Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran congregations...

Why is it that we live in times when seemingly obvious statements must be laid out, defended, and repeated often before we accept what should be logical and reasonable to us?  As the LCMS begins to shape a mission strategy for national and international mission work in the coming years, it also is reshaping the very structures which will direct, support, hold accountable, and evaluate these mission endeavors.

At a recent pow wow in St. Louis, President Harrison has drawn upon a 1998 article in LOGIA to say again what ought to be a reasonable assumption for us as Lutherans.  Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran congregations.  Period.

You can read an online copy of the whole article here.

I can only pass on what Pr Albert Collver has reported on the WMLT blog:

At an historic five-day meeting of the Program and Regional Directors of the LCMS Office of International Mission the week of Nov. 14 in Raleigh, N.C., LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison outlined his vision and principles for LCMS mission work. He began by describing his pre-seminary experience serving as a lay missionary with the Lutheran Association of Missionaries and Pilots (LAMP) among the Cree Indians in Ontario, Canada.  

“The first Sunday we attended church, I asked, ‘Who’s preaching?’ ‘You are,’ came the response. I did the best I could at the time. I gave these Indian people sermons of Law and Gospel for the remainder of the year,” said Harrison.   

Harrison recalled that his service there was much like that of a “Methodist” lay preacher, because in 20 years of work in Ontario, not a single Lutheran congregation had been established among the Indians. 

This experience helped define for Harrison that a primary goal for LCMS mission efforts is that the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus must lead to the formation of Lutheran congregations.

President Harrison then described how Lutheran mission leading to the formation of Lutheran congregations is done through the lens of the Synod emphasis of WITNESS, MERCY, LIFE TOGETHER: “The gift of Lutheranism,” said Harrison, “is that salvation comes through Jesus only, as He is delivered through the preaching of the Word and in the forgiveness bestowed in Absolution, in the waters of Holy Baptism, and in His body and blood in Holy Communion.” Where there is not a Lutheran church, the goal of LCMS mission efforts should be to plant a church, he said.

We have wasted too much time with the idea that we merely need to bring people to Jesus and that is enough.  What we have forgotten is that to bring people to Jesus is to deliver to them the means of grace.  The means of grace are not theory or grace in the abstract but the concrete grace that comes to us attached to earthly elements and forms (word, water, bread and wine) and these means of grace are the gifts of Christ to the Church which the Church entrusts to Pastors through ordination to administer within the context of a community of faith (congregation).  We often forget that in our Augustana we define the pastoral office for just this practical purpose:  so that we may obtain this faith, the ministry of teaching [preaching] the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted.  For through the Word and the Sacraments as through instruments the Holy Spirit is given, where and when it pleases God in those who hear the Gospel....

I only wish that the Districts (including my own) took this so seriously.  We are not collecting scalps for Jesus or trophies for Christ.  We are not collecting statistics or charting success stories.  We are preaching the Word of Christ and administering His Sacraments according to His will and purpose.  Whenever we are distracted from this purpose, we diminish our efforts and the Lord of the Church in the process.  Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran congregations.  Obvious?  It should be!

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