive to in minutes. I know when I moved to the area and settled in Wind Lake, I tried out a good number of WELS churches. I chose a church 12 miles from my home rather than the one across the street. All well and good for me, but how would I convince my neighbor to do the same?

We also have had some instances of people finding our church from a distance away like Sussex, Pewaukee, West Bend and such that found the WELS for the first time but ultimately found a local WELS church to attend because traveling 30-40 minutes to church was not necessary or desirable.

Just a random question I thought of …outside of church services..how far will an un-churched person drive for Adult instruction classes? Honestly, it is not the church service that is so important for un-churched. It is the bible classes and instruction classes that bring new members. It is the community outreach events. It is the door to door canvassing. When did your church drive 10 miles away and do door to door canvassing?

I’m not sure that simply existing as a church in a community means that you reach the un-churched. There is one thing that has never once been answered in all my discussions on BW. What is an acceptable way to do outreach and evangelism in a community? I’ve gotten the non-answer of preach the Word and Sacraments faithfully. Got it! That is indeed the one thing needful. Now What? How do you make this one thing needful known to the community you service? The reason I don’t get an answer is that anything else is a “program” and they can’t support a “program” without it being considered CG. Sunday school is a program. Door to Door canvassing is a program, Advertising is a program, Bible classes are programs, VBS is a program…etc etc.

So I appreciate the analysis. I’m glad that someone can locate churches on the WELS Church locator however when considering starting your mission plant there may be a touch more analysis needed. I’m pretty sure churches could save a bundle in doing home mission work if they just said, ”hey we got a church within 30 minutes…we’re covered.”

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