The Challenges of Lutheranism Worldwide — President Harrison's Keynote Address for the 75th Anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria
President Ekong invited President Harrison to speak at the 75th Anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria this week. Although President Harrison was not able attend, he prepared the following address, which was read by Rev. Dr. Timothy Quill today.
The Challenges of Lutheranism Worldwide
Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrision, President LCMS
Diamond Jubilee of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, September 10, 2011
Obot Idim, Nigeria
Dear Bishop Christian Ekong, regional bishops, pastors and brothers and sisters in Christ of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
Greetings in the Name of Jesus!
It is with great joy that we celebrate your Diamond Jubilee with you. I along with the people of the Missouri Synod give thanks to God for you and all those who have joyfully served our gracious Lord over the past 75 years in faithful witness to the Gospel and with deeds of mercy to those in need. It is a great honor to be asked by the Lutheran Church of Nigeria to address the topic, “The Challenges of Lutheranism Worldwide.” However, before addressing the present and future challenges, it is important to remember those who have gone before us and faced numerous challenges with courage and perseverance.
As I write this address, the American government is consumed in a contentious battle over how to address the economic recession, rise of unemployment, falling stock market and a national debt that is approaching 15 trillion dollars. Our days are filled with uncertainty and fear over what the future holds for our countries, families and church. As Christians, however, we are blessed to know that our future rests in the hands of our merciful and loving Lord God. “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).
In 1937, President Emeritus Fredrick Pfotenhauer commenting on the mission heritage of the Lutheran church in a sermon, “The Duty of the Lutheran Church to Be a Church of Mission,” said, “Here and there it is asserted that Luther and the Lutheran Church of his time neglected missions. What a foolish notion. Luther is, after the apostles, the greatest missionary… Luther in his day filled all Europe to the threshold of Asia with the Gospel. Lutheran preachers carried the Gospel into many lands, and some sealed their message with martyr’s blood.” Already in the 18th century, the Lutheran Church touched Africa; rather, Anton Wilhelm Amo from Ghana matriculated to the University of Wittenberg, receiving his doctorate from there in 1730 before returning to Ghana in 1747. Unfortunately, this was not the strongest moment for Lutheranism due to the attacks of Pietism and Rationalism, and the seed that was scattered did not appear to bear much fruit.
About a century later, Lutherans began to arrive in West Africa, but these efforts really did not take off until the end of the 19th century. These efforts included the beginnings of our sister church in South Africa, the Lutheran Church in South Africa (LCSA), and the Free Evangelical Lutheran Synod in South Africa (FELSiSA), with the first German missionaries arriving in 1892. This is about the same time that the Missouri Synod in 1895 began mission efforts in India, Brazil, and Argentina. The duty of the Lutheran Church to be a Church of Mission is connected to the mission efforts in Nigeria in the 1930s, when the world was suffering under the “Great Depression” and the winds of war were blowing across Europe, eventually leading to World War II.
In 1928 Jonathon Ekong came to the United States to obtain a theological education and to search for a church that was willing to send missionaries to the Ibesikpo people—“A Church Body that would teach the Word of God in its purity and also help in establishing good schools for them.” The Lord led Jonathan Ekong to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and to the Lutheran Churches of the Synodical Conference.
It should be specially noted that the idea of carrying the Gospel to Africa came from the very American Negro Christians whom the Synodical Conference missionaries were serving. In their convention in August, 1925 at Concord, North Carolina, the Negroes resolved to ask the Synodical Conference to send missionaries to Africa. To demonstrate that they were deeply concerned with the matter they gathered offerings to support such work.
Amazingly, African American Lutherans in North America had raised $60,000 for the work of the Gospel ministry in Africa. In 1929, the stock market crashed, sending America into an economic depression that would last into the 1940s.
