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Missional Leadership in the Urban Context


April 20, 2022
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Concordia Seminary is partnering with Concordia University, Saint Paul, Minn., (CSP) to offer this online continuing education course for pastors, lay leaders and commissioned church workers, “Missional Leadership in the Urban Context.” The course assumes a general familiarity with U.S. cities, interest in reaching people in urban areas with the Gospel, and some experience serving or ministering in urban areas. The course is taught by Dr. Leopoldo A. Sánchez M., professor of Systematic Theology, director of the Center for Hispanic Studies and the Werner R.H. Krause and Elizabeth Ringger Krause Professor of Hispanic Ministries at Concordia Seminary; Dr. Mark Koschmann, associate vice president of faith and ministry and chair of the Department of Theology and Ministry at CSP; and Dr. Gerard Bolling, associate pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Mo., and assistant professor of leadership and theology at Concordia University Texas, Austin.

Course format

This course features six modules over six weeks, with video lectures, optional readings, recommended assignments and peer discussion activities to enhance the learning experience. The first two modules include a live video conference with students and the instructors; this session will be recorded so students can view it later if they are unable to attend. The next three modules each use 45–60 minutes of prerecorded videos that are divided into digestible segments. The final module includes a live wrap-up video conference that will be recorded.

The course is fully online and asynchronous, meaning it can be completed at any time after the April 20 launch date. The course is especially appropriate for those in urban and metropolitan settings. Pastors can earn one Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credit.

Course topics

Cities matter. As the city goes, so goes the entire culture of the arts, scholarship, communication, philosophy and commerce. For Christians today, the city presents many challenges, and yet the diversity, density and prominence of cities means that urban ministry is an essential place for Christians to proclaim the Gospel. Moreover, the city offers a tremendous opportunity for Christians to love, serve and welcome people with hospitality, openness and Christian love.

The ministry of the early Christians was remarkably city-centric. When Paul planted churches, he traveled to the largest city of that region to teach and preach the Gospel. As the churches grew in these urban areas, more and more people were able to experience the Gospel message as it spread from the urban center to the surrounding countryside. A similar dynamic is taking place in the world today. By proclaiming the Gospel in urban and metropolitan areas, Christians have an opportunity to once again engage and shape the wider culture and proclaim the Gospel to people from all over the world.

Session 1: The Gospel for the City

In this session, we will explore the Christian call toward the city. We will discuss how cities matter in our globally connected world and the opportunities this presents for Christian witness, service and outreach. We also will delve into a Lutheran theology of the city and the role of Lutheran congregations in urban and suburban settings as part of larger metropolitan regions in the United States.

Session 2: Perspectives from the City

How do we envision cities in the United States and the world today? How have cities changed? What do we hope the city will become? In this session, we will explore these essential questions for developing missional leadership in the urban context. We also will feature first-hand perspectives from the city that examine the socioeconomic, racial, ethnic, political and religious diversity of the city. While many voices in our culture attempt to use diversity to drive people apart, we will examine how Christians from diverse backgrounds can work together in the unity, freedom and hope of Jesus Christ to bring renewal to people living in the city.

Session 3: Historical and Cultural Issues in Urban Studies

The last several decades of U.S. history and urban history are vital for understanding the present state of the American city. We will examine the historical, political and cultural reasons that have led to the development of today’s cities. For instance, people sometimes assume that African Americans essentially must reside in segregated, often poorer neighborhoods in U.S. cities. However, this reality emerged over time, in large part to economic and political policies. In order to engage in the urban context, we need to understand the numerous historical factors like redlining, blockbusting, restrictive covenants and public-school policies that have created urban neighborhoods of segregation and poverty.

Session 4: Pursuing Justice in the City

Cries for justice abound in our contemporary context. How should Christians engage with social and political issues, especially those injustices and inequalities that are experienced poignantly in the city? This session will examine the many competing perspectives of justice touted in our culture. We then will offer a specifically Lutheran, biblical perspective on justice and consider how this Lutheran, biblical perspective can address what seem to be intractable issues such as poverty, homelessness and racism.

Session 5: Connecting People to the City

Despite the challenges facing urban areas, Christians have a tremendous opportunity to serve and witness to people across the city. This session will explore how to best connect with diverse people across the metropolitan region. We will explore how congregations can help support each other as a network of supportive, empathetic, Christ-centered churches. We will highlight the value of one-on-one personal visits, asset-based community development and innovative strategies for evangelism and outreach in the city.

Session 6: Integrative Ministry in the City

Using Col. 1:17, we will bring these urban topics together as a coherent, integrative model for missional leadership in the urban context. This model for urban leadership is based on the priority and centrality of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as Christians and their churches serve and witness in the city. In addition, we will examine how the doctrine of justification and a Lutheran understanding of vocation enable Christians to live out their freedom in Christ to serve their neighbor and the world God has made. We will explore how this model for missional leadership integrates ministries across urban, suburban and rural areas, and how Christians are empowered by the Gospel to engage the culture around us.

Registration deadline: April 4

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