What's Happening at Hope Lutheran Church?
Hope Lutheran Church just added a fourth worship service. What is going on there that's bringing the people in?
Hope Lutheran Church just added a fourth worship service on Sunday: service times are now 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Hope is a church of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At a time when many mainline churches report a decline in membership, Hope Lutheran Church is growing.
After 20 new members join in September, the active membership will be almost 600. Six years ago, there were roughly 400 to 440 members.
I wanted to know what was going on at Hope Church that was bringing people to its worship, ministries and missions.
Sue Easley, Hope's administrative assistant, mentioned a series of classes offered during Lent on “holy hospitality.” She said that they learned better ways of meeting and greeting people.
“We remind each other about this and keep it at the forefront” of what we do, Easley said.
Hmm. I thought, holy hospitality language. That’s different. Then she spoke of the Living In Faith Together (LIFT) service as a safe place to come and invite friends.
In March 2008, Hope added a third worship service at 6 p.m. The other two services had reached capacity. That's two new worship services in three years. I think that is remarkable.
LIFT is a nontraditional, informal service, held in the Family Life Center or gym. People sit at pub tables and guitars and drums and support the singing. There are snacks and beverages available.
Hope’s sanctuary seats 180 comfortably, said the Rev. John Lundin, senior pastor. That is not large—some churches have sanctuaries that seat 300 or more people. There was no mention of plans for increasing the size of the sanctuary.
Lundin and I talked about assets—the facility and finances—but to him, the greatest assets at Hope are the people. He stressed that whatever is happening at Hope is because of the people, not because of him.
“All I have tried to do is make room for the Holy Spirit,” Lundin said.
Lundin came out of “full-blown retirement “ to accept the call at Hope in October 2005. He served as a military chaplain, established military family support centers, and now out of retirement is a parish pastor. What he saw at Hope was “people who wanted so badly to be faithful but couldn’t get traction.”
In my opinion, this congregation has traction. The newsletter has pages of ministries, plans, and opportunities to serve or learn or care. Each week, a Sunday school class will pack meals for Kids Against Hunger. People can volunteer at the House of Hope and clinic in Haiti, or sponsor a child. The next trip to Haiti will be in September.
The church runs The Bridge in New Town as a way to connect with the community. A preschool and monthly teen dances are a way to serve the younger generation.
Lundin and associate pastor, the Rev. Chad Langdon, have a remarkable arrangement. Lundin has given control of the worship and preaching to Langdon, as well as the other pastoral duties. Lundin, then, is the equipper. He mentors the lay leadership and the staff for ministry. He teaches and trains the people to be faithful disciples of Jesus.
Lundin sees his position as one of getting rid of road blocks to ministry. The usual and customary language of church organization is gone. No committees or teams, but Key Ministry Areas shape what happens at Hope. Lundin is intentional about using different language.
This year, he said, Hope is getting rid of the word “stewardship.” Time, talent, treasure—are all God-given gifts Lundin said. Hope has not had a traditional pledge or stewardship drive in two years. No need.
Extraordinary. Faithful. Generosity.
Lundin and I are colleagues. We met through the St. Charles Ministerial Alliance. He is approachable and likeable, with both a sparkle and sincerity in his eyes.
We both agreed that there is not “one thing” that is working to increase the interest in and membership of Hope Church.
However, as we began to wrap up, we looked at how the Key Ministry Areas all fit back to the church mission statement. Lundin looked at me and said, “Everything is evangelizing.”
I’m not certain he’d stated it that way before. But it was clear to both of us that all that Hope Church does some way sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
It’s brought the people in for thousands of years. Still does.