The prevailing condition was reported to have affected both peoples’ daily living and their church giving, and that congregations had to struggle to meet their budgets. Many pastors’ salaries were reduced and plans for expansion and mission work were postponed. It was at that time the letter from Ibesikpo was received by the African Missions Committee asking for help. Nevertheless, the Lutherans of the Synodical Conference continued with the plan to send missionaries to Africa.
On April 24, 1936 Dr. Henry Nau came to Ibesikpo as the first resident Lutheran missionary. In early 1937 he was joined by Vernon Koeper, Pastor William H. Schweppe, and Miss Helen Kluck, R.N. Then over the course of the next 75 years scores of dedicated missionaries served alongside the faithful pastors, teachers and laypeople of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria to build congregations, schools, this seminary and medical clinics. In his memoirs, the founder of the LCN, the sainted Rev. Dr. Jonathan Udo Ekong (1881-1982) wrote some very kind words about the Lutheran missionaries who came to Nigeria from America. He calls on Nigerians to thank God “for the men and women who came out to our land to bring us the knowledge of God’s saving Word.”
Those people passed through rough and difficult paths—many of them lost their lives—in order to bring this message of salvation to our country. They did not come to grab wealth for themselves; they did not come to trade in slaves, as did the Portuguese. But they came out to our land with hearts filled with love and compassion, and their only desire was to proclaim to us the love of Jesus Christ, which sent Him to the cross to die for sinners.
It is my fervent prayer that the people of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria and the LCMS continue to embody this love for Jesus Christ and to have hearts filled with love and compassion for the lost. I know that this is true among many of the pastors and laity in the LCMS, and from what I’ve heard, it is descriptive of our Lutheran brothers and sisters in Nigeria.
The word Nigeria is derived from the word Niger. While the origin of the word is uncertain and often debated, it is believed by many to be derived from the word Gir for river and thus N’gir for “the river.” Whatever the etymology, the mighty Niger is the greatest river in West Africa. From its source far to the north in the Guinea highlands, its life-sustaining water flows over 4,000 kilometers through Mali, Niger and finally passes through Nigeria herself on its way to the sea. It is hard to imagine Nigeria without the Niger River. On this Jubilee celebration we remember an even greater river that flows through the saving waters of Holy Baptism. This river has been flowing through the hands of Lutheran pastors in Nigeria for seven and a half decades, washing away sins, and miraculously giving rebirth from which emerge holy children of God. Like the Niger River, its source is far to the north and was carried here by dedicated missionaries from Europe and America. In another sense, its original source is far to the north and east and began when our Lord Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River and then shed His holy blood on the cross for the life of the world. Water and blood came from His side. Today, the gifts of forgiveness, life and eternal salvation which He won on the cross continue to stream across Nigeria and throughout the entire world when Lutheran Churches with Lutheran pastors bathe their people in the refreshing Word of God proclaimed from church pulpits and received in Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper at fonts and altars.
Herein lies the greatest strength of the Lutheran Church. We have received the great Reformation inheritance from Martin Luther and our Lutheran fathers, namely, the pure teaching of the Doctrine of Justification. We are declared righteous by grace through faith in Christ alone. The waters of this doctrine are not muddied up with our good works in an attempt to appease God’s wrath. When our Lord Jesus Christ washes us, we are cleansed completely. It was this Reformation treasure that attracted the sainted Rev. Jonathan Udo Ekong to the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference of North America in 1928. And it is this treasure that remains the cornerstone upon which we continue to build. The Lutheran Church faces many challenges throughout the world, but with Christ our cornerstone, we face them with joyful hearts and gladness.
