Archive

Archive for the ‘Mission and Outreach’ Category

Exciting New Mission Program – Revolutionary!

October 21st, 2011 11 comments

“By the year 250, Christianity had spread to the limits of the known world. . . . The Church spread rapidly over a wide geographic area, increasing phenomenally in numbers . . . This work was done by ordinary Christians. We know of no missionary societies; we hear nothing of organized effort. Wherever Christians went doing their regular tasks, the pagan saw a different kind of individual and heard about ‘the Savior.’  … When the early Christians themselves recount how they learned of the Gospel, they usually confess that their faith was the result of casual contact with that “way of life.” . . . The work was not done by people who called themselves missionaries but by rank-and-file members. The least among men, even the unknown, are indeed the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

The Church from Age to Age, p. 13. Print edition. Kindle edition.

 

 

News from Sudan about the Lutheran Church

September 13th, 2010 1 comment

News from Lutheran Heritage Foundation: Dear Friends, Supporters and Servants in the Sudan Mission,

In the midst of a lot of upheaval in America regarding a mosque for New York and a burning of the Koran ceremony in Florida, I am pleased to announce more pleasant news that in its body has the purpose of reaching souls for Christ in the prominent Muslim country of Sudan. After three years of intensive training by a revolving faculty from the U.S., Finland, Kenya and Tanzania, 13 students will be graduating from the Concordia Lutheran Institute for the Holy Ministry in Yambio, Sudan. The graduation ceremonies will take place on Friday, October 8th with the Rev. Dr. Bernie Lutz serving as the speaker. Students will receive a DIPLOMA OF EXCELLENCE issued by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan and the Lutheran Heritage Foundation, which has guided the work of the church and seminary since its inception 17 years ago when the headquarters of the church was in Khartoum.

The celebrations will continue on Sunday, October 10th when 15 men will be ordained. This includes two men who trained at the Seminary in Matongo, Kenya. One candidate who is already serving in Finland will be ordained at a later date. The Rev. Robert L. Rahn will serve as the preacher for the service and the ordination rite will be administered by the Rev. Japhet Dachi, Principal, the Rev. Edward Nzeme, ELCS Interim Bishop/Secretary and the Rev. Nicholas Kumbo, Dean of Students. Also participating in the service will be Dr. Reijo Arkkila, Finland, the Rev. Dr. Bernie Lutz, Crane Lake, MN and clergy of the ELCS.

The ordination event will include, besides the rite itself,

The presentation of a Diploma of Excellence

The presentation and bestowal of a clergy stole

The presentation and bestowal of a pectoral cross

The presentation of individual communion sets

The presentation of baptismal napkins

The presentation of baptismal crosses for parish use

The presentation & bestowal of any local gifts

Prior to the event the students will be provided with a clergy robe, clergy shirt and black socks.

While these will be days of great joy and celebration, there will also be days of challenge ahead as these men get settled into the every day schedules connected with their ministries in the congregations. There will be the continued need to provide financial support as they serve in those ministries. During their seminary training the LHF has provided a monthly stipend for each seminarian for their families back home. The LHF has underwritten the room and board costs while the students attended the seminary and bore the major costs connected with those who traveled to make up the rotating faculty. This will be a time when the pastors will be encouraged to provide for stewardship training at the various locations so that congregations can become self sustaining. This matter will be discussed at some point during the events leading up to the graduation and ordination festivities.

A new class is not anticipated to start until January, 2012. During 2011, if the support is provided, the LHF will sponsor a series of at least three seminars geared for all church workers and leaders. Each of these seminars will be conducted in at least three regions of the country in order to reduce travel costs for the participants. Some of the faculty who served during the past three years will return to be leaders for these gatherings. The Rev. James Fandrey, LHF Executive Director, indicated that the goal is to coordinate the seminar topics with some of the books and materials being translated and published by LHF in 2011. It is anticipated that these seminars will be on a three day schedule at each location.

