International Mission Priorities and Strategic Plan
A Portion of the International Mission Budget According to the Six Priorities
At the LCMS International Center, we are engaged in the budgeting process for the next fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2015. At times, people wonder how budgeting priorities are decided (in fact the Synod Board of Directors recently asked this question of me), in particular for the Synod’s work in International Mission. Since January 2014, the Office of International Mission has been guided by a strategic plan which is based around the six mission priorities adopted by the Synod in the 2013 convention (2013 Res. 3-06A — “To Adopt Mission and Ministry Emphases for the 2013-2016 Triennium”). These mission priorities were not created in a vacuum, but based upon the Synod’s constitution and the reason and purpose for the formation of the Synod.
The theme of the Office of International Mission strategic plan is “Consolidate, Focus, Renew and Establish Partnerships.”
When this theme was developed, the Missouri Synod listed working in 90+ countries but had only about 68 career missionaries, which works out to 1.3 countries per missionary. Some of the Missouri Synod’s work was grants and disaster response. The question that the OIM leadership and the Regional Directors asked was, “What sort of impact could we have with one missionary per 1.3 countries?” The answer was not nearly as much impact as we would like. Additionally, having missionaries scattered around without a community was not good for pastoral care or for missionary care in general. A field driven decision (the Regional Directors) to consolidate the missionaries into tighter teams was made. This not only allows the Missouri Synod to have a greater impact but also affords better missionary care. From these positions of strengths, the Regional Directors would branch out into new areas. Another significant part of the strategy is to recruit people based on the positions needed, rather than find people and then scramble to identify a position where they might serve. People are recruited on the basis of filling the field leadership first, and then the other support personnel for a program or a country. This strategy is in alignment with the Synod’s convention goal of doubling the number of career missionaries (2013 Res. 1-11). Career missionaries by definition include pastors, rostered workers, and other lay people who desire to serve in international mission for more than 2 years. As of January 2015, the Missouri Synod has increased the number of career missionaries from 68 (the number of missionaries at the Synod convention in 2013) to 105 career missionaries called or appointed. This is more than half way toward the goal of doubling the number of career missionaries. The Lord indeed is sending laborers into his harvest.
The Six Mission Priorities were developed on the basis of the Missouri Synod’s Constitution and Bylaws. They were adopted by the 2013 Synod Convention. These mission priorities guide all the activities of the Office of International Mission (OIM). In fact, the Board for International Mission (BIM) policies were written with the six priorities in mind. How these priorities are carried out is partially governed by the Toward a Responsible Lutheran Church. For instance, how these priorities are carried out depends upon where the partner church or non-partner church, or church plant is at in its life. Church bodies always are in relationship with one another, and are interdependent upon one another. When a missionary goes into a new area, that missionary is the primary person who preaches, teaches, and baptizes. After there is a group of believes, the training of local indigenous leaders begins. After a period of time, those indigenous leaders preach, teach, baptize, and so forth, while the LCMS missionary takes on a supportive role of further training and support.
- Plant, sustain, revitalize Lutheran churches.
a. Nurture, plant, embolden churches in mission.
In the area of church planting, the Missouri Synod has planted churches which later became partner churches of the Synod — churches such as the India Evangelical Lutheran Church (IELC) in 1894, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) in the 1930s, the Lutheran Church of Korea (LCK) in the 1960s, and so forth. Today in these church bodies, the Missouri Synod supports the church planting efforts of our partners by providing training for evangelists and pastors. In many places in Africa, the single biggest challenge to church planting is the lack of tin roofs. One area of church planting support is the Office of International Mission’s tin roof program. In the tin roof program, the local church builds the walls and the Missouri Synod helps by providing roofs. Partner churches and non-partner churches alike request assistance in training the indigenous evangelists and pastors who will go out and plant new congregations. In some cases, partner churches ask for an LCMS missionary to do church planting. Usually, these are special cases where tribal differences or other circumstances make it more logical to have a Missouri Synod missionary do the actual church planting.
When it comes to church planting, a question that needs to be asked is where to plant the church. If Missouri Synod missionaries are working in a country that has a Lutheran church, the question needs to be asked if we can work with that church, or if we need to plant a new church. In many cases, we are able to work with the existing Lutheran church in some way. In the map above, the primary places where Lutheran churches do not currently exist are in Muslim countries or other closed countries. Where we might have work in Muslim countries or a closed country, the Synod is not really able to publicize the work. When we are working with an existing Lutheran church, our work falls into the realm of support and theological education. Many existing Lutheran churches, particularly with the sexuality decisions made by the ELCA and the Church of Sweden, are seeking the Biblical and Confessional position of the Missouri Synod.
- Support and expand theological education.
a. Support Seminaries (foreign and domestic).
b. Provide regional conferences, short-term training, pastoral continuing education.
c. Train evangelists.
