By Stacey Egger
At its final meeting of the triennium (June 13–14), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) Board for National Mission (BNM) celebrated an effective and growing collaboration among the Office of National Mission (ONM) departments and initiatives over the past three years.
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson noted that the five departments he oversees “have never worked in a more collaborative way than they are these days.”
ONM Executive Director Rev. Robert Zagore also noted the “rising collaboration,” “genial spirit” and “joint purpose and focus” that the various departments and initiatives of the ONM have worked to develop.
Zagore presented on a new initiative coming from ONM that will utilize this collaborative spirit: Making Disciples for Life (MDFL).
MDFL will seek to unify the multitude of resources available from the ONM and make them more readily available to LCMS congregations and individuals. The initiative will include:
- a new internet resource center to aid LCMS congregations in finding needed resources;
- four regional conferences; and
- the testing of new resources in “incubator congregations.”
LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison also spoke to the board, rejoicing in the upcoming retirement of the Concordia University System’s historic debt, and in the successes of the licensed lay deacon colloquy program, which followed from the 2016 Synod convention’s Res. 13-02A, “To Regularize Status of Licensed Lay Deacons Involved in Word and Sacrament Ministry.”
Decades of service
When the BNM took a break in the morning to attend chapel at the LCMS International Center, Harrison took the opportunity publicly to thank Ernest Garbe, who is retiring from the BNM this year, for his decades of service on LCMS boards.
Garbe was elected to the LCMS Board of Directors (BOD) in 1992, after serving two terms on the LCMS Central Illinois District Board of Directors. He served on the BOD for two terms, and then served one term as chairman of the LCMS Board for Communication Services, while also a member and chairman of the KFUO Radio Committee.
Garbe was then elected to the BNM, where he has served ever since. He has worked on a multitude of special projects and commissions during his tenure, and attended countless conferences, meetings and conventions.
Garbe has served 27 continuous years with the Synod and 33 years on Lutheran boards, including his six years with the Central Illinois District.
Garbe said, “It has been a privilege, and I have been blessed to sit alongside and work with so many faithful and talented men and women of the LCMS. I believe that it is time for this 88-year-old to step aside and let someone who has the vigor of a younger body or mind take his or her turn at the tasks that are before us. I will carry the memories forever and pray that my small input has been a blessing to the church we all love.”
Campus Ministry report
The BNM also heard from the Rev. Marcus Zill, director of LCMS Campus Ministry and LCMS U, who spoke about the task of adjusting resources and strategies to meet shifting dynamics on college campuses and among college-age students. More young adults, he said, are questioning the traditional four-year college options that Campus Ministry has historically focused on.
“We have our kids that go into the military, we have those who are going to tech schools, those who for whatever reason aren’t going to college. And we need to think about preparing them for ‘post-high school,’ not ‘college’ specifically, lest about 25 percent of them get left out,” Zill said.
As these dynamics shift, Zill said, Campus Ministry is working to shift some of its language and focus from “college” to “college-age” youth, and focusing on the “new frontiers” of growing international student ministry, community colleges, online school and urban campus ministry.
Among the recent initiatives of Campus Ministry, Zill noted the success of the Campus Ministry Conference, “Witness,” that was held in Fort Wayne, Ind., in January. Zill said that this was one of the best-attended conferences in the history of LCMS Campus Ministry and emphasized the importance of these conferences for fellowship and collaboration.
While there are tremendous opportunities for witness on increasingly secularized campuses, he said, “we can’t do this if we don’t have students on the front line … so it is incumbent upon us to do even more to prepare them for the challenges they will face before they leave high school and go to college.”
Deaconess Ministry report
Deaconess Grace Rao, director of LCMS Deaconess Ministry, also spoke to the board on the current work of Deaconess Ministry.
The primary work of Deaconess Ministry includes raising awareness of and support for the work of deaconesses throughout the Synod, both among prospective students and the Synod’s districts, Rao said.
Rao said that her future vision for the deaconess system would include each district in the LCMS financially supporting at least two deaconess students or interns. She also hopes to keep raising awareness of and support for the Synod’s three deaconess-formation programs, at Concordia University Chicago, River Forest, Ill.; Concordia Seminary, St. Louis; and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.
Funding continues to be a challenge for deaconess ministry, said Rao, noting that many churches that would be an ideal fit for a deaconess do not have the money in their budgets to take on another employee.
“So we have opportunities, wonderful ones,” said Rao, “but it’s in budgetary matters that we face hurdles. Yet by God’s grace we are still going forward and fostering the work of deaconesses, both here in the U.S. and abroad,” she said.
Policy and resolutions
Later in the day, members of the board reviewed the BNM’s policies and discussed several resolutions related to the BNM’s work that will come before the Synod convention in July, including resolutions on worker wellness; witness; church planting and multi-ethnic outreach; the support of marriage, life and family; and the Making Disciples for Life initiative.
The next BNM meeting will be held September 12–13 in St. Louis, just before an installation service for new LCMS officers for the coming 2019–22 triennium.
Posted July 2, 2019