Lutheran Mission Matters Articles — January 2016
Inside this Issue: Pastors and People in Mission
There are several reasons why “Pastors and People in Mission” has been chosen as the theme for this “special edition.” First, it helps call attention to the change of name for this journal from Missio Apostolica to Lutheran Mission Matters. The Editorial Committee is fully aware of the confusion that often accompanies transitions of this type; but we are determined to make the articles in this and subsequent editions available to a wider audience of pastors and people who are convinced that Lutheran mission matters, that the Lutheran faith is something to be shared with the world, especially the world that does not know Jesus.
Secondly, the perennial issue of the missionary roles of pastors and people is one that continues to raise concerns for Lutherans in North America and around the world. One might say that the conversation began with Martin Luther’s treatise of 1520 on “The Freedom of a Christian,” in which he emphasized that the Gospel liberates all to serve God and neighbor.
For The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the issue reared its head as early as 1839, when the colony of Saxon immigrants found it necessary to depose their bishop, Martin Stephan. In the resulting crisis, the Saxon clergy continued to fulfill their God-given role as shepherds of the flock, but was it enough? Could this little band of immigrants be the church? What was its role in this new land?
At Altenburg, MO, in 1841, C. F. W. Walther, after a time of carefully studying the Scriptures and the writings of the Lutheran reformers, laid the foundation that would ultimately empower both pastors and people in their efforts to carry forward together the mission of the Lord on the frontier, affirming that the Lord of the church was always with His flock wherever the preaching and teaching of the truth of His Word was taking place and wherever the sacraments were administered according to His command.
As Lutherans around the world prepare to celebrate the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, and as churches in this country face the daunting task of reaching out to people in communities where the influence of Christianity is clearly waning, the members of the Lutheran Society for Missiology believe it is important to come to a fuller understanding of those who never have had or have lost the faith, to recognize the points of weakness, as well the strength of our Lutheran witness to the Good News of Jesus, and to renew our commitment as pastors and people to sharing it with others in both word and deed.
For the sake of achieving this objective, we have assembled an excellent lineup of authors and articles.
President Dale Meyer of Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and Dr. Gerhard Michael, president emeritus of the Florida Georgia District, who is now at work as interim pastor in one of its congregations, highlight today’s mission formation challenges with respect to both pastors and laypeople and efforts they are making in their respective contexts to meet these.
Dr. John Nunes, the president-elect of Concordia College, New York, and Gerald Perschbacher of Lutheran Hour Ministries focus attention on the threefold emphasis that the Missouri Synod is placing upon Witness, Mercy, and Life Together. They not only explore some of the implications they see for pastors and people, but address several of the missional questions being raised regarding the relationships of these same three to one another.
Dr. Robert Newton and Dr. Dean Nadasdy offer us the perspectives on this edition’s theme from the viewpoint of two seasoned LCMS district presidents: one who has had firsthand experience at the front line of mission overseas and one who has provided senior leadership at a large, growing congregation on the twenty-first-century American scene.
Dustin Kunkel and Michael Von Behren provide a measure of in-depth study of the confessional legitimacy and the contemporary necessity of keeping Licensed Lay Deacons in the arsenal of workers available to congregations seeking to be in mission.
The context for mission is not the same today as it was the first century and a half of the Missouri Synod’s existence. An article by the late Dr. Paul Heerboth and another from Dr. Chad Lakies, a member of the religion faculty at Concordia College, Portland, OR, demonstrate the contrast.
Two sources of conversation about the need for pastors and people today to see that being “confessional” and “missional” are complementary rather than competing identities are provided by a young LCMS pastor in his first parish, Matthew Borrasso, and Dr. Volker Stolle, a Lutheran theologian from the Independent Lutheran Church in Germany (SELK), the partner church of the LCMS in Germany. Dr. Douglas Rutt of Lutheran Hour Ministries then examines the theme of this edition from the standpoint of the Lutheran doctrine of vocation.
In 2016, the LCMS will hold its triennial convention in Milwaukee. In connection with the convention, officers will be elected and multiple decisions about the future of the Synod will be made. The church will seriously discuss the mission and ministry of a Lutheran church of more than two million members, seeking ways to strengthen the faith of its existing members even as it sends those members into the world to bear witness to Jesus. It is the desire of the Editorial Committee, through the articles included in this “special edition,” to add to this conversation by providing food for thought and discussion. Lutheran Mission Matters!
