Office of National Mission: Life Together

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Ps. 133:1).

By the Rev. J. Bart Day
Executive Director of the LCMS
Office of National Mission

Life Together a Gift
Life Together begins in Christ. There is no life apart from the one “through whom all things were made” (John 1:3). The life of Christ is the life of the world, our life together. The miracle of the Incarnation is that our Lord descended to take up our life. He wears our fallen human flesh, that He might bear our sin and be our Savior. In His bloody enthronement at Calvary, He draws all creation to Himself. Here is our salvation. Here is our life together. In the Divine Service, our Lord lovingly invites us to eucharistic eating and drinking. With His body and blood, we proclaim His death and receive His life. The crucified One gives us the gift of forgiveness and the seal of immortality. As He is, so we shall be. The post-Communion collect roots our life in Christ and our life together in that same: “We give thanks to You, almighty God, that You have refreshed us through this salutary gift, and we implore You that of Your mercy You would strengthen us through the same in faith toward You and in fervent love toward one another.”
The living Christ creates “fervent love toward one another.” The work of the Church in WITNESS, MERCY, and LIFE TOGETHER flows from and to the cross. What joy and freedom we have in serving our Lord and His holy bride, the Church. We are no longer burdened by the Law’s requirements. The Gospel, Christ in us, compels us to share His Word to the ends of the earth, to share the mercy and love of Christ with those in need, and to share in the corporate life of the Church. Life together is the best living. Selfish ambition and pride disappear as we pray for and support the body of Christ. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ.
In his little book Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer offers several helpful insights into our life together. For Bonhoeffer, our life together is a concrete reality. God is not a God of emotions but a God of truth. That truth is revealed in the divine revelation of the Word and the Word made flesh. The justified sinner lives in the community of sanctification, a gift from God that no man can claim. Life together is a gift.
Of course, the body and all its members suffer under the delusions and false advertising of the world, the devil and our own sinful nature. The promise of power, prestige and possessions always comes at the expense of hurting those we love the most. Our life together becomes a life of isolation. The body and community suffer. The powerful in the community weed out the undesirables. As Bonhoeffer notes: “The exclusion of the weak and insignificant, the seemingly useless people, from a Christian community may actually mean the exclusion of Christ; in the poor brother, Christ is knocking at the door.” Our life together includes all for whom our Lord died: the world. The body of Christ cares and comforts in word and deed.
As the Office of National Mission (Life Together) begins it work, we pray that the Lord will strengthen and support the work of our Synod. The Office of National Mission is doing the work of “Home Mission.” The world is at our door. The challenges facing the Church in our post-Christian culture can appear overwhelming. In the face of such challenges, the Church must stand ready to proclaim the Gospel boldly. Being a faithful Lutheran has never been more critical. The world is crying out for authentic confession and genuine life together. The Church has both to offer.

Our Work in Life Together
The newly created Office of National Mission oversees most of the domestic work of the Synod. There have been plenty of challenges to face during the restructuring process, but there have also been unexpected surprises. As one person put it, “The restructuring process is like cleaning out your hallway closet, the one you never touch until you are forced to. Yet once you start digging around, you are amazed at the treasures that have been forgotten and unused for many years.” As the Synod is working to better communicate and collaborate on projects, new and exciting opportunities for mission are being discovered. For this we give thanks.
The Office of National Mission is made up of six departments. They include the work of the former District and Congregational Services, with other groups coming from LCMS World Mission and World Relief and Human Care. The new department is focused on supporting the “Home Mission” of the Synod in our Life Together. The six departments are:
• Recognized Service Organizations (RSOs)
• Stewardship
• Schools
• Youth
• Worship
• Church and Community Engagement
Each department is engaged in great work to support the mission of our Synod. Some of the work is well-known to people throughout the Synod; other work is not.
Deaconess Dorothy Krans is supporting the work of RSOs. Previously, RSOs were under the program boards that best aligned with their particular work. We have the unique opportunity to better help coordinate and encourage collaboration among the various RSOs of synod. RSOs are a valuable asset as they are able to provide faithful Lutheran services in many areas beyond the ability of the Synod.
Under the leadership of Rev. Wayne Knolhoff, stewardship continues to equip districts with valuable resources to encourage lifelong stewardship that focuses on our whole life in Christ. Stewardship also works with several congregations who use resources like Faith Aflame as part of their stewardship life.
School ministry remains one of the most vibrant parts of our life together. Directed by Bill Cochran, school ministry continues to provide critical services that help sustain and grow our parochial schools. From SLED (School Leadership Development Project) and accreditation to providing support for expanding technology to information shared on the Lutheran portal, school ministry continues to look to the future and how best to support exemplary education while proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
Keeping our youth engaged is the work of the Rev. Terry Dittmer and his staff. Through services and programs, the Synod youth department continues to provide helpful resources and opportunities to serve. Most know about the National Youth Gathering in 2013, but there are other opportunities through LYF (Lutheran Youth Fellowship), annual servant events, as well as online resources at thEsource.
Worship staff continue their work by providing faithful resources like LetUsPray, as well as completing the companion volumes to Lutheran Service Book. By engaging the church in ongoing conversation on this vital area—one that impacts every congregation of Synod every Sunday morning—Worship seeks to be a resource for materials that incorporate both the riches of the past with that which is faithful from the present.
The newly formed group, Church and Community Engagement, brings together the most dynamic ministry opportunities in the Office of National Mission. Here is our life together work of evangelism and outreach (The 72—Partners on the Road, Rev. Al Tormoehlen), church planting and revitalization, rural and small town mission (Ralph Geisler and Rev. Lee Hagan), black and ethnic ministry (Rev. Quentin Poulson) and the work of Rev. Carlos Hernandez who oversees Hispanic ministry, Veterans and Soldiers of the Cross and Gospel Seeds, a program encouraging congregations to work in their communities to support the needs of the least of these.
The Office of National Mission serves a critical role in supporting our work at home. By the time this goes to press, we will have hosted a National Mission Conference to hear from district presidents, district mission executives and others in order to help our office shape its work for the future. We are absolutely committed to remaining relevant and supportive of the needs of the Church. May the Lord bless us in our life together.

— Rev. J. Bart Day, Executive Director of the LCMS Office of National Mission