Latest LCMS Missions Magazine – Three Great Things and an Iffy One, by Pr. Rossow

President Harrison has just sent out a link to the latest edition of the LCMS Missions magazine. You can download the pdf here. There are three great things, actually four, about the magazine.

First, notice the title. It doesn’t use that confusing, harmful, modern, liberal phrase “Missio Dei.” Furthermore, that obnoxious term does not show up in the title of a single article of this edition. If you want more on “Missio Dei.” here is a good place to start. Missio Dei turns mission work into a theological ideology and removes it from the straight-forward, too simple for the modern LCMS minds like DP’s Linemann and Newton, preaching of the Gospel to pagans.

Secondly and related to the first point is my encouragement to you to read Al Collver’s article on the history of missions in the LCMS. Included in his sweeping article is a bit on missio Dei. It is quite good and very instructive. Al is the Assistant to the President for international work. Having just returned from Africa I am very interested in the notion of LCMS mission work and will be writing several posts to follow up on my introductory post from last week. Al’s paper has been very helpful as I continue to think through the way we do missions.

Third, the line up of authors is stellar including my own doctor-father, Dr. Carl Fickenscher from Fort Wayne. There won’t be a wasted word.

The bonus goodie is a book review by Pr. Lucas Woodford from Mayer, Minnesota. He is a fellow Lutherans in Africa enthusiast and rising theological star in the LCMS. He is a former contemporary worship fan who has seen the light and is now practicing and promoting the historic liturgy.

The iffy part of the magazine is the connection between mercy and missions. Feel free to throw tomatoes at me and other various bombs as I question this sacred cow. I shall simply retreat into the Scriptures for protection. I read the Scriptures from cover to cover several years back just looking for texts on mercy and found that the primary and dominant injunction of Holy Writ on this matter is that our mercy duty is to take care of the widows and orphans in the local parish. Because it is a sacred cow I don’t expect anyone to agree. I plan on unpacking this notion over the next few years or so.

Back to the main point, the article by Collver is excellent and overall the magazine looks well done and worth your time. More to come…

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.


Latest LCMS Missions Magazine – Three Great Things and an Iffy One, by Pr. Rossow — 19 Comments

  1. I don’t have a problem with general mercy work to the extent that it’s part of the vocation of individual Christians (Gal. 6:10), but the idea that the church as a whole is supposed to turn into a charity for the world is a great example of the good becoming the enemy of the best.

    Mercy work is good. Mercy work in place of the gospel is not good. And unfortunately when the church becomes misguided on mercy work, that’s inevitably what happens.

  2. I too believe that when it comes to mercy, “the least of these My brothers” refers to the helpless ones in the Body of Christ, not necessarily those outside the Church. The social deeds of the Church of Christ go first to the believers. As regards those outside the Church, the preaching of the Gospel of eternal salvation should be of first priority. But as the early Church was known for giving mercy to believers and unbelievers as well, there is no reason not to also give towards the temporal needs of those being presented with the Gospel. The “Social Gospel” is no gospel at all; rather Law.

    Surveying the current situation of the poor in this nation, I seldom see any homeless Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs or Jews. Why? Most overseas immigrants are well-educated, industrious and take care of their own. So social ministry does end up helping mostly Christian people. But it doesn’t qualify as missionary work.

  3. But so long as Christianity remained a disfavored–and sometimes persecuted–religion, their appeals to the pagan government to act against infanticide were ineffectual in changing government policy. Even so, Christians worked against infanticide by prohibiting its members from practicing it, voicing their moral view on infanticide to the pagan world, and by providing for the relief of the poor and actually taking in and supporting babies which had been left to die by exposure by their pagan parents. As Fox explains, “to the poor, the widows and orphans, Christians gave alms and support, like the synagogue communities, their forerunners. This ‘brotherly love’ has been minimized as a reason for turning to the Church, as if only those who were members could know of it. In fact, it was widely recognized.” According to Durant, “in many instances Christians rescued exposed infant, baptized them, and brought them up with the aid of community funds.”


