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On mission statements and missions

Corporations grabbed the idea of mission statements from the church. At its best, a mission statement captures the drive, the focus, and the purpose of an entire organization.

But most are forgotten. In fact, they are usually impossible to remember.

Do you know the mission statement of your place of work? Of your congregation? Of WELS? I’ve even helped make mission statements, but I only remember two.

One is from the Lord Jesus: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

The other is from a church in Georgia. I looked online, and it has changed its mission statement now to some other fancy sounding words that are hard to remember. But back when it started, the church’s mission statement was “Try something that is so hard that if it succeeds, people will have to say, ‘God did this.’” Maybe that’s more of a challenge than a mission statement, but it is memorable.

Our little synod is entering into a challenge that matches both those mission statements. It’s 100 missions in 10 years—a plan, a mission, a challenge adopted by the synod at its 2021 synod convention.

The challenge

Here’s what it means. Beginning July 1, 2023, and ending June 30, 2033, WELS will open 100 new North American home missions. This is a response to that mission statement the Lord Jesus gave as he instituted Holy Baptism and commissioned the church to make disciples until he returns.

But 100 home missions in 10 years? Two challenges arise immediately: money and manpower. We can’t do this.

That’s where that other mission statement comes in: “Try something that is so hard that if it succeeds, people will have to say, ‘God did this.’” On the face of it, we can’t do this. Where are we going to gather 100 additional home missionaries when we already have a pastoral shortage? And how in the world can we fund 100 new missions, when on average the cost of a mission is $1 million in subsidy?

Before we consider any solutions, let’s consider the purpose. Our nation, this home mission field, is under satanic attack. A young man shoots up a classroom full of first-graders. Another spends a week hauling parts of guns and ammunition to the top of a motel in Las Vegas so he can slaughter as many people as he can. Still another gunman shoots people watching a parade. That’s Satan’s work. Our Lord named him a liar and a murderer from the beginning. He’s assaulting our nation with murder in the womb, murder on our streets, mass murder, and individual hatred.

His lies are running deep in our nation. The US Supreme Court ratified a lie when it said that God’s will for marriage is not the law of this nation. We are telling young boys, “You were born with boy parts, but we’re not sure if you’re a boy or not. You can decide later.” It’s a fundamental lie, as fundamental as it can possibly be. What’s being rejected is the simple truth that you and I will rise to confess each Sunday: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.”

For a century the lie has been hinted at: Maybe he’s not the Creator. Now the lie is open: God’s not there, he didn’t make you, and you can decide what sort of a being you are and what sort of life you will lead. The satanic lies are out in the open. They are embraced in our society.

The response

100 missions in 10 years logoIn response, our little church body, voting in convention, said (in essence), “We see your assaults, Satan, and here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to plant 100 outposts of the gospel of the Lord Jesus in our own nation.” Let’s go with the gospel. I love my little church body for taking that stance! But where will we get the manpower? Where will we get the money? The money is probably the easier issue because we have it. It’s in our pockets instead of the church treasury, but we have it. We can fund this if we choose to fund it. Look in your pocket. Consider your response to this impossible task.

What about the manpower? We always talk about recruiting new pastors. The facts are these, though: The grade-school boys have already missed the bus. We’ll be done with the 100 missions in 10 years before they become pastors. But we can encourage those young men who are already in the pipeline. Our young men at Luther Preparatory School and Michigan Lutheran Seminary: Encourage them to carry through and become pastors. Our young men at Martin Luther College: Do what you can to strengthen them, support them, and finance them to see their way through to ministry. Our young men at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and the vicars you know: Help them focus on the great mission before them, encourage them to improve their skills at speaking and shepherding, and help them finish their training.

There are also young men in our congregations who are successful in engineering or sales, law or medicine, teaching, firefighting, police work. While they’re happy at their vocation, some may wonder, Maybe this isn’t all the Lord has chosen me to do. When you see these young men (or if you are one of these young men!) serving at church, teaching in Sunday school, or speaking or presiding at congregational meetings, encourage them to think about the pastoral ministry. Pray for them. Second-career pastors are a special blessing to our church, and they are necessary to the task of opening 100 missions in 10 years.

One other thing: Old age is not what it used to be. To support 100 new home missions, our pastors in our congregations will serve longer. I’m thankful for the robust 70-year-olds I see serving. If the president of the US can be in his 70s, so can your local pastor. Encourage your pastor to continue in ministry as long as the Lord permits health, vigor, and mental acuity.

While these are some possibilities, they may or may not be God’s will. We submit all our plans and every synod resolution to him, for he is the Lord of the church and we are only servants. But this is a good plan we’re submitting—100 missions in 10 years. It is an antidote to satanic attacks. It is also impossible for our little church body.

But let’s remember both mission statements: “Go and make disciples.” That’s the will of the Lord Jesus. Let’s go.

And “Try something that is so hard that if it succeeds, people will have to say, ‘God did this.’ ”

Author: Jerry Ewings
Volume: 109, Number 09
Issue: September 2022

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