Lutheran Mission Matters Articles — May 2019
Inside This Issue: Faithful in Mission
It is fitting that this issue of Lutheran Mission Matters explores faithfulness in mission as the major theme, actually a postscript to its predecessor that discussed a closely related theme, “Released for Mission.”
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"Copyright 2019 Lutheran Society for Missiology. Used by permission."
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Translating the Message with Lamin Sanneh - Joel Elowsky
Professor Lamin Sanneh died this past January 6, 2019, in New Haven, Connecticut, from complications due to a stroke he had suffered a few days earlier. He had just accepted an invitation to speak at Concordia Seminary’s Multiethnic Symposium and was looking forward to the visit this May, as was the seminary community. His death is a loss to the church and to world Christianity. There have been any number of tributes to a man who had such a significant influence and impact on world Christianity.
Forgotten, That Is, Neglected, Treasures - Victor Raj
With the coming of Jesus Christ into our world, God ushered in His rule and reign on earth. This good news for humanity’s sake is at the heart of God who wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. God has commissioned His Church to witness this truth for the life and salvation of all God’s creation (Mk 16:15).
Fear or Faithfulness, Burial or Boldness? Charting the Course for Today’s Church on Pause - Michael W. Newman
Abstract: What do God’s servants do when the Master goes away for a long time? In Matthew’s Gospel account of the Parable of the Talents, Jesus describes such a scenario. He said that the kingdom of heaven “will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away” (Mt 25:14–15).
Fear and the Mission of Christ - Robert Kolb
Abstract: Fear is a natural reaction to God’s drawing us out of our comfort zones into the flow of human history, which He has created and over which He is Lord. Especially scary are the challenges of witnessing to the faith and taking into our fellowship people who come from backgrounds with little knowledge of the biblical message and often hostile attitudes toward the Christian Church. Christ’s commissions to give witness to Him deliver the promise of His presence precisely in our witness to the Lord. As Immanuel, He accompanies us into what seems for us an uncertain future, as Lord of the days to come.
Confessions of a Fourth Steward - Robert Scudieri
Abstract: This article follows the emphasis in the Fall 2018 issue. In that issue, authors offered a more hopeful vision of the church in America than what was presented in a statistical report to the Synod, demonstrating a loss and projected further loss in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod of five hundred thousand souls.
Faithful in Mission: An Alternative Reading of Matthew 25:14–30 - Gregory Klotz
Abstract: We are all bound to our cultural worldview. It influences how we read Scripture and find it meaningful. What are ways that we can read this parable in a way that makes us conscious of our cultural predispositions to reading it in a specific way. In this article I attempt such a reading in order to build an alternate reading to a greater extent faithful to the text. The purpose in doing so is to provide a way of critiquing the decline of membership in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) churches that are biblically and missiologically sound.
Faithfulness Versus Unfaithfulness According to Matthew 25:14–30 - Carlos Walter Winterle
Abstract: God entrusted talents to each of us, to some more, to others fewer. How are we managing these talents? A talent may be understood as money, as a skill, or as the Gospel itself. The growth of the church, under God’s blessings, depends on how we manage these talents. We depend exclusively on God’s grace for our salvation. But we cannot deny that God entrusts us with talents to be used and multiplied, and we are responsible for them. Are we “faithful” servants, or “lazy” servants?
Faithfulness in Christ’s Mission - John T. Pless
Abstract: Hermann Sasse (1895–1976) taught theology in Germany and Australia, emerged as a leading Lutheran theologian of the last century. His ecumenical contacts were broad and his knowledge of developments within global Lutheranism was informed and perceptive. Not the least of Sasse’s interest was the place of mission within the Lutheran Church and how it relates to the confession of the faith. This essay explores this connection based on two primary essays by Sasse.
Autonomous LCMS Congregations: The Burial Ground of Ecclesiology and Merger as an Additional Tool for Unburying the Gifts of the LCMS - Brian J. Hesse
Abstract: As C. F. W. Walther shaped the LCMS early on, the unique system of self-governance positioned the church body for both confession and mission. Today that self-governance has often been described as congregational autonomy. This has led to poor stewardship of declining congregations, and it is time to repent and consider new partnerships in ministry mergers as an additional tool for sharing what Christ has given to the LCMS.
God Still Answers Questions and Prayers - David P. E. Maier
Abstract: This article is a revised version of David Maier’s presentation at the annual banquet of the Lutheran Society for Missiology in St. Louis on January 29, 2019. In it, he views the expanse of God’s redemptive history from Pentecost (Acts 2) through the description of the Church Triumphant in Revelations 7, highlighting the encouraging picture of the “intercultural” church. God’s people, in whatever “time” or place they live, should not be fearful in their witness, but fully trust God and His Word, which are powerful beyond our imagining. The Holy Spirit still gifts the priesthood to accomplish divine purposes.
Moving from Cross-Cultural to Intercultural Collaboration in Missions - Todd Jones
Abstract: The article is an expanded written version of a presentation at the annual banquet of the Lutheran Society for Missiology in St. Louis on January 29, 2019. Since a cross-cultural approach to mission work has reinforced divisions between cultures, an intercultural approach to mission is encouraged. Unlike crosscultural interactions, in which both parties can separate and return to their respective cultures with little change, intercultural interaction changes those involved so that they become a new culture. Intercultural interactions are driven by the desire to form lasting relationships. Gert Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions framework is a helpful tool for examining cultural assumptions that influence our multicultural mission work. In a collaborative team process, as an example, it was demonstrated that an individual’s understanding of terms such as collaboration, team, and community has been influenced by cultural assumptions. To prevent our cultural assumptions from becoming a barrier, we must work with those of other cultures to forge a new set of cultural values.