  4. On Mercy and missions… consider Naaman. God’s mercy comes to the undeserving as does His grace.

    Helping the poor around the world is perhaps not the foremost mission of the church, but as the sun rises on the just and the unjust, so also when we know that there are people in need of daily bread while we have plenty, we can act in Jesus’ name.

  5. George,

    I do believe the story of Naaman is a story of courageous faith and salvation and not mercy. Besides, this is what I argue for. There we see an individual having mercy on someone. Everyone of us needs to apply mercy to the needs that we find at the end of our noses. My problem is connecting mercy with missions and with the church doing on a large scale. It has failed on almost every attempt.

    In addition, I do not know of any large scale mercy projects for the world that came out of the temple in Naaman’s day.

  6. Dear Pastor Rossow,
    Interesting discussion, and I “think” I track with you?

    01) The “mission” of the Church is reaching the lost, through proper teaching, all that we have as a Church.

    02) Mercy is simply part of God’s teaching (His Torah). We do it, because it is good.

    But large scale mercy projects, the best method is simply to teach God’s Word. Mercy will and does follow, of course at differing levels.

  7. @George #4

    I’m not Pastor Rossow’s official spokesman (nor do I play one on TV) but I don’t think Pastor Rossow is saying “don’t be merciful.” What he’s addressing is something that I as an ex-evangelical have seen run rampant through American evangelicalism. Let me give you a couple of examples of this:

    -Promoting adoption as the “mission” of the church. Saw this in my former Nazarene church where a (well-meaning) couple started publicizing their adoptions, and then all of a sudden there was an “adoption” movement that became quite pervasive in the church, to the point where two Sundays were taken to talk about it during service time. It got to the point where you were (intentionally or not) made to feel like you were the outsider and “less spiritual” if you weren’t running out to adopt somebody.

    -Poverty “home makeover” projects. As with the adoption thing (same church btw), this became a big deal, and led to a sort of “look at us” issue, much like those who do alms and want to be seen by everybody else that they’re doing it (Matthew 6:1). Again, I don’t think that was the initial intention of those who started it, but it sure came across that way when every other Sunday seemed to feature a clip of one of their projects during church, which again led to making people feel like they were second class if they weren’t a part of this project.

    There are three major problems with the church taking on corporate mercy work projects that I see. First of all, it ignores the diversity of the body of Christ, and can turn into a “My-mercy-work-is-better-than-yours-because-I-get-talked-about-in-the-bulletin” attitude. Again, looking at the adoption issue I brought up, if you’re called in your vocation to adopt, Great! Praise God for it! But just because you are called to do that doesn’t mean everybody else is. And just because others aren’t doing what you are doing doesn’t mean that what they are doing is any less important or spiritual, but when you champion one or two particular causes as a church, you run the risk of doing that.

    Second, as Pastor Rossow indicated, there are plenty of individual opportunities to do mercy in our everyday vocations, without having to put together a church program to do so. The Samaritan in Jesus’ parable helped the Jew before him; he did not go home and start a “Save the Jericho Road People!” activist group. It would be interesting to see how much more mercy work would happen immediately if people would look at their immediate social sphere instead of trying to turn everything into a community action event. Indeed, how much more can a conversation about the gospel come up (I Peter 3:15) through one little work of mercy!!

    The third serious problem is that corporate church mercy in evangelicalism can be conflated with the gospel. It’s just as easy to develop a “social gospel” in modern evangelicalism as it is to do so in a liberal mainline church. Fixing a roof, feeding the poor, and other such good deeds are merciful, but they are not the gospel. An atheist can do any of these things (indeed, some do) and do it in the name of humanity. It is the gospel, not works of mercy, that define who the church is.

    Practice mercy, yes. But the church needs to preach the gospel first and foremost. Let the individual do good as opportunity comes in the world around him.

  8. Pastor Prentice,

    Yes, that is a good capsule summary.

