Great Stuff — Giving thanks for care and growth of career missionaries

Great stuff found over on WMLTblog:

 

Dear Fellow Redeemed in Christ!

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good.” (Ps. 107:1)

Image-OIM-letter-2015-300x91We are blessed with the gift of faith through Holy Baptism and the preaching of God’s Word in accordance with the Lutheran Confessions. We give thanks to our Lord for so many blessings, including the opportunity to carry out our Lord’s mission in our respective vocations and with the talents God entrusts to us.

In July 2013, the Synod in convention set before the Office of International Mission (OIM) a challenge to double the number of career LCMS missionaries (Resolution 1-11, “To Recruit and Place More Career Missionaries”). By the Lord’s grace, we project that by September of this year, we will have met and exceeded that bold challenge!

In Jesus’ name, we give thanks for those who have accepted a call or solemn appointment to serve as an LCMS missionary. We give thanks to each person reading this who is committed to supporting our missionaries through personal prayer, words of spiritual encouragement and through each sacrificial donation offered up for this purpose.

The Lord of the harvest is indeed gracious and merciful, overcoming every doubt with the certainty of His constant and enduring love and providing everything that is truly needed to accomplish His will. He continues to call each of us through His Word to labor for His harvest.

As our international career missionary team grows, He continues to open doors of opportunity and possibility. Lutheran church bodies, including our 36 official partner churches around the world, plead for us to send teachers, pastors, theologians, church planters, medical teams and other skilled lay workers into their midst.

Now is the moment for The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to stand boldly and to vigorously make known the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in word and deed, proclaiming the forgiveness of sins through Him alone to the entire world!

God is positioning the LCMS to serve our Lutheran partner churches to help them enhance their own witness and mercy efforts, plant new communities of faith and nurture new partnerships so that every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.

By grace, God has strengthened the internal capacity of the OIM for effectively responding to these exciting opportunities, and to do so with even greater efficiency. Twelve full-time employees at the International Center in St. Louis, coupled with the regional administration teams, are responding to the 2013 convention’s challenge. Not only is this committed team recruiting more qualified missionaries and sending them into ripe harvest fields, the OIM is ensuring pastoral (spiritual and emotional) care for each missionary by deploying them in teams, under a strategic plan developed around the Synod’s six mission priorities adopted in convention (Res. 3-06A).

On the LCMS Mission Advancement side, four full-time specialists in St. Louis and eight staff members deployed around the county, including Gary Thies at Mission Central in Iowa, are working directly with (and caring for) faithful stewards in the Synod whom God empowers to financially support our missionaries. This team also provides professional assistance to our missionaries as they grow personal networks of financial partners. God has even blessed the Synod with dozens of lay volunteers who invest their precious energy in this effort!

Now is the most exciting time for LCMS international mission work in several decades! The current potential for a faithful Lutheran witness about Jesus all over the world is unprecedented. A seismic change is compelling many church bodies to seek out the LCMS because of the very treasure we steward, the Gospel, which they desire to teach in its truth and purity in their seminaries, their congregations and in the streets of their communities.

In East Africa alone, the countries of Ethiopia, Madagascar and Tanzania are home to almost 20 million Lutherans. These joyful Christians heard the Gospel proclaimed by missionaries sent from Europe and America. They are now journeying to speak God’s truth in the lands of those first missionaries, including the very birthplace of Lutheranism, Germany. We are being invited to partner with them. In the West African nation of Nigeria, opportunities to work alongside our partner church are opening up. Nigeria is home to more Muslims than those who live in Iraq.

The future strength of faithful Lutheranism is shifting to lands south of the equator and toward Asia. The call and challenge we have been handed is to share the theological treasures we steward with these partners so they are fully equipped to carry the biblical Gospel, as it is taught in the inerrant Scriptures, to all of the world.

Western Europe faces many of the same challenges of secularization we in North America are experiencing, perhaps in an even more intense way. Our partner churches are learning how to confess Christ as a minority in cultures and communities that do not have direct experience with or are indifferent and perhaps even hostile to the Christian church. People have forgotten even the most basic Christian narrative, and biblical literacy cannot be assumed. In some respects, a new Dark Age is descending on Europe.

Despite these daunting challenges, the Gospel is being proclaimed in what is a huge mission field! Our partners in Europe look to the LCMS for encouragement and help as they discover new opportunities to speak boldly and lovingly to their neighbors, especially to immigrant groups. Our mission strategy is intentionally designed to support their outreach efforts, and in some cases the LCMS provides workers to help plant new churches among those whose ears and hearts are open to the truth.

H. Mayer, the mission secretary of the Synod in 1956, noted a strange paradox about Christian mission work:

“And what shall we say when we look at the heathen world? During the past 40 years about 14 million heathen were baptized. But during that same span of time the heathen population increased by more than twenty times that number. Each year there are more Christians, but each year there are still more heathen. We face the strange paradox: The church grows, and yet it becomes relatively smaller.”

