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Transitioning to LCMC

By Pastor Moe Redding and Dave Ihlenfeld (Pastor and Board president, respectively, Light of Christ Lutheran Church, Chandler, AZ)

October 29, 2010

The process is absolutely everything.

graphic logo of Light of Christ Lutheran Church, Chandler, AZAs pastor and president of our congregation, it is a daunting task to lead your congregation into LCMC. What follows are some steps to consider in peacefully leading your congregation to LCMC.

As an aside: We had no idea about this process when we felt the Spirit leading us to LCMC. We were pretty scared about the future. However, with God's help as well as encouragement from others in LCMC, the process that developed was astonishing!

Just to let you know how this worked in our congregation: From the time we sent out the congregational letter on joining LCMC and leaving the ELCA to our first vote was only 2 ½ weeks. The voting percentages were: 89% to join LCMC; 81% to leave the ELCA; 99% to keep all employees. Also, not a single person stood to speak on either side of the issue and the meeting was done in 15 minutes. It was miraculous how God's Spirit filled the process with grace, compassion and peace.

Before we get to the steps God led us to take, here are some things we strongly discourage: Taking surveys (Surveys divide people before any leading can happen. The vote will be the survey.), cottage meetings (informational meetings instead), and harsh criticism of the ELCA (Your people will follow your lead, so lead with faith, hope, love and gentleness.).

Here are the steps God led us to take. We hope they will be a blessing for you.

Step 1: Pastor's Conviction

It all begins with God speaking to the spiritual leader of the congregation. Here were the key convictions on my (Moe's) heart:

  1. The Church is God's.
  2. The Bible is the Word of God.
  3. Since we are immensely sinful, and knowing that God's ways are not our ways, we must submit to the Word of God. Otherwise we will be carried off by all kinds of teachings that society champions.
  4. One of the clearest teachings in all of scripture is that God's will for sexual expression is exclusively in the marriage covenant of one man and one woman. This teaching is affirmed over and over again. To go against this teaching is to proclaim the Bible is not the final authority, which the national bishop has finally suggested.
  5. The ELCA has absolutely no authority to do what it has done. In effect, the ELCA has stated we are no longer to listen to the Word of God. We are to listen to the Churchwide Assembly.
  6. This is in direct opposition to the promises we made in our ordination vows, not to mention congregational and denominational constitutions.
  7. As pastor, I will be held to the highest standard and accountable to Almighty God for faithfully teaching His Word, no matter what the denomination may do.
  8. I could not remain associated with a group that, as evidenced by the August 2009 vote, is clearly and unquestionably leading people away from the authority of God's Word.

These last two convictions are quite sobering. I knew I could not stay in the ELCA, but what if my congregation decided to remain? I would be out of a job. There was a deeper peace, however, that let me know God would provide for me no matter what. As pastors we are called to be faithful. God will take care of the rest.

My wife and I lifted all of this up to God in prayer and were completely united in staying faithful to the Word, no matter what may come. God gave me incredible strength through the support and encouragement of my wife! Thank you, Lord!

Note: I only shared this last conviction with our primary leaders. Dave, in particular, was very helpful in this. He did not want to make this a choice between pastor and denomination. Instead, we simply focused upon God's will for God's church.

Step 2: Discuss and pray with congregational president

It is very important for the pastor and president to be united in what God has next for His congregation. Take the necessary time for the two of you to pray and become convinced of the Spirit's leading. In our situation we both were well aware of what was happening in the ELCA. It was also our belief things were only going to get worse.

By taking the necessary time with the president two very important things happen: 1) The president will appreciate the respect the pastor has for the president's leadership position with the congregation, and 2) the pastor will appreciate being able to hand off much of the leadership to the president, who will be running all the meetings anyway.

If this bond is strong, you know the two primary leaders in the congregation have each other's back 100%. Take the necessary time to be convinced and united by the Holy Spirit.

Step 3: Prayer Team

We called a small prayer meeting with faithful brothers and sisters in the church. It is important that these are not angry, ultimatum type people, but loving servants, who want to follow the Lord's will. We prayed together and talked for a few hours. By the end of that time together we had a clear direction.

We were of one mind that we could no longer be affiliated with the ELCA, but we did not know how we would get there. We decided to invite an LCMC pastor to our next prayer meeting to find out more about Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ as well as to discuss the process of leaving the ELCA.

Step 4: Prayer Team meets with LCMC Representatives

One week later we met with an LCMC pastor and council president. They gave us lots of information on LCMC as well as answered all of our questions. We were unanimous in our belief that this was God's will for us. LCMC is awesome!!

Note: As quickly as LCMC is growing, there is probably an LCMC congregation close to you. If not, a representative will be sent to answer any of your questions and concerns. Lean on LCMC people! They have gone through this process and understand the fears and challenges you are facing. Their counsel is invaluable!