The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing;
It is marvelous in our eyes
This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:22-24
Challenges, Problems and Opportunities
In 1967, on the 75th anniversary of Lutheran missions in South Africa, Rev. Friedrich Wilhelm Hopf wrote an essay called, “The Lutheran Church Does Lutheran Missions.” The corollary is also true, “Lutheran Missions must lead to Lutheran Churches.” This requires Lutheran pastors who are “apt to teach,” who have been meticulously trained in Lutheran doctrine and practice. It was for this reason that Jonathan Ekong came to the United States over 75 years ago. It is for this reason that the Jonathan Ekong Memorial Lutheran Seminary was established on January 2, 1940. Wherever Lutheran missionaries went, they established seminaries to train pastors and Lutheran schools to train the laity for life and Christian vocation. As president of the LCMS, theological education is one of my top priorities. Yes, America is in the midst of an economic recession, but we must go forward in faith, as did our forefathers who found the means to support missions in Nigeria, India, Papua New Guinea and other places in spite of economic depression and global warfare. If Lutheran Churches worldwide are going to address the growing religious and theological assaults on the true faith, they must have theologians and pastors and laity who are thoroughly trained in Lutheran theology.
Lutheran missions must lead to Lutheran churches with Lutheran worship, that is, the Lutheran liturgy and hymnody. In the Augsburg Confession, Article 24, the Lutheran Fathers confess, “We are unjustly accused of having abolished the Mass. Without boasting, it is manifest that the Lord’s Supper is observed among us with greater devotion and more earnestness than among our opponents.” Then in the Apology, Article 24, they continued,” To begin with, we must repeat the prefatory statement that we do not abolish the Mass but religiously keep and defend it. In our churches Mass is celebrated every Sunday and on other festivals, when the sacrament is offered to those who wish for it after they have been examined and absolved. We keep traditional liturgical forms, such as the order of the lessons, prayers, vestments etc.” This remains true today. Lutheran missions must give birth to Lutheran churches. Lutheran churches are liturgical churches for theological reasons. Doctrine and practice are inseparably united. Lutheran practice reflects, teaches, and confesses Lutheran doctrine.
One of the major challenges to Lutheran churches around the world today comes from the adaptation of revivalist and neo-Pentecostal worship forms and music. There is a saying that goes back to the 5th century and is attributed to a man named Prosper of Aquitaine: “The way you worship determines the way you believe.” This remains true today. If you worship like a Muslim, you will become a Muslim. Buddhist worship makes Buddhists. If you worship like a Roman Catholic, you will become a Roman Catholic. If you worship like a Pentecostal, you will become a Pentecostal. Lutheran worship makes Lutherans and keeps them Lutheran. The Lutheran hymn writer Stephen Starke correctly observed, “There are Lutheran pastors who would never permit a Baptist pastor to preach a sermon in their pulpit, but see no problem in regularly putting the words of Baptist hymns into the mouths of their people.”
Islam has long been a formidable religious force in Nigeria. In recent years, it has become increasing aggressive in spreading its beliefs around the world. Thousands of mosques are not only being built in countries that border historically Islamic nations, they are now being erected in great numbers throughout Europe and North America. As the financial resources of Christian churches in Europe and North America are declining, the wealth from many Islamic nations is being used to spread the worship of Allah.
Rise of Paganism
The temptation to relapse into the practices of paganism with its syncretistic rites and customs continue to be a problem that requires clear and bold preaching, ongoing catechesis and faithful pastoral care. Voodoo in Haiti, juju in West Africa, fertility festivals in Madagascar, polygamy in Papua New Guinea, and the revival of pagan religions in Europe and America are alive and well. The challenge is for our pastors, evangelists, teachers and parents to thoroughly teach our children and adults the catechism. This includes a deep understanding of the first three Commandments along with that which is more powerful than any superstitious or pagan rites, that is, the powerful, life-giving sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion and Holy Absolution.
