Saturday, April 24, 2010

Competition and Competition

I actually remember when nearly all the mission work of the LCMS (except that done in the US) was done through the auspices of the Board for Missions.  As time when along, this was supplemented by PMS - great acronym - Personalized Mission Support.  The Board for Missions became a clearing house in part, so that individual congregations, for example, might take on the support for specific missions.  Then RSOs (that would be recognized service organizations) got into the mix.  The Lutheran Heritage people, for example, and a host of others took on mission work in addition to (sometimes coordinated with) the Board for Missions.  Jump to 2010 and we have a host of agencies, organizations, and structures that do what the Board for Missions does and more... and less... The money comes basically from individuals and congregations of the LCMS.  But instead of one chairman or one board or one agency deciding what work will be done here or what money will flow there, we have many people making those decisions in and with and in competition with the Board for Missions.

The same can be said for the ELCA and LCMS World Relief and Lutheran World Relief (the pan-Lutheran one).  We have competition both for the dollars and where they come from as well as decisions about who they will go to.  Each church body raises its own money, each supports the LWR pan-Lutheran agency (an RSO of the LCMS -- are you keeping up with the acronyms now).  Again some is done in concert (The Lutheran Malaria Initiative) and some in competition with each other.

I am not speaking politically here but organizationally... how is it that we compete with and against each other for the same donor pool and donor dollars as well as for work in the same or similar places?  Of course I know that part of the reason is political -- people who have grave reservations about the way the Board for Missions is doing its job or its doctrinal practice or reservations about the RSOs and the way they are doing their work and the beliefs that support it.  Interesting is the fact that RSOs can only become RSOs by their agreement with LCMS doctrine and practice and the LCMS approval of their doctrine and practice -- so at least in theory we are all on the same page.

I am not trying to question motives or challenge what these various groups do but so admit a certain level of frustration as a Pastor in a parish where we are solicited by various groups for the donor pool and the donor dollars that flow from our congregation and our people.  Not to mention Fan into Flame and Ablaze...  It is wearisome to sort through it all.  It is also both healthy and unhealthy to us as a church body.

We would not allow a MorningStar Music to become and RSO and compete with CPH for LCMS approved church music or another group to compete with Sunday school materials... but when it comes to missions, I guess we all agree more organizations translates into more money and more mission work done... at least in theory.

I am not advocating an exclusive franchise nor am I suggesting that there is something wrong with the official mission franchise of the LCMS but I am wondering how healthy it is for us long term to have so many groups doing the same or similar things and competing for the same recognition and donors and dollars...  Is this the way it should be?

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