Step 5: Prayer Team and Church Board Meet

One week later the church board and the prayer team met together. As pastor, I had spoken with each board member to let them hear my concerns and convictions. This also gave them a chance to tell me their concerns and convictions. They knew what was coming, as well as what the prayer team's recommendations were.

This next point is absolutely essential: We wanted there to be no surprises at this meeting. As pastor and president, give your congregational leaders time to share their thoughts and concerns with you. This entire process is built upon trust: trusting God, trusting your leaders, trusting one another. Never surprise your leaders with a bombshell and then ask them to vote on a huge resolution two hours later.

The result of the meeting was that we all agreed that the Spirit was leading us to join Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, leave the ELCA, retain all employees regardless of affiliation, and do all of this with a spirit of gentleness and grace.

Step 6: Congregational Letter

The next day we sent out a letter to the congregation saying we were unanimous in our recommendation to join LCMC, leave the ELCA, and retain all staff regardless of affiliation. In the letter we informed them of a special congregational meeting and vote for 2 1/2 weeks later.

We spent a long time on the wording of this letter. We wanted it very concise, inviting anyone to contact us individually with questions, while reassuring everyone that the informational meetings would have time for questions and answers.

Step 7: Meeting with the Bishop

On the same day we sent out the letter I (Moe) scheduled a meeting with the bishop of our synod. I believe our bishop respected this meeting, though what I shared clearly surprised him. (Side note: We happen to have a gentle and gracious bishop. If your bishop has a different spirit, you may not be led to have this meeting with him/her. You are under no obligation one-way or the other. Pray about it and trust the Spirit's leading.)

Step 8: Being Pastor to the Hurting

As pastor I met one-on-one with people who might be sensitive to this issue, and allowed them time to share their thoughts. I dislike confrontation as much as the next person, but God was clearly moving in my heart to go to them. These were all people I loved very much. I did not want to hurt them in any way. The time together went as well as I could have hoped.

I also believe this opportunity to express themselves to me was very important. Having been heard and cared for, not one person stood to speak at the congregational meeting ... on either side of the issue!

Note: There was another group of people on my heart who were more prone to anger and arguing, and I asked my wife if I should go speak with them. She simply asked, "Is this because you love them or because you don't want them to cause trouble?" I had to admit it was the latter. She said, "Just let God take care of it." She was right. God took care of everything in miraculous ways!

Step 9: Informational Meetings

Two identical information meetings were held following worship on the next two Sundays. We refrained from ELCA bashing, but simply celebrated how LCMC is really who we are already. This was huge! Focus upon where you are going, not where you have been. Let the meetings be about excitement for mission, ministry and freedom, not about being upset, angry or judgmental.

Here was the agenda:

  • Welcome
  • Prayer
  • Presentation on History with the ELCA (President) - 10 minutes
    • Gentle but Factual
      • From our perspective, no real partnership
      • Huge bureaucracy
      • No longer necessary for ministry (seminaries, overseas missions, curriculum, bible studies, etc... are all being done much better by parachurch organizations)
      • Primarily contacted us for more benevolence dollars
  • Presentation on LCMC (Lay Leader) - 10 minutes
    • Free to become the congregation God wants us to be!
    • Send benevolence to ministries that have our heart!
    • No more politics & fighting!
    • Biblical and confessional
    • Free in Christ!
    • Etc.....
  • Pastor's Time - 10 minutes
    • If people are coming to hear you preach, they trust your leadership ... so lead them as you follow Jesus.
    • Share your joy of joining LCMC
    • Share your heart to simply get back to ministry
    • Share the joy of being with pastors who love God, will truly love and support one another, and have no desire to argue.
    • Let them know you still love the people in the ELCA, but that (if you're like me), you never really felt part of it.
    • Etc..
  • Break
    • This is huge!!! Simply ask the president to say, "If your questions have been answered, thank you for coming today. Remember our congregational vote on Sunday, (whatever date). If you would like to talk a bit more, please stay. We'll take a 10-minute break, and then we'll start our Q & A time. Thank you all very much."
    • 85% of the people left at this point during both information meetings. They heard all they needed and were ready to go. This was VERY intentional on our part. Why?
      • If someone wanted to stir up the pot during the Q & A time, as leaders we must contain that anger. Many of these politically driven people want a huge group to preach at ... if that's taken away, it may stop most if not all of the political grandstanding. In our case, it took all of it away.
      • We also didn't want to waste anyone's time. If they had their questions answered, we needed to give them an opportunity to leave. The break offered that.
  • Question & Answer Time
    • Lots of questions were brought up at both meetings, including if the sexuality issue was part of our decision. We said that it was part, but not all, of our decision. However, we were quite clear: the issue is biblical authority. If as a denomination we were submitting to God's Word we would not be arguing about sexuality now! We shared how we believe the ELCA is becoming less biblical and more political. We simply stated we didn't believe that was the kind of church God wanted us to be.
    • We were prepared if someone wanted to begin arguing about the sexuality issue beyond this response, we would say something like: "It sounds like you're pretty passionate about this. If you would like to discuss this further, please make an appointment to come in and talk with pastor individually about this." At both meetings our initial answer was sufficient.
  • Closing Prayer

Step 10: Congregational Meeting & vote

Follow all the steps. Have a list of all voting members. They need to sign in next to their name to receive their ballot. Voting is done in an orderly fashion and no one is to leave until all votes are counted, recorded, announced and the meeting is closed. To show you how quickly the Lord moved our congregation, the first vote to leave the ELCA was 32 days after our initial prayer meeting. It was done in 15 minutes without a single person standing to speak.