Liberalism and Secularism
The powerful influence of the liberal German, Scandinavian and North American Lutheran churches poses an increasing threat to the faith and life of Confessional Lutherans around the world. Despite hemorrhaging membership losses in the liberal churches of Western Europe and Scandinavia, the leadership of the established Lutheran Churches continues to force their social agendas on churches that have no desire for it. Most disturbing is the promotion of the ordination of women in the office of the Holy Ministry and now, the ordination and marriage of practicing homosexual. Along with the ordination of women has come the feminization of God. The doctrine of God has undergone a disastrous change. God the Father is either eliminated or replaced with a Mother God. Christ becomes Christa. Baptism in the name of God the mother, child and spirit is not Christ’s baptism and gives no forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. It gives only death. Following the approval of homosexual marriage by the Church of Sweden, the seven bishops representing the three Baltic Lutheran Churches—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—signed a message to the Church of Sweden condemning the action as a departure from the apostolic doctrine of human sexuality and marriage and declared that this decision endangers church fellowship itself. Lutheran bishops and churches worldwide need to muster the courage to stand up against this apostasy even when it means they will suffer the financial consequences.
The West’s Challenges and Africa
Many of the challenges identified above flow from the West to envelope or to be imposed on the rest of the world. In the West, many of these challenges result from the destruction of families from a variety of social ills ranging from abortion, divorce, homosexuality, and the decay of morals in general. In recent times, while many church leaders and churches have been silent like mute dogs (Isaiah 56:10), prominent African bishops have been able to speak the truth of the Scriptures about these sins in a way that inspires the faithful remnant in the West. Global communication and travel have allowed us in the Western Church to hear African voices that we otherwise might not have heard. May there be more positive encouragement for both you and us through these tools given to us by our Lord for this moment. These tools also allow us as the body of Christ to be aware when one of our members is hurting.
Dr. Martin Luther, when noting how the Sacrament of the Altar makes us one Body in Christ, said, “Who can hurt one part of the body without hurting the whole body? What pain can be suffered by the little toe that is not felt by the whole body? We are one body. Whatever another suffers, I also suffer and endure. Whatever good befalls me, befalls him. Thus Christ says that whatever is done unto one of the least of the brethren is done unto him.” Forgive us for not feeling when our brothers and sisters in Christ of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria have been in need or in pain. May Christ strengthen the unity we share in the pure preaching of His Gospel and in the right administration of His forgiving gifts found in the Sacraments.
All Things for Good
In the midst of the above-identified challenges and even more that were not identified, we might be tempted to wonder why we have it so difficult, or why the church isn’t more prosperous. Yet our Lord promises that He works all things for our good – even the trials, sufferings, and challenges before the Church (Romans 8:28). The Book of Concord in the Formula of Concord explains in the Solid Declaration, Article XI, paragraphs 48-50:
48 Furthermore, this doctrine provides glorious consolation under the cross and amid temptations. In other words, God in His counsel, before the time of the world, determined and decreed that He would assist us in all distresses. He determined to grant patience, give consolation, nourish and encourage hope, and produce an outcome for us that would contribute to our salvation. 49 Also, Paul teaches this in a very consoling way. He explains that God in His purpose has ordained before the time of the world by what crosses and sufferings He would conform every one of His elect to the image of His Son. His cross shall and must work together for good for everyone, because they are called according to God’s purpose. Therefore, Paul has concluded that it is certain and beyond doubt that neither “tribulation, or distress,” neither “death nor life,” or other such things “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (See Romans 8:28, 29, 35, 38, 39).
50 This article provides a glorious testimony that God’s Church will exist and abide in opposition to all the gates of hell [Matthew 16:18].
Our Lord not only promises that good ultimately will come from the sufferings and crosses that we bear in this world as His people and as His church, but that He chose these crosses, sufferings, and challenges for us so that nothing could take us out of His hand. Not only that, but through these crosses, our Lord conforms us into the image of His Son. As Isaiah prophesied about Jesus, “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:2-3). So it goes for Christians and for the Lord’s Church in this world. We bear the image of our Savior, who hung on the cross. Through the sufferings and challenges we face, the Lord puts to death our sinful flesh, and He promises to raise us to life with Him just as He was resurrected. Though despised by the world, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Lord’s Church. This is your Lord’s promise to you. In fact, crosses and challenges transformed by the promise of Christ to work for good become opportunities.
