The 2017 New Jersey population was estimated to be 8,953,745 people, residing in 21 counties and 566 municipalities, with 59% of the residents being white, 18% of the residents being Hispanic, 13% of the residents being black, and 9% of the residents being Asian. In terms of age distribution, 1% of the residents are of the G.I. generation (1901-1924), 8% are of the Silent Generation (1925-1945), 18% are of the Boomer generation (1946-1960), 28% are of the Gen X generation (1961-1981), 29% are of the Millennial generation (1982-2004) and 16% are of the Homeland generation (2005-2025). It is estimated that nearly one-third of all New Jersey residents identify themselves as having no religious preference.
Despite residing in a State that has the highest population density, the New Jersey District has become the smallest LCMS District, numbering 10,168 baptized members, 8,418 communicant members, and experiencing a total average worship attendance of 3,650 souls. Like many other districts within Synod, we continue to see that many of our congregations are growing smaller in terms of both baptized and communicant membership, and that the average age of those who worship are getting older.
The crisis situation in which we find ourselves is this: we no longer live in a churched culture but in an unchurched and de-churched culture. This state of affairs both challenges and invites God’s people to acquire a proper ministry balance between edification and evangelism and becoming more missionary in our posture and orientation toward the growing number of U.S. citizens who are not Christians.
Several of the many pressing ministry challenges that are before us:
…how do we witness to, and evangelize, people who have built their lives upon non-Christian narratives, especially the growing segment of the U.S. population that has “no religious or spiritual preference”
…how do we effectively reach, and communicate with, the younger generations with the Gospel, recognizing that 44% of the New Jersey residents are under the age of thirty-six
…how do we pay our bills, adequately compensate our church workers, and maintain our physical buildings and properties; while making known His Gospel, and extending His kingdom, to the ends of the earth as He encourages us to do
…how do we communicate the Biblical message in oral, print, broadcast and digital culture; and how do we steward social media effectively for ministry engagement in the “public square”
…how do we address, and minister to, a culture that perceives and judges the Christian message to be irrelevant in answering the “big questions,” and dealing with the day-to-day problems, that people have in, and with, life
…how do we defend and communicate the Christian faith in a secularized and pluralistic culture in such a way that we are “able to give the reason for the hope that lives within us, yet with gentleness and respect” to the many, many kinds of people who are trying to make sense of life, and the realities around them, without the hypothesis of the Triune God
The district’s ministry plan in light of the permanent and triennial objectives of Synod
God is working out His saving plan in and through His chosen and redeemed people, and each disciple has a responsibility for advancing the saving purposes of God in the world (Matthew 4:19–20; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 1 Peter 2:5, 9). Moreover, our present life and ministry* is timed by God’s own clock, His fixed times, the kairos determined by God; consequently, for each disciple, there exists a divine kairos of opportunity for advancing His mission purposes.
So that His mission might be accomplished in the lives of His people, and in the world, God has entrusted His people (and our Synod) with four ministries:
an evangelistic ministry as His people seek to evangelize large numbers of people through their life of witness and Gospel proclamation and bring them, by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s working, to faith in Jesus Christ.
a maturational ministry as His people grow up into Christ in every way and become mature disciples of Jesus, who are also His stewards, servants, priests, witnesses, salt, light, living letters, etc.
an organic ministry as His people are connected to one another in relationships that live out the “one another admonitions” of Scripture, with each believer using his or her gifts, talents and abilities for the building up of the Body of Christ and for the common good.
an incarnational ministry as His people, wherever they go and with whomever they come into contact, are able to be His ambassadors and living letters, mediating His mind and word and demonstrating His love, concern and compassion for others.
In order to equip His people for these essential ministry endeavors, the…
first major ministry focus will be to increase the biblical literacy of His people through the teaching ministry of the district’s Leaders and Learners program and the leadership of the Congregational Services Council, beginning with these core training events: divine drama: the biblical narrative; fifty stories that every Christian should know; the parables of Jesus; and offering an annual pilgrimage to Israel.
second major ministry focus will be to equip His people in how to share His story of salvation in Jesus Christ with others through the teaching ministry of the district’s Leaders and Learners program and the leadership of the Outreach Council, beginning with these core training events: every one His witness (Rev. Mark Woods); how did Jesus do evangelism; and life is all about stories: helping people make sense of their story in light of His story.
third major ministry focus will be to equip His people to be missionaries in their daily lives and vocations through a missionary formation process that has content and training in these core subject areas: (1) foundational: the mission of God; who I am in Christ (identity) and why am I here (purpose); who we are in Christ (identity) and why are we here (purpose); (2) contextual: worldview; culture learning; (3) contextualization: the core narratives and ministry practices of an apostolic church; and through the missionary training ministry of Rev. Greg Finke: joining Jesus in His mission.
fourth major ministry focus will be the establishment of The Kairos Network (Rev. Matt Peeples, Director) and its ministry of forming mission leaders and extending His kingdom through church planting endeavors.
fifth major ministry focus will be the development of specialty workshop presentations based upon these resources and ministry areas: worldview; celtic evangelism; how to reach secular people; ALOA: adult Lutherans organized for action; Trinitarian apologetics; and adaptive leadership.
* Footnotes: Who I am in Christ defines my identity (who am I) and my ministry (why am I here) as a Christian; as one baptized into Christ, I am a disciple, servant, priest, witness, salt of the earth, light of the world, temple of the Holy Spirit, etc., and this is how I am to live out my faith in the relationships of life. Moreover, who we are in Christ defines our identity (who are we) and ministry (why are we here) as the Body of Christ, with Christ as our Head; as His people, called and gathered into the assembly of believers, we are the Body of Christ, living stones built into a spiritual house, a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, saints, ambassadors, living letters, etc.