by Joshua Lange
The global Ablaze! movement was conceived with the simple idea that each individual Christian is called by God to be a missionary in His service.
Lutheran church bodies around the world have latched on to this idea and have united around the Ablaze! goal of sharing the Good News of Jesus with 100 million people by 2017. In order for this vision to be realized, though, it is up to each of us to share the Good News with the people in our lives.
Rev. David Birner, LCMS World Mission associate executive director for international mission, points to the words of Eph. 2:10: “‘We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.’ We are so valued by God, our Creator, that He claims us through Christ as His own for eternity. He also creates opportunities for us to engage other people with His message of love and life in Jesus.”
Even as God calls on each Christian to be a missionary, He also calls on the Church to multiply these efforts, as Paul instructed Timothy: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2 NIV).
Heeding this call, LCMS World Mission places missionaries in strategic positions where they can help Christians multiply their ministry efforts. Specifically, LCMS World Mission missionaries carry out their work in five unique, but interconnected, activities:
- Church Planting
- Leadership Training
- Strategic Mission Development
- Global Multiplication
Yes, LCMS missionaries often work in a combination of these areas. Yet, typically, a missionary—or a mission team— will focus on one primary type of service. Outreach is the core to all our mission activity. Whether church planting, leadership training, strategic mission development, or global multiplication, our work is to always multiply the number of believers sharing their faith.
Outreach focuses on sharing the Good News of Jesus through one-on-one relationships developed in day-to-day life. In essence, all of us serve as outreach missionaries.
Seth and Shannon Hoeppner and members of Trinity Lutheran Church, Battambang, Cambodia
Photo courtesy LCMS World Mission
C.F.W. Walther, the first president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, understood this and made it a focal point of his message to the early Lutheran church in America: “Every believing Christian should really be a missionary, that is that everyone has the duty to do everything within his calling and station in life to bring also to others the treasure of the saving knowledge which he has already found.”
For many LCMS Christians, this “calling and station in life” may be our local community, workplace, and home. For others, God has prepared a different “station”—the vocation of overseas missionary service.
At present, there are more than 1,100 people serving through LCMS World Mission, including career, long-term, and short-term missionaries; international educators; and military chaplains. Many carry out their missionary service with a primary focus on outreach, including Seth and Shannon Hoeppner, who serve at Trinity Lutheran Church in Battambang, Cambodia—the first Lutheran congregation in the country.
“We came to Cambodia with the desire to start an English class at the church as one way of outreach for the community,” explains Shannon. “After a few months of our own Khmer language training, we began classes. Every day we see that the people of Cambodia are hungry for His Word. They are in darkness, but there is a light on the horizon.”
The family of an ESL student, Sa Haa, is one such example of how people have encountered Jesus because of the outreach in Battambang:
“Sa Haa is a new Christian, but his family had never had the chance to hear much about Christ or to meet other Christians,” Seth says. “A group of us from Trinity traveled the 40 kilometers to their home and spent the afternoon with them. We prayed that somehow God’s Word would come to them. Well, we were certainly surprised on Sunday, when during the opening songs, Sa Haa’s parents and his younger brother entered the church. They were greeted warmly. We could tell by their making the long trip that they are curious about our God and His plan for salvation.”
In addition to full-time outreach missionaries like the Hoeppners, LCMS World Mission also provides many opportunities for LCMS Christians to serve as short-term outreach missionaries around the world, and people of all ages are answering God’s call to serve His mission in this way. In 2009 alone, more than 580 individuals are expected to participate in short-term missionary service through LCMS World Mission.
Rev. Obot Ite and Abasifreke Ite
Photo courtesy LCMS World Mission
Church planting focuses on gathering individuals who have encountered the Gospel into a larger community for further study, fellowship, and worship around Word and Sacrament. An important goal of church planting is to equip new believers to become outreach missionaries within their families, relationship networks, and communities.
Building on the foundations laid by a previous era of church-planters, LCMS missionaries work with local pastors and evangelists to connect new believers with vibrant congregations in their own setting and culture.
As part of the Ablaze! Alliance missionary program, Rev. Obot Ite and his wife, Abasifreke, were sent from the Lutheran Church of Nigeria as missionaries to Jamaica, with assistance from LCMS World Mission. They serve at St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Kingston, Jamaica, where they focus their efforts on church planting.
Rev. Ite is striving to equip the people of this growing congregation to reach out to their neighbors with the hope of planting new congregations on the island. His focus on church planting can be seen in the congregation’s shortterm goals, all of which have been initiated or completed:
- Double the number of active members
- Equip at least 20 members of the congregation so they can bring others to the Lord
- Hold a four-day rally
- Initiate an outreach to youth and form a team of 20 youth by year’s end
“We really thank God for the transformation and renewal of the hearts of members in this congregation since we began serving in Jamaica,” says Rev. Ite.
Rev. Jacob Gillard (standing second from right) with theology students in Kampala, Uganda
Photo courtesy LCMS World Mission
As local congregations grow, so does the need for welltrained and equipped leaders to carry on the work. LCMS World Mission missionaries who focus primarily on leadership training typically work as professors or trainers in mission-training centers, Bible schools, or seminaries. Leadership training multiplies the effectiveness of each missionary since every person he or she trains has the potential to share the Gospel with hundreds of people per month.
Two missionary couples in Uganda—Rev. Jacob and Michelle Gillard and Vicar Shauen and Krista Trump—are actively involved in leadership training.
