|MINNEAPOLIS — As the number of languages spoken in the Twin Cities continues to expand, so does the need for language-specific churches. According to the Rev. Roland Wells, senior pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis and head pastor at the Minneapolis site of MissionShift Institute, that’s exactly what’s missing in the Twin Cities: language-specific churches and Christian ministries reaching out to immigrants.
“That’s the reason we created MissionShift Institute (formerly the School of Urban Ministry) in 1995,” Wells said, via a media release. “Since then, the number of immigrants here has tripled to over 750,000 in the Twin Cities.”
In an effort to meet this challenge, MissionShift Institute offers classes that help Christians lead and develop cross-cultural ministries. Classes begin on Sept. 24 in downtown Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center and meet once a week on Monday nights.
Wells believes that American Christianity, once focused inwardly on maintaining membership, is now turning outward and must be prepared for the next wave of immigration.
“If we look at the birth pattern of America, ‘Generation Z,’ the children of ‘Gen X,’ is a smaller generation,” Wells said. “They are currently just entering high school. They will hit the labor market right at the peak of the Baby Boomers’ retirement. By the end of this decade, America will have a profound labor shortage. The church must be prepared for the next huge wave of immigration.”
Wells believes how the American church responds to this challenge will determine the future of Christianity in the U.S.
Over the nearly two decades of its existence, MissionShift Institute has developed strong ties to several local colleges and Bible schools, including Concordia University St. Paul, Crown College, Northwestern College and Associated Free Lutheran Bible School. This fall, MissionShift Institute classes will be offered for the first time in St. Louis through Concordia Seminary, which has been working with MissionShift Institute to create a local branch.
“We’re excited to see the model expand,” Wells continued. “We have two goals: In one generation we’d like to see every world city have a branch of MissionShift Institute, and we want every congregation to have its own cross-cultural ministry. The new branch in St. Louis, working with this tremendous missional vision, is very exciting for us.”
As a further example of its expansion, MissionShift Institute recently hired a full-time program director, who is also a graduate of the program.
“I’m excited to come and help lead these ministries that have so deeply touched my life,” said Jennifer Schewe, the new program director of MissionShift Institute. “The MissionShift model is unique, and building cross-cultural community with the message of the gospel in order to strengthen the church and the kingdom is my passion.”
With so many challenges facing the American church, Wells hopes individual churches will embrace its new mission field, which has arrived at its front door.
“Your church’s ministry can be greatly strengthened, and your congregation can be turned outward to become a true mission agency,” he said. “The key is to open your eyes and hearts to the people of the 216 languages who live … next door.”
ACTIONPOINT: For more information about MissionShift Institute, visit www.missionshift.org or call (651) 484-2303.