As in previous LCMS convention years, Reporter asked the five nominees for Synod president this year to answer in writing questions related to issues in the Synod — some of which will no doubt be considered during the Synod convention July 14-19 in Houston. Here are those questions and the answers from nominees, in alphabetical order.
Question 3: The Synod’s Blue Ribbon Task Force for Funding the Mission has submitted its report, which offers 11 recommendations to the 2007 LCMS convention. Please share your thoughts about the task force report.
First, we thank the task force for the work its members have done on behalf of the Synod in addressing this difficult and sensitive subject. The task force reminds us of the great generosity of the people of the LCMS who support the church’s work through their regular offerings and special gifts. The task force also recognizes that new patterns of giving exist to fund the work of the LCMS. Ongoing stewardship education, clear communication about the activities of the church, and a celebration of the blessing it is to be part of the LCMS underline this report.
The recommendations the task force offers suggest ways to implement new patterns of funding.
No easy answers exist to these funding questions. Each one of us bears some responsibility for funding the mission of the LCMS. As a church, ultimately, we must decide how the mission will be funded.
Most significantly, the task force recommends a “stewardship renaissance” in our Synod. A majority of LCMS congregations do nothing each year regarding stewardship. This needs and is receiving attention, not merely for the sake of funding the mission at all levels, but also for the sake of the spiritual health and vitality of God’s people. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21).
It is evident that the task force has spent much time and thought on their report. They have made a number of helpful observations and recommendations. Most helpful was their recognition that the Synod needs to connect more with the members of our congregations. There is no doubt that many, perhaps most, of our members are not aware of how the various aspects of our church’s work are funded. Thus, improved communication is essential.
At the same time, the task force noted the division that is affecting us in such a negative way. It is my conviction that unless the divisions in doctrine and practice can be resolved in a God-pleasing way, we will not be successful in effectively “funding the mission.”
I hear from circuits that pastors are not receiving this plan very well. We need to return to Bible-based stewardship with the Gospel of Christ at the center, not the threat of the Law telling our pastors and congregations what they have to do. If this sounds too blunt, remember that our Lord says He “loves a cheerful giver!” (2 Cor. 9:7). God’s Gospel moves even poor and needy people to give “beyond their ability” (2 Corinthians 8:2-3).
I commend the Task Force for making their thorough appraisal without placing blame for funding challenges (e.g., growth of designated giving and decline in unrestricted giving). I share its concerns over divisions within Synod, as well as the need for restructuring in order to eliminate inefficiencies. I agree with the commendation for outstanding financial development by our seminaries and universities. I support development of biblical, Gospel-centered stewardship materials.
I do, though, have concerns, chiefly in what I see as an emphasis on human efforts to “grow the church” through programs and consultants rather than through Biblical doctrine. It seems like success is evaluated by membership growth and giving. Luther would call this a theology of glory. Christ builds His church, and the Holy Spirit calls people into the church through the means of grace. In this life, we live under the cross. And God’s type of growth is not always measured in human terms.
Also troubling is the recommendation for what could be construed as taxation upon congregations and service organizations for synodical membership. And there seems to be an attempt at shaming people into giving and evangelizing. This is Law-oriented motivation. I can’t imagine this is what members of the Task Force intended. The Gospel motivates us, and we give out of gratitude to our Lord.
Our Synod was formed to promote doctrinal unity, educate church workers, and conduct missions. If these again become our main emphases, then we all will be more excited about supporting “common good” activities of Synod.
(Click here to read responses to Question 1: What, in your opinion, is the most pressing issue facing The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod today? And how would you, as president, address it?)
(Click here to read responses to Question 2: What other issues do you think need to be addressed in the Synod over the next three years?)
(Click here to read responses to Question 4: What’s your opinion of Ablaze!, the three-year-old Synodwide initiative to share the Gospel with 100 million “unreached or uncommitted” people worldwide by 2017?)
Posted June 4, 2007