Linking Unbelievers to Christ in the Bay Area

December 18, 2017 | Posted by Demian Farnworth

Editor’s Note:

To celebrate the announcement of the 2017 Kaleidoscope Fund grant recipients, we are sharing the 2016 recipient’s stories over the next two months. See all 2016 stories here as they are published.

-LCEF Editorial Team

The stats are in. According to Barna Research, the San Francisco Bay Area has the lowest percentage of Christians in a U.S. metro area. Imagine an area with 18 million people speaking more than 200 languages, but most of them not on speaking terms with Christ.

Rev. Dr. Robert Newton, president of the LCMS California-Nevada-Hawaii (CNH) district, said, “…our entire district is a mission field. In the CNH the potential gateway to cultures and language groups all over the world brings extraordinary opportunity for local and global impact. It also means that the majority of our LCMS congregations in the CNH district are not fully equipped on their own to ministry in the present reality.”

To reach out in mercy and love to these neighbors, the CNH district—home to 187 congregations with more than 40,000 members—launched the CNH District Mission Agency to identify, train and support a new generation planting the Gospel.

While the Mission Agency is ultimately responsible to the district’s Board of Directors and the Agency Director, the intent was to set aside a “first fruit” of people, energy and resources. In this way, they can plant the Gospel among those who are scattered outside of Christ’s Church in the hope that they might be connected with Him for eternity.

Through the Mission Agency, the district develops people as missionary leaders, training them to reach out in their communities, engage in intercessory prayer and identify new opportunities to connect with unbelievers. These missionary leaders are mostly within the established church, yet their targeted energies are all focused upon those who are not yet within Christ’s Church.

Of course, it takes thorough theological training to be able to connect with such a vast number of unbelievers in this region of the country, so more resources were needed to help provide that training.

Launching LINC

The challenges in the Bay Area meant that the CNH had an opportunity to connect with unbelievers and meet the theological needs of the unique population in the area by launching a LINC Bible Institute.

“In 2014, the leaders of the CNH District’s Mission Agency and pastors of Prince of Peace in Fremont and Good Shepherd in Hayward worked to take action to launch LINC Bay Area, presently a working partner of the CNH District’s Mission Agency and a subsidiary of LINC International, an RSO of the LCMS,” explained the Rev. Michael Lange, assistant to the president, mission advancement, for the CNH District. “This important partner of the district’s Mission Agency has at its core the vision to empower and encourage indigenous leaders of people groups in the Bay Area, for the sake of planting new ministries and transforming communities.”

Lange said that the dream of starting a LINC in the Bay Area had existed among district leaders and congregations since 2009, so this launch was the culmination of that dream and initial work.

“The initial funding and ongoing resources for this project have been supplied by the CNH District’s Mission Agency, Prince of Peace Lutheran in Fremont and Good Shepherd in Hayward,” said Lange. “Now this effort enjoys the support of numerous congregations and people within and on the edges of the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Granting sound Lutheran teaching

And now, thanks to generous funding provided by the 2016 Kaleidoscope Grant, the program got a strong boost to take their dream to the next level. In 2017 and 2018, they are making available more extensive lay training and development to open opportunities with LINC Bay Area’s present and emerging leaders.

“We are happy to announce that in June 2017, Rev. Greg Klotz [began] serving as part-time director of LINC Bible Institute in the Bay Area,” shared the Rev. Aaron Putnam, city director for LINC. “Greg comes with more than 25 years [of] experience in theological education at various education levels in both Latin America and the United States. [He] will work to revise and create a theological training curriculum that will best serve our unique population in the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Putnam also announced that the Mission Agency has soft-launched a LINC Bible Institute class on the Old Testament. Eleven students from a variety of educational, ethnic and denominational backgrounds have taken part in the class, and this pre-seminary training is available to these local leaders at low-cost thanks to the Kaleidoscope Grant.

“The students are all receiving sound Lutheran teaching with a missionary overlay,” added Putnam. “Our plan is to continue to teach various classes during this soft-launch phase in 2017 as we clarify our curriculum and spread the word about the public launch of the [LINC] Bible Institute early in 2018. These classes are and will be taught by LCMS pastors who have demonstrated ability as theological educators and/or missionary leaders.”

Training them up

The 2016 Kaleidoscope Grant has certainly helped open more doors of opportunity for LINC Bay Area, but it’s also provided an all-around enhancement of mission education for the CNH District’s Mission Agency throughout all of 2017.

In March 2017, the grant helped make possible the district’s Mission Conference, which brought in a variety of quality LCMS trained speakers to share, inspire and encourage attendees on the theme ‘Missionary People.’ That same month, the Rev. Dr. Peter Meier from the Center for U.S. Missions gathered with the districts circuit visitors to teach and train them on church planting awareness and opportunity within their own circuits.

In April, the district hosted a Multi-Cultural Round Table and “African Congress,” bringing together local leaders from multiple cultures to discuss reaching and passing the faith to first and second generation American immigrant populations.

The Kaleidoscope Grant funds continued to bear fruit in the district through Disciple Making coursework for both young adults and existing church leaders, as well as a Churches Planting Churches workshop that took place in fall 2017.

Through this pervasive culture of mission education and training in the CNH, the prayer continues that unbelievers in the Bay Area and beyond would know Christ and continue to make Him known among their own people, in their own languages, planting the Gospel for the benefit of generations to come.

Demian Farnworth
Senior Content Writer for the Lutheran Church Extension Fund.