Another major event will occur in 2011 and that is the organizing of a church convention which will have as its primary purpose the adopting of a constitution and the selection of new leadership for the church after the sudden death of Bishop Andrew Mbugo Elisa. This will be a major expense for the ELCS to bring congregational representatives together in one location. This will also continue the effort by the ELCS to seek fellowship with the LCMS.

If you or your congregation is inclined to support what we consider a very ambitious 2011 program in light of current economies; you are encouraged to send your gifts to LHF with a Sudan designation. Above all, we ask that you include these events in your daily and congregational prayers. We are pleased that the overall consensus from the faculty is that these students have shown a tremendous growth in understanding Lutheran doctrine and that they are prepared to receive their Calls. May the Lord of the Church bless their service to Him and may their service result in the continued growth of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sudan.

To God alone be the glory.

Dr. Robert L. Rahn

LHF Founder/ Seminary Program Coordinator

Why are some saved, and not others?

January 23rd, 2010 5 comments

The other day, my son asked me, “Dad, why are some people saved, and others are not.” I said, “Aha! You are taking Latin, so tell me what this means. You are asking about the crux theologorum.” He thought for a moment and said, “The cross of theologians?” “Correct you are, sir,” I said, “What you are asking is the old question that has proven the downfall of many theologians through the ages, ‘Why some, not others?’ ” And from there we proceeded into an interesting conversation about a feature of Lutheranism that makes both Calvinists “God predestines some to hell, others to heaven”, on the one hand, and Arminians “I have chosen to follow Jesus!” folks, on the other, frustrated with us. Lutheranism, as does Sacred Scripture, simply does not answer the question why some are saved, and not others. Here’s a great Q/A on this that succinctly states why this is the teaching of the Bible, and, consequently, historic Lutheranism.

Question:

I understand that God chose those for salvation before the very foundation of the world. The Bible does not say that there are those who are chosen and that there are those who are not. So, does that mean then that God chose everyone to be saved before the foundation of the world and therefore it is man’s choice whether he will accept God’s saving grace or not? However, one cannot come into God’s grace by himself, but by the Holy Spirit “leading” him unto salvation. Is that the correct interpretation? I am confused by the fact that we were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, yet the very action of choosing can mean that there were those who were not chosen. I know that God wishes everyone to be saved. Can you help me?

Answer:

The question you are wrestling with is really the question, “Why are some saved and not others?” Theologians throughout history have referred to this question as the “crux theologorum” (“the cross of the theologians”) because of the difficulty (and from the Lutheran perspective, the impossibility) of giving an answer to this question which is satisfactory to our human reason.

Some answer this question by pointing to man’s “free will”–only those are saved who “choose” to be saved. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible even man’s will is “dead” and powerless to “choose” God and his grace in Christ. We are saved not because we “choose” to be saved but because the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart through the Gospel (even faith is a gift!). Others answer this question by pointing to God’s sovereign will: God himself predestines from eternity some to be saved and others to be damned. Lutherans reject this answer as unscriptural because according to the Bible God sincerely desires all to be saved and has predestined no one to damnation.

So how do Lutherans answer this question? The answer is that Lutherans do not try to answer it, because (we believe) the Bible itself does not provide an answer to this question that is comprehensible to human reason. Lutherans affirm, with Scripture, that whoever is saved is saved by God’s grace alone, a grace so sure that it excludes all human “action” and “choice” but rather rests on the foundation of God’s action in Christ and his “choice” (predestination) from before the beginning of time. Lutherans also affirm, with Scripture, that those who are damned are damned not by God’s “choice” but on account of their own human sin and rebellion and unbelief. From a human perspective, there is no “rational” or “logical” way to put these two truths together. Lutherans believe and confess them not because they are “rational” and “logical,” but because this is what we find taught in Scripture.

For a further discussion of this issue, you may want to read Articles II and XI in the Formula of Concord (contained in the Book of Concord, the Lutheran Confessions).

