Having small or missionary groups is a practice that gradually becomes more widespread across Lutheran churches. In my pastoral ministry I repeatedly came across this idea, but whenever I tried to launch it, I did not have enough time to lead such a group myself.
After Greg Finke’s book “Joining Jesus on His Mission. How to Be an Everyday Missionary” had been published, I returned to that idea. The book is written for ordinary believers, who don’t delve too deep in theology. It gives simple explanations to what the mission of Jesus is, what the Church is supposed to do in this world, what it means to answer demands of changing times, and how to make first steps toward being a neighborhood missionary. Most importantly, the author suggests that we don’t try to gain more knowledge by learning our entire life, but to make the first and then consecutive practical steps in the mission of Christ on earth. In my ministry I also came to a practical conclusion that one can understand, learn, and develop much better though gaining hands-on experience. In other words, the mission takes place when you act and not just talk about it. How can I understand it? Very simple! Just by trying it out myself.
And that is how congregations in Odessa, Petrodolynske and Novohradkivka launched reading clubs as the first step towards understanding and action. First meetings for reading and discussing Greg Finke’s book started In Odessa and Petrodolynske. And as far as I see, people show great interest to what they have read, because it directly addresses our Christian experience in our personal and congregational lives.
In Novohradkivka it took a slightly different turn. We had two on-line meetings with Greg Finke, where he personally presented a few foundational ideas of how to be a “neighborhood missionary”, and only then started reading and discussing the book as a group. We are very hopeful that this initiative will contribute to better understanding of believers’ role in the mission of Jesus Christ and will encourage them to become a part of God’s work here on earth.
Oleksandr Gross, pastor of congregations in Odessa, Petrodolynske and Novohradkivka.