The greatest resource we have that turns crosses, sufferings and challenges into opportunities is the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ that overcomes sin with forgiveness and death by resurrection. Later this month (September 29), the Church will celebrate St. Michael and All Angels, when Satan, the Accuser, was cast from heaven. When St. Michael cast Satan from heaven, he used the Word of God, the very same Word that our Lord placed upon our forehead and in our heart through the waters of Holy Baptism. You have the Word of God that overcomes evil and transforms death into life. The smallest church possesses the very same treasure as the largest – our Lord Jesus, His Word and His Sacraments. In the face of challenges, His Word provides opportunities. In the face of liberalism, secularism, Islam, moral decay, et. al., the Church has the opportunity to WITNESS (martyria), that is to bear witness and to proclaim the truth to a world that does not know truth, to show MERCY (diakonia) to people in need of compassion and Christian love, and to have a LIFE TOGETHER (koinonia) with fellow members of the body of Christ who live under the shadow of the cross, gathered around the Word and the Sacraments.
One of the challenges that turned into an opportunity for the Missouri Synod over the past year was the synodical restructuring mandated by the 2010 Synod Convention in Houston, Texas. It is quite a challenge to examine the work that the Missouri Synod does at home and aboard to learn how it can be done with better stewardship and more faithfully to our common confession of faith. It is also quite humbling to see where we thought we were doing good, only to see areas of needed improvement, or to find areas that need improvement but not knowing how to improve. This challenge also provided a tremendous opportunity to describe in a fresh way what the task and work of the church always has been. The restructuring of the Missouri Synod provided us with the opportunity to describe the work of the church to our members as WITNESS (martyria), MERCY (diakonia), LIFE TOGETHER (koinonia).
Very briefly, WITNESS, or testimony, occurs when the Jesus is proclaimed as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Every Christian bears witness to Jesus as Christ is proclaimed according to our vocation and place in life. A person who has received forgiveness and mercy from Christ cannot help but to show MERCY to other people, in need beginning with the household of God. As the forgiven people of God, we have koinonia, fellowship, or a LIFE TOGETHER as the body of Christ. Part of our LIFE TOGETHER is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
The LIFE TOGETHER of the Confessional Church in the 21st Century
As churches that have a Life Together in the common confession of our Lord Jesus Christ, we become mutually encouraged by hearing of each other’s faith (Romans 1:12). We become encouraged by hearing that you remember us in prayer and we remember you, for even when through weakness and forgetfulness we do not explicitly pray for one another, in the Prayer of the Church Christians everywhere are brought before the Lord. The celebration of your 75th anniversary is a reminder for us that the Lord has a people for Himself here in Nigeria. We pray that our presence here provides you with encouragement that your brothers and sisters in Christ are rejoicing with you and remembering you in prayer. We are one in Christ Jesus.
As part of a Life Together in the 21st Century, we need to encourage better communication between Lutherans worldwide, particularly those who share our allegiance to the Holy Scriptures and to the Lutheran Confessions, as well as with those who are concerned and questioning the direction of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). There are many ways to accomplish this, from each LCMS seminary establishing contact with every Lutheran seminary in the world, to increased electronic communication (email, Skype, etc.) between partners, to regular updates between LCMS and her worldwide partners, to regional conferences where an opportunity is made for our partners to gather and to discuss theological matters of importance, while also inviting other Lutherans in the region who are interested. For the LCMS to most effectively WITNESS to the world, we need to have a strong LIFE TOGETHER with our partner, which means that we must hear from you how we can best partner and work together.