    Of course, if I am evangelizing a guy and he drops to the ground with a coronary, I take him to the hospital. I show mercy. That would be the merciful thing to do. If I took him to a Lutheran hospital I would have to drive a long way because most of them have gone belly up or if I took him to the one here in Chicago I could stop by the natal wing and watch a few babies murdered since Lutheran Hospital Chicago is one of the largest abortion factories around. (Ironically what is happening with large scale Lutheran mercy in this case is the opposite of what Greg described above. Babies are not being saved they are being murdered.)

  9. Another good thing is that Dr. Fickenscher’s awesome article is translated into Spanish…by the coolest Puerto Rican in the world.


  10. What about the missions to the Church in Jerusalem when it was encountering famine, mentioned in Second Corinthians? Paul mentioned the Macedonians as generous givers to a foreign parish.

  11. I don’t think I was criticizing the entire article, or the idea in general. I was simply recalling a biblical example of mercy which leads to grace. “Courageous faith” isn’t what I would call Naaman’s response to Elisha. “Courageous faith” does describe the little girl, so I’ll assume that’s what you were referring to, in which case, the girl directs Naaman to God for healing… and the faith created through the healing (and of course the word of God) is what follows by God’s grace.

    I wouldn’t describe this as a “program” for mercy — not from the temple or Jerusalem, but from the heart of a little faithful girl. Of course, it’s unclear that missionaries should be sent from a central office either. We only do “mission” work or “mercy” work from a central office for convenience and efficiency (at least that’s the idea as far as I understand).

    From my point of view, it is imperative that we care for the church around the world primarily. However, we are also extremely privileged in the US and I think that it is ok, even crucial that we find ways to share with those who are in need even if they’re not Christians.

    Oh, and I totally agree that it must be done in a helpful way, not necessarily the most flashy way… and that true mercy for the unbelieving world means preaching the pure gospel first and foremost.

  12. Unfortunately, many organizations seem ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
    CROP Walk could be a jaycee event for all its publicity states.
    LWR forbids stitching crosses on quilts. And on and on.
    Our participation in these organizations saps time and resources from proclaiming the gospel.

  13. Oh, it is a living, busy, active, powerful thing that we have in faith, so that it is impossible for it not to do good without ceasing. … [Justifying] faith is a living, bold [firm] trust in God’s grace, so certain that a man would die a thousand times for it [rather than suffer this trust to be wrested from him]. … (M)an becomes ready and cheerful, without coercion, to do good to every one, to serve every one, and to suffer everything for love and praise to God, who has conferred this grace on him, so that it is impossible to separate works from faith, yea, just as impossible as it is for heat and light to be separated from fire.


    “Every one”, twice.

  14. @Pastor Tim Rossow #9

    “I could stop by the natal wing and watch a few babies murdered since Lutheran Hospital Chicago is one of the largest abortion factories around. (Ironically what is happening with large scale Lutheran mercy in this case is the opposite of what Greg described above. Babies are not being saved they are being murdered.”

    Wow. It sounds like our Lutherans for Life group needs to march outside this hospital like we do in D.C.. We need to speak to (our own?) and get our house in order or try to get the name “Lutheran” taken off of that hospital.

  15. Pastor Rossow,

    Thanks for the article and I understand your point. Let us move it to the local level and the phone calls often made to the church that go something along the following lines.

    My water/heat has been turned off, I am going to be evicted, I am living in a hotel and I need another nights stay. It is something how many think that since we are Christian we are a money pot for their needs.

    We need to remember the early church faced the same issue even among the believers who were pushing off their own family onto the church. 1 Timothy 5:3 – 8

    For those who want to throw tomatoes at you, let us make it easy for them with the following ad:

    Wanted large crowd and large truck filed with rotten tomatoes to throw at Pastor Rossow.

    When: February 30th at 2 PM

    Where: 666 Satan Street, Satansville Illinois, 66666.

    This must be your address if you question mercy. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.