Source: LCMS.ORG

“I’m Not Interested in Building up the Church, just the Kingdom of God”

October 13th, 2009 16 comments

i_love_heart_my_church_t_shirt-p235728516225536370c9hl_400Oh, the things some Christians say and do. There is now buzzing about the Interwebs a whole lot of chatter about wanting to build the Kingdom of God, but not the Church. Well, this betrays a total misunderstanding of what the Bible says about the Kingdom of God and the Church. The sound-bite is appealing to those who want to be Christians but don’t like “the Church.” You see, there is this latent stream of arrogance that runs under much of the “missional” movement by which they try to drive a wedge between “the Kingdom” and “the Church.” For, you see, they are so much hipper, cooler, more in tune with and aware of “Kingdom issues” than “Church” things. Huddling in darkened candle-lit spaces singing spiritual songs is Kingdom building. Sitting around a table decided how to organize next year’s youth program: well, that’s just “church stuff.” You get the picture. Here is a nice rebuttal to this thinking:

Ray Ortlund responds to those who says, “My passion isn’t to build up my church. My passion is for God’s Kingdom.” He thinks such a sentiment sounds large-hearted, but is wrong–and can even be destructive:

Suppose I said, “My passion isn’t to build up my marriage. My passion is for Marriage. I want the institution of Marriage to be revered again. I’ll work for that. I’ll pray for that. I’ll sacrifice for that. But don’t expect me to hunker down in the humble daily realities of building a great marriage with my wife Jani. I’m aiming at something grander.”

If I said that, would you think, “Wow, Ray is so committed”? Or would you wonder if I had lost my mind?

If you care about the Kingdom, be the kind of person who can be counted on in your own church. Join your church, pray for your church, tithe to your church, participate in your church every Sunday with wholehearted passion.

We build great churches the same way we build great marriages — real commitment that makes a positive difference every day.

Coming soon: Reflections on the oft-heard comment in our circles, “We just want to make people Christians, not Lutherans.”

Why Missional Churches Don’t Do Global Missions

October 11th, 2009 2 comments

I know when I quote Rev. Ed Stetzer it gives some of my reader’s the heebie-jeebies, but the reason I do is because within our Lutheran circles it is hard for us to be objective about issues that can be passionate points of debate and disagreement among us. What “being missional” means is one of those topics. I watch, time and again, as nearly every conversation on these issues turn into accusations about political agendas and motivations. Not helpful. That’s why when a person with absolutely no interest in our Lutheran conversations has something to say that contributes, in my opinion, to some healthy conversation, I’m going to quote him. I believe Rev. Stetzer puts his finger on a significant concern with much of the talk of “missional congregations” and we do well to consider the points he makes in these comments.

I am writing this post from Taiwan. As I have been working with both local leaders and American pastors, I have been struck by a few things and thought I would share them with you.

First, I have traveled to Taiwan as a part of the Upstream Collective. The reason is to accompany American pastors with a desire to be missional on a cross-cultural, international encounter. (You can scroll down the last few posts to learn what we are doing in Taiwan.)

Each person on the trip has the missional impulse as part of their DNA, and they are here to consider how they might join God on his mission globally. While I admire the faithfulness of these men, I must admit my surprise to see that there is not a bigger interest in such global concerns among American pastors in general. My fellow travelers seem to be rare of a breed in ministry.

Second, when I blogged about this on Sunday, two readers contacted my hosts– one working with the Presbyterian Church in America and one from the Oversee Missionary Fellowship (OMF). Why? Well, according to one email, the author explained, “I’m particularly interested in attracting young missional church planters here.”

Third, I was recently told by a pastor who called himself “missional” that his church needed to pull back on their global mission support to help their people “be missionaries right here.”

All this provokes me to ask, “Why are so many missional Christians uninvolved in God’s global mission?” As the missional conversation continues and deepens, what has occurred that has led to our blindness to the lost world around us?

There are five reasons I think this has happened:

1) In rediscovering God’s mission, many have only discovered its personal dimensions.

I don’t mean they have somehow localized mission into their interior, “private” life– that would make little sense. Rather, the encouragement for each person to be on mission (to be “missional”) has trended toward a personal obligation to personal settings, rather than toward a global obligation to advance God’s kingdom among all the nations.