The Antioch Model for Faithful Participation in Christ’s Mission - Will Sohns
Abstract: In addressing faithful participation in Christ’s mission, do we know, understand, and believe the essence of Christ’s mission? Are we faithfully participating in and executing Christ’s mission? Are the mission practices faithfully based on and aligned with God’s mission disposition and principles? As helpful and necessary as they may be, the answers to these questions do not come from sociological, cultural, and demographic studies. In the face of experiencing decline and loss in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (baptized membership in 1981: 2,721,883; 2017: 1,968,6411) and a post-Christian world, the answer lies in God’s Word. It is missional. It is theological. It is spiritual.
Where Gutierrez Got It Right: Reflecting on Liberation Theologies in Light of the World Immigrant Crisis - Douglas R. Groll
Abstract: This paper was originally presented at the North Central Region of the Evangelical Missiological Society at Trinity Seminary, Deerfield, Illinois, on March 16, 2019. 1968 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Gustavo Gutierrez’s original paper, Una Teología De Liberación, Perspectivas, first delivered in Chimbote, Peru, and published as a book in Spanish in 1971. 2018 signaled the fortyfifth anniversary of the English translation and publication of Orbis Publication’s A Theology of Liberation. This document will invite the reader to give a new consideration of Gutierrez’s message in light of today’s political, economic, and spiritual realities, shorn of the East-West, Communist-Capitalist ideologies and rhetoric of the 1970s and 80s that often clouded a clear understanding of Gutierrez’s original intent.
Faithfulness and Fruitfulness in Mission: American Churches’ Mission among Ethnic Communities - Yared Halche
Abstract: This article examines mission efforts of American churches among various ethnic groups. It closely looks at the parable of the three tenants from Matthew 25:14–30 through a missiological lens to determine faithfulness and fruitfulness in mission. It underscores the significance of the Gospel’s “investment” among others, particularly ethnes (ethnic groups). The study included biblical reflections followed by a brief historical overview of mission work by American church bodies. Recommendations are given to maximize missional engagement and partnership with the global ethnes who reside in America.
Buried under Excellent Soil - Rich Carter
Abstract: That we might focus on the third servant, who buried the treasure in the field, is to suggest that we might be the third servant. Perhaps by mistake we do such burying. More so, perhaps we do not even recognize that we bury the treasure under our good work in theology or worship. Will we risk personal reflection, to consider ways in which our fear, guilt, pride, or shame leads us to the field instead of the marketplace?
Faithful Mission: “What Does That Have to Do with Me?” A Look at the Church in America in Light of Matthew 25:14–30 - Noemí Guerra
Abstract: The church in America has been losing many of her baptized members every year. This article aims to discuss the reasons why this generation has grown to be unfaithful by asking Noah, a 1.5 generation latinx millennial who grew up in church. Noah has loved God ever since he was young and had been very active in church too. Noah had a strong connection with God throughout his life until . . . he didn’t. Going to church began to feel like a burden. I discuss in this article why I think this is happening to Noah and many other thousands of baptized members every year. I also discuss what does the church has to do with this new trend.
As We Go . . . - Miguel Torneire
Abstract: Jesus gave us a model for training Christian disciples when He trained the twelve disciples for mission. Jesus identified, invited, selected, and sent an unlikely and underqualified group of ordinary men to seek the lost as they were going to proclaim and demonstrate the Good News and Good Works, respectively. Jesus’ training of the Twelve has to do not only with the faith in Him, but also the courage to go and serve. This article portrays the personal findings and learnings of a missionary who went from formal theological training to training disciples as he went into the mission field.
Lutheran World Relief: Seventy-Five Years of Faithfulness in Mission - Jon Diefenthaler
Abstract: Founded in 1945, out of a desire to send emergency aid to war-torn Europe, Lutheran World Relief is now engaged in “relief” and “development” projects designed to meet the physical needs of victims of natural disasters as well as families facing abject poverty on a daily basis in forty-two countries around the world. This article argues that an examination of the nearly seventy-five-year history of this independent, pan-Lutheran organization provides another example of the faithfulness in mission that Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14–30 highlights for us. At the same time, the author asserts that LWR has remained true to the Lutheran tradition of human care, and that it is currently modeling several pathways that may help lead to the revitalization of Lutheran churches in post-churched America.
Lutheran Braille Workers: Seventy-Five Years of Faithful Service to the Blind - Patti Ross
Abstract: This piece is based on the address the author gave at the Lutheran Braille Workers’s seventy-fifth anniversary celebration on October 20, 2018 in Yucaipa, California. Lutheran Braille Workers is the only Lutheran organization in the US that supplies Bibles and other Lutheran literature free of charge to people around the world who are blind or visually impaired. The work began seventy-five years ago when a young Lutheran woman, Helene Loeber, became involved in transcribing Braille Bibles for use in post-war Germany. She soon discovered that the needs were huge in the US as well as Germany, but she also recognized that God had provided an enormous resource in the Lutheran women who were willing to learn to transcribe and produce Braille literature. The article deals with the challenges faced and the solutions found over the decades as LBW became known worldwide for its service to people who are blind and visually impaired.
Common Ground with Muslims - Farrukh M. Khan and Herbert Hoefer
Abstract: Most Christians are quite unaware of how much we have in common with Muslims. Missionaries among them always begin with the beliefs, Scripture references, and practices that we have in common, for often Muslims also do not realize the commonalities. We become more comfortable to witness among Muslims and they more comfortable to hear our witness when we work from our commonalities. Then we also can make crystal clear our differences.