ST. LOUIS — Delegates today (July 11) voted to affirm a resolution to expand The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s mission efforts worldwide by encouraging:
• “confessional and mission-minded” outreach in a “world that continues to change”;
• affirmation of “the historical Lutheran understanding of the priesthood of all believers”;
• congregations and schools to see themselves as “mission outpost[s] to all the unchurched”;
• expansion of the Synod’s work “in numerous cultures and among various people groups,” and calling upon the church body to “witness in various languages and to engage the unchurched society with a clear confession of Jesus”; and
• the preparation of workers, so that they might “learn the cultures and languages” around them in order to “equip all the saints … for mission and discipleship.”
The resolution is one of several submitted to the convention by the Mission 21st Century Task Force, which was appointed by President Gerald Kieschnick in 2002 to find out why the Synod’s membership is declining, suggest ways for reversing that trend, and develop overtures for the Synod convention that “capture the mission heart of the delegates and can effect change.”
Baptized membership in the Synod has fallen by more than 250,000 since its peak in 1972 at 2,781,297, and “net outreach” — the number of adult gains minus the number of adults removed from the rolls — has been negative almost every year since 1969, according to the task force.
The task force gathered statistics, studied previous survey results about the Synod and other U.S. Lutherans, and sought ideas and observations from a variety of current and former LCMS leaders and experts from outside the Synod.
Its findings and recommendations were released this year in a document called “Mission in the 21st Century.” Highlights from that report were shared with delegates by task force Chairman Larry Stoterau, president of the Pacific Southwest District, just prior to adoption of the resolution.
Fewer than 25 percent of LCMS congregations have a specific plan to reach out into their communities, Stoterau told delegates, and many Synod congregations are seen as “sanctuaries to which we retreat” instead of “mission-training centers” focused on outreach.
“We need to be able to say together, ‘God’s mission is my mission, and God’s mission is urgent,’” he said.
Posted July 11, 2004