Advocacy and Ministry in the 21st Century

Advocacy Ministries of the ELCA

Kevin O’Hara is an intern with the Lutheran Office for World Community

Kevin O'Hara

I just returned from two gatherings that focused on how ministry is changing, especially in the 21st century church, which may look a lot more like the church in the 1st and 2nd century than that of the 21st. This is a radical change, knowing that the church has come so far to embrace the 21st century, but it does not mean the church will abandon the good practices that have led it to today.

 What are some of these developing practices?  First, the church is becoming more relational within the community.  The apostles of the 1st century were sent out to new communities to preach God’s love. For advocacy, this might mean that models relying on people coming to the church/institution will integrate with churches living out their institutional beliefs through their work in the community as they may define it.  In addition, while internet and technology are the primary means of communication in much of today’s “developed” world, this is only a first line of communication for many people—nothing beats face-to-face encounters.

In this age, issues around social justice, racism, political, gender, sexual orientation, and disability are being reshaped in light of recent advancements. However, the biggest concern in the church for the 21st century will be over socio-economic barriers.  Lutherans are one of the most educated denominations and at times emphasizes an intellectual faith.  How might this impact how we do church and advocacy?

Lastly, church life could take on a diverse mystical experience.  Young adults long for connection to something greater than themselves (but claim spirituality over religiosity).  If there is a deep call to be connected to something greater than oneself, how might this shape advocacy?  One possibility is raising awareness through additional public events at the United Nations and in Washington D.C., where many people come together for a common cause.