The confessional Lutheran churches should have an online repository, a website, where the most recent up-to-date news can be posted from our partners all over the world. Francis Pieper, LCMS seminary professor, President of the Synod and of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, once wrote, “You have the duty as a Christian to keep your own eyes open. Perhaps you do not even keep a church paper, such as The Lutheran Witness or Der Lutheraner, which will keep you in constant touch with the events and the needs of the kingdom of God.” When Pieper wrote those words, he was addressing an LCMS audience; however, his point has application throughout the Lutheran world. As members of Christ’s body, we have a duty to “keep our eyes open” and be aware what is happening in each other’s churches so that we may remain “in constant touch with the events and the needs of the kingdom of God.” Being in touch with the needs of the kingdom of God will allow us to pray for each other, encourage one another, and strategize and plan how we can best work together, being the best stewards of the resources our Lord has given to each of us to share with one another. Some sort of a confessional Lutheran partner website that is updated regularly enough to be helpful in “keeping our eyes open … to the needs of the kingdom of God” may facilitate and help us in this goal. The goal of this site would be to provide updated, regular news from confessional Lutheran churches worldwide, and to provide a theological response to liberal religious views as they occur to be maximally helpful to all involved. Bloggers or responders could be selected by world region or even country. Perhaps this can be initially setup and hosted by the LCMS, but there are other alternatives such as the International Lutheran Council (ILC).
The ILC is “a worldwide association of established confessional Lutheran church bodies which proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ on the basis of an unconditional commitment to the Holy Scriptures … and to the Lutheran Confessions contained in the Book of Concord.” The goal of the ILC is to encourage, strengthen and promote confessional Lutheran theology. Both of our churches are members of the ILC. The idea for ILC began in 1952, perhaps in part to counter the emerging LWF. The ILC actually formed in 1993 as a council of church bodies. While the ILC has been a blessing to the confessional Lutheran churches throughout the world, it would do us well to examine the current role of the ILC and to consider whether it can serve confessional Lutherans better, or perhaps some new organization could be formed to assist in ways that the ILC is not currently able. With the decline of the large LWF Lutheran churches in the West, confessional Lutheran churches will have more opportunity, not less, and we need a way to respond rapidly to a quickly changing world.
Both around the LCMS and around the world in Lutheran churches, I have noticed that Lutheran preaching needs to be strengthened. One of the great contributions that the Missouri Synod has made to the history of Lutheranism is Walther’s Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel. While many pastors acknowledge this in a token way, it seems to me that a great weakness that afflicts Lutheran preaching is an inadequate understanding and practice of Law and Gospel preaching. Good Law and Gospel preaching is not merely a sermon with a two-part outline consisting of what you did wrong and how Jesus fixed it, but a powerful preaching where the Law is preached in its full sternness and the Gospel in its full sweetness. Since the preaching with a proper distinction between Law and Gospel “is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular,” we as confessional Lutheran churches should dedicate resources to equipping our pastors in the study of Law and Gospel to the effect of improving preaching. While the observation that Lutheran preaching needs to be strengthened worldwide is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for us to intentionally put into practice the great Reformation treasure of good, understandable, preaching that delivers Christ and His saving Gospel to poor sinners in need of forgiveness. Connected with the need to improve Lutheran-preaching worldwide is the need to strengthen pastoral theology in general.
Both improved preaching and pastoral theology come with theological education. One of Lutheranism’s great strengths in the Christian Church has been its strong emphasis on theological education. The LCMS has a goal of providing scholarships to bring future leaders from our partner churches to LCMS seminaries for advanced training, of increasing the number of missionaries on the ground, of sending more professors to teach as requested by our partner churches, of sponsoring regional conferences to gather confessional Lutherans together for discussion of theology and mutual conversation and encouragement of the brethren, and of supporting regional seminaries. It seems to us that a possible way to advance the cause of theological education is, in addition to the regional seminaries that are located within a particular church body, to focus on the development of a hub system, whereby more resources are placed into a seminary for a world region so that the best qualified professors can serve many countries. At the moment, these are all ideas that need further discussion with our partner churches, further development and the raising of funds to bring them to fruition. Yet, we have hope that our Lord will bless richly as He has in the past.