If this was true almost 60 years ago, it is true also today. It is precisely why the LCMS is active in mission in the 21st century — reaching out and proclaiming the Gospel to those who have not yet heard that Jesus died for their sins. It is why we purposefully nurture the faith of new Christians who hear and believe by gathering them around the Word and Sacraments so they may regularly receive God’s good and perfect gifts, a foretaste of the feast to come. It is why we establish Lutheran churches which shall exist into the future as faithful communities sharing the Gospel and themselves prepared to send missionaries.

Each generation of Christians is challenged by the devil, this broken world and our sinful flesh in ways that can hinder the spread of the Gospel. Yet in the midst of obvious challenges, the Lord of the harvest brings to light new, exciting opportunities. He promises hope and a future, and He delivers on every promise. In grace and love, He grants hope to carry on, courage to share the Gospel and an understanding that not even the gates of hell will prevail against His Church.

Thank you in the name of Jesus. Our earnest prayer is that you will continue this journey with us, joyfully carrying His Gospel to the four corners of the earth!

Rev. Tony Booker, Eurasia Regional Director
Rev. Dr. David Erber, West Africa Area Director
Rev. Theodore Krey, Latin America Regional Director
Mr. Darin Storkson, Asia Senior Regional Director
Rev. Shauen Trump, East Africa Area Director

Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
Rev. Dr. Edward Grimenstein, Associate Executive Director of the Office of International Mission
Mr. Mark Hofman, Executive Director of LCMS Mission Advancement

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord, LCMSsermons.com, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at KNFA.net.

Comments

Great Stuff — Giving thanks for care and growth of career missionaries — 9 Comments

  1. So, did I read that rightly, when it says the Synod has 12 full time staff coupled with regional representatives… then another 4 full time specialists and 8 staff members… without actually help fund real missionaries, who must shake down others to create funding networks?

    It almost appears that instead of redirecting money in districts and synod to funding missionaries to do missionary work, we added a bunch of staff that are not themselves missionaries. Did I read that right?

  2. I am not sure “shake down” is the proper word. They are finding and contacting donors for the missionaries. This would not be so necessary if the districts would send in more of their money to missions and the congregations would send more to districts. Even then many people and groups and even districts would like to donate to a particular mission directly. Then Synod has to coordinate all of this to put the right missionaries in the right places instead of having a scattering of independent missionaries. It is more complicated than in “the good old days.”

    I can’t tell from the writing if the 12 are the same as the 8 plus 4.

  3. @Richard Lewer #2

    Fair enough– shake down was unneccesarily rough. However, it still strikes me as strange, that the Synod is ostensibly trying to solve the missionary problem through greater administration, rather than taking administarive costs and redirecting them toward funding missionaries and missionary work.

  4. Remember, “missionary” in Synodocrat speak does not mean an ordained man preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments. It can mean school teacher, administrator, even photographer.

    How sad.

  5. I have seen some really solid guys being sent out as Missionaries and Theological Edcuators. As Pr. James May has emphasized, the need for theological education out there is great. Glad to see the LCMS also working on that. Nomenclature aside, there is an increased effort to teach confessional theology across the globe, and for that we can all be thankful.

  6. As long as incidents of unionism and syncretism go unchecked, as long as Beth Moore and other false teachers are given platforms in our churches, and as long as organizations such as Transforming Congregations Network remain on our RSO list, all Synod activities and missionary efforts will be suspect. Many of the faithful no longer trust the Synod or believe that the word “missionary” means an ordained man faithfully spreading the Gospel message. Too many non-missionary efforts have claimed the title “missionary” for other events.

    I have one simple, serious question for consideration: Is there anything that would stand in the way of our Synod leadership posting a weekly or monthly series of articles on the Synod website which warns against various false teachings (no names mentioned) and teaching why these false teachings are wrong and should be avoided in our LCMS churches?

    Isn’t our Synod supposed to advise? I, for one, would like to see the Synod regularly publicly advise against the false teachings that are leading so many sheep astray. Until then, I will likely assume that the Synod is not opposed to this activity. The evidence of error is everywhere, but the evidence of attempted correction is severely lacking. Evidence of attempted correction would likely go a long way to restoring trust that has been lost.

  7. These two paragraphs illustrate my point:

    “By grace, God has strengthened the internal capacity of the OIM for effectively responding to these exciting opportunities, and to do so with even greater efficiency. Twelve full-time employees at the International Center in St. Louis, coupled with the regional administration teams, are responding to the 2013 convention’s challenge. Not only is this committed team recruiting more qualified missionaries and sending them into ripe harvest fields, the OIM is ensuring pastoral (spiritual and emotional) care for each missionary by deploying them in teams, under a strategic plan developed around the Synod’s six mission priorities adopted in convention (Res. 3-06A).

