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Story Magazine

Second Quarter 2008

Alum-in-Residence Steve Holm is Focused on Mission

by Andy Behrendt, M.Div. middler

Alum in residence, Steve Holm

In his week on campus as Luther Seminary's 2008 alum-in-residence, Steve Holm, '70, embodied such mission-mindedness. From Feb. 26 through March 3, Holm offered a longtime pastor's perspective on important matters of modern ministry--including church mission.

"It's gratifying to see so many young persons interested in being pastors," said Holm, pastor at Desert Cross Lutheran Church in Tempe, Ariz., while reflecting on his week as alum-in-residence. "I'm convinced this is a great time to be a part of the ELCA--I'm excited about its future as it moves in the direction of being a missional denomination."

Opportunities for growth
Holm's visit came while his Arizona congregation prepared to make a major missional step: becoming one congregation with two sites. This summer, Desert Cross will launch a ministry in nearby Gilbert, Ariz., where the congregation will build a second church.

In his chapel sermon, Holm likened the journey to the disciples' inspired change of course in Acts 16:6-10. The growing Desert Cross congregation planned several years ago to build a new sanctuary at its current site in Tempe. But, Holm said, "The Holy Spirit said no." Instead the congregation realized its unique ability to respond to Gilbert, where other ELCA mission starts had been aborted.

"Our task was simply to bring our gifts, to put them into the hands of God and see what would happen," Holm said. "Being the church is not so much bringing people in as it is going out, and, as we have gone out, as we have begun that mission in Gilbert, we have discovered that we have entered into God's future, and it is so much fun."

Future plans
Holm said he can no longer think about simply coasting into retirement within the next few years. He also pointed to Desert Cross' missional motivation in setting aside 15 percent of each capital campaign for mission outreach and assistance to other congregations, particularly Latino congregations in the Phoenix area, which is nearby.

Holm, 63, who with his wife, Cherie, has six children and seven grandchildren, was called to ministry one night while a student at Minneapolis' Augsburg College. Originally from Tigerton,Wis., the lifelong Lutheran spent his first 20 years as a pastor in Worland and Casper,Wyo., before coming to Desert Cross. Although he speaks highly of Arizona's year-round golf opportunities, he insists that each call has come as a response to God's Spirit.

Before formally beginning his week as alum-in-residence, Holm took care of other business by interviewing candidates for Desert Cross' first-ever internship. He then visited various classes, sharing his experiences. He told students in Foundations of Biblical Preaching about memorizing each week's lectionary Bible texts and applying them in different sermon forms catered to each of Desert Cross' weekly worship services. Included is a Saturday storytelling service with Garrison Keillor-style stories about the fictional Crown and Cactus Lutheran Church.

But Holm's greatest lesson might prove to be his example of putting missional theology into action.

"What's important to me is beginning to have more and more congregations adopt a missional attitude and recognizing that God is at work in our world. The job of congregations is to somehow work with God in whatever that work might be," Holm said. "We do everything we can to emphasize that to people--that they have multitudes of opportunities in daily living for missional work."

The Luther Seminary alum-in-residence stays on campus for approximately one week and preaches in chapel, speaks in seminary classes, meets with faculty members and visits with students. The Luther Seminary Alumni/ae Council is receiving nominations for the 2009 alumni/ae-in-residence program. All Luther graduates are eligible. To nominate an individual, visit or contact the Office of Seminary Relations at 888-358-8437.