One item not mentioned is the area of MERCY. Christians who have been forgiven by Christ not only bear WITNESS to Christ through the Gospel, but also bear WITNESS by showing MERCY to each other and to those in need. One way that the Missouri Synod is trying to bring MERCY to Nigeria is through a partnership with Lutheran World Relief (LWR) in the Lutheran Malaria Initiative (LMI). I am told that LMI is very close to beginning in Nigeria, to work with the Lutheran Church of Nigeria to reach out both to her own members and to the community around her to help prevent the spread of malaria. While this in and of itself is caring for the body, it may afford opportunities for your church to bear WITNESS to people who have not heard the Gospel of Jesus.
All of these efforts can help us build a LIFE TOGETHER for confessional Lutherans worldwide.
Now is the moment that the Lord has baptized for us to be a Lutheran church of mission in the world that does Lutheran mission and plants Lutheran congregations. We have the Lord’s sure and certain promise that He will work all things for our good and that in fact, none of the crosses, sufferings and challenges we face can take us from His hand. He has called us to give a faithful WITNESS, showing MERCY to each other, while having a LIFE TOGETHER under the cross of Jesus. The many challenges we face as the Lord’s people in a decaying society are also an opportunity to share the hope that we have in Christ and to offer the only thing that can truly make a difference. The Lord has given us the tools and resources for the moment in which we find ourselves, and He promises to give us strength and courage to face what is before us.
On the 75th Diamond Jubilee of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria, we rejoice with you on this occasion in your church’s history. Thank you for inviting me to address your convention, and I am sorry that I could not be personally there with you. I hope that this may serve as an encouragement to you from your brothers and sisters in Christ in the LCMS. You and your church will be in our prayers. Richest blessings to you in Christ.
This week the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN) celebrates their Diamond Jubilee (75th Anniversary). Nigeria was one of the first mission efforts of the Missouri Synod after India, Brazil, and Argentina. The Lutheran Church of Nigeria began with 16 congregations in 1936 and now has 339 congregations in 38 districts. President Ekong invited President Harrison to send the keynote address for their anniversary. Later this week, we will post the address.
As part of our Life Together with our sister church in Nigeria, we give thanks for the LCN’s 75th anniversary. We are called to remember them in prayer, thanking the Lord for their faithful confession and witness to the Gospel of Jesus in Nigeria, and praying for their needs. Below is President Harrison’s video greeting to the Lutheran Church of Nigeria.
– Rev. Dr. Albert B. Collver, Director of Church Relations
The Lutheran church has a tremendous missionary heritage. President Emeritus Pfotenhauer said in 1937, “Here and there it is asserted that Luther and the Lutheran Church of his time neglected missions. What a foolish notion. Luther is, after the apostles, the greatest missionary… Luther in his day filled all Europe to the threshold of Asia with the Gospel. Lutheran preachers carried the Gospel into many lands, and some sealed their message with martyr’s blood.” (At Home In The House Of My Fathers, 804.) The Missouri Synod has had a tremendous heritage in missions also, both in home mission and world mission. Up until the end of the 19th Century, the Missouri Synod focused on home mission — among Native Americans, immigrants, and African Americans. At the end of the 19th Century, the Missouri Synod began mission work in India, Brazil, Argentina, and China. By the middle of the 20th Century, the MIssouri Synod expanded into Asia – Papua New Guinea, Japan, South Korea, and so on. At its peak, the Missouri Synod had several hundred missionaries overseas at any given time. Times have changed, new opportunities present themselves, former mission efforts lead to the formation of partner churches, and the number of missionaries changes. What doesn’t change is the challenge of finding and funding missionaries to go overseas.
In 1895, District President Pfotenhauer in a sermon titled, “Dig Wells and Keep Them Pure,” noted the great need for missionaries in India and China with more than 500 million people. He noted because the Synod did not have an immediate need for pastors (there wasn’t a shortage of pastors), there was a shortage of missionaries. He writes, “Every communicant member of our Synod throws an average of only 20 cents into the treasury for missions, for the digging of wells in the mission field.” (At Home In the House of My Fathers, 711.) Keep in mind that there is not an exact parallel between how missions were accounted for at the beginning of the 20th Century and today at the beginning of the 21st Century. What is parallel is the challenge in funding missionaries.