    “On the LCMS Mission Advancement side, four full-time specialists in St. Louis and eight staff members deployed around the county, including Gary Thies at Mission Central in Iowa, are working directly with (and caring for) faithful stewards in the Synod whom God empowers to financially support our missionaries. This team also provides professional assistance to our missionaries as they grow personal networks of financial partners. God has even blessed the Synod with dozens of lay volunteers who invest their precious energy in this effort!”

    12 full time Synod employees at the International Center for the OIM, plus regional administration teams (unquantified). And on the Mission Advancement side, another 4 full time positions in St. Louis, plus another 8 staff members deployed around the county. So that sounds to me like at least another 24 Synod staff members (salaries and benefit, travel accounts, etc.,) plus whatever constitutes the regional administration teams… all while:

    “our missionaries… grow personal networks of financial partners.”

    So, the missionaries, who will do the hard service of living on a shoestring while deployed to dangerous mission fields are still out begging for funding for their noble calling and humble life, while the Synod “assists” them by funding 24 full time staffers and regional administrative teams.

    How many people do we really need in the Synod to assist missionaries? I wonder if we polled those missionaries, how they would prioritize the support they need from Synod? I doubt that adding a couple dozen or more staffers is at the top of their list. Somehow, I don’t think the great mission work supported in our early history by folks like Pr. Loehe, required nearly so much administration…

  8. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    There have been periods of time where the LCMS bureaucracy at Saint Louis was bloated. The present is not one of those times. If you all remember, the 2010 convention elected President Harrison to his first term, with the instructions to drastically reduce International Center staff all around and eliminate the old program boards (which had some duplication of effort).

    President Harrison and his staff spent most of his first term doing just that. The result has been an improved bottom line and the ability to repay “historic debt.” You need to read through the last five years of Reporter to see that whole story.

    A lot of people have a romanticized view of missionary work. Those who tell missionary stories are partly to blame for that, but some of it is just ignorance. Mission history is a big part of church history. Kenneth Scott Latourette’s “A History of Christianity,” 2 volumes, published by Harper, covers the entire history of the church, with a good discussion of missions from the beginning to 1975.

    One of the main purposes of church history, and mission history, is to learn from our mistakes. One of the big mistakes missionaries have made is to go into “undeveloped nations” and try to do mission work there in the same way they do in “developed nations.” Of course, the courage, piety, and motivation of such missionaries is to be admired, but we want to be smart too.

    Loehe sent “missionaries” to the American frontier to work with German-Americans who had recently immigrated. This was a real success. They were so glad to meet a fellow German-speaker that they would do anything for him. Starting a Lutheran church was a way for them to build a small German-speaking community. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

    Loehe also sent missionaries to Michigan to work with the native Americans. This was nowhere near as “successful,” for a variety of reasons, but the German-Americans in the Saginaw Valley did give it a great effort, with some conversions, and they learned many things. What they learned was passed onto the LCMS mission promoters (e.g., Sievers, LCMS Mission Board Chairman, 1850-93) and later to our first overseas missionaries, e.g., Naether, Mohn, Arndt.

    Today, it is one thing to send a trained seminarian to the boom-towns of North Dakota, to start churches among men and women who have emigrated there for the oil-boom. They speak the same language, come from the same culture, share hospitals, schools, markets, government, etc. One man can do that job.

    Sending one trained seminarian to the wildlands of the Amazon is an entirely different matter. He can hardly do the job himself–I would consider it a form of suicide, unless he grew up there.

    We Lutherans do not send missionaries to make ourselves feel good. We send missionaries in order to start living congregations that can eventually reproduce themselves. In less developed lands, or nations, this requires more personnel to have a lasting effect. Sending a missionary overseas requires support staff at home and some in the field.

    Besides, as Luther says, we are trying to raise up “knowledgeable Christians,” so education is always part of our efforts, no matter where we go.

    How the church raises support for missions has changed over the years too. In the 19th century, mission societies did the job. In the 20th century, denominations did the job (though some Baptists resisted). In the late 20th century, LCMS discovered that personal contact by missionaries to individual pastors and congregations was more effective than just sending “mission dollars to synod.” So that is what they do today–after all, Saint Paul begged for support from people he knew personally through his mission letters.

    I encourage all of you interested in this topic to subscribe to “Lutherans Engage the World.” It is one of the best missionary magazines I have read from and for Lutherans. You can find it at : http://www.lcms.org/lutheransengage or email them at: [email protected]

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

  9. Dear BJS Bloggers,

    Here is an “infographics” that gives real statistics on the history of LCMS missionaries and their present status. You can download the infographic if you can’t read it, by clicking on the button. That will let you read the fine print, which will explain the stats. This was originally published in “Lutherans Engage the World.”

    http://blogs.lcms.org/2015/career-missionaries-again-on-the-rise

    Thanks to Norm Fisher for publishing the original post above.

    Yours in Christ, Martin R. Noland

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