By Joe Isenhower Jr.
ST. LOUIS — As the LCMS Board for National Mission (BNM) neared completing drafts of initial policies at its Feb. 11-12 meeting here, it heard reminders that the Office of National Mission (ONM) applies those policies toward revitalizing mission and ministry as it supports the work of Synod congregations and districts.
The first of six current “mission priorities” for the ONM is to “plant, sustain and revitalize Lutheran churches,” ONM Executive Director Rev. Bart Day reminded the board. He added that the office’s priorities will be in line with triennial emphases that are expected to be presented for adoption by delegates to this year’s Synod convention.
Day explained that the ONM will continue to focus on its goal of “working to identify and formulate a variety of ways to strengthen, renew, revitalize and transform the congregations, schools and workers of the LCMS through the life of Christ crucified and risen in His means of grace.”
As explained in the docket for the February meeting, a number of “target areas” for the office and its ministry components support that goal. They aim to strengthen:
- “faith through fostering growth in the way God’s Word has free course in our congregations and homes (strengthened preaching/teaching/and the family altar).”
- “love through fostering growth in ministries of mercy (local, national and international) flowing from the gifts received at font, pulpit and altar.”
- “hope through fostering growth in partnerships in the Gospel that help to clearly confess Christ.”
- “workers through fostering intentional care of body, soul and relationships.”
- “schools through fostering renewed clarity and commitment to the mission of Lutheran education.”
- “youth work through fostering in our young people a culture shaped by the Lutheran values of devotion to means of grace and vigorous service to the neighbor and providing our young people a sturdy apologetic for the faith.”
- “congregations through fostering a faithful Lutheran approach to confessing Christ to the neighbor and to planting daughter congregations.”
Day noted that the priorities and target areas for the ONM staff grew out of suggestions from district and congregation leaders participating in the Synod’s National Mission Conference in fall 2011.
He also spoke to the board of several major “successful” conferences facilitated by the ONM that were held since the board last met in October. They included the Youth Ministry 2013 event in early January, at Irvine, Calif.; the “UNWRAPPED” campus-ministry conference Jan. 3-5 in St. Louis, which drew some 325 participants, including youth and workers from some 90 colleges and universities; the Synod’s first Life Ministries conference in the Washington, D.C., area in late January; and its first hymnwriters conference — also in late January — in Columbia, Ill.
The board devoted most of the time during the meeting to its primary responsibility of developing policies to guide the work of the ONM. It worked on 19 “end statements” that contain policies identified as “principles” — approving all but a couple. When all of that initial work is complete, the nearly 40 such statements — each containing at least one policy – will be submitted to the LCMS Commission on Constitutional Matters and the Synod Board of Directors for final review and approval.
Specific policy areas addressed at this meeting were the following: relationships between and with Recognized Service Organizations, auxiliaries, LCMS institutions, districts and congregations; auxiliaries; inter-Lutheran agencies; campus ministry and young-adult outreach; Lutheran education; Lutheran schools; faculty and administration of Lutheran schools; education and preparation of teachers in Lutheran schools; Ministry to the Armed Forces; educational philosophies and curriculum; schools making changes in their curriculum and/or educational philosophy; youth ministry; ethnic mission and ministry; outreach and church planting; parish nursing; the kingdom of the left; and revitalization.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Gregory K. Williamson reminded the board of the need to recruit and train more potential church workers in the face of declining church-work student enrollment at the Synod’s 10 Concordia University System colleges and universities. Just days before, he also stressed that need during the meeting of the LCMS Board for International Mission. (Click here to read a related story, “Needed: ‘Full-court press’ on missionary recruitment.”)
“The need for mission workers in our Synod has never been more critical,” Williamson told the national board, as he encouraged its members to help identify and encourage such potential workers.
Leading the national board in a theological study of “the direct speech of the sons of Israel in the Book of Exodus” during its February meeting was the Rev. Thomas J. Egger, assistant professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.
The board approved several overtures to be presented to the Office of the President for consideration at the 2013 Synod convention, as well as its report to be included in the Convention Workbook. It designated board representatives to attend the convention.
Also discussed was the prospect of individual board members becoming available as resources and liaisons with specific ONM ministry areas in which the members have a particular interest. Day indicated that he would work toward matching members with those areas.
“I was very pleased with our [February] board meeting,” BNM Chairman Rev. Steven C. Briel told Reporter. “We had a lot of open and lively discussion on many critical issues. I appreciate very much the collegiality, openness, honesty and trust that members of our board enjoy with one another as we discuss very sensitive issues confronting the church these days.
“We’ve made so much progress in the past couple years,” Briel added, “as members of our board have worked hard to write what I believe are some good policies that should guide the Office of National Mission in serving the needs of the districts and congregations of the LCMS as they seek to spread the saving Gospel of our risen Lord.”
Posted Feb. 28, 2013