"Making Disciples for Life" is the three-year theme approved by the 2019 LCMS Synodical Convention. I think it can impact all congregations in at least three ways.

The Theme Can Clarify God's Mission

American Christianity interprets the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) as "soul-winning." It is presented as God's marching orders to "save the lost." This implies that, once someone is saved, it's time to go onto the next lost soul.

This is an incomplete understanding of the Great Commission.

The theme "Making Disciples for Life" suggests there is more to "making disciples" than conversion. Biblically, this is true. Disciples of Jesus are made through being "baptized" (verse 19) and being taught to "observe" everything Jesus commanded (verse 20).

Biblically, discipleship is a life-long process. God brings us to faith (conversion) and matures us in the faith throughout our lives (sanctification). Hence, we are "Making Disciples for Life."

The Theme Can Focus Congregational Ministry

Churches engage in a wide range of ministries and programs. There are all sorts of fellowship groups, service teams, educational organizations and prayer gatherings. In time, these ministries tend to take on a life of their own.

In fact, sometimes ministries become a church's primary mission. I've heard congregational leaders claim such ministries as schools or food pantries are their "missions."

The theme helps congregations stay focused on God's mission of making disciples of Jesus.

The Theme Can Guides Mission and Ministry

"Baptizing" and "Teaching" can become the two pillars for churches expanding mission and ministry. The simplest way to do this is by asking questions around how to increase both.

For example, a church can ask questions around seeing more baptisms:

  • "How can we stay in contact with members who are inactive, but soon may start families?"
  • "How can we winsomely explain the blessings and benefit of baptism to unchurched preschool families?"
  • "How can we connect to more people in the community who could go through adult instruction?"

Likewise, leaders can ask questions about the second half of the Great Commission:

  • "How can we make Bible studies more accessible for our members?"
  • "How can we better prepare our members to receive the Word of God daily?"
  • "How can we equip each ministry or program to start gatherings or events with a Scripture reading and prayer?"

We'll explore additional ways the Ohio District can join our brothers and sisters across the LCMS in coming months.