The Lutheran Society for Missiology has decided also to experiment with a twenty-first-century method of distribution. Articles will be delivered to pastors and people electronically, singly and in pairs, over a period of weeks during the late winter and early spring. The articles will then be assembled in a hard copy and distributed to members who have requested a paper copy.
The society recognizes that many of our readers will welcome an opportunity to read one or two articles at a time over a period of time, rather than a host of articles in one issue. At the same time, it will also provide additional opportunities for pastors and people who are not as yet members of LSFM to read the ideas of others who think that Lutheran Mission Matters, to join the movement, and to do their part in awakening the Lutheran church to the mission opportunities that God is placing before His people.
Special Edition Committee
Lutheran Mission Matters
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Messengers of the Message: Preparing Tomorrow’s Pastors - Dale A. Meyer
Abstract: Perhaps your child or grandchild has stopped attending church. We all know people who have walked away from regular worship. For us it’s a worrisome trait in contemporary American culture, and there are many reasons why it’s happening. Among the reasons is one that concerns seminaries: the conduct of some pastors. Some messengers display pastoral demeanors and personal lives that do not reflect positively on the message of Jesus Christ.
More than ever before, seminaries need to form pastors who are continually growing in personal sanctification, men who take theological head knowledge down into their hearts, first and foremost because it is the message of their own salvation. Then, as a consequence, they go to congregations and communities as messengers of salvation, pastors who model the Christian life. Because these are changed times, Concordia Seminary is revising its curriculum. The message of the Gospel continues to be paramount, non-negotiable, but new curricular emphases will focus on the messenger of the message of Jesus Christ. One pastor who works with people who have disconnected from church says, “We are in a time when what you are saying is as important as how you are saying it. What you are saying needs to be genuine and authentic.” As Paul said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”
One Pastor’s Efforts to Nurture: A Congregation of Priests - Gerhard C. Michael, Jr.
Abstract: The author describes his efforts in a small congregation in Dahlonega, Georgia to help it understand its role in God’s mission from the perspective of the priesthood of all believers. The priesthood is a corporate reality, but the way a congregation accomplishes its priestly service is through the individual members working together, with each doing his or her part. Paying close attention to the role of priests in the Old and New Testaments, the author helped the congregation to see that their role as the priesthood of all believers was to present God to the nations through their witness and service and the nations to God through their prayers. Consequently, this pastor sought to help his whole flock realize how their conduct is an integral part of their service. He taught the vital role intercessory prayer plays in God’s mission. He highlighted the critical role listening plays in knowing how to witness to people in their various situations. He emphasized how Scripture reveals the all-sufficiency of Christ, who meets the entire range of human needs. If the priesthood is to declare the wonderful deeds of God, the priests need to know the story of salvation. He showed how special occasions provide opportunities to connect a congregation with the workplace, marriage and family, and society for their witness, service, and prayers.
Missio Trinitatis: Averting the Trifurcation of Witness, Service, and Life Together - John Nunes
Abstract: The Trinitarian God calls the church to be in mission through redeemed relationships (koinonia) in which witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ (martyria) enact works of service (diakonia). While professionalization and progress contribute many benefits to the Christian West, a negative consequence is the tendency toward operational separation of ministry functions.
God’s Plan, My Mission - Gerald Perschbacher
Abstract: This article unfolds the shaping of mission from a Lutheran/biblical perspective. The goal is to “reach” with the Gospel, through a motivated body of believers (the Church) which is heavily lay orientated. With the action of witnessing comes the practical application of mercy and the comprehension of grace. Examples of “doing mission” past and present, with special reference to the work of the Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL) and Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM), are explored and elaborated as signposts on the trek of future outreach in an era of multicultural realization amid a shrinking world with a burgeoning population.
The Word, the Baptized, and the Mission of God - Robert Newton
Abstract: Many in the LCMS recognize that the United States is a vast “mission field” as exotic to our American churches as any mission field overseas. At the same time we primarily follow patterns of Gospel ministry developed in and for a highly churched society rather than the mission field. In order to proclaim the Gospel faithfully in our present American context we need to embrace God’s mission paradigm. That first requires that we understand the essential differences between the church dominated world (Western Christendom) and the non-churched dominated world (mission field). Secondly, we must consider God’s missionary paradigm as described the New Testament and amply demonstrated in present-day mission fields. Two questions guide this consideration: (1) “Are the dynamics of missionary outreach presented in the New Testament and regularly found on our foreign mission fields applicable for the missionary context of twenty-first-century America?” and (2) “If they are applicable, how do we employ them in our churches?”
