By Jeni Miller
As the Synod prepares to gather in Tampa, Fla., for the triennial convention July 20–25 under the theme, “Joy:fully Lutheran,” the 2019 National Offering comes alongside with a similar motif of “Joy to the World,” setting the tone for prayerful rejoicing, gratitude and bold action.
According to LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, this year’s National Offering “presents an opportunity for congregations, districts, circuits, individuals or other groups to support the mission of the LCMS to vigorously make known the Good News of Jesus Christ, that all might rejoice and give thanks to our heavenly Father.”
The National Offering is a special opportunity spanning the three years between conventions that unites individuals, congregations and districts who desire to use their gifts to directly support international and domestic mission work.
Between 2016 and 2019, contributions to the National Offering supported national and international mission by, among other things, preparing and sending indigenous pastors in Eurasia; providing teachers with materials to teach grade-school students the sanctity of human life; and showing Christ’s love and compassion to victims in the days immediately following natural disasters.
Funds gathered during the 2016 National Offering also supported pastoral education. One allocation of the 2016 offering was to the Joint Seminary Fund, which helps sustain the annual operation of both Synod seminaries as they prepare future pastors, deaconesses, chaplains, missionaries and other church leaders.
Concordia Seminary student PJ Aarsvold says that the $69,600 that was directed to the Joint Seminary Fund by the 2016 National Offering has “had an incredible impact on my wife’s and my life here at the seminary.
“We have had a great deal of stress alleviated by the generous support of all those who gave to the National Offering,” he added. “This support makes our dream of studying at Concordia and hopefully planting a church one day possible.”
Abroad, at The Lutheran Center for Theological Studies (Centre Luthérien Etudes Théologiques, or CLET) in Dapaong, Togo, students from French-speaking countries in West and Central Africa participate in three years of preparation for ordination to the pastoral ministry.
“The 2016 National Offering greatly helped support the administration and student needs at our seminary in Dapaong, Togo,” said the Rev. Jacob Gaugert, career missionary and theological educator in francophone Africa.
“The patient and ongoing generosity of the LCMS for CLET allows 25 men on average, from 11 different church bodies, to be trained for the ordained ministry,” Gaugert shared. “Since 2016, two new daughter institutes of CLET have even been founded in the countries of Guinea-Conakry and Congo-Brazzaville.”
Likewise, 2019 National Offering contributions will be deployed to help in urban areas, with new immigrants, on college campuses, with partner church missionaries and in church-planting efforts both stateside and abroad.
The “Joy:fully Lutheran” and “Joy to the World” themes echo the reality that the Gospel has brought great joy to God’s people through the forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life. The 2019 National Offering seeks to enable work that will reflect that joy so that it might be shared across boundaries with those who have not yet heard this joyful message of Christ.
Gifts to the 2019 National Offering can be made at any time, and congregations are invited to consider planning how they’ll participate. Having received together the Gospel through Word and Sacrament, Synodwide participation in the 2019 National Offering will support the work that God has given His people to do and work to spread the message of “Joy to the World” both nationally and internationally.
“Paul tells us in Thessalonians 5 that the will of God for His Church is to rejoice, pray and give thanks,” said Harrison. “This is God’s will in Christ Jesus. We are free from sin, death and the power of the devil! Rejoice! Through His Son, God invites us, as a Father tenderly invites His children, to ask Him!
“Pray! God is gracious and gives us all good things, beginning and rooted in His Son! Give thanks!”
Deaconess Jeni Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a freelance writer and member of Lutheran Church of the Ascension in Atlanta.
Posted Feb. 28, 2019