  • 81% voted to leave the ELCA
  • 89% voted to join LCMC. (Since our primary focus was on the excitement of joining LCMC, and not on our disappointment with the ELCA, these numbers were not surprising.)
  • 99% voted to keep all employees regardless of affiliation. This vote was taken for two reasons:
    • Unify the congregation regardless of their feelings about LCMC or the ELCA.
    • If the vote to leave the ELCA did not pass, Pastor Moe would have resigned from the ELCA. "I do not know if we would have started another LCMC congregation or if I would have stayed on as pastor in the ELCA congregation. Regardless, we believed the vote would show strong support for my leadership, which it did. No matter what happened next, we felt it was good to have this vote on record."

Step 11: Bishop's Consultation

We met with the bishop for the consultation time on a Tuesday night.

  • 6:30 - 7:00 - The Church Board met with the Bishop\
    • We dealt with any of the legal issues surrounding our leaving. All of us wanted to be sure everything was done precisely the way it needed to be done.
    • The ELCA said we owed them $160,000 of mission money they used in getting us started as a mission congregation. We countered that, first, we didn't agree with their understanding of mission (mission money is not a loan), and second, we have given the ELCA over $220,000 in mission support since we started. We let them know we were willing to call it even. We never heard another word about it.
  • 7:00 - 8:00 - Q & A with the congregation.
    • In addition to the Board, only 8 people showed up.
    • Moe decided to not stay for this time. Again, our focus was not pastor against the denomination, but rather following God's will for God's church. Moe: "I knew my people would support me if I was not there and that Dave was more than capable to speak for our leadership. But I also wanted anyone who wanted to stay in the ELCA the freedom to discuss this with the bishop without my being there." (Note: Most pastors have stayed for the Q & A time. Pray about it and, as always, follow the Spirit's leading)
    • The bishop told Moe afterward it was the gentlest meetings of its type he had ever attended.

Step 12: Second Vote to Leave the ELCA

Our second vote (3 months after the first vote) took 10 minutes. 94% voted to leave. We had thought about combining the vote with our annual congregational meeting, but learned that is not allowed.

Instead, after we had our second vote we closed that meeting. We then immediately called to order our annual congregational meeting and proceeded with it.

Closing Thoughts:

  1. God convicted our leadership in three huge ways:
  2. We could not stay in the ELCA;
  3. LCMC was a perfect, exciting fit; and
  4. We were not going to fight. If we desired a spirit of gentleness, we knew we had to lead by example. We hardly spoke about the ELCA at all.

Guiding Scripture - John 8: 1-11:

We believe the most important event that happened in this entire, scary process (because we had no idea how to do this), was the Spirit lifting up the scripture where our Lord is faced with the angry mob looking to kill the woman caught in adultery (John 8: 1-11). A few things that jumped out of the scripture for us:

  • Jesus was facing an incredibly volatile situation;
  • He did not get caught up in the emotion.
  • Instead, he quietly knelt down. (Perhaps praying for the Father's wisdom? Prayer is essential!);
  • Instead of playing the mob's game, he completely changed the focus ("you without sin...");
  • The mob dissolved away because, at least in part, he did not feed their fire;
  • He then dealt with her sin in a loving but clear manner;
  • As followers of Jesus we must follow Him in all ways.

Biblical Authority:

Since this entire issue is about biblical authority, one of the things we kept reminding each other was, "If we're going to biblical, then let's be biblical." Specifically, Lord, help us to deal with this conflict in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Saying Good-bye:

We lost some families and friends over this transition. You probably will as well. However, if you lead in a gentle, loving and gracious way it may be that most of your people, even those who leave, will behave in that spirit. We received only one note of resignation.

Everyone else who left either called or came in to visit with the pastor. We appreciated each other, shared tears in some cases, and prayed for God's blessings on their way.

The entire process was a time of learning and growing for our leaders. We are now stronger, more mission-focused, and overjoyed to be part of LCMC. We have learned how to deal with big conflict in a loving, biblical way. We also are quite aware we no longer have to give a second of our time to the seemingly endless arguments, resolutions, social statements, and conflicts in the ELCA.

The process is absolutely everything.

If one word describes what we feel now it would be freedom! God is so good! He gets all the glory! Thank you, Lord!

In God's Amazing Grace,

  • Moe Redding
  • Dave Ihlenfeld , LOC Board President
  • Light of Christ Lutheran Church
  • Chandler, Az 85248
  • 480.899.1400