Other than a request for missionaries, the most significant request that the Missouri Synod receives is for theological education, which is broadly defined as scholarships to Concordia Theological Seminary or Concordia Seminary St Louis, as scholarships to regional seminaries, as requests for missionary professors to teach both short and long term, as continuing education opportunities and seminars, as training for evangelists, church planters, and deaconesses, and as requests for theological books and materials. A significant portion of these requests are handled by the Global Seminary Initiative. Dr. Baue pictured above is teaching the Lutheran Confessions at the Mekane Yesus Seminary in Ethiopia as a result of the Global Seminary Initiative (GSI). Another recent project of the Global Seminary Initative was to partner with the Lutheran Heritage Foundation (LHF) to bring 30,000 copies of the Ecumenical Creeds, the Augsburg Confession, and the Small and Large Catechisms to Ethiopia in both Amharic and English. In March, the South East of Lake Victoria Diocese in Tanzania will celebrate the sending of 21 ordained pastors and a number of evangelists out, trained in partnership between GSI and Concordia Theological Seminary. In March and April, a number of professors from both Concordia Seminary St Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne will help advise students in the masters of theology program in Ethiopia (another GSI project). Theological education is one of the greatest ways that the Missouri Synod can have an impact on world Lutheranism.
3. Perform Human Care in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministries.
a. Work closely with church partners and/or Lutheran congregations to reach out to those in need.
The Office of International Mission (OIM) was given the task to carry out LCMS World Relief and Human Care’s international work after the restructuring mandated by the 2010 Synod convention. A hallmark of the Missouri Synod’s human care and disaster response work is that it is done in close proximity to Word and Sacrament ministry. Most often on the international scene this is done in conjunction with a Partner Church of the Synod. James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction.” The church cares for those of the church who are in need. In most cases, the Missouri Synod does not do this work itself, but aides and supports the works of our partners around the world. The human care work is carried out where the people who receive help can hear the Gospel preached. The Tertullian reported that the pagans would say of the Christians, “See how they love another.” Christian love and compassion spills out of the church to the neighbor. Gerhard Uhlhorn noted, “For the world before Christ came was a world without love.” Uhlhorn continued, “The fundamental distinction between the ancient liberalitas and the Christian caritas lies in this, that the latter always keeps in view the welfare of the poor and needy; to help them is its only object; whereas the Roman, who exercises the virtue of liberality, considers in reality himself alone (I do not mean always in a bad sense), and exercises his liberality as a bribe wherewith to win the favours of the multitude.” Christian charity is only to help, not to win favor. Missionaries in an area frequently see people in need. There is a distinction between relative poverty and critical poverty or need. Relative poverty is poverty compared to another place, such as the United States. The goal of Christian charity is not to elevate everyone to the same level as in communism or in some egalitarian fantasy, but rather to help those who are in critical need or whose lives are in danger. Such aide or help always is provided in close proximity to where the Gospel is proclaimed. Often times the church’s work of mercy is to care for those no one else will help. In fact, the Missouri Synod’s mission work in India in 1894 began among the dalit, or the untouchable cast in India.
4. Collaborate with the Synod’s members and partners to enhance mission effectiveness.
a. Mission programs support the Synod’s objectives to promote unity of ministry effort.
The Missouri Synod’s international mission team strives to work with our partners — church partners and RSOs, auxiliaries, and mission societies. We can accomplish more together than we can individually. This was in fact one of the reasons why the Synod was founded. After the founding of the Synod, other groups and organizations formed to address specific areas or specialities that the Synod did not have the capacity or some cases the interest to pursue at a given time. Our partner churches and RSOs, auxiliaries, and mission societies help increase the impact that the Missouri Synod has world wide. The Office of International Mission desires to partner with these groups to expand the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus.
5. Nurture pastors, missionaries and professional workers to promote spiritual, emotional and physical well-being.
a. All people serving in the field (foreign and domestic) will receive spiritual care in Word and Sacrament.
One of the reasons that the Regional Directors recommended that “consolidate” be part of the Office of International Mission strategic plan was to provide better pastoral care for missionaries. When people are scattered about it can be difficult to provide good care. One way that OIM is attempting to address this is to call pastors to act as a regional chaplain for the missionaries. We also are attempting to place people together into communities so that they are not as isolated as they might have been. A part of the strategy is to send out missionaries in teams of three or more families. Where possible missionaries should worship with partner churches; where this is not possible the missionary team can hold regular worship. Other opportunities for missionary care includes continuing education and online courses in missiology as pictured above led by Dr. Detlev Schultz. As the number of missionaries on the field continues to increase, a significant focus of the Office of International Mission will be on missionary care and retention.
6. Enhance elementary and secondary education and youth ministry.
a. Schools will support the need to offer high quality education that is distinctly Lutheran, careful not to capitulate to the culture, seeking opportunities to expand the work of witness and mercy.
The Missouri Synod is known as a church that excels at education. Parochial schools have a long history in the Synod. It is no surprise that the Synod’s mission efforts have included Christian education as a part of the strategy. Currently, the Synod has three international schools: Hong Kong International School, Concordia Shanghai, and Concordia Hanoi. Some of our partner churches such as the Japan Lutheran Church (NRK) operate schools such as the Urawa Lutheran School. Other partners also have schools where Missouri Synod teachers are able to serve as missionary teachers. In some cases, government regulations do not allow for the creation of a parochial school so other opportunities for teaching the youth are sought including Sunday school and Vacation Bible Schools.
This post just begins to scratch the surface of the Missouri Synod’s mission work around the world. The Lord has provided many opportunities for service and He provides the laborers for His harvest. We have much to be thankful for as we ask for his help to carry on the proclamation of the Gospel to the world.
— Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations / Regional Operations
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