“Missional” has merged with privatized Christianity to serve as the reason for personal projects carried out in personal spheres. This is not bad, necessarily. But when the missional impulse is not expanded to include God’s global mission, it results in believers moved only to minister in their own Jerusalems with no mind toward their Judeas, Samarias, and uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 1:8).

2) In responding to God’s mission, many have wanted to be more mission-shaped and have therefore made everything “mission.”

Missions historian Stephen Neil, responding to a similar surge in mission interest (the missio dei movement of the 1950s and following), explained it this way: “If everything is mission then nothing is mission.” Neil’s fear was that the focus would shift from global evangelization (often called “missions”) to societal transformation (often called “mission”). He was right.

Recently John Piper echoed these same concerns, differentiating between evangelism and missions. He reminded us that when “Every Christian is a missionary” equals “missional,” then we have diluted the need for and specialness of missionaries to foreign lands. (Although I would want to nuance John’s language a bit, I agree with his point.)

One American church’s website recently identified their ministry as missional, which they proceeded to define as “reaching out to the community to invite them to come” see what is happening in the church. Another’s young adult community service project consisted of landscaping the church grounds. Inviting people to church and cleaning up the church are noble endeavors, but passing them for “missional” and “service” is ministerial naïveté at best. It demonstrates the fuzziness that creeps in when labels become catch-alls. And as the outer edges of the missional label gets fuzzy so does mission to the outer edges of the world.

3) In relating God’s mission, the message increasingly includes the hurting but less frequently includes the global lost.

One only needs to watch the videos to see the emphases: global orphan projects, eradicating AIDS, Christmas shoeboxes, etc. All of these causes now have advocacy groups, and rightly so, as they are important. However, their vocabulary and frames of reference do not frequently make room for evangelizing the very people they touch. The message of world evangelism, actually, seems more common in legacy/traditional churches than in missional churches. Missional churches seem to speak more of unserved peoples rather than unreached peoples. As we engage to deliver justice, we must also deliver the gospel regardless of anyone’s status in a culture.

4) In refocusing on God’s mission, many are focusing on being good news rather than telling good news.

Saint_Francis.jpgSt. Francis allegedly said,”Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.” Interestingly enough, Francis never actually said this, nor would he have done so due to his membership in a preaching order. But it is a pithy quote tossed into mission statements and vision sermons in missional churches all around my country. Why? It seems that many in the missional conversation place a higher value on serving the global hurting rather than evangelizing the global lost. Or perhaps it is just easier.

I am not urging a dichotomy here, only noting that one already exists. It is ironic, though, that as many missional Christians have sought to “embody” the gospel, they have chosen to forsake one member of Christ’s body; the mouth.

5) In reiterating God’s mission, many lose the context of the church’s global mission and needed global presence.

For whatever reason– the admirable one of commitment to the local church or the ignoble one of commitment to personalized consumeristic Christianity– we have lost the grand scope of the entire family of God. While Christ calls people from all tongues, tribes, and nations, we have become content with our own tongue, tribe, and nation. Many churches are wonderfully embracing the missional imperative, but as they seek to “own” the mission by adapting their church into a missional movement in their local community, some inadvertently localize God’s mission itself and lose the vital connection all believers share together. A hyper-focus on our own community results in a, have lost vision for the communion of the saints.

So how do we fully embrace missional without losing the mission? The Mission Exchange (formerly the Evangelical Foreign Mission Society) asked me to talk to their global leaders on the topic “How to Put ‘Missions’ Back into Missional.” In my talk, I proposed four principles we needed to consider:

First, recognize it is God’s mission, and we need to be passionate about the mission as He describes it. We don’t own mission and it is not ours to define. A church vision statement is fine, but God’s mission is better and bigger. Our first task is to submit to God’s mission.

Secondly, evangelicals have understated the call to serve the poor and the hurting and need a stronger engagement in social justice. This sounds counterintuitive if we are seeking to remedy the loss of concern for articulated evangelism. But social engagement entails relational engagement, and relational engagement entails opportunities to share the gospel. The successes and experiences in our communities should awaken hearts and minds to global needs. We just need to maintain the reason for social justice: the glory of God in the worship of Jesus.