Together with their co-workers in the Lutheran Church Mission Uganda (LCMU), Jacob and Shauen have launched a leadership-training program called Theological Education by Extension (TEE). They write:
“Our work involves intense teaching for 22 lay leaders twice a month in the capital, Kampala, as well as frequent trips in every direction to visit and encourage these men and their congregations. The teaching is a combination of lecture and interactive workshops. We’re often in front, teaching; but we also tap Ugandans and shortterm visitors. TEE delivers leadership training that is both practical and theological—ranging from seventh-grade catechesis to the university level. It is scheduled for the first and third weekend of every month, and the intensive instruction runs from Friday morning to late afternoon on Saturday. The leaders return to their congregations or preaching stations Saturday night, and by Sunday morning they’re often putting into practice what they learned the day before.
“Not everyone who successfully completes the twoyear program will apply for seminary. Some will find it better to remain in their local context and serve with their newly acquired TEE training. It’s a privilege to help the LCMU meet their pressing leadership training needs!”
STRATEGIC MISSION DEVELOPMENT
Rev. Patrick O’Neal with a colleague from the Lutheran Church in Korea
Photo courtesy LCMS World Mission
As they grow and expand, communities of Lutheran Christians around the world form church bodies, schools and universities, social service organizations, and a myriad of other means through which they permeate and impact their world.
Strategic mission development is based on the insight that Lutherans around the world need relationships that establish trust and credibility in order to link these people and organizations together in action to accomplish the Ablaze! vision they all hold. Strategic mission development activity helps to link these organizations with the human and financial resources necessary to build capacity, partnerships, and activity around this vision.
On the Korean Peninsula, LCMS World Mission is working closely with the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) and Agglobe Services International, a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization, to develop humanitarian and agricultural projects for a series of collective farms in North Korea.
Together with their LCK counterparts, LCMS missionaries Rev. Carl Hanson and Rev. Patrick O’Neal have worked to generate support for these projects by developing partnerships with LCK congregations, LCMS congregations in Iowa, and Church of All Nations in Hong Kong, as well as other groups such as the LCMS Missouri District and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.
“While this is a different type of work that we are now engaged in, it is a direct outcome of past effort,” says Hanson. “We could not be here except for the vitality of the Lutheran Church in Korea and all the capacity they have to offer this future work.”
Rev. Brent Smith
Photo courtesy LCMS World Mission
Through their outreach, church planting, leadership training, and strategic mission development efforts, LCMS World Mission missionaries and their partners around the world are striving toward the goal of a global Lutheran mission movement dedicated to calling people into the kingdom of God.
“Our sincere hope and prayer is that this movement would not be restricted to the present day or even to the present Ablaze! goals, but that God will grow this movement and use it to call people to faith in Jesus,” says Birner.
It is an important task of missionaries in the 21st century to work with church leaders from many different cultural, ethnic, and national backgrounds to develop plans and strategies focused on working together and supporting each other’s efforts to share the Good News with people who do not know Him.
One example of global multiplication comes from the Eurasia region, which includes Europe, Russia, the former U.S.S.R. states, and Central Asia. The rise and fall of Communism, the growth of Islam, and the tidal wave of globalization have profoundly affected the people in this region.
Rev. Brent Smith, LCMS World Mission’s regional director for Eurasia, explains how no fewer than five Lutheran church bodies, the Concordia University System, and other specialized ministries are working together to make a difference in the region:
“In January 2008, after a year of preliminary research, an area facilitator was asked to relocate to start new work in a Muslim-majority country—a country once home to the early Christian church.
“Since then, eight additional workers have been trained and deployed to work in the areas of church planting, EFL (English as a foreign language), medical [outreach], and university outreach. Lutheran sermons are beginning to be broadcast on Christian radio. Lectures from guests have been read in the university. Two partner churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of England and the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany, have participated in the new initiative, and the first short-term team was deployed in September.”
While the country must remain unnamed, Smith says the multiplying of people who link others in outreach is taking the LCMS and its partners “to places they have never been before.”
“We know that God has been at work, is working, and will continue to work His work of reconciling the world to Himself in Christ Jesus,” Birner says. “God created us and the opportunities for sending us out to engage others. Our joy, then, is discovering God at work and walking alongside Him.”
If you would like to get involved in missionary service through LCMS World Mission, visit www.lcmsworldmission.org/serviceto see the most up-to-date listing of short-term and long-term mission opportunities. You can also contact a placement counselor through firstname.lastname@example.org call 1-800-433-3954.
- pray for and learn about an LCMS missionary or missionary family, simply download Missionary Prayer Cards at www.lcmsworldmission.org/prayercards.
LCMS World Mission Quick Facts
- As the Global Gospel Outreach of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, it is the sending arm of the Synod.
- Sent its first overseas missionary, Rev. Theodore Naether, to India in 1895.
- Today, has mission work or relationships in more than 88 countries, including the United States.
- All international mission work is organized in four global regions: Africa, Asia, Eurasia, and Latin America.
- The LCMS has 30 official partner church bodies worldwide.
- Works in partnership with districts and mission organizations to support outreach, church planting, and church revitalization efforts in the United States.
- LCMS Ministry to the Armed Forces is included in LCMS World Mission. The 220-plus LCMS chaplains are considered missionaries to the men and women of the armed forces.