In celebration of its 25th anniversary in 2020, Martin Luther College (MLC), with the approval of the Conference of Presidents, has begun a two-year capital campaign called “Equipping Christian Witnesses.” The synod is looking to raise $16 to $18 million through the campaign. We asked Mark Zarling, MLC president, to share more.
Why the name “Equipping Christian Witnesses”? The name for the campaign is taken from MLC’s mission statement. It states: “The mission of Martin Luther College is to train a corps of Christian witnesses who are qualified to meet the ministry needs of WELS and who are competent to proclaim the Word of God faithfully and in accord with the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord.” The statement then goes on to highlight how MLC, as the WELS College of Ministry, equips students for various tracks of ministry. The mission statement emphasizes training a “corps of Christian witnesses” so that students are reminded of who they are through their baptism. They are salt and light and part of the priesthood of all believers. They will always keep their identity as baptized children of God, no matter what vocation they choose. They remain a “corps of Christian witnesses.” Even as the campaign is emphasizing recruitment for public ministry it also underscores the truth that every recruit, every student, will be equipped as a Christian witness even if they don’t continue or finish at MLC.
What are the main goals of the campaign? The campaign has three “pillars” to support the mission and ministry of Martin Luther College. The first pillar is recruitment. It is our prayer that the Lord uses the campaign to raise up many more candidates who will prayerfully consider serving in the public gospel ministry. We want everyone to pray what Jesus said: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Luke 10:2). The second and third pillars support the first goal of more students. The second pillar is to provide increased financial aid for our students, and the third pillar provides enhancements in campus facilities. Both of those pillars aid in the recruitment and retention of students.
Why is recruitment a part of this campaign? You may already be aware of the vacancies in pulpits and classrooms in our church body. After assignment days last May, significant vacancies remained—more than 100 pastoral vacancies in our pulpits and over 80 classrooms not yet filled. There is also an urgency to recruit more gospel workers because of the large classes of “baby boomers” who are reaching retirement age. It is important to note, however, that the strategic plan of MLC is to recruit students with a fields–are–ripe mentality and not with a fill–the–vacancy mindset. Our gracious Savior God is pouring out abundant opportunities around the world and here at home to send workers out with the message of Jesus, our Savior and Substitute. May the Spirit fill our hearts with a burning passion to see the billions around the world who have yet to hear the Savior’s loving voice in the saving gospel.
How can WELS members help with recruitment? No doubt you can think of daughters and sons in your own congregation that exhibit God-given gifts for ministry. Encourage them. Tell them, “You’re a magnet for little children. Ever think about being a Christian preschool teacher?” Or, “God has given you a gift for (music, athletics, speaking, etc.). I can see you using that gift in serving Jesus as a (teacher, staff minister, pastor).” Perhaps, “God has given you a heart for Jesus and a heart for people. Have you thought about being a pastor?” Also pray! Pray without ceasing!
Raquel Freese, a fifth-year senior at Martin Luther College, provides encouragement to potential future called workers: “While my decision to go to MLC was very easy, I know that for many others, the decision is much more difficult. It’s okay to be unsure of your future. Rest assured that the Almighty God already knows and holds you in the safety of his guiding hands. Listen to the advice of family and friends. If those closest to you believe you have the gifts to be a pastor, staff minister, or teacher, then you should strongly consider MLC.”
Volume 106, Number 11
Issue: November 2019