Third, share God’s deep concern about His mission to the nations– that His name be praised from the lips of men and women from every corner of the globe. Feel the Great Commission in your bones. Ask God to turn your heart to those you cannot see. As Paul did, develop ways to “struggle personally” (Colossians 2:1) for those far away.

Fourthly, churches that are serious about joining God on his mission will obey his commands to disciple the nations. The end product of missional endeavors should be a thriving Christian ready to produce more thriving Christians.
It appears to me that many missional churches are missing the Great Commission in the name of being missional. That makes zero sense. It is a huge (but historically common) mistake.

If we are truly interested in being missional– in joining God on His mission– our efforts should actually reflect His stated mission. We are bound to the Great Commandment as the fullest human expression of God’s love. But the Commandment is not hermetically sealed off from the Great Commission. Rather, the Great Commission provides the what of mission, while the Great Commandment provides part of the how. Answering the age-old question of “Who is my neighbor?” should result in the desire to “make disciples of all nations.”

Categories: Mission and Outreach

“Missional” Descriptor du jour, but what does it mean?

April 17th, 2009 23 comments

We hear the word “missional” when church administrators speak. We read it in denominational publications and magazines. Meetings and discussions are held around the them of “being missional.” The term, and concept, “missional” is everywhere across evangelical protestantism. But what does “missional” mean? Here is the perspective from Dr. Ed Stetzer, recognized widely as a leader in the “missional” movement. He offers cautions and clarifications that we do well to consider. Here is an article from Biola University’s magazine, an interview with Dr. Stetzer.

If you are looking for an authority on the missional movement, Ed Stetzer is your one-stop shop. A leading figure in contemporary evangelical thought, Stetzer has been called “the best missional thinker in North America” and has written some of the best books on the subject (see here and here). On his popular blog, Stetzer authored a “Meanings of Missional” series of posts that have been among the most trafficked on his site.

Currently serving as Director of Lifeway Research and Lifeway’s Missiologist in Residence, Stetzer is also a preaching pastor and a church planter who has planted churches in New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia and transitioned declining churches in Indiana and Georgia. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two master’s degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Stetzer served for three years as seminary professor at the Southern Seminary in Louisville, Ky., and has taught at 15 other seminaries, including Biola’s Talbot School of Theology.

To supplement the current issue of Biola Magazine and its focus on missions and the missional movement, managing editor Brett McCracken talked with Ed Stetzer about the uses, complexities and challenges of “missional.”

BM: Ed, would you say that the average Christian has an understanding of the term “missional”? Or is it still an “insider term” among church leaders and theologians?

ES: I would say the term has started to gain wide acceptance since the turn of the millennium among Christian leaders, however I don’t think it has gotten down to the rank-and-file level. I’ve written a book, Compelled by Love, which is trying to be a lay-level explanation of missional, and other authors are trying to do the same. But yeah, primarily it’s still a pastor’s or theologian’s word.

BM: My sense is that there is widespread confusion about the word, even among the pastors and theologians. Is the word useful? Is it too confusing for its own good?

ES: Well, it certainly has become the descriptor du jour. I think the problem is that people tend to see in missional what they want to see. If they want to see the church do more social justice, that’s “missional.” If they want to be more evangelistic, that’s “missional.” But I still think there’s a power in a new or modified word that enables us to say, “We do need something different.” I think missional has become a descriptor — an imperfect one — of the shift we might need in evangelicalism.

Read more…

Why I Walked Out of Church

September 6th, 2008 16 comments

This article contains much food for thought. It has been my observation living with three teenagers, and hanging around, as a consequence, with a lot of teenagers, that many of our teens think that what the Boomer crowd seems to think is "relevant worship" is, in their view, trite, banal, silly and irrelevant. Here is one young woman's opinion on this subject, titled, "Why I Walked Out of Church" by Julie Neidlinger. Here is an excerpt, follow the link to Julie's web site to read the rest.

"Today, I went to Bismarck Evangel
Temple, sat through the worship and most of the sermon, and
then…walked out before it was done.