Vocation and Mission: The Role of the Laity in the Mission of Christ - Dean Nadasdy
Abstract: Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, calls both clergy and laity to serve in the priesthood of all believers. Vocation, a crucial aspect of this priesthood, places us in specific and varied settings in His mission.
Faithful and Missional from the Beginning: One Hundred Years of LCMS Mission - Paul Heerboth
Abstract: The Saxon immigrants from Germany who first settled in Perry County, Missouri, were strongly motivated by the desire to live in a country where they could organize their lives around their commitment to the Lutheran church and its teachings. In that group of believers, however, there were pastors and people who recognized that the Lutheran Church had much to offer a world in need, and over time the church grew in its commitment to the missionary task.
The New Religious Context in the North Atlantic World: God’s Mission in a Secular Age - Chad Lakies
Abstract: In our modern, so-called “secular age,” religion in the North Atlantic world continues to flourish unabated, yet its shape and character seem undoubtedly to be changing. This essay aims to articulate the nature and character of our secular age in order to help the pastor, professional church worker, or missionary gain a better grasp of our contemporary religious milieu. The scope is not comprehensive, but it is broad enough to give the reflective practitioner some resources to help map and navigate our present moment, especially in terms of anticipating mission efforts, reflecting on faith formation in the lives of the youngest to the oldest, and attempting to give a helpful description about how we came to be the kinds of religious people we are in the North Atlantic.
Category Error, Common Sense, and the Office of the Public Ministry in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod - Dust Kunkel
Abstract: The report by Synod Task Force pursuant to Resolution 4-06A of the 2013 LCMS Convention on Licensed Lay Deacons is used as the starting point to explore assumptions and the application of The Office of the Public Ministry within the secular context of the twenty-first century. On the eve of the five hundredth anniversary of the Reformation, with the Western church destabilized by vast cultural change, a founding community practice built on Scripture and congregation polity is offered as a qualitatively Lutheran way forward.
Rehabilitating the Doctrine of the Call: Building Strength and Agility for Mission - Michael T. Von Behren
Abstract: The great mission that Christ has given to His body, the Church, to proclaim the Gospel to all nations necessitates the strength and agility that only a fully developed understanding of the divine call publicly to preach His Word and administer His Sacraments can provide. Unfortunately aspects of that call have atrophied from disuse in some confessional Lutheran circles, thus hampering the ability to flex and reach as mission contexts require. As rehabilitation restores the body’s health by exercising underused muscles, a bit of rehabilitation of the doctrine of the call may be just what the Great Physician has in order.
Useless and Bankrupt: Confession and Mission in Light of the Symbols - Matthew Borrasso
Abstract: When misunderstood or misaligned, confession and mission are useless and bankrupt. Confession is useless, or without purpose, when it exists only for its own sake. Mission is bankrupt, or empty, when it fails to bring the content of the Gospel to the life of one in need of receiving it. This article seeks to learn from the Symbols the nature and purpose of confession and mission. Specifically, it seeks to understand and suggest how Lutheran confession shapes Lutheran mission, not just for those who first confessed, but for those who by God’s grace continue to live in accord with that same confession.
How Lutherans Have Done Mission: A Historical Survey - Volker Stolle
Abstract: “Mission is the one Church of God in motion,” wrote Wilhelm Löhe in his Three Books on the Church of 1848. Lutherans have recognized that on the basis of their theology they have an obligation to address the unbelieving world. Their mission efforts have always begun with prayer for missions and missionaries and in the field have included clear catechetical instruction, frequent use of Bible translation into vernacular languages, and an emphasis on holistic mission. The nearly five hundred years of Lutheran mission history demonstrate well how forces and ideas outside the church inevitably shape how mission is organized and done (or not), and how Lutheran people with mission vision, guided and led by the Spirit of God, have found a variety of ways to make a Lutheran contribution to the evangelization of the world.
Vocation in Missiological Perspective - Douglas L. Rutt
Abstract: For some, additional ministerial offices in the church would lead to more efficient and effective proclamation of the gospel to the unbelieving world. Yet God’s Word and history teach that it is in vocation, the calling of the common Christian, where the gospel is proclaimed in purity and power. Every believer receives a call to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pt 2:9). If Justification is the articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae, vocation can be seen in a similar way, for it is a doctrine where all aspects of biblical teaching are brought to bear on the Christian’s life of good works and witness. In vocation God has given the church the commission and method for bringing light to the darkness of unbelief.