Today, the funding of international missionaries in the LCMS is handled primarily through a program called Network-Supported Missionary (NSM), where each missionary intentionally works with a body of supporters, including individuals, congregations, and organizations, before and during field deployment. So while the missionary is not technically “self-funded” as the missionary has an entire support network based at the International Center (including pension, health insurance, travel support, housing support, human resources, IT support, et. al.), there is a greater responsibility placed on the missionary to assist in the raising of support for the mission work. While there are advantageous and disadvantageous to this method of support, after many years of having fewer missionaries on the field, it has allowed the LCMS to increase the number of missionaries over the past few years.
With that brief introduction to missionary funding in the Missouri Synod, we wanted to take the opportunity to draw attention to a particular missionary who has specific needs at a given moment. In the future, we hope regularly to feature different missionaries. Today, we would like to feature Rev. Alan Ludwig, who received a call from the Board for International Mission in June 2011 to serve in Russia. We have a goal of getting Rev. Ludwig to Russia by October 2011. Time is short to meet this goal. Thank you for this opportunity to introduce Rev. Alan Ludwig to you.
Rev. Alan Ludwig serves the Lord through The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in Siberia, Russia. He is a theological educator, which includes teaching seminary courses, working with team members in developing theological education in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union and, upon request, teaching and preaching at a local Lutheran congregation in the city of Novosibirsk in Siberia. Since 1998, Alan has worked with the Siberian Evangelical Lutheran Church (SELC) and taught seminary courses at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Novosibirsk, which is operated by the SELC, a partner/sister church of the LCMS. The seminary was founded in 1997.
Alan graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, in 1989 with an M.Div., and earned an S.T.M. in 1992. From 1992-98, Alan served as the pastor of Concordia Lutheran Church, Cresbard, S.D., and Immanuel Lutheran Church, Wecota, S.D. Alan also served on the staff of LOGIA, a Lutheran theological journal. Prior to attending seminary, Alan graduated from Boise State University with a Bachelor of Music and worked as a private music teacher. His hobbies include music, art, poetry, literature, computers and walking.
Please pray for Alan as he serves in this capacity. He asks, “Pray that my wife, Patricia, and I would adjust to the new roles God has given us, and for me, that I may faithfully fulfill my call to serve the church in Siberia. We desire prayers for the SELC: for the bishop, the pastors and the deacons—that the Lord keep them faithful in preaching the Word and administering the Sacraments; for the laity—that they grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Son of God; for the continued spread of the Gospel throughout the vast territory of Siberia. Finally, we request prayers for our seminarians—that they be molded by the Word of God into faithful and worthy candidates for the holy ministry, and that our seminary rector would be sustained in his demanding role.”
– Rev. Dr. Albert Collver, Director of Church Relations
Here are some links to pages on the LCMS website that will help you find out more about LCMS relief efforts with Hurricane Irene.
Check back often, as this is a developing story.
Main Landing Page: www.lcms.org/irenerelief <http://www.lcms.org/irenerelief>
Giving Catalog: www.lcms.org/givenow/irenerelief <http://www.lcms.org/givenow/irenerelief>
LCMS Video Gallery: http://video.lcms.org/archives/tag/hurricane-irene
LCMS YouTube Channel Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/user/TheLCMS#grid/user/D4CB8100F8C1C022
LCMS President Matthew C. Harrison, using Matthew 9:38 and his own experience with a vicar from his youth, urges existing church workers to identify, inform, and encourage LCMS high school students to consider serving in a church-work vocation.
What a Way is a LCMS church-wide initiative to rebuild active recruitment and retention of church workers as an integrated part of the LCMS culture and lifestyle at the local congregation level.