I don't blame that church;
it is my own inability to fit that literally forced me to leave. I
don't really doubt their sincerity, and that many people love the
programs and opportunities that church provides. I've even found, in
the past, a few sermons to be interesting. But…

I believe what
I believe — my Christian faith — not because of tradition or because
I was raised that way. Not because I want fire insurance or
hell-avoidance. Not because I want to find a group or place to belong.
I believe it on my own, I believe it to be real, I believe it to be
important and valid, and I believe the way we have made Christianity
out to be is completely wrong. And that's why I have such a hard time
going to church as it is now done.

Reaching people with trendiness
A
recent cover story at World Magazine about "NextGen Worship" inspired a
strong desire to smack the pastors depicted in the article and in the
photos. The cover photo alone enraged me,
with the pastor wearing baggy jeans and untucked button-up shirt with
flip flops and an ear microphone. Later, the same guy is shown out
front of a church holding a paper Starbucks-like cup of coffee. Could
he try any harder to be lame?

I'd have liked to have taken that
cup of coffee and dumped it on his head. But it's nothing personal
against that guy or his beliefs or sincerity. It's an anger at
something else.

I'm not going to be one of those starched-collar
Christians who, based on personal preference, say that this is a sign
we're going to hell in a handbasket and that all things are wrong
unless they are done as they were with the Puritans. What I'm saying is
that I can't stand the phoniness, or trendiness, or sameness — or
whatever I'm trying to say here — that the church seems to catch onto
at the tail end, not even aware of how lame it is. The fact that this
is not only actually successful in appealing to people, but attracts
them, also disgusts me.

It makes me want to throw up.

It's buying into some kind of lie or substitution of cool culture as being relevant when it isn't.

Categories: Mission and Outreach

Know doctrine, know mission. No doctrine? No mission!

June 27th, 2008 6 comments

1-2
Sadly, we still continue to hear, from time to time, comments and statements that would tend to create an unfortunate separation between doctrine and mission, between faithfulness and outreach, and between doctrine and practice. How can we help one another better understand and more fully comprehend these simple realities?

No doctrine? No mission. Know doctrine, know mission. lf you aren’t doctrinal, you aren’t missional and if you aren’t missional, you aren’t doctrinal.

This is precisely why our Lutheran Confessions often repeat the necessary and essential two-fold assertion: “We believe, teach and confess,” and, “we reject and condemn.” Some would have us only be about the first task, not the second. Others would have us spend most of our time on the second part of that phrase, not the first. It is both! It is always a blessed both/and, and never an either/or.

It is no coincidence, at all, that in nearly every single instance in the last twenty years or more where The LCMS has entered into church fellowship with an overseas church body, it has come as a result of intensive doctrinal teaching and outreach. This holds true in Asia, Africa, the Baltics, Russia, etc. In most cases, new mission fields have been opened, and partnerships formed with existing churches as a result of a very vibrant and hearty confessional Lutheran teaching activity in these countries.

Let’s have an end to the “Yes, but…” kind of rhetoric on either side of these kinds of comments. Here’s what one of our pastors had to say in response to those who were lamenting an emphasis on doctrine.

“It is true, brethren, as you well know, that in our day it is
common for people to say, “Emphasizing doctrine so much only harms and
hinders the kingdom of God, yes, even destroys it.” Many say, “Instead
of disputing over doctrine so much, we should much rather be concerned
with souls and with leading them to Christ.” But all who speak in this
way do not really know what they are saying or what they are doing. As
foolish as it would be to scold a farmer for being concerned about
sowing good seed and to demand of him simply to be concerned about a
good harvest, so foolish it is to scold those who are concerned first
and foremost with the doctrine, and to demand of them that they should
rather seek to rescue souls. For just as the farmer who wants a good
crop must first of all be concerned about good seed, so the church must
above all be concerned about right doctrine if it would save souls.”

(C. F. W. Walther, “Our Common Task: The Saving of Souls” [1872], Essays for the Church [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992], Vol. I)

Categories: Mission and Outreach