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 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?
The power of the Holy Spirit is being made manifest through the Ablaze! movement. Our congregations have been stirred to action in creative ways to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to their communities and the world. LCMS people have boldly witnessed to unchurched friends, and neighbors, and strangers about the hope that is in them for eternal salvation. The congregations and districts of the Synod have become very intentional about beginning new ministries to reach every segment of our society. The Synod’s mission department is working very hard to expand significantly the number of missionaries in the overseas mission field. And, our partners around the world have renewed their efforts to reach the lost for Jesus Christ.
We must concentrate on directing resources to accomplish this important work and not allow anyone or anything to distract us. With my prayers and financial offering to Fan into Flame — the $100 million campaign to fund the Ablaze movement — I fully support this modern-day Pentecost initiative. I pray that this work begun years ago will not stop in 2017. We must carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth until the end of the earth.
Ablaze! is generating excitement about the mission of the church! In congregations where pastors and people work together prayerfully and intentionally on this mission, God is blessing their efforts. Our partner churches are experiencing renewed energy and vitality as a result of God’s Spirit working through Ablaze! While some have criticized Ablaze! theologically, our seminary presidents and other key theological leaders state, “Following a review of the Ablaze! initiative we do not find anything in it to be inconsistent with the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions….” The Ablaze! movement, along with the Fan into Flame campaign in support of Ablaze!, is and will continue to be a great blessing to the LCMS!
As I write these words, I am sitting at my desk in Pretoria, South Africa, where I am presently teaching at Lutheran Theological Seminary, which has students attending from Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Liberia, Botswana, and, of course, South Africa. My time with these students as well as visits I have made during recent years to South America, Indonesia, and other parts of the world has convinced me that we are living in one of the most exciting times in history when it comes to opportunities to support the mission of proclaiming the Gospel throughout the world. One of the most effective ways is through education — teaching pastors who then equip their laypeople so that together they can bring God’s Word to their communities where God is opening the minds of many to embrace His grace in His Son Jesus Christ.
Ablaze! is based on Acts 1:8 instead of the text the Christian church has historically used, Matt. 28:19-20, where Jesus instructs us to evangelize, not merely with a passing witness, but by preaching, teaching, and baptizing with His living Word (John 6:63).
The original definition of the “critical event” (the one used to count progress) does not include the evangelization of infants, something Jesus taught very decisively (Matt. 19:14). To implement an evangelism plan that omits Baptism of infants not only runs the risk of forfeiting Christ’s blessing, but also risks Christ’s judgment (Matt. 18:6). If God is going to bless LCMS mission work, we need to base our outreach on Christ’s Great Commission to preach, teach, and baptize, and modeling our outreach on that of the Master: teach, teach, and teach some more (Matt. 5:2; Mark 6:34; Mark 10:1; and John 8:2).
The LCMS, with many faithful pastors and congregations, has the potential to be the greatest church body of the Reformation in the United States. We need to look through the eyes of Jesus and see our future, not based on our daily failures, but rather on what He, by His living Word and Spirit, promises to re-create in and through us. If we follow Christ and His living Word, historians will someday write: “The people in the LCMS that walked in darkness saw a great Light. Upon them the Light shined!” (Isaiah 9:2). This is our prayer, dear Lord Jesus. “Let Your light shine upon us!”
There is nothing wrong with setting bold goals in evangelizing. Since its founding, mission work has been a main objective of Synod. But in line with our doctrine of church and ministry, mission outreach is linked with existing congregations and the establishment of new congregations. I do not see this emphasized enough in Ablaze! Our Lord’s Great Commission presupposes Word and Sacrament, church and ministry, congregations and pastors. Lutheran congregations need to be connected intimately with our mission focus.
(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 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.)
Posted June 4, 2007