“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit.” John 12:24
What an odd follow-up by Jesus to a direct request! There were some “Greeks” who came to Philip asking to see Jesus. Philip told Andrew, and the two disciples ran off to tell Jesus. At first, the response may have been a bit confusing. Up until now Jesus seemed happy to meet and talk with almost anyone. Now, as he approached the pinnacle of his Divine mission on a Jerusalem hill, Jesus pointed to the reality of ministry. All things, even his own mission of life here on earth, are temporary. In the end – even in death – Jesus reveals that a single grain can be planted to grow and produce “much fruit.”
For the past 64 years, Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Riverside, CA (directly adjacent to U.C. Riverside) has faithfully borne witness to the hope we have in the seed-planting life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The congregation was a seed planted, one that bore much fruit until the initial harvest began to fade. Many courageous attempts were made to jump-start the ministry. Over time energy was depleted and Gethsemane was faced with the heartbreaking decision to close.
This scenario is not unique. Christian congregations across the country, including quite a few in the LCMS, are wrestling with the challenges of declining membership, aging facilities, and the reality that all our ministry has a season. The only never-ending ministry is the Missio Dei, the mission of God to bring all people into a living relationship with him through the saving work of Jesus! It is the ministry of God’s love for all people, a seed that can be replanted again and again in freshly tilled soil.
The Pacific Southwest District staff believes wholeheartedly that our Resurrection God is offering unique opportunities to retain, remodel, and replant ministries like Gethsemane. In partnership with the local Circuit, the District Staff and our real estate partners at Foundry Commercial, we are exploring ways to repurpose the property of Gethsemane, tilling the soil once again in preparation for connecting with the fast-growing community at U.C. Riverside. The opportunities to re-seed the Gospel in this changing community might include student housing and a gathering space that can be used to create outreach opportunities, discipleship, worship, and fellowship. As we remain faithful in prayer and attentive in action, we trust that God will give both growth and a bountiful harvest in this Kingdom field once again!
We believe the Church cannot “die”. Our faith is in the one who overcame sin, death, and the Enemy in order that all might return to be the people of God – the true and enduring Church. Join us in praying for the community of Riverside and the opportunity God is laying before us all. Ask yourself if the “retain/remodel/replant” strategy might be something your ministry needs to explore as a way that God may be working in your community. Your District Staff is here to guide you in prayer and conversation, trusting that the Holy Spirit will guide our steps and continue to advance the mission of God in Christ Jesus!
Enable more stories of transformed lives through Jesus
Untold thousands are still in darkness, lost like “sheep that have gone astray”. But this is exactly the mission our Lord has created His Church for – reaching the lost for Jesus’ sake in as many ways as necessary. This is the purpose for which our 300 churches and 150 schools were founded in their many contexts. And “the fields are ripe for the harvest” right now!
Your gifts are critical and enable us to continue and expand our shared work together, fulfilling the PSD mission of effectively resourcing congregations and schools for transforming lives and making the Great Commission REAL!
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We love sharing the work God is doing in our district and would love to share what He is doing in your ministry!